Saturday, December 27, 2008

Childhood photos with honest captions

Inspired by Baywatch's post.

I know it's completely the wrong holiday and all, but I've always loved this particular photo for the caption on the back, written in my grandfather's distinctive scrawl:

[Bluestem] trägt die Ostereier von denen sie später krank wurde. Ostern 1972

([Bluestem] carrying the Easter eggs from which she later became sick. Easter 1972)

There's something very blunt and direct in the Germanic psyche that cannot be overlooked. Some stereotypes exist for a reason.









Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Magna-tiles


I realized yesterday that I haven’t ever publicly recommended one of our favorite toys. We’ve had these for years, and we still use them constantly. In fact, I have posted at least one photo with them before. So, as usual, I’m a little late for anyone looking for good Christmas gifts, but I’m sure someone’s special birthday is coming up!

They are pricey, but I always like to think of the cost of toys as purchase price divided by hours used, and the hourly rate on these is very reasonable. Plus, grandparents often need new gift ideas!

FYI: I have donated the proceeds from this blog to Heifer again this month. Thanks for remembering to link from your pal Bluestem.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yummy meatloaf

Oh, stop with your begging for this recipe. It's embarrassing.

2 eggs
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
¼ tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp basil
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
¼ cup ketchup
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 ½ cups bread crumbs
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup boiling water
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped onions
1 cup shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese
2 pounds lean ground beef

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat egg with all ingredients through bread crumbs.
  3. Dissolve bouillon cubes in boiling water and add to bowl. Mix in rest of ingredients.
  4. Press the meat mixture into a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

“Tell Santa what you want, Honey”

We went to an Easter Seals sponsored Santa event a week ago, and Nea was very disappointed that there wasn’t enough time to use her talker to tell Santa what she wanted. I programmed it to say “I want Lightning McQueen for Christmas” and “I want a racetrack for Christmas” and “I love you, Santa Claus.” (It has separate buttons for “please” and “thank you.”)

I mean, the Easter Seals event was nice enough. Irish dancers, cookies, a chorus of developmentally delayed adults that rang bells and sang. Nea pointed out that the soloist sounded just like Bert from Sesame Street. He really did. I thought that was a valid observation. But the meet-and-greet with Santa was really just a photo op. He didn’t have time to linger.

So today when Santa showed up at the preschool, and I just happened to be there, and we just happened to have the talker in her backpack, since Nea has her other school in the afternoon, and then we JUST HAPPENED to be able to tell him what we wanted. She was very happy and proud, and she navigated from the main page to the special topics page to the holidays page to the December page* and found her buttons and was all ready before it was her turn.

And I tried really hard not to cry.


*I told you that $7000 thing sucks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What’s your name?

Let me introduce my family. There’s me, the "exalted, godly abundance farmer." Seems about right, with all my veggie growing madness. Then there’s N, "victory of the valley people who lived near a new castle.” Hmm. I’m not sure about the valley victory, but he sure did rehab our castle. Perhaps all the cheering for the underdogs that he does?

And our cute girls, "lovable" and “flower.” Awww.

Want to know the full meaning of your name?

Who are you really?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Girl talk

Well, it’s product endorsement time here at Haus der Bluestem. It’s been nearly a year since I switched to a menstrual cup. Yes, that’s right. A reusable cup. And here’s why:
  1. Cheaper
  2. Better for the environment
  3. Tampons kinda gross me out. I mean, why are they bleached with chemicals? Who exactly cares?
  4. Less fuss (less leaking, 12-24 hours with no changes needed)
  5. Made in Canada
I am happy to report that my diva cup is serving me well. Very comfortable, pretty easy to figure out, etc.


There's a TON of info online here. Is the Internet not a wonder? They are $18.55 on Amazon.


If you are interested, please ask me any questions you might have.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An idea for the hard-to-shop-for

Know someone who eats? Who can sort of cook? On whom you want to spend roughly $20? I’m telling you, I can’t say enough about Cook’s Country magazine. I’ve written about them before, but we had a dinner so sublime on Sunday that I am moved to mention them again.

  • Baked sweet potato fries – we’ve been perfecting these for years. Our new top secret tip is to microwave the whole tators for a few minutes before slicing. Makes a big difference.
  • Cole slaw – made the Cook’s Country Memphis style ones. Got a little kick to them, with the chili sauce and mustard. Yum. I used red and green cabbage for a very attractive end product.
  • Cola-barbequed ribs – Cook’s Country again. Best ribs I’ve ever had. Finally just the right amount of falling off the bone. Tasty.

We could open a restaurant with just those three items, if we wanted to be completely insane in this economy.

Blagojevich: 'Nothing but sunshine hanging over me'

Yeah, another Illinois governor arrested. Yawn. How many does that make now?

"The actions by federal authorities came a day before Blagojevich's 52nd birthday." -- that's going to put a damper on the festivities. Did you know his first name is Milorad? Poor thing.

Polling completed on October 13, 2008 put Blagojevich's approval rating among
Illinois voters at 4%. Blagojevich ranks as “Least Popular Governor” in the
nation according to Rasmussen Reports By the Numbers. On October 23, 2008,
the Chicago Tribune reported that Blagojevich suffered the lowest ratings ever
recorded for an elected politician in nearly three decades of Chicago Tribune
polls.

source: wikipedia -- Read the whole entry if you have time. It's comedy gold. And updated with the arrest already! I'm impressed.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My humor at least amuses me

So, my 10-minute public speaking engagement is over. Whew. How I loathe getting up in front of people. I was to show a few PowerPoint slides on my last project (which was a cool project, trust me. I can’t tell you anything about it, though. That would be wrong.) and stand there while my coworker showed a demo of the new web site. And then talk about what was coming up next and take any questions. That sort of thing. I know the topic better than anyone else in our company. A real expert, I am. Should have been a slam dunk. No biggie.

I had an icebreaker that I was working on all week. As I bounced it off some people, I pretty consistently got a “um, you might want to rethink that” reaction. Here it is. Ahem. *sips some water*

Uh, you know how in those public opinion polls, death always comes in as the
“second greatest fear”? Anyone know what number one is? Yes, you in the back.
That’s right, public speaking. Which is why I’ve never understood why the
suicide rate isn’t higher before these quarterly meetings.

