Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cake and Light Sabers

The sleepover yesterday did not go quite as planned. Jack, whose allergies had been bothering all week, came down with bronchitis and did not come. Kyle’s family decided that they would be leaving at an absurd hour Thursday morning to go camping, so he wouldn’t be sleeping over.


In the end, a good time was had by all.

After Kyle arrived Larry picked up some pizza. While we waited for dinner to arrive Jake and Kyle played one of Jake’s new computer games (Larry had ordered School Tycoon and Lego Star Wars the Video Game). The Lego game was a big hit. Even I am tempted to play it. Nate, Max and Rebecca were clustered around the computer while Jake and Kyle played. We had to pry all five of them away when the pizza arrived. After a very pleasant dinner Larry whisked the birthday boy, Kyle and Nate away to go bowling.

Rebecca was devastated that she was going with them. She spent the bulk of the time they were gone rolling about on the sofa crying out that she wanted to go bowling. I kept telling this was not how you get your way. There was no reasoning with her. Max on the other hand was happily watching TV and getting nebulized. I let them stay up for the return of the bowling party so they could have some birthday cake.

The birthday cake turned out very well. Here is Jake just before he blew out the candle.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Kyle ended up having two pieces. He was very polite and complemented me on the cake after his first slice and said he knew it was a lemon cake. His eyes popped when I told him it was actually an orange cake. He gave me a big smile and said that is even better and demolished his second piece. I like Kyle.
Max, meanwhile was agitating about the goody bags lined up on the counter. Once we ere done with the cake we handed out the bags. Inside were several small things: a whistle, stickers, two balls and this.

The packaging is totally lame, but they rock. I got them at Walmart and I didn’t realize they light up until we were opening them up. At one point all four boys were having a terrific battle in the living room. Rebecca stayed in the background as just an observer. Bedtime was much more fun for Max and Rebecca; they got to take their sabers to bed with them. The sabers were even better in their darkened bed room.
The boys got to stay up and see the Phantom Menace. During all the boring bits they would leap up and resume their dual.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

At about 10:15 Kyle started to droop and wanted to call home. It was fun overhearing his conversation with his mother. He told her that this was the best day of his life. When he was done I drove him home.

Jake was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have a sleepover, but he did have a very good time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Birthday Boy

Nine years ago today I got to meet this guy for the first time.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

On a Friday, two weeks before his official due date, I had gone to work like any other weekday. Larry had driven us in that morning and had dropped me off. Our respective buildings were close together, but it was a bit of a hike to our parking lot. Normally we would take turns being dropped off, but as the due date grew closer Larry insisted that I should be driven to and from work. He got no argument from me! My water broke shortly after I got to work, but there were no contractions. I called up my doctor and she told me to come in when contractions started in earnest or by 5:00 pm, whichever came first. Since nothing was happening in the contraction department I decided to stay at work. I then phoned Larry and told him the exciting news.

At the time I was working in a research lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The running joke was that there was always at least one pregnant person associated with the lab. We were a close knit group and would regularly socialize outside the lab. It was a very friendly and supportive place to work, a perfect place for me to be that day. I had a few things to finish up and I could clear my desk out. Larry at the time was All But Dissertation with his PhD and would be starting his new job at the end of August. We were moving in 6 weeks and I would stop working with the birth of our child. It was a very bittersweet day for me. I was going to miss all my friends from work, but I was going to have a baby. I remember calling up Larry sometime after 4:00 pm and telling him I would be ready to go in half an hour. I still wasn’t having any contractions.

I packed up my things in a box and bid good bye to my coworkers. Paul, one of the postdocs, followed me downstairs, carrying my box. He waited at the curb with me for Larry’s arrival. We chatted about his son Ben who had been born just a few months ago. Ben was a very challenging baby. He was colicky and demanding. I hoped my baby wouldn’t be as hard. When Larry arrived Paul turned to me and said that this was probably it, this would be the last time he would be seeing me at work. He gave me a hug and we said good bye. The hospital was a short drive from there. Larry parked the car and together we walked to the maternity ward. I was duly admitted and put in a birthing room. I still was not having any contractions.

The nurses informed me that if I didn’t start having contractions soon I was going to be induced. They suggested that I walk around. I ended up hiking all over the place. I got bored of the maternity ward and ended up going up the stairs to the orthopedic floor. I must have been quite a sight, a very pregnant woman marching about the hospital with her husband trailing behind. Finally, I started to have some contractions.

My contractions, however, were not very regular and they were concerned about the baby’s heart tones. In the end I was induced. It didn’t take much and just after midnight I had a seven pound, eleven ounce boy. Turns out he had a true knot in his cord. That is why his heart tones kept dropping as much as they did. He was none the worse for the wear and we were all very happy to be together. As I like to say, he was a very good boy and listened to his mother. I had been asking all along while I was pregnant that the he should be 7 ½ pounds. He was two weeks early so he could grant my wish.

This is what he looks like today.

Birthday Boy Posted by Hello

He is enjoying some birthday cheesecake with his breakfast. Our family tradition is that you get to have cake for breakfast on your birthday. Grandma and Grandpa had visited this weekend and we had a little family party for Jake. He loves cheesecake and wanted one for his birthday. I made one for the family party, but I’ll make an orange cake for his sleepover. Not everyone likes cheesecake, so I thought it was best to have it with his grandparents. Later today his two best friends, Kyle and Jack will be coming over. We will have pizza and cake. Then afterwards, Larry will take them bowling. It should be great fun.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

There be Sharks Out There

I’ve been following the news this year about the sharks off the coast of Florida. I have seen some spectacular footage (click on the image in the second link to get the full picture) of large numbers of sharks schooling off the coast. It has been an unusual year in that the sharks are closer to shore and are clearly visible. Deerfield Beach was one of the areas affected and we have been there several times. It is near where Larry’s Grandmother used to live. We would go down and see her during spring break, but this isn’t what recently caught my attention.

Yesterday at AMCGLTD I read about the shark attack that occurred off the shore of Cape San Blas. The story was also mentioned on the local news last night, but they did not specify where it had occurred in the gulf.

The only reason this caught my attention was that we vacationed there last year.

Cape San Blas August 2004

We shared a duplex with some good friends. Their three children get along with our four. They have a boy, Joseph (the oldest), and two girls, Rebecca and Elizabeth. I think Joseph enjoys being with our rowdy male trio and our Rebecca was fascinated by the youngest girl, Elizabeth. Meanwhile Elizabeth liked being an older girl for a change and not just the baby. Their Rebecca seemed to get along with all. Our days were spent in and out of the water.

It is one of the few wild areas left in Florida. Cape San Blas is a narrow peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Florida pan handle. It has sugar sand beaches and sea turtles build their nests along the Gulf side. In nearby Apalachicola you can get the freshest oysters, right from Apalachicola bay. The water was clear and warm when we were there in August.

At this point there is very little commercial development, just endless sand, dunes, a few mom and pop stores, rental offices and vacation homes. The boy that was attacked was very lucky to survive. The closest medical center is tiny and is a good half hour from the Cape San Blas itself. I’m sure it was just a case of stabilizing the boy and waiting for the helicopter.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Early Morning Follies

So why did I take two tablecloths, three cakes, four kids and $400 worth of dog toys to the dog show? Because I had to.

Saturday was my dachshund club’s specialty show (A specialty is a dog show dedicated to one breed in this case dachshunds. My club’s show is held with an all-breed show so all it really means is that the winners get nicer trophies than the other breeds at the show). I am one of the club’s officers and I am obligated to show up. In addition I was also on the trophy committee. I had ordered the trophies two weeks ago and had them delivered to my house. Thursday night I labeled the trophies and made tickets that the winners would use to claim them. And finally, I had volunteered to bake some cakes for the luncheon after the show. Originally I was also going to show our dog John, but I procrastinated sending in my entry and missed the deadline.

