Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm Boycotting Things with Feathers, Unless They're For Sleeping Purposes. Oh, and Feather Boas. Those are Nice.

Ah… contentment….

Here I sit in the comfort of my sun room. It is a beautiful, sunny afternoon with temperatures in the mid 70s. For background noise, I hear the buzzing of the cicadas in concert with my six year old’s sweet voice. She is playing outside in the flower garden beneath the sun room windows, singing a song she made up. The cat sits in a block of sun on the carpet at my feet and the ceiling fan provides a gentle breeze that blows my hair. Further inside the house, I hear the sound of the washer’s spin cycle. It’s a lovely sound, because it means I’m being productive. It’s 4:17 p.m., I’ve completed my work for the day, and all is right in the world.

Except that I I am freaking out because I have no flipping idea of what I should make for dinner. I am in a cooking rut. I am so tired of tacos, burgers, meatloaf, brats, and for the love of Pete – chicken. So. Tired. Of. Chicken. If I never saw another chicken for as long as I live, it would be too soon. Except for the baby chicks at the fair. Those are cute and don't count.

So. Anybody have any good recipe recommendations? For a moderately capable chef who likes to cook, sort of, sometimes, when she has time and doesn't have to clean up after herself? Cheap, fast, tasty. How hard can that be?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Photos of the Week

Back to school!
*photo of the kids in front of the house before school:
back to school

I love the spikes on the leaves of this plant:
*photo of a red flower on a plant w/ a dark background:
red flower

I took this on Saturday morning before Bumblebee woke up. Look at that perfect curl!
*photo of Bumblebee sleeping - a curl is on her forehead.
curl on a sleepy girl

The freeway in downtown Des Moines at 6:20 in the morning. The 'rainbow' bridge is a walking bridge - I just love the colors and shading of this one:
*photo of the freeway and a walking bridge:
freeway bridge

The rest of the photos were taking on a trip to a state park called Ledges:
*photo of Hollywood and Bumblebee sitting on the trail steps:
sisters at Ledges

This is my sis-in-law D, the girls and me on a rock ledge at the park. And the furry beauty is Chloe!
*photo of us at ledges:
ledges with the girls

I took this closeup of a bee on a flower. I love that you can see strands of a spider web on it too:

Bee_on_flower

Hollywood was being a daredevil, crossing this fallen tree that lay high across a ravine:

Hollywood_over_ravine

And finally, we saw this creepy crawly on a rock ledge.
*photo of a closeup of a centipede on a rock:
icky_centipede_ledges

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How to Get Rid of a Sad and Pathetic Tree

This is a sad and pathetic tree. It looks like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree with almost no needles left.
*photo of sad tree:
sad and pathetic tree

It has got to go. But it's a very tricky tree to remove. Just look at The Husband and Brother Z consider their options:
*photo of Z and TH staring up at the tree:
z and d looking up at tree

This is a tricky tree to remove because the tree is leaning towards this:
*photo of the gas pipeline, which is right next to the tree.
gas pipeline

and this:
*photo of our neighbor's mailbox.
mailbox

So follow along and watch the cheap and questionably safe way to remove a tree so that it doesn't fall on the gas pipeline or the neighbor's mailbox.

First, you have a 41-year-old who thinks he's five climb up the tree. That 41-year-old will think you're a freak for taking a thousand pictures, so he will stick his tush out and tell you to photograph that. So you will. It's pretty cute, though, right?
*photo of TH up in the tree sticking out his tush:
TH tush in a tree

So the old man who thinks he's young will stay in the tree and wait for the 26-year-old who really is young to throw up a rope at him.
*photo of Z tying a rope while TH is in the tree:
z rope

And then The Husband will hop down from the tree, and toss the rope to Brother Z, who will tie it to the end of the giant, rugged, rusty, pickup truck:
*photo of Z tying rope to the truck:
truck rope

Did I mention that the giant, rugged, rusty pickup truck is sitting in the middle of the front lawn? Nothing but class for this operation. If you do it right, your neighbors will drive by and stop to joke with you and say that they hope not to see you on America's Funniest Home Videos.
*photo of truck on lawn:
truck in front yard

So then, Brother Z, who loves to play with chainsaws, will start to hack into the sad and pathetic tree.
*photo of Z with a chainsaw:
z chainsaw sawdust

And when he's cut enough of the tree, he will hide behind another tree, one that's not quite as sad and pathetic, and tell The Husband to 'step on it!'

step on it!

