Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I feel like a wizard mixing up potions when I cook.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
Making friends was easy in school. I'm not sure how elementary age kids do it. I couldn't remember my own experiences, so I asked Pipsqueak how she picks kids as friends. She replied, "When they start being nice to me, I decide I want to be friends with them." Somehow, I think it's more than that... some sort of initial attraction. I don't know if it's something physical or a common way of communicating, but somehow kids seem drawn to certain kids and not to others. For little extroverts, like Pipsqueak, ice breaking is never a problem. She unselfconsciously introduces herself and asks the potential friend's name. Before you know it, they're running around giggling like they've been friends since birth.
In high school and college, we tend to make friends with those that have common interests. I spent most of my time with kids in band and drama. This is the time that friendships grow deeper. Friends don't play together anymore, but spend time talking and sharing secrets, hopes, desires and fears. These friendships often last a lifetime. I have friends from school that I still consider very good friends even though we may only be in contact once or twice a year or less. Some of these friendships started in elementary school, but deepened in high school.
Once married and with a family, making friends gets complicated. First, we tend to be a little more self conscious and reserved as adults. Secondly, it's difficult to find time to spend with friends. We have work and responsibilities, and any free time is spent with our children. It makes us choosier friend pickers. We want to spend our precious friend time with people that make us laugh and feel good, and not with complainers and downers.
It's easier to get together as families, but that opens another whole can of worms. If I make friends with the woman of the family, then I also have to like spending time with her husband, my husband has to like spending time with her and her husband, our kids have to like spending time together, and we adults have to like the behavior of each other's children. That kind of family harmony is difficult to find.
Every New Year's, I make a resolution to spend more time with friends, yet it's an impossible to resolution to measure it's success or failure. Do I measure it in quantity of time, quantity of friends or quality. I resolve not to make that resolution any more, but just to appreciate the time I do spend with friends, those emails back and forth, and the Christmas greetings that may be our only contact but lets each other know that we are thinking of one another.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This Barred Owl has an injury from being hit by a car. He looks very proud and regal. We hear these around our house a lot, especially during the spring mating season.
Turkey Vultures are controversial raptors because some say they aren't raptors at all. They don't kill; they are carrion eaters, they have a good sense of smell; necessary to find that nice stinky carrion, and they have only one sharp talon on each foot; the others are soft toes. In case you ever wondered why they don't have feathers on their head, it's because they like to really stick their head in their food. They don't want to have a headful of feathers covered in entrails.
If you're ever in Central Vermont, check this place out.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Pipsqueak says she "loves farm-fresh food". It can't get any fresher; it was only picked two minutes ago. She won't let a temporary dental handicap get in her way.
What is this yellow thing growing in my pumpkin patch? Pumpkins start green and turn orange as they mature. This thing has been yellow from the start and it's now about the size of a cantaloupe. Mutant garden mysteries... gotta love'm.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
On Saturday, Pipsqueak was out digging in the sand on the beach next to our pond when she unearthed three little painted turtles only about 1 inch in diameter. There was a small piece of egg near one of them, so they must have just hatched. She brought them up to the house and buried them in the gravel of her nature tank. The nature tank has been a "24 hour vacation home" for newts, salamanders, frogs, toads, a snake, worms and caterpillers for purposes of short-term observation, but these were the first turtle guests.
By Sunday morning, two of the little darlings had dug themselves out. Alas, the third did not survive. Its shell was soft, so we're thinking it was an abnormality and not any mishandling by a six year old. She is a very gentle and loving soul. It was time to release the little ones back into the wild. But wait! First, let's have a photo or two to remember this moment.
We released them on Turtle Log. It's a big log that Sweetie upon his tractor dragged part way in the pond so the turtles could climb up on it to sun themselves. These two looked around for a couple of minutes and went swimming.
Being a responsible naturalist, she then dug a hole in the beach and buried the deceased baby turtle.
We think this may have been the turtle mom. We found her in our driveway in early May when I was bringing Pipsqueak home from school. After a quick photo, we took her to the safer location of our beach where she stayed for an hour or so probably laying her eggs. That goes along with the 10-12 weeks that it takes for painted turtle eggs to hatch.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I noticed in the past couple of weeks that there was a lot of weather talk at the post office, the grocery store, everywhere I went. Of course, people always talk about weather, i.e. complain. It's either too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry. Lately, everyone was talking about how much rain we’d had. The cover story of our local paper today were the farmers' woes of not being able to get in the third crop of hay this summer due to soggy conditions and mucky fields. Why didn't I notice this sooner? It’s true that I haven’t had to water my garden this summer and the lawn is still growing like gangbusters even in August, but I didn’t feel like the summer had been a wash out. We had good mornings with showery afternoons, or showery mornings with afternoon clearing and a lot of night showers, but I didn’t feel like life had been interrupted.
