Friday, September 29, 2006

Happy Birthday Old Man!

Today is Crunch’s birthday. He still looks good at 14. So far he has gotten lots of pats, part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he got to lick the ice cream scoop after snack time.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

He is still, as I mentioned last year, in incredible shape for a dog his age. Here is a little movie of him trotting about the backyard.

To celebrate this hardy soul I’ve entered him at the Metropolitan Washington Dachshund Club’s fall specialty show. Crunch is entered in veteran sweepstakes, competitive veterans, stud dog and Jake is going to show him in Junior Showmanship. Poor John is only going to be shown in open and I have a feeling he is going to face some very stiff competition.

Jake is a little nervous, this will be his first time in the ring, but I’ll think he’ll do all right. I’ve always said Crunch would be a good junior’s dog. All he needs is someone to hold the lead, tell him what direction to go and put him up on the table. Crunch is a real show dog. He loves being in the ring and his tail never stops wagging.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thursday Three: Failure! Updated!

Once again it’s time to check out what all kids over at the Axis of Weevil are doing. Terry posts the following for our edutainment.

BUT IF THERE IS ONE THING that can be counted as success, it is that there IS INDEED an edition of the most funnest thing to do on a Thursday morning involving a computer and time to kill, The Axis of Weevil Thursday Three--Miserable Failure Edition!

Everyone loves a winner, right? Sure they do! But come on--failures are pretty doggone interesting, so let’s take a look at some of those today.

As usual, the object of the game is to answer the following three questions by either leaving a comment below, or a link to your very own highly successful blogging operation. Anyone may play, even people who are completely successful in all aspects of life. (As if anyone fitting that description would be here!)

SO, here we go:

1) What is one task that you have started innumerable times but just haven’t finished?

2) What one thing in your life would you consider your biggest mistake or failure?

3) What is your general attitude toward failure--do you see it as proof of your eternal inadequacy; simply part of life; something of a learning experience; or as something that shows you’re actually trying to do something?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha! *snort* Highly successful blogging operation!? Oh Terry you slay me!

1) Usually I finish whatever tasks I actually start. It might take a long time (and I do mean a long time), but eventually it all gets finished in the end. I guess right now it would be the deck. For the past 5+ years it has been in desperate need of reattaching and/or replacing many of its balusters. Every once and a while we give it a shot and starting putting one back up, but it is mind numbing work and we give up on it before completing the job.

2) I guess my biggest mistake, to date, was my failure to contact my Aunt Rose when we first moved down to Virginia. I think there were a few years before she was lost to the thrall of Alzheimer’s and I would have met my cousins before they scattered to the four winds. That really is my biggest regret.

3)*Failure is a part of life. If you have never failed at something, then you have never tried to stretch yourself. Failure, as we all know, stinks, but you can usually learn something new from each failure.

Mind you I have had lots of lesser failures in my life, but those are the big ones. I guess what I can take away from them is that I should stop procrastinating and just get up and do it.

* I did write this yesterday, but somehow it got lost in the posting.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Artist of the Week: Illustration

As I mentioned last week I have been purging the house of extraneous ancient school work. This week’s selection is of a fairly recent vintage and was created by Jake.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Jake had a massive project in fourth grade near the end of the school year. It was a Virginia History ABC book with additional chapters focusing on Historical figures prominent in Virginia history, historical documents and a brief comparison of the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. The final product got a nice spiral binding and is a fairly weighty tome.

Jake struggled with it for seemingly weeks. The worse part was the teacher kept pushing the deadline back. At first I thought it was just Jake misunderstanding what was going on, but after a speaking with another parent I found out it really was the teacher. This drove me batty. I like clear deadlines and for over a week and a half it dragged on. In the end it was to Jake’s benefit, in that he was able to complete the task, but he didn’t learn anything about deadlines.

Anyway, I digress. At one point he made this wonderful illustration of John Brown.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I think he was trying to capture the 1859 image by Black and Batchelder, but it is a little more like the mural “Tragic Prelude” by John Steuart Curry in the Kansas State Capitol. In the end he decided not to use it, instead he printed out images culled from the internet. It was much easier and a whole lot faster, but it was a bit of a loss.

Jake sometimes goes on about he can’t draw, but I disagree. I love it and I was very careful to tuck it out of harm’s way. It is very evocative of the drawings of Quentin Blake, a wonderful illustrator that brilliantly captured Roald Dahl’s characters.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Look

No, I’m not talking about that particular glare parents use when their children step out of line in public. Mind you I do have that one down pat. Instead, I’m referring to the one I give when I’m asked The Question.

It’s a question that all stay at home parents have to field on a regular basis and it becomes no less irritating over time.

The Question is “Do you work?”

I know it is just a way to make conversation, but it annoys me just the same. Part of me wants to get all sassy and say “No! I just sit around the house all day eating bon-bons."

I usually get The Question when I’m out and about with my brood and I have sat down while they swirl about, be it the mall, a doctor’s office or the park.

A nearby stranger comments about my children and asks either are they all mine or how many do I have. We chat for a bit and then they ask. And that is when they get the look.

