Friday, May 30, 2008

Thank you, Mom!

My mother has spirited away my children this afternoon, and I have been able to clean, go to the grocery store, and enjoy a few precious moments without hearing "Mommeeeeeee!" and "Why?" repeatedly. I love them so, and, indeed, I am having this party to celebrate the delightful questioner Big Girl, but it's nice to have quiet in my house, every once in a while. The silence is very, very loud right now.


I am making almost no progress in my efforts to clean the house before Big Girl's party because the two of them UNDO everything I do! I put away toys, and they drag them out! I clean up messes and they make new ones! Grrr!


Big Girl has obviously inherited my klutz gene. She has whacked her head twice, in the same spot, on doorframes this morning. This should produce a lovely bruise on her forehead, nice and colorful for photographs at tomorrow's party. She also has a repeat boo-boo on her knee, initially the result of a minor bike accident and now reopened by a sidewalk stumble. Good thing we don't have a lot of stairs at our current house - I had a bad history with the tall flights inside and outside at our old home, but here she should be safe.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Henri - quel dommage!

Dentist adventures

Big Girl had her first dental appointment today and she was a champ! I had a cleaning first, with the dental hygienist showing her all of the equipment and explaining things to her throughout my cleaning, and then it was Big Girl's turn to sit in the chair. She was kind of wiggly, but she was a very good sport, and the hygienist was able to check all of her teeth, polish them, floss them, and paint them with a fluoride treatment. Big Girl adapted quickly to the new environment and conversed nicely with everyone she met, and she seemed to like the dentist, too (I knew she would - he's been my dentist since I was a kid, excepting the time when I lived elsewhere). She got to pick a prize from the hygienist's prize box for her excellent behavior, and she chose some fancy gold Mardi Gras beads, which she wore for the rest of the day. She also got a cool Disney Princess toothbrush, and I think she enjoyed the whole experience. Yay! I was very nervous, but she seemed to have a great time and she got a good report, too. No cavities, and no buildup at all! I think the sticker activity book played a big part in her happiness as well.

The devolution of Mom

Two, 6 AM: Ma-meeeeeeeee! Ma-meeeeeeeee! Twacta? Ma-meeeeee!
Me: Here's your tractor. Why are you up so early, big guy?
Two: Up? Up! Toast, mommy! Toast! Toastie! Uppie!

Two is far too cheerful at that hour. He must get that from Hubs. I don't smile before my second cup of coffee.

Songs heard at breakfast: Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, I'm a nut, Old McDonald (with shouted E-I-E-I-Os from Two), ABCs, and something else indecipherable

Current status: Tractor races up and down in the hall. On wood floor, so nice and noisy even *without* motor noises supplied by Two. Big Girl has her own John Deere now - did I mention that? She was very jealous of the John Deere that her brother received for his birthday, and since he won't let it leave his hands, even for sleep, I got her one for her birthday, too. Because little girls can drive tractors, too - got that, Granddaddy?

Although their options aren't limited...

Me: Big Girl, what do you think your brother wants to be when he grows up?
BG: Farmer. Bro wants to drive tractors.
Me: What about you? Do you want to be a farmer?
BG: No, I'll be a princess.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My kids?

Absolutely ROCK at playing Simon Says. They're pretty awesome with the hokey pokey, too, although we had to make modifications to do that in the car on the way home after dinner. Can't turn yourself around so easily when you're wearing a seat belt or strapped into a carseat. They're also champs at singing Old McDonald Had a Farm and making terrific animal noises, but that's old news. And? Old McDonald has a cow AND a bull on his farm. Naturally. The first time they named both, I stifled a giggle. I don't know what I would do if Old McDonald had a heifer, too. :)

Photos of Big Girl's herb garden

Not exactly a masterpiece, but certainly fun. All of the plants seem to be faring well so far. The marigolds are tossed in, one or two in each pot, because she liked them so much and because they supposedly deter bugs. I've never found them that successful with the bug deterrence, but they do add a nice splash of color. The pine needles and other debris are courtesy of Hubs, who cleaned out the gutters in typical man fashion - tossing the stuff down on the yard in big clumps and leaving it there. I'll get my cousin to clean it up when he mows the yard before Big Girl's party.