Entries close on the Wednesday at noon two weeks before the show, I remembered on Wednesday at 4:00 pm. Ooops!

It turns out it was to my advantage to miss sending in the entry. I had been planning on going to the show for about eight months. Last March Larry got elected to a board and it turned out he would have to go to a meeting up in Baltimore on the same weekend as the show. Noooo! I would have to deal with all four kids at the show, by myself. Then I remembered that Meryl had mentioned she would be interested in going to a dog show sometime. So I asked her if she wanted to help me out. She agreed and I was all set. Unfortunately, life intervened and she had to go to New Jersey for a funeral. It was back to just me and the kids. As an added bonus some nut called the show superintendent and had them schedule dachshunds first thing in the morning (i.e. 8:00 am). In order to make it on time I’d have to leave the house at about 6:50 am. With. Four. Kids.

Well I’m never above a little bribery with my children to make my life easier. On Thursday I promised them after we dropped off the trophies we would go to McDonalds for breakfast. This bribe was enthusiastically received; the promise of pancakes was enough to buy their cooperation. Friday I touched base with the club’s luncheon organizer. I couldn’t remember if I promised to make two cakes or three. Alan sounded distant on the phone and confirmed it was two cakes. He thanked me in advance and then launched into the saga of his failed cake. It had stuck to the pan and he could only get it out in chunks. He didn’t know what to do with it. At that point I volunteered to make another cake. As y’all know by now I like to bake. I decided I would make one orange cake with an orange glaze, my basic 1-2-3 cake with chocolate icing and a flourless chocolate tort. I have made each of these cakes many times and I knew that they would turn out well.

That night the cake baking went without incident. The kids all went to bed without any protest, the promise of clown food worked its magic. Even I got to bed at a reasonable hour! I set the alarm for 5:30 am and I had everything ready to go. The cakes were safely tucked in the fridge, the trophies were boxed up and two tablecloths were pulled out and placed with the trophies. I was only going to bring one for the trophy table, but after having the club president asked me to be sure bring one, I thought it would be prudent to bring two.

The morning went without a hitch. Even the dogs cooperated. I didn’t have chase anyone down or pull them out of the woods. They pottied outside and happily went back to their crates. We were all loaded up and out by 6:50. At the last minute I tossed in a packaged set of paper napkins, paper plates and a disposable tablecloth into the back of the van.

We got to the show site at about a quarter to eight. The usual pre-start chaos was in full force I dropped off the trophies at ringside, pointed out the tablecloths and told them I would be back after I fed my children (and myself!) breakfast. I then gave the ring steward the trophy tickets and headed on out. We piled back into the van and made a beeline for the McDonalds that was a half a mile back. Once inside I came to the awful realization that I had no cash and the credit card readers were on the fritz.

I then had the joy of herding two sobbing three year olds back to the van to get some cash. The older two understood the situation and buckled back up without a complaint. As I sat in the car trying to decide where to go I noticed the gas station across the street had an ATM. Hooray! I could get money there. It wasn’t my bank, but I was willing to pay the alien ATM surcharge to avoid endlessly casting about for my bank. We zipped on over and I dashed inside to get my cash. Boy did it stink inside. It was horrid combination of unwashed bodies and stale cigarette smoke. Trying not to breath I completed my transaction as quickly as possible. I grabbed my cash and receipt and popped back into the van. I drove back across the street and herded my brood back inside. They all got pancakes with sausage and were very happy.

The rest of the morning went well. I ended up looking very competent and reliable. There were a couple of meltdowns by club members during the show about trophies, but we got it sorted out in the end. My children were reasonably well behaved and my cakes were very popular. The only reason that I took back home two slices of cake was that I scooped them up before anyone else did. Oh, and remember the paper goods and the tablecloths, we ended up using all of them. The person in charge of the table linens forgot or was unable to bring them and we ran out of paper plates and had to break into my spare stash.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

And the Envelope Please...

Saturday in the mail I found a letter from Canada addressed to my husband. It was a regular business sized envelope with the address neatly printed on a piece of paper taped to the appropriate location. I did not recognize the return address or the name. To further add to the mystery, it was a lumpy bumpy sort of thing. There was definitely something inside. I stared at it and turned to over and over in my hands. It was clearly intended for Larry, but he wasn’t going to be home until after 8:00 pm. Then I remembered something he said to me a few days earlier. He had ordered four wristbands for the kids from celestialblue. That has got to be the answer. She’s from Canada and the odd lumps *could* be wristbands. I set the envelope down and moved onto more pressing issues, like rampaging children and cake. It was early afternoon and it was going to be a long day.

About 20 minutes later Larry called me from Baltimore. He was at the station waiting for his train and thought it would be nice to give me a call. I was a bit distracted as I had gotten up at around 5:20 am to drag myself, two tablecloths, three cakes, four children and $400 worth of dog toys to the dog show up by Richmond (more on this later). I was pooped. As we chatted I mentioned the letter to Larry and what I thought it was. He replied that I was right and that I could open it up now and hand out the wristbands to the kids. His only request was that I saved any enclosed note.

Hooray! I get to open it! With Larry still on the line I ripped open the envelope and read the note to him. I then called the kids over and distributed the wristbands.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

They are a bit large for Max and Rebecca, but they don’t seem to mind in the slightest.

The bands themselves are celestialblue’s way to raise money for her upcoming 5 month trip to Israel. So far we haven’t lost any, but Rebecca is working on it. I keep finding her wristband in the oddest places. She’s lucky that the dogs are not at home. Odds are that John (aka the Jaws of destruction) will chew it up.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tastes of Summer

Last night we got to have the first corn and the first tomato of the summer.

Tastes of Summer
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Our garden share this week had two tomatoes that had been grown in Amy’s hoop house, one yellow and one red. She grows various heirloom varietals (I can’t remember the names because I lost my sheet) which are much more flavorful than your average store bought tomato. I sliced up the red one and spread out the slices. Then I drizzled some balsamic vinegar on top and added fresh basil and a little salt and pepper. I let that sit while I cooked the corn.

I got the corn from another vender that Meryl and I refer to as “Green Bean Guy.” He always has the best green beans. I actually stopped by his stall to see if he had any green beans (for both Meryl and Me), when I spied the corn. Last summer he had some very good corn. I’m a bit of a corn snob and I haven’t gotten any yet this year. I like my corn to be very fresh and won’t buy it at the supermarket. It’s too early in the season and heaven knows where it came from. But this looked good and I remembered how sweet it was last summer. I picked out a half dozen ears. Larry is out of town and this would be one ear apiece with one for the pot. I didn’t want to get more in case it turned out to be awful. I tucked the corn into my cooler with the other perishables. Later, when I shucked the corn, I was pleased to note that the kernels were plump and shiny.

My plan was that we were all going to have hotdogs and corn for dinner. However, when I got the hotdogs out I only had three left. Max and Rebecca only need half a dog, but what would I have? I rooted about in the freezer and turned up some Italian sausages. They would do nicely, especially if I cooked up some onions.

Everything was delicious. The kids gobbled up the corn and asked for more. I should have gotten ten ears and not just six. Oh well, next week I’ll get more. Rebecca had several slices of tomato as did (surprise, surprise) Jake. Max and Nate passed, which was fine by me. It meant more tomato for me to enjoy.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Meals with Rebecca

I have disparaged my daughter’s table manners, but she does have some redeeming qualities at the dinner table.

While I cook dinner she (and sometimes her siblings join in) likes to cook “dinners’ too. We have a small kitchen play set located between the kitchen and the table. It has a cook top, a sink and a fold down table. We keep the table leaf up and two small baskets of fake food reside there. We also have three stools that are the perfect height for a small person to use as a seat at the table.