*crickets*
Anyway, so I’d already abandoned the idea of using this masterpiece, but I was talking to my boss’s boss right before he was going on to talk about a related topic. I told him my ice breaker. He laughed and told me to use it. I considered his career path and the grand stalling of his upward trajectory. I didn’t use the bit.

So, it’s over now. It went fine. Not great or anything. But fine. My ice breaker still makes me laugh, though.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brain, Child

I subscribed to Brain, Child magazine for a few years and gave several subscriptions to friends, especially as a baby gift for a second child. I really like the non-commercialized, literary flavor. Such a departure from Parents magazine and all those other “buy this to make your kid happy – spend, spend, spend” philosophizing rags.

But I’m not very good at magazines. I never get rid of them, and they pile up. The magazine generally does have a few articles available online, and I stopped by their site today.

Even though this isn’t the sort of medical issue we’ve had with either of our girls, this story really hit home for me. The frustration with the medical establishment? Yeah, check. Sing it, sister, and keep on singing until someone gets it right.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Boo's first email


Boo missed school so much she wanted to write her teacher an email. Here it is. The only thing I spelled for her was "hello" because she was having trouble getting started.
Honestly, I didn't even know Yahoo Mail had emoticons and stationary until now.
[Don't mind my crappy-looking name censoring.]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Squash and the Great American Tradition

As you all know, I have a thing about butternut squash. I know, I’m weird. Anyway, I keep talking about this recipe, so here it is. You can find it online here, but I’m posting it with a few changes.

MARINATED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

• 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch slices
• Salt and pepper
• 4 tablespoons plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced paper thin and briefly sautéed
• 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 clove garlic, sliced paper-thin
• Some chopped fresh rosemary (or mint)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Season the squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil, and place in a single layer on 1 or 2 cookie sheets.
  3. Bake in the oven until just tender, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, briefly saute the onion, garlic, and rosemary.
  5. Stir together the sauted ingredients and the remaining oil, vinegar, chili flakes, oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the squash from the oven and pour the marinade over.
  6. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the marinade and serve. This dish can be made earlier in the day but should not be refrigerated.
    -------------------------

I’m not planning on making this for our big feast on Thursday, but for people who dislike cloyingly sweet potato recipes (as do I, no marshmallows here), this could be a really nice change. N and I loved it when I made it last week. The kids, not so much.

This year is our second annual “cook side dishes ahead with a friend.” Tish and I are doing corn pudding, mashed sweet potatoes, and the veggie prep for the stuffing on Wednesday. Then she takes her half home and serves it up with tofurkey or something.

So, our menu is:
cheese n crackers, veggies with dip (appetizer)
turkey
stuffing
corn pudding
mashed sweet potatoes
green salad
rolls/cornbread
cranberries
pecan and pumpkin pies

Pretty basic and standard, but oh how I love it all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

She’s a brute. I mean, beaut.

Yesterday we moved a 3000 lb giant machine into our garage, and I've never been more scared in my life.



So, N drives up in the biggest rental truck ever. On the back, is, of course, Big Bertha. The truck has a mechanical lift on the back that’s rated to 3000 lbs. Which is good. And the lift is very small. Which is not good. Please note that the lift doesn’t have any lip or edge of any kind. So if we push the grinder a little too far, what we’ll have is a 3000 lb worthless metal roadblock in the driveway. I have to say, not getting maimed/killed was really my top priority for the day at this point.

N had borrowed a
pallet lifter from work. It's the orange thing in the second photo. We had already had a steel pallet made and bolted to Bertha. The pallet lifter is basically all manual. With the lifter you can jack Bertha up, but then N and I have to push and pull the giant thing by human effort alone. Carefully.

We’re just getting warmed up and are pushing the pallet lifter around on the truck when one of our neighbors, Bruce, happens by. He’s just had major back surgery, but he knows about moving heavy stuff around, from his job as a maintenance guy at U of I. He stood around and gave us advice, which sounds totally annoying, but actually was a lot of help.



You’ll notice that there are photos with Bertha on the truck and photos with Bertha on the ground. The part in between was much too nerve-wracking to document. It involved a lot of maneuvering and then Bruce held the lift switch while N and I held a strap around Bertha to keep her from wobbling off the platform. “Don’t wrap the strap around your arm,” said Bruce. “If it starts falling, just let it go,” said N. I quietly wet myself.

Well, it's all sunshine and roses from here on out. When N builds out the side of the garage, we’ll have to get a pallet lifter again to move her into her final position. That will be a complete breeze compared to yesterday. We are NEVER doing anything that stupid again.

We’ll be spinning carbide into gold by spring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Please help me give to charity this holiday season

I have tons to do at work today, and many other things I want to blog about, but I realize that I need to remind you all that all Amazon proceeds from this site go to Heifer International. And here we are, getting ready for the big holiday shopping extravaganza. Please remember to click through from Bluestem! Thanks, all!



Saturday, November 15, 2008

The first rule of book club, er, broken

November book club included the bonus of a toy swap that also ended up including clothing hand-me-downs. Almost everything I brought found a nice new home, hurrah! Went home with a few toys and a lovely bag of mostly t-shirts, which were a huge hit back home.

December book club will feature:

  • Book swap (bring 2-5 books to trade)
  • Tacky gift exchange (object from around the house strongly encouraged)
  • Book to discuss:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rust ring in pediatric patient - resolved

Back home with Nea, watching Lightning McQueen do his thing. Will be making popcorn soon. That Lightning, he’s crazy! We’ll be kicking back and relaxing the rest of the day.

The nurse said Nea was her best pediatric patient ever, and I could tell she meant it. They took her back (without me) in a little red wagon just like ours. She didn’t cry or fuss at all. After the procedure, she was crying, but not for long, and not until I was holding her.

Dr. G said the area of her cornea he scraped off was “mushy,” so I’m thinking it needed to go. Ick.


Moral of the story: if your kid gets a tiny bit of metal in her eye, and it leaves a rust ring, just go have it cut out. Waiting two weeks didn't help at all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Man, I can't wait!

5 Signs President-Elect Obama Is a Geek

I'm so excited! Many members of my family and friends are also geeks! I, however, am only somewhat geeky. Although having created my first Google map for work (tutorial) certainly is making me feel like a run for the Alpha Geek status of my household. I can take N down for wiki development, FrontPage, etc., but I think he holds the upper hand for Excel formulas.

