Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Artist of the week: Pumpkins

Happy Halloween
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It's Halloween and it's all about the pumpkins.

I never carve the pumpkins ahead of time, I wait until the day itself. Part of it is procrastination, but there is also a logic behind it all. Pumpkins rot and the earlier you crack those babies open the longer they have to molder. There is nothing worse than reaching into a pumpkin to light it on All Hallows Eve and finding a thriving colony of black slime. And Virginia has both the mold, the humidity and the heat to make it all happen.

This week we are all artists of the week. Jake got to carve his pumpkins on his own for the first time. All I did was open the pumpkin up for him. He was so excited to be able to do it all on his own this year.

on the steps
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Nate designed a very elaborate skull themed pumpkin that I did my best to carve. Then, when he saw his older brother carving pumpkins, he decided to try to do his own. It started out fine, but in the end he was a bit overwhelmed and asked me to finish it off.

Max was happy to have me create his first pumpkin, a happy bat. At first he only specified a bat, but knowing Max I asked if he wanted it to be happy and yes he did. His second pumpkin he actually picked up the marker and designed it himself.

Rebecca's first pumpkin too was a happy one. Her pumpkin is a nice classic design that was a snap to carve. The second one, however was a bit more intricate. As I struggled to carve out her vision she told me that she forgot that I was going to carve the pumpkin, she was just drawing a picture. But that didn't stop me, if they can draw it, I can carve it.

all lined up
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Myself, I got to carve six of my own design. The kids thought it was unfair, but since I bought 'em I get to choose what happens to them. I made two traditional jack-o-lanterns, a cat and a skull. Then this year I tried two new ideas, a dragon and a ghost. I was very happy with how both turned out. The kids all loved the ghost and Nate was very impressed with the dragon. He told me that the dragon after I carved it didn't look like much, but when it was lit up he was very impressed. You could really see the dragon's face once night fell and the candle was lit.

I love Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fund Ranting

I have four children attending three different public schools. Each one of the schools is trying to get my children to raise money for the schools. It's the end of October and I'm heartily sick of the whole thing. Now I don't begrudge what the PTA does with the funds, one of the schools got a badly needed copier and each teacher is given money to spend however they wish for the classroom, I just hate how they get the funds.

The absolute worst is the first one they hit the students with at the start of the school year. The students are rounded up for a pep rally and are issued a folder with a catalog from one of the various fund raising organizations. The students are urged to sell as much as possible with little prizes given out at each sales level. Of course we are "not supposed to go door to door and are only to sell to those that you know and trust."

Yeah right, so who are we to sell to. I can't tap other Mom friends, because they have the same problem. Larry certainly can't drag it into work, especially with four kids worth of sales. Our extended families are multiple states away and there is no way I'm going to hit up the grandparents every time one of their grandchildren has to hawk goods. So we end up buying the stuff ourselves, which peeves me because there is precious little that interests me in the catalogs. If we're lucky there may be a whole page dedicated to Hanukkah, otherwise they are generally 60 % Christmas stuff and the rest is miscellaneous high priced junk. The past couple of years the folder has gone straight to the recycling bin.

But this year the middle school knocked it up to a whole new level of evil. Instead of cheesy prizes there was going to be a party. In order to just attend the party (held during normal school hours- which irked me to no end) each child had to sell a minimum of eight items. Successive sales levels included special bonus rides and the top level was a limo ride. So in order to prevent my child from feeling like a total social outcast we had to sell/buy eight things.

This was outright black mail.

I was furious and vented my spleen to other mothers and Meryl and they all agreed it was so very wrong. In the end I scoured the catalog for the cheapest items and sent in the check. Middle school is tough enough as is, and I don't want to make it any harder. The worst moment was when the folder first showed up, Jake knows how I feel about this stuff and said "I guess I'll just spend my time in study hall." (Just twist the knife in a little further please.)

Interestingly enough there was been no PTA meeting yet for the middle school. When it does happen, I planning on standing up and giving them my two cents. I could write a letter and complain directly to the fund raising chair, but I want my grievance publicly aired and I know I'm not alone.

Meanwhile, anybody want an Entertainment book?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Go Sox!

go sox
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
That was an amazing game last night. You really had to watch it all the way to the end. There were some brilliant plays on the field, the Rockies' double play comes to mind. But in the end the Bo Sox swept the series, which is all right in my books considering over half my family lives in the Boston area.

