Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Classic

I've been reading a lot of other bloggers and their comments, issues and problems with the cold, icy weather back in the US and elsewhere, and I am reminded of two things:

1) Why we were happy to extend in Cairo. As Honor would say... Duh?... (where did she get that?!) It's mid-January and our lows are in the 50's, at night, even at the coldest right before dawn part of the day, even with wind. Now true, we have also been dealing with conditions that range from "Haze" (right now) to "Widespread dust" to "Sand" .. but at least it is warm sand. It is comfortable here! We could do without the pollution, but the weather is so mild. A light jacket, a fleece... I sometimes wear very thin gloves when out walking any distance in the mornings because I don't like my hands in my pockets and I am a wimp... but Brian will wear short-sleeve shirts to school and refuse to bring a jacket. Getting used to 15F and below again? Oh no. Ice on windows, sidewalks, sleet blown through your clothes, down your neck and into your bra, etc. No. Thank. You. Snow plows stacking snow/ice berms across your street so high that not even the National Guard's HMMWV's can make it through and the police/doctors they come to pick up have to hike it out ...and yes, HMMWV - High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee) real ones, which can usually drive anywhere, unable to make it down the road... I'm not talking about one of those wimpy, wannabe civilian models... Am I looking forward to that kind of weather/road conditions again? No.


2) I am reminded of dealing with vehicles and driving in that weather. Specifically, this morning I was reminded of driving my old '79 Chevy Caprice Classic (from many many years ago, but some memories linger more brightly...) because I saw one parked on the side of the road today as I walked home from the school. My old Caprice took longer to warm up than the drive to work (and no, I did not live anywhere close enough to just walk). This was the car from which I met sasquatch. More on that later...

First, so you know what I am talking about, the Caprice was HUGE. A 1979 model. I bought it because I needed a car, had barely $1000 to my name, and while this car was old and UGLY as sin, body rusted out, paint faded, driver door a different color than the rest of the car... the engine had been completely rebuilt by someone I trusted, and most important, who had promised help if needed... a promise worth the car's weight in pure gold when you have no money! My car looked like this, only moldy brown and rusty:

It was dubbed Thumper by my friends - based on an incident involving a body (not my fault!) which is a story for another time. Notice how it does not fit into a parking space... this is the reality. You could sit 8 people or more in the thing (not all with seatbelts, but there was room) and I once fit an entire, live Christmas tree, over 8ft tall, in the trunk... and closed the lid. I believe that the car body needed to be this big in order to balance the weight of the 350cu engine. The engine was big enough to power a medium sized aircraft.. like a 737... and powerful enough to guarantee I never had to lift a finger to do anything with this car. I was newly, happily, married, so did not need a car for a guy-magnet, but single ladies take note, my rust-bucket of a monster car attracted men. All I had to do was pull up to a gas pump and guys would appear from all directions offering to pump my gas, and did I need my oil checked too? Please, can we lift the hood?!? I could not get an oil change without fending off offers to buy the car. My first car was an old Mustang and I got similar attention with that, but nowhere near this extreme.. and the Mustang had a nice paint job! We eventually sold this car - two years later, with more rust, 1000's of more miles on it, more bits fallen off, heater and defroster kaput... and we still got $700 for it without even trying.

Anyway... how ugly was it? Bad enough that when we moved into a new neighborhood in Georgia, the neighbors almost called the cops on us as we sat outside the house we were contemplating buying while waiting for the real estate agent. We bought the house and found we needed to keep the car hidden in the garage to appease these same neighbors. While still in the DC area with it, I found it to be an awesome car for rush hour. Do I want to pull onto the beltway? Yes I do. All I had to do was accelerate... space all around me opened up like magic. Someone getting a bit brave and crowding me? Waggle the steering wheel, shimmy the car... space! And parking? Where ever I wanted baby! It was huge, but I was used to driving big Army trucks. I had the ability to maneuver my land barge and park it, safely, where I wanted. And NOBODY would park me in or block my doors. I loved it! We lived in a Virginia apartment complex for awhile... and while they were polite enough to never say anything, I don't think they actually liked my car there either. In winter time the plow driver always 'strategically' piled all the snow around my car to hide it from the road... which brings me to bigfoot...

One bitterly cold, icy, snowy day... which I would have loved to have pretended did not exist - I could have stayed in bed and waited it out - but, I was active duty Army at the time, and essential personnel, so of course I had to go out at O' dark O'clock to get to work... It was about 4:30am. Pitch black dark, except for all of that swirling white snow. Cold. Nobody in their right mind was out yet, so the parking lot was not plowed and the sidewalks were slick. I was even out before the guy who delivered the Post showed up, and that took some doing. I skated out to the car, which was, as typical, hidden behind walls of plowed snow that had melted and refrozen in unfortunate places under, behind, and around the car. I unlocked the door - good the lock wasn't frozen - and yanked the door handle. The door was frozen. It did not move. My feet did, despite the good tread on my Army boots. Next thing I know, I wa looking up at the door handle from underneath... I'd slid most of the way UNDER the car (yes, the car was that flippin big).

