Monday, June 30, 2014

Bookworm

It's 83 degrees in my house, but the humidity is not too bad (I mean, for these parts - my friend from Utah would pass out if she walked in here) and damned if I am going to turn on the AC when it is already almost 5:30.  You see, Larry comes home by 6:30 and the first thing he will do is walk over to the thermostat and sort of shake his head in that cute way he has and put on his frowny eyebrows and finally, when no one says anything, he'll ask, "Isn't it hot in here?"

Which of course it is - it's AFRICA hot.  But it's fun to mess with his head, so I am bribing the kids to say, "Oh, it feels okay," just to see what he does.  Or maybe I will tell him, "We're practicing camping, because it's SO MUCH FUN."

Hey, I've got to amuse myself somehow, don't I?

Yesterday our town movie theater showed Sound of Music on the big screen for only 5 bucks a ticket.  I took the girls and spent a blissful 3 hours allowing myself to believe that governesses teach children to sing fun songs and get rich captain widowers to fall in love with them. So much better than reality...

Today, in an attempt to be a good mom, I spent half an hour cutting out large circles from construction paper to make a summer reading bookworm/caterpillar for our kitchen wall.  Everyone gets assigned a color; each time a child (or myself) reads a book, he can write the title on his color circle and paste it onto the bookworm.  Like this:



That top hat's a nice touch, right? Gives it some class...


This teaches the kids something, but I am not sure what it is.  Maybe it makes it more fun to read?  I don't know.  But I definitely feel like I did something educational there.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blueberry Buckle, With A Side Of Nostalgia

David managed to transform some of those blueberries from yesterday into this:

On my favorite plate, too...

Actually, that's only what's left - there was way more before we got our hands on it.  I rescued the remnants for the photo shoot.  And, gosh, that photograph almost looks Pinterest-worthy, doesn't it?  Who knew a $2 plate from Target and some rudimentary baking and photography skills could accomplish that?

All I can say is, I've come a long way from the days when I didn't know how to hyperlink and was asking other bloggers what a meme was.  I've been doing this blogging thing for just about 7 years now, and I still remember how excited I was to receive my first comment.  Oh, those were the days, people - I would write about my bra and receive 73 comments.  73!  I would post about the mess in my fridge and have German au pairs swarming my site.  A pox on you, Facebook and Pinterest, with your easy liking and sharing!  This blog feels like the Internet equivalent of a Flintstones car now.

Anywhoo, in a nod to the good old days, when recipes were on blogs and not on Pinterest, here are the Blueberry Buckle instructions:

Ingredients:
1 teen boy who is bored enough to mess around in the kitchen
3/4 sugar
1/2 cup shortening (David used butter, because he knows what he is doing)
1 egg (David used egg replacer, lacto-vegetarian that he is)
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Cream sugar and shortening, beat in egg. Alternate adding the flour/baking powder and the milk.  I don't know why you alternate.  If you feel like throwing caution to the winds, just throw it all together, but don't say I didn't warn you.  Spread batter in a GREASED 8x8 pan. Spread blueberries on top.

Combine last 4 ingredients to make a crumbly topping.  Sprinkle over blueberries.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes. There - that wasn't so hard, was it?

We double this and bake it in an 11x15 pan.  Our family laughs at 8x8 pans.  I have completely forgotten how to make a normal amount of food, actually.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blueberry Season

I took the girls and a friend blueberry picking today.  No one cried, no one fussed, no one pooped in their pants.  It was almost boring.  But we've got lots of these:


I know, my photography skills are just amazing

And my resident chef (David, of course) is in the kitchen right now, whipping up a blueberry buckle. Sure, he's probably doing that to avoid schoolwork, but I don't care.  Summer is here in all its humid glory, and we must make the best of it.

Brian has been away all week at a Boy Scout camp, learning to sail a 30-foot boat. The boys sleep on the boat, also, so I've spent the week worrying that Brian's once-in-a-while sleepwalking habit will rear its ugly head and he'll sleepwalk into the bay.  Larry says I'm being ridiculous and vetoed my suggestion that we tell the sailing instructor to make Brian sleep with a life vest on.

No one listens to me around here.

