Sunday, July 31, 2005

Oh How They Have Grown!

Dianne emailed me some more pictures of the litter. They have grown so much and they are starting to go to their new homes. I have detailed their birth, and I have posted pictures here, here and here.

They look like little dachshunds now. They still have that adorable puppy squishiness, but there is no doubt about what they are.

In this montage the sleepy pup in the upper left corner is Gretel. Her picture was taken as she was going home. Her new family is wild about her and she fits right in. The rest of the pictures were taken by Dianne’s family. I like the next picture; to me it looks like the pup is thinking “Hey what is that? Maybe I should grab it.” The last picture on the top row is a very sweet head shot.

Puppies! Posted by Picasa

The bottom three pictures are classic “stacked” poses. At a dog show a dog is placed in a stacked position. It allows the judge a clear view of the dog and its structure. It is a useful when evaluating puppies, but it very hard to get them to stay still long enough to get a good view. When one end is all lined up and squared away, the other is all cock-eyed. As you reach over to straighten out the errant paws something grabs the pup’s attention and you have to start all over again. It is helpful, nay critical, to have another person there to take a picture when the stars are all aligned.

Gretel was not the first pup to go home. One of her sisters has already gone off to Canada. There she’ll be a good friend and (hopefully) a show dog. The rest of the pups will go as their families are ready to collect them. When I last talked to Dianne it looks like they will keep one male and one female to grow out.

Breeding dogs is not an exact science. At best it is an educated guess as to how a particular pup will turn out. If there is some doubt a breeder may hold on to a puppy and take a wait and see approach. I know that Crunch’s line is slow to mature and he was at his peak at around 4 years. At 12 ½ he is still an incredibly fit dog. Other lines take off like rockets and look amazing at 6 months. John is very much like his father and is taking his own sweet time. It wouldn’t surprise me if his half-siblings are the same way.

Friday, July 29, 2005

How About a Little Curry

I have found that if you show up at one of the local supermarket chains before 10:00 am, ideally at around 9:00 am, you can score some amazing deals. Everything that has a sell by date of that day is half off. This past Monday there was a bonanza in the meat department. I ended up with a roasting chicken, two huge sirloin steaks, some veal scaloppini and beef cubes for $25 dollars. I stuffed all the beef in the freezer and roasted the chicken that night. It was a mighty fine bird, succulent and tasty.

Today I pulled out the beef cubes from the freezer, I will use them to make a beef curry.

It is a strictly seat of the pants recipe that I learned in college while I was in England for the latter half of my junior year.

1 lb of beef cubes (any cut will do, stew beef is what I normally use)
4 large onions, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 beef bullion cube, dissolved in ½ cup of hot water
1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste
A handful of flour
Curry powder to taste (I use at least 1 tablespoon)
1-2 apples peeled, cored and cut into bite sized chunks

Sauté the onions on medium heat in the olive oil until it is transparent.
Add the bullion, tomato paste and flour, stir well (it looks a bit off at this point).
Bring to a very slow simmer and add the curry and the beef.
Periodically stir the mixture and DO NOT BOIL*.
After about 30 minutes, add the apple chunks.
Cook for another 30 minutes, again keeping at a slow simmer.
Occasionally stir and taste to see if the curry taste is strong enough, with the right level of spiciness.

Serve it over a bed of rice.

*If the mixture boils it destroys the taste of the curry, but not the heat.

I was forced to learn how to cook when I was in England. During my first week at my English University I checked out the dining hall with a fellow American. We were appalled with the glop they served us. It was pale, soft and with no taste whatsoever. We were considering buying meal tickets, but we both agreed we would rather starve than eat the slop they served. I had thought my college had bad food, but it was positively gourmet in comparison to its English counterpart.

The dorms at most British Universities are set up so that you can cook most of your meals. A cluster of rooms would have a common kitchen with a fridge and a stove. Lockers were provided to store nonperishable foodstuffs. For me it was literally sink or swim. I picked up this book and taught myself how to cook. It was a fun adventure going shopping and dragging my haul home. The best part was the milk. English milk is far superior and it was delivered to right outside the common kitchen! We would fill out the sheet on the door detailing what, how much and when we wanted it and it would magically appear early in the morning. Once a week we would pay our bill. It was a wonderful treat for me.

I have since lost the book, but I’ll never forget what I learned.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Why Does She Do This?

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

So here is a picture of Rebecca watching television. She isn’t always upside down, but it is a fairly normal thing for her to do.

What I want to know is why? Why of all my children does she do this? She does not like to be held upside down nor is she as rough and tumble as her three brothers. I would understand if any one of them would assume this position. But Rebecca, My little princess in training? She can be such a feminine creature, wearing dresses and playing with dolls.

I guess it just adds to the mystery that is Rebecca. She is opinionated, stubborn and able to hold her own with her siblings. As I have mentioned before, she has some of the world’s worst table manners. Nate (who sits directly across from her at the dinner table) is regularly disgusted by her behavior. She is prone to dramatic fits that border on the absurd. One time she was having a tantrum in the car, because I was GOING THE WRONG WAY. Mind you she was two at the time and had no idea where we were or where we were going. I turned the car left, when she said we should go right. Then the howling began. The funny part was that if the view out of her window interested her, the noise stopped. But when she tired of the view, her tantrum would return at full force. Meryl was with us at the time and both she and I thought it was hilarious how the Rebecca would stop and start right back up. My daughter, at times, can be a full blown drama queen.