I didn't get hurt when I fell... it was a smooth, fast, slide down, but not hard... it was tough getting up again because of the ice on the ground and on my car. A serious case of the giggles was nearly my undoing - I could just picture the police having to contact my husband, who was out of state at the time - "Sir, we found your wife frozen under her car, she's expected to live, but we can't get her to stop laughing." Eventually I regained control, struggled out, got the door open, and started the car so it could begin to defrost. (This was back when the defroster actually worked and I didn't have to carry windex in the car to squirt on the windshield as I drove...) I went around and scraped all the ice and snow off of the car... even the roof, I am a considerate commuter and not one who will leave ice chunks on my car top to blow off at highway speeds and crash through your windshield (I HATE those lazy people...) I got in the car and tried to back out.

Um... with a car that weighed as much as a small house, getting 'stuck' was not normal. Add in the fact that the engine could haul your average Metro train, and the tires were in good shape.... well, it should have been IMPOSSIBLE for this car to get stuck. Push gas, car goes. Period. And yes, the driver had experience... Army 4wd, mud up to the floorboards, water pouring in the windows type driving experience.. the car would not go. The front and rear tires were sunk into perfect ice wells and no matter how I rocked the car... accelerate, brake, you name it... we weren't going anywhere. It called for chains, or something else, to use as traction, and I didn't own any chains, nor could I have installed them at the time... besides, a crowded parking lot isn't the best place to go skidding around wildly, in a rusty land yacht, with various bits of debris flying out from under the wheels... neighbors with NICE cars object.

So, I stopped. Sat there idling a minute, just looking out into the dark cold morning. Ice was trying to form again on the edges of the windshield, snow blowing sideways... and that's when I saw sasquatch appear. He looked cold. I saw him coming from out of nowhere - really, from where? the woods? Why was he out on the other side of the road at that hour, in that weather? I mean, it could have been a neighbor, or a homeless guy, but I don't know... He leaned against the wind as he crossed the empty, early morning street - I had the headlights off and I couldn't see much, just this HUGE hulking shape - and he walked right up to the front of my car. I felt around for the mace, but apparently, (fortunately), this was one of the well-mannered myth-types. He stopped in the front of the car, reached one hand down to the bumper, put his great shoulder to the front of the car, and motioned for me to start rocking the car back again. I was a little nervous about doing so.. the car was huge and I didn't want to hit him, but I did as requested. We rocked that car... every time we rocked back, bigfoot heaved on the bumper. I swear to god, the front end of my car - with that huge heavy massive engine - went UP off the ground. Unfortunately, the back end of the car was so far away that the upward, backward momentum had no effect. Eventually, my mysterious helper shrugged his shoulders and disappeared back into the snow... never to be seen again... and I'm no dummy. When some cousin of a Yeti says you aren't going anywhere because the weather is bad, you aren't going anywhere. I went back inside, called the unit, and said that if they really needed me, they could come get me. (Later that day, only after hours of chipping away ice with a shovel, I managed to free the tires.)

I am not looking forward to returning to the land of the snow-bound and ice-covered. OK, other things I do miss, and I do want to live with again... like clean air, trees, being able to walk through the lawn barefoot, etc. but the need for parkas?? Not really. Those of you dealing with it right now... you have my utmost sympathy. And if you should run into sasquatch, tell him I say "Hi".

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I can't win

I have been on an experimental kick in the kitchen lately. Maybe we can blame it on the crappy air in the city recently. The weather has been "Widespread dust", or "Sand" or something equally crappy most of the week... and no, I am not exaggerating. I seem to have corrupted my "print screen" tool or I'd capture and post a snap of my weather gadget for you... sand is an actual description used in local "current conditions". Anyway, crappy weather means crappy sinuses. Can't breathe, can't smell, therefore, no appetite. I get hungry, as normal, but food just doesn't seem interesting. I can't smell anything so I can't taste... food is boring, so I guess I've become desperate and my need to experiment has kicked into high gear.