In the past few days there has been some area flooding, some of which has been serious and damaging (not in my area), and with the flooding, weathermen whipped out their statistics. We got 4.6 inches of rain in June, with normal being 3 inches. In July, there was a recorded 6.27 inches; almost 3 inches above the norm. I don’t know know what we’re at for August, but I can tell you that it’s more than normal, because I, the weather oblivious, have noticed that it’s rained a lot.
I used to be more tuned in to weather. I had to be. I worked in a bank. Have you noticed that when you walk into a bank during inclement weather, that the tellers question you about the rate of precipitation and its effect on driving conditions. “Is it still pouring out there?” “How are the roads?” Maybe that’s why I don’t pay attention to it now. After six and a half years of banking, I was weather worn.
Before banking, I worked in a small town news-dealer/stationer/bus-stop during high school. My boss always greeted his customers with, “Some weather, huh?” I loved that! It worked no matter the weather: a warm sunny day, pouring rain, a blizzard, a drought, or threat of a hurricane. I’m sure he usually got more than he bargained for as the customer spouted off all the ways the weather du jour was positively or negatively effecting their lives.
On Friday evening, rumbles of distant thunder had me looking to the sky when I saw this giant thunderhead with the top blowing off.
The sun was out over us, but somewhere up north, they were getting a whooping. Some weather, huh?
Friday, August 8, 2008
I wanted to share some of the great deals I've found. I spent every morning this week shopping while Pipsqueak was at pony camp. It was a 45 minute drive from our house, so it didn’t make sense to go home for during a 3 hour camp session.
Here she is in jumping position. She doesn’t mind that the jump is only three inches high, and neither do I. I’m so proud.
I scoured three thrift stores and two department stores. I shop thrift stores often, but department stores I save for when I think I can get drastic mark downs (usually end-of-season). These are a few of the greatest deals I found.
I got these girls’ flip-flops at JC Penney. The regular price was $7.99; they were marked down to $1.97. These should fit Pipsqueak next year, and she lives in flip-flops all Summer.
At Kohl’s, I got this set of three girls’ headbands. Regular price was $10 (you’ve got to be kidding me); sale price was $2.00.
Also, at Kohl’s, I picked up this cool retro, faux wrap dress marked down from $59 (gasp) to $11.80 (ahhhh). I tried to stand in that celebrity-red-carpet pose that makes you look skinny. I guess I need more than a pose.
These GAP stretch, boot-cut jeans looked brand new, and were only $5 at a thrift store.
The coral shirt from Faded Glory was $1.75, and it's a great color on me. The black t-shirt is J. Crew and was $3.25. I got these at the same thrift store. I'm wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch fitted pink polo shirt today that I got from another thrift store for $2.99.
Another thrift store was having their back-to-school sale. I got Pipsqueak a couple of tops (Children’s Place and Gymboree), a Children’s Place skirt and sweater, a Talbots Kids jumper, a Ralph Lauren dress, a Rugged Bear sweater, and a brand new Gymboree lunch box (had the tags on it) all for $20.75.
The department stores still had a lot of summer clothing on the floor for only 30-40% off. I really expect 70-80% off at this point, so more great deals should be had in the next few weeks. Frankly, I’m feeling a little shopped out for awhile, so it’s all yours.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I just cleaned off my bedside table, and gathered all the books I've read lately. I've got to find a permanent home for them on the bookshelves or move them out. I noticed the titles and remembered that I read once that you can tell what a person needs more of in their life by the books they read, ie. if you read romances, you need more romance; if you read thrillers, you need more adventure.
Hmmm, this can't be good. Here's what I've been reading lately.
Driving With Dead People by Monica Holloway - This is a riveting memoir of a girl whose father was fascinated by death. She drove a hearse for awhile after she got her license. I couldn't put this down.
Survival of the Sickest by Dr. Sharon Moalem - A medical maverick discovers why we need disease. Can a person rust to death? Who gets drunk faster - European or Asians? Why? I found lots of tidbits to use as cocktail party conversation - if I went to cocktail parties.
The Front by Patricia Cornwell - Don't bother! I don't know what happened, but she's not the author she used to be.
Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein - A woman's quest to become a mother while struggling with infertility. I could relate since I went through this too.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - A humorous book talking about the science after death. The chapter on embalming is making me reconsider burial; cremation might be the more peaceful alternative.
The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood - A fictional tale of a woman who joins a knitting circle after the death of her only daughter. While learning how to knit, the other women share their stories of challenge and loss.
The Woman with the Worm in Her Head by Pamela Nagami, MD - I was expecting stories of unusual medical maladies, but instead she wrote of AIDS, staph infections and chicken pox. It made me wonder what little germs and bacteria were hiding inside of me that could strike me down at any time.
Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood - The Knitting Circle was so good I had to read her true life account of of dealing with the sudden death of her five year old daughter. Sad, but inspirational at the same time.
Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry - It's not in the photo because I borrowed it from the library. A laugh-out-loud, true-life story of a thirty-something woman dealing with her divorce. I liked so much that now read her blog (Crazy Aunt Purl) regularly. The book includes some fun knitting patterns, too.
I don't think I need more death, divorce or disease in my life, but that seems to be all I'm reading about lately. Perhaps a change of genre is in order. Read any good books lately?
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
With take-out pizza prices starting at $15, making your own pizza is a much lower cost solution and it's simple and fun. You can cheat by buying pre-made dough, but it's fast (save the rising time) and you can make enough to freeze for next time.
Here's my favorite pizza dough recipe, and I guess you could say it's my own since I substantially tweaked the one I originally found in a book.
- Add 1/4 t (one of those little envelopes) of Rapid Rise yeast to 1 1/3 cups warm (not hot water).
- Let it set while measuring the rest of the ingredients .
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 4 cups flour, 2 T olive oil, 1 T sugar, and 1 t salt.
- Give the yeast mixture a quick stir and add it to the flour mixture.
- If you have a mixer with a dough hook, combine the ingredients and knead (low speed) for 10 minutes, otherwise stir until combined and knead by hand on floured board for ten minutes.
- Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.
- Cover lightly and let stand in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
Now for the grilling part...
Prepare your grill. We use charcoal, so I can't give directions on gas, but you'll find numerous sources on the internet. Once your coals are ready, push them around the outside of the grill, or if your grill is bigger, in a circle that resembles this photo.
Oil one side of the dough and place it oiled side down on the grill. It should only take a couple of minutes to brown the bottom. If you're making multiple pizzas, grill one side of all of them now.
Remove from the grill, and oil the uncooked side and turn it cooked side up. Add your favorite toppings to the cooked side. Sweetie and I have sauce, cheese, onion, red and green pepper, pepperoni and sometimes marinated artichokes. Pipsqueak has just sauce and cheese. The sky's the limit here. I've even heard of a dessert pizza made with caramel sauce, sliced apples and course-chopped walnuts. Once you have your toppings on, return it to the grill and put the cover on.
Check the bottom after a couple of minutes. Once it's browned to your liking, slip a heat shield under it. (A pizza pan would work, but keep in mind it will get discolored so don't use your favorite one and then yell at me because it's ruined.)
Close the cover and continue to grill until the top is hot and bubbly (usually under 10 minutes depending on how hot the coals are and the density of toppings.
Now you, too, can amaze your friends!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
First, I have to complain to the retailers, if any of you are reading. Do you realize that if you make us look good we'll buy more. Lighting is the worst offender. Some soft-light light bulbs would work wonders. It's usually fluorescent which makes everyone look like they need a long vacation or recently ate some bad seafood. The worst fitting room lighting I ever experienced was at Marks & Spencer somewhere in the UK (there are so many of them, I forgot where it was exactly). I looked green.... literally. I didn't even finish trying everything on, and I bought nothing.
Now for some tips...
1. Dress for comfort. Easy to remove clothes are a must. You don't want to get bogged down with a lot of buttons and zippers if multiple trips to the fitting room are required.
2. Wear slip-on shoes or sandals. This is important not only for speed, but for cleanliness. Some fitting room floors are dirtier than a barn and you don't want to be putting your feet down on them. With slip-on shoes, you slip a shoe off, put it through a pant leg and back into the shoe.
3. Prepare to sort. Ideally the room will have three hooks, but you can make do with two if you hang your purse on one and hang stuff from each side of the strap. One hook is for stuff that you need to try on, one hook for things you'll buy and one hook for back-to-the-rack.
4. DO NOT look at your near-naked self in those three way mirrors, unless you're prepared to run screaming from the store straight to a local Weight Watchers. Wait until you are fully clothed to check out the reflection, and then only a fleeting glance to the backside is all that's necessary to ensure good fit. Don't stand there twisting and turning for a better look.
5. Sit down while wearing your potential purchase. If there's no chair, do a squat, so you can feel if it's still comfortable. If you looked at your backside in the mirror too long, do three sets of ten squats.
6. Bend over and pretend to pick something off the floor and straighten back up. Did everything return to it's original position, or do you now have unsightly gaps or bulges that weren't there before? If you spent too long looking checking for gaps in back, do three set of ten bends.
7. Don't bring friends with you. If you do, don't ask for their opinion. If the potential purchase is uncomfortable on and they tell you that it looks great on you, you'll be more tempted to buy it anyway.
8. If you don't absolutely love it and it isn't unquestionably comfortable don't buy it. If you do, I can tell you that it will probably end up at the thrift store, and I might be trying it on next.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Dreams of future pickles. Come on little guys... grow, grow!