Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I went around singing that song last night. Because it's true! It's garden-plantin' time. Woohoo! It was pretty wet over the weekend, but Hubby still managed to roto-till the garden plot and got the steer manure all worked in. We amend with steer manure in the spring and with compost in the fall. There's no real scientific reason. It's just that.... our compost doesn't compost over the winter. It just kind of sits there. Compost needs heat to really cook it. So, we just keep collecting composting materials over the winter, but it's the summer when it really goes to town. Anyhow, so the garden plot got roto-tilled over the weekend (and Hubby did a great job of maneuvering around my fennel which is still growing)
and we gave it a couple of days to dry out after the four inches of rain we got when we were gone to sunny Las Vegas last week. Now, it's time to plant. I got these lovely Japanese cucumbers from the nursery the other day. Aren't they cute? I just love pictures of baby plants. Now I've just got to save them from those dastardly snails. Japanese cucumbers are really the best ones to plant. They are tasty and don't seem to have problems with bitterness. One year, I planted regular cucumbers and pretty much threw them all out because of bitterness. See, there they are in the little 6-pack at the bottom of the trellis. Training cucumbers to climb a trellis was my gardening success story last summer. Not only does it save a lot on space (you're going up and not out), but it helps your cukes grow nice and straight, and it keeps them up out of the mud and away from some garden pests. That trellis is a wonderful thing. I grow peas on it (as you can see in the background of that picture) and I've grown green beans, too. And there's a few of my tomatoes. My mom got more than she needed, so she gave me some of hers. There's a couple of Celebrities in there and an Early Girl. I'm also going to get some Romas for canning and homefully my aunt will give me some of her heirloom tomatoes. Last fall, we had a bbq and my aunt brought these tomatoes that were just.... just.... indescribable. Especially for October. Well, actually for any time. They were huge and delicious and a little odd shaped, but we forgave them for that. I wish I would have taken a picture. So, hopefully those will come up again in her garden and she told me she'd give me some. And we'll also have our cherry tomatoes. We get tons of those as volunteers every year.

I also planted some zucchini and some bush beans (green beans that grow on bushes, you don't have to string them up) and carrots and some basil. Oh, and I can't forget red peppers for Hubby and I'm trying these new hybrid hot pepper called Mucho Nacho. I have no idea what they are like, but it says they are good for salsa. On the side of our house we're going to plant some viney things - canteloups, watermelon and pumpkins. I told you we have a little farm here on our suburban lot. I'd like to get some chickens sometime, but I think out cat Socks would have too much fun with that. So, we'll leave it at this. I may find some fun things to plant later on this spring and stick them in there, too. That's the fun of gardening.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What We're Really Like!

I realize that many of you out there think that being a homeschooling family means life is just one big, non-stop, adventure-packed thrill-ride. You know, eager little learners, bounding out of bed each day anticipating each day's foray into the wonderful world of knowledge. Spine-tingling discussions of the Magna Charta and it's impact on Western Civilization in general and specifically the United States Constitution. Dramatic re-enactments of the assassination of Julius Caeser on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. Scientific experiments replicating the discovery of the DNA double helix. I wish I could say all of those things happen here on a regular basis. I wish I could say something like that has happened maybe once around here. I wish I could say I was 10 pounds lighter and I knew the natural color of my hair. But, unfortunately, our life is not quite like that. But here is what we do do.... We look at books occasionally. Sometimes our copywork is a quote from George Washington, other times it looks like this....

We get through the 3 r's, and when our studies are over for the day, sometimes we like to sit around and practice tricks with our noses.
And sometimes we just like to enjoy the sunshine with a swing and an apple.

Monday, March 28, 2011

An Easy Way to Make a Buck

Of all the major phyla of animals in the world, I have to say that the Phylum Mollusca is my least favorite. Octopuses send chills down my spines and make my eye twitch. I hate slugs, but snails.... ohhh, snails. They are they grossest of them all. And I hate them all the more because they impact my life in so many ways.
Last year, they ate my hostas down to nubs. This spring they gobbled up almost every daffodil, until I managed to save a few with snail bait.
So, this afternoon, as I was picking peas and saw the destruction left by these soft, slimy, nasty creatures I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and get rid of the snails and give the kids a chance to make a buck.
So, I offered Duh-duh and Missy Lou (Poor Bubba was stillllllll working on school work. It's not that he can't do it, it's just that he hates it and is living under the false impression that if he doesn't like to so something then he shouldn't have to. We're working to rid him of these delusions, but it's very difficult, as he clings to them tightly. Anyhow, the offer was not extended to him, since he was otherwise employed.) the chance to make 5 cents per snail they collected. They jumped at the chance.
Aren't they gorgeous? Duh-duh made $1.00 and Missy Lou made 85 cents.
And I have snail free plants for a few hours.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Las Vegas (Rated G): Part 7, Au Revoir, Vegas

