Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with a BANG! or maybe a POP...

I am EXTREMELY sorry to report that I have unfortunately been successful in replicating KETTLE CORN, using only my All-Clad nonstick saucepan, 1/2 cup of popping corn, 2 teaspoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and fine-crystal salt to taste. And now that the inaugural batch is GONE, folks, all gone, I am at this moment sucking on the unpopped kernels.

Chances are VERY good that I will make another batch. Tonight. Now, in fact. The devil has made this process just TOO easy. THE DEVIL HIMSELF.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Garden of Darkness, by Anne Frasier

LOVED it. I took it to Alabama with me, and the story consumed my every spare moment between eating, sleeping, opening presents, and chasing my children around my parents' house. Trust me, you won't be able to put it down either. For those who follow Frasier's writing career (her blog has been a must-read of mine for years--alas, she is powering it down for a while), there are some delightful references. Be forewarned, though, this is not a novel to read while holed up alone in a secluded forest cabin. The story is spooky, sad, and occasionally horrifying. But in the end, satisfying. Cheers, Anne, and happy new year!

Everyone go buy Garden of Darkness!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Down to the Wire

Just no time to blog, much less breathe. The last two days have been blurs. N's preschool pageant Wednesday was a no-go for him. We left school and came home early, then had a pizza lunch gift exchange with our weekly playdate friends at our house. Errands, phone calls, cards, cleaning, cooking filled out the rest of that day. Had to cancel my eye doctor appointment yesterday (Thurs) because there was JUST NO TIME to go. Spent the time the kids were in preschool running errands and seeing the therapist. If the to-do-list doesn't get me, the anxiety about the flight and the visit with my folks will. We haven't been to their house since AC was nine months old and N was two. Pretty manageable pair, then. But now? Ay-ay-ay. Hoping they can be contained, especially at Christmas dinner when there will be sixteen of us.

Lucky me came down with a cold last night. This morning, AC and I are trying to clean the house, and we opened a few gifts from D's family since we can't take them to Alabama to unwrap there. The washing machine is on constantly and I'm trying to set aside clean outfits for the kids and I as they come out of the dryer. Hoping they soon make it into the luggage.

I bought myself two pairs of jeans yesterday. Yes, TWO PAIRS OF JEANS. I haven't bought even ONE pair of jeans (exc capris) since I was newly unpregnant with AC. So it was quite a moment. Might I stress I bought TWO pairs of jeans? I am giddy with my self-indulgence.

I'll end on that note and say I may not be back on until we get back. Too much to dooooooooo...

Happy, happy, and merry, merry to all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Diagnoses Multiplexicae

So, R's diagnosis yesterday was cataracts, iris atrophy, and vitrious degeneration. Just glad it isn't luxating lenses (yet) or glaucoma. We will start the drops after Christmas, so we don't have to pay the kennel to do it while we are gone.

My dad's thyroid surgery went well this morning. He will be released from the hospital tomorrow morning and the path report will be ready Friday. Once he's up and running, the docs will get back to work on his neuropathy issues.

The physiatrist says today that I don't have carpal tunnel syndrome, I have ULNAR tunnel syndrome. The nerve tunnel in my elbow is giving me the pinch, making me uncoordinated, drop stuff and, as it turns out, hypersensitive to touch. Go figure. I've got to modify all kinds of things to get the neural kinks ironed out and conserve the rest of our glassware. I'm relieved that I don't have to have the carpal tunnel surgery, but damn the shock test and the needle test today were freaky.

Got a SafeFit 2-in-1 Car Seat Cover'n Carry at Babies R Us today. You can wear it like a backpack or pull it on its wheels through the airport. We need to check N's car seat as luggage, hence this purchase, but AC will sit in hers on the plane. Hope it works.

N was a trial today. Again. But I think I'm getting better at floating him back where I need him to be. On my part, it takes a few deep breaths, some creative thinking, and a totally unrelated suggestion or concept to derail him from the path to destruction. I am learning to read his periods of intransigence, and unfortunately, they can last for hours. We just try to stay out of his hair. His morning schedule lost its potency on Friday, but having the weekend away from it rejuvenated his interest, and he has followed it Monday and today.

AC developed an ugly cough and a runny nose last night, but it's no worse today. No fever, thank goodness.

Back to the Christmas cards...

Monday, December 17, 2007


Hurling myself through a plate glass window would've been preferable to living through my day from about 3pm on. Since getting the kids to sleep and then cleaning up the five (dog) pee stains in my study and the family room, I've been paying bills and considering what to write about today. Still have to file financial and medical papers, take a shower, and put away laundry. No time for Starter Wife tonight.

R's eyes are getting worse. Got drops today to slow the progression. Tomorrow will be extremely busy, including the dreaded EMG on my right arm. My dad has surgery scheduled for 7:30am. I don't think he's ever had surgery. Unless you count the vasectomy. Don't tell him I said that. I'm a bit stressed at the moment.

Busy Sunday

Yesterday's highlights included a birthday party for N's preschool friend at The Little Gym. The facility was very nice and N enjoyed the tumbling very much after a slow start getting involved. We spent the afternoon getting the preschool teachers' gifts ready, drawing, and watching a Caillou holiday DVD while D went to work for a few hours. I finally got my dinner out at the Chinese buffet. The kids were GREAT. The food was, well, it's a Chinese buffet, so you adjust expectations accordingly. But it had stuff to please every palate. Afterward we picked up some goodies at Trader Joe's to fill the holiday basket for the vet and her staff. They take such good care of our two aging Italian Greyhounds.

The kids were in bed kind of late (asleep by 9:00), and then Dave and I watched parts two and three of The Starter Wife miniseries with Debra Messing and Judy Davis. It is light, but a nice escape.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Typical Saturday

This morning the kids slept in until 8:45, which was pretty damn heavenly. I got to shower and drink a cup of coffee in peace. When has that ever happened in the last four and a half years? I got them dressed and we three headed over to "Breakfast with Santa" (different Santa than was at yesterday's "Lunch with Santa," but neither noticed). We visited with lots of moms and kids we knew and had a pretty nice time. We aborted the post office errand when we saw that the line was out the door, but that was only after an AC tantrum and much gymnastic strapping of two packages into AC's stroller. D rescued us in the parking lot and took over the wait.