And when TH hits the gas, the tree will fall down so quickly that the photographer (who only has a sad and pathetic little point and shoot camera) is left with only a void in the landscape where the tree once was instead of a great action shot of the tree actually falling:

bye ugly tree

But the tree will be gone. And that is good.

The End.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Immersion and Driver's Education

I’m reading a wonderful book that I can’t put down. (The Help, by Kathryn Stockett) It’s been a while since I’ve gone completely under and given my entire being to a book. And trust me – back to school week isn’t a great time to do that, but how was I to know it’d be that good?

I have a memory of my mom doing laundry while listening to a book on tape. She was so engrossed in the book that she either didn’t hear or chose to ignore my pestering. Having to stop the book for me clearly annoyed her. I don’t recall having hurt feelings because of this. Instead, she taught me the love of reading, which is one of my very favorite pastimes.

So when I make my kids eat popcorn and peanut butter sandwiches for three days in a row just so I can read my book, it’s not neglectful parenting. Rather, it’s showing them how enjoyable a good book can be. And when I absentmindedly answer “In the garage” to the questions “Mom, where’s the gasoline? And do we have matches?” * I’m leading by example; displaying how literature can be as necessary to our being as the air we breathe.

I only wish I could read my book while sitting at work. But, I wouldn’t get much actual work done that way, would I?

*I know what you’re thinking. I shouldn’t keep the gasoline in the garage, right? Been meaning to tell The Husband to move it out to the shed.

******

Last night after football practice, Hollywood called me.

“Mom? Um… The jeep is making a clicking noise when I try to start it. It won’t start.”

“Oh yeah?” I said, “Did you leave your lights on this morning?”

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

It’d been raining when she left for school, so she had her lights on. Guess she didn’t realize you have to turn them off or the battery will die. She apparently got loads of ribbing from the boys on the team, but they were nice enough to give her a jump start. Later that night, she told me she needed gas. I’ve shown her how to pump gas before, but she didn’t want to do it on her own, so I went along to show her again. I explained how to run the credit card machine. I told her to unscrew the gas cap. (Had to tell my straight-A student all about ‘righty tighty; lefty loosy, though.) Then I told her to lift up the silver lever on the pump cradle. The station we were at is very old, and lifting that lever turns on the pump and makes a very loud noise. She thought that sound meant that the gas would start pouring out of the nozzle (even though she hadn’t pulled in the trigger yet) and so she let out a piercing scream and scrambled to the gas tank.

I looked at her and explained that gas wasn’t coming out until she squeezed the trigger on the nozzle. She grinned sheepishly. Maybe it’s a good thing that we’re working out these driving kinks right now, when she’s only allowed to drive the 1.2 miles to the school and back. Hopefully by November when she gets her license, she'll have it all down pat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

At Least One of us Isn't a Hothead...

Yesterday, my heart broke a little for The Boy.
*photo of The Boy, getting ready for his first day of school.
The Boy First Day of 7th Grade

Here he is, getting ready to start his first day of junior high. He looks so big – and although he was smiling, I know he was nervous. Do you remember junior high? For me, it was the worst two years of my life. I wouldn’t go back to 7th grade for a zillion dollars. It makes me shudder to even think about it! In my kids’ school, the junior high kids go to the same building as the high school kids. So it’s a big change for them from elementary school, and The Boy was afraid of getting lost and not making it to his classes on time.

