Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013

Happy New Year! Here's hoping for a wonderful year for everyone filled with love, laughter, and joy. Around here, we're wishing for all the fun of 2012 minus the bad parts. And we did have fun- we went to San Francisco for the first time, The Eldest finished her first two years of college, The Wild Child made incredible strides with his reading, and we were able to go to North Carolina to see my family. All really great things, along with all the regular, day to day great things.

And now it's off to bed, to start the year off with a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

It's been a mixed bag this holiday season, but in spite of the disasters the actual holidays themselves have been very special. We got to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and her side of the family, then Christmas Eve with just the 5 of us here at home, then for Christmas Day brunch my brother drove my dad over to hang out for a few hours. We cooked some amazing food (I'm never going to work off the calories!!) and had a great time with loved ones. We were also able to get together with friends a few times during the month; we are truly blessed.

I'm hoping for a 2013 with just as much good stuff as 2012, but without all the bad things that happened!! I'm also wishing the same for you and yours- Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, and a Happy New Year!!

My dad, my brother, Martha Jr., and DH waiting to eat Christmas brunch. (The Wild Child and The Eldest were milling around somewhere; I was behind the camera.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When it Rains...

It really pours!!

It's been a run of bad luck around here for the past few weeks, but it all falls in the "could be worse" category. The Eldest wrecked her car thanks to a police officer running a red light (the car was a complete loss but no one was hurt) as we were leaving for a visit to my mom several states away, then she wrecked DH's car a mere 11 days later (once again no one was hurt and DH's car is fixable). As if that weren't enough, DH turned soccer into a contact sport and broke his hand last weekend and had to have out patient surgery on Wednesday. (But he's right handed and he injured his left hand.) A day or two before the soccer game we received 4 notices from our home owner's association about work we have to do around the house including pressure washing the roof and painting. It's all stuff we needed to do but I was hoping to wait until after the holidays; no such luck, they want it done in 30 days or less. That means I'm driving The Eldest to classes, orchestrating our schedule around surgery, fighting with the car insurance company, dealing with contractors about the work around the house, and trying to get ready for the holidays all at once.


I guess it all comes under the heading "first world problems", but put it all together and it makes for a stressful few weeks.

On the positive side, for those of you who hate cheerful holiday newsletters, I can put together a doozy of mournful letter this year!

Here are before and after pics of the house:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Random Ramblings

Oh, why, hello there! It's been a while. A lot's happened since we last chatted. The big thing for our family was a trip to North Carolina to see my mom. It was an eventful journey, at least at the start, since The Eldest totaled her car after the rest of us were already three hours away at a relative's home, where we were planning to spend the night before the rest of the trip the next day. She was participating in an activity near home and was supposed to drive up and meet us, but instead we get a tearful call saying she'd been in a crash. Every parent's worst nightmare, at least until she calmed down enough to tell me she was OK and no one else was hurt. Seems the accident was the result of a police officer, without lights or sirens, running a red light directly in their path. Yep, she ran into a friend of hers who was attending the same event. We wound up driving back down to get her the next day then leaving for my mom's house the day after that, so at least we were still able to go.

But wait, there's more! Yesterday she was driving around in another county and sends a picture to her dad via her cell phone. The picture was his car... with a badly dented front fender. So that's two wrecks in 11 days. I can't even believe it. But no one was hurt this time either, and his car is still drivable so we don't think it's totaled. I am so beyond upset.

But I digress. We went on a trip! It was a very long drive, but thanks to Yelp and The Eldest's phone we were able to get a few really stellar meals along the way. (This is a very important issue for us- we are a pain in the tookus very particular about our food.) Once we were at my mom's house we went to a favorite restaurant she loves- twice!

The details- we ate at the Indigo Coastal Shanty in Brunswick, Georgia for one meal and it was outstanding. We ate another meal at The Floridian in St. Augustine, FL and it was also outstanding. While in Charlotte, we ate at Lang Van, a Vietnamese restaurant, and it was, you guessed it, outstanding. We also put together a very tasty Thanksgiving feast at my mom's house, with several of us pitching in and helping out. My brother really came through- he came over while I was cooking and asked how he could help, then he didn't leave the kitchen until we were all done eating. He even helped with clean up along the way. (We ate on very cute but way too small Thanksgiving paper plates so there wasn't a ton of clean up after the pots and pans were washed.) True confession time- I wasn't vegetarian on Turkey day! I ate the dead bird and savored every single delicious bite, but only on that day. (And I always do the pescatarian thing when we travel- with my soy issues it's too hard to find something to eat that's vegetarian, diet friendly, has some protein in it, isn't soy, and isn't covered with cheese.) (Told you I was a pain about food.)

It was so great to see my family and share a holiday with them. It's been a long, long time since I've been able to do that and I've really missed it.

Now if I could just get my daughter to stop wrecking cars...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Puzzling about Politics

I am mostly happy with how the election turned out. I am thrilled Obama was re-elected, my Democratic congressperson was re-elected, and a few of the more hateful Tea Party candidates lost. (Todd Akin, Allan West, etc.) I am upset that Proposition 37 failed in California- that's the one to require labeling of GMO food. That stuff is loaded with pesticides and herbicides, people- what the heck were you thinking??? And Michelle Bachman won, but barely. I wanted to see the hateful people go, people who can't seem to say anything nice about the "other side" whenever they get a second of attention. We are all Americans, and for any one side, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, libertarian, whatever, to dismiss anyone who doesn't believe the way they do is wrong, and I think a lot of voters have woken up to that. I think a lot of people rejected Romney because of his 47% comments, for instance. If you are a politician and you make it clear that you don't care about people who don't vote your way, then you have no business running for public office.

I have struggled with trying to do that very thing- finding a way to relate to the "other side". (But I'm not a politician!!) I found my common ground when I had this realization- we all want what we think will be best for our country. We have very different beliefs about what the best is, but that's what we all want. I can't imagine anyone saying "I'm voting for Candidate Y because I think he or she will be BAD for all of us", can you?

Unfortunately, the hateful rhetoric hasn't slowed down. The main place I am hearing it is on Facebook. "Shares" and comments that are downright nasty are going through my news feed; it's extremely disturbing. I'm not talking about my friends, who are all very cool people, I'm talking about the comments you see from strangers. The trolls are running rampant! There's not much I feel I can do about it; if you comment you only fuel the fire. But I can say here- I understand that we all want what's best, and it's disappointing, and maybe a little scary, to see the candidate you voted for lose, but Obama won both the electoral college AND the popular vote, so he is here to stay for the next 4 years. Please give him the courtesy and respect our President deserves, the President elected by a majority of the people. He may not do things the way YOU want them done, but he will not turn the US into a socialist country run by the UN, either. (I mean seriously- people have said that!) Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and I remember reading somewhere about how that is actually an ideal set up, economically speaking. A Democratic President checked by a Republican House- it's our best chance to fix the economy. (Well, that's IF the Republican House does their job.)

Additionally, if you are worried about the economy, don't be. Forbes magazine published an article showing the economic statistics under both Democratic and Republican presidents, and contrary to popular belief, we are a LOT better off under Democrats. Remember President Clinton? He left office with a SURPLUS. Remember President Bush? He left office with a HUGE DEFICIT, and that's just two of the examples they look at in the article. So why do the Republicans still claim the economic high ground? Beats me, 'cause they haven't got anything to back it up. Reagan didn't even follow strictly Republican economic policies when he was in office. He raised taxes 7 times, if I remember the article correctly. (He wouldn't get elected today- not hard core enough for the Tea Partiers.) I've even read a more recent article that talks about Obama's economic policies- his policies are more like a moderate Republican than a true Democrat. In other words, if you are worried about Obama as our president for the next 4 years because you don't think Democratic policies are good for the economy, then you can put your fears to rest.

If you are worried about our country for social reasons, then I don't understand you at all. I don't hate you, I just don't understand, and I'm curious about the life experiences you've had that made you feel the way you do. Personally, I am for all of the things the Tea Party platform is against; guess I'm the Anti-Tea Partier. I am for gay marriage. (BUT OMG IT MIGHT LEAD TO A SLIPPERY SLOPE WHERE WE'LL HAVE THINGS LIKE POLYGAMY... and to that I also say- SO WHAT? If it's consenting ADULTS, then more power to them. Wouldn't work for me, but if that's what makes people happy then who am I to judge?) I am pro-choice, I am for healthcare for all, I am for the environment, I believe in global warming, I think we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, companies need to be regulated so they don't kill us all, religious groups should stop trying to make our laws, etc, etc, etc. If you want a full explanation of why I support any of those positions, I can give it to you. (And in recent posts I have, for several of these topics.) I've thought about and read about and studied each and every issue, and I feel the way I do for good, solid reasons based on the wide reading I've done, the varied news sources I've watched and listened to, and everything I've absorbed from my own life experiences. It's a growing trend, too- look at the states who finally passed pro-gay marriage laws. It's a tidal wave that's going to come to a state near you, and it's not Obama's fault! It's the will of the people, who know that it's time we stop discrimination and start looking out for each other.

