Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Yard Full of Wildlife

So here's what goes down in our yard, pretty much on a daily basis. Above shows our picnic table out on our patio. Last weekend, a Cooper's Hawk decided to make a meal out of House Finch - right on the table. I realize it's not very easy to see. So take a look at the next one - a view from our kitchen window...

This illustrious group is a subset of the 20 or more white-tailed deer that hang out in or near our yard on a daily basis. When we first moved here, it was a dozen or so. They have babies every Spring - last year Mark was mowing the lawn and there was a tiny newborn, very close to the edge of the trees on our property. They're really cute, but they grow, and then become parents themselves! So now the "herd" as we call it is over 20 females and young males, and on occasion, we see the big guys - a 6 point buck and 8 point buck. And until the state allows hunting on private properties in residential areas, they're just going to get more prolific.

Oh, and one more thing - off to the right of the photo - that's our shed. We keep our lawn mower, bikes, pool equipment, snow blower, etc... It has become home to a couple of red squirrels. Beasts, they are. Every surface, every container, every corner and pretty much anything that hasn't been moved in a year is either full of, or covered with squirrel evidence. Hickory nuts, leaves, pinecones, you name it. This spring, there's going to be an eviction. No advance notice, no court date. Mark and I are declaring war on the little rodents, and we won't stop until we're victorious. And then we're putting on new doors - so next time it won't be so easy for them to chew their way in.

And that, folks, is life in our yard, everyday. I could mention that constant parade of regular gray squirrels, and the chipmunks that eat vegetables out of our garden in summer. The screech owls that had babies two summers ago. And how about the bear that left his evidence half an acre from our front door in our front yard? We didn't see him. Believe me, I'd have a picture posted if we did. But we take a look around before we go outside in the summertime. And that's one yard beast I hope I never see.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's Cooking This Morning?

You wake up in the morning, and your kid (the one that boycotts food on a daily basis) asks for waffles, quick, what do you do? Make them, of course. Oh, you didn't know we aren't the Eggo sort of people? No, waffles are homemade around here - and only in the Grinch waffle maker. I have a Belgian waffle maker....somewhere. But it seems like everyone, big kids included, prefer the Grinch waffles! Thanks to my good friend, Judi who moved this past summer, while packing up her kitchen came up with a bunch of stuff she didn't want or need anymore and I got all kinds of great stuff - including this well, hideous appliance that actually makes really good waffles.
And, absolutely the best waffle recipe ever comes from "My Favorite Maryland Recipes" by Helen Avalynne Tawes - wife of a former governor. Here 'tis:
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 heaping TB sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 C. milk
4 TB melted butter, cooled
3 tsp. baking powder

Combine all dry ingredients except baking powder. Lightly beat egg, add the tsp. vanilla to the milk and pour in all at once. Add the melted butter, making sure that it is cool before you add it. Combine with a whisk until smooth, but don't overbeat. Just before cooking, fold in the baking powder. Best to make them all up immediately and freeze or refrigerate the leftovers as waffles rather than batter - works better. Makes 4-5 good sized waffles. Enjoy!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tiramisu, Anyone?

Tiramisu - I'd been wanting to try to make it for years now. Off and on, I searched for a recipe that didn't actually use raw eggs (yuck), off and on I looked in gourmet groceries for marscapone cheese, and on and off I mused that if one were to make really good tiramisu, one actually needs an espresso machine. Which, until this past Christmas, I didn't have. So amazingly enough, a few weeks ago, the stars aligned: I had a recipe that actually cooked the eggs on the stovetop as you made the custard, I found the cheese at Walmart of all places and I had my espresso machine. Now all I needed was a block of time. That came yesterday. The above photo shows the result, of basically an hour and a half in the kitchen and the biggest load of dirty dishes and utensils EVER. And how did it taste? Did you ever have the tiramisu at the Cheesecake Factory? How about at Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill? It was FAB. It truly rivaled pretty much every commercial tiramisu a pastry chef can put out there - and why not? Same ingredients, simple ingredients, actually, and although a bit labor and time intensive, each individual step could've been done by a 3rd grader.
But here's the rub: now that I know how it's made and what is actually IN tiramisu, I can't stand to eat it. And that, friends, is BAD. I've always had hang-ups about custards and puddings - I'm kind of a texture person and I've never been a fan of milk or custards, so things like flan, pudding, Boston creme pies, eclairs, even bread pudding and rice pudding never make it into my mouth. It's just a weirdness I have - I've only actually been able to tolerate even whipped cream for a few years now. So as I lifted a few spoonfuls of this tiramisu - made in my own kitchen - to my mouth, all I could picture was those raw egg yolks, that did, admittedly, get boiled on the stove with milk and sugar, but still - how gross was it to see that? And the really bad part? I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to eat it out again, either. I think I need therapy - or at least some sort of behavioral re-conditioning - I mean, is that crazy or what? I can't explain it - wish I could - all I can say is now I know where Jonathan gets his over-active gag reflex. Good old Mom.
Sorry, Mark - guess you'll have to eat the whole thing yourself!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