Well, as they say, "All good things must come to an end," and as I finished my third back-to-back episode of NCIS (one of the early ones, where McGee is rather chubby, actually) I realized that I must head back to reality. You know, the reality where I have to make my own bed and I can't have fresh towels every day. Well, I guess I could if I really wanted them, but I'd have to do laundry every day. Yes, that reality. So, I took one more glimpse out the window of my 22nd floor room and bid Vegas farewell. And then went downstairs to wait for my shuttle to the airport. It was crazy down there. It was 5:00 and Con-Expo had just closed for the day. The lines for the taxies were a mile long and I waited and waited and waited for my shuttle. And then I started to panic. What if it doesn't come? What will I do? My plane leaves at 7:30. Should I get a taxi? How long would I have to wait in the taxi line? Would anyone mind if I just cut? Jumped in a taxi and took off? Thankfully, the shuttle came and I didn't have to run that scenario through my mind anymore. In spite of the crazy traffic, we made it to the airport by 6:00 and I guess at that time of day it's pretty quiet, because I was at my gate by 6:30, even after a major incident with one of the TSA guys, who dumped my bag open, yelled at me (yes, he really did, I am not exaggerating) and threw my brand new moisturizer away because he said it was too big. And the bags I packed my things in were too small. So he's yelling at me about that. What do I look like to you anyway? A terrorist? I was so mad at him. They let me through on the way over! Why is he making a big deal on the way back? (I will refrain now from any further discussion on this matter, as this is not a political blog, but I will say that as we allow the government to convince us we are in danger of terrorism we will continue to see our freedoms being taken from us) So, I argued with him for a moment, realized this was pointless as he would then probably throw me in the Gulag, never to be heard from again, gave him a dirty look and left, humliated. My flight was delayed (surprise) so I sat around the airport watching people who weren't terribly interesting and then finally made my way back to home-base via a US Airways jet. The kids were sleeping at Grandma's house when I got there, so I just crawled in bed with Missy Lou and spent the night there. As soon as I got in bed she turned and snuggled up to me. As much as I enjoyed my trip, it was good to be back home!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Las Vegas (Rated G): Part 6, The Real Reason We were in Vegas

I thought I'd do a quick post of the real reason we were in Vegas. Well, I was there to watch obscene amounts of tv, have someone else clean up after me and eat lots of icecream. (Which I accomplished, I am a very goal oriented person) But, Hubby was there for a trade show and I did get a couple of pictures of the show. I did not attend the show. It cost $8 to get in and as I said before, I was there to watch obscene amounts of tv, have someone else clean up after me and eat lots of icecream. But, I did sneak in to the show after hours with Hubby and see their booth (it was very impressive) and the three machines he designed (very well-received by his bosses and all the other people who mattered) and I even met his bosses who were from the United Kingdom, which is where his company is based. The trade show was called Con-Expo and was for big machines used in the construction industry - cranes, fork-lifts, man-lifts - all that kind of stuff. Hubby designs man-lifts and he's really good at it.
These pictures were taken from the monorail, so they aren't that great, but they'll give you an idea of what was going on. There were several venues around the convention center that had all these machines. It was a very large show.

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Vegas (Rated G): Part 5, The Strip

I was off to explore the Strip. The famous Strip. You know, where all the action takes place. I was kind of hoping to find some action. Maybe watch the CSI guys solve a crime. Maybe they'd ask me to help. I was excited and a little nervous. But first, I had to find it. The hotel we were staying in was not on the Strip and I wasn't exactly sure where to go. But, I did know there was a monorail station at our hotel, so I figured that was a good place to start. And, it was.
They had maps of where the monorail went and the various hotels that were by the stations. Ahh, just what I needed. My first outing consisted of stopping at the MGM Grand and visiting the hotels in that area - the Excalibur, the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay. Well, all I can say about these places are.... they are big, flashy and have slot machines. Of course, they did have some cool things like this.... This is the front of the Luxor.
And there's this... This is the Paris Las Vegas. It was kind of cool. The ceiling on the inside was painted like the sky, so as you walked through the shopping area it was like you were outdoors in Paris. So, I spent most of the afternoon wandering around until I got tired and then I went back to the hotel, got a huge dish of icecream, sat in my chair and watched a couple episodes of CSI.