I actually believe the Republicans have it right in one area- school choice and vouchers. I taught in the public schools so this is probably sacrilege, but I am all for a wide variety of choices for education. There is no "one size fits all" solution when it comes to our kids; what works for some won't work for others. I think charter schools are a fantastic idea, even though some of them don't work out. You hear about them on the news- usually when they are closing down. But there are good ones, too, the ones people fight to get their kids into. Public schools still need our support and making them the best they can be should be a national priority, and vouchers and charter schools should never take away from that, but there should also be options. My kids, for instance, all started out homeschooled. The Eldest went into a dual enrollment program when she was 16 and started taking classes at our local community college. (She's finishing up her AA degree there next month.) Martha, Jr., now that she's in 6th grade, started virtual school. The Wild Child is still homeschooling but he's working with a private tutor on his reading due to his learning disabilities. We're not purely homeschooling any of them at this point because I am doing my best to meet their individual needs. I love that I have the options out there to make the best choices for them.

So we can find common ground. We are all Americans, and we all want to live in a great country. It's not going to happen if we keep up with the hatred, because as one great Republican stated, "a house divided against itself can not stand". (And he was quoting the Bible when he said that.) I challenge you- if you witness hatred, either from a news person, on Facebook, on a web site, wherever you find it, turn it off, block it, turn away. Reject those politicians who are spewing hatred and who refuse to compromise for any reason. Remember the McCarthy era and how many lives were destroyed because politicians ran rampant with hatred, and don't let it happen again.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I am Pro Choice

I am pro choice for a lot of reasons, so I'll wade right into a big one. I am pro choice because I am a mom. I cherish my children and give them everything I possibly can, starting and ending with love. I was fortunate enough to find a partner who is a good father and provides well for all of us, allowing me to stay home and spend more time with my children. They have healthcare, access to a good education, good food to eat, and a solid roof over their heads. They are engaged in numerous enrichment activities, we travel with them, we take them to shows and museums and out into the world, we share our values and teach them to care for others, and we provide them with as much as we possibly can to help them grow into wonderful, caring adults. That makes me pro-choice because I see that these things are something every child should have. Every child should be wanted and loved and given a decent start in life, whether with biological parents or adoptive parents, a single parent or same-sex parents.

Some believe life begins at conception. Like the decision handed down in Roe v. Wade, I believe life begins at viability outside the womb, not at conception. (And that viability is getting earlier and earlier thanks to modern medicine.) If life begins at conception, then why not take it back a step and say every egg in a woman's body is a viable life, after all it's only the difference of one cell, so that anything preventing fertilization should be outlawed. (And believe me, there are politicians who are going there.) Well, keep going just one step further- how about laws so that every woman of childbearing age should be doing just that- bearing children, because all of those eggs were placed in her body and they should all have a chance. We should all be like Michelle Duggar and have "19 Kids and Counting". (She is someone I admire, don't get me wrong, but I don't know many other women who could have 19 kids!!!) Where does it end?

Let's now go back in time several decades, to the time when abortion was illegal in the United States. It's not a time I remember well; I was 10 when Roe v. Wade was decided, but I've read about it and heard it discussed. Prior to Roe v. Wade, women still sought abortions. They went to back alley butchers and frequently died, so we lost the baby and the woman. Even after Roe v. Wade, when unable to obtain a legal, safe abortion due to parental consent laws, teen girls like Becky Bell died. She was a 17 year old girl, just starting her life, only to have it cut short by an illegal, unsafe abortion. No baby, no Becky.

Then there is the religious aspect. I understand and respect that some people believe it is a sin to end a pregnancy. So, don't have an abortion. That's an absolutely wonderful choice for people who feel this way. But don't expect me to follow your religious laws. I don't believe in your religion, and I don't have to. Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion because our founding fathers knew what it meant to be governed by religion. England fought wars over which religion would be in control of the country- Protestant or Catholic. The Christian Taliban is a phrase that's been bandied about on the internet and it's not far off. The Taliban wants religious rule in their countries; the Christian right wants the same thing here. How horrific, in either case! Freedom of religion, as others have stated before me, also means freedom FROM religion. Again- I DO NOT believe in YOUR religion and I should not have to live under YOUR religious laws. You can live that way if you choose, and more power to you, but I don't have to. (And gay couples shouldn't have to either, but that's a post for another day.)

That goes for contraception, too. Healthcare should cover it, even if the healthcare is provided by a religious institution. After all, if their employees are good religious types, they won't actually use it or anything. And as for those "I don't want to pay for your contraceptives" types, well, I don't want to pay for your Viagra, either. Or your vasectomies, for that matter. Plus would you stop a minute and consider this- there are times when birth control pills are prescribed for purely medical reasons that have nothing to do with contraception. What then? Should insurance pay then? How will you differentiate? Gonna put little meters in the woman to see if she is really suffering from the medical difficulties she says she is? It's ridiculous.

It's not about the babies, either, in spite of what you might believe. If it were about the babies then every baby would have healthcare, and food, and a decent education once they are born, even if their parents are incapable of providing these things for them. There wouldn't be any children on adoption waiting lists. Foster care would be almost unnecessary. Many, many people have pointed out the irony in the Republican party platform- they care about the unborn but not the born.

Then there are the extremists. They are cropping up more and more lately, Todd Akin, for instance. Remember Todd? He's running for the senate in Missouri. He thinks women should be forced to bear children conceived from rape. So, a woman is living her life, minding her own business, keeping that aspirin between her knees, but she's raped. Maybe she's barely hanging on, supporting herself but not much left over, and now she's forced to have a baby she never asked for or wanted. Then, to add insult to injury, there are several states where the rapist-father gets parental rights! That's correct- the woman will have to see her child go off with a man she knows is a rapist. Now, let me ask you, on what planet is that OK? It's not this one, I'll tell you that. It's so wrong on so many levels I don't even have words.

I'm also pro-choice because I believe a woman's decisions about whether or not to have children at a given time are her own. Making abortion illegal is just another way to control women. Keep 'em barefoot and pregnant, and they won't be out there bothering the rest of the good old boys about things like equal pay and all that rot. Take away their right to decide what happens to their body and treat them like children, make them do what you think they should do.

Finally, what are the consequences? Say a woman gets an illegal abortion. Of course the practitioner is going to jail, but for how long? Then what about the woman? How long are you going to jail a desperate 16 year old who was too scared to carry a baby to term? How long are you going to jail a mom who already has kids, but feels she can't take care of another one because she's barely holding on already? How long will she be in jail, away from her children? Or are you just going to hang them, end it quick? What will the consequences be for women who want to make their own decisions?

Think it through, please.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Letter to the Editor

Bill O'Reilly wrote a column that made me so mad!! I am so fired up I had to write a letter to the editor. I doubt it will get published (it exceeds their suggested 200 words... by a lot) but here it is:

I am writing in reference to Bill O’Reilly’s article published Saturday, November 03, 2012 with the title “Major Lesson of Sandy: self-reliance, not government”. While Mr. O’Reilly makes two good points early in his article, and in spite of having lived through it, he fails to understand completely the full impact of a storm like Sandy. His two points: “First: no government agency can help you when disaster strikes. Any assistance will be after the fact…”. Well, yes, first responders should not risk their own lives to go out in a storm and we can’t expect them to. If the worst happens during the height of a disaster, unfortunately we are on our own. “Second: In order to ride out any storm effectively you should be self-reliant and resilient. That means you have to anticipate problems and have some solutions at the ready.” On the surface, that is a good lesson to learn.

But Mr. O’Reilly continues, and this is where he loses me. It seems the worst he suffered during Sandy was a loss of power and a malfunctioning generator. He was able to get it fixed because he had connections and continued blithely on his self-congratulatory way. He did not mention any damage to his home or car. He did not mention any other difficulties he is facing in the aftermath other than losing power. So now he’s an expert and proceeds to inform us all that we each should be just as self-reliant as he is. We should all have generators and people we can call at a moment’s notice to fix them if they break, like he does, and we should never expect the government to help us in any way.

Is the man totally blind? Is he completely insulated from what is happening around him? Entire neighborhoods have washed away. Homes and businesses have been lost. All the preparation in the world is no use if your house is gone, your neighborhood is gone, your car has been totaled, your generator has blown away, all of your supplies have been buried in the rubble, your business is wiped out, and all you have left is the shirt on your back. I’m prepared for hurricanes; I have food reserves, (which I donate when the season is over) I keep my car gassed up during hurricane season, I have storm shutters, and I have a generator, but I also understand that all of that can be gone in an instant if “The Big One” hits. A big one like Andrew, for instance.

I lived through Andrew. My parents lost their home but were fortunate enough to have relatives to take them in. Their cars were fine so they were able to get to that relative’s home, then to work. My mother was a nurse and my step-father was a telephone company employee so they had jobs after the storm. They were able to rebuild but are forever scarred from dealing with the trauma of losing so much, and they were better off than a lot of people. They didn’t have to rely on the government because they had a safety net in the form of family. They had insurance that paid their claim; they were lucky. So many lost so much more.

So I prepare for hurricanes; how can I not after Andrew? I do it with the understanding that it is my responsibility to be self sufficient, like Mr. O’Reilly talks about, as much as I possibly can. I can look after myself and my family if I only lose power, like Mr. O’Reilly, and I won’t be a drain on precious resources needed elsewhere. But I also know that if I lose everything, my neighbors lose everything, and my safety nets are all blown away, I can look to FEMA and organizations like the Red Cross for a helping hand as I try to put my life back together. That comfort is priceless beyond words.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dietary Changes and What They Can Teach You

So I've already written a bit about how DH had to undergo radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer. He's had the treatment, he's doing well, and he still doesn't appear to be suffering from any of the possible side effects, so whew! He's nearing the end of the 3 week period where he's had to avoid iodine in his food, meaning he's had to avoid almost all processed foods and dairy, so he got to try out a vegan diet for the duration since he's pretty strict about not eating meat. (He's a better hippy than I am; I'll eat seafood once in a while.)