DIY smoker

Hubs has been working on constructing his own meat smoker, using an old water heater, and the project is proceeding nicely. We may be able to use it and enjoy some smoked meats later this summer! Today he has been welding and such. Here are a few photos for your enjoyment. Note Two's tiny feet as he runs around the smoker while I take photos - he's the tiny chap in a blue shirt and denim shorts - and Big Girl riding by on her red trike in one of the photos, too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Couscous - even better this time...

I made my couscous dish again for today's family dinner/birthday extravaganza, and this time I made a few modifications. I didn't cook the sweet onion first, just chopped it. I used corn, petite diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and half of the aforementioned onion, plus I used fresh juice squeezed from two limes. I added all of that to two cups of couscous (precooked measurement), and I served it cold, although I think warm would be delicious as well. And they liked it! I was curious to see what the extended fam said about it, and they all responded well (except my dad, who didn't eat me, but he's not exactly food-adventurous) and asked me how I made it. It may have helped that my mom, aunt, and uncle had tried the couscous at the baseball game on Friday (yes, they sat in swanky seats with ritzy food at the Braves game, courtesy of my dad's work connection - did I mention that we could see them on teevee throughout the game?).

Big Girl's cake turned out well, although the caramel icing was a bit thicker than I had intended. I tried a new recipe using sweetened condensed milk, since I couldn't find that can of evaporated milk that I know I bought a couple of weeks ago. It was very sweet, and kind of like candy - a bit chewy, even. I used my rose Bundt pan but the lovely rose shape was largely obscured due to the thickness of the caramel icing. When I make cupcakes for Big Girl's party, I'll aim for a slightly thinner icing, plus I'll serve the cupcakes upside down, since I'll be using fancy bakeware for those, too, and they'll look like rosebuds on the bottom. It'll go with the whole flower theme.

Mind like a steel trap: she's been talking about planting flowers at her party, even though I only mentioned that once when I ran the idea of a flower party by her. My mom already has some pots, and I'll pick up some plants - probably annuals in six-packs since those will be easy for the girls to manipulate - later this week. I don't want to run the risk of buying a flat of flowers only to have them die before next weekend.

In other news, a friendly random black lab, roaming loose in the 'hood, stole Hubs' brown leather dress shoes off the front porch as we were leaving for church this morning. An amusing scene in which I chased the dog, and said dog ran and encouraged the fun game, ensued. We didn't make it to church on time, but the shoes are now safe and intact. The dog chewed into a bag of potting soil (?) while we were gone, and busted open a jug of windshield washer fluid. Hubs shooed him away around lunch, and he apparently went down the street a couple of houses to see if our neighbors wanted to play, and stuck around their house all afternoon. He had a collar but no tags. We're hoping he just escaped from his yard while his people are out of town for the weekend - I hope he wasn't dumped out because his owners got tired of him, but unfortunately that happens all too often. We would have invited him to stay, but we have more than enough canine companionship at present, in the form of two ravenous blond bums. Hubs would be furious, so I squelched the voice in the back of my mind that thought he was a very sweet puppy who needed someone to love him. But I'm still a bit worried and will keep an eye out for him tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Big Girl's herb garden

After visiting with family this afternoon, Big Girl and I left Two at home to nap while we went to Home Depot in search of more plants for her herb garden. In addition to the lavender that lived through the winter, and the two tomato plants that have survived being napped upon by a neighborhood cat, she now has a sweet basil, a lambs ear, and two pepper plants in her herb garden, plus more pepper plants, cilantro, curly parsley, feverfew, and marigolds in adjacent containers. She also picked out some lovely pink impatiens, added to some dead nettle that I chose, for my hanging basket, which occupies a nice shady corner of the carport. Now I just need some nice ferns to go in my fern stand, and we'll have a nice lush setting around the front porch. I also picked up a package of moonflower seeds and planted them at various choice spots around the exterior of the house. Hopefully they will sprout and flower, but I didn't mention them to Big Girl since they'll take a while, and since they may not be as successful as I want. She had a grand time helping me pick flowers, and then helping me put dirt in the planters and get the plants settled in to their new homes. She'll be eager to help me water them regularly, I know - I had to watch her last summer to make sure she didn't drown plants when I let her control the watering can. We're still under strict watering restrictions here, so I'll use that as a teaching moment with her, and we'll keep track of days and times when we can water using her calendar. Beyond that, I'm excited to get her in the kitchen with me to cook using her herbs and vegetables - I think she'll really enjoy that. Plus I hope we'll be able to enjoy some of the bounty from my aunt and uncle's garden again this summer - I can almost taste the delicious fresh squash.