The next day I got off at the station by Harrah's and got completely lost. I went out one door, followed a sidewalk and ended up by a dumpster and a dead-end. The sidewalk I followed next ended up at an employee who looked disdainfully at me (hmmph, tourists) and said, "You don't want to go this way!" and I said, "But I need to get out of here. How do I get out of here?" and he said, "Go through that door till you get to the fake people with the suitcases full of money and turn right." Fine! I finally escaped from Harrah's.
I wanted to go to the Venetian, so after walking down the street a little while, avoiding the "Help Feed the Homeless People" people and the scary guy with "Girls, girls, girls" written on his t-shirt handing out free tickets to a show, I found the Venetian. Now, that is one cool hotel. The shopping mall is incredible. There were canals with gondaliers who sang Italian love songs.
There were waterfalls and high ceilings painted like the sky and all kinds of shops that I couldn't afford. It was pretty cool! I looked in the window of a rare books store and discovered I could buy a first edition James Joyce novel for a paltry $18,000. After a while I got kind of tired of it all and went back to the hotel. That was my last day anyhow and I needed to get ready to go home. It's easy to get tired of Las Vegas. It's a city that caters to every vice known to man. It's gaudy and excessive and after a while can be downright annoying. Has the art of subtlety been completely lost? Anyone? Anyone? Does everything have to be in your face and right out there for all to see? In Vegas it is!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Vegas (Rated G): Part 4, A Time of Personal Growth

Now, lest you think that my whole time in Vegas was spent pickling my brain with back-to-back episodes of CSI and Law & Order, I should let the reader know that there were times of intense personal growth that took place, almost resembling those attained by.... by.... by those who go on pilgrimages in search of personal growth. One of those times was when I actually had lunch by myself in a restaurant. By myself. I had spent the morning exercising and after an episode of CSI:Miami, decided to have an early lunch and hit the Strip. But, the question was.... do I go get a sandwich somewhere and bring it to the room (definitely one of those comfort zone thingies) or do I go downstairs and actually eat alone in a restaurant like the sophisticated woman I was (or was desparately trying to be like)? I decided to brave the restaurant. This would be a growing experience for me! So, I threw back my shoulders and confidently walked into the Paradise Cafe, looked the hostess in the eye and said, "One, please". Hmm, this was easy. But then, you have to wait for your food. So, I practiced my espionage skills (my alter-ego is an operative for the CIA) and eavesdropped on everyone sitting around me. Unfortunately, everyone around me was pretty boring. There was a group of teachers complaining about their students and a couple of businessmen discussing work of the day. No international incidents brewing, I'm afraid. So, I finished my meal and like the confident and sophisticated woman that I was, paid my bill and confidently and sophisticatedly walked out the door. I was proud of myself. I had done it! However, I found out later that day, thanks to a kind lady on the monorail, that I had a large sticker on the back on my pantleg, advertising the size of my brand-new tan jeans. So much for sophistication!

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Vegas (Rated G): Part 3, That Whole Country Mouse in the City Thing!