I've learned a few things from this enforced dietary change. It bears repeating that I realized I rely on things like packaged veggie broth, canned beans, and store-bought bread products far more than I would like. We didn't starve without those pantry staples and actually ate quite well. My favorite new food is garbanzo beans NOT from a can. The ones from a can do not hold a candle to dried beans you cook yourself, and they are so easy! They are a lot less finicky than other beans we've made from dried. (I'll add recipes below.) The quinoa pilaf I wrote about a few days ago was delicious too, and quick. We also ate salads for several meals, and delicious veggie packets that I learned about from Girl Scout camp training. Desperation and hunger can make you pretty inventive in a pinch!

So here are the directions/recipes:

Garbanzo Beans (from dried)

Start out by picking through a package of dried garbanzo beans, tossing any foreign matter or suspicious looking beans. Put them in a colander and give them a rinse, then soak them. Make sure they have PLENTY of room and PLENTY of water when you soak them; they swell considerably. You can soak them anywhere from a few hours to over night. Once they are soaked, drain them and throw them in a pot with fresh water to cover them by an inch or two. Bring them to a boil then reduce the heat a bit, cover the pot, and let them cook for an hour or so making sure to stir occasionally. Add more water as necessary. (DH made a batch in the pressure cooker; it only took 8 minutes plus the heat up/cool down time.) You don't need any seasonings, no salt, nothing but the water and the beans. Once they are tender drain them like you would drain pasta, and then the sky is the limit. I find them to be a lot easier than other types of beans because they don't break down like, say, black beans, meaning they don't thicken the cooking water. That means they aren't going to go from perfect to a burnt, goopy mess in mere seconds as soon as you turn your back, and when you drain them they are still basically intact for incorporating into a recipe, or for storing for later use.

Sauteed Garbanzo Beans

I threw this together one night when I was too tired to come up with anything else for dinner. The beans were ready to go in the refrigerator and they looked good, but they needed something more. Here's what I did:

1/4 of a sweet onion, cut into a large, rustic dice
minced garlic from a jar, about a half teaspoon (you could use fresh)
fresh basil, minced (about a tablespoon)
cooked garbanzo beans, about a cup
olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Saute the onion in olive oil with a little bit of salt until the onion gets translucent, a little brown, and delicious. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the beans, a little more salt, and some pepper. Cook until the beans get all warm, then add the basil and cook for just another few seconds.

Serves one.

Veggie Packets

This is a camping classic, although they taught us to put chicken in it so I had to modify it a bit to make it vegetarian.

Whatever veggies you like, cut into chunks.* Here are some I like to include:
Sugar Snap Peas

Pineapple, also cut into chunks. (We fight over the pineapple; it's the best part!)

A protein:
I love butter beans straight out of the can; I bet my garbanzo beans would also be terrific! We've also used other types of beans.

Polenta from a tube, sliced up and placed on the bottom layer

Salt and pepper to taste
Salad dressing to taste, about a tablespoon per packet (I like an Italian vinaigrette)

Make an assembly line out of your ingredients so everyone can make a packet with their favorite items. Use a large piece of foil and place your favorite items in the middle. Salt and pepper as you go along. Add some salad dressing over the top, a tablespoon or so, and close up your packet.

Place the packets on a cookie sheet and cook in the oven at 475 degrees for about an hour.

Open the packets carefully as the steam can burn!! If we don't use polenta in the packets we make rice separately and pour the veggies over a scoop of that. It is such a delicious meal, super healthy, and super filling. Too good to save for just camping trips, that's for sure!!

*A note- DH and I ate this while the kids were away and it was a lot easier to cut up veggies for two people than for all 5 of us! You just make as much as you need for the amount of people who are eating. This is such a flexible recipe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Warm Quinoa Salad

A lot has been happening around here! DH continues to fight his thyroid cancer; he had to have a radioactive iodine treatment a few days ago. We sent the kids and dogs away for a several days since he is giving off radiation and it would not be safe for them to be here. I'm still at home but I can't be in the same room with him. He's also not allowed to prepare food for anyone but himself, he has to sleep alone, he has to use a separate bathroom, and so on for a week. He also has to follow a low iodine diet which is really restrictive. No iodized or sea salt is the number one priority, which means almost no processed foods. No restaurant food either, since you can never know what kind of salt they use for sure, and no dairy since they clean the equipment that milks the cows with iodine. (Who knew!!) It's turned our kitchen upside down, but we're managing. He has to be on the special diet for about 3 weeks, starting two weeks prior to the treatment and one week after, so he's almost to the end. He says he's going to bring home 3 pizzas from his next appointment, which is when he can go back to eating normally. He's doing well, too; no nasty side effects so far. (And there are a LOT of nasty side effects possible, so whew!!)

As for his diet, we've been making almost everything from scratch. I've made him bread and muffins, we've cooked up a ton of dried beans, and he's made homemade veggie broth. It's made me realize that even though we use far less processed foods than the average American family, we still rely on the convenience of canned beans and store-bought broth way more than we should. It's been a tasty experience- cooking from scratch is usually delicious, but very, very, VERY time consuming and labor intense. I've been cooking everything for our shared meals since his treatment, something I'm not used to for sure! I'm very spoiled that way; I usually only cook two or three meals every week. DH cooks lunch every day, Martha Jr. cooks several dinners per week, sometimes I can get The Eldest to cook a meal, and we'll either go out to eat or bring home take out for the rest.

Today I just didn't feel like cooking beans again and I wanted something quick and tasty, so I turned to quinoa. We usually have quinoa as a base for Mexican, either tortillas or quesadillas, but it can be used for salads and pilaf-style dishes just like rice or pasta. DH can't have the tortillas or tacos so I wanted to come up with a tasty pilaf-y something or other. Here's the recipe for my dish, and it tasted pretty good if I do say so myself! I didn't measure so this is one where you have to taste as you go, especially at the end when you mix everything together. I've read other quinoa recipes and this is probably similar, but it's my particular take on those.

Warm Quinoa Salad

~ Cooked quinoa (I cooked it with DH’s homemade veggie broth; half veggie broth/half water would have been fine)
(To cook the quinoa, place 1 cup uncooked quinoa in a covered microwave safe dish, add a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, then add 2 cups of liquid; microwave on high for 9 minutes with the cover on then let sit until all liquid is absorbed- thank you Melissa D'Arabian.)(Or you could cook it on the stove following the package directions, which would probably taste a little better. The microwave is a shortcut but the quinoa seems fluffier when cooked on the stove.)

Diced veggies:
~ Onions (I used half of a large Vidalia)
~ Sweet peppers (I used 3 small, one each red, orange, yellow)
~ Carrot (1 good sized; 2 would have been better)
~ Cucumber (I only used a small bit I had left over, but could have used more)
~ Yellow cherry tomatoes (I cut them in half and used a lot since they are so yummy)
~ Medjool dates, pits removed and diced (I used about 5 or 6)

~ Olive oil to taste (just a drizzle at the end since olive oil is added to the quinoa and to the sautéed vegetables as they cook)
~ Balsamic vinegar to taste (a generous drizzle)

~ Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the carrots, onions, and peppers in olive oil until they are caramelized and delicious; season with salt and pepper to taste as they cook.

Once the quinoa has absorbed all cooking liquid, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine, tasting it for more salt/pepper/oil/vinegar. (Go slow when adding these ingredients, starting with maybe a couple of teaspoons of the olive oil and a tablespoon of vinegar, if I remember my amounts correctly- too much of any one of them can throw the whole thing off. That's why I added the dates at the last second- it tasted kind of off without them, but then I threw them in and they balanced it all out perfectly.)

Serve warm.

DH said it was the best thing I've cooked for him- can't beat that!! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Has Obama Done??

Well, here's an answer to that very question. It's a good read; well worth the time.

There's also this:
Long list of Obama's accomplishments with citations

And this:
Want a better economy? Vote Democrat!

And this!!
Smallest government spender

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What is UP With That??

I'm no fashionista but I like to look neat, tidy, and somewhat pulled together. I don't spend a lot on clothes or a lot of time shopping, but I don't go to Wal Mart for my clothes either. Not to be snobby, I just don't want anything that's going to wear out after 4 washings. The girls have both dragged me out shopping recently so I've poked around the stores to see if I can find a new top or pants or something pretty for myself. Let me tell you, I wouldn't have the garbage they are selling in the stores now. JCPenney and Sears both have tanked as far as the quality of their clothes; I am so disappointed. There wasn't a single top I would have in either store; almost everything was made of thin, cheap, see-through material that wouldn't last 2 washings, let alone 4. From what I saw their clothes have come down to the quality Wal Mart used to carry. (And if that's what JCP and Sears carries, I can't imagine what Wal Mart is stocking!) I found some pants at JCP for Martha Jr. that were OK and I found clothes for The Wild Child at Sears the last time I took him shopping, but NOTHING in women's clothes. (The Wild Child wears shorts and T-shirts almost exclusively, so that's not really saying much, however.) I've walked out of Ross and TJ Maxx without buying anything recently, too. I'm starting to despair of ever finding decent, reasonably priced clothes again. Dillard's and Macy's never have anything that appeals to me from a style standpoint; everything is either too young or too old, and that's about it for stores in my area.