OK, I'm sounding more geeky by the minute. I do have all my telephone and address lists in Excel. That's probably a bad sign. Hmmm. Also, there's this blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The siren's call of the opinion page





[from here]


I have enjoyed political cartoons since way, way back. I remember not understanding a lot of them. I also read Mike Royko from when I was old enough to read until his death (in 1997, Goz). Since having kids, though, I stepped back from staying as informed as I had been. A big part of that, of course, was bringing kids into the post-9/11 world. Being a parent is terrifying enough when your country isn’t the target of the crazies.

But now! Now is an exciting time to start paying attention again. Here’s a good source for your daily fix, if you enjoy them, too. And I've vowed to start listening to more NPR again.




Friday, November 7, 2008

Tips on dealing with United HealthCare (UHC)

If you need a new hobby, please consider the joy of insurance claim phone calls! I have two obviously fraudulent claims with UHC. One: I want them to pay me back for my eye exam, which is covered at 100%. Two: I want them to help pay for Nea’s speech therapy. I know, I know. Crazy talk.

After, lo, these many painful hours of dealing with UHC, I’m ready to share my knowledge.

When calling, after you enter your subscriber number and date of birth, say “representative” if you want to talk to a person. When you are on hold, if you say "shut up" the recording will stop telling you about their worthless web site. You may need to say it a few times. Forcefully.

If the person on the phone can’t help you, ask for a “rapid resolution specialist.” They can fix things the Tier One people can’t. And they won’t tell you the magic phrase (“rapid resolution specialist”) until you’ve wasted hours of your life. If they don't want to pass you on, just keep using the magic phrase: "I'd like to speak with a rapid resolution specialist.”

If you have an ongoing complicated case, ask to be assigned a “care coordination case number.” It probably won’t help, but it’s worth a shot.

If you want them to cover an out-of-network provider at the in-network level, you need a "gap exception" -- another magic phrase they won't tell you about. If you are lucky enough to get a gap exception, make sure you take the reference number to your provider! UHC won't do that for you, so you'll continue to be billed at the out-of-network rate.

When faxing, don’t bother. You can fax and fax and fax, even “to the attention of” someone’s name, and they will claim it didn’t arrive or is illegible.

Just now I found the Patient Advocate Foundation.
They list all the State Insurance Commissioners Offices contact info, which probably would be worth a try if you have been trying to get UHC to cough up for a few months without any resolution in sight.

And my number one tip? Switch to another insurance company as soon as your company lets you. Thank god my long nightmare is nearly over.

If you have any tips, please post a comment! If any of these tips help you, please shop Amazon through my link. All proceeds go to charity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

National Obama Day

Did you notice the sun is shining more brightly today? The trees, they are so vibrant. The birdies, they sing so sweetly. Verily, it is the dawn of a better time.

If you haven't seen it yet, treat yourself to the victory speech.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Big Day

Last week we counted political lawn signs. Obama won 2 to 1.
Yesterday Boo’s kindergarten class voted. Obama won 3 to 1.

Let’s hope he wins for real today. I’m hoping for a definitive victory by 10 pm so we can all get a nice restful night’s sleep. Not like that 2000 election.

My predictions? By the end of today:

  • My nails will be very short.
  • I will have consumed several beers.
I’m actually downtown today for some training, so let’s just see how crazy it gets down here. I’m expecting a fairly normal day, since I’m not driving, and I hope to take an early train home.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Addendum

Addendum

In my excitement, I neglected to explain what Bertha is, exactly. She’s a Brown & Sharpe 6" X 18" Visual Grinder. You can procure your own on eBay, of course. The go-to source for all your heavy industrial equipment needs. Watch those shipping costs, though! They’re a killer.

Once you have one, you can start grinding carbide to specification within 1/10,000th of an inch, like all the cool kids! N assures me you can grind other things, too.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to Succeed in Business

N and I have wanted a side business for awhile. Years. Lots of discussions.

Options included: Building management. Real estate inspections, both residential and commercial. Landlords. Laundromat.

But then Big Bertha fell into our laps. Luckily not literally, since she weighs 3000 pounds. It just so happens that this is the exact same model N worked on for 18 years. Did I mention he’s in tool and die manufacturing? Yep.

My point in this side business thing all along has been, if we are risking the money, I want to capitalize on my husband’s many talents.

He was going to get a degree in project management, but although I’m pro-education normally, why start all over when he already has so many areas of expertise?

When we put on the addition, N did all the plumbing, hot water heat, radiant heat, most of the electrical, trim work, flooring (with help from his lovely wife), two of the three staircases, etc. etc. What the hell does he need a degree for?

So. Back to Bertha. How many people have precision surface grinding carbide experience like N? Not many. So now all we have to do is bump out the garage a little, figure out how to heat it, and voila. A side business.


And props to Arlopop, for the funniest comment ever. Check out the comments on my last post. I tried and tried to come up with a decent response but failed. Although I guess the moniker fell right into place, didn't it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And ain't she a beaut!


Look what we bought! Wanna guess what it is? OoooOOOoooOOoo. Pretty.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why the bailout passed

It took me a few weeks. It’s no secret that our dearly hated president has been looting our country for 8 years on behalf of his bastard rich friends. Yet it took me some thinking time. What’s with this pathetic bailout? How does this work? I can be slow at times.

The republicans realized that Obama will win the election. So they set us up. They lined their pockets and guaranteed the next president’s failure in one move. Eleventy-seventy godzillion dollars for themselves, and the bankruptcy of our nation at the same time.


Finally the bailout makes sense.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The game

There’s a game I play every time Nea and I go to a new doctor. How long can I go without telling them she’s mostly non-verbal?

Nea had a piece of metal in her eye this week. She managed to blink it out over time, but she ended up with a “rust ring.” There’s rust in her eye. Obviously, we needed to see a doctor. We went to the pediatric ophthalmologist’s office.

The nurse said, “Does she know her letters?”
I said no.
So we got a big card with V T O H on it. Her good eye was patched. The eye chart had those characters in smaller and smaller versions, as is traditional with an eye chart. Nea pointed at the matching version on her card in her hand. She did a fabulous job until the characters were too small for her to see with her irritated eye.

Pass. Never had to mention her speech problem.