Once home, the kids played rather nicely till lunch. After that, I set to raking our front yard. Several hours and eleven bags of wet plant life later, I am the worse for wear. Everything still hurts. But now our lawn won't die and our neighborhood association president won't ring our doorbell. Good thing you can't see our backyard from the street...

Although I desperately wanted someone else to cook dinner for us, the boy's volatile mood ruined our chances at having a pleasant dinner out at the Chinese buffet. Not worth the potential meltdown. So, I made a variation of my breakfast-for-dinner smorgasbord. Tonight it was potato pancakes, toast, scrambled cheese eggs, pineapple and oranges, and cauliflower (hey--the kids will eat it).

D bathed them while I ran out for his dad's Christmas present, then I gave myself a treat and sat in AC's room with tea and a book until they were done. Trimmed twenty little toenails and twenty little fingernails, and both of us parents found the kids unusually easy to put to bed tonight. Soooo...

With my newfound leisure, I made mock-toffee bars. Shoot me now. Anyhoo, I'm typing this while they cool, and after I publish this post, I'll clean off the dining table of its gift wrapping mess, and transform it into scrapbook and Christmas card central. After I get that organized, D and I plan to kick back with a beer, some toffee, and a DVD. Probably the first hour of The Starter Wife.

Last night (this morning, actually), I ended up going to bed at 1:30 after packing all the Christmas boxes to mail. Oddly, though, I didn't feel so tired today.

My son's weekday mornings

About a week ago, I helped N create a "morning schedule," which has improved certain grumpy attitudes. It was meant not only to get us out the door to preschool in plenty of time, but to help him feel more in control of his day. I have to say it has worked pretty well.

Obviously, I wrote the numbers, but he wrote out the words on one and two, and then dictated to me what he wanted for three through five. He illustrated each activity (sun, shirt and shorts, blueberries and glass of milk, toothbrush, and Mom's Subaru Forester), and drew a box to check off. I predict this will work another week or two at most, and then we will need another method of taming mornings. He is in two respects much like me: highly fickle and allergic to routine.

Friday, December 14, 2007


N had preschool as usual this a.m., and AC and I did some Christmas shopping until it was time for her to join her brother for "Lunch with Santa" in the preschool fellowship hall. I spent that glorious, childless time borrowing some DVDs and books from the library and then eating a sandwich at a coffee shop while reading chapter one of 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child by Jeffrey Bernstein. Yeah, N has a few problems with defiance.

Picked up the kids and took them home for the rest of the afternoon. They were both delighted with the toys Santa had given them at lunch: both received a stuffed dog, and N got a pirate sticker book while AC got a Disney babies bedtime book. The pirate sticker book was a lifesaver while I sifted through some piles on my desk. I have jury duty in January that I've already requested be postponed once. I don't think there's any getting out of it this time. I'd lost my card, though, and so wasn't sure of the date until this afternoon. I added lots of other things to my 2008 calendar as well--opera night (The Gondoliers), dentist, well-kid checkups, and the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Get your tickets early, folks! We change health insurance in January, so I also had to get those papers in order. After January I will no longer be able to see my beloved physical therapist without paying --- gasp --- full price. Don't know yet how to swing it.

Ordered take-out pizza for dinner, D got home early, we chowed and threw the kids in the car for babysitting night at the Y!! Then D and I went, with some trepidation, to the mall. Yes, it was as bad as we had thought it would be. However, our claustrophobic trip into Kay-Bee Toys paid off when the cashier couldn't ring up the Power Ranger that N will be giving AC for Christmas, and he just GAVE IT TO US FREE. Merry Christmas to you, too, pal! Finished the shopping for my side of the family, still lack all of my father-in-law's gift, but will nonetheless box and send all gifts to their recipients tomorrow. And then I will pray that they arrive in time.

Fetched the kids from the Y about 9:00 and promptly sent them to bed. The caregivers had to nix the oatmeal raisin cookies I had sent in with my kids, due to possible "tree nut contents," and instead gave them some generic corn puff cereal for a snack. YUCK. No wonder N was a mental mess until he collapsed about 10:00. He had mainlined processed sugar and preservatives!

Since then I've done some reading about oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) in preschoolers to get some more parenting ideas. When your son's attitude to punitive discipline is BRING IT ON, MOM. HELL--WHY DON'T YOU EVEN BUMP IT UP A NOTCH??, then you know you need to change systems.

Time now to shower, then will wrap and box gifts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Let's Make this a True 'bLog

In the spirit of time and organization and someday looking back for a larf, I am going to log the next week and a half. No bells or whistles, no funnies, no editing, probably.

Today, I dropped the kids at preschool then ran to my physical therapy appointment. If you didn't know, I have a suspected labral tear in my hip joint. And I also have some kind of razor-like feature under my right kneecap. As of the past week, they are in cahoots.

After PT, I ran home to get a few household jobs done and answer a few emails, ate a bite, then ran to my (mental) therapist's appointment. One of his numerous recommendations today: "You need what we in the business call a little 'Pleasure and Mastery.'" Stop snickering--I don't want to receive any velvet handcuffs in the mail. It's getting myself involved in something I find pleasurable, a hobby (must look that up in the dictionary), if you will, that can give me a sense of mastery as I improve. When I have a sec, I'll think about that.

Then, after shelling out another co-pay, I raced to the preschool to pick up the kids. We came home and cleaned up the house some, then did some I Spy stuff, drew, and colored. N (4.5y) and I spent a little time learning about Pokeman. [ETA: like how to spell it. PokemOn.] Pikachu is a Pichu. Ash is a trainer. That's as far as we got. I printed out a Pikachu coloring page and researched what colors he needed on him. N colored most of him and convinced me to do the rest. I ate an egg salad sandwich and gave the kids bananas (they ate lunch at school today).

