Friday, February 29, 2008

Key Lime Cheesecake

Cooking school was a bust last weekend, all that enthusiasm evaporated on Saturday and Sunday. Which is fine they are only 9 and 11 years old. I'm just happy that they might be interested in the future.

key lime cheesecake
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Meanwhile I had picked up a bag of Key Limes at the store and I needed to do something with them. Jake noticed them yesterday and hopefully said "cheesecake?" I was thinking of a pie, but cheesecake sounded like a good idea to me. Conveniently the the bag of limes had a small laminated slip of paper nestled among the fruit with two recipes, one for Key Lime pie and the other for Key Lime Cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed to be along the same lines of what I normally bake so I decided to give it a shot.

Key Lime Cheesecake from C-Brand Tropicals

1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
2 tbl sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled*

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add the butter and pat on the bottom and sides of buttered 9-inch springform pan.** Bake crust for 8 minutes at 375.
20 ounces packaged cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 tbl flour
3 eggs
3/4 cup Key Lime juice***
1 tsp vanilla

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, flour, eggs (one at a time) the Key Lime juice, and the vanilla. Pour filling over the crust. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. reduce the temperature to 250 and bake 50-55 minutes more or until the center is barely set.****

*I don't know why it needs to be cooled, I didn't worry about that part.
**Buttered? I just read that part now, obviously I skipped it. I did, however, line the bottom with parchment paper. This makes it super easy to get the bottom of the springform pan off of the cake. That is my SOP.
***Which worked out to be the entire 1 lb bag or about 20 Key Limes (I lost count after a while, they are tiny little buggers and a pain to juice).
****I then broiled it a bit to get the nice brown spots on top, I think that makes it look nicer.

The recipe doesn't mention this, but... after the cake cooled a bit I stuck it in the fridge for a 6+ hours. Longer would have been better. The cheesecake is very good. There is a strong snap of flavor from the limes and the texture is silky smooth. It wasn't quite as dense as I would have liked, but a little aging in the fridge might fix that. This one is definitely a keeper.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stupid Cable

Yesterday I was all set to do a lovely Artist of the Week post and then my less than fabulous internet provider decided to no longer provide anything.

Our cable TV was all wonky, it was actually worse than no picture. Strange ghost images of what was on would flicker and jump, the most disturbing being on public television. It was a weird hybrid of Buckaroo Banzai's 8th dimension and fractals that would pulse across the screen in a haze of static. Heaven knows what was truly on, and I really don't want to know. Meanwhile, our high speed internet was toast.

Anyway it wasn't working until this afternoon when it all magically resolved itself. Whether it was the three calls, the impending repair appointment or the cable company just getting off it's collective tuckus I can't say. But... I'm back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One More Thing I'm Not Going to Do

After last week's post about the Devil's Pool I got directed to a great site about some truly unique spots. This video shows, for me, one of the most frightening. As I watch this video my body tenses up and I can feel my palms start to sweat, all from the safety of my seat at home. I'd be a basket case up on the mountain.

The article featuring the Huashan hiking trail has some absolutely stunning photographs. The landscape of China is very distinctive and I would love to see it first hand, but not on this particular trail. I find it unbelievable that people are wiling to shuffle along on wooden boards pegged onto the side of a cliff face.

On the other hand the Guoliang Tunnel is a place I would be willing to explore.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Getting Political

Senate Committee
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Today I exercised my right as Virginia citizen and hied myself on over to Richmond to voice my opinion on a bill.

The bill in question, HB538, concerns commercial dog breeding. It is basically being touted as the anti-puppy mill law.

So as an ethical member of the dog showing fancy I should be for it, right?

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Wrong, it is just the first step in limiting dog breeding in Virginia. However my biggest objection is that it is a classic knee jerk reaction to a recent horrific situation at a puppy mill. So a new bill was written and put before the house. Originally written it specified that state and federal guidelines for animal care must be met (a 60 page document). The federal provision was struck, but the bill still remains an unfunded mandate for the counties. Counties that are already strapped for funds and are not able to enforce the laws already in existence. The same laws, mind you, that are more than sufficient to shut down any breeder that does not maintain their animals and/or kennel.

If HB538 passes and goes into law ethical commercial breeders will be stuck with an onerous law that will very well force them out of Virginia. I do not care for commercial kennels, but the good ones have clean facilities with healthy and well cared for dogs. When they pull out where will the pet stores get their puppies? From out of state kennels. Some of this kennels might be well run, but I'm sure a few will not. Puppies will be shipped long distances at a very young age to fulfill the needs of the pet stores. I hate pet stores, they are some of the worst places to buy a dog. But they exist, that is reality.