It is still my birthday week, however; so last night - after yoga - I treated myself to a salad and some birthday chocolate for dinner.  It seemed like the right thing to eat.  Tonight? We are having pizza, purportedly to congratulate David on his SAT scores, but really because I forgot to plan anything for dinner.

Well, not forgot, exactly - more like, didn't bother...have I mentioned it is hot and humid out?

Oh, and before I go, the flowers in the glass vase on the rickety table actually managed to die before being knocked over, so I replaced them with a bunch that my friend gave me for my birthday:


AGAIN with the photography skills!

And that's it.  I need to go order the pizza so Larry can pick it up on the way home from work.  Yup, I'm even too lazy today to pick up my own pizza.  That's what humidity will do to a person.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Livin'

Whew! I spent a long time today searching for a beach we would like in Maine.  I finally landed on Scarborough Beach State Park/Pine Point Beach,but it took a while.  If anyone has a better suggestion, let me know.

Looks good to me....
Then I had to inform Larry that he would not be allowed to put his diabolical plan - you know, the one where he drags all of us through the mountains of New York/Vermont/New Hampshire for 6 days before going to the mountains of Acadia for a week - into effect.  I mean, hello? Rachel and Susie are the only kids who even get enthused about a family vacation anymore; and they have waxed rhapsodic about the 2 days we managed to get to a beach last year while at Cape Cod.  I did promise Larry that, when he retires and it is just the two of us, he can take me to all the mountains he wants.  But this year, we are GOING TO THE BEACH.  And then to Acadia.  Hey, the kids do have to have something to complain about later.

Gosh, I hope it doesn't rain.  Is there anything worse than rain on a camping trip?  I don't think so.  Again, it would be one thing if it were just Larry and I, curled up cozily in our pop-up camper, reading while rain drummed on the roof.  But with 4 kids, 2 of whom accompany us only under protest? A rainy day feels about as cozy as the Donner Party.

I think I'll end on that lovely thought this evening.  And a question: where are you planning to go this summer?  Not that I need to give Larry any more ideas....

Monday, June 23, 2014

51 Isn't So Bad, So Long As There's Cake

What victory looks like
First, a little update: those flowers?  STILL THERE. You can tell that it isn't just the same picture as last week, because there are all those little dead flower petals I didn't bother to clean up. Also, the water is starting to look a tad icky.

Look, I never claimed to be a great housekeeper.

AND I did it all without resorting to hidden putty or duct tape.  I'm telling you, you commenters are a devious lot, every single one of you.  It actually made me sort of tear up a little, all those helpful suggestions on how to cheat on this bet. Your dedication to my winning this marital dispute knew no legal or ethical bounds.  Such loyalty!  I knew there was a reason I love the blogosphere so much.


Anywhoo, I've been missing because it was a very busy birthday weekend.  Yoga class, a movie with Larry, a trip to the local yarn store with a dedicated friend who dropped everything at the last minute to join me (it didn't hurt that she knew I'd be using my birthday discount there, I guess), a couple of episodes of Orange is the New Black over at a friend's house in the evening...

And that was just Saturday.  Sunday, my fit friend forced me to bike 14 miles; but she made up for it by meeting me and another friend for a birthday dinner later. I spent Sunday afternoon enjoying my birthday loot:




A lot of chocolate, a neat sewing book, YARN bought with my birthday discount, a jewelry tree that I need because Anna made me get my ears pierced last year, and an awesome IPad cover that Susie convinced Larry to choose from my Amazon wish list - who could ask for more?

Do try to ignore the finish on that coffee table in the picture.  We bought the table secondhand in pristine condition years ago from a lovely old gentleman who was downsizing.  He and his wife had owned the table for 40 years, and there was nary a blemish on it.  It gleamed.  The table was, essentially, a tribute to the wonder that is maple; a song, as it were, celebrating the beauty of nature and the wonders of fine craftmanship.

Of course, when we brought it home, the kids couldn't resist sliding on their stomachs across its shiny, smooth surface.  Anna, unfortunately, was wearing a belt with a metal buckle at the time.  So, yeah - within 24 hours of being in our house, that beautiful table sported a nice long gouge across its center.