When Rebecca cooks she pulls out random cooking utensils from kitchen drawers and uses then enthusiastically. After she is done cooking she goes one step further than her older brothers. Generally, Jake and Nate will announce that they are done cooking, offer me a taste and wander off. Rebecca, instead, sets the table and serves her creations.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Here she has three place settings. The one on the far side with the slice of fake bread is for Max (or Mackie as she likes to call him), Rebecca is seated at her spot and the remaining seat is for the very tiny chicken on the dachshund coaster/placemat.

Apparently this is an informal affair, possibly due to the barnyard origins of one of the guests. Normally she will lay her blankie down first as a table cloth before setting her table.

Rebecca can also be very generous when the mood strikes her.

Today at the farmer’s market I treated all four to a sorbet. One of the venders has some delicious sorbet and sells it in big tubs and little individual servings. It was quite warm out and all four had been very good. They all settled down at table to enjoy their frozen treats. Nate quickly inhaled his, with Max not too far behind. Jake was actually savoring his sorbet. Rebecca, meanwhile, was just nibbling and not really eating hers. Max eyeballed Jake’s and asked for a taste. Jake was happy to do so. Emboldened by his little brother’s success Nate then asked Rebecca for a taste. Rebecca was happy to share. She then spoon fed Nate a large portion of her sorbet.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

You can’t see the spoon in this picture, but you can see by her smiling eyes that she loves feeding her big brother.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Zoo Photos!

Here are some more pictures from trip to the zoo on Monday.

I’m posting this one for Meryl. She has several pictures of Tig that are very reminiscent of this.

tummy rub
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I love the lioness’s pose. You *almost* want to jump over the guard rail, run down the embankment and reach through the fence to give her a tummy rub. At that point she would wake up and rip your arm off.

As we walked through the exhibits we noticed that this spring had been very fruitful for the zoo. There were many new additions, some cute and some not so cute. I only took pictures of the cute ones. Baby sloths are even uglier than their parents.

In the field neighboring the giraffes we noticed a zebra foal grazing with its mother. While taking the photo I noticed some peacocks with chicks along the far fence line. The zoo has a large flock of peacocks that are free to roam about the grounds. The males are quite spectacular, but the peahens are usually a mottled white with brown flecks.

peacocks and zebras
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

According to this web site they might be the India Blue Blackshoulder variety of peacock. I’m not really sure about this, but it does explain the colors we see.

Then it was on to feed the giraffes which is the high point of our zoo visits. After we fed the main herd we noticed that there were some more giraffes that had been separated out and corralled over by the barn.

baby giraffes
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It turns out they were two momma giraffes with their offspring.

The mothers were all over us for treats. There was very little to browse in their corral and I suspect they were very bored. The little ones were very shy and remained at the far side of the pen. The standing one has lowered its head so it only looks like it has a short neck. The one with its legs folded under looks kind of like the baby giraffe from this poster.

Hopefully we’ll have another coolish day this summer so we can see how all the new additions are growing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Spam Spam Spam Spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful Spam!

I thought I would share some gems from my bulk mail folder. I like to take a peek before I dump its contents, because I have a friend whose emails get occasionally shunted there. And hey, I would miss out on some fairly funny stuff.

From Della Lancaster I get the following missive, “Give me a break toad deceit.” What I want to know is she writing about the deception of toads and how she tires of it all? Or is she calling me a deceitful toad? Toads strike me as fairly straightforward creatures. They do secrete a mild toxin, but it is only a problem if you stick them in your mouth. Generally it is a good idea not to stick things in your mouth, so I don’t view this as deceitful behavior. So I guess she is calling me a toad. Fine, off to the trash you go!

“Wow! Won’t she be impressed.” came from Muffin Jack. Muffin Jack? Studmuffin Jack would be a bit more intriguing. Muffin Jack makes me think of a very large man who is overly fond of baked goods. Oh, and who is this woman I want to impress and why do I want to impress her? Eh, I’ll just delete it.

Then there is this very tragic note that I received a few weeks ago. “Late Mr. John (insert my last name here)” from Martin Nnorom. I actually read this one. It is the current scam du jour where a “lawyer” trolls for someone with the same last name as the deceased so that monies can be collected from escrow. You make a claim as the next of kin and split the money with the “lawyer.” All you need to do is provide your checking account information. Yeah right. The irony of it all is that read this little saga with my dog John was at my feet. His registered name with AKC actually contains (insert my last name here)’s John. As far as I can tell he is still alive and has no money of his own except the 5 dollars he won at a dog show that I spent on lunch for me. To the trash folder it is.

And finally here is my current favorite: from Carolyn Bullock “Get it straight hyena bhoy.” Too bad about the typo at the end, but I’m very understanding since I make typos all the time. The subject line itself just amuses me. It reminds me of Buckaroo Banzai and Lord John Whorfin’s quote: “Laugh while you can, monkey-boy.” I really liked that movie. Maybe I should pick up a copy; the kids would find it hilarious. Anyway, I’m not a hyena b(h)oy and I don’t want whatever Ms. Bullock is selling. It’s probably just a load of bullocks (heh).

Monday, June 20, 2005

To the Zoo Again

Today we went to the zoo. The forecast was for mid-to-low 70’s and partly sunny, perfect zoo weather.

Like last time, we bought two containers of zoo treats and split them between four paper lunch bags. We then headed on down to the aviary. All four kids love to see and feed the ducks contained within. It is a lovely spot with streams of water coursing about, little pools doting the enclosure and a waterfall at the top. Normally it is very serene within, but not today. Instead, we were treated with the food chain in action.

As I stood there watching my children dart about I noticed an Ibis in the lower pool. It had just nabbed something and was tossing its head back to eat it. My first impression was a fish. I thought how neat it was that there were fish for the Ibis to catch and eat. Then I realized to my horror it was a tiny duckling, an oh-my-gosh-it-is-not-even-a-week-old duckling. I watched mute with shock as the Ibis choked down the squeaking bundle of feathers. At this point my children noticed as well as the other zoo patrons. When the show was over I came to my senses and attempted to herd my children out, then another Ibis struck. This was too much. Jake turned to me and said that we had to do something. As the second Ibis ate I shooed it away from the ducks. All three flew to the overhead perch.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I looked about and realized that nobody was going to do anything. All the adults were standing there with expressions ranging from horror to disgust. It was up to us to find a zoo-keeper and stop the slaughter. There were four ducklings left, but not for much longer. We marched out of the aviary back to the entrance. I ducked into the gift shop and told them that the aviary was quite gruesome right now and quickly outlined the events we had just witnessed. The staff promptly radioed for help. The kids and I all agreed that we should go back to the aviary and try to protect what was left.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The four ducklings were still there. Momma duck was frantic and was chasing all the other ducks away from her shrinking brood. Unfortunately she was no match for the Ibis and they were coming back for more. At this point the son of one of the keepers showed up. He stepped into the roped off area and kept the Ibis at bay. Just as we about to leave the aviary a keeper arrived with a large cardboard box. She shucked off her shoes and socks and stepped into the water.

Here she is putting the ducklings into the box.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

When she was done the zookeeper thanked us for reporting the carnage and took the ducklings to a safer location.

Secure in the knowledge of the remaining ducklings’ safety, we continued on with our visit.
We saw all of the remaining exhibits mostly without incident. I’ll post some more pictures later, but I have to share this last photo now.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The bad deer once again earned their name. Some of the Fallow deer were standing near the fence. They gently nibbled treats out of Jake’s hand. Rebecca then held out her treat bag to a doe. The doe ripped the bag out of Rebecca’s hand, dumped the zoo treats on the ground and then proceeded to eat the bag. Rebecca stood there in stunned silence. Max promptly piped up “Bad Deer!”

Thus ends today’s zoo installment.