Yesterday I was asked the question during Nate’s soccer practice. I was chatting with a grandmother of one of Nate’s teammates. She is a pleasant women and I was enjoying our conversation. When she asked about my employment status I didn’t say a word. I arched my brow, spread my hands towards my children and gave a little smile. She paused at the end of the question and then continued. “Well you do work, but do you...”and then trailed off.

At that point I was happy that she had acknowledged that I do indeed work.

I replied at that point by saying, “No, not outside the home. They are my work. Anyway, I don’t even want to think about the childcare costs.”

Then we were back to watching our respective charges and talking about what was happening on the field.

I guess what I find so irritating is that most people do not recognize that what I do is work. Infinitely aggravating, but infinitely rewarding work. Before children I was once gainfully employed and I do plan to return in a few years, but for now my children are my work.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cool Site of the Day

This weekend the fine folks over at Cool Site of the Day offered up a really fun site, Let them sing it for you.

The kids and I had loads of fun typing in all sorts of silly phrases. One of Nate’s favorites was “my pants are on fire!” I had fun calling Larry to dinner by emailing him “dinner time.” Of course in order to work I had to send my minions over to tell him to read his email, but it was fun none the less.

The data base is not perfect, but it did have a fair amount in it and it is an ongoing process. Below is a quote about the site from the creator, Eric B√ľnger:

By typing in a text of any kind you can get it sung for you by some of the world’s greatest pop stars. A database of sung words has been built up and is supposed to be gradually growing through the users’ own interaction. If you find a word missing in our sound vocabulary, just tell us, and we will extract the word from a song of your choice, and add it to our database.

The kids had fun listening to the computer sing absurd phrases. I enjoyed puzzling out the songs and artists.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy New Year

L’shana Tovah. May your new year be sweet.

Sunset tonight marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Sabbath.

Meryl is coming over for dinner and then services at my Synagogue. We’ll feast on brisket, tzimmes, roasted potatoes and Challah. I even picked up a nice kosher red wine in her honor; it should be good with the brisket. And then will stuff ourselves again at the oneg. I’ll be bringing a Swedish Sugar cake with Lingonberries and a plate of brownies.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday Three: Old Timer

It is that time of the week again and bright and early this morning Terry posted the following:


It’s time again for the 5,901st (or so) consecutive edition of the Axis of Weevil Thursday Three! Last week’s theme dealt with items of a novel and new-fangled nature, so as a counterpoise to that, THIS week we will talk about things ancient and decrepit. Sound like fun? OF COURSE IT DOES!!

As with all T-Threes, we will give you three questions, and in return expect nothing but your time and answers to those questions. All you have to do is either leave your response below, or leave a link to your blog so we can come over there and look and see what all you’ve written.

To begin, then:

1) What is the oldest book you own? (Modern reprints of old books don’t count, so don’t say stuff like the Bible. Unless you actually HAVE an old copy of the Bible, in which case that’s okay.)
2) What is the oldest object you have that you still use on a regular basis?
3) What is your favorite old joke?

Well then, there you go. Hobble off on your walkers and try to remember what the quiz was about, and tell us your answers!

Old stuff, I like old stuff. I grew up in an old house filled with old furniture and old books. This is a fun set of questions.

1) I have a 1927 edition of The Arabian Nights in all its un-PC glory.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I also have a seventh edition of Swiss Family Robinson from the Every Boys Library series.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It has no publication date (the page may be missing) so it may give the aforementioned Arabian Nights a run for its money. Below is the front’s piece of the book.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I like the caption of the color plate “The Dead Shark” when it is clearly a whale. I think that indicates that this is a fairly old book.

2) The oldest objects I regularly use would be my roasting pans. My mother gave them to me years ago and they have stood me in good stead. They are perfectly seasoned and as a result are a snap to clean. I also like how I can make the gravy in the roasting pan, something that can be a bit tricky in a disposable pan.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

My mother got them from Mama Leonardi and the pans are antiques. She thinks they are from around the turn of the century.

3) I don’t really have a favorite old joke. Right now I’m exposed to a constant barge of very bizarre 4 year old jokes. They often lack a punch line and do not make any sense, but the delivery is always spot on.

It’s late and now I’ve got to head on up to bed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Artist of the Week: How to Eat an Oreo

This week’s artist is Nate. Here he is during last week’s soccer game.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

He can be very intense when he is on the field, but he has a very silly side too. He will make a big play and then collapse in a happy heap on the ground. Last year one of his best friends was on the opposing team. At one point they crashed together and fell to the ground. They then repeated the maneuver throughout the game.

Last week I was plowing through the vast collection of school work brought home for the past year (I should do this more often, but I don’t). I found a lot of junk, three paper grocery bags worth to be precise. But I also found a few gems. One of which was a charming little book titled:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I will now present to you the book in its entirety, first grade spelling and grammar intact.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The book starts off in a straight forward manner. Note the “E” for excellent from his teacher.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

We are now instructed to break the cookie in half.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Then lick the icing. I first read it as like, but then I realized he meant lick, a sensible way to eat an Oreo.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

At this point you would think the book is done. What more do you need than, “finally eat the cookie”? But there is more.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Not only are you given the artist’s name, you get a clear statement declaring the end, a lovely drawing of an oreo and the final fate of the cookie.

You have to look carefully beneath the cookie. Nate was even so helpful as to actually label the end product.