About the Dog

I can't believe I've been blogging for almost a year, and with the exception of a passing sentence or two, I've never really blogged about the Dog. Meet Bella. Bella is now almost 5 years old - we got her when we still lived in the townhouse in Annapolis. She was our "townhouse" dog - cute, little, easy to care for. Now that we live on 3 acres, she rules the roost, or at least she thinks she does. She's been known to run off wildlife, but with the big property, she doesn't know the boundaries, and we're often running around trying to find her - mostly on the road or in the yards of our neighbors.
Bella is a Shih-Bich (pronounced She-Bee). Her father was a Shih-Tzu, her mother was a Bichon Frise. She's highly playful and acrobatic from the Bichon side, but also a bit tempermental at times - a gift I suppose from the Shih-Tzu side. This side rarely shows - only when one of the boys is up in her "stuff", but for the most part, she's really good natured and loves to play, especially the "puppy game", where she, Mark and the boys run as hard as they can around the house rough-housing and chasing toys and in general, being very wild and giggling like crazy (the boys, not the dog!).
She's a great watchdog - although she tends to bark at squirrels, swirling leaves and even sometimes if the sun comes out and shines on the carpet she'll have a fit and bark at that, mostly when the kids are napping. She also tends to be very territorial and has been known to bite more than a few delivery people, meter readers and the guy who fills the oil tank. Luckily, though, she's so small, most of these guys just laugh at her - good thing, because they'd have a good lawsuit if they wanted one.
Anyway, Bella's a true joy - she's pretty spoiled and sleeps on our bed at night, but I guess we owe her that much for helping to keep the kitchen floor clean! At any given time, you'll find her under Matthew's high chair - and can you blame her? All kinds of yummy morsels kind of rain down from above - if I were a dog, that's where I'd be!
I know in the description of my blog I call her a "gross little dog", and there's good reason for that - she does have some very disgusting habits! I won't bother describing them to spare you the graphic, just trust me. But we wouldn't trade her in for the world. As dogs go, she's the best.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Getting to Know You....

Jonathan, Jonathan, my firstborn, our crazy little guy who came into our lives almost 4 years ago and turned our world upside-down. I'll guess, because I'm not sure, but I'm thinking that as your kids grow out of their toddler years and into pre-school and up, life just takes on a whole new meaning. I mean, this is no longer a little crying blob that needs to be fed, needs to be changed, needs to be picked, this is a human being, with thoughts, feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, by golly, opinions. In one way, it's delightful. This little tiny kid you're raising is growing up, seeing the world through his own eyes. I compare him to his little brother who just barges around with toys in his hands, stopping to inspect something else, smiling at Mommy and Daddy just because we happen to enter his line of vision. Gone are those days with Jonathan. He THINKS! But in other ways, it's staggeringly frustrating. Like the other day, I drove home from our extended visit to Grandma and Poppy's house. Me, the dog, both boys for 2 hours. Jonathan commenting the entire way - telling me to stop at red lights, go at green lights, stop for drinks, stop for potty, look at the dump truck, count the school busses, where's a police car, what road name is that, is that a fire engine, when are we going to get home and see Daddy, and the ubiquitous "are we almost there?" This kid is 3. Okay, almost 4. But I thought I had a few more years before all this started! And the crowning glory - I approached an intersection, the light turned yellow, and I sped up to get through. A little voice from the backseat: "Mommy, most cars slow down at yellow lights." Ahem.....well, kiddo, Mommy is NOT most cars. Not when I'm driving alone with you guys!
I guess in a way, it's a little strange because here it is - your little kid - one you've made and raised and fed and dressed and basically haven't left for more than a few hours with anyone but family members, and all the sudden, this kid has a different opinion than me! Ummm - how did that happen?
To leave with a funny story - talk about a different opinion -- he's been running a fever for a few days, and we just finished up one antibiotic, so off to the doctor we're going this afternoon. But I've been going through every thermometer in the house trying to find one that will give me an accurate reading, and last night, out of desperation, I took his temperature rectally. I thought he'd have a fit, but he was good and all was okay. This morning, though, his fever was raging again, and I told him that I needed to take his temperature under his tongue. He says to me "No Mommy, I don't like it in my mouth!" So I tell him that if I can't take it in his mouth, I'll have to put the thermometer in his backside again. And he says "OK - I don't want the one that goes in my mouth, you can put the one in my heiney". I kid you not. This kid is nuts. But we love him to death! Hope you feel better soon, buddy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Dying here, under the black cloud of kids who are sick, sick, sick. Tummy aches, puking, fevers, earaches, headaches, "mommy there's sand in my eye!", (umm, gee, could you now have pinkeye?) did I mention diarrhea? The last few weeks have been just terrible. The visit to my mom's was no reprieve - I had both of them at the outpatient clinic and both are on antibiotics, and both seem to need something stronger. Nothing like Monday morning at the pediatrician. I just hope now Mark and I don't come down with something...I'm not sure what we'd do!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Still Here!