You know, everyone has their comfort zone. And, when you live in a small town, everything is your comfort zone. You know your street, the people on your street, you know your grocery store, the clerks in the grocery store, you know everything. There are no surprises. And then, there's Vegas. Can you say, "This is definitely not in my comfort zone"? So, I arrive at this huge airport, follow the signs to ground transportation, step out the door and am immediately accosted by, "Where are ya goin'?" "Uh, Las Vegas Hilton," "Right over here!" and I am hustled off to a booth where they ask for $6.00 and hand me a token and a receipt and point to a guy with a black van. I walk over to him, he puts my suitcase in the back of the van and I get in and sit and I'm thinking, "Hmmm, what just happened to me? Are they really going to take me to the Hilton? Did I pay too much? Was I just conned? Can someone PLEEEEASE just give me a minute to collect my thoughts!" But, thought collecting is not allowed in Las Vegas, apparently. However, they did take me to my hotel, as promised and I found my room, where I was able to call Hubby and let him know I arrived safely. And then I could collect my thoughts. And then, I discovered this.... This became the center of my universe. This is the most comfortable chair in the world. It has an ottoman for my feet. See that orange pillow. Perfection. Large, soft, fluffy and infinitely moldable. The comforter - light, fluffy and warm. I sat down, put my feet up, grabbed the remote and discovered sheer joy... the USA Network was holding a "Law & Order" marathon. Back to back episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" all day long. Now, I am not proud of the fact that I am terribly addicted to crime dramas, but I love 'em! I could watch "Law & Order", "CSI" and "NCIS" all day long. And I did. I did get up once to walk about a mile to Subway and get lunch, but then, it was back to my chair and I basically napped and watched tv the whole rest of the afternoon. In my defense, I hadn't slept much the past couple of nights, but I was also basically worn out from life and it felt really good to not have to do anything. And so, I didn't do anything, all afternoon. Hubby came back in the evening and we went out to dinner in one of the many restaurants in the hotel and had a good time. And then... we went to bed. And I woke up the next morning, thoughts collected and ready to explore the "City that Never Sleeps!" Although I was going to do it in the daytime. Because I do sleep.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Vegas (Rated G): Part 2, Looking like something the cat drug in!

I was excited on Sunday. I was heading for Vegas, baby! I got packed up. I got the kids packed up and ready for Grandma and we took off. We were a little late heading out, you know, all those last minute things that need to be taken care of. Hubby had left Saturday night, since he had meetings all day on Sunday, so it was just me making sure the cats had enough food and the doors were locked and the oven was off. But, we made it and I was headed for the big city airport. I was going to leave the car at my in-laws and they were going to take me to the airport and pick me up when I got back. So, I make it to my in-laws in plenty of time for my 7:30pm flight and then find out when I got there that I had even more time than I thought. My flight had been delayed. Well, ok, that's fine. I'm flexible. So, after having a nice conversation and a bite to eat they dropped me off at the airport and I was on my way. Woohoo, Viva Las Vegas! But, as I'm standing in line to check in (I don't like using those little kiosk thingies to check in, I prefer arguing with a real person) I start hearing people on their cell phones saying things like, "My flight is cancelled," and, "Yeah, they cancelled my flight." And so, I started wondering, hmmm, I wonder if my flight is cancelled. And then I started to panic a little. What was I going to do? Should I call my in-laws back? I want to go to Vegas. I paid for my ticket. What if they can't get me out till tomorrow night? Oh, ok, it's my turn at the ticket counter. Yes indeedy! No planes flying out to Vegas that night. So, I'm standing there at the counter wondering what to do and the guy says, "I can get you out on a 6:30am flight, here's a voucher for your hotel room and a food voucher for the airport, thank you for flying US Air!" Well, all right then. I'm flexible. Yes, I am ! I am flexible. And I'm stayin' in a hotel room for free. All by myself. Woohoo! So, I give my rolling suitcase a kick (the handle is weird and I have to kick it to make it work) and I head on toward the Holiday Inn. It's pouring down rain, and the ticket agent did say there was a shuttle somewhere, but shoot, the hotel is just across the street. Well, there's across the street, and then there's across the street in the pouring down rain with a pull-suitcase that doesn't work very well, a huge bag I am calling my "purse" and an umbrella in the dark. But, I make it. Even after hopping over the completely flooded gutter and wading through a lake in the parking lot. And did you know that umbrellas don't really keep you all that dry? It's just kind of a psychological thing, I'm thinking. They tell you that an umbrella will keep you dry, so you think that by using one, you will stay dry, but that's not really true because I was pretty wet when I got to my room. But, it was a nice room and I got into dry jammies and watched a little tv and then decided I'd better go to sleep since I needed to wake up at 4:30am. So, I set the alarm, called for a "wake-up call" and then didn't really sleep, waking up every hour on the hour because I didn't trust either the alarm or wake up call. I mean, what if I set the "wake-up call" for 4:30PM and not AM? Because I do that all the time, you know. (not!) But, I guess I slept a little, since the wake-up call at 4:30AM did wake me up. I got ready for my flight,and thank heavens the rain had stopped. I made it through the horrors of the TSA strip-search without incident and on to my gate in plenty of time. Vegas, here I come!