But the I have to note that Fox's coverage was abysmal. I really did need the breathless A-Rod / Yankee's announcement during the game. It's the World Series! For crying out loud show the game.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rex and Libby

Because sometimes you just have to share a video with two very cute doggies.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Caramel Goodness

A few days ago I was having some very tart apple slices and swiss cheese for lunch. It was yummy (and good for me), but it needed something else, something sweet. I was of course online while noshing and tried to think what would be good with apples and cheese when it hit me.


That is exactly what I wanted.

I poked about the internet for a good, easy to make recipe for a caramel dip. Most of then required caramel to be added, either the sundae topping or the candies. Which is absurd, since the whole point of looking for a recipe means I didn't have any on hand. In the end I found an acceptable candidate over at

It's Caramel Dip for Apples as submitted by Steven C. Alpaugh. You can click over for the full recipe. I did just a 1/2 batch and it came out utterly scrumptious.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 tbs. brown sugar
2 tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix together until well blended. Dip apple wedges in caramel dip and eat.

It can be used right away, or mix ahead and refrigerate. This helps dissolve the sugars and blend flavors for a better caramel flavor. This stays creamy and ready to us as a dip right from the refrigerator.

It totally hit the spot. It really is good to eat right after mixing it up, but it is even better after aging a bit in the fridge. I love dipping cheese cubes in it for a little snack. I might even share some with the kids.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Worst Field Trip Ever

Max & Friend
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
At least according Max.

Oh it started out all right, the day was sunny and everybody was looking forward to going to the pumpkin patch. Yesterday was the big kindergarten field trip to the pumpkin patch and I was going along as a chaperon.

Max was happy as was his friend when we first arrived. Then we waited. And waited some more for the tractor to take us out to the field to "pick" our pumpkins. But, there were dark clouds on the horizon, literally. A huge storm front was on its way to finally bring us some much needed rain. We could all see it massing to the South West of us. The parents nervously joked about it and we all hoped it would at least hold off until we got back to the buses.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
As the wait dragged on for the tractors, the children got very antsy. One small group found a grub and were completely fascinated by the little creature. I jokingly pointed my camera ans announced that I should take a picture of what may be the high point of the trip.

Max, meanwhile, was very hungry and kept pestering me for food. It was about lunchtime and he was ready to eat and wanted to leave. The pumpkin patch was quickly losing its allure. Rebecca was as far as I knew fine. I'm not entirely sure about her because she elected to stay with her class.

wet rain
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Finally the tractors started to pull up to our crowd. Max's class was the last to load and just as we started to pull away from the buses the rain hit. And boy did it hit hard. A few minutes later the temperature dropped a good 10 degrees. Things were looking grim for pumpkin picking.

And grim it was. This was possibly the fastest pumpkin picking ever. As we stepped out into the cold, cold rain the kids milled about clutching their plastic bags. They would pick up whatever pumpkin was pointed out to them, stuff it in the bag and then look for shelter.

In previous years most kids would agonize over their pumpkins, spending a good twenty minutes going from pumpkin to pumpkin until finding the perfect one. Usually the arrival of the tractor to take them back would force the decision. But not this year, we grabbed our pumpkins and then huddled at the edge of the field under the trees.

not happy
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Max was not happy.

He hates being cold and wet. Being hungry on top of all that made him one miserable little boy.

Most of the kids perked up once we were picked up by the tractor, which thankfully had a top that kept off most of the rain. But as you can see Max was deep in his funk and nothing was going right for him. It was at this moment he told me this was the worst field trip ever. And I kind of had to agree. Though I must note that he was his happy self again after he got to eat his snack on the heated bus.

Normally we would have done a few more things at the pumpkin patch, but we all agreed it was time to head back to school. I hope the next field trip works out a little better than this one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Artist of the Week: Dominoes

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Jake. For once I was able to watch some of his game this past weekend and I got this great shot of him in action. He loves playing soccer and this past week he had a lot of fun. His team lost, but it was a good game. I had fun watching him as well and had the added bonus of watching Nate too. Jake's team at best will have only substitutes at any particular game. It's hard on the players to out there running around for the full hour so when Nate is done he gets to sub in and give them a much needed break. It's fun watching the two of them together on the field.