I've tried a couple of new bread recipes this week. One was a cheesy onion loaf... the bread with the onion was very tasty, but the cheese was the basic sharp cheddar from the commissary. Boring. I think it would have been best with a more interesting cheese, but barring that, it probably would have been better with no cheese. I also tried a recipe for some basic yeast rolls (bridge rolls). I screwed up the measurement on the milk... had to substitute dry yeast proofed with milk for yeast cake, and forgot to subtract the milk I used from the total for the recipe. I managed to come up with a good dough, but the baking time/temp was thrown off from what the recipe wanted and the bottom of the rolls burned before the tops browned... sigh... The good news is, I had fun in the attempt, saw where the problems happened, and learned a thing or two. Next time will be better.

Tonight's experiment involved mushrooms. Not THAT kind of experiment, get back on track! I had a nice bunch of mushrooms arrive with my veggie delivery this week. I immediately thought that they would (should!) go very nicely, sauteed with fresh garlic and butter, on top of a rare steak. Problem was the lack of steak. I realize that there are other things that can be done with mushrooms... but I didn't want anything else. Alas, the steak fairy never showed up, and it was time to use the mushrooms or they'd go off - no steak, no roast, no stew or soup. Guess it was hors d'oeuvres or nothing. Why is it the more I LACK inspiration, the more complicated the experiment becomes? Here's the recipe: (amounts are approximate because I didn't measure)

Stuffed Mushrooms:
12 large mushrooms, cleaned with the stems cut off (leaving a little cup in the center)
12 mushroom stems, diced finely
2 tbsp finely diced onion
1/5 tbsp finely diced garlic
2 tbsp finely diced bell pepper
some butter (you figure out how much as you go, the mixture should be moist, but no liquid)
salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, tumeric (I think I will use curry powder next time though)
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 leftover burnt-bottom roll, burnt bit chopped off, crumbled into tiny bits, approximately 1/4 cup.

Saute diced mushroom stems, onion, pepper and garlic in butter. Add spices. Add cheese and crumbs. Cook until done, well mixed. Cool enough to stuff the mushrooms without burning yourself. Arrange on a microwave-safe plate, and nuke for 4 minutes.

I served these along with a casserole made with chicken, fresh broccoli, leftover oven roasted potatoes, covered in alfredo sauce from a jar, and topped with cheese. I also salvaged the rest of the rolls (cut off the burnt side) and heated them up with a bit of a garlic/cheese topping. Kids loved it, and I have plenty of casserole for leftovers.

Strange thing is, as soon as Brian sat down, Brad put a mushroom on his plate and Brian wolfed it down. Brian HATES mushrooms. Brad put one on Honor's plate. She gave it *that* look and said that she was " NOT going to eat that!" Honor LOVES mushrooms. Brad looked back at Brian and asked if he ate the mushroom. Brian said "What mushroom?" The round thing, that was on your plate? That you inhaled without a thought? Yea, that was a mushroom. Brian insisted that it tasted like meat (probably meaning meatloaf). He was surprised, but admitted that he really liked it. Honor insisted she did not like that kind of meat, nor did she care to hear that it was not meat... and the logic behind "how can you say you do not like it, when I've never made it before?" No effect at all! She didn't eat it.

I guess one problem with experimenting with recipes, is this kind of thing happens often. I find a food cooked one way that one kid likes, but the other won't touch, but the same food cooked another way, is vice versa. Can't win! Ah well, they're not starving. Another problem is when I make something the kids really like... I can't always duplicate the recipe... a while back I made something I dubbed "Spaghetti pie". Brian loved it. He still raves over it. He keeps asking for it. I have no idea what it was that I made, and that I obviously named, that he would remember as spaghetti pie. Sounds like a good excuse to experiment...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do you believe in fairies?

Ok, then how about fairy bread? No, this topic isn't about baking wee cakes in order to appease the little folk, and it's not about catching a bunch of the little critters and baking them up with flour, egg and sugar. Rather, it's my cultural lesson of the day.

With the kids in an international school, the food items brought to class parties and other events can prove to be an interesting.. and usually very yummy... adventure. Last year, one of the kids in Honor's preK had an Australian parent. They would often bring in this amazing little snack called fairy bread. It's a neat snack, and I had never heard of it or seen it before. Have you?! Here's how to make it:

WHITE bread is best. We tried it today with a very light wheat (because we never have white bread) and it was ok, not as good though. Do not toast it.

Spread with margarine or butter, whatever you like best.

Sprinkle very generously - I guess I should just say, completely coat it with, sprinkles. The little, bitty, pastel round bits are best. Use a large plate to catch and reuse the extra.

Cut diagonally - do not slice or cut into squares - I've been told that if the pieces aren't triangular, like fairy wings, they will NOT taste right.

Stack on a pretty plate (they won't stick if you use enough of the sprinkles)

Place on table. Call kids to table from distance. Stand back or you will be trampled.