The pediatric ophthalmologist came in and examined her cornea with his magnifying lens and lights. He said we could either sedate and operate, or wait a week and see how she healed on her own. Guess which I chose? Yeah.

Again, she passed. Why mention her limitations in front of her unless I have to? But I feel uneasy every time. Withholding information from the medical profession. I feel like I’m getting away with something. And I guess I am. I’m getting away with Nea’s dignity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Garden mystery


OK, you sleuthers. Here’s the challenge. I leave the house with a small bowl, heading towards the raspberry bushes. Time elapses, and there are raspberries in the bowl. I start walking towards the house, but by the time I reach the back door, the bowl is empty!

Is it fruit evaporation? Invisible fruit bats?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Resolutions for next year’s garden

Hill the potatoes. The potatoes, mid-season white Kennebecs, were in the old compost pile this year, and I think it was actually too well-drained. I need to mix in some regular old dirt. I’ve started this, but I need to do more. This past season I also tried the “build up as they grow” potato-growing method (some people use old tires – I just used chickenwire), but I didn’t try particularly hard and didn’t get a single potato out of that area.

Rotate the tomatoes out of the area where they’ve been for a few years already. Boo’s tomato plants outperformed mine because they were in a new patch. And sadly, I think I’m throwing in the towel for heritage tomatoes. They don’t produce enough for the space they use.

Try some new stuff. Soybeans, aka edamame. Beets. I just heard you can roast them on the grill. I love beets.

Grow both bush beans (we had a good year for them) and pole beans. Neighbors of ours have what they call “magic beans” and they promised us some seeds.

N says he’s going to change our biggest (12x12) raised plot into 3 sections with walkways in between. This will help with weeds and productivity.

Try eggplants again. Now that I’m flushed with the relative success of my green peppers, I should try eggplants again. I could never figure out when to harvest them when I last grew them.

Did I mention that we are ripping out ornamental trees and shrubs (purple plum, Bradford pear, golden privet) in the spring to plant our new honeycrisp apple, red rome apple, and some sort of self-pollinating pear tree? They are all semi-dwarf varieties. We have a lot more sun in the front yard, so that’s where they are going.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We simple womenfolk

I've had several men tell me that they actually know women who will vote McCain/Palin because they were Hillary supporters, and they still want to vote for a woman. Uh. Really? I hereby give you a belated IM conversation that I had during the Oct. 2 Biden/Palin debate.

Friend: Is it just me or does it bug you how she calls everyone by their first name.
Bluestem: everything she does bugs me. but wait! we have girlie bits! we have to vote for her!
Friend: I prefer to call them my lady parts
Bluestem: but do you vote with them?
Friend: It's hard to make them pull the lever, but I practice when my husband is out of town
Bluestem: har!
Friend: It will be difficult as Child #1 wants to come vote with me.
Bluestem: oh, awkward.
Friend: But Mommy, why do you have to wear a skirt to vote? Just wait honey, you'll see.
Bluestem: "it's part of the democratic process"


Seriously, I can't imagine a Hillary supporter saying that she would throw all her political beliefs into the shitter, just to continue to vote for a woman. How illogical.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The statue of liberty and machine guns


Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to these things, but I found it in very poor taste that these three machine-gun toting men were posing for photos with our Lady Liberty this past Monday.




Is it for some pathetic flag-waving rah rah calendar? Look for it in stores soon -- "2009 Calendar - Liberty means never having to say you're sorry"

Send word if you hear about this exciting new product.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bluestem talks politics

Everyone else is talking about politics so much that I feel like I don't have to cover any of the chaos. However, baywatch twittered this McCain article, and it's a must-read.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Foreign Countries, here I come!

Just 13 days after mailing my passport renewal form, to my great surprise, I received my new one. Not even 13 business days. 13 average normal days. Knock me over with a feather, I tells ya. Glad I didn't pay to expedite it.

Especially since I don't actually have any plans to leave the country on Ye Olde Travel Agenda. But now I could, again, take off with nary a backwards glance. You know, except I have kids now. That sort of thing.

Still!

I could, you know. Take a little suitcase and go somewhere. With my cute little blue passport. If I wanted to.



I could.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

First frost coming up pretty soon

Well, I brought in all the green tomatoes and put them in the basement. It’s always a little sad pulling the garden apart at the end of the season. Looks like we’ll be having the zucchini pancakes one more time tomorrow.

I need to start using up my butternut squash, too. Made chili the other day and totally forgot to add a few cups of cubed squash – it’s excellent in chili. Anyway, just surfed around a little for inspiration and found this gem. I love her style. She’s always that amusing. Great photos.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Break your bottled water habit

Oh, how I loathe plastic water bottles. I really really do. They are a sign of the incredible waste of our culture. And the laziness. And the stupidity. I have very strong opinions on water bottles. Can you tell? If you love the earth at all, stop using water bottles of the non-reusable kind. There are exceptions, of course. These exceptions should add up to maybe 5 bottles of water a year. (“I was in the desert, unprepared, and I couldn’t find my car. But, lo! There was a water bottle stand. I bought one.”)

Here's a good resource with more information:
http://www.newdream.org/water/

From that site:

Top Five Reasons to Give Up Bottled Water
  1. Disposable plastic water bottles are not meant for multiple uses.
  2. Bottled water is full of oil.
  3. Bottled water is expensive!
  4. Your tap water is fine to drink.
  5. At least 40 percent of bottled water is tap water anyway.
Top Five Ways to Break the Bottled Water Habit
  1. Check your water utility’s “Consumer Confidence Report.”
  2. Have multiple reusable bottles available to suit all your life’s needs.
  3. Encourage your local city officials to create a policy to limit municipal spending (i.e., your hard-earned tax dollars) on bottled water to emergency needs only.
  4. Talk to your office manager about the water situation at your workplace.
  5. Spread the word to friends and family about the environmental and financial problems with bottled water.
There's much more info on each of those points on the site.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wild Child I and Wild Child II

photo: Whizzer

Thanks to Corporate America, we were at Six Flags Great America today. And boy am I exhausted. The kids did:

Kiddie Rides
Porky’s Buzzy Beez
Spacely’s Sproket Rockets (small roller coaster)
Big Red Cars
Big Red Planes
Dorothy’s Rosy Tea Cups
Bouncin’ With Wags
Looney Trotter (train)

Family Rides
Big Easy Balloons
Ricochet
Fiddler’s Fling
Rue Le Dodge (bumper cars, in the dark with a black light)
Roaring Rapids (water rafting ride)
The Jester’s Wild Ride
Sky Trek Tower (rotating tower for views of the landscape and park)
Whizzer (the tamest of the large roller coasters)
Columbia Carousel (merry-go-round, twice)
East River Crawler (twice)

photo: East River Crawler

And we shot foam balls around in one of the kid areas. And we steered around little toy boats and tiny monster trucks.