I assembled dinner ingredients (eggplant parmigiana, spaghetti, and broccoli) and then I sent the chirrun downstairs to watch a Charlie Brown Christmas (twice--it's short) while I wrapped presents at the dining table.

Next, I came to my study to catch up on my friendses' blogs and make a few comments. Now I'm writing what you are reading. Next, it's neaten the desk and pay a few bills, then make dinner.

The kids and I will eat together (D doesn't get home until their bedtime.) After dinner, I will make popcorn and we'll watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then BED for the KIDS. My light at the end of the tunnel. After that I'll try to finish the chores I didn't get done during daylight.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

For Goodness Sakes, Buy Anne Frasier's Garden of Darkness on 12/4

So I haven't read Anne Frasier's Garden of Darkness yet because I just picked it up at Border's yesterday (they had it out four days early), but I know it's going to be just as exciting (and spooky) as her last, Pale Immortal. The reading commences TODAY!!! WOOHOO!!

Run out and pick up this paperback, folks--available everywhere December 4. Inexpensive, portable, entertaining--and a great gift idea. And while you're in the stacks, pick up a few more Frasier titles. I loved Play Dead, too!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Young Minds Are Like Very Small Boxes with Locks that will never unlock once you lock them up

An anonymous fearmonger posted a conflation of the two emails from this entry on the doorframe of my two-year old's preschool classroom today. In short, it warns parents that the film adaptation of The Golden Compass is dangerous to children because the book's author (Phillip Pullman) is an atheist and anti-religious.

I am so glad the poster highlighted the word "WARNING" on the email he or she printed out for all the parents. Reading those wise words reminded me of what I actually already knew, that just one viewing of a mediocre movie can turn an impressionable child against God. FOREVER.

Running off to find the blinders and earplugs...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Delaware Lights up the Night

...with its ongoing releases of toxic substances!
This time, it's the historically troubled Valero gas refinery in Delaware City, now owned by Premcor. Look everyone, a new leak! Well, if by "new" you mean it possibly started in 2004. At the latest.

I'll just run'n see how many miles, as the crow flies, the refinery is from my house.
*sound of scurrying mice feet*
Looks to be about 18 or 19 miles.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Do I HAVE to?

I'm not reading as much as I used to. And it's mostly because I feel like reading has become an aspect of my part-time work--freelance editing--rather than a recreational activity. When I'm thick into a fiction job, my desire to read fiction dwindles. Naturally then, I start watching more movies and searching out clever point and click adventure games on the webz. When I have a memoir to edit, the nonfiction on the stack is the least enticing.

The sad part is that when I do have a lovely book on my lap just for me, like In the Woods that I recently scored from the library's waiting list, I can't bring myself to finish it because...I should be reading something more relevant to my work. How stupid is that?

Anyone else have periods where they see recreation as a "should"?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Early American Housekeeping

Do you ever think of yourself as Benjamin-the-hell-Frankin? Blogging about how you are undertaking this or that particular moral-fiber-increasing regimen complete with checklist and graph to chart your progress? I do. And I don't even have a son to address it to. Wait. That is incorrect. I should say I don't have a son who cares. William Franklin may not have cared for Ben's self-improving schemes either, but my son is only four. And he really doesn't care that I'm going to get back on the Flylady bandwagon-that-isn't-a-bandwagon and fulfill as many of my daily reminders as I can.

But that's what I'm going to do, for those of you who may have the slightest bit of interest. Her web site will initially create utter overwhelm-ment and dizziness in the novice. If you are not looking to lose weight, buy helpful doodads, or clear a scurrying path through your rat-pack house, you have to dig deeply (read, scroll down) for the general motivational house-cleaning stuff. But I've been on her thing for about four years now, so I know how to find it, and what I need to do. Right now, I just need to "hear" a thorough task-mistress tell me to do it. Daily. And she does sell good feather dusters and moms's's calendars. I use both.

Today, I did the following:
washed, dried, folded and put away a load of laundry
drank lots of water
"swished and swiped" (toilets and vanities of three bathrooms)

I have a cold, had a busy day, and that's all I can do housekeeping-wise today, son.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Grasping for Straws

Or is it "clutching at" straws? I don't really care right now. I have a cold. I haven't updated the blog in weeks. I am snotty and cranky and ready to throw any crumbs I can sweep together up onto the screen and call it a day. "What a gracious hostess," you are saying. "I plan on spending lots of my free time reading these crumbs and examining them for deeper meaning, for surely she must think enough of me to create creative, insightful, and witty messages on a regular basis." Yeah. Whatever. Just spreading around the germy love. On to today's crumbs:

That 104.5 - they have my number. Damn radio station out of Philly plays everything I can rock out to: Beck, Fatboy Slim, Beasties, Weezer, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, notice-I-am-stuck-in-the-90s, STP, help-me-I'm-old, Jane's Addiction, REM, but-I-was-old-even-in-the-90s, Matthew Sweet, Big Audio Dynamite, not-sure-how-to-grow-up, Talking Heads, okay-that-was-the-eighties, Nirvana. And there are so few commercials that you start to think you're listening to your home-made mix. But. BUT. But then, 104.5 will pull a fast one. When you least expect it they slip in a "current rock hit." And it really bums my stone, man. Who do they think they are, Clear Channel or something? Oh, yeah, they are. I don't even know the names of these bands whose dreck I'm listening to, except for one entertaining song whose lyrics I Googled yesterday, Silversun Pickups' Lazy Eye. Not bad. But most of the other unidentifiable modern rock that they scare me with is tepid, repetitive, and self-indulgent. Kind of like this blog. I guess they really do have my number.

p.s. I do like the White Stripes' music, which, happy for me, they also play.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Another Day, Another Thousand Pounds of Toxic Leakage

Just everyday life in Pays de DuPont. (Or would that be Pays du Pont?) It is little wonder that people around here (my family included) pay hundreds of dollars a year to have bottled water shipped in from...anywhere but here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

No More Popcorn Lung

I've gone back to making my popcorn the old-fashioned way. Well, if you call stove-popped "old fashioned." (No, not Jiffy-Pop, kids.)