Father's Day

We didn’t do much yesterday. The kids presented their cards and I brought out the fish.
(Larry likes to fly fish and the kids and I found this and thought it was perfect for him.)

The rest of the day we spent puttering around the house. Larry primed a couple of shutters with Jake’s help, a nice father son activity.

This is an old picture of Larry with the kids, but it is one of my favorites. As you can tell by looking at Max and Rebecca the picture was taken about two years ago.

three sons and a daughter
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I hope you had a nice day Larry.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Eggs and Cow Pies

This morning we headed on over to Brookview Farm to get some farm fresh eggs.

Normally I pick up their eggs at the 17th street Farmers Market, but I noticed from their flyer that the Brookview Farm’s store is now open on Saturdays. The farm is in a very pretty part of Virginia and is not a bad drive from our house. It would make for a nice family outing. We have been there before and our older two boys had fun collecting eggs.

After a leisurely breakfast and a few phone related delays on my part we headed out to Goochland County. The drive is on the long side, about 45 minutes. The kids were reasonably well behaved with only minor whining from the back row. For some reason Max and Rebecca were unduly excited by the vast quantities of rocks along the highway’s embankments and would excitedly cry out “Rocks!” whenever we passed some. The larger the area covered by rocks the greater the excitement.

There were numerous vehicles parked along the drive when we finally reached the farm. We pulled off onto the grass and parked our van next to a bright and shiny Jeep. I commented to Larry that our previous minivan had probably done more off-roading than the pristine Jeep next to us. We then all trooped to the outbuilding that served as the farm store. Along the path was a large orange colored water cooler. We stopped and filled some cups with some of the best well water around. Jake took a peak inside the cooler and declared it dirty, but the rest of us happily drank the water.

Inside the store were several upright freezers and refrigerators, all of which had glass doors. The freezers held their beef products, neatly labeled and ready to go. Inside the refrigerators were eggs, greens and whole wheat flower. I asked one of the farmhands where were the chickens located today and she went off to find out for us.

This is a very important question to ask if you want to gather your own eggs. The chickens live in very elaborate pens that are slowly moved across the fields. The pens are constructed with only sides and a top. The chickens are directly on the ground where they are free to scratch the dirt and eat bugs. There are trap doors on the topside of the pens directly over the nesting boxes and where the food and water is located. When you want to gather eggs all you have to do is lift the door over the nesting boxes and reach in. These pens allow the chickens freedom of movement and protection from predators.

After a bit of a wait we were waved in the general direction of where the chickens were located. We were warned ahead of time that eggs had been collected just before we arrived so there might not be any left. This information did not deter us. At the very least we would get to see the chickens and where they lay their eggs. She handed us some egg cartons and I grabbed a basket, because I knew at some point I would be stuck carrying the cartons and it would be easier to haul them around in a basket. Larry and I then herded our brood out the door to the fields.

By the gate we were greeted by some very interesting cattle that were in the adjoining field.

Picture from Brookview Farm Posted by Hello

Apparently they are crossing their beef cattle with Brahmans. I have never seen a Brahman in the flesh. They are large, with gentle expressions and impossibly long ears. As we looked through the gate we then noticed a very large bull enjoying a dust bath just a stone’s throw away. This presented quite a problem for us. He seemed to be docile, but there was no way I would walk my children by him. Then off in the distance we saw a pick up truck coming across the field towards us. After it passed through the gate the driver asked if we wanted to go see the chickens. He told us he would drop off his passengers and come back to take us down to the pens. As we waited I offered the cattle some tufts of grass which they gently accepted. Rebecca was eager to feed them, but the combination of large noses and a cloud of flies were too much for her.

Finally our ride reappeared. He pulled up his truck and realized we were not going to fit. His only passenger, a young boy who was a little older than Jake, hopped out and waited with us. As the driver went off the boy announced that he knew which car was going to be used and that it was full of equipment. When a white minivan pulled up he was very surprised. The van was empty. In fact even the rear seat had been pulled out. We piled in with the kids loose in the back. This was the first time that they had ever been allowed in a moving vehicle without being buckled in, much less without a seat. They bounced around enjoying their illicit freedom.

Now we were off to see the chickens and hopefully gather some eggs. The road to the chickens was deeply rutted, long and bumpy. This resulted in a great deal of flopping about and giggling in the back. When pulled up next to the pens a few calves were standing nearby, but they retreated to the shade.

As we walked to the pens one of the kids promptly stepped in a cow pie. Oh well, we were getting the full farm experience.

We carefully checked each of the pens and found 8 eggs! They couldn’t have been any fresher. Jake and Nate spotted most of the eggs. Rebecca collected one and I planted one for Max to find. I knew he would be devastated if he did not find at least one egg. After a few more near misses with cow pies we got back into the van. And yes, I got to carry all the egg cartons. During the ride back I consolidated our eggs into one carton.

Back in the farm store four more eggs were added to make it an even dozen. We paid for our eggs and headed outside. As the kids played we chatted with the farmer. He is a nice guy as are all of the people at Brookview. Larry went back inside and bought hats for Jake, Nate and himself.

The eggs are very good. But for me the main point of this outing is to show our children where their food comes from. I think it is important that they know that food just doesn’t come from a supermarket.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Gratuitous Puppy Pictures

I just got some wonderful group photos of the puppies. The larger puppies are longhaired dachshunds and they are 10 days older than the smooth (aka shorthaired) dachshunds.

The smooth pups are what interest me since I own their father (Crunch) and their half-brother (John). But I was really taken with this particular picture.

Sweet face Posted by Hello

Isn’t that the sweetest face you have ever seen? I prefer smooths, but the longs are utterly adorable when they are puppies.

This is a fun photo of two of the older puppies sandwiching four of their younger foster siblings.

Two longs and four smooths Posted by Hello

The puppies keep getting cuter and cuter, but then I think back to how much work they can be.

I like my two old dogs and older pup.

A Sad State of Affairs

I am sad to report that the Chocolate Mousse Cake with Strawberries is no more.

no more chocolate mousse cake
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Mousse Cake you will be greatly missed.

However, don’t despair. I found this in the freezer!

It’s mine. Allllll mine.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Summer Thursday Three!

The always accommodating Papa Possum offers up Very Special Episode of the Axis of Weevil Summer Thursday Three courtesy of Marc Velazquez.

If you're up for a Thursday 3 (or some other day -does it have to be Thursday? - it seems to have gone on vacation) - here's a possibility:

1. Samantha for "Bewitched"--Elizabeth Montgomery or Nicole Kidman? [And since Marc was considerate of the girls amongst you in question 3 below, I would like to add -- Darrin: Dick York or Dick Sargent or Will Ferrell? Ed.]

2. Favorite actor for Batman movies.

3. Favorite Star Wars "hottie" (if you could return to age 22 for one day) For the gals: Harrison Ford or Hayden Christenson (or Ewan McGregor? Samuel L. Jackson?? Yoda???) For the guys: Carrie Fisher or Natalie Portman?

1a) Well I’d have to vote for Elizabeth Montgomery. I loved the original show and I have a hard time envisioning anyone else in the role. She combined a sense of fun with an honest beauty that was not glamorous. Nicole is a fine actress and I think she can give the role some of that sparkle, but she is not Samantha. Oh, and I agree with Terry and all the regulars, Nicole is much too thin. She needs a couple of milkshakes and some cake. Lots of cake; I’ll even send her some.

1b) Dick, Dick or Will? Aw I don’t know. I remember the York episodes better, so I’ll go with him. Will Ferrell has the comedic chops, but I need to see him in the role.