Anyway, back to Jake.

He made this neat little structure about a week and a half ago and it is made from dominoes. Everything and I mean everything in this household gets used as a building material.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
He made it one afternoon after school. As I recall this was actually a rebuild of the original structure. One of his siblings knocked into the table jarring the structure and causing a few dominoes to fall. After the initial outrage, Jake was able to repair the structure and I was able to photograph it.

It makes me think of a little Roman temple with its smooth white surfaces. The structure is just a pleasure to look at. I like Jake's sense of design and proportion.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Unexpected Richmond

urban wildlife
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I was driving along today on the Mayo bridge when I glanced to my right . I was immediately struck by the view and pulled over at a little park just south of the James. I had to walk back along the bridge and get that picture.

I am fortunate that the Mayo bridge features generous sidewalks on both sides and the traffic, although fast, was not too heavy. In fact people regularly fish off of the bridge I was standing on today. It is such a popular spot for fishing that the city installed multiple waste barrels on both sides of the bridge.

So camera in hand I wandered around the area taking pictures of whatever struck my fancy. I even ventured down to the edge of the James. The river is very low now and in some parts up river by the rapids you can almost cross it by hopping from rock to rock. But down by the city proper the river smooths out and rock hoping is out of the question. The oddest things I encountered by the river's edge was a still serviceable, white construction helmet and the distinctive smell of clean wet cardboard.

fall color
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Up on the bridge the views were lovely. This one in particular is my favorite. It really shows the contrast of the James River and the city of Richmond. In the picture there is a definite feel of autumn. The colors are not nearly as bright or as garish as you would find up North, but they are there. The drought we are experiencing has muted the colors even more, however I did spot a flash of scarlet on a vine growing just a few yards away from the bridge.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Remedial Car Repair

Generally I don't do much in the way of car repair. I do have a decent idea of how an engine works, but I have neither the inclination or the tools to try to fix it. I can change a tire, replace fuses, and jump start it. If pressed I can even reset the various warning lights on the dash. But that is pretty much it until today.

The poor left bumper of the van has had a fair amount of trauma. It has a multitude of scuffs from not quite judging the garage opening when we first got the van. (In order for both cars to fit the van has to be on the far left. The van has a slightly, maybe two inches, longer front than the old one and it took a while to get used to it.) Then I was driving along and got lightly side swiped this year from someone who decided to make a left hand turn across oncoming traffic. Fortunately no one was hurt and all that happened was that my van gained a few more scuffs on the front left bumper.

Then this weekend the poor bumper got bonked again. Sadly it was not just a scuff, but a big dent right in the corner of the front left bumper (stupid garage). Luckily nothing broke. I decided to give it a good look today and see if there was anything I could do about it. The dent was in the bumper cover, which is made of some sort of heavy duty plastic. I first tried to remove the cover, but after 4 screws and a dozen or so more to go I stopped. This was getting far too complicated. I then felt around under the car and discovered the dent was in an empty space I could actually reach from the inside.

While laying on a somewhat grubby garage floor I could reach up into the space and push the dent out.

Whoo! Hoo!

It's not a perfect fix, but the van looks much better now.

Now if I could just make the scuffs disappear.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Flaming Ambulance

Flaming Ambulance
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Today we took the whole crew to one of the small airports in the area for an air show and nothing says air show like a flaming ambulance.

The ambulance was a tricked out truck painted like an ambulance with a jet engine mounted in the back. It was incredibly loud, fast, spewed a huge flame out of the back and Nate loved it. The driver could make it produce a huge pulse of sound that you could actually feel in your chest. I have to admit that I though it was pretty cool too.

Iron Eagles
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
After the excitement of the ambulance roaring up and down the runway we checked out the NASCAR show car and the ubiquitous bouncy tents. Or more accurately the dynamic duo did the bouncy tent (shaped like the fuselage of a plane) and the boys checked out some planes on the tarmac. All the while planes buzzed about overhead.