I wonder if his teacher noticed this. Heaven knows we did and we thought it was quite funny. In a first grade humor sort of way.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Avast Me Hearties!

This be Cap’n Red Dog, I be remind’n ye that it be “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

We be a crew of three. Meself,Cap’n Red Dog; the murderous wench Ol’ Black Rally and that pup, the Young John are aboard The Flyin’ Teckel.

So join me and me crew in a heartfelt Arrrrrrrrrrrrf.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ever Sunshine

As I have mentioned before, I have been redoing the downstairs bathroom. The wallpaper was peeling and stained with pee. There was a big hole in the hole from when a small person grabbed the towel bar as though it was a grab bar and pulled it off the wall. Three. Times. The first time I changed the towel bar to one that would cover the hole. The second time I was able to shift the bar a bit and cover the now bigger hole. The third time I gave up and put away the towel bar.

We lived this way for quite awhile. In order to fix the hole I would have to redo the walls. I didn’t just want to use a patch of wallpaper because it would be all fresh and lovely, in direct contrast to the battered paper surrounding it. Painting would be good idea, but I’d have to strip the walls so as to eliminate the pee stained areas. So I procrastinated. Then our home got tapped for the September meeting of my dachshund club.

Larry and I discussed what color the bathroom should be. He thought so sort of off white would be nice. I liked the idea of yellow. Normally I not a bold color person, but I have my reasons. Larry paused for a moment to mull the idea of color and then replied “Ahh, all the better to hide the pee.”


Mind you I would clean the pee, but I do not want a repeat of the staining on the wallpaper.

So I brought home a bunch of samples. We even asked the piano teacher her opinion. (Hey, she does use the bathroom when she comes by, so why not?) She liked something called yellow brick road and Larry preferred chilled lemonade. I was useless and liked both. They are both moderate yellows and I thought either would look nice.

Of course when it came time to buy the paint I got neither. It turns out I was looking at the wrong section, I wanted the more durable paint from Pratt & Lambert. The yellow I did get was “ever sunshine” and was right between yellow brick road and chilled lemonade.

Then I painted the walls.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Oh my, what have I done?

It is a far more virulent shade of yellow than I expected. You go into the bathroom and it fairly screams YELLOW!

With the second coat things did improve. I think I’ll end up doing three coats in all. Of course I’ll have to do the ceiling too, since it looks grubby compared to the bright yellowness below.

The good news is after a few days I’m getting to like all the yellow and I found a home for a piece of art I picked up a the farmer’s market a year or so ago.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The yellow on the walls almost matches the yellow in the picture. I’m going to frame it with a nice big mat and a black frame. It should look very sharp when I’m all done. Oh, and the funniest part was what Jake said this morning. “It looks like pee is all over the place in the bathroom.”

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Hot New Grill

Today, Sunday, some of the members of my dachshund club came over for a barbeque and meeting.

Originally it was scheduled to be at someone else’s house, but since she has puppies due that weekend the club decided it was best to go elsewhere. The elsewhere turned out to be our house.

In a way it was good, it got me to really buckle down and work on the downstairs bathroom. The peeling, pee-stained wallpaper had to go and the two holes needed to be fixed. It also inspired me to get a new grill.

Last year during hurricane season our old grill collapsed in a heap of rust as I moved it in and out of our crawlspace to protect it from the weather. So we have spent the past year grill-less. This wasn’t too great a hardship, since our cooktop is a Jenn-Air and I can switch out the burners for an indoor grill. But, it wasn’t the same thing as a real honest to goodness grill.

So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been trolling the internet and looking for sales in and around town. I settled on this one: the Coleman RoadTrip LXE. It’s portable, fairly powerful, and easy to set-up and to clean. I picked one up at Dick’s Sporting goods on Friday when we getting some goalie gloves for Jake.

This morning I set up the grill on the deck. I was eager to fire it up. It is our third gas grill, but it is the first one we have ever bought. Our first grill was left for us by the owners of our previous house. It was a bit battered, but still serviceable. I was even able to salvage a few replacement parts from a similar grill left by the roadside. Shortly after we moved to our current house my Mom gave us her old grill. We were up there picking up some furniture and she gave it to us. She was no longer using it and we had room in the truck so we happily took her up on the offer since our old grill was on its way out. Then it too rusted away. Hopefully the new one will escape a similar fate. I plan to store it in the garage and out of the elements.

I’m happy to report that it’s a snap to use and did a fabulous job on the burgers. It is easy to move it about and we should be able to just through it into van and go. I love our new grill, it rocks!

Friday, September 15, 2006

County Fair Challah

As I have mentioned before I bake Challah for us on Friday for Shabbat and this week is no exception. After a bit of hunting through the myriad of cookbooks I own I settled on a fairly traditional loaf from The International Kosher Cookbook The 92nd Street Y Kosher Cooking school.
Today, challah refers to the Sabbath loaves. To keep up with progress, this recipe was developed for the food processor to save time, but it can also be mixed in a large bowl.*

2 packages active dry yeast
6 to 8 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) margarine, melted**
1 ¾ cups water
5 eggs

Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

In the bowl or the food processor, combine yeast, 3 cups of flour, sugar and salt. In a medium saucepan (I use a microwave) melt the margarine with the water. Heat to about 110 F (liquid should feel hot, but not burn your finger). Add the still warm liquid to the flour mixture. Mix until fully blended.