Meanwhile the seamy underside of commercial kennels, the puppy mills, will just move underground. They will no longer inoculate against rabies to avoid the "gotcha rabies database," they will no longer get kennel licenses and will avoid the vet. The dogs will most likely end up in crude shelters hidden off the beaten path, thus making their horrible existence even harder to find. These puppies will be sold in flea markets and in parking lots. They will be cheap to buy, but expensive to own. I won't be surprised if a few end up rabid and infect their new owners.

Virgina doesn't need this new law, it needs to enforce the ones it already has.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Smart Dog

looking out
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I like Dachshunds because they are fairly intelligent and independent dogs.

Rally was brilliant and would regularly bamboozle Crunch and the occasional human. John is proving himself to be a fairly sharp as well.

When he is playing the chase game with Nate in the house (basically Nate careens around the central core of the house with John in hot pursuit), John has learned to stop and turn around in anticipation of Nate reappearing on the other side. He then leaps up and pounces on Nate.

This week John really outdid himself.

There has been some valentine's day candy left on bench. John ignored it until a few days ago. This in itself was remarkable since every other dachshund I've known would have hoovered it all up from the get go. When John did decide to eat the candy he would only take one piece a day.

It took me three days to realize what was happening. I would find a shredded wrapper left on the floor, in another room. Since it was one piece I thought a child had dropped it on the floor and John had nailed it.

Then a couple of days ago I saw John in action. He went up to the bench, carefully reared up and placed his forepaws on top, examined the candy, selected one piece and retreated to the other room to eat his prize.

I was stunned, I had never seen a dog exhibit such self control. In fact he was better than the kids. I told him to drop it, I took away the candy and then cleaned up the remainder on the bench.

It's almost like he figured out that if he was discrete and took only a little at a time it would not be noticed and he would be free to eat all the candy.

Good thing he's a sweetheart and doesn't have opposable thumbs. I think I need to channel this dog's mind and energy and get him started in obedience.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bragging Rights

This week the two older boys have brought home their interim report cards. The lower grades, K-2, don't have interims much less letter grades, so max and Rebecca are off the hook.

Nate is doing well and is holding steady with A's and B's. Jake too has been doing well in Middle School so far, his past two report cards were also A's and B's. But this time he really shined, so far he is getting straight A's, including PE.

What is particularly remarkable about this feat is that Jake is in all Honors level classes. He has always been very bright, but up until now he has not been very focused. I think the Honors level classes are to his liking and engage him far more than the classes he has taken before.

This is the first time any of our kids have done this and Larry and I are thinking of giving Jake some sort of treat. Maybe a a little one on one time with the parent of his choice. I don't know what it'll be, but he deserves something.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cooking School

The past couple of nights Nate and Jake have asked me about learning how to cook. Rebecca has always shadowed me in the kitchen and loves to help out by mixing, adding ingredients and trying to crack an egg or two, Nate and Jake's interest is a new thing. Nate asked if he could cook something the past two nights and I told him he could do it this weekend. Jake, listening in, piped up that he wanted to learn too.

So it looks like I'll have a little cooking school this weekend. I found some key limes at the store so I'll have Jake make a key lime pie. It is one of his favorite desserts and I think he'll get a kick learning how to make it. Nate I haven't figured out yet. He said he wants to make dinner, maybe I'll teach him how to make a nice pasta sauce or we could make matzo ball soup. I'm not sure, I'll have to talk it over with him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Artist of the Week: Lunacy

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is the Moon, with a little bit of help from the Earth and the Sun.

It was quite a struggle to watch the eclipse. Last night was a wondrously clear night with the moon filling the night with a bright silvery light. It was so bright that I thought I'd left a few lights on when I went up to bed. But tonight was another story. It was cloudy and a brief snow shower began along with the start of the eclipse.

The kids got to catch a brief glimpse of the start when a small break in the cloud cover appeared. Since the weather was uncooperative I then sent them off to bed. Once they were all tucked into bed, I set up the tripod out on the deck and was able to snag a few good shots when the clouds would lift and provide a quick peek at the show.

I'm really pleased with the above picture of the totality. I was able to get the surface of the moon with a fair amount of detail. There is a fair bit of light on the bottom, but contrast that with the next picture and you can see it is the full eclipse.

show's over
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

In the second picture the brightness of the moon as it emerges from the shadow is incredible. I love the bit of light flair captured in the picture.

The clouds have thinned out a bit more, but the show is over.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Late Night Fun

I just found out from over at the Angry Professor that we're going to get a total lunar eclipse Wednesday night.

