Friday, August 29, 2014

First Days

School started yesterday and we're all adjusting to the new schedule.  Only the cats seem perfectly adjusted--and totally exhausted from summer days full of running up and down stairs in the opposite direction of the kiddos.  They are curled up together as I type, tired and a bit chilly from the overnight high of 60F.

Yesterday started early, with the kids awaking quite cheerfully to their alarms.  They were dressed and ready to go by 7:15. Sis immediately inquired about our traditional school "cornucopia," the Schultute. This year, instead of school supplies, candy, or little toys, we made coupons--extra 30 minutes of computer time, staying up late, their choice for dinner, movie night.  It's the tradition more than anything else, but I think they liked the coupons.

Then they helped pack their lunches, ate breakfast, and heading outside to our bus stop-cum-driveway.  Soon we were joined by a couple of other kiddos, a first grader whose grandparents speak to us in Mandarin on their daily walks (we say "ni hao" and do a lot of smiling) and a fourth grader in Sis and Bud's class who transferred schools to be in the gifted program. They all chatted happily until the bus arrived--with our same driver from last year!!

They got home similarly cheerful about eight hours later.  They liked seeing their friends and liked their new teachers--they have three of them in this program--for math, science, and writing--and even change classrooms.  I think they get their lockers today.

They had some forms for me and a get-to-know-you questionnaire for one teacher.  One of the questions was to name five wishes.  Bud said, "I wish my sister would be nice to me."

"Not gonna happen," she said.

Funny, but not always what a mom wants to hear.

They were sound asleep by 9 p.m.

The were similarly excited this morning. But my enthusiasm soon dampened a little.  The other 4th grader, a girl, at the bus stop was pushing and grabbing Bud, especially his favorite jacket, even when he said no.  I had to intervene. (Her mom had already left.)  It didn't help that Sis thought this was fun and was pushing him too.

And then, as the bus arrived, that girl called Bud a name.

I told her that was unacceptable.  It took a minute for me to realize how mean she'd been to Bud and, by then, both of them were on the bus.  I spent the morning wondering what I should have done, what I should do.  But I think the teachable moment has passed.  (I admit to emailing the teacher a heads up, since they're in the same class and I want to shut the name-calling down.)

However, if that girl says anything again . . . .

Not how I wanted school to start.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lost My Cookies

The recipe had nuts, cardamom, and orange zest.  And it was a snowball cookie, with which I like to experiment.

And I promptly forgot where it was.

I remember seeing the recipe in a magazine, or could it have been on FB?  Definitely not Pinterest. Well, almost definite.  But I knew it was in the house or that I had access to it.  I started looking--Saveur, Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, NYTimes, Taste of Home--both hard copy and online without finding anything.  And similar versions I found online through general searches weren't as tempting.

Today, I found it.  By accident.

I was sorting through magazines today, including a new subscription to Tea Time, and found the recipe.  It was walnuts, not almonds, as I had thought; I probably made the substitution in my head, because I like almonds better.

And so here it is.

I imagine I'll be making them for Christmas this year.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-cookies

Walnut-Cardamom Snowball Cookies
2 cups salted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
3 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (NB substitute almonds!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Fun: Last Day

Is the day before school really the last day of summer, or has the fun of summer disappeared a few days beforehand?

While we are certainly sleeping in, lazing about, and doing what we want, in general, we have in the back of our minds all the necessary preparations for school.  Bud did sleep in this morning, the first time this summer, and awoke, stating, "Gee, I finally figure out how to sleep in and school comes tomorrow to crush it."  And then he moved right into questions about his new class, including worries that he won't be able to find it.  He was not thinking of all the summer-y things he could do today.

Maybe because we'd done many items on our list already:
  1. Go swimming
  2. Attend town festival.
  3. Go to Broadway show (s)
  4. Beach trip
  5. Putt-putt golf
  6. Eat Dole Whip
  7. Have a barbecue
  8. Have a lemonade stand 
  9. Picnic
  10. Go berry picking
  11. Minecraft-athon
  12. Go to farmer's market
  13. See fireworks
  14. Movie night
  15. Game night
  16. Dance night
  17. Old tv show marathon (ours or theirs)
  18. Play in sprinkler
  19. Go to culture festival (Scottish and Greek)
  20. Go to Renaissance festival
  21. Make jam
  22. Build fairy houses
  23. Sketching outing
  24. Biking 
  25. Celebrate 4th of July
  26. Celebrate Solstice
  27. Birthday parties
  28. Try a new craft/art project
  29. Decorate chalkboard
  30. Purge and donate toys and books
  31. Backwards day
  32. Pajamas day
  33. Tie dye sheets
  34. Wash cars
  35. Try new CSA vegetable in recipe
  36. Community service project
  37. Do nothing special
I'd say that was a pretty good summer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Fun: Huzzah!