While the machine is running add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, until blended. Gradually add enough flour to form a ball of dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. If a processor is used pulse the dough around the container 25 times.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 10 to 15 times, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease sides. Cover and let rise about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and divide into three pieces. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 1 ½ inches in diameter and coil each rope into a circle. Place the coils on a cookie sheet and allow to rise for 45 minutes.

In a small bowl beat the remaining egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Brush each challah with the egg mixture. This gives the challah its characteristic shiny appearance. If used, sprinkle the loaves with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake the challah at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes.

This yields three large Round challahs that are commonly made for Rosh Hashanah (which is just around the corner). Normally I halve the recipe and get two moderate sized braided loaves; one I bake that day the other I braid and freeze for the following week. Instead of dividing the dough into three pieces I divide it in half, one for each loaf. Then I further divide the dough into four balls. Three of the balls are rolled into ropes about 10 to 12 inches long and are braided together. The remaining ball is divided into three and the three pieces are rolled into ropes the same length, just thinner. The three skinny ropes are braided and placed on top. At this point I bag and freeze the extra loaf, the remaining loaf has the egg brushed on top and is baked for about 25 minutes. The loaf is ready when it is golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. I used to put poppy seeds on top, but I no longer do since they do bad things to Larry’s digestive system.

*I use my stand mixer.
**I use butter unless I want to make a pareve loaf.

Whew, now for the county fair connection.

By the barrel train there was an assortment of tractors and various pieces of farm equipment. Amongst them there were a couple of flour mills. Jake and Nate picked up a bag of flour to take home. As they made off with their (free!) booty the woman pointedly asked them what do you do with flour. They looked a bit blank and hemmed and hawed a bit until I gave them an answer, we’ll make bread. She nodded her head and agreed; bread was a good thing to make with this flour.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

So today I’m making County Fair Challah. I’ll try to post a picture later of the finished product.

It was a very tasty loaf, just a bit crumbly.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The challah was rustic in appearance with a nice whole wheat flavor. Next time I'll go half and half with my regular flour. That should give the dough a bit more elasticity, but preserving the whole wheat taste.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Return of the Thursday Three: Shiny New Things!

This week heralds the return of the perennial favorite and all round good blog filler The Axis of Weevil Thursday Three! Terry, our illustrious leader, posts the following:
OH YES! The Thursday Three this week celebrates newness and novelty and originality and freshness and sparkly brightness with THIS SET OF QUESTIONS:

1) What are three new books that you’ve read recently?
2) What three new products have you tried lately and what were your experiences?
3) What are three new movies or shows or plays or whatever that you have seen lately, or would like to go see soon?


So, leave your answers below or a link to your exciting new blog post for us all to come peruse.

Oooo, shiny!

1.) This summer I picked up a copy of Funny Cide at our local dollar store. I love horses, horse racing and a really good deal on a hardcover book so I couldn’t resist. It is a surprisingly good read. It is a well written book about how some ordinary guys ended up with an extraordinary racehorse. Halfway through I realized the author had co-written “Every Second Counts,” A terrific book about Lance Armstrong that I inhaled a few years ago at the beach.

A few days ago I just finished “Finn the Wolfhound.” Admittedly it is not a new book and this is the second time around for me, but it had been over twenty years since I last read it and felt like a new book once again. It is a gripping story of the travels of an Irish wolfhound named Finn. His life starts out well enough in England, but through misfortune, just plain bad luck and the cruelty of man he ends up in the wilds of Australia. It is an excellent book, but I think my boys are still a bit young for it. The abuse Finn experiences would horrify my sons.

Right now I’m reading “Starfish” by Peter Watts. It is a rip roaring sci-fi set in the San Juan de Fuca Rift in the Pacific Ocean. The tone of the novel is quite dark and is filled with graphic language and some violence. I am completely taken by it, again not a book for my children to read.

2.) I love Glad Press’n Seal. It is far superior to just plain old plastic wrap. It really does seal to everything.

I got a new digital camera this spring to replace our ancient frankencamera which finally gave up the ghost. My new camera is a Fuji FinePix E900. It is a fantastic camera that is a snap to use. I love using it so much I actually upgraded my Flickr account. I swore I would never pay for this blogging thing, but it is worth it so the grandmas can see all the pictures. It’s cheaper than getting reprints.

The last item was a bit of a dud. We were driving back from Virginia Beach and passed a multitude of peanut stands. Jake had a hankering for peanuts so we stopped and picked up a tin. They are Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield. It says gourmet peanuts on the can and it was nicely vacuum packed, but I find them stale, dry and not very tasty. I’ll stick with Planters dry roasted or Spanish peanuts.

3) Cars, it was great fun for the whole family.

X-Men II: The Last Stand, a terrific flick. Larry and I made an effort to see it on the big screen and we are glad we did.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, our whole family is eagerly awaiting the restart of the series this Friday. Just the other day the kids and I were discussing what sort of bender each one would be. Nate was the easiest; he would be a water bender. He loves playing in the water and would spend hours in the tub if we let him. We thought Rebecca would be a fire bender because of her temper; she got mad at that point. Jake thought earth bending would suit him since he is stubborn. This left air bending for Max, which is not a bad fit. However, with his huge feet and stocky build I think he could be an earth bender, then again he doesn’t like getting dirty.