She can also be very kind and generous. I have seen her share toys and treats without prompting. She will fetch things with out being asked. Her other favorite television viewing position is to be snuggled up to me on the couch. Being upside down is just another facet to Rebecca’s personality.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Artist of the week IV

This week’s artist is Max and here he is with his favorite piece.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It is one of his three Farmers Market’s works that we have kicking about. Obviously it is the one in the middle.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I posted all three because you can really see he has his own distinctive style. He naturally gravitates to the blues and greens with an occasional punch of red. There is a huge bucket of markers to choose from, but he always gets the same colors. His weekly stop at the art table run by Polka Dot Arts is the highlight of Max’s visit to the 17th Street Farmers’ Market.

Last week the fine folks with Polka Dot Art had run out of the foam stickers. But they still had the huge bucket of magic markets and the bingo daubers. He loves using the bingo daubers. He grabs a green one, twists off the cap and happily pounds his paper, leaving a series of green dots. He will then fill in with a magic marker to complete his picture. When he is done he thrusts it in my hands to carry and instructs me to put it on the fridge when we get home.

When I asked him about his art he said he “made it at the food place.” I asked him if he likes it and he said “YES!” and bounced away.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This past weekend I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Meryl and the kids (Larry was stuck at work).

I have been looking forward to this for quite some time. I love the book and Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors. His warped perspective struck me as a good match with the book.

Jake and Nate, however, did not want to go. They have seen and loved Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder (who was fantastic by the way) and did not see the point of a new version.

I have always been a bit disappointed by the 1971 version. It is a fine movie, but it deviates from the book to such a large degree that it irritates me. Generally I like all movies with a few notable exceptions, anything directed by Jean-Luc Godard (the epitome of French new wave cinema) and most movies featuring Jerry Lewis (something about him bugs me). Basically Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory grates on me after awhile.

Where is the snow and Charlie’s father? Also Charlie was the one decent child, so I did not like the fizzy lifting drinks scene. It violated the whole premise of the book. All was forgiven; however, when the Oompa Loompas burst onto the scene (heck the Oompa Loompas even improved the television show Jackass).

But I digress.

At the movie theater I got the mondo tub of popcorn and a medium drink (no way am I’m going to escort small bladdered people to the bathroom during the movie) to share with my children. Being a bit of a cheapskate I have learned to bring paper lunch bags to the movies. That way each child has their own bag of popcorn and I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg. We met up with Meryl and Sorena and went to the theater. Seats were a bit problematic for our very large (7) party, but we did find a row.

My four really enjoyed the movie. At one point I nudged Meryl and pointed out to her how enraptured they all were. In the end Nate loved the movie and Jake thought it was ok.

This version is much more faithful to the book. I like what Johnny Depp did with the Wonka character, except for the bit about saying the word parents. Willy Wonka should be an oddball character, he has been shut up in his factory for over 15 years with only Oompa Loompas for company. But, I thought that was a bit over the top and unnecessary.

There was one part of the movie that I really liked. You find out that sometimes there IS accounting for taste.

I have a feeling that I’ll be wanting to see this one again.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sleep Habits

Every night before I go to bed I check all of my children. A perfectly normal thing to do, but I take it one step further. I don’t just poke my head in their rooms, I actually see if they are still breathing. It is partially a hold over from when they were tiny little babies, all swaddled up in their cribs and the news seemed to all about SIDS. I was starting to let go of my little paranoia when Max was diagnosed with CF.

So I then felt compelled to really check on everyone. With Max I’ll even lightly rest my ear against his chest to listen to his lungs. It is the best time to listen to him. He is a very active child and it is almost impossible at times to get him to sit still AND not make noise. My family is riddled with Asthma so I grew up listening to a whole range of crackles and wheezes. As a result I have a good ear for any oddities in the normal sounds of Max’s lungs. Fortunately he is a solid little sleeper and his lungs usually sound fine.

The other night when I poked my head into Jake’s and Nate’s bedroom I saw this:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Jake all sprawled out on top of his wadded bed linens and quilt and Nate’s bed empty. If you look closely at the far right edge of the photo you see a small hint of Nate.

Here he is, all curled up on the floor.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The first time this happened it was a little unnerving. I first rushed to my room to make sure he hadn’t snuck into Larry’s and mine bed. When that proved to be devoid of Nate I flew back to his room. After some intense searching I found him under a fallen blanket in the same spot between his bed and the wall. At other times I have found him on Jake’s bed and on the floor on the far side of his Jake’s bed. I have now learned to carefully check the floor before going elsewhere to look for Nate.

The most frightening bed disappearance was Rebecca. She had just turned two and was still sleeping in a crib. When I checked on her she was gone. The sides were still up, but there was no Rebecca. I rushed from room to room frantically trying to find her. Just when I was at my most panicked I found her, She had tucked herself under her crib and covered herself up with here blankie. The dust ruffle had obscured her from my view. I gently scooped her up and held her close until I calmed down.

Both she and Max and been climbing in and out of their cribs, but they were not ready for the absolute freedom of a real bed. It is amazing the chaos that can be generated by two unsupervised two year olds. I couldn’t hover over them while they fell asleep and they get up very early in the morning. At some point they would be awake and alone together in their room. I had a choice, strip their rooms of all furniture (they like to climb) and everything else or get crib tents.

I went for the crib tents.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Morning Dog Walk

A few weeks ago I started giving Crunch and John (aka the red dogs) serious morning walks. I realized that John was going to remain a squishy puppy until I start doing something. Also, if I’m ever to get serious about showing him he was in desperate need of road work to improve his gait. Crunch, John’s father, has a beautiful, effortless trot. I can see glimmers of that same movement in John, and I need to bring it out, the pieces are all there. A few weeks into this and I’m already seeing some improvement. There is a little less wiggle in his butt and much more economy in motion.