I hope we have a reasonably clear night so I can share this with the crew. I know Jake and Nate will get a kick out of it and I think I can get the dynamic duo enthused as well.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Attack of the Bulgarians

Today I was inside my house while a Bulgarian attacked.

Which wasn't such a bad thing.

Last week during the wind storm some of the siding got blown off. We were planning on getting the house repainted this summer, this just pushed things up a bit. Last week we got a couple of bids on having the house painted and the associated carpentry work necessary (the house has this awful pressboard siding that crumbles when wet, ideal for such a humid area).

Anyway we picked our contractor yesterday (Sunday) and they told us they could start immediately, as in "we're sending a guy out Monday afternoon to power wash." This resulted in a panicked clearing of the deck and pruning of the bushes around the selfsame deck. The guy showed up and spent the whole afternoon spraying bleach and water all over the house.

We think the guy is from Bulgaria, since the head honcho is from there. While speaking with him last week I noticed his strong accent. I couldn't place it and in the end I asked him point blank. I told him that I truly enjoyed listening to his voice and I just wanted to know (I can be very bold when the mood strikes me). So of course when we met today's crew member and he clearly did not speak English we figured he was a Bulgarian too.

I can't wait to meet the rest of the crew.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yet Another Thing I Will Never Do

Like most people, I have a mental list of things I would like to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Things like go to Australia, visit all 50 states, get a wholly impractical car (something sporty and not mom-like) and other such stuff.

Then there are the things I will never, ever do.

That is totally insane. My mind can't grasp the idea of willingly swimming to the edge of a 360 foot high cliff. I don't do heights and I found this out when My husband and I drove up the "Going-to-the-Sun-Road" in Glacier National Park. It was the most harrowing car ride in my life. I made my husband do it and kept my eyes shut when we drove along the cliff face. Every fiber in my being was straining away from the cliff's edge. The funny part was that it was a gloriously sunny, summer day.

So yeah, I don't do heights.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Active Children

active children
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Sometimes the best photos are the ones that don't turn out.

I have four very active children. Oh they can be sedentary and zone out to the TV, but normally they are tearing about the house. The first few days of vacation, when they are at home with me, are the most physically exhausting for me. The nonstop noise, chatter and activity wears me out. Then I adjust and remember that this is what having four children in the house is like.

I took this photo just the other day. I was trying to get Max, but at the last second he bolted as Jake reached out towards him. I think it neatly sums up what life can be with my rambunctious crew.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Three is a Magic Number

In honor of my blog's third anniversary I present the best song ever written about the number three.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Artist of the Week: Snowman

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Max and you can see he is in fine fettle after his short stint in the hospital.

If fact his stay was so short it was deemed by the nurses to be the shortest CF "tune-up" they have ever seen. Well he is a speedy child.

Anyway before our adventures in health care Max made a paper snowman for school. A white paper snowman blank was sent home with the instructions stating that the child has to create his or her own snowman anyway they like with the only restriction being that no food items can be incorporated into the design. Which struck me as fair enough, the snowmen will be up on the classroom wall and the school does not need any vermin attractants.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Max immediately wanted to get started when he first brought it home, but I wasn't and told him we would do it later. Of course I totally forgot about it until the day it was due. So that night night we got cracking. He wanted to make a very traditional snowman from the black top hat to the broom held in the stick arms.

Max cut out the hat from some construction paper we have in the house and fetched the sticks from the great outdoors. The broom was a bit trickier, I didn't want to buy one. Then I had the great idea that I could make one. Max got yet another stick and we both collected dried grass from the woods for the bristles. A little glue and a piece of string and we had one mighty fine broom. Max drew the face (there is even some hair peeking pout from under the hat) and the buttons. Then glued on the arms, the hat, the mysterious green square (even he doesn't remember why he did it) and used both glue and tape to attach the broom. The scarf was a last minute addition. I had him sort through my sewing scraps and he picked out the red flannel. I cut off along the edge with the contrasting binding and tied it onto the snowman and tacked it down with a spot of glue.

I think it's rather cute. The eyes and nose are a bit hard to see, Max can be a bit of a minimalist in his drawings, but it's all there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Prescribed Oddities

hospital snack
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This may look like an ordinary bag of Doritos with a label on it, but it is so much more.

The key thing here is the label.

If you look closely you'll see that this was one of Max's prescribed snacks while in the hospital. Yes, if you have CF you get a prescription for snacks when you are in the hospital. This falls under the odd treatments from yesterday's post.

When Max was first admitted the nutritionist stopped by and asked me what Max would like for snacks. CF patients need about 50% more calories than the average person, so snacks are a big part of his diet. So every day the kitchen would send up a cart with snacks to be doled out to all the patients that are prescribed "nourishment."