I have no idea where to buy clothes now. Guess when my current batch of clothes wear out I'll have to go around nekkies. ;)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Neopets: Habitarium Hints

Here's a bit of silliness for you!!

The Eldest got me hooked on some of the games on the Neopets website back when she was an only child. She stopped playing a long time ago, moving on to World of Warcraft and other, hipper games, but I still enjoy a good round of Destruct-o-match or Sutek's Tomb. I've also maintained a pet (Samoa Cookies) and a Habitarium. I've been playing the Habitarium off and on for a while, so I know the ropes. Recently The Wild Child was logged on when I sat down at the computer so I checked out his Habitarium and let me tell you, it was a sad, sad sight. He had 2 P3s, both soldiers, no eggs, and one Larnikin nester from Professor Clodbottle. He had next to nothing stored up in his storage building. At least he had a storage building! He also had a house and a couple of nests. I've managed to build him up from that to a decent store of resources, two pages of eggs, and several new P3s. They are all busily working away toward The Wild Child's goals of new buildings and upgrades. He's advanced a level too.

I wanted to help him out more quickly so I looked up strategies on Google, but after reading them over I realized they were just plain wrong! Well, they may have good advice if you are using Neo Cash or if you interact with Neo Friends, but I don't do that. My Habitarium (and The Wild Child's) is a closed system. Since I disagree with what I've found for strategies, I'm going to put my own out there in internet land. I'm not going to go into any detail about what the upgrades do or technical stuff; Google has plenty of good advice about that.

Here's what I did to help out The Wild Child and grow his Habitarium:

1. I don't remember what you start out with as far as buildings, but you need at least a storage building, a house, and a nest. Work for those first.

2. Put that nester to work! Make eggs and harvest them; do not hatch them unless you absolutely have to. These little P3s die all the time and you need the eggs to replace them. They especially die when you don't play the game every day. When you leave it for a while then go back to it, you'll come back to an empty Habitarium. (Although that's when Professor Clodbottle will give you new nesters.) (Oh, and when they die, they turn into gems; make sure to click on those and harvest the points.)

3. Set your goals. Take a look at the items in the shopping bag and decide which resources you need to buy the item you'll want next. You'll always need food, both the kind that makes the P3s "a little less hungry" and the kind that makes them "a little less tired". You'll also need nectar droplets since that helps when they are wounded. (That's when the top status bar goes down when you are looking at a particular P3.) (Once you are able to purchase a hospital and barracks the nectar isn't as necessary.) You'll need grass, pollen, and water for those items. If you decide you want a building or upgrades then you'll need to gather wood, stone, and mud. Some of the decorative items can be useful as well. I like the fencing since it can protect the sides of buildings and pen those little P3s in when you want them in a certain area.

4. This is probably my best tip, and one I didn't see on the strategy web sites. You can help your P3s work efficiently if you move your storage unit by the resource you are working to harvest. If you play around with it you can set it up so that the resource goes directly into the storage unit and the P3s don't waste time walking back and forth. If you need wood, move the storage unit almost on top of the trees. Let the workers harvest wood for a few moments and see if they are putting the wood directly in or taking time to walk the wood in. If they are still walking the wood in, then you have to re-position. I've even used fencing to hem workers in, especially by the rocks, so that they don't walk between loads. If you have a lot of P3s or a lot of eggs, you can hatch more workers than usual to build up a particular resource. I wanted to upgrade my barracks recently so I needed more rock so this is exactly what I did and I had the upgrade in no time.

5. Place your buildings strategically. I have most of my buildings around the perimeter with stone or other buildings or fencing along the side. I figure it makes it harder for the bad bugs to damage them if they can only get to one side.

6. Don't waste time on the seed hammers to fix damaged structures. The P3s are good at repairing damage; it just takes a few minutes no matter how extensive the damage is. When I open my Habitarium I take the P3s out of the barracks and houses and set them down in front of the various buildings and nests to get them started on repairs.

7. Always keep some of the P3s in the houses or barracks so you always have a fresh batch to rotate out. If I have 6 soldiers, for instance, I'll have 3 out at any given time and 3 sleeping. If the bad bugs invade while I have the game open I can quickly pull out more soldiers. If I have 3 stored up while the game is closed, then I have 3 at the ready when I open it up again.

8. Always have soldiers out and about! Those bad bugs can really damage your resources.

9. Use all 3 varieties of P3s to make it easier to keep track of them. When you get to where you can have 20 plus P3s it gets confusing to know which ones you've checked on and which you haven't. It's just a little easier if you have all 3 varieties going. I even have 3 houses; I'll use one for larnikins, one for pinchits, and one for mootixes. Make sure to check on each P3, too. If you're familiar with the game this is one of the basics you should know how to do already, but if you're a newbie, you click on the P3 you want to look at and their status shows up in the round thingie. The top bar is health, the next bar is food, and the bottom bar is sleep. You want all 3 bars full! To get the top bar full they need nectar, to get the middle bar full they need to eat something that will fill them up, and to fill the bottom bar they need to eat something that will make them less sleepy. Putting them in a house, barracks, (for soldiers), or the hospital will also help. Make sure to check on the workers if a bad bug has been near them; they are quick to sustain damage if they are caught in the crosshairs. I try to move the workers away from the bad bugs and let the soldiers handle the fighting since the soldiers are hardier. The nesters are never near the battles since they are all on their nests making more eggs for you, right?!

10. Always upgrade! Upgrade the nests, the houses, the barracks, the P3s, everything! It makes them all work better. I love it when the houses can hold a gazillion P3s. I rarely have as many P3s hatched as I'm allowed, but it's nice to have the sleep/recovery space when it's needed. If you absolutely had to forgo one upgrade, I wouldn't upgrade the hospital. Since I don't battle with other Neo Friends I don't have that many injuries so it isn't as necessary.

11. Speaking of sleep space, make sure you have enough space in the houses/barracks for most of the P3s you have hatched. You can switch them out in shifts, but sometimes you need to find space for more of them if they are all tired at once. I'll even put them in the hospital sometimes if I need the room, just to manage the little buggies.

Well, there you have it, one of my guilty pleasures. I shouldn't be wasting time on Neopets but every now and again it's a fun diversion, so if I can get a blog post out of it I might as well. ;)

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Video!!

Our greyhounds are a joy. I've been trying to get some video of them playing in the backyard but their play sessions are so brief I can't manage to find the camera before they are done. (They're sprinters, so a minute or two of play and it's all over but the panting.) Yesterday Martha Jr. decided to take our older boy, Warren, into the pool, which he loves. (Our girl, Cina, hate, hate, HATES the pool so she hid.) I had the camera ready before hand this time, and got some footage of Warren both in the pool and running around the back yard. For those who don't know, zoomies are when the dogs run like crazy, and helicopter zoomies are when they run in circles, both of which you'll see on the video HERE. Enjoy!! :)

PS: I wanted to embed the video on this page, but alas, I do not have the computer savvy to pull it off, so you'll have to check the link.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rain Rain Go Away...

Rain rain go away... maybe go hang out over Texas and the dried out parts of the country for a while. It's done nothing but RAIN lately; I think my garden is going to drown. I have a rain gauge (a tube with a ruler on the side on a decorative stake) and we got 5 inches over night a couple of days ago. And it isn't done! Forecasters say we have another day or so then we'll dry out for a little bit. I've watered my tomato plants maybe twice since I planted them. (They don't like a lot of water.) I have a bunch of other plants this year, too. We put in summer squash, cucumber, basil, pepper, and several plants each of collards and swiss chard. The cucumber is going crazy! It's vining all over the garden fencing and has several buds, but no fruit yet. The squash was doing well and we had a lovely blossom but the bugs got it. I read up on how to kill the pests but the info said they have a short season, so since the plant seems to be holding its own I'm letting well enough alone; the bugs will have their fill then I'll get the rest.

On the home front, The Eldest and I are getting over colds. Colds trigger really nasty, scary coughing fits for me so I went to the doctor about it, wondering if the coughing was triggering asthma attacks. He gave me some breathing tests and said I don't have asthma anymore!! That was welcome news. I was diagnosed back in 2007, the year I was losing weight, so I am guessing getting the weight off improved the asthma. The doc said that's a plausible assumption, so keeping the weight off has gained even more importance. It's a hard, hard battle, though. I'm getting some help on that front, thank goodness! DH has a new insurance company through his job and they called me about different wellness services they offer, including phone sessions with a nutritionist! I jumped on that and it's been great. The woman who is counseling me is a sweetheart and she's been very helpful. I've lost about 4 pounds now, largely due to the cold, but I'll take it. (Colds tend to suppress my appetite.) I'll take that as a jump start and work to keep it going. The insurance company sent me a very nice packet that includes a pedometer, tape measure, "portion plate", and a work book.