Crunch comes along because he loves to go on walks. Meanwhile, Rally stays home because she doesn’t. I figure that if a 13 year old dog doesn’t want to go on a walk, she doesn’t have to.

I walk the red dogs at around 7:00 am. It isn’t too hideously hot at that hour and Larry is still home so I don’t have to bring my entourage.

When it is time to go, John leaps and twirls about. Watching John’s antics is a little bittersweet. Crunch used to be the same, but his age (12 ½) has finally caught up with him. One of the workers at where I board the dogs commented about two years ago that Crunch’s energy levels have drooped to almost of that of a normal dog. Now Crunch just closely follows me about as I get ready to take them out. Mind you he does not tire on these walks, he is very fit and could seemly trot forever.

This morning was lovely. There was little humidity and the temperature was mid-70. It was my kind of weather. I grabbed the camera on my out. My subdivision is riddled with deer and I often seem them during my morning dog walk. Today I was not disappointed.

We sighted the deer at the end of the cul-de-sac where we normally turn around and head home. Usually I can get a little closer, but this particular pair was a little more wary. The deer that is further back is a buck and I find them to be not as comfortable around humans as the does. There is a doe that frequents my backyard that will not leave until I’m only ten feet away and waving my arms.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The red dogs whined, but did not bark. They strained against their leashes, eager to give chase when the deer turned tail and bounded away. Once the deer were out of site Crunch focused on reading the p-mail around the mailboxes, but John still wanted to give chase. He eventually calmed down as we made our way home.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hey! Let's have some cake!

In honor of my friends visit I made a cake yesterday for dinner. As y’all know now any excuse for a cake is a good excuse.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I wasn’t particularly motivated so I did not decorate it. Instead we enjoyed it with dollops of fresh, homemade, vanilla flavored whipped cream. Here is a fancy version I sent to school for teacher appreciation day last year.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It is a very rich chocolate tort type cake. The cake is like a very dense brownie with a very intense chocolate flavor. Last night’s version was not quite as dense, but that may be due to the fact that it made only been chilled for four hours. Ideally it should rest for twenty four hours before serving. This allows the cake to settle and the flavors to mingle and intensify. Mind you it didn’t stop us from eating half the cake.

I found the recipe in Parents magazine, the December 1997 issue. Parenthetical comments are my modifications on the original recipe. This is a flourless cake and is nice to have at Passover or for friends who are allergic to wheat.

Chocolate Decadence

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup water
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, cut into 16 pieces, divided
1 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature

1. Heat oven to 300. Line bottom of 9 inch springform pan with foil, grease with nonstick cooking spray, and lightly dust with cocoa powder; set aside. (I use parchment paper instead of foil.)
2. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt semisweet and unsweetened chocolate with water, stirring occasionally with rubber spatula. Gradually add half the butter, stirring until each piece is incorporated. (You can also melt the chocolate with the water in a microwave. Use a large microwave safe bowl. Once it is half melted I take it out and stir. The rest quickly melts. I then add the butter.)
3. Add ¾ cup sugar; continue cooking on low until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer granular, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining butter, 1 piece at a time. Add vanilla and whisk in egg yolks one at a time. Mixture will be smooth. Transfer chocolate mixture to a large bowl; set aside. (Again a microwave can be used. Doing one minute pulses, stirring in between, dissolve the sugar.)
4. In another large bowl, with electric mixer on medium, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating on medium–high until stiff peaks form.
5. With rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it slightly. Fold in remaining whites until mixture is smooth and even in color. Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
6. Bake 1 hour. Reduce temperature to 250 and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack. When cake reaches room temperature, release sides of pan. Invert cake onto rack. Lift off bottom part of pan. Carefully peel foil (parchment paper) off cake. Invert cake again onto serving plate.
7. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before serving. If desired, you may serve cake with unsweetened vanilla whipped cream. (Fresh fruit is also a nice addition.)

This cake consistently turns out well and freezes easily. I have been able to transport it in a cooler to a friend’s house during a long road trip. I triple wrapped it in plastic and tightly packed it in the cooler. It looked great and tasted marvelous.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Art at the Farmers Market

Today was a busy day.

First order of business was the dump. I had to finish up cleaning the house and unload a whole mess of stinky garbage at the dump. A dear friend from college (Kathy) and her husband (Brian) are coming for a visit and I wanted the place to look and smell nice.

Once my smelly load was tipped into the dumpster, we were off to The 17th Street Farmers Market. I did not know when my houseguests would be arriving and time was of the essence. I laid the garbage can down in the rear of the van and dragged it up to the market. Normally I would return home to unload the garbage can, but today I just wanted to get going.

We arrived around a quarter to 11:00 and scored a legit parking spot directly opposite our grower. Woo Hoo! Last week we had to park a block and ½ south of the market. It wasn’t a bad walk, but it was much too hot to be traipsing about with four rather random and potentially cranky individuals (The heat seems to bring out their best. Not.). Once the crew was unloaded we made our way through the market.

Our first stop was the Brookview stand to pick up some yummy fresh eggs. They have the best eggs around and you can taste the difference. Sadly they were sold out. We had to settle with getting free cups of water and buying two bunches of basil. It is tomato season and you can never have too much basil.

As we worked our way through the market we stopped for a bit at the children’s activity area. We have gotten into the habit of stopping there each week.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Here Max is generating some potential future blog fodder. As you can see he is serious about his art. Rebecca is on the far right, making her masterpiece in glue. It was a challenge to keep her from wiping off the glue on her hands onto her head. When they finished I herded them over to the bread guy and bought two fresh baguettes for dinner.