Lest you think the aftermath of the previous post did us all in, nope, we're still here. We're just at Grandma's for the moment. I came down with the kids earlier in the week, and Mark is here for the long weekend....just getting some errands done, getting some Grandma and Poppy time for the boys, and doing some visiting.
Unfortunately, Matthew still has a little diarrhea, and now Jonathan has an ear infection - we had to take him to the outpatient yesterday. But other than that, we're good - more later!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ohhhhh, The Stench

If I could make my blog background brown for the day, I would. I mean, I guess I could, but it's not worth it. Let's talk poop. Yesterday, we all went to Morgantown. Yeah, that's Morgantown West Virginia. Close to our home, great shopping, neat restaurants. We wanted to get on the road for the day, maybe find some after-Christmas sales.
After shopping, we hit Cheddars for a late lunch. All was fine until we went to leave, and I smelled....well, Matthew. I grabbed a diaper and the wipes and headed into the ladies room, leaving Mark with Jonathan, the lunch bill and all our jackets and sippy cups and various paraphanalia. Get in the bathroom - it's a blowout. ALL OVER the inside of his cute little overalls. And what Non-Mother of the Year doesn't have extra clothing today? Yup, that would've been ME. So, after a massive clean-up effort (involving one very kind stranger who took pity on me) we carried our child outside in 30-some rainy degrees with no pants, and put him in the car seat and covered him with a coat. No harm done. Cranked the heat, headed toward home and he fell asleep within minutes. And that's when the REAL fun began.
Jonathan had been napping a little - and when he woke up, he was wiggling and told us he had to GO. Well, we're doing 70 in a 70 with no exit in sight, so Mark grabs the coffee cup from this morning and leans back over the back of the seat and holds it for Jonathan. Pants come down, no pee coming out. Mark's like - "Um, Jonathan, are you going to go or not?" Well, hmmmm, actually he WAS going, just not pee! And trust me on this one, this was one FOUL poop. Not solid. At all. The smell was killer. And it was everywhere. Jonathan's hands. Jonathan's legs. The back of the seat, the floormat, the carseat, his underwear and pants, his shoes (after he'd stepped in it), his shirt wear he smeared his hands. I need not go on - you get the point. He's screaming. Matthew (now awake) is screaming. I'm not sure what my children ate, but something definitely did NOT agree with them.
I'll make a dreadful story not so dreadful - children got home and got right into a nice warm bath. I threw in a huge load of laundry. I scrubbed out the car to within an inch. And I love Febreeze. That stuff rocks.
Life with kids, I guess. It could've been worse, although I'm not sure how. Mark and I are able to chuckle over it, and it was less than 24 hours ago, so maybe we're getting used to this parenting gig. Finally. Only took us 4 years.
Anyway, just had to share that moment. Sorry I don't have any pictures!! ;-)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Day 3, Still Going Strong

Yeah, this list stuff is definitely working. I've been trying to figure out why, and I think I've got it. Ordinarily, I'd wake up in the morning and kind of have a loose idea of what I wanted to accomplish that day. I'd wake up and say, okay, gotta clean the bathroom. Well, the day would progress, and I'd think, hmmmmm, should be getting to that bathroom. Better go get the mop and bucket. And then one of the kids needs something, and I'd forget, and three hours later, I think - well, should go start the bathroom, right after I get Matthew down for his nap.....and then Matthew never takes a nap, so it gets pushed back more. By the end of the day, I've either resigned myself to doing it the next day, or just slopping through a quick wipedown of the vanity and toilet, and not bothering to mop, or even to switch out some of the towels.