At least we didn't have to waste any time trying to keep it nice, right?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Evanescence

Move over, Martha Stewart!
A neighbor moved away today; and she offered me this cute little table that just fits against the wall next to our front door. So I took it and placed a vase of flowers on it and felt quite pleased with myself and my homemaking capabilities for a good 2 hours; that is, for the 2 hours that elapsed before Larry came home and suggested that the shaky table plus the glass vase right next to the front door might not enjoy a very long lifespan in a house with 4 kids who are constantly coming and going.

Did I say "suggested"? Actually, he LAUGHED.  He laughed at me and my quixotic attempt at pretending that we are normal people who can have nice things.

So now it is ON. Even though I know Larry is right - that I am merely tilting at windmills by attempting to decorate my house in this manner - we now have a bet going as to how long until the vase gets knocked over and broken.  He gives it 48 hours.  I am being bold and going for 7 days.  Any other guesses?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Free


Back when I turned 40 - way back, before Larry and I were even done having kids, back when I thought 40 was the end of life as we know it - I cheered myself up with the thought that, hey, I had 10 years to save up money and plan for a really neat bicycle trip with my friends the year we would all turn 50.  A woman's bicycle trip, that is, complete with nice hotels at night, chocolates on the pillow, etc.  None of that camping in tents and showering in cold water nonsense that the menfolk think is fun - oh no, I was going to turn 50 in style.

Well, the next 10 years went by in a blur - another baby (at age 42), adorable children turning into grumpy teens, a delightful (not!) journey through the ups and downs of menopause - until I was washed up, as it were, panting and exhausted on the beach of 50 wondering how the heck I got there, and relieved that I would never have to relive my 40's.  Because, even as discombobulated as I was at that point, I knew that 50 meant freedom - the freedom to be myself again, after almost 4 decades of having my life ruled by cyclical hormonal changes that all too often resulted in an emotional roller coaster ride.

Christiane Northrup has theorized that it is not life after menopause that creates personality changes in women; rather, the years between the first onset of menses and menopause represent the aberration from our true selves.  So now here I was, lying on the (relatively) hormone-free post-menopausal beach, getting re-acquainted with myself.  At first it felt weird, not having my life ruled by the great goddess Estrogen. I felt so...stable.  Unemotional.  I couldn't manage to take ANYTHING personally.  True, I seemed to have lost my waistline somewhere along the way; otherwise, though, things felt pretty cool.  Best of all, I realized I finally had time to exercise and feel better, physically speaking, than I had in years.
I had to shake the dust off these

Truth to tell, my 40's had left me in sort of bad shape.  I staggered up to 50, as it were, with painful sciatica and minimal aerobic capacity.  I wasn't at all ready for that bicycling trip I had planned 10 years before.  All those years of caring for others had resulted in my neglecting myself, and my own body was telling me that that had to change.

I realized that, if I couldn't stand up from the couch without groaning in pain, I wasn't going to have much fun after 50. And what's the point of reaching the magical land of post-menopause if you aren't ready for some fun? So, for me, this year of being 50 has been a year of learning to exercise again, a year of learning to prioritize my physical fitness above the house, the kids, everything.  It's meant a lot of pizza dinners for the family because I had a yoga class.  It's meant some weekends focused just on me, as I prepared with a friend to tackle a bike-a-thon or two (that is, once I relearned riding a bike).  It has meant retraining my brain to think "Me first" - just like they advise you to do with those oxygen masks on airplanes.
My new best friend

Exercise videos that alleviate back pain by strengthening my core muscles, a faithful friend who believes I can ride a bicycle 56 miles, a spouse who supports my taking the time to make doctor and physical therapy appointments, a wonderful local yoga center that welcomed me back after my 4-year absence - all these factors together created for me an open door to a healthier life.  I am so grateful to all of them, and I am proud of myself for taking advantage of these opportunities.  I still can't find my waistline, but I don't even care (much) - I am growing more flexible and stronger by the day, which means that I will be able to take advantage of any fun opportunities that come my way in this new stage of my life.

And that bicycle trip with friends?  I've rescheduled it for 55.  And another at 60.  And then another one at 65, perhaps.  It is something to look forward to, right?

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chips Off The Old Block

After church, Larry took Susie and Rachel to a local festival (because why miss an opportunity to risk one's life on some rickety-looking carnival rides?), and I was using my me-time to weed our overgrown front yard before someone calls the HOA on us.  But then? I had an epiphany: Larry wouldn't be a FATHER without MY help.  This holiday wouldn't have happened without ME. So now I am inside with a cool drink, enjoying Father's Day the way that God intended.