Since, surprise, surprise I was planning to do a little baking, I needed to get more eggs. I settled on going to these folks for my baking needs. They sell berries, eggs, a variety of meats (including ostrich!), and various ostrich items (eggs, leather and feathers). Their prices for chicken eggs are very reasonable and the eggs are fairly good. The stand was unmanned when we arrived and we stood there for a long time. I had just about given up when one of the owners reappeared.

At this point the crankiness level was starting to increase at an alarming rate. It was easily over 90 degrees outside and mutiny was on the horizon. I had to get my children out of there and back to our comfy, though slightly smelly, air conditioned car.

We rushed over to Amy’s and got our market share. Rebecca tugged at some flowers Amy was selling as I collected our veggies. As I moved to stop her from damaging the blossom Amy offered a few flower stems to the kids. Her cutting garden was particularly productive this past week and she could afford to be generous. It took a long time to sort out the flowers; Amy’s one request was we only take the bent flowers. After some delicate negotiations I was finally able to round them up and go to our (hopefully) last stand.

As we rounded the corner to Green Bean Guy’s I was happy to see the return of his corn. I asked it they wanted to have corn on the cob for lunch. All four thought it sounded like a great idea and they all cheered up. I grabbed eight ears of corn, paid up and left.

Kathy and Brian showed up just after we got home. We shucked all eight ears and we had a lovely pot of corn for lunch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Artist of the Week III

This week’s artist is Rebecca.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

She made this last April. It is her first recognizable figure picture. She was using her travel Magna Doodle, which means it was a temporary art form. Fortunately she made it just before we got home so I was able to preserve her work with a camera. As you can tell she was very pleased with her effort.

Magna Doodles are a wonderful improvement on the venerable Etch-a-sketch. It is composed of a tablet with iron fillings trapped inside and a magnetic wand/pen that you can use to draw on the tablet. If you click here you get a full run down on how they work. It is a wonderful car toy. The pen is attached to the tablet with a short string so the pen can never be lost. A very good toy to have on a long car trip.

Rebecca said it was “Pretty birdie.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


In general my children get along very well. They like to play together and genuinely care for each other.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

This was an impromptu puppy pile. We had just finished lunch and they were messing about and had just collapsed into a happy heap.

This weekend Meryl stopped by and got treated to the world’s slowest jousting match. Jake and Nate were on all fours pretending to be the horses with Max riding Nate and Rebecca riding Jake. Our young knights had paper bag helmets and pieces of bright red Hot Wheels’ track for lances. The horses would square off on opposite sides of the room; the knights would mount their steeds and then urge them forward. Jake and Nate would crawl forward as Max and Rebecca would hold out their lances. Half the time one or both of them would fall off before reaching their opponent. There was much giggling from all parties and it was very silly.

Mind you it isn’t all wine and roses. We also have our fair share of disagreements. Usually it is the normal back of the van complaints about one sibling annoying the other. My solution is to offer to pull over the van and park until they calm down. I refuse to be sucked in as a referee. I only intervene when I feel it is necessary, otherwise it is up to them to sort it all out. They need to learn how to get along and deal with difficult people.

Last Friday we had the great toothbrush disaster. I was on the phone with Meryl when Jake rushed up to me wailing about his toothbrush and Nate. NATE HAD TOUCHED JAKE’S TOOTHBRUSH WITH HIS FINGER. It was a truly horrible thing and HE NEEDED A NEW TOOTHBRUSH RIGHT NOW (my eldest is a wee bit dramatic and prone towards these kind of outbursts at full volume). Mind you this occurred after he had brushed his teeth. I staggered upstairs with my wailing banshee in tow to see what was going on. I had a spare brush head for his electric toothbrush if I thought it needed changing. (I have found that the kids do a much better job brushing with cheap electric toothbrushes. It is more exciting, or something)

When I got upstairs Larry poked his head out of the boys’ room and asked about the noise. I gave him a rundown and we both agreed it was one of the more idiotic complaints yet. I then went to the bathroom to survey the damage. Aside from the remnants of toothpaste, it was still just like new. I told Jake that he was overreacting and to just to knock it off. I then cleaned off his toothbrush in the sink under running water. From what I could tell Nate had been failing about, as 6 year olds are wont to do, and had accidentally brushed his hand against Jake’s toothbrush.

Fifteen minutes later the incident was forgotten. Good thing he hadn’t knocked it into the toilet.

Monday, July 18, 2005

It’s Harry’s Fault

I did it. I finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince late last night. I stayed up late reading the previous night as well.

I didn’t go to my bookseller Friday night to pick up my copy. I considered it, but I’m not that impatient. It was late, I was tired and I knew once I got it I would start reading it. I waited till Saturday morning while I was out running errands.

I did the bulk of my reading at night, after the kids were tucked in bed. I would do little snatches during the day, but night time was best. No interruptions, just me, the book and a messy house. I can be a voracious reader when inspired by the right book. Once I dive into a good one, it is very hard for me to tear myself away. With this one I kept saying, just one more chapter.

The book is quite good. By the end I was emotionally drained. I had also raced through it because I wanted to know who got bumped off. I had my theories, but there is no way I would ask anybody for the details. I’d touch on the book with Meryl a little, just to tell her where I was in the book, but I wasn’t ready to discuss it. I had to finish the book first.

As a result I’m a bit tired today and it’s all Harry’s fault.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Summer Bounty

This is most of the tomatoes that we got in this weeks garden share.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

One big one did not last for the picture; instead we had it for dinner last night.

When we picked our veggies yesterday I was asked what extras would I like? Peppers, tomatoes and squash were offered. I replied tomatoes; all I want is extra tomatoes. Frankly I’ve gotten sick of the over abundance of squash (Larry does not care for squash) and peppers are not my favorite.