For the record, the official Six Flags site is pathetic and weak. For actual photos and info, see
http://www.sfgamworld.com/, self-billed as “the largest unofficial site devoted to Six Flags Great America.”

Wow. I think I’ll go to bed now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mainstreaming the apraxic child

Scene: at the door of the preschool classroom

Bluestem: Oh, Mrs. R., if she does this (demonstrates Nea’s personalized version of the help sign), it means “help.” And if she says, “potty” that means “potty,” unless it means “party.” You have to watch for that.

Mrs. R: Oh, thank you! And what does it mean when she puts her tongue in the corner of her mouth, like this? (demonstrates)

Bluestem: It means she wants to talk about Lightning McQueen.



Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is your child speech delayed?

If you suspect that your child is speech delayed:

  1. Ask your pediatrician or ENT doctor for a regular hearing test. They aren’t particularly accurate, but if your child passes it, then good. If he/she doesn’t pass it …
  2. Do a Brainstem Audio Evoked Response (BAER) test. Nea was only 18 months old when she did it, so she had to be sedated for it. It checks whether the brain is receiving the signals from the auditory nerve, so if your child passes it, hearing is definitely normal.
  3. If your child has normal hearing, contact your state’s Early Intervention program for a full evaluation. (for Illinois: for California)
  4. Remember that there are many reasons for a speech delay. Chances for a formal diagnosis are slight. Most of the children in Nea’s Early Childhood class have no diagnosis other than “developmental delay.” Alternately, they may have a more global issue (Down’s syndrome, autism, etc.) which includes a speech delay as one component.
  5. If your child goes through extensive speech therapy and, over time, apraxia is the most obvious diagnosis, a neurologist will suggest an MRI to check for brain deformity. Assuming none is found, apraxia will then be the official diagnosis. For further information on brain deformity and language production, please read Schulyer’s Monster.

More apraxia-specific info at my previous entry.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Apraxia progress

Yesterday Boo told me she had 6 papers in her backpack, and Nea piped up, “Ohn pay-pa!” (One paper in her backpack)

And today she told me what she wanted for lunch: “hah doe” (hot dog)

And this has nothing to do with her speech, but she just helped me dig up the rest of our potatoes in the garden and it was great fun. Us yelling at the ground, “Babies! Where are you? We want to EAT YOU!” Tonight we’re having my very tasty meatloaf (secret ingredient: vegetables) with crash hot potatoes. Don’t those sound amazing?

OK, we’re off to Easter Seals – taking the bike today!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It *was* really quiet here




I knew it would happen sooner or later.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Well-dressed at a faction of the cost

It’s officially rummage sale season again! Went to my favorite one on Friday and got an amazing pile for $87. And 25% of proceeds went to charity (a family shelter).

  • Hanna Andersson PJs, super cute, like new
  • Born shoes, all but new
  • A second set of winter boots for Nea, for when the nice ones are wet
  • A lovely like-new reversible vest for Boo
  • A fab reversible purple fuzzy side/satin side jacket, probably for Nea
  • Tons of long-sleeved t-shirts. Gap, Children’s Place, Gymboree, etc. etc.
  • Some great corduroy pants
  • A fleece Land’s End jacket for Boo
  • Sweaters from Land’s End and Talbots

And there’s another one coming up! That I totally shouldn’t go to!

God, I love the underground economy. If I’d bought this stuff new, the sales tax would practically have been half that much. Viva la subversive children’s clothing!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Carrot Cake or Zucchini Cake or ...

Some recipes are so versatile. You can use up what you have and not worry about the results. This recipe is one of them. I tried using the convection feature of my New Oven, but it didn’t really seem that different. Today’s double batch featured zucchini and chopped dried apricots. Yumsterilious.

***** Kate’s Friend’s Carrot Cake *****

Mix and let stand:

3 cups grated carrots (or zucchini, or a combo, or add a peach or banana, or …)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
¾ cup raisins (or other dried fruit, like cranberries, apricots, etc.)

Cream together:
½ cup salad oil
¼ cup applesauce
½ cup white sugar (or slightly more)
½ cup brown sugar (or slightly more)
3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together:
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp. wheat germ (optional)
2 tsp. powdered milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix and beat all ingredients from #2 and #3 together. Fold in mixture #1. Pour into well-greased Bundt pan (and bake 60 minutes) or about 18 lined muffin tins (and bake for 25 minutes).

Baking times are approximate! Check earlier, and if an inserted toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. Do not overbake. May be frozen. Spend entire time while baking thinking thoughts about missing Kate.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rolling with the punches

Well, the school thing has been going pretty well. Assuming the weather is nice, Boo takes her Razor scooter to school in the morning, and I push Nea in the jogging stroller. When school is over, I drive around and collect them.*

And yet, here’s today, a lovely sunny day:

2:45 pm “Pick up kids!” I decide that seems wise.
2:48 pm I ascertain that that strange noise is the minivan, driving on a flat.
2:50 pm I am calm, cool, and collected on my bike. Have my own helmet and Nea’s.
3:00 pm Pick up Nea at first school. Start off to school #2.
3:15 pm Tell Boo she’ll have to walk home, next to me walking my bike. Boo whines. Neighbor offers to drive her home. Seems like a good idea, I think.
3:25 pm I beat neighbor back to my house, heh heh. I give her some tomatoes for the favor.

And while we were waiting for Boo, Nea went into the garage to get the bicycle pump and brought it around to the flat tire. Super cute!

* In order to not bore y’all, I’m skipping over putting Nea on the bus, walking Nea from private school to home, Oma taking the kids to school, and other permutations of our wacky schedule.


Oh, and by the way, Discount Tire fixed it for FREE. And we didn't even buy these tires there.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Signs of fall

N brought out the down comforters last night. Ahhhh. Nothing like the warm embrace of some winter bedding. This immediately brings out two games that summer never sees.