I am proud to report that about a month ago I swore off microwave popcorn--even BEFORE I read the report yesterday that the chemicals that give it its buttery flavor are making the factory workers ILL. Yeah, I've always known microwave popcorn was bad for you in a brazillian ways, but I'm slow when it comes to addictions. Aren't we all?

How do you make this reasonably healthy snack? Put some vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat, cover the bottom with a layer of kernels, and pop! Pour on some melted butter and fine salt, stir, and you are set for a couple hours on the couch with the husband and dogs. If you are lucky, you will be watching a Jeeves and Wooster DVD.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The August Transition

So. August.

In my household, this month is filled with looking ahead, preparing for fall and winter. My hands are chapped from washing, peeling, shelling, chopping, parboiling, and freezing the hot and heavy produce from the orchard and farm fields around here. Several bags of peppers--Hungarian banana, baby yellow, orange, and red bells, jalapeno, and regular red and green bells--wait in the crisper. Most will be chopped and frozen raw, the rest roasted for use over the next week--until the next few bags arrive next Wednesday. I'm preparing this salad tonight, with edits: bulghur for farro, double the favas, and no peas.

Apprehension grows as preschool looms. Children deny that lazy summer mornings will come to an end. I feverishly scan their warm-weather wardrobes, needed through October where we live: which shirts are stained? which jeans have holes? More importantly: which stores still have summer merchandise on the clearance racks? Around here, clothing departments are brimming with corduroy, fleece, and jack-o-lanterns, to my dismay.

Speaking of holidays long off, the year's first Christmas-cover catalog arrived in today's mail. Today, August 16. A new record. Woe be unto LTD Commodities, some new-to-me wholesaler, who apparently thinks I might buy these heinous porcelain grandparent dolls. I don't have anything against transvestism, but I'm not sure the manufacturer meant for the grandpa's clothes and hair to be on the grandma's doll head and body, and vice versa. I suppose it would be the perfect gift for the gender-bending octogenarian. The tome is already in the recycling basket.

August's MasterCard bill shows that the medical bills from the first half of the year are nearly paid. Girl, mother, and dogs are (knock wood) for the moment functioning. W goes for teeth cleaning, nail trim, and tumor excision Monday, so another $400 or so pending...

...which means August is also the month for Draconian belt-tightening. Our emergency fund has done its job over the past year--put a new roof over our heads, a new floor under, covered surgeries and medical tests--such that at this moment the account is as useful as a deflated life-raft.

So we entertain ourselves with free activities: museums where we are members or whose admission is free, outdoor parks, gatherings of other moms and kids for play in each others' homes. We've been lucky to receive many generous invitations from friends and family this summer, and those whom we host are treated with comparable generosity, I hope.

But how to make up the deficit? Maybe some eBay sales, hopefully more editing jobs, perhaps even a foray into paid freelance writing. Ultimately, as much as I dread the thought, I'm beginning to see myself (gasp) heading back to the classroom--the front of the classroom, that is. Not for this school year, but perhaps for 2008-09. I resigned from full-time professoring at the end of fall semester 2004 to stay home with my children (one of whom was still baking at that time). Admittedly, I've done little to keep up with changes in my field or to stay in touch with my colleagues, situations to be remedied in the months ahead. Is four years away too long? Ask me next August.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Young Lives Cut Short

I am so sad about the four kids shot in New Jersey. Three were killed; one is in fair condition after being shot in the head--shots that killed the others.

They were due back at college here in Delaware. But they won't be returning now.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Peek Inside the Box

Thought I'd give you a glimpse of the kinds of things we're getting in our CSA box from Calvert Farm every Wednesday. Contents differ weekly except for things like corn and squash. Last week we had the loveliest, best tasting cauliflower I've ever had. Yesterday's bounty:

Napa cabbage
yellow pole beans
long lavender eggplant
five frying peppers
two zucchini
one crook-neck squash
five beets
six carrots
six ears corn
sweet onion

I bought four tomatoes at the orchard when I picked up the box, so it is probably obvious from the above list that ratatouille is on the menu for tonight. Probably over mini penne.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Procrastination Station

Just made a meez:

It took me forty-five minutes to find where they hid all the old fart stuff.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New Chapter

So, my latest freelance editing job is finished, and the kids start a two-week daycamp tomorrow morning. You'd think I'd be chomping at the bit to get back to my fiction. You'd be wrong.

I have been thinking about my writing. It's on my mind almost every day. But at the end of every day, the things I want to say seem less relevant. This is a sign that either 1) I'm changing or 2) the book sucked. Likely, it's both.

So how will I spend those childless three hours a day for the next two weeks? Half of the time (the second week), I will be consumed with entertaining the in-laws. Good timing, eh? The other half, well, we shall see tomorrow morning when I plan to let my muse do with me what she will. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

International House of Breakfast

Since my last post I've been investigating where our breakfast comes from. The answer? Everywhere. Lately, we've been eating oatmeal, home-made bread, fruit, and yogurt.*

Quaker oatmeal is grown in the U.S. and Canada, same for the store-brand oats (ultimately from a Ralston plant, I think). Our Nature's Promise organic apple juice uses concentrate from Turkey, and our Trader Joe's raisins are from California. The coveted Brown Cow cream-top maple yogurt [drool] is made in California; I have to assume the milk is from not too far away. Only our blackberries and cherries are local, both from the CSA. The bananas are Honduran.