It is probably healthier than cookies or cakes ... maybe... rather than a sugary cookie or cake, covered in frosting and sprinkles, it's bread and butter (I know, with massive amounts of sprinkles - so don't quote me on the health benefits!). At a party, kids can really put this treat away. For an at home snack, I found that 1-wing each (2 pieces of bread for 4 people) was enough. Probably the equivalent of 2 average cookies. I really appreciate a snack that I can easily prepare in large or small quantities.

So simple, so pretty, and kids LOVE it. (me too)

Thank you Australia :-)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Solve for M

Solve for M when (X + A + B + Z + 10i)/P = 4M and X = ricotta that you do not own, A = A half bag of shredded mozarella, B = Beef, Z = zucchini, and i = various assorted other ingredients, approximately 10 in number, P is for pasta in the form of uncooked lasagna noodles, which divides up the layers, and M equals M! for the resultant lasagna, hopefully mulitplied by 4, the number of people in the house, which would equate to 4M, aka Mmmm.

Show your work.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Add B (ground beef) and 3i (olive oil, chopped onions, and diced garlic clove) to a good sized pot. Brown B = (B+3i)

Add 3i (6 small diced tomatos x 1 cup white wine x various herbs, like oregano, parsley, thyme, basil, salt and pepper) and Z to (B+3i) in pot = Z+ 3i + (B+3i). Simmer for 10-15 minutes = (BZ +6i)

In medium bowl, add A (approx. 1.5 cups mozzarella) + 4i (2 eggs x 4 tbsp sour cream x .5 cup parmesan x .5 cup cheddar) = (A + 4i)

Take casserole dish or lasagna pan (at least 13"x9") and spread some of (BZ+6i) on the bottom, divide by P. Add more (BZ+6i) plus half of (A + 4i) ... or (A + 4i)/2.

Divide by P again, and then [ (BZ+6i) + (A + 4i)] .

Divide by P one more time, add the remaining (BZ+6i), and top with a handful of A and a sprinkle of i (when i = parmesan).

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. btw. it might be good to have disposable aluminum cookie sheets lining your oven floor, with my math, there tend to be a lot of run-away remainders. A pair of these cookie sheets will last 6 months or so and it is easier/less toxic to use them than having to clean with oven cleaner - blech!

Remove foil and brown (A + i) for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

While waiting, get eraser and remove X from the original formula.

Serve. Find M.

For those who have issues with the details in my math, let me explain my philosophy:

btw... does anyone else have a Firefox browser, or maybe it is a blogger thing, that has an identity crisis?? I stay logged in most of the time, I do not have this trouble with any other website or application, just my blog.. when I come to it using Firefox...even linking from my own, signed in dashboard page, it will insist that it is French. Not the blog itself, but the links at the top "Rechercher le blog", etc. I set the language options everywhere I find language options... google and my browser.... but it keeps switching back. Hard-headed, confounded, contrary, contraption!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

History - Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital

Another good internet find:

Hospital Celebrates Anniversary of Biggs-Gridley facility

June 30, 1999 - 9:00AM

By Eric Vodden

Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital - built in 1949 with community pledges and donations - was honored Wednesday afternoon ina 50th anniversary celebration in front of the hospital on Spruce Street in Gridley.

More than 50 people attended the ceremony that featured city representatives, and past and present hospital officials.

"Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital is a result of many people giving their own time," said Hayward Reed, a former vice-president of the hospital board. "The hospital has given much back to the community." The hospital was built following a pledge drive throughout the Biggs, Gridley and Richvale areas of Butte County, and Live Oak in Sutter County, to provide closer-to-home health care for the region. Construction started even before the City Council approved annexation of the site into the city, which was needed to extend city water lines to the new health care center.

"The hallmark of cooperation in southern Butte County is this hospital behind us," Gridley City Councilman Tom Sanford told the gathering.

Though a $17,000 federal grant was used to help buy hospital equipment, officials said a combination of local subscribers raised most of the money to build the nonprofit facility 50 years ago. By 1949, the communities of Biggs, Gridley, Live Oak and Richvale had contributed $700,000 for the 30-bed hospital.

Reed, one of the founders of the hospital, said he has "noticed changes from time to time" at the long-standing hospital.

"I think of a relatively small group of people composed mostly of farmers," Reed said. "They had the foresight to give their own money, but more importantly their own time, to support and take part in two fund drives to get a community hospital built in Gridley." Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital has grown from its initial 30 beds to its current 49 beds. It also operates Home Health Agency and Family Care Center clinics in Gridley and Live Oak.