I love the different varieties we get. In the big bowl you can see that we got some traditional red varieties, a pretty yellow one, and one green tomato peeking out from the bottom. There is one bizarre looking purple one that you can’t see. When Rebecca first caught sight of it she did a bit of a double take.

The cherry tomatoes in the smaller bowl are called Sun Gold and are super sweet. If I let her, Rebecca would polish off the whole lot in a day and a half. The rest of the kids like them too, but she is a big fan of tomatoes.

Last night I made a light sauce to go with some cheese tortellini we had in the freezer. First I heated up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauce pan. Then I added 2 cloves of crushed garlic. As the garlic browned I chopped up the tomato and a handful of fresh basil leaves. I mounded them together and splashed a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar on it and sprinkled a dash of salt and fresh ground black pepper on top. Once the garlic was nicely browned I added 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and more olive oil. When the buttered was all melted I added the tomato and basil mixture and tuned down the heat.

It was lovely on the pasta and very tasty on the fresh baguette I had picked up at the farmers market.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Just Another Stay At Home Nerd

Since all the cool kids are doing it, here is my score:

I am nerdier than 70% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Strikes me about right considering I’m the proud owner of these shirts and I do wear them in public.

The one featuring the periodic table is the nicest version I have ever seen. I found it at the University of Wisconsin Student Union when I was a lab tech. I had gone there to get some ice cream or cash; I don’t remember (possibly both). All I know is that as I was going through the building I found it. Usually all you see is a black t-shirt with the table printed in white, very boring. This one is in full color with the added bonus of the radioactive elements glowing in the dark. I didn’t know this until after I bought it. I spent the next half hour at work dragging people into the dark room to show it off. All my co-workers agreed that it was a very cool shirt.

The other one was a gift from Tracee, one of the post docs in the same lab. I had been working with her on thrombospondin and she had gone to the meeting. I had been unable to attend due to the fact that I was humongously pregnant (Jake was born one week later). Airlines get funny when you show up more than 5 months pregnant. I was very touched that Tracee had thought of me. I also like how I can point to a region and know that my work contributed to a better understanding of it.

My score could have been a lot higher if I was still working at my old job.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Artist of the Week II

This week’s artist is Nate. Here he is with his “Water Lilies.”

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

And here is the artwork on its own:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

This too was rescued from a backpack. It did not fare as well as Jake’s bamboo and is a bit tattered about the edges. This is not surprising; Nate is only 6 years old and is rather haphazard in how he crams things into his backpack. I’m lucky that he didn’t just wad it up before jamming it in.

Obviously Nate’s class was studying the works of Monet. It is hard to tell from the picture, but it is a multimedia extravaganza. The grass is crayon, the water is paint, the water lilies are construction paper and the flowers are tissue paper. This came home before the end of school and was on exhibit at The Dining Table Window Sills of Art Exhibition Space. The piece was a little large for The Refrigerator Museum of Art. I really enjoy looking at this piece as it is very peaceful and serene.

I have seen the originals at The Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris and got that same feeling of serenity. It is a little gem of a museum. Sadly it has been under renovation for quite some time, but should reopen next year. Larry and I had traveled to Paris while we were on Spring break during our junior year abroad in England. We were there for a brief stop to visit his Aunt before seeing a bit more of Europe and the USSR (we got to see the Soviet Union in 1986, before it all fell apart.) I would like to go to Paris and the museum again.

Here are some thoughts from the artist about the piece. The words are his, except the parenthetical addition from me.

“I liked making it and it took six weeks to make it (they only have art once a week). It is based on “Water lilies” and we were studying Claude Monet. And we watched a movie about Claude Monet’s garden in France and it is very, very beautiful. If you go there you will almost not believe how beautiful it is. I want to go there sometime.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wrestle Mania

Crunch and John spend a fair amount of their time wrestling with each other. I call it Greco-Roman Dachshund wrestling and it is usually at my feet. Here is a shot of them as I sit at the computer:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Here they are again from the side:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Crunch stands over John, pawing his body and mouthing him all over. John is usually on the bottom sucking on Crunch’s ears. By the end of their session Crunch’s ears are a sodden mess. In a small way I am pleased that John abuses Crunch’s ears in this manner. Up until John’s arrival, Crunch had been sucking on Rally’s ears for the past 12 years. Mind you it wasn’t all day long, just every evening for an hour or so. Usually she would patiently endure his attentions, only occasionally growling at him when he got a little too over enthused. For Rally the advent of John has improved her life.

The funniest part is the noise.

The two of them roll about the floor slamming into furniture and toys. The whole time Crunch makes the most bizarre vocalizations. It is a combination of moans, groans, barks and whines. All of which are uttered through a mouthful of John’s skin. John on the other hand remains silent. The only time he barks at Crunch is when Crunch has a toy John wants. It never fails to amuse Meryl if she over hears it on the phone. One of these days I have to record it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

So Tired

This morning I took all four kids with me to the grocery store. This is the part of summer I like the least. They were actually well behaved, but I find it draining shepherding them through the store with a minimum of chaos. Normally I’ll pair up the older boys together and the twins with each other. Supermarkets, however, are much too exciting and the normal pairings are too combustible.

We were able to snag one of these which was a boon for me as it can potentially hold ¾ of my children. Max and Nate grabbed the front and were happy as clams together. Rebecca was a bit put out as she wanted to ride up front with Nate too. She didn’t want to ride in the traditional seat by the handlebar or walk. In the end she stuffed herself in an odd spot beneath the cart. This pleased Jake as it meant he could push the cart for a change. Max and Rebecca do not like to have their older brothers pushing the cart when they are riding in the handlebar seat. Either Mommy drives or there is a never ending barrage of complaints.

