Monday, May 30, 2011

Good Morning – with cats

The alarm rings at 6am – time to hit the snooze a few times. I need my snoozes. Fortunately, the cats understand the significance and vital importance of mom’s snooze time, and rarely bug me. They do know what it means when I grab the phone and turn off the alarm 10-15 minutes later though, and come leaping up on the bed to say their hellos.

We walk down the hall towards the kids’ rooms… I shuffle groggily, they scamper and swirl. I turn on lights, radio, and get each child to acknowledge my presence and purpose for trespass… then I go out to allow them another 10-15 minutes sleep. This snooze ‘alarm’ works very well for them and it’s very easy to get them going when I wake them like this. Often I take advantage of the time and go back to bed for a few more minutes myself. Yes, I do set the alarm again, and amazingly enough, the cats ‘get this’ too, and while they follow me back to bed, they still don’t bug me.

Oh, but soon enough, it’s time to get up, for real, and the cats throttle up the excitement level to the highest notch! Off we parade down the hall again… one shuffling, 3 racing… and I let the cats determine who gets up first. They leap on the chosen bed and snuggle, rub, head-butt and purr. Then we have fun pulling clothes out of the closet (yes, they can balance on the clothes rod), catching (stealing) socks, digging through drawers, etc. Ninja loves the ‘toe attack game’ and considers it her daily duty to pounce on toes as the kids attempt to extricate themselves from the blankets.


“One kid successfully awakened… next!”

Getting dressed, shoes on, teeth brushed and hair brushed are all closely cat supervised. Sometimes too much so. It’s dangerous to brush hair when a cat is trying to grab the brush from your hand. And it’s hard to brush teeth with a cat in the sink wanting to play with the water… despite the distractions though, getting ready with cat help tends to be a lot of fun.

Eventually the kids make it out to the breakfast table. Pumpkin generally leaves everyone alone and has his breakfast, but Pixie believes it is her job to bother the kids, as much as possible, at the table. She is especially interested when milk, or Kiri cheese (cream cheese), is involved, but also loves the effect she can get by diving at the base of a cereal box to knock it across the table, cereal flying! (brat!). Ninja meanwhile, helps me with the kids’ lunchboxes and backpacks. I set the boxes on the counter, go find snacks, remove a toy rat from a lunchbox, start packing the box, go get water bottles, remove the cat from the box, turn around to put everything in backpacks… remove cat and/or rat from backpack, etc.

Finally, we make it out of the door and the kids get out to their bus. Some mornings we can hear Ninja meowing forlornly from the living room as we wait outside. What never fails though is, as I come back in the house, I will hear Ninja calling desperately for me from inside the door. I suppose minutes are like hours in cat-time. She wheelies up, meercat style, on her hind legs for love and pets… then she brings me her toy rat. Rat fetch is the BEST. GAME. EVER., especially with a big long living room and marble floors to slide across. I’ll toss her rat for as long as she brings it back, or until my arm gets tired… usually she gets distracted by her sister joining the game and I can make my escape.

Next on my agenda is making coffee. That routine is very similar to packing lunches… get the pot, remove the cat from the sink. Remove the rat from the sink. Fill the carafe while preventing the cat from playing with the water. Pour the water into the coffee maker and insert a filter. Go get coffee. Stop the cat from placing the rat in the filter, (or coffee tin or whatever is handy), toss rat across kitchen, spoon in coffee grounds, etc. Then, get the rat from the counter, again, remove the cat from my shoulder, go in living room and play round two of rat fetch, the BEST. GAME. EVER. It probably would not surprise anyone that I often forget to turn the maker on… 

Eventually, I sit down for a few minutes to check the news and my email. It’s about this time that Brad comes out, ready to leave for work… and often has to remove at least one fast asleep, worn out cat from his chair so he can sit down and put on his shoes! The cats will often sleep most of the day too, unless I go shopping and bring home exciting groceries (doesn’t matter what I buy.. groceries are always interesting), and they will only wake up when it’s time for the school bus to bring their kids back home again. The cats need all day to rest because homework play, evening play, and bedtime rituals tend to be just as wild as our mornings, with cats.