So if oats aren't a big industry 'round these parts, what would be an appropriate local breakfast grain? Can you consider my home-made bread "local" (the honey is the only ingredient whose provenance I know) since the love and labor is mine? I could always fry up an egg from the orchard's hens, I suppose. Rice was once big on the mid-Atlantic coast. Maybe I'll look into that. I have some Erewhon organic "brown rice cream" cereal (like cream of rice) that is "distributed by" a company in Massachusetts, same one that makes Farina. I'll probably call them Monday to see where their rice comes from.

I can't see that finding fruits would be a problem for one concerned with eating locally here in Delaware. Obviously, bananas and other tropical fruits (we love mangoes) come from far away. Later this summer I'll start inquiring about any raisin-making in the area, which has abundant and tasty grapes. Juice should be easy to concoct from local sources, too. Highland Orchards is known for their wonderful apples as summer turns to fall. I'll certainly ask them about how well their cider freezes. I could be juicing some of the berries we've been gorging ourselves on this spring and summer, but it just never occurred to me. It just never occurred to me. Well, there's the problem, eh? Mindfulness yields an infinite bounty.

*In the past few weeks, I've worked on steering the kids away from Nutri-Grain bars while I come up with a healthier home-made substitute that they will accept. I hear you laughing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Home Cookin'

I've been working hard over the past few years to eat "closer to home." The farther food has to travel to get to your plate, the more resources that could've been saved by you eating food grown or produced in your vicinity. If you read this blog regularly, then 1) you know I rarely write this blog regularly, but 2) you also know I shop for most of my produce and dairy at Highland Orchards in Wilmington, Delaware. The vegetables and fruits from their land are grown with no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. In their orchard market, they also sell produce, dairy, and meats--some certified organic--from other sources both near and far, as well as prepared foods and mixes of well-known companies like Eden Foods, Paul Newman, Bob's Red Mill, Thai Kitchen, etc. I also pick up a weekly box of organic produce grown on a group of small farms just over the border in Maryland. Calvert Farm runs this CSA, and we've scored some lovely things so far this season, including the best asparagus I've had in years.

Back to my original point. If you support local agriculture, you are putting your money where your mouth is--therefore enriching not only the local economy and ecology, but your health and quality of life.

Here's a website to get you started: The 100 Mile Diet. A couple endeavored to spend a year living on foods found within 100 miles of their Vancouver, BC, home; now they're spreading the word.
In honor of their noble experiment, I decided to take a look at my family's consumption just for today and estimate what percentage is "local." Here is what turned out to be a very short list of what we consumed that was grown/made locally:

Sunflower seeds: sold at Highland Orchard in DE, grown ??
Red potatoes

In my tallying, I realized that I rarely read labels to see where things are from. Yes, I know (and hate) that the organic grapes we ate today were shipped from Mexico. No, I don't have to buy them. But my two and three year olds eat a lot of fruit. And I see plainly on the package that our Trader Joe's raisins are grown in California. But what of Post Honey Bunches of O's? Or Silk soymilk? I couldn't find the state(s) of origin on the King Arthur whole wheat flour package--all they will say is that the ingredient is 100% w.w. flour, "milled for" K.A.F. in Vermont. What about all the local buying I do? Is it okay if I buy a Washington apple from Highland Orchards right now, knowing full well that they will have so many varieties of site-grown apples available later in the summer that my head will swim? Yes, I think it is a step in the right direction to purchase even long-distance food from a local independent market if you believe in their mission.

I've made several decisions today. One is to be more attentive to sources as noted on packaging. Another is to substitute local food for "SUV food." Summer is the easiest time for us all to do that, when backyard salad gardens are as easy as dropping a few seeds in some slit bags of dirt. Yes, I actually did that one year and enjoyed some lovely tomatoes, thank you.

What will YOU do?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another Meme to Get Me Off the Hook

Thanks to PT-LawMom, here's another meme about..... MEEEEEEEEE! Please go read her blog; she's a working, law-school-attending mother who cares a great deal about justice.

This time, it's the A-B-C's!

A - Attached or Single?

B - Best Friend?
I have several bestests.

C - Cake or Pie?

D - Drink of Choice?
Champagne or lemonade.

E - Essential Items?
Burts Bees lip balm.

F - Favorite Color?
Changes daily.

G - Gummie Bears or Worms?

H - Hometown?
Born in Sylacauga. Ho-a-whoo-ah?

I - Indulgence?
Sudoku. And microwave popcorn. And lemonade.

J - January or February?
January, I guess. Fresh starts are always appealing.

K - Kids?
No thanks, I have enough already.

L - Life is incomplete without?
Never had an issue with this one. Never felt not complete, really. Things are what they are.

M - Marriage Date?
August 1 and May 16. Same guy, different years.

N - Number of Siblings?
One older sister.

O - Oranges or Apples?

P - Phobias/Fears?
Can't think of any right now. I used to have a major fear of flying, but it has been reduced to a low-level of discomfort.

Q - Favorite Quote?
"Drop the story line." Pema Chodron.

R - Reason to smile?
Things my kids do and say. Oh, and watching Strangers with Candy reruns on DVD.

S - Seasons?
They can be very pleasant.

T - Tags?
Mine peeps have already been tagged.

U - Unknown Fact About Me?

V - Vegetarian or oppressor of animals?
I only oppress fish and dairy cows.

W - Worst Habit?
Procrastination. THANKS for the ENABLING, PT-LawMOM.

X - X-rays or ultrasounds?
Having an x-ray today, as a matter of fact, to guide an ultra-long [ya know, when people told me the needle was REALLY BIG, I assumed they meant long--enough to get into my joint space. But what they meant was...] ultra-FAT needle into the space in my right hip socket. Soooooo excited that I both want to vomit and faint at the same time. [I did neither, but came pretty close to the latter when it was time to sit up again.]

Y - Your favorite food?
Still feeling a little queasy from X, so I'll sit this one out.