He had to start off the day by carrying his heavy backpack with all of his school supplies, along with his giant duffel bag filled with his football and PE equipment. I’m sure carrying 40 pounds of stuff made his trip to the bus stop fun.

His first task of the day was to take his school registration fees, lunch money, and sports physical form to the office. I put all of them in an envelope for him and told him not to lose it. He placed that envelope in his agenda book and was supposed to take it to the ladies at the office first thing. Only, when he got to school and unpacked his backpack, he couldn’t find it. Which meant that he couldn’t play football. Or eat hot lunch. Good thing he brought a sack lunch yesterday, huh?

So then, he went to the locker room to put his football helmet and pads into a spare locker. After he shut the door, he realized that he couldn’t open the locker back up. Something must have been jammed in the door. He asked the PE teacher to help him open it, but he couldn’t get it open either. So… no lunch money, no sports physical and no football equipment.

And then… he realized that he left his duffel bag (which had his gym clothes in it) in the gym. When he went back to get it, it was gone. No lunch money, no sports physical, not football equipment, and now no duffel bag, which meant no gym clothes, which meant no gym.

Poor kid! What a day! He had no clue where the lost and found is. He didn’t quite know what to say if he were to go into the office. He knew he couldn’t go to football practice without the sports physical, so he just rode the bus home. The Husband was working from home and was surprised to see a very upset little guy.

Here’s where I’m going to get all contemplative on you. I am so thankful that The Husband was home. Because… he was there to see how upset The Boy was, and he called me to tell me about it. Now I’m not sure if his intentions were to warn me about the situation so that I didn’t fly off the handle when I got home and found out he’d lost his papers and the $100 worth of checks I’d sent to school. The Husband probably wouldn’t have admit to calling me ahead of time so that I’d cool down before I actually saw The Boy. But after all these years, of course he knows me, so I think he was trying to preempt a freak out. And now it’s confession time: I can be a serious hothead. I often sometimes blow up at my kids for things that frustrate me. Losing sports physicals and envelopes with checks in them and being unorganized are sorts of things that typically send me over the edge.

It’s not my best trait. In fact, it’s probably my worst parenting trait. My kids are used to me flipping out about stuff like this, but that doesn’t really make it ok.

The Boy didn’t need my freak out after his horrible day yesterday. He needed someone to calm his nerves and tell him that everything was going to be ok. The Husband was able to do that, and tactfully prevent me from going all army commander on him. After school, they went on an errand together – a manly bonding experience where they bought The Boy a jock for football. I don’t really know what kind of conversation they had, but whatever it was, it made The Boy feel a lot better.

For homework last night, The Boy had to do a worksheet that told one of his teachers about his life and interests. One of the questions was “Who is someone you admire and why?”

His answer: “My dad because he helps me feel better when I’m having a bad day.”

I don’t tell The Husband this often enough (another of my not so great traits) but I think he does a great job with the kids, especially in situations like this one.

***

Update: Hollywood drove The Boy to school early this morning so they could go to the office together. Someone had turned in his envelope with the checks and sports physical there, and the duffel bag was found. No word on the football locker yet, but it sounds like today is going much better for my not-so-little guy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Photo Week in Review

Here are some of my favorite photos from the week:

This is a collage of photos from a Chocolate store called Stam. They had wonderful chocolates and gelatto. Mmmm...*photo collage has a picture of the interior of the store, the chocolate counter, the gelatto flavors, and corn shaped pralines:
S

This one was taken on date night. It's a view of Main St. in Ames.
*photo has reflection of the street lights in the glass of a shop window:
ames_main_street

We ate dinner at a place called Lucullan's. I thought the sign was cool:
*photo of Lucullan's sign hanging over Main St:
lucullans_sign

At dinner, we found this little dude in our bread basket - it looks like the Geico 'this is how much money you can save with Geico' guy:
*photo of bread with olives for eyes, a roasted pepper nose and an onion mouth:
bread geico money guy