That’s it for me, I’ve got to go paint a bathroom now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Artist of the Week: Soap

This week’s artist is my Aunt Rose. Below are some photographs of her in the program from the memorial service.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

In her day she was an avid horsewoman, skilled at needlework and in her younger years she assisted her mother, my grandmother, in bookbinding and making marbled endpapers.

I suspect she was also a very independent woman in her own way. During World War II she went to Washington and worked for the intelligence unit of the War Department. I think the picture on the left was taken around then.

Anyway, during the reception after the memorial service one of her daughters brought out a good sized wicker basket. It was filled with what looked like some sort of artisan bread or possibly cheese.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

In reality it was soap, lye soap to be precise. About thirty years ago my Aunt Rose decided to try making her own soap.

Why, I’ll never know, but I’m sure the innate Yankee frugality in my family had something to do with it.

My cousins found it in the barn and decided it would be fun to have it out after the service. Everyone was welcome to take some home.

I think mine will end up by the garage sink. It is suppose to be pretty potent stuff.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sometimes it’s Good Not to Have a Car

On Monday Larry dropped off his car to be inspected, find out why the airbag light keeps cutting out and to replace the timing belt. They were able to get everything done except the air bag. It needed one little part and they wouldn’t get it until Tuesday morning. Since Larry had to get to work in a timely fashion we decided that he would take the van. As a result I was sans car today.

I was able to cage a ride for Max, Rebecca and me to and from preschool. One of their classmates, Lydia, is a good friend and lives in our subdivision and her mom, Theresa, was more than happy to give us a ride. (Theresa can not just drop off Max and Rebecca because I have to sign in Max’s enzymes each day.) The plan was that we would get picked up after the boys got on the bus, the kids would be dropped off, then I would go to the library and we would meet up again around 1:00pm for pick-up time at the preschool (it’s a half day program). Theresa offered to drive me home, but I didn’t want to inconvenience her any further. The preschool is located within walking distance to all sorts of businesses, county offices and the library. I could easily amuse myself for four hours.

It all worked out. The only hitch was that forgot the library doesn’t open until 10:00 am. I was disappointed while Theresa was unnerved by the prison work crew doing the landscaping. We decided that Starbucks was the place to go.

I lasted about 2 minutes there. I don’t drink coffee and the place was jammed. Instead I wandered around the county government complex. I took pictures of the old jail.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Complete with stocks!

I checked out the progress on the new jail.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It’s big, it’s imposing and I hope I never have to go near there.

I discovered that the county has a huge petrified tree trunk that was fished out of the James River.

There are three buildings dedicated to local county history. They are a museum, a library and a historical plantation that are all within walking distance. Sadly all were closed for renovations for the upcoming 400 year anniversary next year.

The fine folks at the parks and recreation building are very friendly and helpful.

It was very pleasant rambling around. I was even able to read a book while at the library.

When it was almost time to meet my ride and get the kids I walked over to the local hardware store to get paint chips for the bathroom.

It was a nice slow paced way to spend my morning.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Robert Garvin McCarthy

On the fifth anniversary of tragic day I’m devoting this space to the remembrance of Robert Garvin McCarthy.

I was given this name when I signed up at 2,996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11. Each and every victim, from The Twin Towers, to The Pentagon and the lonely field in Pennsylvania is listed. The workers going about their day and those trapped onboard the four jets. Each person has at least one blogger volunteer to write about them on the fifth anniversary of their untimely death.

Robert was just 33 and a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. He was at work on a perfectly ordinary day. Sixteen days previously his wife Annie had just given birth to their son Shane, their first and sadly only child. They had been married for a little over two years when Robert’s life was so suddenly cut short. Their seventh anniversary would have been this past August 21st.

I wondered what he would have come up with to top what he done after dating Annie for five years. He sent six dozen roses to the salon where she worked: a dozen for each year and a dozen for her co-workers.

When Annie interviewed a year after 9/11 she said the following about her then one year old son:

"It's just so sad. It's always sad when I look at Shane. I look at him and I'm sad because he looks just like Rob, but that also makes me grateful to have him every day."

"He's a happy baby, a friendly baby, a crazy baby," she said. "He's a little daredevil, and he looks just like Rob with green eyes and light hair."

Shane will never get to play catch with his dad or share in his father’s jokes. He is not the only child who was robbed of a parent five years ago.

Robert’s sister, Mary Jean O'Leary, remembered on one memorial web page how he was always laughing when he was little. She suffered a double blow that day, not only did she lose her brother but her own husband as well.

It is said on the memorial pages I could find of him that he loved life and as one friend, Jon Fullick, wrote "You lived out loud and I love you for it."

I wished he had been able to live out loud for a while longer.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Return of the Soccer Mom

The boys have been going to practice for the past two weeks (Rebecca is not playing soccer due to her complete lack of interest). Yesterday was the official start to the fall soccer season with a morning filled with games.