Cupcakes, cupcakes

I made cupcakes for Big Girl's end of school party, and they were delicious. Devil's Food cake with buttercream frosting (have I mentioned that I excel at making a simple, delicious buttercream frosting?). The kids really enjoyed them, as did the other parents who came to the party. I used my Williams-Sonoma rosebud cupcake pans, which meant that they looked like roses on the bottom. I iced them on top like typical cupcakes, but didn't use paper liners, so when I told some of the girls to look at the bottom of the cupcakes, they thought it was pretty neat. I used these same pans for Big Girl's first birthday party (they've held up great for over three years now), only I served them upside down with a thin pink-tinted glaze, clustered together like a bouquet. But I've observed that the kids in Big Girl's class are kind of picky, and are very hesitant about trying anything new or different, so I went with a more traditional approach this time (given the cool reception given to the Valentine's cupcakes which had pink frosting and multi-colored candies sprinkled on top - the horrors!).

Big Girl had a great time at the party and was thrilled with the plastic bucket and shovel she got. The teachers used the pails like goodie bags, and put candy and little toys in them, and now Big Girl can use it if we ever go to the beach this summer. Or if we get some sand for her, which is more likely.

Two went to the party with me, and had a grand time playing with some other little boys - interestingly, several of Big Girl's friends have baby brothers close in age to Two, so the boys played together while their big sisters partied. Two also got a cupcake, since I made plenty, and he devoured it in a big, crumby, sticky mess.

Family fun this weekend, which means another cake for Big Girl (this time I may try out one of my new shaped pans - I'm thinking the tractor) and tasty food for all. I think I'll revisit the couscous recipe as my contribution, since I don't feel like going to the store just now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Big Girl's birthday has morphed...

From a single birthday party, it has now grown into cupcakes for her preschool class, a family party one weekend, and a friends party the next. With a bounce house. And a cake for each party, in addition to the cupcakes for school. And I'm actually cool with the whole plan, because I don't have to decide which kind of cake to make for her - I can make all of my ideas! Off to make some cupcakes...

Monday, May 19, 2008

I did it again

I stayed up late, getting things done - laundry, dishes, other quality chores, plus some teevee watching - and now I'm exhausted this morning. And of course, the earliness of my wakeup call from Big Girl, who likes to climb up and over me into the bed, is directly related to the lateness of my bedtime. Ugh. Six o'clock "Mommy, I need toast!" - hard to respond nicely to that when I just want a few more precious minutes of sleep. But we're all awake, and the toastmasters have been satisfied.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My inner nerd is weeping...

Moonlight won't be back on CBS in the fall...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mornin', y'all!

We're experiencing another toast shortage here. I'm not sure what got them started on this toast kick, but both Big Girl and Two ask for buttered toast (or sometimes with jelly or jam) for breakfast, with lunch and dinner, and as a snack. So we go through a lot of loaves of bread, and I haven't had the time to track down the bread machine cookbook and bake my own, and the freezer has been thoroughly cleaned of all partial frozen loaves. I could try to pass off a couple of freezer-burned hot dog buns as toast, but the Toastmasters would likely wrinkle their noses in distaste at the off taste. I think I'm going to become fast friends with the woman who runs the bakery outlet in town. At the rate these two consume it, I have no qualms about getting day old bread from the outlet. Plus they have some granola bars and fruit snacks there that are cheap and tasty additions to my friends' dining repertoire.

In other cute gustatory news, Two has developed the charming habit of begging for roasted peanuts, putting them in his mouth to lick off all of the seasonings, and spitting them back out in his hand and presenting them to me. Punk. He doesn't like peanut butter (yes, I know that's strange in a little kid), but he will eat peanuts sometimes, particularly in a snack mix. Big Girl LOVES all kinds of nuts and begs for them at snack time. She kindly shares her nuts with her bro, and then I end up with personally-cleaned peanuts dumped in my lap by an insistent young man. We need to break this habit promptly.