DH is hanging in there. He didn't catch the cold (thank goodness) but he's dealing with his thyroid issues now. The lab work came back and it turns out he had two kinds of thyroid cancer, so now he has to have a radiation treatment to make sure none of that tissue got anywhere else in his body. He's dreading it, but we'll get through it. The kids have to be out of the house for a few days so we're sending the little ones up to his parent's and The Eldest is going to stay with a friend. We're even sending the dogs to the kennel for a few days, just to be on the safe side. I'm staying here in case he needs me, but we can't hug or touch or sleep in the same room. :( He has to follow a special diet for a couple of weeks leading up to the treatment; I'll have to spend some time looking over the recipes and making up shopping lists. I glanced at the cookbook and there's a nice variety of recipes, so it shouldn't be a big deal.

Today is a "home day" and I need it! It helps keep my fibro under control if I can spend a few days each week at home without going anywhere near my car. I still go outside for walks and gardening, of course. Those walks are pretty important; I missed a few days in a row due to the absolute miseries from this darn cold and my legs ached so much it was difficult to sleep. (Added to the difficulties sleeping from the cold itself; not a good combination.) That balance of just enough exercise is so crucial to managing fibromyalgia; that would make it my top bit of advice to anyone newly diagnosed. Figure out how much you can exercise without it being too much, and DO THAT!! It is the best medicine out there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Just Because

I was trying to take some video of our dogs doing their "zoomies" but they didn't cooperate, so I took some pictures instead. DH came out and hung out with me for a while. It's over cast but the temperature is nice so it was pleasant to be outside with the dogs. We're like empty nesters today- the kids are away with their grandparents. DH had thyroid surgery this past Tuesday and they came down to watch them for us while I was with DH in the hospital, then DH's sister and her family invited them to a vacation rental a few hours from here. This is the first time we've let them go somewhere without us, but it's time. They are old enough and they're having a ball with their cousins. DH is still a little sore from his surgery but he's recovering well. You can't even see the bandage (which is just a couple of pieces of tape) under the collar of his shirt in the picture, but if you look you can see a little bit of the swelling.

DH is petting Warren, our big boy. Warren was quite the racer back in his day- he raced over 100 times and won a bunch. Cina, our girl, only raced about a dozen times in the bush leagues and lost them all. That's because she's the princess- she's all about the love. I think she's been totally spoiled her entire life; the people at the adoption kennel were all in love with her, so there's no reason to think the people at her racing kennel weren't the same way, and she's such an affectionate creature. I didn't get a good picture of her because she was right by my side the whole time we were outside. Maybe next time!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Are We the Way We Are? (Politically Speaking)

Politically, I am a die hard liberal. I am pro-environment, I strongly believe we have to regulate big business, I'd like the money out of politics, I believe in a woman's right to control what happens to her body, I believe we should have universal health care, I believe in gun control, I believe consenting adults should be able to marry whom they choose, and I'm a softie when it comes to immigration. But why? Why do I believe these things, and why do people who are die hard conservatives believe what they believe? And why is it getting so nasty now, so that I'm even losing friends over politics? It's like we're at war, with clear battle lines and even casualties. (Gabby Giffords and the people who died around her that day, for instance.) Neither side seems willing to listen to the other any more. But why? Why are we so at odds with each other now? Why are people picking sides and standing their ground with no room for compromise? Why is the rhetoric so hateful?

I don’t have any answers but I do know it's truly sad. I kind of wish we had Vulcan Mind Melds so we could see other people's thoughts and understand each other better, because we are all the way we are for a reason. Or many reasons. Maybe I can explain some of my thinking. The only problem is where to start! I disagree with the Republican/conservative agenda on so many fronts and for so many reasons it’s hard to break it down. Since there are two major components to any political platform these days, the social and the economic, I’ll start with that. (There’s a lot more of course, but those are the big ones.)

Socially, I believe in letting people live their lives with NO DISCRIMINATION. If consenting adults, be they men, women, aliens from another planet, black, white, purple, or whatever, want to marry each other, then they should be able to do so. I understand that it may offend some people due to their religion but when I went off the deep end about it a few posts ago, I pointed out that we don’t govern our country by religion. We have a constitutional separation of church and state in this country. To govern by religion would mean we are sinking to the level of the Taliban, and that is not acceptable on any level.

I’m also pro-choice. I understand that from the point of the conservatives, too; they think life begins at conception, so to abort those cells would be the same, in their eyes, as ending something God allowed and against their religious beliefs. Once again, we do not run this country by religion, nor should we. I do NOT believe life begins at conception, I believe it begins when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. (And thanks to advances in medicine that gets earlier all the time.) To force a woman to endure the sacrifices that have to be made to carry a baby, and some of those sacrifices are life long, when she doesn’t want to for whatever reason/s, is unconscionable. It is far worse to bring unwanted children into this world than to allow legal, safe abortions. Of course, reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies through education and access to contraception is the better option, but abortion is ultimately between the woman and her doctor. I don’t even think the father should have a say in it. We have so many unloved children in this world; the crime would be bringing in even more. Looking at my own three beautiful, amazing children makes me mourn for those children who are unloved, uncared for, unwanted, and in many cases unfed and uninsured.

Once they are born, I believe all of our children need to be cared for. If parents don’t have the means to provide health care or food or decent housing then we as a society should make sure that happens. This also seems to be counter to the conservative agenda which favors a “pull yourself up by your own dang bootstraps” kind of approach. This is where I don’t understand the conservatives at all. If the conservatives claim to be all religious, then why wouldn’t they be the most ardent advocates of government social programs? Jesus believed in helping the poor, after all.

That brings me to economics. I went at it with a conservative Facebook “friend” a while ago (he was rude about it and has since been unfriended) about Obamacare. His argument boiled down to “we can’t afford it”. Well, we can afford two wars readily enough, so if there’s a will, there’s a way. This is the United States- we can work things out if we choose. It all depends on what our priorities are. We can’t afford not to provide healthcare for everyone- we lose too much in the face of overwhelming medical expenses for our middle class as a whole, and for someone to die for lack of ability to pay for medical care is criminal. When good people have to die or declare bankruptcy due to medical bills something is wrong. Access to decent healthcare should be the right of every person in this country. Yes, that will create problems, but I believe in our ability to solve each and every one of them if we let our government know it's important.

One final point about economics. I STRONGLY believe we need to regulate big business. If we don’t they’ll kill us all in the name of profits. My awareness of this issue came about when my son was younger. He had Thomas the Tank Engine toys that were recalled due to lead paint. Now he has learning disabilities. While I can never be sure that those toys were the cause of his problems, I can never be sure that they weren’t, either. I can’t express how betrayed I feel by the toy company that sold those contaminated toys. I do my absolute best to keep my children healthy and safe and give them mental stimulation to help them develop into happy, well adjusted adults, and I spend extra to buy quality toys, and then this happens. How? How can that be allowed? Thank goodness for the laws that required the recall so that I could take the toys away from him before he died from it.

That betrayal led to an awareness of how big business can harm us. The toy manufacturer decided to cut corners and have their toys made in another country in the name of profits. That decision could have cost me my son, so when I say profits before people this is something I have experienced personally. Other businesses that I have come to distrust include the oil and gas companies (BP in the gulf, Exxon in Alaska), financial institutions (who caused the mortgage crisis and our subsequent economic free fall) and Monsanto, because they have such a blatant disregard for human life. This post is already long enough so I’m not going into what Monsanto is up to, but it’s scary. These betrayals of my trust leave me with one alternative- I want to see businesses regulated. I want the government to stick up for me and my children and protect us from that “profits before people” mentality. I voted for Obama originally because he put forth legislation as a senator to regulate the toy industry and get the lead out of toys. Conservatives say they don’t want business to be regulated because they don’t want anything to hinder the free market. The free market won’t do us any good if those companies lie to us about the safety of their products, make us all sick, destroy our environment, and cheat us out of all our money.

This is not a comprehensive post by any means but it is getting long so I’m going to end here. I may revisit the issue; things are getting so heated now with the election coming up. I usually try not to post anything inflammatory here or on Facebook but these issues are so vital now. There’s too much at stake to be silent.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hurricane Strategy

With all the information thrown at you when a hurricane is approaching it's important to develop a strategy for what you plan to do based on the expected intensity of any storm headed your way. DH and I follow the forecasts closely leaving plenty of room for error. For even the most pitiful and weak of hurricanes we clean up the yard and DH closes up the shutters that involve climbing on a ladder. If conditions intensify and things get windy, you want that job done and over with. We have accordion shutters (worth every penny) so we can close up the rest of the windows quickly at the last minute. We move all of the potted plants, lawn furniture, and other yard items up under our patio overhang by our back door so we can either leave them where they are, protected from the wind on 3 sides, or move them indoors quickly if the storm will be a doosey.

Indoors, I get my laundry caught up so I don't have to worry about how or where to wash clothes if we are out of power for a while. That's a big job since my laundry pile hovers just under ceiling height most of the time!

During storm season I try to keep my gas tank full so I refuel when I hit the half way mark. I'd just done that before this storm popped up so I was good to go on that one.