Mama and I celebrated our 17th anniversary this weekend--and in high style, by going to the NY Renaissance Festival.  This was particularly meaningful because Mama and I had one of our earliest outings to the faire the summer we met 20 years ago (I've written about my love affair with fairs here.)  With Goo in tow!  And he was the age then that the kiddos are now.  If you'd told me then that 20 years later, Mama and I would re-visit the fair with our twins, with a life in the CT suburbs and be LEGALLY married, I never would have believed it.   It was a wonderful weekend (save one thing I'll get to.)

Costumes:  We always like to dress up for the Ren fest.  And this year the kids also got into the act.  Sis wore a cloak, sword, and carried a bow (Bud's, from Texas), with a special LOTR leaf pendant we purchased for her and plastic attachable elf ears, for she is Legolas, the elf archer.  Bud is Frodo, with his colonial vest, a cloak, the One Ring on a silver chain, and his little silver dagger that he was handed during the parade at the Ren Fest in Texas.  He's used it in a lot of play these last 5 years.  Mama and I were just general shire folk, me in a vest and skirt, Mama in a vest and jeans.  We added to our costumes while we were there, half the fun of the festival.  I got a flower garland, along with a belt and pouch.  Mama got leather shoulder armor called a paldron.  Bud got a belt and sword, plus real halfling ears.  Sis added archer gauntlets.  We were quite the well-dressed crew.   It certainly makes the festival more fun.  And we got things we can wear again for other faires, for Halloween, even for Comic Con.  (Speaking of the latter, we saw several Doctors--three Tenth and one Fourth, all in costume!  The first Ten was the best, English accent and all, and posed gamely for a picture with the kids.)

Food:  Snacking always plays a huge part in the faire experience and we like to eat.  We had the requisite huge turkey leg and funnel cakes, of course.  We also really liked the fried macaroni and cheese in little triangles on a stick.  Mama and I enjoyed the florentine quesadilla, with spinach, feta, mozzarella, and pesto; we also liked the little doughnuts glazed in orange juice and apple cider.  Bud liked the cherry limeade, while I had a yummy orange float, like an Orange Julius only less chemically--just orange juice, ice, and vanilla ice cream.

Shows and Activities:  Between snacks, we wandered the faire and enjoyed all the entertainment.  My favorite, by far, was the archery.  I'm not great at it, even as a Level 1 instructor, but I enjoy it; Mama and the kids do, too.  We all even managed to hit near the center of the targets.  We watched two chess games--somewhat like wizard chess, with human "pieces" fighting for the spots--something I keenly remember from 20 years ago.  Sis really liked the sparring.  She also liked the horses in the joust.  We all laughed heartily at the Vixens En Garde-version of Hamlet, with a little Star Wars thrown in for fun.  And of course, we saw the Birds of Prey show, with the Master Falconer showing off his Andean Condor, Black Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, and Harris Hawk.  The show was extra-special after our own English falconry experience where we flew our own vultures and Gyr-falcon.  On our own, we had a few sword fights with all of our weapons.  We didn't stop for too many musicians (there actually weren't too many), though we danced to the drums of Wolgemut at the end of the first day.

Which brings me to the sad bit:  Bud's special silver-colored dagger went missing at some point in the last hour of our two-day visit.  We don't know where--and he and Mama searched high and low--and we don't hold out hope that it will be found.  I was very sad, not only because he was very sad, but also because it was such a big part of his childhood these last five years.  Sure, that probably means we shouldn't have taken it--I'm not sure I realized how attached I was to it until after the fact, though I knew he was--or at least tied it to him; lots of guilt to go with the sadness because I didn't notice that he'd set it down.  Hindsight is 20-20.  And up to that point, two whole days, he'd kept track of it.  But then it was gone . . . as Ar-Ma recently said about Gong's shoes and expensive new orthotics stolen from a local temple while they were praying, somebody else needed them more than he did and it was time for them to move on (sorta like a less-evil version of the One Ring, I suppose.)  That wasn't much comfort, though.  But as FB often reminds us about Mr. Rogers's "look for the helpers," we were amazed at the kindness of strangers.  The first let Mama and Bud back into the faire to search for the dagger, which we only found missing after we got to the car, even though they hadn't gotten their hands stamped.  Several shop owners tried to help them, until the last, seeing how upset Bud was, walked them over to her boyfriend's stall where they gave him, without accepting payment, a special as yet unpainted Elvish blade.  On the walk back to the car, he apparently planned how he would decorate it with runes and Celtic knots.