2) Ooo, tough one. So many to choose from. Michael Keaton was very good in the first two movies. He captured that slightly crazed edge that is need in the character. I’m very fond of Val Kilmer, but he was a bit flat in the third movie. I avoided the last one starring George Clooney. Clooney did not seem right for the role; he’s too much of a goof. The new movie looks very interesting. I am intrigued by Christian Bale, but I first need to see the movie before I can pass judgment on him. So I guess I’ll have to go with Michael Keaton.

3a) For me it is between Harrison Ford and Ewan McGregor. Mark Hamilton was never really hot.

In his day Harrison was very hot. Now he is just old. Every time I see him I think to myself “Man is he old.” He really needs to stop getting a tan, his skin is starting to look like shoe leather. He also is getting to be icky from a combination of poor taste in women, odd hairstyles and a tendency to follow the fads of a much younger demographic. What are next, tattoos and a piercing?

I like Ewan when he is clean shaven. I haven’t seen episodes 2 and 3 yet, so I don’t know how hot he is in the movies in question.

So for now it is Harrison Ford circa 1977 to 1983, the hot years.

3b) I have to vote for Carrie. I don’t have a horse in this race, but I think she is wickedly funny and has a woman’s body. Natalie is too waif-like. Maybe I should send her a cake too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Last Days of School

This is the last week of school for my older two boys. We also have the added bonus of two hour early release on the last three days. In addition the various grades, K-5, are having their end of the year parties and picnics. Today I got to go to the third grade pizza picnic and tomorrow Nate’s kindergarten class is having a pizza party. Precious little education is occurring this week at school.

On Monday morning Nate announced that he did not feel well and wanted to stay home. Since I knew he wouldn’t be missing anything and he had just gone to the doctor’s office for strep throat on Saturday, I thought why not. Let him stay home for a change. I called the school to tell them that Nate would be staying home. Then it was time to take Jake to the bus. After Jake boarded the bus we headed home. Back inside Max and Rebecca returned to their breakfast. While I was tending to the dynamic duo Nate disappeared. A few minutes later I saw him walking towards the garage door buckling on his bike helmet.

What are you doing?” I demanded in a slightly perplexed tone of voice.

“I’m going to ride my bike.” He answered in a cheerful and direct manner.

“Oh no, you don’t. If you are staying home sick you are NOT going for a bike ride. You are staying inside and you are not going anywhere.”


“If you want to ride your bike I can drive you to school right now. You can go biking after you get home from school. Do you want me to drive you to school now?”

“Um, no. I think I’ll just stay inside.”

And that was it. He did ask about the pool later in the day, but I told him if you are too sick to go to school you are too sick to go to the pool.

Now I must admit I was a bit stunned at how he just assumed he could go for a bike ride. He really was amazed when I stopped him. After that my goal was to make this the most boring day in his life. I think I was pretty successful. He only got to watch TV during Max’s physical therapy and it was a show that Max selected. Everything we did was geared for 3 year olds. I told him he could do fun things tomorrow, but only if he went to school. At bed time he told his father that he was going to school the next day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Three Weeks Old and Even Cuter Than Before

Here is my latest photo-collage of the dachshund puppies.

And now with more cutness! Posted by Hello

Crunch and Fiona’s puppies are about three weeks old in these pictures. For reference on how they are growing see my previous pupdate collage is here.

They are growing like weeds and doing very well. They lift their heads up when people come by the whelping area and are even trying to eat some of their foster siblings’ solid food.

As I said before, they are very cute, but I still don’t want one. But I would love to go visit them!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Book Meme

Ooo, I got tagged!

Meryl and I occasionally (more accurately endlessly) chat on the phone and she mentioned she got tagged and was going to respond to this particular meme. I thought it sounded interesting and told her as much. So now I actually have to do something about it.

I love to read. Both of my parents are bibliophiles and as a result I grew up in a house full of books. Whenever we moved one of the first things done to the new house would be to have bookshelves installed. Some people may leave a trail of destruction in their wake; my mom leaves a trail of bookcases.

Growing up I would spend my money on books, Breyer horses and art supplies. By the time I hit high school I had my own bookcases stuffed full of books. Sadly I have lost many books over the years from being stored in less than ideal conditions. I was able to salvage a few from my mother’s basement and drag them to my house.

Nowadays I try to use the library for my reading addiction. I still buy books, but they are mostly for the kids. I can take then to all sorts of stores with toys. They may briefly pester me for something, but they have learned that I generally do not just buy toys for them. Bookstores, on the other hand, are a very different story. All four children have learned that it is almost impossible for their momma to not buy books for them. They almost always leave the store clutching a new book. So now on to the meme:

Number of books I own:
I’ll just stick with my own personal collection. I have a little over 150 books on our bookshelves with about a third devoted to dachshunds, dog shows and dog training. The dachshund portion consists of books about the breed and my collection of children’s literature featuring dachshunds. eBay can be very addictive for book collectors. I do have strict spending limits, but it is so much fun seeing what is out there. I also have another 20 or so books on my nightstand. Some have been read, a few are being read and the rest are going to read.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Then there are the eight paper grocery bags up in my attic. These are the books salvaged from my childhood and waiting to be passed down to my children. The kids themselves have over three hundred books scattered about the house. I don’t even want to venture to guess how many my husband has. Let’s just say we used to get, what seemed to me, a monthly Amazon shipment.

Last book I bought:
A few weeks ago I went to the local mega chain bookstore to get a gift certificate for a Bat Mitzvah gift and of course I had to check out the rest of the store. Max and Rebecca were with me so we first went to the children’s section. For Jake and Nate I got new copies of “The Wind in the Willows,” “The Black Stallion” and a double book that contained “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang.” I used to have these books, but they have since disappeared from my collection. Max latched onto “Hands Off, Doc Ock!” from Spiderman 2 and Rebecca picked out “My Little Pony Fashion Fun.” (My daughter’s taste is not mine, but it makes her happy) For myself I bought Anne McCaffrey’s “Pegasus in Space.”

Last book I read:
That would be “Pegasus in Space,” sadly I have to agree with Meryl about the state of Ms. McCaffrey’s writing. She is well past her prime and has been for some time. I too am addicted to the Pern series so I keep giving her another chance. This particular book is not from about Pern, but from the saga of the Talents. It was ok at best. I bought it because it was in the bargain area for $5. I can’t resist getting a new hardcover for just five bucks.

Five books that mean a lot to me:
Carry on Mr. Bowditch:
It is the semi-fictionalized account of my quadruple great Grandfather’s life. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but it made a big impression on me. It is a fascinating glimpse of 18th century life. The fact that this brilliant man is my ancestor is what draws me to this book. When you are a slightly shy bookworm in school there is nothing better than to find out that you are descended from a famous adventurer cum mathematician. To this day an updated version of his book on navigation is still in use.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive:
My first car was a Volkswagen Super Beetle and you can see its picture here. Again I don’t know who gave me this book, but it proved invaluable. It is wonderfully well written. I loved the exploded diagrams of all the bits and pieces. It reminds me of David Macaulay’s books which I also love. I never actually used it to repair my car, but when something went wrong I could trouble shoot. Thus when I took (or in one case pushed) my car to a mechanic I could sound reasonably knowledgeable about what was wrong with my car. This is so important when you are female, in your twenties and dealing with the automotive industry. The best part was that I was usually right. Because of my experiences with my car I applied this new found courage with all things mechanical to other parts of my life. When things break I’ll open it up and try to fix it myself. My first boss was amazed when I would crack open laboratory equipment and fix it. My philosophy has become “why not give it a shot, it is already broken.”

The Joy of Cooking, 1943 Edition:
I love to cook and this is my favorite cook book. My mother gave this to me shortly after I had left home to live on my own. The binding is slowly falling apart, I have to put more and more tape on it to hold it together. Inside, the pages are dog-eared and stained. The best part is the clippings and the photo I have found within.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I wonder if Louise F. Hayden (the name of the first owner, neatly inscribed on the inside front cover) is in this picture or if it is of her children.