Evening game: A comforter-covered "Blanket Monster" Papa chases two squealing girls around the bedrooms.


Morning game: Mama tries to read with one leg supporting the comforter into a teepee-shape, while two giggling girls play underneath.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Boo's favorite songs

Boo made a CD for her friends. Here's what she's listening to these days.

Title/Artist
1. The Alphabet of Nations / They Might Be Giants
2. Clap your hands / They Might Be Giants
3. Red banana / Ralph's World
4. Life Is A Highway / Cars Soundtrack
5. Rubber Duckie / Sesame Street
6. Seven / They Might Be Giants
7. Where do they make balloons? / They Might Be Giants
8. Sammie the Dog / Ralphs World
9. The Crawdad Song / Sam Hinton
10. Don’t let us bug ya / Andy Partridge
11. Captain Vegetable / Sesame Street
12. Linus and Lucy / Vince Guaraldi
13. The Hoppity Song / Five for Fighting
14. I’m telling you / Yum Yum

15. Bean Bag Chair / Yo La Tengo

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nearly free and organic applesauce

We have an old neglected apple tree in the backyard, and I’ve been making crockpot applesauce this year. A little time with the apple corer, a little water, sugar and cinnamon. Yum yum and only as sweet as you want it to be. So far there are 5 quart jars and 7 pint jars in the freezer, but I have another large batch cooling and lots more apples on the tree.

Imagine zucchini pancakes with homemade applesauce! We had them the other night and the kids went wild!

Crockpot Applesauce

Tools
Fruit picker
Stainless steel apple slicer/corer
Potato masher
Crockpot
Paring knife

Ingredients
4 lbs (or however many as fit into the crockpot) tart apples, cored and cut into eighths
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup water

Directions

  1. Locate apple tree. If you don’t have one, there’s a fair chance your neighbor does, and I bet they would be thrilled if you saved them the effort of raking them up and throwing them away.
  2. Harvest apples. Then convince husband to climb onto garage roof to harvest more.
  3. Use apple corer to slice and core apples. Pick up each piece and examine it critically. Using a paring knife, cut away any suspicious bits. Toss recklessly into crockpot.
  4. Throw cinnamon and sugar into crock pot. If feeling ambitious, stir.
  5. Pour water over apples.
  6. Cook on high for 1 hour and then low for 3 hours.
  7. Mash with potato masher.
  8. Let cool, then refrigerate or freeze.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Vices of the literary kind

Bluestem, why is your house a disaster? Why can’t your second child talk? Why aren’t you spending more time volunteering at the schools? What the hell do you do all day!?

Well. I have a confession. I am a reader. I read. It’s an addiction. It’s a problem. Recently, I was reading Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad about My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman when I came across this beautiful passage:

When I pass a bookshelf, I like to pick out a book from it and thumb through it. When I see a newspaper on the couch, I like to sit down with it. When the mail arrives, I like to rip it open. Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

Which is lovely. And makes me feel much much better about my relationship with reading, which I often feel guilty about.
However, for real Reading about Reading Pleasure, I heartily recommend Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. In fact, I plan to read it again tonight. It's been a few years. It's the only book I've ever bought multiple copies of to give as gifts to all the readers in my life.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Apraxia news

Nea has a new speech therapy baby. Other people have therapy dogs. We’re doing it one better. OK, OK, Natalie isn’t technically an ST baby. She’s not certified or anything. But Nea said, “Ma turn! Ma turn!” when she wanted to hold Natalie at the park last week, and that’s enough qualification for me. Nea’s second spontaneous two-word phrase ever.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to make a list of the good things about having an apraxic child. You know, the silver lining. So far it’s a little short. Maybe someone can chime in.

  1. You don’t get ratted out by your kid when she gets an extra cookie or when you tell someone a little white lie.
  2. Your kids don’t endlessly go around with “did not” “did, too” “did not” “did, too” “did not” “did, too.”
  3. Blissfully quiet house when Boo is at school.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ah the harvest

[today's butternut squash]

Like most totally rabid insane people with a hardcore hobby, I don’t understand people who don’t partake of my interest. I speak, of course, of my veggie gardening obsession. Why wouldn’t you want to grow your own food? Why wouldn’t you want to feed your kids the healthiest organic-ist freshest vegetables? Eating locally important to you, as an environmentalist? What’s more local than your own raised bed?

I know it has made a big difference for Boo, having her own plot. She has eaten more tomatoes this year than your average ketchup-consuming child. Our green beans, they squeak with freshness! The zucchini, they are gobbled up as pancakes! And cherry tomatoes are lovingly offered to playmates. And rejected by them, but that’s not my point.

So, as all good hobbyists, here are some photos of my own special craziness. Forgive me as I burst with pride.

Obviously this is only a representative sample. My best guess is that I'm harvesting at least $5 of organic produce per day. Strange how I don't have a single photo of the gorgeous swiss chard or kohlrabi.

7-20 - includes first potato

7-27 First onion! First carrot!

8-1 Rest of onions

8-12 Mmmm ... green beans

8-15 Robbed some more potatoes

8-19 I love veggies

Slacker

Wow, I am a slothy slothy blogger. But I have a good post lined up, I swear. Just need to get it together.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This post in 3 parts

Three! Three parts that have nothing to do with each other! Why, you ask? Because I can!

Part One: Flashback to 4.5 years ago ...

I was diagnosed with AMA on the phone with the OB/GYN's receptionist.

She said, "I see you've been diagnosed with AMA."
I said, "What's that?!" (panic panic)
"Advanced maternal age."
"Oh."

I hung up and was thinking, "Really? You can diagnose that yourself? What did you use, a calculator?"

Part Two: Food pantries

I used to buy an extra item or two at Trader Joe's and have Boo put it in the food pantry bin. But in these tougher economic times, giving money directly to larger organizations makes the dollars stretch. Please consider donating through the Aidmatrix site. You can choose a food bank near you (I just scrolled through and saw Seattle, Boston, Northern Illinois, Baton Rouge, etc. etc.).

My very very large corporate employer uses this site for their internal company donation efforts. It's definitely a real organization.