The next act to catch our eye was a duo of stunt planes called "Iron Eagles." They put on an amazing show, the two biplanes perfectly matching each other. The planes did an incredible series of loops and rolls that completely captivated me. The smoke trailing from beneath them added to the show as they inscribed the sky with their routine.

bright and twisty
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
In fact I got the best shot of the day when tracking them across the sky. I was annoyed as they flew towards the sun as I took frame after frame. It wasn't until I got home and downloaded the pictures that I could see how well the last frame I took came out. It violates the big rule of not shooting into the sun, but I love the great big flare of light in the picture. Bright and twisty indeed.

But that was not all, not by a long shot. The last act we caught was a group called American Barnstormer, Walt Pierce home of the Double Trouble Wing walking team. I didn't realize what was going on until I noticed the small upright figure on top of the plane.

Wing rider
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It was with a sort of sick fascination I watched them. I couldn't believe that anybody could ride on top of a plane's wing while a plane executed all sorts of acrobatic maneuvers. I mean for crying out loud she was up their while her grandfather made the plane spin and loop about. I could have cropped the picture smaller so as to see the figure on top, but then you miss out on the smoke trail that shows where the plane went. It was incredible.

After an hour and half of excitement the kids then blew their allowances on a variety of model airplanes and then we headed back home. All four loved the show (Rebecca the most, she didn't want to leave) and want to go again. Max was particularly funny since he didn't want to go at first, but was full of smiles in the end. He was so happy as he left the show, broadly grinning and waving at the troopers, that the two policemen he passed couldn't help but break into huge answering smiles.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Look Who's Back!

Nobby's Beach
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Flat Stanley is back home from his Big Australian Adventure.

The doorbell rang today and as I unlocked it I wondered who on earth it could be. It was our mail carrier with an our regular mail along with an express package that required my signature. As I scrawled my name on the slip I excitedly asked "Is it from Australia? I'm waiting on a package from there." She didn't know off hand, but I knew the second I saw the sender's name. It was indeed Flat Stanley. After bidding the mail carrier goodbye I rushed indoors to open the package.

Sydney Habour
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Technically the package was for Nate, but it was addressed to me so I had no qualms opening it up.

Our friends had completely out done themselves.

In addition to Stanley they had sent four little Australian flags, a bunch of books and brochures, a map of their area and a CD with 126 photos. Paul had offered to print out the pictures, but I told him a CD would be fine. I figured it would be easier and cheaper for them and seeing the number of photos I know I was right.

The first thing I did was to check out the photos on the cd. There were so many good ones I ended up going out to a store to print them out. I quickly browsed through and selected 88 frames, a number that would have surely sent my little printer over the edge.

Opera House
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It was hard winnowing out the pictures even further for this post. I decided to go with the classic shots that had been taken with Stanley.

The timing of the project had been perfect. I sent off Stanley at the end of September and he arrived done under during their two week school vacation. Their three kids were off from school and they would be able to give Stanley a grand tour. The kids are just the right age to help out Nate with this project. Ben is the oldest and is less than a year older than Jake. He was born in America while Paul was working in my Lab. The girls, Kirrilly and Jessica are twins that are just about Nate's age. They were born after Paul and Melissa returned to Australia.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

Anyway, back to Stanley. His first trip was to the beach. It's the first picture and I love it because coincidentally Stanley's shirt features surf boards and there they are, all lined up boogie broads. It turned out to be a very appropriate choice of attire.

Stanley's next big adventure was to tour around Sydney harbor in a variety of ferry boats. Paul got a great shot of his kids holding Stanley with not only Sydney harbor bridge in the background, but also The Opera House. Which leads to the really cool photo of the steps leading to the Opera House. If you look carefully you can just see the kids at the top of the stairs.

young Eastern Grey Kangaroo
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

Later in the week Stanley got to go to a nature preserve not far from our friends' home. He got to see all sorts of Australian fauna including the big two, koalas and kangaroos. There was also a very cute picture of a baby emu, but I skipped it here since Stanley wasn't in the frame. Stanley also got to go on a hike and see some of the rugged terrain in the area.

Of course no trip would be complete without at least one sporting event and Stanley got to go to several. Kirrilly participated in a Little Athletics event and later he got to watch a cricket match and a soccer game.

Go Jets!
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
The soccer match was very exciting. There was face painting and their team, the Newcastle Jets won. I wonder if Stanley got his face painted? Probably not, since he was just visiting, but I bet Nate would have joined in.