Shopping:  Before the dagger incident, we'd picked up a few other things.  The kids had a budget, but I'm the one who did most of the shopping.  I always favor candles and lotions--and I actually got a candle that melts into lotion!!  The other candle is one of those multi-dip/multi-colored ones that are then carved to reveal the layers--a staple of 70s living rooms, if I recall correctly; Sis chose a pink and purple one with little rainbow layers.  We also really enjoyed experimenting at Nixi Stix, with professional grade juggling balls, pins, dancing wands, dancing sticks, and these Toroflex things that the kids like--think of it as a perpetual-motion Slinky.  There wasn't as much great shopping as i'd expected so it took awhile to find something to send to Aunt Sis, who loved the Ren Fest and went every year; my Christmas present always came from the craftspeople.  

So, all in all, we had a wonderful time, though the loss of the dagger overshadowed the end a bit.  On the way home, we talked about going to faires in Pennsylvania and Maryland sometime; we laughed that later, Sis and Bud could even work them--on horseback, on violin, juggling, swordplay.  It was the perfect anniversary weekend.

Summer Fun: Not So Much

We have bed bugs.

Or more specifically, by mid last week, I had 15 bites on my arms, many in a straight row.

That's the tell-tale sign of bed bugs, the so-called "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" bites.

I noticed them by Wednesday ish, but didn't think much of them, though I did think it was odd that there were so many, especially because I'm not really oudoorsy.

By the weekend, the bites were a plague I had itched raw.  I even dreamt of being itchy and woke in the night scratching.  I've never been so itchy.  It's worse that chicken pox, poison ivy, and PUPS, the itchiness I had at the end of my pregnancy.  And it wasn't getting better.

So this morning I went to the doctor and sure enough, as we had begun to suspect:  bed bugs.  The doctor suspects they're from our hotel from last weekend, in NYC, since I haven't gotten any new ones.  And NYC is a known epidemic hot spot.

For me, that means steroid cream and constant Benadryl but no danger of any illnesses, like with ticks or mosquitoes.

For the whole house, it means a lot of laundry (I'm following these directions)--30 minutes in the dryer on high heat for anything fabric we've touched since last week--and exterminators coming to look for the bugs with a dog this afternoon.

And I called the hotel.  Of course, they don't really believe me, since I wasn't itchy the night I was there.  But the CDC says it can take 14 days for the bites to show up.  And this hotel was the only one I'd been in before the bites showed up.

Luckily, I'm the only one with bites, so far.  Well, everyone has one or two but we think those are unrelated mosquito bites.  For now.

So, we're home, surrounded by huge black garbage bags of laundry.  I figure there are 20 obvious loads . . . and then we have to discuss steam-cleaning the carpet, doing something to the couches, and what to do with the mattresses.  UGH.

My skin crawls just thinking about it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Frustration

I've lost my glasses.

We were at the swimming pool and I'd removed them to use my new snorkel (that way I can swim without having to rotate my lumbar spine right now.)

At some point between then and the shower, I realized I didn't have my glasses.

And they were gone.

Not in pool area, not in locker room, not in lost and found.

I checked with lifeguards, cleaning staff, office staff.  Even my physical therapist looked around.  I left my name at the front desk.  I called back later.  And looked again and checked back today.

Later, that is, after I found my spare pair in my car--the frames were broken, some of the UV coatings were coming off, and my depth perspective was off because of the crooked glasses.  But thankfully, I had the spare, because I'm still wearing them.

Apparently, I hadn't seen the eye doctor in almost two years so my prescription had expired.  So, I'll wear the spare for two weeks--the eye doctor is very busy with back-to-school--then get the prescription and get new glasses.

Could be worse, surely, but it is a bit annoying.

Almost has me considering Lasik.

Summer Fun: Barbecue

The kids love pulled pork!  They eat it anywhere we get the chance, which has been twice at Virgil's recently, once in NYC and once at Mohegan Sun casino.   Being a Texan, I had never made pulled pork before (we're a brisket people.)  So, with one anti-sauce kid and one pro-sauce kid, I made up a rub based on one I found at Epicurious.  And they loved it!  Sis even specifically asked me to put it on my "kids' favorite meals crib sheet."

Will do.

-=-=-=-=-=-

My Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Rub

2.5+ lb pork loin roast 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
approx. 1/2-1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, Lawry's seasoned salt, salt, dry mustard
1/2-1 cup water

Rub seasonings on both sides of the pork and place in slow cooker.  Add water.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or until done.   

Separate meat--"pull"--into pieces and serve.

Mommy Hungry