This article was found here:

History - Hayward Reed

You have to love the internet. Just because you can not find interesting information, that you want or need on one search - no matter how thorough you are - does not mean you won't find it another day. Fail on a search... just wait. Try again. Doing family tree research is a good example of this blessing of technology. Way back when Brad started on our family histories, a fellow researcher sent him photocopies of the following book excerpt. This kind lady had gone to her local library, made the copies, and mailed them. Now, years later I admit, it is in multiple places on the web. I'm adding it here, with credit to the one who transcribed and the link to where I found it below, to put my collection in one place, for sharing with nieces and nephews and my own kids:

Hayward REED

Prominent among California orchardists is Hayward Reed, who resides near Washington, Yolo county, where his birth occurred February 15, 1876. His parents were Charles W. and Abbie (Jenks) Reed, natives of New York and Illinois, respectively. In 1851 Charles W. Reed came to California via Panama, bringing with him forty-five varieties of pear trees. For a time after his arrival in the west he prospected, but shortly abandoned this uncertain occupation to experiment with his various species of pears. After selecting the Bartlett as the type best adapted to this climate, he established a nursery at Washington, where he raised millions of trees which he sold to consumers in different parts of the Pacific coast. He set out what is known as the Reed orchard across the river from Sacramento. His orchard reaching the point of fruition, he accompanied his first carload of fruit east, the freight amounting to $1,700. Returning to California, he continued to devote his attention to his orchards until his death in 1896, Mrs. Reed passing away in 1911. Their children are as follows: Dudley, of Sacramento; Charles W., an attorney in San Francisco; Howard, of Marysville; Rowena, who is the wife of Professor DeMeter, who occupies the chair of German at the University of California, at Berkeley; and Hayward.

Hayward Reed received his education in the public schools of Sacramento, graduating from the high school in 1898. During the last month of school, upon the declaration of war between Spain and the Philippines, he enlisted in the Third U. S. Artillery, Battery L, journeying to Manila on the third expedition, and served there for sixteen months. Near that city his regiment took part in many battles, one of which cost the life of Captain Krayenbull of his battalion. During this period Captain Hobbs and a number of lieutenants, also, were seriously wounded. In 1900 Mr. Reed made his first trip to Alaska on the whaling ship Thresher going to Nome, where he engaged in mining. He returned in the fall of that year, but in 1901 again went to Alaska, this time on the whaler Jeanne, taking with him about a hundred boxes of oranges and lemons, many of which he sold for twenty-five cents each on the beach to the winter-bound residents there. After spending the season at mining on Iron Creek, he returned home and took charge of the home place for his mother, also renting two small orchards. The following year he rented in the vicinity of Washington eighteen pear orchards which he conducted two years, one of which consisted of eighty acres which he purchased in 1908. In 1911 this orchard yielded fifty thousand boxes of pears, most of which were sent to the cannery, a portion being shipped east. In December, 1911, Mr. Reed purchased near Marysville, Yuba county, a six hundred and fifty acre ranch containing a large pear orchard. He sold off half of it, retaining the pear orchard, which place is known as the New England orchard, and here he has set out nineteen thousand new pear trees in the past two years. It is located seven miles down the Feather river from Marysville. He makes his home, however, at Rose Orchard, which was named for his wife, and this orchard comprises a hundred and fifty acres and is situated two and a half miles west of Sacramento. He has also set out sixteen thousand pear trees on this orchard in the last four years and on the two places which cover over four hundred and fifty acres he has about four hundred acres planted to pears. It is a significant fact that either of then ranks among the largest pear orchards in the world. During the year 1912 two thousand three hundred tons of pears were produced from these orchards. Mr. Reed also engaged in raising prunes in the season of 1912. His rented orchards in Shasta county yielded about six hundred tons. At Rose Orchard he has spurs running from both the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks and those of the Sacramento and Woodland road, and he has a large packing house where the pears are arranged for shipment to the different consumers, and the balance he sends to points in the East. His two celebrated brands are the New England and the Rose Orchard.

In Sacramento September 8, 1907, Mr. Reed was united in marriage with Miss Rose Mather, born in San Francisco. They have two children, George and Rose. Mr. Reed is a member of the Spanish War Veterans and is a member of the Baptist Church in Sacramento. The Y. M. C. A. has in him not only a member, but a very active worker, he being a member of the board of trustees, whose philanthropies he espouses, and he is very active in the building of the new Y. M. C. A. building at Fifth and J streets in Sacramento. In 1907 with his wife, Mr. Reed visited foreign lands, the trip leading them through Europe and into Egypt, the sojourn covering a period of three month. In 1909 he made the trip along the Panama canal and in 1912 went to the Sandwich Islands, while there investigating the Mediterranean fruit fly. In politics Mr. Reed holds to the principles of the Republican party, believing in their movements as best for the interests of the community. Both Mr. Reed and his wife are deeply interested in the development of their community, and enjoy the high regard of many friends.