(btw… I sure hope the grocery store has more furry toy rats back in stock… the ones we have left are about played out!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

This week’s Round-up is being hosted by Sadie over at Sadie Abroad and she’s curious about our Memorial Day memories, traditions, and other thoughts.

Growing up in Florida, we didn’t have a long harsh winter, and spring and summer came quick and sort of flowed all together. Memorial Day weekend was simply another long weekend that happened before school let out. My dad was a Navy veteran, and very proud of his service, but we didn’t go to any parades or other actual memorial service. That gained importance to me as I grew, joined the service myself, and better understood the reason behind the holiday.

I think I feel like sharing some memories, for Memorial Day.

Military Service goes back in our family. Mostly Navy. My grandfather from WWI.

George LaForceAnd my dad…

disk3 015 O wait, that was just a silly self portrait that he sculpted ;) 

This is better… from WWII time period.

dadshipdec12_01 garbisio dondaddoghouse Still silly here, but real. That’s my dad!



And here’s a photo I sent to my parents when I was in Basic Training.  I think I may still have been 17yo when this photo was taken. Yes, that is a polaroid! A few years have passed since this was taken!

disk5 005 As for other memorial day summer memories, I don’t have any photos labeled specifically by date, but with a long weekend, it was highly likely that fishing was involved. Mom and dad’s first date was fishing, I caught my first fish when I was three years old, fishing was a big part of our summer. Oddly enough, to this day, I really do not like much seafood!

liar not meit was at least 9 lbs We also spent a lot of time camping. We had a tent, but where ever we went had to have full electrical hook-ups and facilities for mom, and a boat ramp for dad. I don’t think us kids really cared as long as we had a place to get into the water, which is where we would be, pretty much every minute of the day. Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos from that time with me. Most of that is in storage.

We’re starting our long weekend early as today (Wednesday) we are off of school and work because Jordan is celebrating their Independence Day. (And as I type, we’re listening to military jets and helicopters flying over our house really low… bet they’re doing a flyover for a celebration downtown) I totally filched this from their Facebook page, but here are some awesome Jordanian flag cupcakes to celebrate the day. They’re from Sugar Daddy’s bakery in Amman … Mmm!

So good, the bakery was written up in the NY Times :)


We stopped in last night (before the flag cakes came out) and each of us got one treat. Brad had a strawberry, the kids had KitKat cupcakes, and I tried their Hummingbird cupcake … and it was AMAZING!!

Hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend, whether you spend it working in the yard…

beauty and the beast snuggling someone you love…disk3 005 being lazy…

2011-04-11 13.52.07 or getting out to enjoy the warm (finally!) weather.

2011-03-31 16.26.42Have a good one, and don’t forget the reason behind your day off, remember to pause a moment and think of our troops and veterans, and even though it is ‘our’ holiday, think of those who serve, and have served, their countries all over the world, because serving one’s nation is a duty that should be honored, no matter what uniform is worn.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

disk2 013

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Continuing Struggle

Don’t worry folks, when it comes to keeping us all safe from the scourge of evil pink socks, Ninja is relentless! She has been known to dig through dresser drawers searching for hidden enemy, risk her life by diving into a whole pile of laundry where who knows how many of the bad guys may be waiting in ambush, and she has even been known to rescue her favorite girl Honor (whether Honor wants to be rescued or not) when one of her feet get taken hostage… Ninja always prevails! 

Recently I caught video of one of Ninja’s assaults in progress. She eventually won the battle, but it was a close thing. (Please excuse the chaos and mess, the kids were making forts with the furniture again!)

This is also an example of why I need to cover our furniture, and why those covers never stay in place!

Our hero!


Monday, May 23, 2011

For Lack of Anything to Say – Flowers

I should put some words here, but I’d rather not. I feel like having a nap, or cleaning off Honor’s dresser, or working on my quilt. I don’t feel wordy, so you’ll have to simply enjoy some flower photos with a few comments.