Z - Zodiac?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Bread

Twice now, I've baked a batch (two loaves) of 100% whole wheat bread that, imho, looks and feels just like bakery sandwich bread. But of course, my bread TASTES BETTER. Yes, I am both biased and proud of myself. Here's the recipe. I do not have a stand mixer (it's on the wish list for when we are in a house with a larger kitchen), so I hand knead for about twenty minutes while the kids eat a meal. Totally worth it, yessirree.

Here's the problem, though. My kids won't eat bread crusts. With this bread, that's like shaving the hair off Boticelli's Venus. So I religiously save their sandwich husks and snack on them throughout the day.

Moms: the human garbage disposals.

Here's a nice yeast roll recipe I made last week. I added two tablespoons of wheat bran to boost the nutritional content, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. Oh--except that I substituted milk soured with cider vinegar for the buttermilk, which I don't keep on hand.

Get baking, people!!

p.s. edited to add that I do not put an egg wash on either of these recipes. I like softer crusts.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Bloody Good Read*

Several weeks ago, I read--correction: I tore through--Duane Swierczynski's novel, The Wheelman. Holy crap it was a strict adrenaline mainline. Crosses, double-crosses, cross-outs, and cross-your-hearts-and-hope-NOT-to-die's on every page. Not only do you get a story at break-neck speed, you get an education about Philly, about crime, and about anatomy and physiology, albeit not too sterile. Way to go, Duane. Please tell us it'll be a movie soon. I'll be adding his newest read, The Blonde, to my stack.

*Gaw, how many times has a reviewer written that headline for a high-body-count crime novel? Sorry, Duane.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Did you get the Meme-O? Re: Eight Random Things

Jess at has tagged me for a meme where I give eight random facts about myself then tag eight more people. I am so ass-tired right now I am going to invite any and all to join in the fun! If you do it, then comment on this post with your link.

I haven't participated in a meme in a long time, so this should be fun. For me, I mean.

1. I love to wear high heels. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to do that in years due to joint problems and pregnancies.

2. I am compulsive about counting things when the number does not matter in the slightest. I count the number of scoops it takes to fill up the dog food container; I count the number of breaths my son takes before I leave his room in the middle of the night. Harmless, right?

3. I love Dolly Parton. I love everything about her.

4. I wish I had learned to play basketball. And, yes, it IS too late.

5. I have received only one traffic ticket in my entire life--I parked in a handicapped spot when I arrived late to take my GRE.

6. My three-year-old son puts off going to the potty as long as humanly possible. Hmmmm. Wonder where he gets that. La-la-la-la-la-la...

7. I have an extremely acute sense of smell.

8. I had an addiction to Oreos until I was about thirty-five. Don't know where that obsession went, but good riddance.

Now don't you want to adopt me???

Friday, May 04, 2007

BJ's Report

Minds out of the gutter, people. Notice the apostrophe s on the acronym.

My neighbor gave me a free pass to BJ's warehouse store that turns out to last three months. If I join ($45/yr for the lowest tier), they will take those three months off the total so I'll get nine more months.

I've gone three times now, and I'm still trying to work out whether the benefit is worth $45 to us.

  • More items per box means, typically, less wasteful/harmful packaging. Ex: 5 lbs of sliced American cheese with NO STUPID INDIVIDUAL WRAPPERS for $11.00.
  • There are bargains, but you have to do the math. The following foods there are even cheaper than at Target: Morningstar Farms' veggie burgers (in a 16-pack, and not only are they cheaper, they're also LARGER than the kind in the box!) and Kellogg's Nutrigrain bars (my kids' breakfast of choice).
  • Gas really is cheaper there.

  • It is far away (twenty minutes) and the traffic is stressful, not to mention the gas consumption and emissions.
  • Each time, I end up buying something there that I know is not at its cheapest price, and yet I get it just because it's convenient.
  • We don't have lots of storage space for food.
  • They don't carry too much in the way of natural/organic foods. The only Silk I can find there are the vanilla and chocolate flavors--no plain!
  • I do a pretty good job of shopping the sales in my neighborhood and using coupons on top of the loss leader prices.

I'm still thinking it over; I'll let you know. Meanwhile, YOU let me know how you use warehouse stores, or if you use them at all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I'm struggling to find something to write on this blog that won't take two hours to compose, edit, and post. So, here are some links I have found useful and entertaining in recent months; perhaps you will also enjoy them. Peak 62 is an outdoor gear shop that was incredibly speedy in sending me our stainless steel mugs for the kids. Seems like a great outfit; they are based in Seattle. As a kid, I used to spend hours looking through the Vermont Country Store's little black and white catalogs, studying the old-fashioned (read: freaky) items they sold to, I assumed, elderly farm wives. And now, look at me, wanting to order things for my middle-aged suburban (read: freaky) lifestyle! Slashfood is an addictive group blog about the latest and yummiest in comestible news. Just one day's postings can take you around the world in food and drink. Jennifer [McCann] Shmoo takes great care to feed her other two Shmoos healthy vegan fare, mindfully packaged. On her blog she generously shares her discoveries with the rest of us.

The Landlord: Watch in disbelief as a hateful landlord takes Will Ferrell down a peg. Make sure you are wearing leak-protection first.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I Am Indeed Still Alive, Just Buried in Plastic

Just a short post as I'm entertaining a houseguest and supervising some coloring:

Have you ever tasted the beverage that sits in your kid's little plastic tumbler? Even after a few minutes, it reeks of chemical taint. If a sip makes me nauseated, it can't be good for their little systems. Plastics scare me, especially as they constitute so much of my children's lives. My squirts are too young to use glass, so steel it shall be. I'm on a search now for GSI Outdoors "Glacier" Stainless Steel cups (10oz). I can find them online for $5.95, but I'm going to see if a local outdoor outfitter might have them on the shelf. By the way, sells lovely 12oz stainless steel bottles with sippy lids (the only plastic part in the whole set-up) for those who have kids still in the sippy stage.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Important Things

The men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments now seem unimportant next to the tragedy of a lost life. Jason Ray, the 21-year-old student who played Rameses, the Carolina ram mascot, was struck by a car the afternoon of the men's eastern regional game. He died three days later from his injuries. My deep sympathies go to his family, his friends, and the UNC and Chapel Hill communities he served.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Leftover Ragout

Just some odds and ends here, catching up on what's been going on.