Transcribed by Bea Barton

Source: “History of Yolo County, California” by Tom Gregory. Published by the Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California, 1913, pages 866 – 868.

article found here:

and here:

Friday, January 16, 2009

4 Foods on Friday #63

I haven't been keeping up with this meme for a bit because of our poor internet connections, but I enjoy the questions - I get good ideas for recipes. Perhaps this week's questions will inspire me to experiment with an old cookbook I picked up this summer... it looks like I will have fun with it. It is a Time Life book, published in 1968, called "The Cooking of China" by Emily Hahn, that has recipes from many different provinces in China, as well as chapters on culture and history.

Here are this week’s four questions.
Let’s talk about Chinese food.

#1. Do you prefer to eat Chinese food in the restaurant or to have it delivered?

Both. But I'll vote for at the restaurant.

#2. Do you prefer wonton or egg drop soup?


#3. What flavor fried rice is your favorite?


#4. Describe your favorite item on the Chinese food menu.

We used to live within walking distance of the best Chinese restaurant in the world, Hunan Manor. Everything was good - and yes, authentic enough that you need to ask for no MSG if it bugs you - and picking a favorite is hard. I'll go for the Supreme Crispy Eggplant, listed under the Chef's Suggestions, simply because how often can eggplant be considered a favorite? They describe it as: "Sliced eggplant dipped in egg batter and deep-fried till crispy then stir-fired in sweet spicy sauce." It is hot. And it is sweet. We dined with friends at the restaurant this past summer, and I ordered this dish - it was dubbed "Eggplant candy".

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cat food fairy and baby sugars

Honor is determined to do everything by herself. She is a very independent 5yo! Fortunately, this usually translates into a good bit of real help around the house. She loves to care for things - her dolls, her plush animals, make-believe creatures, and yes, family members and pets. She was very conscientious about taking care of her class pet guinea pig, who stayed with us over the holidays, and has always been great with our cats too.
She was slow eating her dinner tonight, and as the last one at the table, the cats thought she'd fall for their pitiful begging and give her some treats from her plate, but no. She was a good kitty-mommy and was stern. No scraps! She did promise them a can of food when she was done. She kept her word too. As soon as she was done, scraped her plate, and put things in the sink - and I want no comments about the pile of dishes, this was right after cooking and cleaning off the table! - she got a can of cat food, set up their eating area, and got to work opening the can. I worry about her opening pull-tops ... I try to explain that some things and tools are made too big for kids to use safely, but what do I know? ... and sure enough, right after I took the picture, she cut her finger. She didn't panic though. "Mom. I cut my finger." Very brave. It was a little cut, and we even finished feeding the cats before cleaning her up. I'm sure it won't stop her from feeding the cats again.
Speaking about caring for and loving on... a good friend recently had her baby after a long, difficult pregnancy. We almost thought Brian might be sharing his birthday with our newest little neighbor, but she took her time and almost made it to her due date. I won't blog details because she's not my baby to blog about, but I will blog about my babies... ok, big kids... but I was tickled to watch how they reacted to meeting this tiny new human. Honor held the baby in her lap, and, while she was happy, she did not move. She talked to her and held her hand. She went home singing songs about the baby being better than ice cream and cake - she really does have a song for everything. Brian got to visit the next day - he'd missed out on the baby's first day home because he was out at Taekwondo - and he was even more thrilled than Honor, if that is at all possible, to meet the baby. He did a lot more looking and observing and commenting. He even came back to hold her a second time during our visit. Both kids have been asking a ton of questions about when they were babies. They are especially fond of stories about how possessive little Brian was of his new baby sister when we first got her home. Good memories. And good new memories of my little kids, getting to be big kids, as they marvel over the miracle of a newborn baby girl.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to make an 8yo mutter dangerously

aka - a recipe with cauliflower and zucchini.

This week's veggie delivery included a bunch of cauliflower, zucchini, and a handful of small leeks. What to do? I knew that anything that I came up with would equate to child abuse (according to our children) so the choice was hit them several times, or attack with one big blow. I went the way of the casserole.

1lb lean ground beef
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
Leeks - chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
white wine
1tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup cheese
1/2 cup parmesan
1 head cauliflower cut up
2 white potatos
2 large zucchini, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375F

Saute the garlic and brown the meat in the olive oil. Add worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper (and whatever other spices you like) to taste. I thought the meat looked a bit dry (it was very lean) and I knew I needed juices, so I added a half cup of white grenache.

As I was cooking the meat, I preboiled the cauliflower - cut into bite-sized pieces (cook it soft if that's the way you like it, or less time if you like a little more texture). I also microwaved the potatos until mostly baked, then sliced them.