Then the circus begins. I have to keep the cart moving or various people spill out. They like to walk along with me, which really means running about in a fairly random manner. They don’t pull (much) from the shelves and they understand that when I say no I mean no. It really is out of consideration of the other shoppers. We have a tendency to fill the entire aisle as we pass through.

Today the squabbling was kept to a minimum and Jake got to push the cart for half the trip. Eventually Rebecca emerged from her spot and wanted me to push while she rode in the more traditional seat. Then Max had his clown car moment when he burst out and ran to front and tried to climb up the cart. I peeled him off the front and had Rebecca move in with Nate. Max was then deposited in the seat Rebecca just vacated. This worked well until checkout.

At checkout they all spilled out of the cart and were ready to roll. For once I was able to trap most of them between the cart and myself (Nate was still happily riding in the cart). With only one price check, we were out of there in a little less than 45 minutes.

When we got home I was wiped out. Nothing bad happened, it was just a draining experience for me.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Let's go to the Movies!

This weekend we wanted to see a movie. Larry pulled up Rotten Tomatoes to try to find a movie suitable for the family.

It was discouraging at first. Most of the family oriented movies that are currently playing have dismal reviews at best. He did find this rather amusing review of the new Herbie movie that gave us a couple of good reasons to not see the movie.

Then we tried another tactic and took a gander at the offerings at each of the local theaters. At one theater I noticed the film “Howl’s Moving Castle.” I dimly remembered reading a glowing review of it. Turns out that it wasn’t categorized under kids/family at Rotten Tomatoes so that is why we missed it over there. It is an anime adaptation of a book with the same name by Diana Wynne Jones.

So that afternoon we loaded up the van and took our crew to go see the movie. When we were about to buy our tickets we warned that it had subtitles. The ticket seller then went on to say that it was a very good movie. Normally I preferred subtitles (at least in live action films the disconnect between the voices and the actors is a bit jarring for me, in animation it doesn’t matter), but this could be a problem. Jake is fairly proficient, but Nate (fresh out of kindergarten and reading above his grade level) would not be able to pull it off. Then there are Max and Rebecca who don’t even know how to read (yet). We stepped back to consider our options.

We were aware that there are two versions in distribution, one dubbed and one with subtitles. Since the local reviewer had focused on the dubbed version, we (wrongly) thought that the theater would have the dubbed version. After a brief debate we decided to give it a go. Larry and I could softly read the subtitles to those who need help.

The movie is wonderful. It has a very dreamlike quality to it and the animation is rich in detail. I loved it. The dialog was not too involved so we could easily read the subtitles to the kids. Since it was a matinee the theater was sparsely populated so we were able to position ourselves so as not to disturb. I think Max’s continuous climbing of the seatback (of an empty seat) was more irritating than our soft voices. The scary parts of the movie are not too bad. Max and Rebecca were a bit disturbed over Sophie’s transformation to an old woman, but they still enjoyed the movie. It was a worthwhile adventure. We will probably even buy the book it was based on.

Friday, July 08, 2005


What do you do when you have some nasty looking bananas around the house?

Make banana bread of course!

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

On Monday I stuffed two rather spotted and slightly mushy bananas into the refrigerator. Today I thought I would make banana bread. This recipe I scrounged off of the internet in 1994 from It looks like it has moved to another site and you have to subscribe and pay to gain access to the archives.

Poo to that. It was free in 1994 and it was originally contributed to The Chicago Tribune Food Guide, June 20, 1991 (submitted by Jean Banys of Lyons, IL).

So here it is verbatim:

Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf

1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large bananas)
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips**
½ cup nuts (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan.

2. Cream the sugar and butter with an electric mixer until light. Add the eggs and mix well. On low speed, mix in the bananas, milk, and vanilla. Stop the mixer and add the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined, then stir in the mini chocolate chips and nuts.

3. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan 5 minutes; turn onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

**Note: Mini chocolate chips work better than regular chips because the regular size ones tend to sink to the bottom of the loaf during baking.

This is a very tasty version. I like to line the loaf pan with parchment/wax paper. It is just plain easier for me that way. When I make the batter I use 1 ½ cups of chips and no nuts (hey, if there is room for ½ cup of nuts, then there is room for a ½ cup of chips instead) and I use regular sized chips. I don’t have the “sinkage” problem as detailed above. I also end up baking the loaf much longer (approximately by 15 min.) than is suggested. I just keep checking it with my cake tester. It really is important to let the loaf cool completely before slicing. If it is still hot it becomes a big (albeit tasty) mess.

For Britian

For our friends in England this is a picture of Nate at soccer camp last year. The campers were divided into three teams and Nate's was England.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Christmas in July

When I went to the dump this morning I pulled up behind this:

Christmas in July Posted by Picasa

At first I thought nothing of it. The dump has an area to drop off brush. The brush is then ground up into mulch that is free to all comers. Many a time I have followed whole truckloads of tree branches to the dump. The truckload of future mulch bears to the right and I with my smelly cargo double back to the left.

As I sat behind the trailer I idly looked over the contents. The driver ahead of me was taking a very long time and there was nothing else to look at. As I sat there, it slowly dawned on me that that was not just any pile of dried out pine branches; it was a former Christmas tree. I could see strands of tinsel still clinging to the desiccated branches. It is after the fourth of July and they are just now getting rid of their tree? It was so surreal I had to take a picture before it got mulched. I was just able to squeeze off a shot when it (finally) pulled away.