Nate was first up with a 9:00 am game. His practices have been interesting since it was only at the last practice that enough team members showed up for a complete team. On game day his team had the minimum amount of players. There were no substitutes and near the end of the game one child dropped out from shear exhaustion. It’s hard to play the whole game without substitutes. The impressive part was that Nate’s team completely dominated the game, even when they were down a player.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Nate had a great time. I only caught the last 1/3 of the game because Larry went to the field first with Nate. I came a bit later with the rest of the crowd.

Next up was Max. His game was conveniently located right next to where Nate’s team had played. We moved on over to watch Max’s team in action. Max plays on a U(under)5 team. At this level it is usually just a little mob of kids moving around the tiny field and there are no goalies. Max’s team also dominated the game. One little girl was adorable she would kick the ball down the field and then turn toward her parents with the biggest smile.

Max has become a much better player since last season.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Last spring he made one goal for the whole season, yesterday he made four. Each time he would make a break from the pack and dribble the ball down the field and into the goal. I was even able to catch one such breakaway on film.

Last season he did not have quite the ball control that he has now. It is fun to see how he has progressed since last spring. I guess taking him to soccer camp was worth while.

Then it was Jake’s turn. I didn’t take any pictures of his game because a 1/2 of my time was spent walking small people to and from the restroom. A restroom that I would like to note had a, umm, minimalist air about it. Normally (at least in the woman’s room, I can’t vouch for the men’s portion) there are three stalls along the far wall and facing them two sinks. On Friday I had stopped by the park and the restrooms were locked and two port-o-potties were stationed out front. On Saturday the restrooms were unlocked, but there were no stalls, just three toilets all in a row. It was decidedly odd; however it was better than the rather nasty port-o-potties out front. At least the toilets flushed, there was ample tp and the sinks worked. Anyway I spent a lot of time trotting back and forth to the game and missed a fair amount.

But what I did see of the game was quite good. At Jake’s level U12 it is an actual game with passing. The teams were fairly closely matched in skill and that made for a good game to watch. Jake’s team lost by one goal, but it was a really good effort. I think as the season progresses they will get better.

So now I’m back o being the proverbial soccer mom.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Orange Custard

As I briefly mentioned the other day, I brought a cake to the memorial service. When my cousin Kay first called about the memorial service I asked her if there was anything I could do. She was very touched by the gesture and thought maybe I could bring a cake or something. She wasn’t sure and wanted ton check with her sister Victoria. Her sister is a minister and would be leading the service. The next day Kay called back and said Victoria thought a cake would be marvelous.

After a bit of thought I proposed an orange cake with orange filling wrapped in Italian buttercream. Kay was floored, she told that sounded terribly elegant and that I shouldn’t bother. She came around when I told that baking is my thing. I like to bake cakes and I had made my brother’s wedding cake.

Monday I baked the cake layers. I ended up making three of my orange cakes in my 12 inch cake pan. One batch of batter yields one smallish 9 inch cake or one layer for a 12 inch cake. I probably could have skipped the last layer, but I was on a roll.

Tuesday I made the orange filling. It is a type of custard and the first one I have ever made. The recipe is my 1946 Joy of Cooking.

Orange Filling
Sufficent to spread between two 9 inch layers.*
Stir and cook in a double boiler until thick:
½ teaspoon grated orange rind (optional)**
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons orange juice
1/3 cup water
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
Cool the filling.

*Since I was making a 12 inch cake one batch would cover one layer, therefore since I was making three layers I made a double batch

**Because this was a double batch I grated the ring of one orange.

While I was making the custard I let it sit undisturbed for long periods. I found out later that I was supposed to continuously stir the mixture while it is heating to prevent lumps. Mine did get a bit lumpy at one point, but I was able it save it with some diligent mixing. The end result was very tasty.

Once the custard ws done cooking I set it aside to cool and started in on the butter cream. I have written about the buttercream before. It is a tricky thing to make, but it is worth the effort. It is easily the best tasting frosting I have ever tasted.
Then it was assembly time. First I put down the bottom layer on my cake board. On top of that layer I piped a circle of buttercream around the edge of the cake to hold in the custard. The orange custard ws then spooned on. The next layer was placed on top and again I piped the buttercream and topped with custard.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Then the last layer was placed on top. The whole cake was then frosted with buttercream. First was the crumb coat. I then refrigerated the cake to solidify the frosting before applying the final layer. While the cake chilled after the final frosting I made buttercream roses. It has easily been a decade since I last made roses. The buttercream was a bit softer than royal icing, but after a few false starts, a couple of blobby messes and a bit of chilling in the fridge I pulled it off. I glad I was able to do it. I felt obligated to make a few roses since that was my Aunt’s name. Then I added a few leaves and wrote her name on the cake. The finishing touch was a star border piped along the base of the cake. I was quite pleased with the end result and Larry was impressed.

The cake was well received and a fair amount of it was taken home by various cousins to be savored later. As I was leaving Kay handed me a flower arrangement and I took this picture of the cake with the flowers.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

You can see the roses I made, which had held up very well. All that is left of my Aunt’s name was Rose, which was very fitting for the picture.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


The memorial for my Aunt Rose was lovely. After one wrong turn and a pit stop for the bathroom and snacks we got there just before the service started. My cousin Kay spotted me in the parking and whisked my cake away to the reception hall. I then herded Max and Rebecca into the chapel.