Remove the meat mixture to the casserole dish (13"x9"). Leave the juices in the pan. Add one tablespoon butter. Melt. Add flour and whisk to mix. I beat the egg into the milk, and adding slowly to the pan, whisked the egg/milk mixture into the flour sauce in the pan. Add the cheese (I think a good mozzarella or better cheddar would have been best, but all I had was a basic sharp yellow cheddar cheese... it still turned out great) and the parmesan and mix well. Let the cheese melt and blend.

Layer the cauliflower, sliced potato and sliced zucchini over the meat. Pour on the sauce. Bread crumbs, or cracker crumbs, and perhaps more cheese would be a good topping, but I didn't use anything. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve. Enjoy. Piss off the kids.

99 Bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beeer!

I mean, 99 things! But if I have to be stuck with that song in my head for the rest of the day, then so do you... thanks Lydia!

This was a fun meme, so if you feel inspired, please copy/paste and play along:

What I’ve done: bold
What I’d like to do: italicized
What I haven’t done and don’t have any particular wish to do: plain text

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band. (only in school, but it was violin, so I actually had to work at it)
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland/world.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo. (Star Spangled Banner)
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris. (I've been to the airport and that was quite enough)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. (Well, in the Gulf of Mexico - but away from sight of land)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child. (Only as an Aunt, not a mom, but I am blessed to have my adopted nieces and nephew!)
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train. (I dream of this more and more with each long airline trip we make)
21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked. (but I have accepted offered rides)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. (to care for others)
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon (or would 9 years in the Army count?)

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. (but only as a child, I'd like to see it again)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.

35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language. (HTML? Otherwise I used teachers)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing. (Only enough to make me not want to experience the extreme stuff)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.

46. Been transported by ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood. (never thought to do it - until I was no longer allowed)
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter. (Been knocked off the top of a truck by a helicopter!)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. (and gave it to my children)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.

71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades (but only privately, out with friends on our own. I've never been on a 'touristy' tour and would like to do that.)
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone. broke a finger falling off a teeter-totter, as an adult
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Do fish count?
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life. I took a gun away from a would-be suicide
90. Sat on a jury. (I only get summoned AFTER we move overseas)
91. Met someone famous.

92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.

94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I see you...

Can't miss the noise, and there's no place to hide. You knocked down all the walls, brick by brick. Yep. I see you down there.
Hiding in the corner will do you no good.Not sure where you stashed the dump truck, but with that pile of rubble at the ready, I know it has to be around here somewhere. I keep telling everybody that you are working fast and hard, don't let me down.... dudes, I'm tired!I can still be sympathetic to the need to work at night - I do 'get it', I understand - but it is tough to get any sleep, and you woke up the little one last night. I have to admit that this empty lot sure was a pleasant sight from our balcony this morning.Now, will you please wait a while before you start RE-constructing anything?? Take a break. Go on vacation... say, until June? And then, can you work during the day?!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What goes thump, Rrrrrr, BLAM, beep beep beep all night long?

A giant front-end loader scraping up huge hunks of concrete and other debris and dumping them into a dump truck... right outside our window... all night long, that's what.

The building behind us has been leveled to a shell of what used to be the ground floor. The other floors were pulverized and dropped into that shell. The deconstruction has reached a stage where they have to haul off the broken bits - and that requires heavy equipment. Trouble is, the roads here are tiny, traffic is heavy, and trucks are NOT allowed into the town during the day.

So they come at night - about 10-11pm. So, with thumps that rattled the windows, and growling engines that rumbled and vibrated the couch I was sitting on... not to mention the incredibly piercing back-up beepers... they workers loaded rubble. All flippin' night. They must have loaded truck after truck. They were gone by the time my 6am alarm went off. I suppose they had to be out of town by sun-up.

Fortunately, my knowledge of the truck bans, understanding of traffic, and previous experience watching the people working on this building (they are truly industrious), grants me enough patience to not be annoyed at the uproar back there. There are some thumps and bangs that come in hard enough that I can feel them - like they bumped into our building or something (can't actually happen, there's a wall - but it feels like it). It's an incredible amount of noise. But at least it is very busy noise. They seem to be really moving and so I can hope that they are hurrying - maybe only to save money on equipment rental, or whatever, but the details do not matter to me. They're moving right along.

It also helps that, somehow, the kids sleep right through it all. This is not the first night that they've been out there and the kids never hear a thing. Absolutely amazing. And good they slept last night - today was the first day back to school. It was good to have them wake up feeling happy, bouncy, and ready to go.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's Party Time!