Adventures of a 40-Something Housewife in Vegas (rated G): Part 1

Well, I'm back. And I didn't tell anyone I was going anywhere. I just disappeared. Like those people in the witness protection program. Or those people who offend a mob boss and are found in the bottom of the Hudson River six months later wearing cement boots. There was a reason for this. The reason is, as everyone knows, that if you post on the internet that you're going to be out of town, someone will read your post and immediately come and rob you. It's a proven fact. I'm not sure who proved it, but it's a fact. I think. Anyhow, I did go out of town for 3 whole days and now I'm back and have had many adventures. Where did I go? Didn't you read the title of this post? I went to Las Vegas. See, Hubby had a trade show to attend this week and about a month ago I was talking to him about the fact that his company always gives them their own rooms and it's pretty cheap to fly to Vegas and... well... why don't I just come, too? Hubby told me that he'd be working the whole time and wouldn't have a lot of time to spend with me, but I said I didn't care. I didn't care if I spent the whole time in the hotel watching tv. I just wanted to get away. I just needed to get away for a little while. So, he agreed and I bought my ticket and went. And, now I'm back. I have lots and lots to share.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

They're puppies, I tell you....

You've all seen those pictures, paintings from the 1800's about beautiful little girls in fluffy white dresses sitting quietly stitching on their samplers. Or little boys in sailor's hats and perfectly clean navy blue knickers and coats pushing a sailboat around a pond with a stick. Sometimes I wonder who those children are and where I can get some.
Because this is what my children do on a Saturday morning.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Afternoon at the Miliners

The kids were making hats today. It was all Sweetie's idea. She's the little girl we babysit in the afternoon and she's very crafty and creative like that.
She's the real reason I keep us stocked with construction paper and glitter glue. But she got everyone involved in the milinery process.
Even the boys came up with some glittery creations.
Some a little too glittery, but hey... we're an open-minded family here.
We are in to hats this afternoon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Teaching Writing

How many of you love to write? I mean, really love to? Probably not many. Not many people really like writing and I'm convinced that it is because they haven't been taught properly. Generally, in school, children are told to just sit down and write. Small children "journal", and teachers aren't much concerned with spelling, punctuation, etc., as long as they are getting practice writing things down. As a child matures, he is taught the conventions and complexities of writing and he is expected to incorporate those into his compositions. However, I believe that schools are missing a crucial step. I never realized this before I read the book "Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals" by Susan Wise Bauer. For those in the classical homeschooling world, Susan Wise Bauer is one of our gurus. She also is professor of writing at The College of William and Mary. She believes a) that speaking is a completely innate and natural function and b) that writing is unnatural and contrived. Listen to what she says,
"Writing, unlike speech, isn't a natural activity. Mankind survived for a very long time without finding it necessary to put anything down on paper. Until the nineteenth century (which is quite late, in the larger scheme of things) even the largest empires chugged along perfectly well with shockingly low literacy rates. Administrators and bureaucrats had to be able to read and write, but the masses functioned quite well without paper and pencil. If they'd been unable to talk, on the other hand, their country would have fallen apart." "Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals" by Susan Wise Bauer, pg. 4. (Yes, I realize this is not a totally correct citation, but it gets the point across that these are her words, not mine)

According to her, writing is a two-step process. First, you must take inarticulate ideas and convert them to words. Then, you must take those words and put them down on paper. For a child who is in the beginning processes of language, especially written language, this can become an excruciating activity. Here is another quote by her regarding written language.

"Written language is an unnatural foreign language, an artificially constructed code. Compare written dialogue with any transcript of an actual conversation, and you'll see that written language has entirely different conventions, rules, and structures than spoken language. The rules of this foreign language must be learned by the beginning writer- and they have to become second nature before the beginning writer can use written language to express ideas." "Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals" by Susan Wise Bauer, pg. 4.

So, Ms. Bauer has written a program that teaches writing developmentally. In the beginning, when children are young, they do almost no "creative" writing. The two activities they do with regularity are copywork and narrations. Copywork helps teach the conventions of writing and narrations teach children that first crucial step - taking inarticulate ideas and putting them to words, without having them struggle with then having to figure out how to put them down on paper. Narrations help my younger son tremendously. He does struggle with writing, but if he can tell me what he wants to say, then I write it down for him. Or sometimes, I dictate it back to him and he writes it down. I am like his "bank". I keep his words for him so he doesn't have to remember what he wants to say and then remember how to put it down on paper.