My daughter AC turned two yesterday. She's my special little girl who looks nothing like me. She loves "reading" books to me, drawing, saying nursery rhymes, building with blocks, pretending there's a tiger in the living room, tumbling, and stomping in mud puddles.

She is almost potty trained. I'm shocked, frankly, because I had absolutely nothing to do with it. She just decided to make the leap herself.


I've signed us up for another CSA subscription this year, from Calvert Farm in Maryland. We tried them two or three summers ago, but that season saw a terrible drought. Consequently, the boxes weren't near as full as usual, they told us. I'm hoping for more from them this time. Apparently, they are joining forces with a number of area small farms to offer more variety and fill in any gaps. They'll deliver a weekly box of organic fruits and vegetables from May through September to a local pickup point.

I invested in this partly because I decided not to do my raised bed vegetable gardening this summer, and partly because I love the "pot luck" aspect of cooking from what they give you. And of course, there's the satisfaction of helping local growers and eating fresh, organic produce. It's all good.


The Tarheels (both women and men) forge ahead into next weekend's tournament games. We are optimistic. Dook is out. We are joyful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's a Co-Ed Dance!!!

So, the Lady Tarheels are a number one seed in the NCAA Tourney, too. Can they, CAN THEY, finally win another championship? I was in grad school at Carolina when the men won, and then the women won, and, well, we were just floating around for a few years in glory-land. I WANT TO FLOAT AGAIN. Help me float, ladies.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's Good Being First

My title is currently being used as a (trademarked) marketing slogan for the state of Delaware, whose motto is "the first state" because it was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Who knew? Who cares? The motto was forgotten as soon as the billboards were taken down. I'm not infringing, though, because I'm talking bout the 'Heels. Yes, the men's Tarheel basketball team are ACC champions for the umpteenth time and are now the number one seed in the East region for the NCAA championships.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sharing the Waste, Sharing the Wealth

So, if you've read my blog for a while you've probably gleaned, or been hit over the head with, the idea that I like to save money on some things so that I can enjoy certain other things. For instance, I can't stand to pay full price for groceries or clothes when I know that, with a little research, I can save enough on those two things to pay for a fine dinner out with my husband. We also economize in order to pump up our retirement savings, our kids' college funds, and our "rainy day fund" (recently re-titled, "our rain-coming-through-the-old-roof fund"). So we drive our cars into the ground, never buy anything on time (i.e., with interest), hang-dry clothes, shop second-hand, etc. Yeah, I guess you could call me cheap. Fine.

Last night, I was reading through The Complete Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn, and came upon a money-saving idea I had never thought of: split the cost of garbage pick-up with a neighbor. So, for example, my neighbor and I would decide that she would get the contract with the collector, and then I would walk our garbage over to her bin (ten steps from ours) on pick-up day. When she got her quarterly bill, we'd pay half of it. Brilliant. Those ten steps alone would save us $135 a year. The problem: I don't think neighbors particularly want to talk garbage with each other, much less finances. Is a short-term discomfort worth $135/year to you? I'm giving that one some serious thought.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I'm Still Full

My dear and darling and thoughtful and still-forty-one-year-old-for-eight-more-months husband took me out for a surprise birthday dinner last night to Krazy Kats, at the Inn at Montchanin. And I still haven't quite recovered from the feast--in a good way, of course. Everything about the night was magical, from the drive in through the winding chateau country, through the hostess's warm greeting of, "Happy birthday!", to the lit candle on my espresso cheesecake. I'll be 42 on Tuesday, and this evening out was a gentle entree to the milestone, which has been troubling me lately.

I heartily recommend the restaurant for a special occasion dinner.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wounded Iraq War Veterans

I just finished reading the current Newsweek (March 5, 2007) cover story, "Failing Our Wounded." See the web version here. It shocked and deeply saddened me. I have family and dear friends serving in the military, and one young nephew has done duty in Iraq twice. Now he is back in the middle east--not in Iraq, but we all know he is not out of harm's way.

I wrung my hands throughout the piece, but the authors predicted my and countless others' feelings of helplessness. They wisely included a sidebar on the last page, aptly entitled, "HOW YOU CAN HELP." (The following info is also in a box on the web version of the article linked in the previous paragraph.) Here's the skinny:


These charities were highly rated by multiple philanthropy watchdog groups:

  • Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund ( Built a topnotch rehab facility at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas that opened this year. Similar projects on the horizon.
  • Fisher House Foundation ( Constructs housing spaces at medical facilities so injured vets can be with their families while they heal.
  • Armed Services YMCA ( Gives vets YMCA access, where they can do physical rehab. Offers paying YMCA jobs to help vets get reacclimated.

No matter your politics, surely you can find somehow to help those who are suffering pointlessly.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Trip to NY Without Leaving Delaware

This afternoon, D and I experienced for the first time a sold-out, live performance of the Metropolitan Opera. It was Tchaikovsky's superb Eugene Onegin (say it, yev-gen-ee on-yay-gen), which I had never seen--nor have I read Pushkin's novel in verse from which it was adapted. Fantastic thing is, we wore jeans and shared a tub of popcorn and a large soda. IT WAS BROADCAST IN HD AT OUR MOVIE THEATRE. Do my capital letters sufficiently convey my thrilldom?

Thank you, NCM Fathom, for creating HD broadcasts of the Met's productions at movie theatres across the country, including one near me. And thank you, WHYY, for providing a limited number of FREE tickets ($18 regular price) for station members. We love you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

any excuse

so...c-c-c-cold... chocolate...sudoku...two dogs...
to hell with the housework

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Belated Thank You to Pet PTs

I have been meaning to post this for many months, and had some time today.