I recently updated and rotated my 10 meal box so that was good to go too, but I still did some last minute shopping. Mostly for things we use on a regular basis more than emergency supplies, but it never hurts to round out your stock. One thing I got caught short on is D batteries, but we don't have many things that use them. Most of our flashlights are LEDs and use AAA batteries; there were plenty of those in the stores. I picked up a box of outdoor garbage bags for debris pick up post storm. We keep those on hand but our stock was running low. I bought some produce and a few other non-perishables and avoided anything frozen or cold. We ate meals using our freezer inventory to get that down. I'll refill the space with water bottles which will make big blocks of ice and help keep everything cold a little longer, plus we can use the water for drinking when it melts. (For us or the dogs!) I picked up more bottled water since we haven't been using it as much lately; the kids are using reusables and I drink seltzer water. It's good to keep some water bottles on hand, though. (And one more thought for my rant from my last post- I like to have cold water bottles in our garage refrigerator for any workers that we hire, like yard guys or tree trimmers or repair people of any kind. It would be kind of weird to offer them water in a regular cup. They would have to drink it right away so the water wouldn't spill or get bugs in it and not when they chose to take a break.)

I haven't decided yet about filling my reusable water containers. If we get a boil water order I'll kick myself if I don't fill them, but if there isn't any problem that water goes down the drain. We've been getting so much rain lately I don't have any need for extra water in the garden.

This is our first storm with dogs. I went to the pet supply store and stocked up on kibble and canned food first thing. We usually feed them a little bit of kibble with some freshly cooked meat on top (spoiled puppies) but if we lose power we will have to resort to canned food. I also bought piddle pads in case the storm parks over us and rains for a long time. I don't know how we'll get them to use a piddle pad, but we'll see how it goes. (We'll take them out in the garage, for sure, then see what happens.) Hopefully that won't be a problem!!! I also got them new bones for the worst of the bad weather. Greyhounds can develop anxiety problems at any age so I want to give them something to distract them if there's a lot of noise from thunder and wind. (Thank you Never Say Never Greyhounds for that idea!)

Oh, there are so many things to consider before a storm strikes, even a category 1! This is just a sampling of our plan. I hope you develop your own plan for whatever emergency you may face in your area. It could be a life saver!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bottled Water Rant part 2

I'm an ardent, tree hugging environmentalist. I'm a proud member of Millions Against Monsanto, the epitome of evil. I was using reusable grocery bags before reusable grocery bags were cool. I grow veggies in my back yard and gave up meat. There is one area, however, where you will find me speaking out against the rest of the eco movement, and that's on the subject of bottled water. I know water bottles are adding all sorts of plastic to the world that we don't need, I know that some of the companies that bottle water victimize all sorts of people and take their clean water away to sell for profits, I know some bottled water is just local tap water, and I know that the bottled water companies do not have to meet the same water purity standards as good old tap, but I still defend bottled water. Why, you may wonder? Because it is absolutely essential, because I like the taste of my favorite brand better, because I remember the time when I couldn't get decent water to drink when I went out, because I care about my body so I don't drink soda or sugary drinks, because a lot of places won't let you take your own water containers in, and because Martha Jr. almost had heat stroke for lack of clean, cold water at a "green" event we attended recently.

That last reason is the scary one. We attended a big outdoor event during the heat of summer. We were out of town staying in a hotel and could not prepare as I would have here at home. I was not able to pack up a cooler full of ice and reusable bottles of water; I had to rely on what I could find at the event. The event promoters were encouraging everyone to "be green" and said they would not sell bottled water, but would have water stations. When we got there we quickly used up the water we were able to pack with us. (Hotel tap with some nasty ice from the machine down the hall.) We headed to the water station and found.... a hose. An old, used, disgusting garden hose. The water that came out of it was warm and yellowish and not something I wanted to drink. That was after standing in the sun for 20 minutes just to get to the hose to begin with! It was awful. We tried dousing a towel and using that to cool off but it wasn't any use. The warm water just didn't work and Martha Jr. started to get dizzy enough that we had to leave the event to seek out air conditioning. Turns out we weren't the only ones- there were so many people suffering the symptoms of heat stroke they had to call out the local mass casualty unit. Dozens of people went to the hospital. Yep, it was a green event all right, so green it put all those people in the hospital for lack of cool, clean, drinkable water. I know some of them would have suffered heat stroke anyway, it was that hot, but I also know my daughter would have been fine if they were selling cold bottled water.

And now we are facing yet another hurricane. The bottled water was the first thing to go at the local Costco and I was happy to see it. It means people know what can happen in a storm and are taking the situation seriously. I picked up some extra bottles myself when I found them at the grocery store. I have several large containers that I will also fill if the storm hits our area, but I use those for hygiene, not drinking. I keep a large 5 gallon water cooler (the big ridged orange ones with a spigot) by two sinks and those are used for hand washing. I have two large garbage cans (that were never used for garbage) I put in two of our showers and fill with water for hand washing and flushing toilets. Now that we have dogs, I'll also fill some smaller containers with water for them. I also buy 5 gallon containers of bottled water, the kind that you up-end over a dispenser, and keep those on hand every storm season. (Whole Foods sold the dispensers several years ago; I'm so happy I bought one!) I have water in a variety of containers, from single use/single serve bottles to large containers I fill myself, and they are each necessary for my storm prep.

After a storm and in the event of any emergency bottled water is the absolute first thing survivors must have. They need it before food, they need it before shelter, they need it before electricity is restored. You can not survive more than a few days without clean water to drink, and sometimes those plastic bottles are the only way to get that water to the people who need it. (Even better if they already have their own supply on hand, but you have to remember that if someone's entire house is wiped out they may have stored plenty of water but not be able to get to it, so once again bottled water from first responders is essential. And I say that because I've heard comments from people who haven't been through a natural disaster that everyone should be prepared, and if they aren't then too bad. They don't consider that people may have prepared but having your house flattened kind of makes that a moot point.)

Finally, I say to those who would ban my bottled water, ban sodas first!! They cause a lot more harm than water in terms of public health; I mean, look at the obesity rates in this country! If I didn't have bottled water to drink and I was absolutely dying of thirst, and sodas were the only choice, I would drink regular Coca Cola (OK, I confess, I love Coca Cola... but I never ever drink it due to the calories) and get fat, fat, fat. Those liquid calories are dangerous! (I would NOT drink diet soda; it tastes disgusting and artificial sweeteners give me headaches, and they make people fat too because they make you crave sweets.)

Yes, bottled water causes all sorts of problems, but maybe the answer is to address those individual problems, not by banning bottled water but by making it better. Greedy corporations are preying on third world people and stealing their clean water? Well, that's where government needs to step in- make laws against that. The water isn't safe or pure? Make laws for that. (Which they should have done already anyway.) The soda companies are just selling bottled tap? Make them say so! (Sometimes you just need water... in a single serve bottle... and people will buy it anyway even if it is tap, but it's good to know.) They use too much plastic? Figure something out- one brand claims to use less plastic. (My favorite brand, actually, when I'm not drinking seltzer water.) Make that mandatory, or come up with some other type of packaging, like the biodegradable corn starch containers some manufacturers are using. There are solutions to every problem, but banning bottled water completely is not a good solution in this case.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time to Start the Garden

It's time to start our garden! Most of the country is finishing up but way down south it's time to start our seeds. We've had a lot of luck with cherry tomatoes so those are first on the list. I'm going to try some larger tomatoes again this year; maybe by planting around the correct time of year we'll have better luck with those. Collards were wonderful for us last year. I picked up some collard seedlings at Home Depot and those 3 plants were terrific producers. We were able to eat Southern Style Beans with Greens (veggie-fied) about once a week. We grew watermelons once that produced inedible, tasteless fruit after the rest of the garden was done so I want to try a different variety this year. I've been warned that watermelon will take over the garden so I'm leery about planting it along with everything else, but it's a favorite (when it's sweet and delicious) so I want to see what happens. I'm not sure what else to try; I haven't had any luck with strawberries so I'm not going to bother with those even though we love them. (I'll stick with our yearly road trip to some lovely strawberry u-pick fields.) Broccoli doesn't seem like we would get enough from a plant or two, which is all we have room for. I have some cabbage seeds pulled out to give those a try. It's too early (and HOT) for lettuce. I have some basil in a container. A basil plant went berserk for us and grew into a HUGE, lush bush one year, but I've never been able to repeat that particular fluke, try as I might. Beans grow well for us but they don't produce enough per plant to even make a side dish for the whole family; I'd need 20 plants but we don't have the space.

I bought a blueberry bush last year that was developed to grow in our area but we never got it into the ground and it finally died, which is sad. I've been keeping an eye out for another one but I got it at a farmer's market I haven't been back to. One reason I never planted it was because I wasn't quite sure where to put it!

I would love to put in a fruit tree of some sort but we don't have a lot of space for it. What we do have is squirrels, possums, and raccoons, and I'm not sure what to do about them. So far they haven't bothered our garden, maybe because of the dogs, but I think it's only a matter of time. If we had a fruit tree they'd be all over it for sure since it would have to be outside the fenced area where the dogs run around. I don't want to go over board attracting the critters since neighbors have had trouble with them getting into attics.

DH and I have spent some time recently getting the garden prepped for planting. The weeds grew in since I pulled out last season's crops so weeding was called for. We expanded; DH built a pre-fab raised bed from Home Depot for me. He put down purchased compost and organic garden soil for me today so it's all ready to go. The new bed will be devoted strictly to tomatoes. The older, larger bed will be for everything else.