Brian had his birthday already, but we saved the party for this weekend. This is the last weekend before school starts again, so it was a good time and excuse to get some kids together and play. Brian picked out a bouncy castle, and selected the menu too. It's nice to have a big boy to help out with things like this.
It was a nice sized bouncer - good for a whole pile of kids, and included a barrier around the edges, so we brought a bag full of inflatable beach balls too.
The club made a nice cake and put sparklers on the cake as well as candles...
Trick candles!
Brian even got to cut the cake (with a little help).
Honor found some time to play on the slide...
... and some time for the 5yo version of chicken.
Honor started the day cranky and grumpy, for some reason, and it showed here and there throughout the day.
Fortunately we were able to cheer her up easily.
All and all, we had a very happy day.


That someone has been using my phone AND the camera:
Could it have been our little technology fairy?
Yep. That looks like her artwork... and she is always careful to save her work.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Brian is eight! How in the world has all this time gone by already? Our big guy has another birthday under his belt and is definitely growing up on us. Growing up good, too. We are so proud of our son. He is helpful, mature, a great big brother, and so sweet and thoughtful. Happy Birthday Brian, we love you!!
We had a small family celebration, and will have a big party with school friends next weekend... just because it sounds like fun... but I think our little party will be my favorite.
Brad had to work, and the kids and I spent the day inside. Cleaning house, playing games, etc. The kids stayed in pj's all day. They both helped bake Brian's cake. I supervised, but they took turns reading the instructions, finding ingredients, etc. Good teamwork.
I frosted the cake... and unfortunately, the frosting was a little gooey. Good thing we pinned the cupcake towers on the castle with toothpicks or they would have slid right off! Ah well, the kids had fun decorating it, and it tasted good, that's what matters.
After making the cake I sent the kids off to shower... cake batter everywhere... so, I did manage to get them out of pj's temporarily, but they put new ones on as soon as they got dressed again. It was a bit of a chilly day and a good day to hang out in pj's and slippers, I suppose. I gave Brian the choice of what to make for dinner and he picked leftovers. What a sweetie! I didn't have to cook. Leftovers were burritos and they're always better the second day anyway... the spices in the meat always seem richer after a day.
Brad got a call around dinner time and his tortilla sat in the pan too long. Turned hard as rock! He cooked another, and Honor ran off with the ruined one. This is what she did with it! She grabbed the camera and photographed it herself as well - because I told her that we couldn't keep the tortilla! I'm serious when I say that we never know what to expect next from her.
So many candles... I had to hold the cake away to keep from getting singed.
My sweeties.
Honor was a big helper, she even helped me wrap and decorate Brian's presents. Even the heavy one...
... which turned out to be the Castle Lego set he had been wanting.

Happy Birthday Brian!!

2 by 2

And they came, two by two, to view the baby Jesus, and hang out with Shrek...

Sure, it would have been nice to have posted Christmas-y pics closer to Christmas, but the internet has not been cooperating. This picture of our unconventional and ever-changing nativity was too much fun not to share. I about spilled my coffee when I first saw the Ogre had joined the group in adoration. Well, why not ogres.. they have layers, right?

And why do we have a nativity set anyway? We're not Christian. We are trying to raise the kids with a good sense of God though, and an open-minded acceptance of all religious paths. We want them to have a good foundation of morals and values, an appreciation and acceptance of all forms of spiritual expression, and true belief in the divine. With this background we think they'll be able to find the religion that fits them best, and truly works for them, when they are old enough to know who they are. The details do not really matter - all religions are faulty by nature. Made by humans, and humans are not the perfect ones. Religion is just a tool we use to communicate with the Spirit, and so it is good to learn that all of man's religions have good and bad parts, true and false, etc. It's also important to learn that we do NOT have all of the answers, and we do NOT know what the true path is - only God knows that, and in my opinion, I think God is great enough to have made more than one true path. He made us all different, so, why not? We try to teach the kids a bit about everything as we come across it. They'll figure out the path that fits them best later, and, hopefully, will follow it truthfully while retaining a love and respect for other paths too. Anyway, a nativity set is a good, hand's-on (you better believe I got a set the kids can play with - clay breaks, but glues well too!) learning aid for Christianity. Ok, Shrek is a stretch... but we have to believe that god loves us all. Even ogres.

Friday, January 2, 2009

12 days

12 DAYS. A week and a half. What is this an estimate of? Download time. Yea. You heard me. For a 1.2MB file. Admittedly, it went down to hours, then minutes, and then to what appeared to be a reasonable time - although it lied... it is still in progress with no promise of any actual success.... but I saw it when it first came up. With DAYS. Twelve of them.

I hate it when the internet is broke.

Seems they fixed it, once.

Then, there was an earthquake.