The church itself is a lovely little building.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Inside the chapel are two rows of pews that, along with the walls are painted white. Stained glass windows are in the front and back of the chapel. Most of the pews were full when we stepped inside so we sat in the pew in the back that was just off of the entrance and next to the organ. I figured it was best for us to be in back so we could beat a hasty retreat if my two charges proved to be disruptive. Rebecca loved our spot because of the little spots of color on the floor in front of us. Light was streaming in from the stained glass window directly behind us and making the little bight pools of color.

During the service more and more people filtered in and sat down on our bench. Max at one point declared he was tired and climbed onto my lap. Soon afterwards he lost his spot on the bench. This resulted in a small (but quiet) wrestling match on the floor between Max and Rebecca on which one would get the seat. Fortunately the service was short and when the chapel emptied out with everyone filing by us, Max and Rebecca stood quietly by my side.

Now it was time for cookies and cakes. Max and Rebecca filled up on brownies and fruit. A young girl, about 6 years old, joined us. Her name is Elizabeth and it turns out she is my Cousin Victoria’s daughter. The three of them hit it off and soon piled out onto the playground.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Rebecca loved having someone female to playmate.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

And Max was just happy there was another kid to play with.

There was genuine sadness from all three when it was time to go.

I, meanwhile, got to meet Victoria. She turned out to be a really neat person to know. She’s witty and sharp. I wish I had been a bit more motivated to meet my Virginia cousins. Sadly she and her immediate family had just moved to Dallas.

However, they will be back to visit family and they view the move as just temporary. I hope we will get to reconnect in the near future.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Aunt Rose

Today I’m going to the memorial service of my Aunt Rose. She was 93 when she passed away last week. Her body had been failing and she had long lost herself to Alzheimer’s.

Her age is not a typo and she was my Aunt, not my Great Aunt. Rose was the second eldest child of seven and my mother, her sister, was the baby of the family. Since my mother was the youngest and she had my brother and me rather late in life it has resulted in a huge range of ages in my generation. As I like to tease my husband, I’m actually of his mother’s generation.

I think the last time I saw my Aunt Rose was when I was a little bit older than Jake. She had come north from Virginia to visit family for some reason or other. My only memory was her comment that I had good skin and I should keep it that way by not roasting myself in the sun like she did when she was young. I come from very fair stock and our skin is more likely to burn than tan.

The service is being held up in Aldie at a little Church called The Episcopal Church of Our Redeemer. It’s a bit of a drive, but I’m going since I’m one of the very few members of the family within driving distance. I go to represent my mother as well. At 77, the trek from Vermont to Virginia is too far.

I know some of my cousins and at least one Aunt will be journeying down from Massachusetts. I will also get to meet one of my cousins for the very first time. Victoria is one of Rose’s children and we have never met. Larry was surprised since she is a first cousin, but that is what happens with the bookend members of the generation. Also I had grown up in Connecticut and Vermont while Victoria was in Virginia.

It will be a bittersweet family reunion today.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school for Jake, Nate, Max and Rebecca. Max and Rebecca were particularly excited last night. It took the longest time to get them to settle down and going to sleep. In the end I had to tell them if they didn’t go to sleep I wouldn’t take them to school. That will probably be the last time I ever make that threat.

This morning everybody got up and for the most part they were keen to go. Jake was a little apprehensive, but that is normal for him. It was bit chaotic between finishing Max’s therapies, getting breakfast on the table and packing lunches (Yes I know I should pack lunches the night before). Then the magic hour struck and it was time to load up into the van and go to the bus stop.

Here are a few shots from the bus stop.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Nate was very accommodating and was happy to pose for the camera. Jake was less so. In fact he got quite mad when I took any pictures of him.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

So I settled of this one of Jake and Nate getting onto the bus.

Then it was off to Max and Rebecca’s preschool.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Max is all buckled up with his backpack next to him. Just after I took this picture it dawned on him that everybody was going to school. “Mamma you’ll be all alone!”

“Yes I will Max, I’ll be all alone today” was my reply.


Rebecca then asked “Are you going to stay with me?”

I then asked her “Do I stay with Jake and Nate when they are at school.”

“No. Okay, I’ll see you later.”

At the preschool the parking lot was jammed with cars. The place we go to has day care for preschoolers and before and after school care for school aged kids. Parents were loitering to take pictures of their kids as they boarded the school buses for the first day of school. The resulting barrage of photos as the kids lined up and entered the bus would have put the paparazzi to shame.

Meanwhile I shepherded my two to their classroom. Once inside Max went immediately to the Lego table.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

He was happy as a clam and didn’t even look for me until I said goodbye. Then it was a brief wave and he was back to building.

Rebecca popped out once when I was talking to the director about Max’s needs, but she was very happy to be with her friend from soccer, Lydia.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

She didn’t even look up when I said goodbye.

I’ll do a little update later after I get them home. So far there have been no phone calls from anguished children. As the owner of the preschool noted, they seemed to handling it well.

Oh and what am I doing today?

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Stripping wallpaper just as I said I would.