Growing up it was my job to dispose of the tree on our property (my mother favors houses with a fair bit of wooded land). The tree had to be down before twelfth night and should be gone within the next week. She really didn’t care what I did with it, she just wanted it gone. My favorite dumping ground was a sinkhole that was at the second house we moved to in Vermont. It was amazing how the tree would simply disappear. I would drag the sad carcass across the bright white snow, leaving a swath of dark green needles in my wake. It would be very quiet out, just the sound on me struggling through the deep snow and the swish of the branches. On the whole it was a very satisfying job. Nowadays I don’t do a tree at my house (since I converted) and my Mom’s trash man hauls her tree away.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Artist of the Week

I’m starting a new thing today called Artist of the Week. It will be mostly stuff done by the kids, but I am not limiting myself to only art produced by them.

This week’s AOTW is Jake. Here he is holding his art:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I found this artwork stuffed in his backpack at the end of the school year. It was jammed in there with crayons, markers, pens, pencils, an assortment of written work and other art projects. I’m glad it survived the journey home. Here is a shot of the piece itself:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Apparently at school they had a unit in art class about Ancient China and they students were taught how to make a brush and ink picture of bamboo. Brush and ink is essentially a form of watercolor. I find watercolor to be the most challenging art form. You need to have a clear idea of what you want while being flexible with what happens.

I like the piece a great deal and it is currently on exhibit at The Refrigerator Museum of Art. Even Aunt Meryl was impressed when she stopped by last Saturday and took a self guided tour.

When Jake was asked for his thoughts about his art he said “I think it is a nice representative of life.”

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Chew, Chew, Chew

My dogs, like most dachshunds, are very destructive chewers. Here is an example of what Crunch can do to a toy in about 5 minutes of uninterrupted chewing.

Before Posted by Picasa

After Posted by Picasa

I particularly like how Crunch turned the toy inside out so as to completely eviscerate it. Not bad for a creature without opposable thumbs.

This and his penchant to killing all small furry creatures in our backyard have earned him the name “The Jaws of Death.” Fortunately Crunch is fairly well trained and limits his assaults to dog toys with some notable exceptions. Crunch is so obsessive about tennis balls we can not have them in the house. If he can reach the ball he will quickly rip it to shreds. This concerns me because his cousin Earl died from eating a piece of a tennis ball. If he can not reach the ball he will guard the area and snap at any other dog that comes near. He also views all squeaky toys as fair game.

Rally is a bit more esoteric in her tastes. She favors crayons and green plastic (although lately I have noticed she is starting to branch out to other colors). In her opinion crayons are particularly tasty. If she catches even the barest trace of crayon scent at her level she will hunt it down. Even an old empty crayon box is a treat. So far she has suffered no ill effects from her crayon noshing, just multi-colored stools that I call “clown poos.”

John, Crunch’s son, is not quite up to the same level as Crunch. After 15 minutes of chewing an identical toy its head was still full of stuffing. He is also not as well trained (he is still just a puppy) and wraps his mouth around any toy he can reach. I constantly warn Max and Rebecca not to bring toys downstairs or John will eat them. His title is “The Jaws of Destruction.” Luckily John has a soft mouth so I can usually retrieve toys before any damage is done, but there have been loses. At first I felt bad for Max and Rebecca and I would try to repair them. Now I just show them the toy and throw it out. It is an important lesson for them to learn. They need to understand that if they want to keep a toy they must take care of it.

Personal responsibility is an important thing to learn. They need to know that if they do not think through their actions and disaster follows they only have themselves to blame.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Baseball on the Fourth

Today we went up to DC to watch the Mets play the Nationals.

It was our first time going to RFK Stadium, turns out it is a pretty nice ballpark.

The game was a 1:05 pm and we ended up leaving the house at around 10 am. It was a little bit later than we would have liked, but we got there in plenty of time. The drive up to DC was a breeze, a nice change from the usual slog. The HOV lanes were open going into DC which helped us out. We did not use them and it turned out that was a very good decision. At one point we saw an accident in the HOV lanes that completely blocked traffic. The regular lanes of traffic slowed down to rubberneck, but we motored on.

The directions we had gotten from the stadium’s website were not at all useful. Fortunately we knew where the stadium was located and were able to find it. The highway signs, for a change, were helpful and accurate. The stadium itself is located in a nothing area. There is a neat row of homes lined along the street opposite the stadium, but not much else, just a sea of asphalt and a Metro station. As we pulled into the lot I could see spent firecrackers littering the pavement. Looks like the fourth started a bit early here. Since we were early we could pretty much pick our spot in the parking lot. We settled on a spot not too far from the stadium and oriented towards a quick get away after the game. Then we all piled out of the car onto the hot pavement. As the kids fidgeted about I slathered sunscreen on them and myself. There was no way I was going to risk driving home with four cranky, sunburned kids. After a false start, (which was my fault, I couldn’t remember if I had put sunscreen on my face) we all trooped to the stadium.

Larry had bought the tickets months ago and the best seats left were way up on the upper deck. Here is the view from our seats:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

When we got to our seats I was a bit disappointed that we were in the sun. It was about 85 today, but it felt a lot hotter. I was very thankful that we all had on sunscreen and hats. We settled down in our seats and had our hotdogs and soda. At this point I have to vent about some rather stupid polices at RFK stadium. ALL of the food venders are strictly cash (this includes the permanent concession stands, not just the pushcarts) and the prices are absurd, four dollars for a bottle of water (after we bought two bottles I found a water fountain and refilled them) and five dollars for an ice cream. Oh, there are ATMs inside the stadium, but the line during most of the game was over 30 people long. My other beef was that when you buy your water they take the cap off and keep it. Why? What harm can I cause with a plastic bottle cap? This was particularly aggravating as I was carrying a sleeping Max on my shoulder(end of Vent). Anyhow, we were there to watch some baseball and to cheer the Mets on. It may be the Nationals’ stadium, but we were not by any stretch the only Mets fans.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

As you can see Rebecca was less than thrilled with the heat (Max was parked on my lap). It was brutal under the bright sunshine. There was only a fitful breeze to relieve the heat. I brought Max and Rebecca down into the shade, but they wanted to see the game and be with their Daddy. I remember at one point thinking that maybe it was a mistake to drag them to a ball game in July. I know I was feeling a bit off. Meanwhile, Max insisted on sitting on my lap and soon dozed off. Rebecca too was feeling sleepy from the heat and she slipped off to dreamland while cradled in her father’s arms.