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I realize that they do have to label everything, but it still is hilarious to get a snack bag with an official stamp on it. Especially when it is an item that is often vilified by nutritionists.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I've Learned

1.) The Cystic Fibrosis clinic is willing to listen and work with me. A week and a half ago, just a day after Larry got sprung from the hospital Max had a CF clinic check up. It was his big annual exam with x-rays, blood draws and all sorts of excitement in addition to the usual height, weight and pulmonary function tests (PFTs measure how well the lungs work). Every thing was just ducky until we got the results back from the PFTs. Max, whose baseline runs at about 105% of a normal kid, gives amazingly good data for a child his age. He loves blowing into the tube and performs like a champ. His results were not good, he had lost 20% of his lung function since last December.


That is a frightening drop.

The nurse practitioner that we love came into the room with the bad news. She sat me down and said I had a choice, we could could admit him in the hospital and give him IV antibiotics or we could load him up with antibiotics at home. I was being given this choice because they knew that I would not flake out and if it did not work I would high tail back in there (having our home relatively close to the CF clinic worked in our favor as well, I pity the families that have to drive hours and hours to the nearest CF clinic). If we chose the home route she rattled off a list of antibiotics he would have to take. First off was cipro which Max hates and is a royal pain to administer (Calcium binds to it so it has to be given two hours before and/or four hours after consuming any calcium. Max lives for ice cream so this really limits when he can have it.) then she mentioned Bactrim and another no-no for Max since the last time he got it he broke out in hives. Hospitalization was the only way to go. We could dink around for a month trying this that and another drug or just suck it up and go whole hog in the hospital.

I told her that we would hospitilze Max BUT I needed to talk to my husband first and could we delay thing until Monday. I then explained that my poor husband had literally just come home from the hospital from abdominal surgery and I wanted to give him a little more time to recover.

Her jaw literally dropped. Yes we certainly could delay things until Monday.

2.) I have the most awesome brother in law in the world. Andy happily drove down from New Jersey to help us out as long as we needed him. Since Larry could not drive, Andy would drive around and play "Soccer Mom." What most impressed me was when he went and picked up Miss Rebecca up from school, she had been crying and complaining of a stomach ache. While driving her around in his own car she vomited. He did not bat an eye or freak out about a child getting sick in his car. He loves his niece and nephews and really views them as his own. Not many single guys could do that.

3.) Hospitals are not a good place to rest up. Well I already knew that, but that knowledge gets brutally reinforced every time I spend time in a hospital. I opted to stay the night with Max and camped out in his room for the whole stay. I only went home once to do laundry and pick up some treats for us. The chair "bed" was awful. It would not stay locked in a reclined position and would pop upright if I shifted just so. Then there was the added bonus of nurses coming into the room in the middle of the night to start IVs (he got dosed with one drug every 8 hours) and the piercing alarm of the infusion pump at the end of each round. I'd lay there in the dark hating the fact that I'd have to get up to summon the nurse and hit the reset button for some quiet.

4.) I also have a really awesome friend. Meryl came to visit Max when I ducked out to go home for a bit. I needed clean clothes and I knew things would be not much better at home. Larry, because of his surgery, couldn't do laundry and I wasn't going to ask Andy to do it. Originally Meryl was only going to stay for and hour or so, but in the end she stayed until I returned. She could she he was anxious about being alone and decided to stay put.

5.) CF patients get very interesting treatments. We had a whole slew of respiratory therapists the would come in and do Max's thumpies. Max did not like having strangers at first, but in the end he got over it. I liked the break and I was able to see ways I could improve my technique. Then there was the food, but I'm saving that for a later post.

6.) There is no nursing shortage in teaching hospitals. When Larry was in his hospital he would get one nurse per shift, no more and no less. At the one Max was in (a teaching hospital) we would have the shift nurse and one or two in training. Then there were the nursing students and a few others just popping in. Throw in a few med students (who Meryl and I swear looked to be about twelve) a child life specialist, a teacher, the attending, the residents of the day and the odd extra respiratory therapist (they liked to stop by and visit) it was like a non stop party.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Saturday was a very sad day around here. Meryl called me up and told me it was time. She would be taking Tig to the vet for his final journey.

Tig was a magnificent cat and I was privileged to know him and to help ease his final days. I'm glad we had a bit of false spring the past week so that Tig could sit in the sun and warm himself.

Farewell Tig and happy hunting in the next life.

Monday, February 04, 2008


I'm not going to be posting much for the next two weeks. Max needs a course of IV antibiotics and will be in the hospital. I'll be staying with him and won't have the internet. Sort of. Last time he was in I tried going to my site and it was blocked by the nanny software on the peds floor. Apparently I'm too racey for the hospital.