Part Three: Trying to organize for the school year

For both organizational tips and packing lunch tips, try Cindy's Porch! Scroll down to the "Goal #1 for August" section.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dreading the coming school year

For the coming year, we decided to put Nea in special ed and in Boo’s old preschool. So, one is 4 afternoons a week. The other is 3 mornings a week. She will only have 2 long days, and I’ve got someone lined up to take her from one school, sling a lunch into her, and bring her to the other school. This helps with my work schedule. More on that later.

Boo will be going to full-day kindergarten. Not at the school where Nea has spec ed, which is in our district, but at a different school. Her school lets out 15 minutes after Nea’s afternoon class, which would be fine, except Nea’s bus generally drops her off about 15 minutes after her school ends. Can you pinpoint the problem? Yeah, me too.

So, all of this means that after nearly 6 happy years with a work schedule of 2 long days (10 hours) plus a stray 4 hours on other days, for a total of 24 hours a week, I am now moving to 4 shortened days (roughly 8:30 to 3:00 Monday-Thursday). Which just seems like more work, although the actual number of hours is the same. The plus side is that my mom can work less hours doing child care here. The negative of that is I’m going to have to start pulling my weight speaking German to the kids, who will see a lot less Oma during the school year.

Added on the madness is having to pack Boo’s lunch every day. I don’t know why I’m all freaked out by this, but I am.

Naturally all of this only works when I’m working from home. Twice a month I go downtown. Then the whole carefully constructed house of cards will fall. I assume I’ll be carpooling with another mom, which will make everything easier. Probably. But although we have talked about it, it doesn’t feel that official.

I’ve already screwed up once, and school hasn’t started yet. I turned in Nea’s physical form to the wrong school.

Gee, I just don’t know where the insomnia comes from.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh for crying out loud

35

As a 1930s wife, I am
Poor

Take the test!



139

As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!





OK. I like a cute little online quiz as much as the next person. I do. But of all of all the unbalanced, revisionist-historical, bullshit quizzes. I mean, I’m sorry, honey, I *want* to be more subservient. Really. I just can’t quite do it.

But how do he get credit for paying attention to the kids and household chores?! Sure, that’s cool now. But in the 1930’s? I’m thinking the neighborhood husbands would have strung him up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Very very popular lemon bars

What makes these better than other lemon bars? Not too sticky sweet!


Lemon Bars (a la Jill J)

1 lemon cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 c lemon juice


Mix 1 egg, butter, and lemon cake mix until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup. Pat into 13x9 pan (recipe says ungreased, but I find a little greasing works best). Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until light brown.

Beat remaining eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt , lemon juice & peel until light and foamy. Pour over hot crust.

Sprinkle with remaining cake mix crumb mixture (sometimes mine gets a little sticky if I let the butter come to room temp. I break it up w/a fork and presto!)


Bake about 15 minutes more until light brown.
Sprinkle w/powdered sugar if desired.

Begin eating edge pieces.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Helpful tips for childrens' birthday parties

  1. Too many activities are perhaps overkill, but one or two games or organized fun events are helpful.
  2. If you are starting the party at 1 or 2 pm but plan to serve a full meal, mention it in the invitation.
  3. If a lot of people will be smoking right next to the kids, mention it in the invitation? Or something?
  4. If you said “no gifts please” don’t prominently display the presents that were brought.
  5. Anything over a pound of candy per kid to take home is excessive.
  6. Filling the goodie bag with toys that will break and become landfill within 5 minutes is not the goal.
  7. Champagne party poppers are a bad idea for the under 6 set. See the warning label for details.

    I’m sure I’ve forgotten plenty of tips. Let me know what you have experienced first-hand at parties. All of the above happened at a party we attended yesterday. Unreal.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Garage sale score!

Boo’s birthday is coming up and I was getting a little worried. Not much in the gift closet to pull out. Not a whole lot of good ideas percolating for cheap yet awesome prezzies. Then BAM, today N and the girls drop me off on the way home at a garage sale that had already been going on for at least 6 hours. I’m not expecting much, but hey, it’s worth a look. The guy has a 10 pound box (he weighed it) of Playmobil toys that he’s asking $30 for. Take a look at eBay. Go ahead. I’ll wait. (Those are actual items in this box!)

Yeah, that’s an amazing deal. So naturally I offer $25 and practically run away with it, zigzagging with my loot under the hot sun.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Schuyler's monster

I just finishd reading Schuyler's monster: a father's journey with his wordless daughter by Robert Rummel-Hudson. I was so excited with I found it in the new books section at the library! Nea's apraxia is not the same as his daughter's diagnosis -- she has a brain malformation called bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria -- but I'm just loving reading something related to what we are going through.

Actually, it’s eerie, how the journey is similar. Daughter, non-verbal, very happy, accepted by peers, very social. Also, beautiful. And funny and smart. And the hand coordination issues that make signing difficult. And then the realization that there are assistive communication devices. And the repetitive breaking of the parent’s heart. Why, really, the whole book felt like a validation of the difficulty of our journey in the last two years. Hey, remember that super-fun sedated MRI, last summer? They were checking whether Nea had that same rare brain malformation.


Giant plus on this book: the guy is really funny. I truly can’t distance myself enough to say whether this book would appeal to a wider audience, but if it was written for an audience of me it’s hard to imagine a better fit.

For even more Schuyler, see http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com/.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Zuke pancakes and veggie/meat marinade

I made this recipe before I realized that this blog is related to the CSA boxes from Angelic Organics, which N and I learned about from watching The Real Dirt on Farmer John. Also, it turns out we are friends with someone who worked there awhile. It's almost like we should sign up for our own share there. These zucchini pancakes were a smash smash hit with the kids, who ate them with sour cream and applesauce, like potato pancakes would be. I barely got any, and I used up 1.5 large zukes.

And this recipe comes to me via Erin, who also gave me some eggplants from her garden! Thanks, Erin.

Tuscan Marinade (for grilling)
1/3 c olive oil
3 T lemon juice
2 tsp garlic powder
1.5 tsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Use on mushrooms, eggplant, onion, squash, etc. Also can be used on chicken. Marinate in the fridge for a full 24 hours before grilling!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hey, look, there's a name for it now

I feel so validated. Apparently, this clean enough thing is a trend.

Hey, look, there's a name for it now

I feel so validated. Apparently, this clean enough thing is a trend.

Hi, Mom!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Too many cucumbers?

Are you feeling overwhelmed by Cucurbitaceae? It's a common affliction this time of year. I’ve got two suggestions, both super easy and tasty.