I've been reading lots of fast food books lately - quick, easy reads, mostly sci-fi and fantasy stuff. This really annoys Hubs, because I sit in the den while he watches crap on tv and I read. He goes to great efforts to involve me in his shows, but I keep going back to my book. Drives him up the wall - he gets deeply offended, and I think he's being silly. I make time to talk to him, but I'm not going to watch the same episodes of The Deadliest Catch multiple times just because he falls asleep before the end and forgets that he has seen them. Anyway, the positive point is that I'm really enjoying reading without the pressure of unpacking the symbolism and identifying allusions and all of that. And yes, I will get back to the scholarly stuff soon enough - lots to do on ye olde dissertation. In a wise move yesterday, Big Girl and I also made a trip to the library, to check out more fast food books - I don't need to pay full price to buy copies of books I'll only read once. Plus I haven't used my library card in years, and I'm on the library board now, so I should make an effort to do that, right? I'll post more about the fast food books at some point - the incredibly curious among you can check out my recent reads through goodreads until then (see link on the right side of the blog somewhere).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My cousin!?

He's great. He's mowing my lawn and pulling up weeds. Yeah, I pay him to do this, but he's always really appreciative for what I pay him. I must pay him more generously than other relatives - I dunno. I do know that I would have to pay a lot more to get anyone else to do it. And now, the front yard is mowed, and the back yard is mowed, and he's getting rid of the rampant weeds along the back fence line. Did I mention that it rained all day yesterday? So it's kind of yucky and muddy out there. Maybe not the best mowing condition for the grass, but it's all weeds anyway, and it was getting lanky, so I told him to go ahead. And meanwhile, I'm inside on my computer, and my kids get free entertainment watching him work. The grass will likely get tall and out of control again, and need another mowing or even two before Big Girl's birthday party, but hopefully the fenceline weeds have been knocked down into submission for longer.

I don't get nasty from the mud and stuff, and the kids are somewhat supervised and definitely enthralled. Plus I don't mind subsidizing his dates with his girlfriend. I'll save my energy for working on Big Girl's herb garden and some flowers once the weather improves.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Naked Dog

On Friday night, aliens descended on our back yard and gave our golden retriever a really bad summer buzz cut. That's my story. Nope, wasn't me spending three hours wrestling with said dog, only to end up with a funky fuzzy chubby puppy.

He looks really silly. I felt kind of bad when a cool front came through late on Sunday, since he's without his fur suit now, but he didn't seem too bothered. And he will be happy to be hairless when the true Georgia heat kicks in. Plus this should cut down on the hot spots, or at least make it easier to treat them if he does get them thus summer. Poor guy - he has a lot of health problems, and hot spots were the first to appear but not the worst. This only reaffirms my judgment that his breeder didn't really know what she was doing and hadn't taken sufficient steps to clear the health history of his parents and grandparents on both sides.

Big Girl and Two were fascinated by the process and the results. Big Girl laughed and said that our golden retriever was getting his hair cut so he would look more like the lab. She's a bit obsessed with the idea of haircuts (which scares me) and with observing who has short hair and who has long hair, and has had this obsession for several months since I cut and donated my long hair. She sees the dog haircut as something similar - the dog had long hair, and her mommy cut it, just like her mommy had long hair and her grandmother cut it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What to do when coffee loses its magic powers?

Coffee just isn't giving me the jumpstart I require today. In fact, lately I've needed two cups to feel vaguely normal and three to feel energized lately. I guess this is what happens with addiction. You have to use more and more in order to get the desired effect. I'm not looking for the shakes and the caffeine overload. I just want to feel human in the morning. And today? I feel old and stiff and hobbled. I'm walking around with sore, stiff feet and legs from all of that "exercise" playing games with the preschoolers yesterday. I am so out of shape. I've been saying that for a long time but maybe I should take some sort of action to remedy the issue.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yummy couscous recipe

I made this up myself. And I liked it, and lots of people at the church dinner really liked it too. First, I cooked three cups of couscous with water, butter, and salt according to the directions on the side of the container. Then, I sauted a chopped Vidalia onion in a skillet, with a tiny bit of olive oil, until it was nice and tender, and mixed the onion, a can of (drained) petite diced tomatoes, and a can of (drained) yellow corn with the couscous. I chopped about half a bunch of fresh cilantro and added that as well, plus a sprinkling of lemon pepper seasoning.