Which I find hilarious.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Theme Music

I love movies. I love going to the theater with a big tub of popcorn and getting completely lost in what is going on up on the screen. And a bit of this love of movies has bled into the rest of my life.

I have this rather odd habit of adding a soundtrack to my life. When I'm just puttering around the house I'll unconsciously start humming some sort of theme song. This often happens when I'm on the phone and I have to go get something related to the conversation. Meryl pointed out this quirk of mine and today she noted I was humming the theme from Indiana Jones. Some of my other selections are various bits from Star Wars, the main theme to Brazil (I love, love, love that movie and I need to pick up the Criterion Collection box at some point) and the ever popular bit from Yellowbeard "stagger, stagger, crawl, crawl."

So I can completely relate to a Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove when he makes his own theme music when he's hauling an unconscious and llamafied Kuzco from the palace.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Shaggy Dog Story with Two Cops and a Monk

On Tuesday I was making my way up to see Larry, who at that point was still stuck in the hospital, when I had a little run in with two dogs, two cops and a monk. Okay so the guy I'm calling a monk may or may not be a monk, but his license plate involved the word monk.

I was driving on one of the busier roads in the area when I say two dogs, a small beige Lhasa mix and some sort of Labbie thing with a wiry coat, playing on the median. This in itself was not good, but it was compounded by the fact that they were oblivious to the cars whizzing by. They would practically spill into the road and the traffic would slow down and swerve to avoid them. In fact they almost bumped into my car. As I looked forward after successfully not turning them into road pizza I saw a small car was pulled over on the median with a middle age guy beside it calling to the dogs. I too pulled over onto the shoulder of the median, put on my hazards and asked if they were his. He said no, but he was trying to do the right thing and round them up.

I then slid open the side door to my van and called out in a bright happy voice to the dogs "Wanna go for a ride?" Half the time this will work and a dog will bound into a car, ready to go. Unfortunately these two were members of the other half. I then got out to see what I could do. The larger of the two bounded over to me and I was able to snag him by his bright red and clearly new collar. He was an absolute doll, he just wanted to be friends and play with his little buddy. The other dog was another story, he would bark if we approached him and his body language clearly told me he would bite if pressed.

So now we had one grubby dog that we stuck in the back of my van and another dog swirling about. It was wary of us , but unwilling to leave it's companion. I decided we needed to call animal control. I fished out my cell phone from the car and called up Meryl to get the number. Just as I was about to dial, a cop pulled up behind me. He stepped out of his car and came around to ask if I needed any assistance. I told him the story so far and he called up animal control. Unfortunately they were busy and would be at least half an hour. The cop then joined in on trying to figure how to snag the Lhasa. Suddenly it hit me, I had some roast chicken in the car. I had made up a salad for lunch that I was planning on eating it while visiting Larry. I pulled out a piece of chicken, squatted down and held it out to the loose dog. He carefully approached me with his little nose twitching. Ever so slowly he stretched out and daintily nibbled the proffered treat. I still couldn't touch him, but I could bring him close. I tried looping a spare leash I had in the car over his head, but I couldn't quite pull it off.

At this point a second cop pulled up. I tried a new tactic and left a trail of chicken up into the van. It almost worked, but the van was a bit too high up and there was no way he was going to let us boost him in. Frustrated by the antics of the dog, one of the cops christened him hairball. I them said if he's hairball than the other one is goofball. We tried a few more times to corral the loose dog, but all that happened was that he got spooked and dashed across the road towards a car wash. The first cop had to go out on a call, but the second one remained and crossed after hairball. Monk too had to leave and I decided to give it one more try. I knew if I left with goofball we would probably never see hairball again. I got in it the van and edged out into traffic, crossed over and pulled into the car wash.

As I was parking the van I realized the parking lot had a small island near the car wash. I snugged the van next to it, hoping that now hairball would be able to step up into the van. I pulled out my slightly depleted lunch and lured the dog close. Hairball circled the van a few times until finally he decided to climb on in. I was inside and just before the dog got in the cop get the dogs rear a bit of a shove and closed the door.


The cop then gave me a big thumbs up and handed me my lunch that I had left outside. He told me where the animal shelter is located and we parted ways.

The ride to the shelter was uneventful and the staff took the dogs away. Hairball was a bit difficult, but they were able to snag him with a looped leash and get him out of the car. I hope the dogs got claimed by their owner, but it would not shock me if they had been dumped. Goofball has a good chance with his outgoing personality. He would make somebody a great pet. Hairball, however, is another story. At least it will be a kinder end then getting squished by a car.