I took this photo while out for a walk in my neighborhood. The Husband said it looks like the Sahara - I agree - you almost expect to see a lion or two out there. But, alas, there are only cows.
*photo of a grassy field with a funky looking tree in the background:
walk landscape

The Boy got his practice uniforms for football this week. Doesn't he look handsome? Mabel's looking out the window, planning her next animal murder.
*photo of The Boy in front of the house with his football equipment and uniform on:
jake and mabel

Here he is in his lineup pose. You'll recognize this one from my new sidebar images.
*photo of The Boy in his football attire:
jake football

I took this one to showcase Bumblebee's adorable freckles:*photo that has been altered to soften the image everywhere except on her nose so that it showcases her freckles:
freckles

Another image from my sidebar.
*photo of a closeup of Bumblebee making a funny face:
funny face

Hollywood got her driver's permit this week, so she is officially able to drive without a grownup in the car, as long as she's only going to the school and back.
*photo of Hollywood in the jeep:
Brie driving

Here she is, driving away on her own. Say a prayer for the safety of the pedestrians in the neighborhood!
*photo of jeep driving out of the driveway:
jeep driving away

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The 18 Year Aspirin

Yesterday, I came home from work and was in my room resting before a night on the town with The Husband. Bumblebee came in to snuggle with me, and as we were snuggling, Hollywood came in to talk.

Bumblebee sat up and spied a square blue package on my nightstand with the word 'Trojan' on it.

"Momma, what is this?" She asked.

I was evasive, "Oh, honey, that's just a grownup thing."

Hollywood started to chuckle. Bumblebee was insistent. "But what is it?" She kept picking it up and holding it.

I kept taking it from her and putting it down, cursing myself for leaving it out on the nightstand.

Hollywood decided to help with the explanation: "That's something that makes sure you don't have any more brothers or sisters," she laughed.

"Huh?" Bumblebee wasn't satisfied. "Really. What is it?"

At this point, The Husband came in and I pleaded for help with the conversation.

"It was easier when we used the pill," he said. "You could tell her it was medicine."

Again, Bumblebee asked what the square, blue package was.

I sighed and told her that it was a giant aspirin that prevents an 18 year headache.

Later on, after our date, The Husband asked me if I needed an aspirin.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Renovations

Boy, am I dusty! Been cleaning up and re-decorating in here! I was getting bored with the purple flowers and wanted to showcase some of my very, very, very amateur photography skills with a new header and layout. Hope you like it, and please, if something looks funny about the layout, can you drop me a comment and let me know?

I had to jack with the xml template to get it to do what I want, and who knows if I goofed that up or not.

Iowa State Fair - Part 2: The Animals

I’m not an ‘animals are so amazing’, mushy, gushy animal lover. I have a dog and a cat and if you’ve read my blog before, you know how I feel about them. I never got into the horse or kitty or puppy phase all that much as a kid. Horses are big and smelly; kittens make me sneeze; but puppies are all fine and good. That is, until your mom thinks that just because your dog dragged your little brother around the yard by his sweatshirt that she should give him away. (Unfortunately, she chose to give away the dog, and not the brother. What? I already had four other brothers, this was my only dog!)

So, yeah. Even though animals aren’t really my thing, you can’t go to the Iowa State Fair without checking out the livestock. And I always enjoy myself, once I learn to watch where I walk and get acclimated to stench of manure.

Our first stop was the sheep barn and my kids wanted to pet every single sheep we passed. The sheep are usually trying to get away from people touching them. They must have personal space issues like I do. The owners of one sheep had it tied up outside of the pen, right there in the aisle. My kids ran over there and started smothering the sheep with loving caresses. I was a bit embarrassed, because the sheep’s owner and his son were sitting right there watching us pet their sheep. It was uncomfortable, and I felt like we were doing something we shouldn’t, but…hello? It’s the fair. People who don’t know a thing about livestock like to come look at the pretty animals and touch them and stuff... It’s our own little version of E-I-E-I-O.
*photo of the kids petting the sheep with the owners in the background:

So I smiled at him and said something completely stupid like, “She’s so pretty. Thanks for letting us pet her.”