I also have a 70’s edition, but it is not as good. The recipes have been modernized and changed to be more healthful. As a result they are not nearly as good. For me in cooking it’s all about the butterfat.

Choosing Judaism:

When I was taking my conversion class this was one of the books recommended by the Rabbi. I found it to be the right book for me at that time. I liked how I could read of other people’s experiences and feelings. It helped me realize that I was doing the right thing. I am very fortunate that my family supported me in this very momentous decision.

The International Kosher Cookbook, the 92nd Street Y Kosher Cooking School:
My mother gave me this cookbook and several others after I converted. I was so very touched by this. She told me later how much fun she had picking out those books.

I don’t keep kosher, but I do like to explore some of the different Jewish culinary traditions. I have found this one to be the best of my kosher cookbooks. From this book I have learned how to make a fairly good loaf of challah. The binding has cracked at that particular page and the book just falls open there. When I need to make something for a holiday this is the book I turn to first.

I’m only going to tag two people, because this is my blog and I can do what I want. They are Terry and Jordana. Thanks Meryl for the tag. This was fun.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Oh My, Oh My!

Here is the final product. I finished it off with some whipped cream piped on top.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It is amazing. My husband said this is better than anything you could get in a restaurant.

After being refrigerated for four hours the flavor had intensified to an incredible degree. It is so very rich and chocolaty with the slight sharp bite of a truly good dark chocolate. The whipped cream on top is a nice counterpoint to the intensity of chocolate mousse below. When you bite into the strawberries tucked inside they add a nice hidden sweetness. The mouth feel of the mousse itself is silky smooth; it literally melts in your mouth. The crunch of the chocolate cookie crust on the bottom was a delicious contrast to all of that luscious silken chocolate mousse on top.

And the best part, it is very easy to make. I admit you do have to use three bowls, but that is what a dishwasher is for. Oh and I highly recommend that you melt the chocolate in a microwave. It is, for me, easier than a double boiler and there is none of the battle to transfer the chocolate from the pan to the bowl after it has melted.

This one is a keeper.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Oh My...

I think I have hit upon my best dessert yet.

I have all these strawberries from my garden share and I need a way to use them. We have eaten them plain and I have made Jordana’s yummy Strawberry Lemon Muffins, but we need something new.

I was poking around on the web when I found a recipe for Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Cake. It looked very good, but I thought the mousse recipe was somewhat lame. Come on, corn syrup in chocolate mousse? So then I started hunting in earnest for a good chocolate mousse. I found it.

vast quantities of chocolate, check
tons of cream, check
lots of eggs, check
alcohol, check
coffee, check

We have an artery clogging winner!

So I made it today. Here is a picture with just the strawberry layer sitting on a chocolate cookie crumb crust.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The mousse is fantastic. The mousse itself is smooth and light. It has a rich dark chocolate flavor that is not too bitter and not too sweet. It tastes good even before it has been chilled. Here is the cake pan with the chocolate mousse layer on top.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Oh look, there is some extra chocolate mousse left over. Whatever will I do with it?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Farmer's Market and Lunch with Aunt Meryl

Today is the grower’s market at the 17th street farmer’s market in downtown Richmond and it’s Twinsday!

It was already over 80 when we made our way up to Richmond. I threw a cooler with blue ice into the back of the van before we left home. Our plan was to pick up our garden share and then go cross town to meet Meryl for lunch. The van would become an oven while we lunched and I didn’t want my veggies to get cooked.

Parking was not too bad up in Richmond. I found a quasi-legal spot right along side the market. We ended up right next to the children’s activity area. This is a new feature this year and it is proving to be quite a hit. The market is boarded by four streets and is composed of a long rectangle that is a series of squares with an awning along the edges. The central core of each square is an open area with most of the venders facing inwards. Max and Rebecca immediately wanted to play. They tugged on my arms, but they relented when I said that we need to get our shopping done first. The promise of our then having lunch with Aunt Meryl sealed the deal. They willingly marched along with me.

We went to Amy first and picked up our share. Included this week were some luscious strawberries. We of course had to sample some right away. Strawberries in hand we made our way back. As we reached the square that contained the children’s area I spied the handbag lady. I needed a new bag so I sent Max and Rebecca to go play. I could easily shop and keep an eye on them at the same time. Max was happy with the ring toss, but Rebecca quickly grew bored and came over to shop with me. After I was finished buying my new bag I took Rebecca’s hand and went to collect Max. At this point we noticed the art supplies. I gave each a piece of paper and showed then the markers. They busily squatted down and went to work. Once they deemed that their pictures were done we went to the van and loaded up.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Rebecca was getting a bit cranky from the heat. She does not tolerate heat at all. I’m sorry to say that she gets this from me. I feel like dissolving into a little puddle misery in the summer. The difference between me and Rebecca is that I have greater resources than her to cope with the heat. After some intense whining she perked up once the van AC kicked in. I called Meryl to tell her we were on our way. She would be meeting us for a quick lunch.

Meryl beat us by two minutes. She called me on my cell just as I was parking the van. Once inside we ordered and settled down for our lunch. Initially there was some controversy over the seating arrangements. I ended up being sandwiched by Max and Rebecca on one side of the table. We tried to persuade Rebecca to move, but she wouldn’t. Meryl than hit upon the idea that maybe she just wanted to be on that particular side of the table. So then Meryl and I switched sides. It worked, Max tagged along with me and Rebecca stayed put.

After a longish wait our order was up. Meryl’s was all wrong and she ended up sending it back. The rest of the food was fine so we could at least get the more restive members of our party fed. I won’t go into much more detail here other than to tell of Rebecca’s latest disgusting habit. She now wipes her hands on her hair. I warned Meryl of this new development earlier in the week. Rebecca had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was very messy. She picked up her sandwich took a bite and then noticed the sticky mess on her hands. Before we could stop her she was happily rubbing her hands on her head. Meryl got some napkins and gave her one. Rebecca politely accepted it and then proceeded to rub it all over her now sticky head. It was very funny and both Meryl and I took pictures. Mine didn’t come out, but Meryl got one really nice shot. I never thought I would wish that a child of mine would wipe its hands on its shirt.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

As I wrote below we have a large number of critters in our backyard. Toads are one of the few that are deemed inedible; heaven knows the dogs keep on trying. It is actually very funny whenever Crunch gives it a go. He lunges towards the toad with jaws agape. He then snatches up the toad and for the briefest moment holds it in his mouth. Then it’s ptui, out goes the toad. He’ll then bark, lunge and snap at the poor thing until I either relocate the toad or haul him inside. Small flecks of foam, a reaction from the toxins secreted from the toad’s skin, fly from his jaws. The toad usually just hunkers down and does its best impersonation of a stone. When I separate Crunch from his would be prey he seems almost relieved that it is over. His prey drive is much too strong for him to break off the attack, but you can see his heart is not in it. The toad is usually no worse for wear after its encounter with Crunch.

I’m glad that the dogs are not eating the toads. I would probably have to haul them to the vet if they did. Mouthing an occasional toad is fine, but eating one could make a dog very ill. I also appreciate all the good toads do. They are little bug eating machines.

Nate and Jake love finding all the toads on our property. Nate gets very attached to them and usually names them Sammy. He tenderly picks them up and cradles them in his hand. The nice thing about the toads is that they generally just sit in his hand. Frogs are much more active and are always trying to leap away. He claims it’s always the same toad, but I don’t think so. There are a large number of them hopping about.

Just last weekend, while out playing in the rain, they caught one. They decided to put the toad on a log with two slugs. Then they burst into the kitchen to tell me and dragged me out with camera in hand.

I can only see one slug in the picture, but at one point there were two on the log.