I think Stanley had a great time visiting our friends in Australia. I would love it if we could go visit them too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


While looking up one thing I rediscovered a fun little flash game I had almost forgotten about. It was made for a group called Polyphonic Spree. The music is fine, but it's the game I loved. I remembered the first time I found it it linked to the designer's website where there are a few more games of the same ilk. The link is busted (at least for me), but I was able to find it with a bit of work.

They are fun little puzzles that I love to do. I revisited the original Samorost and throughly enjoyed it and the sequel is just as good. They are quirky little whimsical animations that require attention to detail and a willingness to just give it a click.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Artist of the Week: Sea Turtle

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Max is this week's artist. I'm sorry about the graininess of the picture, but I really like the natural pose I got of him. It was at his party Sunday and for once he wasn't mugging for the camera.

The picture is particularly appropriate because of the shirt Max is wearing. It is one of his two sea turtle t-shirts. He loves sea turtles and is always pleased when I can find a picture of one.

Thus it was no surprise when he went to a Lydia's birthday party a few weeks ago and he selected the sea turtle for his craft. The party was held at a ceramic studio and each of the invitees got to select one of the ceramic sculptures and decorate it. The glazed object would be left at the studio to dry and be fired. About a week or so after the party it would be ready to go home. Since Lydia was invited to Max and Rebecca's party her mother brought the finished crafts to our party.

sea turtle
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
The turtle turned out to be very cute. I didn't get to see Max decorate it the party, I made myself scarce. I am definitely not one of those "helicopter parents" that are a constant and somewhat annoying presence in their children's lives. I knew what Max had chosen, but the end result was a delightful surprise.

I like the colors he chose, green for the shell, blue for the flippers and eyes and a touch of yellow on the underside. It was a fun project and both Max and Rebecca had a great time. We *might* just go there again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Little Dog Lost

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Crunch over the past few weeks has been slowly losing his mental capacity. He is still a sweet old dog, but he spends more and more of his days in a bit of a mental fog. He paces about the house, seemingly with purpose, but he never halts until I physically stop him. Little things that used to give him pleasure have lost meaning. Just the other day Larry gave Crunch an ear rub, normally this would cause Crunch to stop, lean in and give a low rumbly moan of joy. Not this time, instead he just walked on by.

At first I thought his decreased capacity had been exacerbated by the my recent trip with him and John. I figured after a few days he would settle down and all would be well, but he never did. So I planned I calling the vet and seeing what we could do for the old boy. Physically he is fine for a 15 year old dog except for a probable nasal tumor. (It's probable since the only true way to diagnose it is a CAT scan that takes big bucks and requires sedation and I refuse to sedate Crunch ever again since last time it took four days for him to recover and the vet agrees with me.)

Then Monday morning Crunch went on walk about. He was gone for a little over two hours. He had been puddling about in the backyard and I kept checking up on him. 10 minutes after the last time I saw him he was gone. I frantically scanned the woods and the road, he was well and truly gone.

After 45 minutes of searching I called my husband in tears. I wanted my dog back and I was a wreck. Larry immediately offered to come home, but we decided I should call around the neighborhood. I searched my subdivision in my car and stopped every walker I saw. My biggest fear was that Crunch had gone into the woods. We are four houses away from a state park and if he went there we would never find him again.

Then I got the best phone call ever. HI, I think I have your doggy. I drove over as fast as I could. It was indeed Crunch and I scooped him up into my arms. I sobbed while I thanked the kind soul that had found my dog. Crunch then rode home in my lap.

He seems none the worse for wear, but his days loose in the yard are over. The invisible fence no longer works on him so now I have to supervise him when he is out. But that's fine with me. I'm just happy to have the old boy back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Now We Are Six

Max's cake
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Today is Max and Rebecca's birthday. They celebrated in fine style yesterday at home.

They had three guests, two cakes, one pinata and a ton of fun.

Max requested an orange cake with a killer whale on it. I was brave this year and tried making a new to me frosting. It's called luscious orange and it was pretty good. It never really set-up, instead it looked like I slathered the cake in marshmallow fluff. But, it tasted great with a nice full orange flavor. I'll definitely try this one again, hopefully it'll look a little less like fluff.