Mother’s Day flowers for me (and the cats)


Some progress on our potted plants and seed experiments. The seed trays haven’t been working very well… it’s so dry here! Even watering every day doesn’t keep them from drying out. I thought about trying to get out there and water them twice a day, but that didn’t happen (oops), and putting plastic bags underneath them to stop them from draining and drying out didn’t work. They are shaded most of the day too. I might have to get new seeds and try putting the planters under/beside some light shrubs in the garden itself… maybe?


The pots did better. Beans in the front rectangle planter, passion flowers in the back. The rose, tomatoes and peppers are doing fine, as is that large thistle in one of the pots… I keep forgetting to bring gloves out, and I guarantee that any attempt to pull that monster without wearing armor will result in lost skin. In the cement planter towards the back, you can see some mint and oregano peeping out.


This end of the garden is not the lush paradise of colorful plant-life I might have wanted it to be, but honestly, I am very tickled with how well it is doing. The soil is poor… hard like clay… and the bit in front of the steps was newly dug this Spring. It’s been compacted as part of the lawn for some time. I decided to turn it into garden because the shade kept the grass from growing well anyway. I thought most of these poor little guys would likely die off, but they’ve been doing fine. I’ll eventually have to replace the annuals though.


What about the rest of the garden? It’s greening up quite nicely! Except for the daisy bushes, those are covered in white flowers now.


The plants have filled in, and the roses have been so dense that we’ve had to tie them up to keep the plants from falling over. Many are the more old fashioned variety too, meaning, they smell heavenly(!), unlike the hybrids, although I have several hybrid varieties back there too. I didn’t get a photo of them in their first full bloom because my back went out and I simply didn’t think about limping out the door to take pictures. They are MUCH happier and healthier plants this spring! oh, and over the top of it all, our bougainvillea are starting to bloom, and the ivy has it’s pretty green leaves back too.


Now that I can get around a bit better again, I can start spending some more time out there as we’re finally getting warm and dust free spring days… just in time for summer! ;)  (ok, not quite summer, but it feels like spring is very late this year and my patio furniture has been feeling unused and unloved.)

Some close-ups:

Geraniums up in the wall planters




Two of the gazillion blooms on the daisy bush




A ‘freebie’ – I love ‘surprise’ bulbs that came with a new (to you) house that you don’t know about until they pop up in the spring.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Delicious Dinner

We ate the evidence. Sorry, no photos of the crime scene. It’s not all ‘erased’, but there’s not enough left for a second meal. My experiment with the Jordan Lamb Shoulder Bone In was a success, and my family devoured their dinner!
I let the shoulder, which was about 3lbs??, slow cook from about 1pm to 6pm. No opening the foil. No peeking. I had called it a huge chunk of meat in my last post, and compared to what I usually cook (maybe 1/2 kilo of meat at a time, and I expect leftovers) it was huge!, but it was actually the smallest piece they had at the butcher shop at Carrefour. Their meats looked really nice the other day and I bought a lot more than I usually do, plus this shoulder, when shopping there – my freezer is happy now. I didn’t check the temp of the meat for doneness as I had no idea what to look for. I figured it had been slow cooking at 275F long enough to be good. I opened the foil and checked it the old fashioned way.. I stuck a knife in it. It was like slicing butter with a light saber! (but, without that loud sizzling “SSST!” noise that I imagine a light saber would make).  No resistance. Wow. I took some basic BBQ sauce, brushed the top of the meat, and cooked it (open foil) again at high temp (450F) for about 10minutes to finish it off.
About an hour before the meat was done, I wrapped whole potatoes in foil packets with sliced onion, minced fresh garlic, and a pat of butter, and popped them in the oven with the shoulder. That was a perfect amount of time, and the butter and things gave the outside of the potato a lovely flavor. I also warmed up some leftover green beans, and made a fresh salad… but we never touched those! Everyone filled up on lamb, bread and potatoes!
I saw a few notes online about the difficulties of carving a lamb shoulder… um… maybe because it’s impossible to carve something that falls apart at the merest touch? I didn’t carve, I just scooped the meat off with a couple of forks! The remaining fatty bits… because it is fatty meat(!).. were easily shoved off to the side (we didn’t like the taste of the fatty bits, which is probably a good thing - yes, we did have to try it!) and the bare bones simply fell out. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, juicy, and verrrrry delicious! I had picked up a fresh french loaf at the bakery and it was a great match for the meat and potatoes. (Is it just me, or has the bakery at Carrefour improved to an astonishing degree???)
It wasn’t a ‘cheap’ meal, but at 19JD/28$ for the meat, plus bread and potatoes, it was like taking the family out to a moderately priced restaurant. Good for a treat, but not every day… not that I think it’d be all that healthy anyway! It is a high fat meat, and with all of the bread and potatoes, we stuffed our selves and skipped our veggies! Naughty! But it was yummy, and actually a very easy dish to prepare. I’ll file this one with the corned beef… corned beef is also fatty goodness, with scads of tasty saltiness for extra decadent indulgence. I only fix that, maybe, once or twice a year, if that (it’s hard to find!), so I can see doing the same with this meat. Then again, there are probably other recipes I need to try it with before I set restrictions… !!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