And, instead of being a nice farmer guy like farmers are supposed to be, he gave me a look that basically told me I was a dumbass. Huh, maybe I screwed up and made some kind of sheep farming faux pas. He was still giving me that ‘you’re an idiot’ look, so I panicked and blurted out: ‘Is it a She or a He?’ thinking maybe I called Fluffy by the wrong gender and that’s why he thought I was batshit crazy.

“It’s a she.” He said, but he might as well have said, “you ignorant city girl, go find some pigs to look at.” Which is what I decided to do. But seriously, how should I know what gender a sheep is? Sheep are short – it’s not like I was going to look under its legs for a dangly bit. Unless… do boy sheep have horns on their heads? If so, that would explain his incredulity at my stupidity.

Did I mention that I’m not really an animal person?

We pretty much hightailed it on out of the sheep barn and went so look at the horses. I have to say that the folks at the horse barn are So. Much. Nicer! They smiled at us, encouraged us to pet their horses, said “thank you” when I told them their animals were pretty. It’s true that I was less ignorant in the horse barn - I got their genders right, because, well, it’s very clear whether you’re looking at a boy or a girl horse, especially when you’re short like me and their gender indicators are almost at eye level.
*photo of a closeup of a black and white horse:

*photo of the kids petting a horse:

*photo of Bumblebee petting a horse:

There’s also a livestock barn that has just about every animal you can think of. There are roosters, geese, ostriches, emus, llamas, and so forth. We enjoyed looking at them, but the signs all said, ‘unless you want to lose a finger, keep your hands out of the cages’. So, petting them was out of the question. I got some great photos of them, though.

Look at these donkeys snuggling with each other. If that won't warm your heart, then I don't know what will:
*photo of an adult and baby donkey nuzzling:

Don't llamas look weird laying down? It looks like this guy's legs were cut off:
*photo of a seated llama:

We saw this sign:
*sign that says 'world's smallest cow':

I was excited, thinking we'd see tiny little cows the size of those dogs that rich people carry around in their purses. I was disappointed when I actually saw them:
*photo of some not very small cows:

See? They're not really very small at all. False Advertisement! I'm positive there are smaller cows somewhere in this world.

I love the name of this next animal. It's called the Miniature Silky Fainting Goat. This sign doesn't appear to be false advertising at all. This goat had a beautiful silky coat. I never did see it faint, but it was laying down being lazy the whole time.
*photo of a miniature silky fainting goat.

This ostrich was cool - though I have to admit, I have an irrational fear of birds and ones that are two feet taller than me are very creepy.
*photo of an ostrich:

Check out this rooster. The kids were looking at it and The Boy said 'cock a doodle doo!' and immediately afterward, the rooster did the same thing. It was so cool!
*photo of a rooster:

And finally, check out these alpacas. They are the most adorable giant, smelly animals in the world, aren't they?
*photo of a mom and baby alpaca:

We didn’t make it to the pig barn. I’m not sure why – I think I got distracted by the vegetable building and wanted to check out the eggplant. But that’s probably ok, because if I’m ignorant about sheep, I completely clueless about pigs.

Perhaps I should read up on farm animals before next year’s state fair.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Iowa State Fair - Part 1: The Food

Oh how I love the fair. I love everything about it – the steamy August heat, the gritty film of dirt that covers you the second you walk through the gates, the flashy neon signs, the people watching, and most of all, the food.

Oh my gosh, the food.