#1

Peel cuke skin off. Then peel the actual cuke into long strips. Throw out the seeds. Place in a pitcher of water for several hours. Then, drink your fancy spa water! So refreshing.

#2
Fridge Pickles
7 large cukes, sliced
2 cups sugar (I use less)
2 teaspoon salt
1 cup green peppers, chopped (I use a jalapeno, instead)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup white wine vinegar (or use red wine vinegar for pink pickles)
1 tsp celery seed

Combine, leave in fridge 3 weeks, eat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Update on the missing

Well, Marvin is still missing, but we found Waldo! (original checkout date: May 20th)

Kudos to Boo for her eagle eye.

The story of Blue Bear

Blue Bear with friend


Once upon a time there was a girl and her Blue Bear. They were of great comfort to each other. They cuddled. They had birthday parties for Bear. Weekly.

Bear went to the store and the library and the park. Sometimes they sang. Bear was often dressed in jammies with little red hearts on them, or his pink comfy loungewear. Recently, he even acquired a fancy metal and wooden tricycle.

Boo knew where her Bear was at all times. She wouldn’t sleep without him.

Alas, all things come to an end. One rainy night this week, Blue Bear spent the lonely hours in the playhouse, alone, outside. In the morning, Boo put on her rain boots and rain jacket and rescued him. But what does it mean, when he is so totally forgotten until the next day? Will he forgive this? Can he ever forget?

On the other hand, last night Bear started the night across the room in a little bed of blankets, but when I checked on Boo later, his whole sleeping ensemble had moved into her bed. She was probably worried about him, with his “broken leg” and all. Poor Bear.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

So, the last book club book reminded me of the movie Sliding Doors. Probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time. And rewatching it, it reminded me of John Hannah in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Which reminded me of the (unofficial) Best Use of a Poem in a Feature Length Movie.

What a scene that is. What a delivery. People who dismiss all romantic comedies miss out on some quality stuff.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

by W. H. Auden

Two books about sex

Thanks to Kate for recommending Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. A hysterical romp through scientific articles on sex, covering the last 150 years. Read the book, then go rent Kinsey, if you haven't seen it yet. That Kinsey, he was kooky!

But for the best book on gender, the front-runner remains
Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier. Fascinating from start to finish. We wimmenfolk, we are COMPLICATED.



Friday, July 18, 2008

We are Ralph groupies now

We saw Ralph’s World at the Morton Arboretum last weekend. As usual, he rocked. Boo and I have been to 5 of his shows now. Nea was anti-loud noises for quite awhile, but she danced and danced at the show. Outdoor venues are the way to go for the little people.

After we’d seen him in December, Boo made this diorama. I especially like the stage diver/techie guy at the top. And the passed out people on the right.


For comparison, here’s the kids at the actual show (photo by Stacia)



I think she pretty much nailed it.

Clarification regarding last post

I have just received a very snippy letter from the Big Tree Society, and I would like to state for the public record that I am also very fond of large trees. The Douglas Fir, for example, is a fine tree.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Photo Quiz Answer

Well, I guess Tacoma, WA needs to work on ye olde tourist trade, as no one recognized my quiz photo from the other day. My other guess was that someone would figure out it was Dale Chihuly and some sort of civic building and google it, but it was a stretch. Anyway, the correct answer was “Union Station, in Tacoma, WA” – a place where N’s love of trains and my love of glass intersect. Actually, it was a train station, and now it’s a federal courthouse. Since 1992, they tell me.

So, yes, the second I heard Tacoma had a Museum of Glass, I was dead set on going. It was lovely. Glaaaasss. Then we walked over the Bridge of Glass to Union Station. The art museum is right there, too, but with the kids in tow, we took a pass. They had been so good – why ruin it?

Long story short: if you are in Seattle or thereabouts, take a day trip to Tacoma! On the way there, stop and see some tiny trees. I love tiny trees.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eingelegte Bohnen (Pickled Green Beans)

Recipe from my Tante Helga (scroll down for German version)

Fresh green beans (or wax beans), cooked but not too soft.
Spices, according to taste:
Summer savory
Dill
Tarragon
Onion
Horseradish
Mustard seeds
1 bayleaf
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
4 cups water

Boil the water with the salt, sugar, and vinegar until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the beans.
Let stand a few days. Guten Appetit!

We ate this last summer at my aunt’s house, with just fresh bread and butter. Yum lunch!


Here's the original for you visiting Germans ...

Eingelegte Bohnen (Rezept von Tante Helga)

Bohnen, gruene oder gelbe, nicht zu weich kochen.

Gewuerze, Menge nach Geschmack
Bohnenkraut
Dill
Estragon
Zwiebel
Meerrettich

Senfkoerner
1 Lorbeerblatt
1 Tabl. Salz
1 Tabl. Zucker
1/2 Tasse Essig auf 1 Liter Wasser (ca 4 cups)

Wasser mit Salz, Zucker und Essig aufkochen bis sich der Zucker geloesst hat und ueber die geschichteten Bohnen giessen. Ein paar Tage stehen lassen. Guten Appetit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book club

Our pick for August is Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill. A classic, I hear. And only 192 pages! If that's still too long, it's also a movie from 1962 starring Katharine Hepburn. It was remade twice (1973 with Laurence Olivier and 1987 with Jodie Lynne McClintock), but we all know remakes generally suck. You should probably stick with Miss Hepburn.

Monday, July 7, 2008

How I spent my summer vacation


How I have longed for this day. Finally, after nearly 6 years of waiting, I climbed as I was always meant to climb. To the top of a 24 foot tower! Three times! And again the next day!
Love, Boo


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Best cooking tip of all time (possibly)

  1. Take crockpot. Place on counter. Put in half a stick of butter. Let it melt.
  2. Chop up enough onions to completely fill crockpot. Place onions in crockpot.
  3. After 4-6 hours, let onions cool. Place them (including yummy liquid) thinly layered on baking pan. Freeze.
  4. When fully frozen, break onions into chunks and put into ziplock bag. Return to freezer.
  5. Run around and live life. Realize you are hungry. Select recipe that states “chop and sauté onions until golden brown/soft/etc., approximately 15 minutes.”
  6. Snort with derision. Take some of your prepared onions out of freezer and use. Voila! You just saved a bunch of time.