Almost a year ago, my dog W's left knee was rebuilt by a kind and capable surgeon named Dr. Franczuszki. See this blog post. He suffered from a condition called "luxating patella," widespread among Italian Greyhounds (although our other fellow, who came from careful breeding, does not have it). W had endured it all his life, but the constant slipping of the kneecap eventually caused him so much wear and pain that he had stopped using that leg altogether, several months before we decided on surgery.

The operation was a success and his new joint was A-OK. However, W persisted in not using his new knee, despite my applying all the recommended therapies at home. W was not only stubborn, he was comfortable with things how they were. Enter the two experts at West Chester Veterinary Rehabilitation Specialty Center.

Dr. Ann Caulfield and Michelle Lazarski treated my sweet but timid rescue hound like their own child. They walked him in the underwater treadmill, they massaged him, they talked cuddly to him and they, in short, made a friend of my quivery paranoid pet. And over the three or so months we made our visits to their facility, W improved. Of course, he put on his brave face and used his leg in front of the two therapists, but when we would get home and he was free in the backyard, he'd revert to his three-legged lope. It was frustrating, but I continued our homework. And by the end of the summer, he was walking on all fours again, where he remains to this day.

We know that his right knee is deteriorating from the same condition, but he doesn't seem to be in any pain. Yet. When he first shows those signs, I will be consulting with the surgeon again, and will then be sure to use Caulfield and Lazarski for our follow up PT. They are miracle-workers.

If you are in the vicinity of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and have a pet that would benefit from therapy, I would highly recommend the rehabilitation center and the two women that head it. Thanks, ladies, from W and me!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hey, Buster! Who You Corruptin' Now-Now-Now?

I sit and watch the occasional PBS kids' show in the a.m. with my two children, AC (22m) and N (3.5y). For some strange reason, Wednesday at 5pm we turned on the t.v., and landed on NJN, the New Jersey public station. POSTCARDS FROM BUSTER came on, a show we've seen only three or four times. For those unfamiliar with Buster, he is a bunny originally from the popular animated PBS kids' show, ARTHUR, which features all-animal characters in a world usually inhabited by humans (think Berenstain Bears). PFB is a spinoff show from ARTHUR that features the animated Buster (he's eight, by the way) and his dad--a pilot-rabbit--flying around the country to take a musical group--of rabbits--to their gigs. The show focuses on what Buster finds and videotapes in these locations they visit--and all of the visiting is with live, non-actor human beings, in non-animated situations. It's a little strange to watch the people pretend to "interact" with a fictional/animated character behind the camera.

Enough background on the show. Here's the hoot: Wednesday, we happened to catch THE BANNED EPISODE!!! Buster & Co. traveled to Vermont, where Buster hung out with some kids his age (real kids, again), who showed him around the town. He watched and learned how maple sugar was made; he visited a dairy farm and saw how the cows were milked and how farm kids have some fun. Oh, and by the way, he had a Shabbat dinner with a family who had--shhhhh--two moms. Then they went to another family's house to sit around a bonfire and say goodbye to winter! Don't tell, but that family had two moms too.

There was so very little to do with the two moms thing, and so much to do with the children going about their business in rural Vermont, that I am astounded that the Bush administration demanded in January 2005 that PBS not distribute the show. Several PBS stations, however, got the episode and have run it. Apparently, NJN was one. This particular episode is NOT on the official Buster site: Nowhere is there mention of Buster visiting Vermont, even though the episode is now over two years old!

Nyah-nyah, Bush! Now my children will be sad and confused individuals who think that family love is unlimited. They might even find out about Mary Cheney some day.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Props and Slops

THE PROPSI love giving props to people and things who make me happy. In no particular order, here are my latest true loves:

Budget Rental Car
Saved $200 on a week's rental just by stopping by the Budget desk on a whim while on my way to the Avis desk where we had already reserved a car for the week. No reservation? No problem. AND THEY WERE SO FRIENDLY!!!
Hyundai Sonata
This is the car we rented. We've always owned Camrys or Accords (plus my new fave, my Subaru Forester), but this Sonata was the CANDY. Who knew??? Comfortable, spacious, get-up-and-go. And a pretty thing! We fit all our luggage, we two adults, the two kids, and their car seats into that baby with LOTS of trunk room to spare.
Commerce Bank on Concord Pike & Silverside
I read recently in the News Journal (local-local!) that the most convenient place to cash in your coins was this bank's machine. No waiting in the supermarket lines, no "store credit" instead of cash. TRUE TRUE TRUE. And not only that, but the whole bank's staff was friendly, helpful, and SMILED at me when I didn't even stand in their lines! They even gave me two free checkbook registers when I asked, and I'm a freakin Wachovia customer. Hell they are open on WEEKENDS, people. Maybe I'll look into it.


Hanes socks for my boy
I didn't think a huge name like Hanes could make a stinky product, but the white ankle-high athletic socks I bought my 3.5yo are PILLING. I have never owned an athletic sock that pilled. Have you? It is strange and very UGLY, seeing that the fabric lining of his sneakers is navy blue. The fuzz pills on his white socks are GREY, and the socks are but a week old.

Microsoft Windows 7
Can you just shoot me now? I didn't observe my usual rule of letting a few months go by before upgrading to the next version. The NEW and IMPROVED Windows treats ANY link that is designated to open in a new window as a pop-up and blocks them. local alerts, for example. Also, links on my blog (I always tag them to open in a new window so you don't leave me--*snif*). So you have to press Ctrl at the same time as clicking the link now. And the TABS on that mutha? I just can't figure it out. And I'm not dumb. At least I didn't useta think so.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

And the battle's just begun...

From the CNN.COM story, "Bush: Congress Can't Stop Troop Increase":

Asked if he believes that he, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has the authority to order troops to Iraq in the face of congressional opposition, Bush said, "In this situation, I do, yeah."

I just threw up a little in my throat.