I'd like to get a rain barrel one of these days to use for the garden but we don't have gutters so the rain falls off the roof everywhere; there isn't a good place to collect the water. Oh well; that's a project for another day. Maybe it will be our Earth Day Resolution for next year- gutters and water barrels.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Wrap Up

It's been one heck of a summer, but in a good way. It started out with a bang with the trip to Washington, D.C. with Martha, Jr.'s Girl Scout troop for Rock the Mall back in June and hasn't slowed down much since then, in spite of cutting back on some of our regular activities. The Wild Child spent a lot of hours with the reading specialist and made considerable progress with his reading; she raved over how well he did when he had his last session. (He'll start up again in a couple of weeks when she gets back from her vacation.) The younger two both started Taekwondo (good for The Wild Child's gross motor skills) and they'll be testing for their next belt toward the end of the week. There's another benefit to Taekwondo for The Wild Child that I didn't know about going in. They have to memorize "forms", or special sequences of movements, to advance to the next level, and since The Wild Child also has working memory issues the memorization aspect will help him considerably. They are taking their classes at the same place where The Eldest takes Krav Maga so we got a family membership and she's back in her classes too, which is really good for her. She has a tendency to park in front of her computer and not get any exercise at all so this is a good thing to get her up and moving.

And The Eldest has a boyfriend! He seems like a really nice guy; he's funny and sweet and he's got her going places and being all social and stuff like a regular college kid. They met through friends and went to a comics convention together. All of the friends rented a hotel room near the convention and hung out for 4 days, and by the end of the 4 days they were an item. That was after hanging out in my house for a week, where they worked on costumes to wear. (They are into the cosplay big time.) The Eldest and The Boyfriend are also getting ready for the next convention where there will be dancing, so they are taking dance lessons once a week; more physical activity, yeah!!

I had physical therapy for my back problems and that went well, too. I have a lot of exercises I can do now to build up my endurance so that I can be on my feet for longer periods of time which will be a big help in the long run. I'm done with the therapy sessions for now so I'm going to try to sign up for Pilates (with the encouragement of both the physical therapist and the doctor) to keep it up. I need to strengthen my core, just like The Wild Child, and Pilates does just that.

So now summer is just about over and we'll go back to the regular school year schedule. Even as homeschoolers we are affected by the school calendar! 4H, Girl Scouts, and our homeschooling group will kick in again. It will be good to see all of our friends in each of those groups. My book club will get going, and I hope I'll be able to go! I wasn't able to attend many meetings last year due to one thing and another so I hope I'll be able to find time this year. I'm looking into enrolling Martha, Jr. into an on-line school so that will be a big change for her. She's starting middle school so I think the on-line option will work well for her. She doesn't have any of the learning issues The Wild Child deals with so she'll handle the academics easily. The Eldest has three classes to go to finish up her AA degree and she's enrolled for those already; they start in a week or so. She's also finally managed to find a job, after looking all summer. She'll be working with an after care program for elementary school kids; that will keep her busy, busy. She's excited that she found something that won't involve weekends since she wants to keep them open for conventions. The Boyfriend and at least one of her other friends will be working for the same company, although not necessarily at the same location.

The busy summer leads to a busy fall, and I just keep plugging away. I'm counting my blessings; we are so fortunate that we are able to lead a life with so many opportunities for positive things.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I've unfriended a second person on Facebook. It's uncharacteristic of me to put my foot down and basically tell someone I don't want to be involved with them anymore, but these are extreme times. There is a fight for civil rights going on in this country and I will NOT tolerate people who don't understand that denying other consenting adults the right to marry whomever they choose is pure, ugly, unadulterated discrimination and makes them a bigot. In case anyone disputes the definition of the word bigot, here it is, thanks to the on-line Merriam Webster dictionary:

Definition of BIGOT
: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

So, those who find themselves saying gay people should not be allowed to marry, I am not interested in being friends with you. What if I were gay? (I'm not, but just for the sake of argument.) You wouldn't be friends with me, or not a true friend, anyway, because you wouldn't want me to have the same rights you have. What if one of my children turns out to be gay? You would shun my child or deny my child rights? No, I'm sorry, I don't want to be friends with you anymore.

Oh, you say, but my RELIGION tells me it's wrong to be gay. Well, SO WHAT!!! Your religion is not the government of our country and you DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SHOVE YOUR RELIGION DOWN ANYONE ELSE'S THROAT. I don't have to believe in your religion, and I don't have to live by your religious beliefs. Ask the people in Afghanistan how living under religious rule worked out. Not too well, I'm afraid; it wasn't exactly a happy place under the Taliban. If you think being gay is wrong, then don't live that way. (And if you think that, and you are gay, then I feel for you since you are living a lie.)

I also believe being gay is innate, not a personal choice. There is one simple reason I believe that, and it's this. I am not attracted to women and couldn't make myself feel that way. Men make my little heart go pitter pat. I like men. I like looking at men. I like the way the men on the US Olympic swim team wear their bathing suits waaaaaay down low on their hips; yowsers!! I love my husband; he's a hunk. While I can appreciate health and beauty in either sex, looking at a lovely woman is like appreciating a piece of art. I can see the beauty but it's not something I'd want to cuddle up in bed with. I also think about how it would be if the situation were reversed and being gay was the norm and heterosexuality was somehow deemed aberrant- would I be able to force myself to be gay? Nope; not going to happen. I could partner up with someone and be friends but the physical attraction wouldn't be there. That's why I think it's so ridiculous when the religious types go spouting off about "they can change, it's a choice". No, it's not; you love who you love and to do less is living a lie. I won't ask that of anyone.

So get your religion and your bigotry out of my legal system. I do not believe in your version of religion and I don't have to. It's a free country, although it's getting less and less so every day, and all consenting adults should be free to love as they choose and marry as they choose.

There is no room for debate on this one. It's all or nothing; no agree to disagree. I can debate until the cows come home about a lot of other topics- taxing the rich, how to implement health care, how big government should be, how to bring down the deficit, and so on, but if you are against same sex marriage and equality for all, then you are a bigot and I don't want to be friends with you. I don't have room in my life for that. I'm taking a side and taking a stand and proud to do it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It Takes a Village...

My son, The Wild Child, is being raised by a whole team of people it seems. I've written about some of his issues before, but I'll summarize again. He's borderline gifted, first of all. (And if his tester didn't have such a heavy accent and he could have understood everything, I think he would have been well over the border into gifted... not to take away from the tester, she was very nice, competent, and worked well with him, I just don't think he understood her clearly in a lot of instances- I know how bright my boy is!!) He's also got a reading disability, some working memory problems, and fine motor issues. To that end, we have him working with a reading tutor and going to an occupational therapist to work on his fine motor skills.

He was diagnosed a year ago and we started with the interventions shortly after that. He did some brief computer work on his memory issues but he's been with the tutor consistently to address the reading this past year. She's great with him; she's using specialized techniques to get his body involved in triggering his memory of the sounds and words he's learning. He's made amazing progress with that, so now it's time to work on his other issues. I got him into an occupational therapy program a month or so ago. The therapist who evaluated him said he is having trouble because he doesn't have the upper body strength to support the muscles involved in fine motor work, largely because he didn't crawl enough as a baby. (He walked at the end of eight months.) His therapist is working on that, and, at my sister in law's suggestion and with the therapist's approval, I signed him up for taekwondo, which will also work those upper body muscles and increase his core strength. He's not weak, don't get me wrong, he's just not proportionately strong.

He's also a big boy. He's tall for his age but he's also heavy, and that's my fault. When DH and I decided to go vegetarian it wasn't exactly a decision The Wild Child had a say in. In the beginning we told the kids they could still eat meat when we dined out, we just weren't going to buy it to bring home. We went on like that for a little while and happily settled into our new way of eating... mostly. The Wild Child didn't eat what we would eat and turned his nose up at most of our alternative protein sources. (He HATES beans and eggs, for instance.) I started noticing my boy getting dark circles under his eyes and looking a little peaked. OK, that's enough of that, the boy needs meat. I started buying him organic sandwich meat every now and again, turkey hot dogs, things that he could make on his own. Now here we are a year and a half later, and he's overweight. He wasn't overweight before we went veg but he sure is now, by a lot. My healthy diet made my son unhealthy! That was not the intention, for sure!!

So now that it's summer and I have time to deal with issues like this, I might as well add one more person to our village that is raising my son. We went to a nutritionist. We've only been once so far so there hasn't been any time for progress, but we both like her. She's a mom like me so she gets it. She spent a long time with us asking all sorts of questions and conducting her evaluation; she also made a couple of recommendations for meals and snacks he might like to try. (He liked one suggestion, hated another.) I'll meet with her by myself next week, then we'll both go again after that. We're both keeping food journals- I guess she can tell a lot about how things go in our house to see what he's NOT eating as well as what he is eating.

To digress for a paragraph, someone suggested that I get a George Forman grill for The Wild Child, so I did. I picked it up for him the day after we saw the nutritionist so he would be able to cook the food she suggested. He LOVES it!! He likes it a lot better than cooking on the stove top. He's made steak, chicken sliders, and hot dogs on it. He's going to try pineapple slices as soon as I pick up a pineapple from the grocery so he can share them with everyone. He's such a sweetheart of a boy.