Rebecca's cake
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Rebecca meanwhile got her traditional white cake with chocolate frosting with a pretty pink pony gracing the top.

Some people are amazed that I make two cakes, but I think it is the right thing to do. It's one thing to share a party, but to make them share a cake is a bit much. They are, so far, very cooperative in selecting joint decorations. I can't ask them compromise on their cakes. However, they don't get full sized cakes. I use a small 8 inch pan and make only a fraction of the batter. Rebecca's is reduced by 1/2 and Max's by 1/3.

We end up with some leftovers, but at a more manageable level.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Enough about the cakes, the party itself was great. Max and Rebecca were in their element and so were their three friends. The five of them had a great time running around in the yard, jumping in the bouncy tent and just plain having a good time. One of the guests, Abbey (she's behind Rebecca), was brought over by her father and accompanied by her two older brothers. Her dad fully intended just to drop her off, but he and the boys had too much fun and never left. This was great for Jake and Nate as the boys all matched up in age. I think it says a lot they everybody had fun.

My mother in law and her husband had come down to visit and they were a big help. They straightened up the house for the onslaught wile I finished the cakes (I really need to stop with the last minute decorating). They were also crucial for the pinata.

hit the llama
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
The pinata was the big event and was the main reason why the party was held at home. The dynamic duo really wanted a pinata and I told them it would not be possible to have one if we held the party elsewhere.

Shopping for the pinata was an adventure. The two of them kept gravitating to different characters. The only thing they could agree on was that it could not be a pull string pinata (those are for babies); they wanted one that you had to bash for the candy. After going back and forth for quite a while I noticed up on the top shelf two of the more traditional types, a bull and a donkey/llama (I think it was supposed to be a burro, but it looked more like a llama to me). They settled on the llama and we were all set.

It turns out that the traditional styles are far more durable. It took a good long time until there was success. First the legs got bashed off and after a few more rounds Max was able to administer the final blow. It would have been faster if we had allowed the older boys to participate, but we limited it just to party guests. Grandma and Grandpa had a hard enough time corralling the six year olds.

Then it was present time and our party guests were reluctantly led away. Meryl stayed for dinner and Max declared as I tucked him into bed "This was the best birthday ever."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Because It Makes Me Laugh

Today we had Max and Rebecca's birthday party, but I'm too tired to tell y'all about it right now.

Instead I'll share a video that makes me laugh every time I watch it.

The kids absolutely loved it as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Cakey Goodness

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
So of course I made some cakes for the dog show last weekend, heck I was the unofficial dessert chair. I ended up making one sheet cake (pictured), two pumpkin pies and two flourless chocolate torts.

The pies were a snap to make and transport as were the torts. The sheet cake was a bit trickier and needed its own seat in the car. I wisely decided to save all detailed decorating at the show site's kitchen. The torts got wrapped in plastic and the sheet cake got just the base of chocolate icing.

The night before the sheet cake was served I freehanded the design on the cake. It was a three specialty show weekend and they were being called the Hunt Country Specialties, hence the fox. I was a bit bored of making Dachshunds and decided to go for the show logo instead. The first tort got its whipped cream piped on just before being served, the second one was held in reserve.

The pies were a bit hit and were mostly gone, all I brought back home was two slices. The first tort was also mostly consumed, I decided not to bring out the second "back-up tort," instead I brought it back home where it is now safely tucked inside my freezer. (It can be safely frozen for up to three months, after that it starts to lose its flavor.) Only a third of the sheet cake was consumed, people liked it, but there was just too much food. Which is fine with my family since they now get to enjoy it.

Oh and about the sheet cake. If you look closely at the upper left hand corner you will see that it is missing. My dog John nailed it while it was up on the dining room table. I trimmed up the nibbled parts and refrosted the cut area. I wasn't too concerned about what people would say, since they were all dog people. In fact it was one of the very few audiences that would appreciate the humor and would not be horrified about the idea of eating cake that a dog had nibbled. However I don't plan on letting John sample any more of my cakes, next time I'll push the cake closer to the middle of the table where he can't reach.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

While I Was Gone

Last weekend I ran away from home and joined the circus.

Well, not really.