About halfway through the fifth inning the sun had moved and we were in the shade and we all perked up. At that point I really started to enjoy the game. When Max awoke from his nap I took him down to get some salty snacks (because of his CF he needs extra salt when he gets all hot and sweaty, he had a headache and I knew that salt and water would do the trick) and refill our water bottles. Back at the seats we passed around the water, popcorn and nacho chips. Everybody was having a very good time.

Shortly after we finished our snack the team mascot bustled through our section. We pointed out Screech the Eagle to Max and Rebecca when he went by us. Max was fascinated and wanted to meet Screech. When Max and I got up to follow, Rebecca tagged along with us. It took some hustling on our part, but we did catch up with Screech. Here is our photographic proof:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Larry pointed out later that Max and Rebecca are wearing hats for the opposing team. I thought that was pretty funny.

At the seventh inning the Mets tied the game and went on to score a couple more runs in the ninth. Once the Mets took the lead people started to clear out of the stadium. Something I never could understand. There was still half an inning to go and the losing team would be at bat. Why leave now?I agreed with the people behind us who said something to the effect that “you don’t leave until the fat lady sings” and they “didn’t hear any fat ladies singing.”

With the open row in front of us I started to take some more group pictures. A lady lower down noticed my antics and offered to take a picture of us so that I could be included in the photo. I thought that sounded like a good idea and handed the camera over.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Of course Max had to sit on my lap so I’m not very visible in the picture.

At this point Max and Rebecca started getting a little silly. Larry then thought it would be nice if he took a picture of them with me.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I think it came out well. I had to grab one of Rebecca’s hands and Max’s left arm as they were having a little mock battle on my lap.

Shortly after this picture was taken the Mets made the last out and won the game. We all cheered and made our way back to the car and homewards. We didn’t go see any fireworks displays, but we did have fun this fourth of July

Happy Fouth of July!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Cake Blogging

While chatting with Meryl last night I came to the realization that I cake blog. Well there are worse things out there. At least cakes taste good.

Today I’ll tell you all about Jake’s birthday cake.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It is an orange cake that I found in my beloved 1946 edition of The Joy of Cooking. The lead off paragraph for the recipe is wonderful to read and I quote:

Most rules for orange cake prove to be disappointing, for upon reading them you find that they are merely sponge or butter cake with an orange filling. This one calls for orange juice in the batter plus orange icing. A gorgeous gilded lily presented without apologies.

Doesn’t that make you want to try this cake? Originally I was just skimming the cake section when that paragraph caught my eye. I then looked over the recipe and I had to agree that this one did indeed read well.

I then decided to see what my 1974 edition had to say about its orange cake. Right from the top there has been a change. No longer is it just orange cake, now it is orange-filled cake. I will now quote the lead paragraph:

Most rules for orange cake prove to be disappointing, for upon reading them you find that they are merely sponge or butter cake with an orange filling. This one calls for orange juice in the batter plus orange filling and icing (there is that filling again). Earrings for an elephant with no apologies!

Earrings for an elephant? What on earth does that mean?! Elephants are not something I associate with cake baking. The imagery of a gilded lily is far more appealing than a bejeweled pachyderm. I Googled the phrase and this is what I got. Not much out there. Fortunately the cake recipe itself had not been altered and without further ado, here it is.

Grate the rind of one orange
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup butter
3 eggs
3 cups cake flour sifted, then measured
¾ teaspoon salt
3 ½ teaspoons combination type baking powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Grate the rind into the sugar then add the butter and cream until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time into the butter mixture. In a separate bowl sift the flour and resift with the salt and baking powder. Measure and combine the orange juice, water and lemon juice. Add the sifted ingredients in thirds to the butter mixture alternately with the liquid. Beat the batter until it is smooth after each addition. Bake the cake in two greased and floured 9 inch cake pans (I use spring forms) at 375 for about half an hour.

Then the two editions diverge. In the 1946 edition the cake is iced with orange icing. The icing itself really isn’t what I would call a traditional frosting. It’s more of an orange glaze. It’s composed of:

2 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup orange juice less one tablespoon
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange rind (about one orange)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mix all of the ingredients together in the top of a double boiler over hot water for ten minutes. Beat the icing until cool and spreadable. I spread it on top of the bottom layer, place the top layer on it, pour the remainder over the top of the cake and allow it to drip down the sides.

The 1974 edition has the following directions at the end.

When the cake is cool spread between the layers: Orange Cream Filling, page 647.

The orange cream filling is a complicated affair that one point directs you to make custard. At the very end of the filling recipe we are then told to ice the cake with Luscious Orange Icing, page 676. On page 676 there is another involved recipe.

The editors took a very nice recipe and turned it into a scavenger hunt. I’ll stick with my 1946 edition, thank you very much.

The cake I made on Thursday was very well received. This is how much was left after the boys were tucked into bed.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I like how the cake has just “Happy” left on it. It really is a happy cake.