I love how my children can play outside and explore in our little woods. I remember spending all day outside when I was young. My first home was on a dirt road where we were the only year round residents. Later we moved to a more populated area, but I had over twenty acres of fields and woods to roam. For me, it was idyllic.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Dachshunds Are Not For The Squeamish

Our backyard is filled with all sorts of creatures and some of them are quite delicious according to the dogs.

This morning John was very agitated when he was outside. I had just fed the dogs and put them out; it was not quite 7 o’clock. John was barking, pacing and tracking some critter. Basically, he was being a noisy pain in the neck. When I went out to investigate he became emboldened and cautiously pushed forward on the scent line. When he rounded the corner he charged barking across the front yard. Then he looped back to a spot under the bushes and nosed something.

It was a chipmunk. I don’t think John was responsible for its demise. It is much more likely that a cat had done the deed. My best guess is that John, with me as an unknowing back up, had chased off the cat. I never saw it, but his behavior fits the scenario.

As I stood there, barefoot and in my pajamas, blearily contemplating the chipmunk, John made his move. He snatched up the little corpse and took off at a high rate of speed. I made a token lunge at him, but I really did not want to deal with this mess. Instead I rounded up the other two dogs and headed inside. I’d deal with John later.

Another chipmunk at a happier time. Posted by Hello
(click to see the chipmunk)

In the five years we have lived here the dogs have nailed (to my knowledge) at least one snake, a turtle, a frog, two moles and two opossums. The turtle was the most bizarre and the snake was the funniest. We had invited a family over for dinner. Their boys play well with our older two. Shortly before they were due to arrive Larry had just finished neatening up the yard. As he passed by the front steps he found half of a good sized snake laid out on the steps. He quickly disposed of the remains. The funny part was that our friends are vegans (the non-militant type). They are very reasonable and don’t object when people eat meat around them. They even set up a meat-eater’s grill when they have a party at their house. A dead snake laid out on the front lawn, however, would be a bit much.

I always tell people that dachshunds are a self motivated vermin eradication system and my three dogs are living proof.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Spring 2005 Recital

Sunday afternoon Jake and Nate had their spring piano recital. In all likelihood it will be Jake’s last one. He has been taking lessons for a little over four years. For the past two years it has been a battle to get him to practice. When he settles down and concentrates he is quite good. He readily picks up new concepts and has an innate sense of what to do. But sadly it has become harder and harder to get him to do anything. He has been just coasting along on his natural talent. Maybe in a few years he’ll pick it up again. We have at least given him a good foundation. Anyhoo, back to the recital.

Their teacher has her students perform twice a year. Fortunately she schedules two time slots, so that we don’t have to sit there for over three hours. It usually works out to be an hour and half of performance per session followed by a little party with treats brought in by all the families. We are usually scheduled for the later slot. At the end of the spring recital trophies and certificates are handed out. To receive a trophy a student has to memorize pieces of music and successfully perform them for a Judge. There are three different sized trophies, with the size of the trophy indicting the level of accomplishment. For a small trophy you have to memorize six pieces of music, for the medium eight pieces are memorized and for the large ten. If one of your selections is particularly long and/or difficult for your skill level it can count as two. They get evaluated and if they do a decent job they will earn a trophy.

Generally most do get a trophy, but the teacher told me of how on one occasion the student got too cocky and obviously had not practiced and completely failed to perform any of his pieces. I like that the students have to accomplish something to earn their trophy. The boys have a number of what I call participation trophies from the various recreational teams they have been on. Every kid on the team gets the same trophy. The boys like getting them, but I find them to be meaningless. I’d rather skip the trophy and give out t-shirts instead. The teammates could do something fun like autograph each others shirts at the end of the season party.

This year Nate earned a large trophy and Jake a small one.

Nate and Jake
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

During the recital both boys did a very good job. I, on the other hand, did a poor job of taping their performances. I started late because I had to first remove a small person from my lap before I could get up. Then I fumbled around to get the camera. At least I had remembered to bring the camera and recharge the battery ahead of time.

As the recital went on the room got hotter and hotter. Programs were being used as impromptu fans. It wasn’t until the very end that I felt a hint of the AC. While chatting with my neighbor at the bus stop this morning I found out that the earlier session had been down right chilly. I guessed the AC had been turned off. I wasn’t too surprised since the performance hall is at an old folk’s home. I had even dressed my children for the possibility of it being very warm in the hall. During the fall recital I’ll insist on a long sleeve dress shirt and nice pants. Usually it is late fall and the hall will be set at a reasonable temperature. I’m a little more flexible with dress for the spring session as it is usually heating up outside and inside. I have clear memories of visiting elderly relatives in their overheated (to me) homes. It was a relief when the performances ended. Poor little Max was a hot and sweaty mess in my lap. He kept asking if it was time to go.

I noticed while the trophies were being handed out that generally the younger children earned the larger trophies. All of the older students had small to medium trophies. This makes sense, since her older students are performing at a much higher level and there is only some much you can memorize. It is not easy to memorize and perform multiple pieces of new music each year.

I’m very proud of my two older boys.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sunday Morning Muffins

This morning I decided to try out Jordana’s Strawberry Lemon Muffins, our only commitment today is the boys’ piano recital which is late afternoon. I would have plenty of time to fool around with a new recipe.

When I came downstairs Jake was already up. He was happily curled up on the couch under a blanket watching some sort of sports program. I had printed out the recipe last night, but I neglected to actually read the ingredient list. After I fed the dogs I started to go over the list. Oops! I don’t have any sour cream. It was 7:45 am; the store should be open by the time I get there. I whipped back upstairs to throw on some clothes. It wouldn’t do to show up at Food Lion in my pjs.

Hubby was still fast asleep when I went back downstairs. I told Jake I was going to go get a few things at the store. It would not take me very long and everybody else was still upstairs. I lowered the volume on the TV so he could hear the dogs. All three were still outside. Crunch and John are able to let themselves inside, but Rally, at the age of 13, no longer does stairs. There are three little steps to get up onto the deck. She waits at the bottom and gives a couple of barks to tell us when she is ready to come up. She is very reasonable and patient. Then it was off to the store.

I was very happy to see a half dozen cars in the parking lot, the store was indeed open. I marched inside; I was a woman on a mission. First I swung up to produce to get yet more bananas and watermelon. Lately the kids have been inhaling all the fruit in the house. Rebecca will often stand at the open fridge gazing upon the strawberries and watermelon. Then I headed over to the baking aisle to get some white chocolate chips for an unrelated baking project. Finally I hit the dairy department where I got more butter (I had enough, but it was on sale!) and the all important sour cream. As the cashier was ringing up my purchases she asked if I was heading off to church. Huh? Ok I did have on a decent blouse and a skirt, but why on earth would I be buying sour cream and butter just before heading off to church? This is Virginia in June and it was already well over 70 degrees outside. My butter would be a sad little puddle and the sour cream would be waaaay beyond just sour if I were to go to church and not straight home.

When I got home I saw that Larry and Nate were downstairs with Jake. Max and Rebecca were also up, but they were busy playing upstairs. I plopped my bags on the counter and started in on the muffins. Jake at Nate were both eager to help me make them. After a moments thought I came up with some age appropriate jobs for them. I set them up at the kitchen table. Nate would hull the strawberries with a straw and then pass them down to Jake. Jake would then dice the strawberries and put them in a bowl. I had a nice little prep line. I feel like a real chef!

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The only modification that I did to Jordana’s recipe was to use quick oats instead of whole wheat flour. The batter smelled wonderful after I added the lemon zest. I love the combination of lemons and strawberries. After the strawberries were added I had enough batter for two dozen muffins. Here is picture of some of them. (They are outside because I didn't feel like dealing with my kitchen table, we were still eating.)