Instead it was a dog show, but certainly felt like a circus. I had dueling divas, people with freaky hair and 100 plus dachshunds all in one building. And to top it all off I was coming down with a cold.

The divas are two very volatile people that repeatedly clashed throughout the weekend and unfortunately my job was to blunt them. I would steer them away from each other and listen to them vent. The funniest moment was when one them came to me hysterical over one aspect of the show. A vital element was missing for that day's show and the diva didn't know what to do. I politely listened and pointed out that we had the corresponding element for the next day's show on site and we could just switch them. If the missing item did not appear by day's end we could easily replace it in time for the next day. This calm reasoning completely deflated the diva. I hard a hard time not smiling as the wind left the diva's sails, there was no more drama. And as Meryl will tell you, I have no patience for drama. At that precise instant the missing item appeared. The diva then fluttered off to the next "crisis."

Then there was the hair. Most people in the dog show world are reasonably coiffed with the occasional bad toupee. The only oddity may be the tendency to use the same combs and brushes on both the owners/handlers and the dogs. But that isn't as bad as it sounds since the dogs are all squeaky clean. This weekend, however, I got to see a wig that really challenged me. Part of me wanted to take picture so I could share with Meryl, but another part realized that taking a picture would be very bad. I decided to be an agent of good, so instead I'll describe it to y'all. Imagine an average middle aged white guy, with glasses and is a bit stout around the middle sporting the locks of Michael Jackson from "Thriller."

It was just so wrong, but the guy looked so happy. All I can say is that I wish him well.

I'm telling you the movie "Best in Show" is not that far off.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Artist of the Week: Drawing

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Rebecca.

I got this shot of her at today's soccer practice. She's come a long way from the child I had to coerce into participating in some small way during practice (I found that the threat of no treats after the game if she didn't practice to be fairly effective).

Anyway this week piece is not about Rebecca playing soccer, but about her latest work of art.

She gave me this drawing about a week ago. I had put it aside on top of the flour cannister in the pantry (I was baking at the time)and had completely forgotten about it. Larry found it while making cookies this morning (that's right, even my husband can bake, it must be the water). Anyway it is a sweet little picture that she had made just for me.

Rebecca's house
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It features me standing outside with my purse on a lovely day. Big puffy clouds are in the sky along with a brilliant red bird. Next to me is my house and on the other side of the house is a pumpkin patch. According to Rebecca the pumpkin vine grows straight up and produces a nice fat pumpkin. Most of the pumpkins are not ready for harvest and are still green. One plant was ready and it is dropping over now that its pumpkin is gone.

I think the big bumps on my head are hair. It is sort of an homage to Princess Leia, everything goes back to Star Wars in this household.

It is a charming little picture and I love it and the artist that produced it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Yesterday we celebrated Simchat Torah along with Max and Rebecca's consecration at religious school. Tonight we got to celebrate Simchat Torah yet again.

Our children, along with the rest of our congregation, attend religious school up in Richmond. Including our four, there are only seven students and it was decided by the board that our children would be better served by combining with a much larger school. So instead of Max and Rebecca being the only kindergarteners, they are in a class of ten with another class of nine or so across the hall. The only downside is that sometimes we have doublings with some holidays.

So last night we were up in Richmond. The temple there is lovely and Rebecca was dressed to the nines and Max was not looking too shabby either. They were first called up and took their place on the Bima. The kids were very cute and on the whole both classes were well behaved. One little boy started to act up, but the Rabbi calmly stood behind the child and gentle rested his hand atop the boys head, all the while continuing with his speech. The boy promptly settled down.

Max & Torah
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Then it was Torah time! Simchat Torah is a joyous occasion and Rebecca danced in the aisle for part of the service. It was one of the few times I felt that I didn't have to rein her in and we both enjoyed the service more for that.

At the end of the service each child received a gift bag containing a certificate with a little honey stick taped to the back and a miniature Torah scroll. The idea behind the honey stick is the wish that their study of Torah will be as sweet as honey. Then we all moved outside for a little nosh in the Sukkot out front. There were cookies and apples for all with an added bonus of full sized Hershey bars for the children that had just been consecrated. Nate and Jake were very jealous, but got over pretty quickly. Especially Jake after he was able to snag one that was left over. Then with loaded up everybody and headed back home.