I served this chilled, since I had to make it in advance and store it in the church fridge for a couple of hours while I was herding kids, but I think warm would also be nice. This made a huge bowl - plenty for the potluck line plus plenty for us, too. I think next time, I'll cut back to two cups of couscous but keep the other ingredients the same, and that should work nicely. I may also experiment with other seasonings - I love the fresh cilantro, but I think that it might also taste yummy with some cumin (maybe if I toasted some cumin seeds and added them), or maybe lime juice instead of the lemon pepper.

The fresh cilantro made the whole kitchen smell divine. I just love that beautiful fresh smell. I have some cilantro left, so if I have the time before it wilts, I may make some black bean and corn dip. Love that stuff - a recipe my aunt found, I think in Southern Living a few years back. Because I can't resist the chance to tweak recipes to my liking, I make that recipe with Vidalia onions instead of purple ones (too strong), and no red bell pepper (me no likey). I'll track down that one and post it here for your enjoyment sometime soon.

Going to whip something up...

What I really want to do is take a nap, but duty calls. I need to make something to take to the church picnic tonight, and then rouse the kids to take them to said church for fun and games before the meal. I have some couscous, diced tomatoes, corn, a sweet onion, and some fresh cilantro. I'll see what happens. I can always add some spices to liven things up if it doesn't taste good at first.

Hi Cake!

I'm glad you enjoyed the lemon bars! Now you have me hungry for some - but I should resist. There will be plenty of tempting food at tonight's church picnic.

I've been pleased with the Ziploc Big Bags - the ones I bought before our move stood up really well during and after the move. I'm still using them now, a year and a half later, to store some Christmas stuff, and they didn't tear or bust when they got tossed around during the move. For bulky things that aren't too heavy, I think they work very well. I've used them for pillows, linens, outgrown kid clothes, holiday decorations (stockings, pillows, etc.), and assorted kid toys. I like being able to see what's inside, and they're cheaper than a lot of plastic storage bins. Let me know if you want a coupon to try them and I'll mail you one (you can e-mail me through bbc - I'm clickable).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hearing my own words...

I was in the kitchen this morning loading the dishwasher when I heard Big Girl talking. I paused to listen, and I heard my own often-repeated words spoken in Big Girl-ese: "No! Be nice to your brother. Be careful when you play with him. Don't hurt him. That's bad." She was standing at the back door lecturing Patton, our lab, about playing nicely with Quinn, our golden retriever. Patton was really excited to see the kids at the door, and he was bouncing around and crashing in to Quinn, as he frequently does in his bouts of glee. That Big Girl is astute. ;)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Who, me? Yes, I'm still here.

I've been slaving away, grading a lot of bad papers and pitiful exams, plus a few good ones, for the last several days. I finally finished with it all and got everything turned in to the proper people today, so I'm finished with that job until fall. Yay! I think I'll celebrate with some nice cold Bailey's. My eyes are all dry and burning from reading so much over the last several days. As a break from grading the papers, I've also been reading some fun fiction this weekend, a couple of books from a recently-discovered Jim Butcher series (no, not the fabulous Harry Dresden books - another great series). I'll blab on excitedly about those books sometime when my eyes aren't so fuzzy feeling. I'm behind on my teevee watching, so now that I'm finished with grading, I'll have to block out some time to be a bum.

Two has a tummy bug but is being a pretty good sport. I hope he gets over this soon. No telling where he found it - he's so curious and gets into stuff all the time. Fortunately his sister is getting better about washing her hands regularly, and actually using the soap instead of giving it a cursory pickup, so she is healthy so far.

Also my latest Bzz kit came today - some fabulous Ziploc Big Bags. I already had some of these, which I used for pillows and comforters when we moved last year, and I'm delighted that I just got some more, now that I'm ready to tackle some organizing projects in my copious free time. I also have some good coupons to share, which always makes my mom happy. I don't think she would ever sign up to be a Bzz Agent, but she gladly shares in whatever I get to try as one.

Thursday, May 1, 2008