Larry is easy to please.
Yes, we DID give Larry presents.  See? Over there to the left? The Altoids, the Rudy's Rub, and the Samuel Adams, that is - ignore the pasta sauce and applesauce in the background.  I had to special order that Rudy's Rub stuff.  Larry brought it home once from a business trip in Texas, and he loves it beyond all reason.  In fact, he loves it enough to not even blink at the exorbitant shipping price I had to pay when I bought it.  "I'll use it on the chicken you're grilling later," I told him.

"Okay!" he said. "And it's great on peanuts!"

People, it's a rub for meat.  I have no idea what Larry is doing, sprinkling it on snack food.  And he wonders why I blame him for the kids' inappropriate condiment use.  Sheesh.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fridge Follies

Okay, so I went a bit crazy on Tuesday. It all started with my trip to Costco, where I spotted this: 

Lifechanging...maybe

Readers, I bought it. My years-long struggle with lots of tiny little jars in my refrigerator continues unabated (I blame my condiment-loving family), and I felt that maybe - just maybe - these storage bins might provide a less expensive solution than, say, buying a custom-designed fridge with specific places for 4 jars of salsa, umpteen jars of various types of jam, and 3 opened cream cheese containers. Seriously, it had gotten to the point where I no longer bothered to clean out my fridge - I just waited until stuff fell out and broke.

 You'd think I would have learned from that unfortunate vinaigrette incident of years past, but no...

 So! Armed with the renewed hope engendered by these 4 plastic refrigerator bins, I dove into my fridge and discovered that I had a Noah's Ark thing going on in there:

Two of every sort shall come unto thee...
After I took that picture, I discovered even more pairs of condiments: cream cheese, ground ginger, etc.  Look - the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, right?

Yes, we DO have a jam problem
I managed to fit all the open jam jars (5, if you must know) in one container and all the cream cheese (only 3!) into another.  I devoted the biggest container to our mustard/ketchup collection, and the fourth was reserved for salad dressings, because it was tall enough to keep a bottle of vinaigrette from toppling over.  Hope springs eternal, people; and I closed that fridge door serene in the knowledge that I finally had control over my condiment issues.

I opened that door a mere 2 hours later to find a large jar of roasted red peppers on its side in the middle of the ketchups and mustards. Aghast, I snatched it up, only to discover that it had disgorged its liquid-y marinade all over my pristine plastic bin.  Later, when I checked again, some member of my family (who shall remain nameless, LARRY) had shoved the entire bin the WRONG WAY into the back of the fridge, so it couldn't be pulled out like a handy little drawer, the way God and the manufacturer intended it should be.

Am I wrong to believe that my family is intentionally sabotaging my efforts to restore some order to our icebox?  Do you think that perhaps they resent my getting rid of the months-old bag of pepperoni minis I found in there?


Yes, these DID used to be red.  No, I don't know exactly how old they were.  But I posted this photo on Facebook and a friend immediately dubbed them the Michael Jackson of foodstuffs.

Too soon?





Monday, June 09, 2014

HELP!

David is turning 17 on Wednesday, and I have NO IDEA what to do for his birthday.  NONE.  He says he doesn't want anything.  I know - annoying.  I already gave him movie tickets for Christmas.  Should I do that again?  It's the only thing I can think of.

Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  GREATLY.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Pointless

Larry brought home that free stove last night, meaning that - after a long day at work - he had to drive an extra 20 minutes for the privilege of hauling a heavy appliance into his van in the pouring rain.  And then another 20 minutes home.  I didn't see/talk with him until I sashayed in from my yoga class around 9:30 to find him standing in our living room with TWO stoves - our old, half-working one and the "new" one he had brought home.

Our living room...both stoves...

He just stood there, looking at me.  And right there I knew, I KNEW, that he had just earned an untold number of marriage points.

"So, it's...uh...not okay?" I asked, knowing darn well that if it were okay, that new-to-us stove would already be installed in its proper place in our kitchen.

The poor man couldn't even answer right away.  He just shook his head for a minute, and I watched as water dripped off his still-wet hair.  A LOT of marriage points, I thought.  Then he said, "There's no plug."