The drivers in the family (me, DH, The Eldest) keep busy with getting him where he needs to be all the time. His schedule is intense, especially for summer, but he's a trooper about it for the most part. His reading tutor raves about him all the time. He does have his days where things don't go so well, when he whines and rebels and gets bad reports from the adults he's working with, but those are few, and he's a 10 year old kid- he's not perfect. The most important thing is that we can see dramatic improvement. This time last year he couldn't even identify all of the letters in the alphabet, in spite of working with him over and over and over on them. Now he's reading, although he's still not reading much outside of the materials the reading specialist uses with him during his sessions. He's not on grade level yet but he's advanced a lot more than a year's worth in one year's time, that's for sure. His main issue, the reading disability, is being addressed successfully. Now it's on to the other challenges my sweet Wild Child has to conquer.

Thank goodness for that village of people out there- we couldn't do it without them.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Time

It's HOT around my neck of the woods this year. My garden is done; I ripped out the tomato plants a few weeks ago. The rainy season started and the tomatoes just don't like all that water. Some is good, a lot makes the tomatoes swell and split, then they are just gross. There are 3 collard plants and a sad little basil plant left and those are all going to get pulled out very shortly. During the down time before the fall season starts up I want to expand the planting bed so that I have a new location for the tomatoes. (They are on a 3 year rotation, which is following guidelines I've read about on-line. Until I expand I only have 2 locations for them.) I also want to install proper raised bed borders instead of the makeshift borders we have now. (DH, this would make a great birthday present, hinthinthint!!!) I'm planning to start my seeds a lot earlier this year, now that I know I can do it. A greater variety of tomatoes and veggies would be good, too. The cherry tomatoes do well in my garden but it would be lovely to have some larger slicing tomatoes as well, maybe some romas if that's all I can get. I had some larger tomatoes growing this year but they went in too late so they produced fruit but it wasn't edible. (The swelling thing again- they would crack and get all yucky before getting ripe.) The collards did well; definitely need more of those. I haven't had any luck with lettuce; it just bolts, so maybe it's a timing thing and I'll give it another go.

Summer is also hot and buggy around here. I've really slacked off on my walking program, even with the greyhounds bugging me for walkies every day, due to the heat and bugs. It's too hot to walk during the day, but if I wait until dusk when it cools off the mosquitoes come out. Those pests really love the dogs too, so they are missing their walks desperately. (The girls take them out on shorter walks a couple of times during the day but they have to come in before the dogs over heat. Greys are incredibly prone to heatstroke since they have such thin skin.) I think I'm going to start biking again; the mosquitoes can't bite me if they can't catch me! I'm also planning a trip to the sporting goods store for some lightweight work out pants. I usually wear shorts (I practically LIVE in shorts over the summer) but long pants will offer more protection from mosquitoes if I can find some I don't smother in. I hate using mosquito repellants and chemicals but sometimes you just have to around here. I also hate using my treadmill, but I think I'm going to have to do that too!

The kids love to go in the pool over the summer so DH spends a lot of time whipping it into shape. It needs some serious maintenance, like resurfacing, but that's really expensive so we're holding off as long as possible. With The Wild Child going to his summer camp we don't need any extra bills. (It's camp, but not camp. He works with his reading specialist for 2 hours a day 4 days a week while he's there and it's costing some serious bucks. If it helps him read, though, it's worth it.)

Regular obligations are set aside over the summer. Girl Scouts and 4H aren't meeting so that's a big chunk of the schedule freed up, although we are planning a couple of Girl Scout get togethers if we can set them up. I'm hoping our weekends will be a little less hectic. Since January I've had a total of 2 weekends where I didn't have obligations of some sort, and one of those was spent packing for the Washington, DC trip. That makes me tired.

I also have goals for the summer. First and foremost, I want to clean out Martha Jr.'s room. She is a pack rat of the highest order and she HATES to let go of ANYTHING. She's not going to have a choice, though. I'm going to empty her room and we're only going to put half back. We did this for The Wild Child's room when he had to have some major ceiling and dry wall repairs and it worked out really well. His room is so much better, and with half the stuff it only gets half as messy, and it's a lot easier for him to clean up. It's a lot less overwhelming for him with less stuff.

I'm also going to start physical therapy for my back next week. Hopefully I can keep up with the exercises and get my back in better shape. It's so limiting at this point. I can't do anything that requires significant time on my feet, and if I don't go and lay down at regular intervals during the day, I'm in pain. I've built my day to day schedule around that but it doesn't work out, say, when we're traveling (like the DC trip) or there's a big holiday meal to cook, or for any other myriad activities. It's frustrating, but the doctor basically said I'm in control of it. If I get my core strength up my back will be a lot better. That means another goal for the summer- improve my core strength.

We also have some summer birthdays to celebrate- The Eldest will turn 19 next week and The Wild Child will be 10 in early July. All of my children will be out of the single digits- wow. My birthday is also in the summer in mid August; I'm hoping for those raised beds. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Home Again

Washington DC was a great trip and I loved spending all the time with Martha Jr. and the other girls and moms who went with us. (There were 4 troops in all; most of the girls had parents with them.) I spent a lot of time with the leader who coordinated the trip since I wound up sitting next to her on the bus. (Once the seats were chosen we all stuck with them for the rest of the trip.)

I was worried about holding up with the fibro. I kept up until the last day, but I almost lost it when we were getting to the airport. The wait to check my bags was excruciating, then after check in the suitcases had to be hauled over BY ME to another area for x-ray, then after that another long wait to get through security. I hate that airport!! We had plenty of time but I still felt rushed and shaky, my back had started to hurt, and I was wiped out. Oh, and the suitcase I had to check was broken- a brand new Samsonite, no less. One of the two latches busted and it wouldn't close properly. Luckily my roomie mentioned duct tape, and I actually had some! I had it because of the trip to Europe with The Eldest in 2009. I read a ton of travel blogs prior to that trip and one of them suggested packing duct tape. It went into one of the travel supply bags I pack all the time and never came out until now. It was a small travel size roll, it was super difficult to unroll, and it wasn't enough to go all the way around the suitcase, but it was enough to hold the bag together on the bus ride to the airport. At the check in counter the airline had packing tape they let me use- whew! The suitcase made it back home and everything was inside thanks to the tape, but I returned that suitcase as soon as I could get it back to Costco.

At some point on the last day I noticed my ankles were gone- yep, I had cankles. The last time I had swelling like that I was pregnant. I guess I was as tired as I felt if that was happening. (Cankles- that word tickles me. It should mean something fun and flirty instead of swollen ankles. I walked around all day telling everyone I had cankles just because I like the sound of that silly word.) The swelling was gone after a good night's sleep so no worries. What was bothersome though was my back. I was a mess from half way through the last day and the entire day after we got back, then it felt better the next day so I over did it, and it flared up again today. I couldn't bend over at all; I had to take DH to the grocery with me to get items on the lower shelves. He wound up picking up all sorts of stuff I dropped or bumped off the shelf in the store; I'm such a klutz. He said I was just doing it on purpose but I promise I wasn't!

But back to the end of the trip. I finally calmed down when we got settled at the gate, I ate a snack, (Martha Jr. and I got the last pretzels at the Auntie Anne's) and I took some Tylenol. Then it was a matter of getting all of our stuff on the plane and getting home. I had a center seat which I normally HATE since I get a little claustrophobic on planes, but it was OK. I was in between the troop mom I roomed with and Martha Jr., and we all kept our arm rests up so it was like we were sitting on a couch. Since the troop mom and I are good friends, and I was able to move around a bit since Martha Jr. hardly took up any space at all (she's a little bit of a girl) I was fine. The other mom and I chatted a lot of the way and that kept my mind off things, plus it's not a long flight. Then it was over and DH was picking us up and whisking me off to a good meal (kale and potato soup- one of my favorites) and my bed. I slept like a rock but I was still groggy all the next day, and of course I had the back problems I mentioned earlier. Luckily I have a good heating pad and a tens unit; I think that's why I felt better the second day after getting home. If I had taken it easy instead of trying to return that stupid suitcase and get some other errands done... Well, anyway, it will get better.

All in all, the trip was absolutely grueling but absolutely fun, too. I'm so glad I went and got through everything, and that the fibro didn't flare up and stop me from living my life. Yes, I had a flare up at the end, but I got through all the fun stuff first- take that, fibromyalgia!

I'll blog about the actual trip and post pictures eventually, once DH gets them all on the computer for me. I took a ton of pics- gotta love those digital cameras!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Winging Off to Washington!

Martha Jr. and I are flying to Washington, DC with 51 other Girl Scouts and moms to attend the Rock the Mall sing along celebration. Girl Scouts is 100, doncha know. There will be about 250,000 of us at Rock the Mall; wonder if we'll make the news?

This is quite a challenge to my fibro management program since other people have set the schedule, but hopefully vacation adrenalin will kick in and things will go smoothly. We have a fantastic itinerary if I can keep up!!

And I'd like to point out all the new camp songs links in the family fun and educational links section. You have to scroll down a ways to find it, but if you love camp songs there are lots and lots of them. The Eldest and DH have been rolling their eyes at me as I've tried to learn more songs, which involves singing along to the you tube videos. Loudly. :)

But now I have to go to bed, several hours earlier than usual. I'm trying to get ready to get up early for the trip; we have to be at the airport at 5:30 am on Friday. I'm usually just getting to sleep good by that time. I'm going to have jet lag in my own time zone!

PS: There will be live streaming of the event. Look for my group- we'll be in the kiwi colored T-shirts!