But now. NOW it's different. Because if it makes it to the "list", it must be done. Some things I won't put on the list - things I know I probably won't have time for. But other things, even obscure things, get put on, and I'll feel guilty if I don't get to them, and I just love that satisfaction of scratching something off! Yesterday, I actually organized my sock drawer and my jewelry box. Both were in shambles. Both things I wouldn't have dreamed of doing on a whim, or would've never even thought of if I'd suddenly found myself with a spare half hour. And today, one of my items was to write at least one thank-you note for Christmas gifts, and I actually managed to write four! Off to mop that bathroom, and just for fun, the kitchen, too!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Day 1, Resolution Still Intact

Hmmmmm - maybe this New Year's Resolution stuff might work after all. Today, I got up, made a list of things I'd like to accomplish by bedtime. As I look over that list right now, happily, I see that every single one of them has been scratched off, and I could've even added more and scratched them off, too, just to make myself feel even more satisfied.
It wasn't a very ambitious list - nothing like say, what Martha Stewart's daily list might look like (build a compost site, paint the living room, prepare for 20-person dinner party), no, rather, it was simple - two loads of laundry, washed, dried AND folded and put away, schedule a repair date for my flute (LOTS of phone calls!), cut up the pineapple I bought over the weekend, read a weekly publication that I always fall behind on, schedule Matthew's 18 month well-baby visit, etc... not to mention the usual stuff - phone call to mom, cook, serve and clean up 3 meals, and a run to Walmart and Staples, AND, I'm happy to say, that my day also included over an hour of reading time with Jonathan (Matthew, thanks buddy for that 3 hour nap you had today!) and we even watched a show together and talked about it while we were watching. So all in all - a great day. And not what I expected, because today, of all days, was a very long day for me since Mark was gone from 7:30-5:30, then home for dinner and gone again from 6:45 to 8:45. So Day One of resolution worked out well - we're going for Day Two tomorrow. I think I better start making that list now....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Blog? What Blog?

OH! THAT blog. Yeah. Ahem. Sorry about that. And Happy New Year!

A few pics of Christmas Morning....

Matthew got tons of cars - and Take-Along Thomas...

And Jonathan got some more trains with a coal loader, and the Plan Toys garage, peeking out from behind the tree....I think our house could now qualify as an official Thomas Tank supply warehouse. But anyway.

A bit busy? You could say that. For once, we were all healthy for Christmas. For once, everyone was off work. And the weather wasn't frightful. Makes for a very nice Christmas, a very nice visit to Grandma and Poppy's house, and a nice relaxing holiday. Hard to believe after all the planning and preparation, cooking, baking, wrapping, practicing music, etc..., it's all over and the world grinds back to movement tomorrow. It makes me sad - I hate to see the holidays come to an end. But we must now hunker down and face winter - those long, cold, dark days that lay between us and Spring.

New Year's Resolutions? Well, nothing really serious or specific. Just an idea I've been kicking around for a month or two. Better efficiency. More attention to the kids. More specific attention, not only to their basic needs, but to their wants as well. Less TV. Less worrying that the house is going to collapse into a heap of squalor if I don't wash that last dish or dust every week. And at least one night a week, Mark and I shut off the television, and do a project, whether it be working on something in the house that needs to be done, planning our next vacation, or just plain old, hanging out with each other with no distractions. Not sure how this will work out - after all, things do get busy. But we'll try.

One of my Christmas presents? A cappuccino maker! Which works great - but I can't FROTH very well! People say it takes a lot of practice - well, I'm working on it. If anyone has any hints, let me know. At least today, I got some reasonable foam. If I keep improving, I'll have a decent cup of cappuccino sometime in late February....just kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all - may 2008 be all you want it to be!