They both had a good day. Rebecca is in a bit of a snit now. I think it's her way of telling me that she wanted to stay longer, but that she also missed me. Max is a little trooper and had fun.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Croc Hunter No More

As y’all probably know Steve Irwin died today from a stingray barb in the chest.

We have always enjoyed his shows. His broad Aussie mannerisms, boundless energy and love of all living creatures was very endearing.

I feel sorrow for his family, but even more so for little Bob. Not even three, he will have very few memories of his Dad. However he does an amazing collection of film footage that will help learn who his father was.

Go in peace Steve.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ernesto Was a Bust, But the Fair Was Good

All day Friday it rained, sometimes heavy, sometimes lightly, but that was pretty much it. The wind did blow a bit and our lawn is covered with leaves, however it really wasn’t that impressive. Jake and Nate played in the rain and had a great time damming up the flow from our gutters and generally mucking about in the wet.

Saturday was gorgeous. It was perfect weather for attending the county fair. The plan was that we would meet up with Larry’s co-workers at the children’s tent. There are places to sit, it’s out of the sun and there are things for the kids to do. So let’s go to the County Fair.

let's go
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It worked out very well. We all had each other’s cell phones so we were able to keep in contact and we didn’t have to wait for the stragglers. In fact the boys had a great time with Henry (a co-worker’s son) in the corn crib. If you click on the photo it will lead you to a whole set of photos.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Even one of the little guys, Christian, helped out. Rebecca, however, was more interested in playing with the apples. Then we all headed over to the barrel train.

All of the kids loved the barrel train and I even got to ride it. On Saturday they had a trailer with a little bench seat on the end and adults got to join in on the fun. I recorded the ride, so now we have a virtual barrel train.

One little guy, that was in our group, rode the train three correction five times. I think his Mom tired of it before he did. And I just found out she actually crammed herself in the barrel with him for his first ride. I know she's very slender, but how on earth did she do it. Where did she put her legs?

Meanwhile we headed over to the midway with a brief stop at the pony ride for Rebecca.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

You can see how happy she is up on the pony. Then it was on to midway rides and pig races.

The races were a hoot. The Hogway Speedway was provided by Circle C Farms and was more than just pig racing. There were goats, pot bellied pigs and, my favorite, ducks. The ducks didn’t exactly race around the track. It was more of a high speed waddle in pursuit of a tasty treat back up in the truck. The kids all cheered like mad and had a very good time watching the races.
At this point it was getting late and we started to head home when Max noticed the pony ride. Earlier he wasn’t interested, but now he wanted to have a try.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

He doesn’t look as happy as Rebecca did, but he did have a good time.

It was a very good day.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Yesterday my house was driving me crazy.

Shortly after Larry left for work the security system started to beep. Every five minutes a short beep could be heard throughout the house. It has done this before when the back up battery for the system was no longer functional. You can’t shut off the beep. The only way to stop it is to replace the battery.

Of course the battery is something so exotic that you just can’t get it at any of the local stores. No, you have to schlep far away to a battery specialty store.

So could I rush out to get a new?

Of course not!

I had to first go to the school’s open house to meet Jake and Nate’s teachers and drop off their school supplies. At least it got me away from the infernal beeping.

Then it was back home to wait. The septic tank guy was coming by to pump out our septic tank. Nothing is wrong with our system, it was just due. The state mandates the septic tanks must be pumped out every five years.

I didn’t mind waiting, but the beeping was driving me nuts. My solution was to watch The Incredibles with the kids.  

At about 3:30pm my knight in a grubby white truck appeared.

In short order he uncovered the hatch and pumped out the tank, much to the boys’ fascination. Rebecca, of course, deemed it to be too stinky and refused to have anything to do with the whole process.

Once free of my septic obligations I called up the Battery Barn to confirm that they did have the right battery. Then I rounded up the troops to go pick it up.

I had never been there before and I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s great. The previous time the back-up battery went kaput I went to a chain store. It was bright, clean and utterly devoid of personality.

The Battery Barn is an old Quonset hut grafted onto an ancient brick warehouse. Four guys hung out under the overhang on the side of the warehouse. They were quite bemused as we piled out of the van. Max was slow in getting out so we waited for him under the overhang. It was raining and I didn’t want to get any wetter than I had too. The men asked if there was anything they could get for me and I explained that I was waiting for one more to emerge. Then I told them about how my house was beeping and that I needed a replacement battery. One of the guys winced in sympathy.

The inside the building was crowded with all sorts of flashlights and stuff. Three people, two men and a woman, were crammed behind the counter. Rebecca, who was sleepy from the car ride, was in my arms. She reached out and tried to ring the bell for service. At the last second I fended her off and pointed out the three behind the counter. The guy in the middle looked over at us and with a slight smile asked “Who tried to ring the bell?”

Rebecca shyly ducked her head and tried to hide while I said “She did.”

He replied “I thought so” with a big grin.

I then handed over a slip of paper on which I wrote what kind of battery I need.

The woman rang up our order and the one we spoke with sent the other, younger guy, out back for the battery. He returned in short order and I paid my $19 and went home. As I pulled away three of the four guys were gone. The fourth was walking around the building and gave us a big wave as we left the lot.

The battery is expensive, but it’s better than listening to the house beep every five minutes and I got to se a great store.