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Larry and I loved them, Jake liked them very much, Max and Rebecca thought they were alright and Nate disliked them. We ended up eating a dozen for breakfast. I will definitely make them again. Next time I will have my sous chef do a finer dice of the strawberries. The strawberry chunks were a little too big. It wasn’t Jake’s fault, he did an excellent job and cut them pretty much to my specifications. I think I might also cut back a bit on the sugar. The muffins were a little on the sweet side. The remaining dozen went with us to the piano recital. There is always a little nosh afterwards with treats provided by the parents.

I have made other things that combined strawberries and lemons. There is a very simple tart I make with lemon curd and strawberries. All I do is make a graham cracker crust, bake it, and fill the crust with a mixture of lemon curd (1 jar) and cream cheese (8 oz). Then I smooth the top of the filling and cover it with sliced strawberries. Chill and eat. It is a very pretty and very delicious dessert.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Dump and Doughnuts

Today I took Max and Rebecca on a little field trip to our local Krispy Kreme. Papa Possum had kindly alerted his readers that it today is National Doughnut Day. I felt that it was as good an excuse as any another to go, but first we had to go to the dump.

I could have a trash service come and haul my garbage away, but what’s the fun in that? Instead for a much smaller fee I can haul my own. My local dump, or rather, transfer station, has a nice setup. There is an embankment that you drive up. At the top there are numerous trash bays. The bays have a shear drop off and an enormous dumpster is positioned at each one so that you drop your garbage down into the dumpster. I like that I get to decide when it’s time, I get the satisfaction of hurling it out of the van and into the dumpster and I also get rid of all our cardboard (at the dump you only have to flatten it, curbside recycling requires that you cut it down). I once got video taped at the dump while I was recycling my cardboard. It was for some sort of county training film. I was the good recycler, a rather odd 15 minutes of fame. Once our dump duties were completed it was off to the Krispy Kreme.

It is a bit of a drive to get there. Throughout the drive I would be asked what direction is the doughnut store. I would point in the approximate area and then my co-pilots would tell me that I would need to turn that way. Max and Rebecca are dedicated backseat drivers. They very often have a firm view on where we should go. Some times when I have ignored their directions, all hell breaks loose in the back. Both of them at various times have been reduced to tears when I have gone the “wrong way.” Thankfully they are outgrowing this stage. They are slowly coming to the realization that I usually have a very good idea of where we are and that they should be listening to me.

When we could finally see the sign, both of them shouted out “I found it!” I happily noted that the Hot Light was on. I parked and then herded Max and Rebecca into the shop. It was not too busy so we were able to place our order and yes we got some free doughnuts. We had to order first then I was told that we would also get three free samples. The kids ordered chocolate iced with sprinkles and I got two original glazed right off of the belt. Mmmm, hot fresh doughnuts! Our free doughnuts were a glazed sour cream (cake type), a cruller and a cinnamon roll. We then picked up our drinks (orange juice for Max and milk for me and Rebecca) and paid up.

At the table Max announced that he did not want the one with sprinkles. I had anticipated this and gave him an original glazed instead. I then poured out some milk for Rebecca and some juice for Max. This time I remembered to bring lidded cups and straws, so I could limit the amount of drink spillage.

Rebecca inhaled her doughnut. Max picked at his and drank his juice. In the end he sampled a few others, but never really ate any one particular doughnut. He even had me pick off some of the glaze at one point. He at least drank all of the juice. Rebecca not only finished her doughnut she also had half a cinnamon roll. I enjoyed my doughnut and the rest of the milk. While we were eating Max and Rebecca noticed that other kids had hats. They wanted hats too. Sadly they had just run out. Max then solemnly announced that “They need to buy more.” We did find one after we were done with our doughnuts. Max cheerfully donned his hat and we then watched the doughnut making machine.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I love watching the machine at work. It is fun watching the little blobs of dough grow in size, cook on one side, be flipped over to cook the other side and then be glazed. Today seemed to be mutant doughnut day.

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I have never before seen so many misshapen doughnuts. You can seem them in the picture above. They are just about to go through the glaze waterfall. In the short time that we were watching I easily saw a dozen malformed and half cooked specimens go down the line. I noticed a large box was under the conveyer belt and it was 1/3 filled with mistakes. I wonder what happens to them. There are only so much that the staff can eat. I guess they get tossed. I took a few pictures of the kids and the doughnuts and then we were done. The drive home was uneventful, about halfway home they both conked out. A good thing to do on National Doughnut Day.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Three Little Farmers

Yesterday Jake, Nate and Rebecca were playing together outside. Max was not with them because he had a prolonged squawk/tantrum and had subsequently fallen asleep. At one point I went by them and noticed that Rebecca had a paper grocery bag with branches from the shrubs we have along the driveway. Now I don’t like these particular bushes and I am in the process of eliminating them, but I also don’t like random acts of destruction in and around the house. So I mentioned in passing that I do not like leaves and branches to be removed from plants, but in this case it was alright that she did it to these particular bushes. They wanted to know why and I explained that I didn’t like these bushes. I then went on my merry way to the great indoors.

A while later Jake came inside to ask me where we keep the extra grocery bags. I was just starting to make dinner so I distractedly told him to look in the garage. He then bustled off and I could hear him find my stash of bags (he never does anything quietly). Then it struck me, why do they need paper bags? Oh well, they are entertaining themselves and how much harm can they come to with paper bags. I continued puttering about the kitchen.

Jake then comes inside again. He is acting as the idea man and/or the emissary. This time he asks me, politely to turn on the hose. At this point I decided that maybe I should go outside and see what on earth is going on. When I came out of the house through the garage I found the three of them busily stripping the leaves off of the aforementioned bushes. Each of them had a full bag of leaves and branches.

“Why are you doing this?!” I cried out. I was stunned at the sight of the naked branches poking out randomly from the bush. They hadn’t denuded any one particular area, just random spots all over the bush. It looked positively mangy.

“You said we could” was Jake and Nate’s reply. Rebecca mutely stood there with her big brown eyes wide open and pleading. She was clutching her bag.

They had me. I never should have told them that I didn’t like the bush. I should know by now not to say anything in passing. It always comes back to haunt me.

The damage already done, I asked them why they needed the hose.

“We need to wash these.” Jake and Nate then pointed to their bags. Rebecca remained silent.

According to Jake they were playing farmers market. They had just harvested their crops and they now wanted to wash and bag it.

This made perfect sense to me. When I get our veggies from the farmers market I bring it home in a paper grocery bag. Amy, our grower, washes our market share and places it in a bag.

Now knowing the whole story I told my three little farmers to use the wading pool to wash their produce and leave the bush alone. Jake carefully placed his bag in the wagon and pulled it over. Meanwhile, Nate and Rebecca trooped over to the pool dragging their bags. Nate then fetched the watering can and filled it up from the wading pool. He then proceeded to pour its contents into the bag.

“Whoa! Don’t do that, you’ll ruin the bag.”

At this point I was still under the delusion that I would be getting the bags back.

I then explained that the bags are made of paper and that they will fall apart if you get them wet. It would be better to put the leaves from the bag into the pool and not the pool into the bag with leaves. They were still not happy. So I went into the garage and rooted about. There had to be something in there that would work.

Eureka! I had a large plastic tray with holes in it. I tossed it out of the garage towards the wading pool.

Jake pounced on it and declared it to be just the thing. He loaded it up with his leaves and dunked the whole mess in the pool.

I stayed and watched for a bit.

To dry the leaves they got a ratty old towel from the deck box. They would careful blot their freshly washed leaves dry with a very, very grubby towel. Honestly, the leaves were cleaner before they washed them.

When it was Nate’s turn, he explained to me that it was very important to wash the leaves; it made for a “more better flavor.”
Here is Nate dunking and then draining his leaves:

Washing the crops Posted by Hello

They had great fun and all of the bags got soaked.