I'm really convinced that her ideas regarding the teaching of writing are sound. I am implementing her curriculum in our little homeschool and it seems to be working well. I am excited to see, over the years, how my kids develop in their writing skills, as opposed to how I learned to write.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good Doctors

Good doctors are hard to find. My own personal doctor, I am not too thrilled about. When I had my mysterious eye inflammation thing in 2009, I had gone in to see her initially because I thought I had pink-eye. I'm not sure whether it was the power of suggestion or what, but she said that I had pink-eye and gave me antibiotic drops. I called her a couple days later and told her that the problematic eye was still red and my pupil was dilated and it threw her into a panic. Yes, threw her into a panic. She told me to go to the ER and that a dilated pupil could be anything.... even a brain tumor. OK, what was she telling me that for? Anyhow, I didn't go to the ER, I went to the opthamalogist and got taken care of, but she sure didn't score any brownie points with me for that episode. Then.... there's my daughter's pediatrician. When she was 15 months old he thought he heard a heart murmur, so I get sent to Children's Hospital for an echo-cardiogram. Not cheap. So, the doctor has her all hooked up and can't find a thing. "This child's got one healthy heart!" is the only remark he made. And then, last year I got sent to Children's Hospital on behalf of Missy Lou to see the ENT to get her adenoids out, to a pulmonologist and to a sleep specialist because she snores. Well, the ENT said she doesn't need her adenoids out, but may benefit from a trip to the allergist. The pulmonologist is looking at her chart and then looks at me and asks, "Now, why are you here?" and I'm like, "I have no idea. Her pediatrician sent her." I canceled the appointment with the sleep specialist. My insurance and I had had enough. So, her birthday comes around this year and I'm thinking... what next? This is crazy. But, the doctor's office hired a new pediatrician and I really like this lady. She doesn't seem to think it's a horrible thing that Missy Lou snores. She just told me to listen now and then and if it sounds like she's doing this funky breathing thing, then we may need to do something about it. And, she also didn't gasp and act like I'm a horrible parent because Missy Lou still sleeps in Pull-ups. She just said, "Oh, that's fine. My 6 year old still sleeps in a Pull-up. She'll grow out of it." I wanted to hug her. So, I am relieved to finally find a doctor who doesn't send me to a specialist for a hang-nail.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Daffodils!

Look, my daffodils are blooming. I am so happy. They are so "spring-y". I have grape hyacinths blooming, too, and the juxtaposition of the yellow and the purpley-blue are just beautiful. (Don't ya just love it when you can use big words like "juxtaposition"?)

Ooops, my broccoli is blooming, too.
Broccoli is not like other vegetables, where if you don't get out there today, then you can still pick it tomorrow with no adverse consequences. No, I have learned that the window of opportunity with broccoli is very small and slams shut quite quickly. Oh well. I'm not a huge fan of broccoli anyhow.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Things

I love to bake bread. Usually I just use the basic bread recipe I always use. It's the one that my mom gave me - 2 C milk, 1 Tbs. yeast, 2 Tbs. sugar, 2 C flour, then let it rise, add 1/2 C oil, 2 tsp. salt and the remainder of the flour. That's a great all-purpose bread recipe - makes great zwiebach, beerocks, sandwich rolls, whatever. I'll add an egg to it, a little more sugar and cinnamon and raisins to make hot-cross buns at Easter. Anyhow, it's a great recipe.
Well, one thing that all bread needs is.... kneading. It's needing kneading. Heehee! I crack myself up! Ok, well, moving on. At other places I've lived, I just knead the bread right there on the countertop. But, it's not all that much fun to clean up. You really need to get all the flour off, and that's not easy. You scrape it into a pile and then you have to get it in your hand and some of it invariably spills on the floor, but you have to get it all otherwise when you wipe the countertop down you get flour and water paste, and if you have tile, then you have an issue with this paste getting into the grout, and then your washcloth gets all nasty and it's just not a good thing. Not a horrible crisis in the grand scheme of things... but still inconvenient. And we're all about convenience here. But then, my very smart husband had an idea and went to Home Depot one day and came back with this.