Max is very pleased with his Torah and opened it up when we got home. He then proceeded to "read" his scroll. Of course he can't truly read it, so it was more of his interpretation of what he thinks it should say. Apparently he picked up a Star Wars version of the Torah, because the passage he read was all about Gungan workers. I was unaware of this particular Torah portion until last night.

Rebecca & Torah
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Rebecca too opened up her scroll, but I don't know if she got the special Star Wars version. She was more interested in looking at the illustrations. I think she might have hummed the Shema, but otherwise she was quiet. She looks so serious there as she studies her little Torah.

Then the two of them were hustled up to bed after one more picture.

They are an obliging pair and happily gather up their little scrolls and posed for me. I think Max looked very handsome in his oxford shirt, but he refused to tuck it in.

It must be some sort of five year old thing, because his brothers wouldn't tuck in their shirts at that age too.

too cute
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Anyway I wanted y'all to see how cute the two of them were, especially Rebecca. I got her the dress last year to wear at her cousin's Bar Mitzvah. It still fits and I'm glad she could wear it again.

For tonight's celebration at our Temple we were a little less formally dressed (still nicely though, with nice shirts for the boys, a clean dress for the girl and a skirt for me), even though the service itself was little more formal. I must admit I prefer my Temple's version over the one yesterday. The Richmond Synagogue is Reformed with a capital R, while ours is Conservative. That and it is our little tight knit community and it just feels like home. A place I want to celebrate with the ones I love.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Artist of the Week: Again with the Legos

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Legos are very popular in our household. The kids are always building things and then playing with their creations. Smashups are unavoidable and are, for a brief period, a bit upsetting. But then they can rebuild and/or revise and all is right in the world.

As a result little bits of plastic are strewn about upstairs, littering the stretch of hallway between their rooms and in the bedrooms themselves. They would be downstairs too, but I drew the line there. No Legos are to be brought downstairs or I will chuck them. Period. There is nothing more painful than stepping on one of the smaller pieces with a bare foot. I want to limit my exposure to that particular risk, hence the ban. I now understand why my mother's favorite sound in the world was the distinctive rattle of a Lego as it was vacuumed up.

Anyway this week's artist is Jake and his creation was inspired by Lego magazine.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It is a sort of spaceship and I like the care and attention to detail. Jake made sure the pieces match in color and shape.

It's an elegant little vessel and I just plain like it. Especially if it stays upstairs and away from the soles of my bare feet.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time To Break Out The Cake Pans

My dachshund club is holding its first independent specialty this weekend. So in addition to the usual dramas I have to deal with as being president I now have a whole new level of crazy from my club members. People not returning phone calls, others are calling at all hours. The movie Best in Show comes to mind every time I have to talk on the phone with certain members of the club.

Anyway, I’ve become the “Dessert Chair” for the luncheon. Right now I’m waiting for the chaos to resolve into some sort of order. Then it’s up to me to figure what to make. Originally part of my game plan was to make sheet cake with the show cluster’s logo, but someone decided to order a cake and have dachshunds decorating to top. Fine, mine would have probably been better, but that saves me the bother.

So now I have to figure out what else to make. I think I’ll make a couple of my flourless chocolate torts, they travel well and I can pipe the whipped cream on at the last second. Maybe I should bake a couple of pumpkin pies. They are tasty and would go well with the rest of the luncheon. I make all sorts of things; the key bit here is that what ever I do make it needs to be transportable. The show site is a good three hours away and I can’t bake anything there, just a little bit of touch ups and/or last minute assembly. Either way I’ll be baking up a storm starting tomorrow.

I don’t know, maybe y’all have some ideas.

Monday, October 01, 2007

We Have a Little Dragon

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
And her name is Rebecca. But whatever you do, don't call her a dragon, unless it's her idea.

Life with twin five year olds is very funny. Max is very happy to be called a soldier when he is all suited up. He loves running around and doing imaginary gun battles with Nate. Rebecca on the other hand gets quite irate if you call her a dragon when she is wearing her costume.

She glares at you if you dare call her such a thing and very firmly reminds you that her name is REBECCA. She is NOT a dragon. Then fifteen minutes later she's crawling about on all fours growling.

Hopefully she'll be a bit more reasonable come Halloween, but I'm not counting on it.