She Puts The Lamb in the Oven, plus, flower pictures - preparing the garden for Spring

Jordan Lamb Shoulder Bone In – hmm? Sounded intriguing. I’ve never made a Jordan Lamb Shoulder Bone In before, but it sounded good. So, I brought Jordan Lamb Shoulder Bone In home. To the serious dismay of all the household felines, I did NOT give the huge chunk of meat to them directly, immediately, or even as soon as I walked in the door. I know, I’m mean that way. Instead, I washed it up, got out the biggest baking sheet I own, and lay the shoulder on a long piece of foil. I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled salt, pepper, and rosemary all over. I also added a bit of vinegar to the oil simply because most slow roast/oven BBQ methods I’ve tried in the past call for a bit of vinegar and I can’t argue with the results. I flipped the meat and did the other side. Placing the meatiest side up, I covered the whole with another long sheet of foil, rolled/sealed all the edges tightly, and popped it into a 275F oven. It’s there now. Hopefully, it is resigning itself to becoming a delicious, slow cooked, falling off the Bone In Jordan Lamb Shoulder. At least that’s what I told it to do. The cats are not in here anymore. I suppose they are sulking in another room somewhere, or googling how to open an oven door, or just taking a nap because cats are easily distracted by a good nap. I’ll make some potatoes and fresh salad to go with it this evening. Wish me luck!

In the meantime – enjoy some Spring flowers!

Remember when I tore up my garden? I thoroughly thinned out the jungle vines and cut back the scraggly shrubs. I gave it quite a severe haircut, but it truly needed it. After the carnage was cleaned up, it looked like this:

DSC09285 DSC09284

Rather nekkid, but think of it as a blank slate … I bought some flowers: a small gardenia, a kumquat (it was so little and needy, like a Charlie Brown tree.. it had to come home with us), and pansies, but for the most part, I gave the box of crayolas to an 8yo to color in. She chose random pretty things:

A purple cabbage thingy (3-4 of them, and some white ones too)


Several Ranunculus in various colors. There’s a mini-rose bush, with dark red blooms, behind this plant. Honor picked the rose plant for her brother.


Here’s my gardenia – I hope it thrives (our soil is very poor, so ..??). It’s one of my favorite flowering shrubs, with it’s glossy dark leaves and pure white rosette blooms with a heavenly smell! mmm!


We also have these, whatever they are:



And because you can never have enough plants and flowers, we have pots. Here are some pepper and tomato seedlings, and rose cuttings taken from the trimming I did.


I was going to plant the rose stems, but Honor watched the process, then took over and did them all:


We started an experiment with seeds in these little planters.. just to see how they do.


And Honor started a little fairy garden in a terrarium to put in the kitchen window


We also had some potted plants inside because hyacinths smell so lovely! They can go in the garden for next year.


All in all, we had a very good time picking out plants and getting our flower beds ready for the warmer weather… now all we need is warmer weather. Ok, we have had some slightly less cool days, but I feel like we’ve been stuck in March for some time now. (Can that be my excuse for not blogging much? Being stuck back in March?) Anyway, our plants are doing very well now. I think they definitely benefitted from the extreme clean-out I imposed on them. I’ll post some more photos later to show what we’ve got growing now and how well how new additions are doing.