This is a 14"x14" square (I know that's a little redundant, since the measurements prove that it is indeed a square, but... whatever) floor tile and I'm not sure if you can see it, but poking out around the edges is this non-skid stuff you can buy in a roll. This is the best thing. I can knead a whole recipe of bread on it and clean-up is a snap. Just pick it up and hold it over the trash-can while I scrape the bits of flour and dough off and then wipe it off over the sink. I store the tile in the pantry and roll up the non-skid stuff right next to it. It's wonderful, and truly deserves to be called one of my favorite things.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Birthday Mania

Around here March Madness refers to birthdays. Missy Lou's birthday was Friday, March 4 and Duh-duh's birthday was yesterday. So, we've got lots of cake around.We've got a lemon flavored Spider Man cake. (Don't tell anyone, but lemon cake is not my favorite, and especially not with Moose Tracks Icecream. Just not a good combination) And then we had an artificially flavored pink strawberry Princess Ariel cake. Emphasis on the artificially flavored.
Of course we blew out the candles.
Gotta have candles!
And then there were presents. Monster truck video for our monster truck fiend!
And then.... the pink cowboy boots. Love the pink cowboy boots!
Happy Birthday Missy Lou and Duh-duh!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Observing Grief

Yesterday we were driving home from baseball practice and we came upon a scene that has stuck in my mind. It's one of those things that kind of replays itself in your mind very clearly, strangely enough. We were driving down the hill in our subdivision and were just about at our street when I saw a woman in the middle of the street walking back and forth. I slowed down as we got closer and I saw that there was a dead cat in the middle of the street and this poor woman was just distraught. She had both hands on her head and it was clear that she had seen what had happened, but was powerless to do anything about it. She just kept walking, back and forth, unconscious of everything else that was going on except what she had just seen happen to her pet. I guess the car that had hit the cat kept on going because no one else had stopped. I wasn't sure what to do. The cat was clearly dead, so I couldn't help her in that way, and I didn't even know this woman, but I felt bad just driving by. But, I did drive by. It was just a cat, afterall. Not a child. But this woman's grief really touched me. You see a lot of emotions on people's faces these days - anger, joy, frustration - but not true, unveiled grief.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Birthdays, Baseball and Cars!

It's been a busy weekend. First off, Friday was Missy Lou's 5th birthday. And things have been so busy I haven't even been able to download any pictures. But, she had a good day and got what she's been begging for for months now - boots. I bought them a couple months ago because I knew that I wouldn't be able to find boots in March. They're really cute - pink cowboy boots and she loves them. She's a lot different than I am in that respect. Well, I'd love a pair of pink cowboy boots, too, but that's not what I mean. She knows what she likes, knows what she doesn't like and knows what she wants. I admire that in her. I'm not like that at all. I'm pretty indecisive and usually need to take a poll before I decide I like something. So, we had her birthday party, complete with pink cake with Little Mermaid decorations.

Baseball has become part of our life now. Bubba has practice three nights a week and this coming Saturday is Opening Day for Little League. It's been fun, actually. He's got a good coach and a couple of my cousins' kids are on his team, so there's always someone to talk to during practice. The down side of all this is that he's practicing at the new sports complex on the edge of town and I noticed as I was sitting out there on Friday night that just adjacent to the baseball diamond was a huge open field of blooming Fiddle Neck. Yes, Fiddle Neck. That lovely yellow wildflower that makes my allergies go bezerk. And my allergies did go bezerk. So, that was not fun.

The cars part of my weekend was yesterday. We had an all-church Pinewood Derby yesterday afternoon and it was fun. For those of you who do not know what a Pinewood Derby is... well, I'll tell you. You get a little car kit, that has a block of wood (pine) and 2 axels and 4 wheels and you build yourself a little car. And then you race it against everyone else who's built a little car. It was great, and a great all-church type of event. We had 3 year olds enter cars (built by Daddy, of course, but they put them on the race track themselves) and 75 year olds enter cars and everyone had a good time. Last year we had nice trophies for the winners (the Derby last year was just for kids), but those were pretty expensive and I thought, well, people don't really like trophies anyhow, they just collect dust. So, this year for prizes I made huge chocolate chip cookies. The biggest ones for first place, the middle size ones for second place and smaller ones for third place and I wrote the places on them in Royal Icing. Everyone seemed to like that pretty much. So, we raced cars, got prizes and the Missions Committee sold hotdogs for a fund-raiser. It was a good afternoon.