The smells, the taste, it’s amazing. I like going to the fair just to see what kinds of food they sell. It’s like watching a documentary on the National Geographic channel about some distant country. “They eat giraffe brains in Zanzibar? Wow -who knew?” Yeah, at the Iowa State Fair, you can watch people eating equally ridiculous food – and it’s usually on a stick.

So sit back and come along with me on this photo journey of the foods at the Iowa State Fair. Check this out:
*photo of food stands lined up along the main drag at the fair:

Stand after stand selling battered, fried, frozen, sugary food with no nutritional value whatsoever. It’s a dream! Corn dogs are the fair favorites, and The Boy and Bumblebee each scarfed one down – for breakfast when we first arrived at the fair! You have to get a corn dog at the fair. In fact, I think it’s against the law to leave without eating at least one.

Being the sensible eater that I am (ha!), I had to save my fair food indulgence on the one and only thing that matters to me in this cold, harsh world: cheese curds. Just look at the stand that proudly sells them:
*photo of cheese curds stand

Look at that mouse, laying so coolly atop his bed of cheese curds. How does he remain so calm? Especially when the nuggets of fried tastiness look like this:
*photo of fried cheese curds:

There it is. Foodporn in all its glory. Hold on while I wipe the drool from my chin. Is it wrong that when I look at that picture I hear the sounds of angels singing as the gates of heaven open?

Have I ever mentioned that Hollywood claims to hate cheese? She's a freak. Her name is a kind of cheese, for goodness' sake! To me, hating cheese is akin to having an I Love Hitler tattoo. It’s just un-American! But… take a look at this picture – she clearly doesn’t dislike cheese as much as she claims to:
*photo of the kids eating fried cheese curds.

I haven’t ever tried this next delicacy, but it’s definitely something up my alley. Fried Mac n Cheese. Yum. What’s not to like about that?
*photo of fried mac n cheese stand.

And check this out. For fair goers with a wicked sweet tooth, I present the fried twinkie stand:
*photo of stand with fried twinkies, oreos and candy bars.

I have to admit that the thought of a battered and deep fried twinkie makes even this hardcore sugar-aholic cringe. But it’s a popular stand. They sell deep fried Snickers there too, and that’s what Hollywood was saving up her food splurge for:
*photo of Hollywood eating a fried snickers bar.

I tasted it. It was alright in a warm and chocolaty and gooey kind of way, but I prefer my Snickers frozen.

The fair’s not all about crazy, sugar-coma inducing foods, though. I love going to look at the fruits and vegetables on display. My kids think it’s the most boring thing ever, but I drag them along with me anyway. Look at these - aren't they beautiful?
*photo of a closeup of a basket of grapes.

Bumblebee wanted to eat “just one” grape – you know, just like at the grocery store, when you test the grapes to make sure they aren’t bitter. Don't worry - I didn't let her!

And here is a table full of beautiful vegetables. It’s a veggie table!
*photo of vegetables on display.

I love this picture – the veggies look amazing and I love that growing produce is celebrated at the fair. And, speaking of growing produce, the fair is famous for displaying the biggest everything. Cows, pigs, and even veggies. Look at the size of this pumpkin! (and please, ignore the faces of my children who clearly don’t know what the phrase ‘say cheese!’ means.)
*photo of the kids standing by the largest pumpkin.

1,099 pounds! Can you believe that! Don’t small vehicles weigh that much?

There are many more foods at the fair that I didn’t capture with my camera, but perhaps the strangest thing we found was this stand selling chicken lips. The name alone grossed me out, but The Boy helpfully told me, "Mom, they're probably just fried chicken breasts. You know chickens don't have lips, right?"
*photo of chicken lips stand that says ‘wings are for sisses – try your new favorite food.'

Wings are for Sissies indeed. (It would have been better if the sign had spelled the word ‘sissies’ correctly, but hey - it’s the fair. Spelling is only important in the spelling bee contest.)

Check out the t-shirt on the guy behind the counter. It says ‘You’re on my t-do list!’. Ha. The fair is awesome.