No plug.  Our old stove (from 1983) had been hardwired into the wall, and when we replaced it a few years ago with our CraigsList acquisition, we had paid an electrician good money to transform those wires hanging out of the wall into a nice shiny outlet for the stove plug.

"That doesn't make sense.  ALL stoves have plugs now," I insisted.  "Maybe it's tucked away somewhere."

Larry gestured at the plugless behemoth sitting on a 2-wheeled handcart in our living room.  "Be my guest," he said.  "I already looked."

"But...but...how OLD is this thing?" I sputtered.  (Truly, that's what I did - I sputtered.)

"Looks like it's from 1996," he said.

1996 - I had sent my husband out in the rain for an 18-year-old stove that could kick the bucket at any time, particularly if we should have the temerity to install an expensive plug to fit into that nice outlet we paid for 3 years ago.  I swear, I could hear those marriage points racking up in Larry's brain, like a one-armed bandit when you pull the lever.

"Whaddaya want to do?" he asked, knowing full well we didn't have a choice.  He just wanted to hear me say it.

"Just move the CraigsList stove back into its spot," I sighed.  "I was wrong.  I was very wrong.  I shouldn't have sent you after that stove.  I'm sorry.  I'm really, really sorry."

About those marriage points, that is...



Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Logical Consequences

So, last night a post appeared on one of my homeschooling email lists: FREE STOVE, glass cooktop, works great.  When Larry came home, I told him, "You need to pick up a free stove tomorrow evening."

"What's wrong with it?" asked my ever-optimistic spouse.

"Nothing! They're selling the townhouse and they are upgrading the stove so it matches the refrigerator."

"She SAYS nothing is wrong with it. I'm going to drag that thing all the way home and we'll be stuck with TWO broken stoves, instead of one," Larry insisted.

"Look," I said, "if this stove works, it will save us about $30,000."

"What?"

"If I have to go out and buy a new stove instead, I'm going to end up deciding to get a gas one.  Which means that we'll need to pay for extending the gas line from the furnace room to the kitchen."

"Okay," said Larry, "that gets us to about $1200 total, what with the cost of the stove plus the gas line. Where's the other $28,800 I'm supposed to save?"

"If I'm going to spend all that money on extending the gas line, we have to think about whether we really want the stove where it is now.  And then, if I am going to move the stove, I want to move the sink so that I can do dishes and look out the window at the same time.  And if I am going to move the sink and get a new counter, I want to extend the counter a little further out, so that we can have a larger work area.  And if we extend the counter, we're going to need new cabinets.  And if we buy new cabinets, I want them to be a natural wood color, instead of painted white, because those are too hard to keep clean and I'm tired of repainting them.  And if we change the cabinets to a natural wood color, they won't go with our gray-tiled floor, so we need to change that, too."

Really, I don't know why Larry couldn't figure all that out himself.  Maybe he was just tired.  He sure LOOKED tired by the time I finished explaining things.  Getting older, I guess, poor guy...



Monday, June 02, 2014

Near Death Experience

People, I bicycled 56 miles yesterday in the Tour de Cure.  But only after I lay awake for 4 hours Saturday night fretting over having signed up for that distance and worrying about being able to do it.  4 HOURS.  I finally had to take myself firmly in hand and say, "How about reframing this inner monologue a bit?  How about thinking, Gee, tomorrow I get to go on a bike ride!  instead of OMG, I AM GOING TO DIE!?"

So that helped a little.  During the ordeal I kept saying to myself, "Wow, what a nice bicycle ride!  Just a pleasant day for a little ride!"  Well, until the last 3 miles when I was convinced I was breathing my last.  And then, right before the last 100 yards or so, my totally fit friend said, "Okay, I don't care how you are feeling, you are going to sit up tall and SMILE when we cross that finish line.  SMILE! Or you may end up in a really horrible-looking picture on their website."

Say what you like, she has her priorities straight.

This is not me.  I didn't have the strength to do anything like this.

So, as I hobbled around after the ride, picking up my free food (smoothies! BBQ! Chipotle!) and attempting to look rested and refreshed (those damn photographers again), my friend had the nerve to say, "That wasn't too bad.  We should definitely do the full 68 miles next year!" Apparently, exercise-induced endorphins can have a detrimental effect on some people's grasp of reality.


[Bicycle image: Stewie Bicycles]

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