Saturday, May 30, 2009

Taking a Break

I wish I could say I was napping, like Smokie here, but I'm not.
We are down to the last two weeks of school at our house. Three kids, three different schools, three different sets of stresses and activities.
Being the mom, I take on all the stresses that really belong to them.
There is something about school that says, "We've finished our standardized testing, now lets do miles and miles of projects in addition to finals."

Anyway, my brain is elsewhere---last week and the week to come. I may or may not read blogs and I certainly can't think of much that is interesting to say on my own blog.
And so, starting June 8th, my brain will be back in the saddle. I'll be back here---same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Stills

The theme for this weeks Sunday Still is
Late last August, I noticed the flowers on my Flowering Senna tree were disappearing. Upon closer inspection, I found that at least 20 of these caterpillars were happily munching away.
My butterfly ID book was my next stop. In 8 years of living here, I'd never seen these cats on this tree. Turns out they were Cloudless Sulphur butterfly cats.

Twelve days later, I was rewarded with their birthday pictures.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scent Memories

Do you have scent memories? A scent memory is often the most powerful memory bank you have. You can go years and years and not smell a certain scent, but smelling it again brings a flood of thoughts, feelings and pictures to the forefront of your mind.
The thing is, the memory can be a good one or a bad one. Men don't much wear Old Spice aftershave anymore, so catching a scent of my father doesn't happen very often. When it does, I picture him in his hunting clothes, a shotgun, and me along side him. Hunting in the Fall. For some reason, that picture comes up. He certainly wore Old Spice almost every day, but the hunting picture and feelings are the most pleasant. Once that picture comes up, then I also have scent memories of wet hunting dogs, dead leaves, gunpowder, muddy boots, and beer.

On the other hand, there are negative smells. Smells, that if you never catch a wiff of them again, it would be too soon. Unfortunately, a particularly pungent and negative smell for me, seems to be everywhere---diesel fuel.
When I lived in the city, delivery trucks and busses would belch big, fat diesel fumes. Now I live in a more rural area, and I'm surrounded by F-250s and Chevy 4x4s. All these folks still believe that you need to protect the engine by leaving it running, no matter where you are. Every time the kids and I would stop at Sonic for something, some JoeBob would be sitting there letting his truck burn and pollute the air around me. I would just have to deal with it.

The origin of the negativity regarding the smell of diesel is 25 years old. I was dating a young man that I thought would be my one, true love. He always said he loved me, but kept me at arms length. He and some buddies planned a ski trip to Colorado one winter. The buddies talked him into taking me along. They were taking their girlfriends.

To cut costs, we all took a chartered bus there from Kansas City. It started off okay, and slowly it became apparent that he really didn't want me along. He felt that guys and girls shouldn't vacation together, even if no time was ever spent alone together. Guys in one hotel room, girls in the other. The trip out to Colorado was long. We stopped twice along the way to pick up other folks. All the while, the motor was running. The smell of diesel began to permeate every crack and crevice of the bus. Between that and the cigarette smoke, I felt ill for most of the ride.

Once in Colorado, the young man would barely hold my hand---"You shouldn't be here. This isn't right in God's eyes, us vacationing together." I was crushed.
By the time we headed home, I was miserable and just wanted to get home. Of course, the middle of Kansas is no place to be in the dead of winter. Blizzards are the stuff of legends there. The highway patrol didn't close the interstate, but they might as well have. We barely crept above 25mph for 10 hours straight. I felt like I could have walked across Kansas more quickly than that stinky, old bus was moving.
By the time we reached Kansas City, the smell of diesel was a part of my soul. My heart ached and diesel had become forever etched to that feeling. Of course, the feeling faded and really is gone, but the dislike of the smell is still very much there.

Today at the farm, the delivery truck came by me for the hundredth time since I started volunteering there in November. Of course, it's a diesel. Until today, I just choked and held my nose. Today, I was given a new scent memory to go with diesel-----happiness because of working at the farm. It now tells me that food is moving out of the fields and into the barn to be washed, packed, loaded and delivered. Food I picked. Food I have sore muscles for. Food I eat with delight. Food I share with other people, new friends. Food that makes me happy.

I wonder how many people are lucky enough to switch a bad scent memory into a good one? Do you have a memory triggered by a scent? Good or bad?

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Beheading

There has been a killing in my garden. These officers are on the case.

Exhibit A
Base of plant. Obviously chewed by something. Not a clean cut.
Exhibit B.
Body of plant, several feet away. Missing a head. Suspicion is, the criminal meant only to take the head, but needed to get the body away from the crime scene first. It could be that the body was just too heavy to carry any distance.
Exhibit C.
Head found 15 feet from origin of crime and 6 feet from body. Head partially eaten.
Likely suspect.
Known criminal activity. Has a rap sheet several pages thick.
Only suspect at this point capable of carrying out the crime the way it took place.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Stills

The Theme for this week in Sunday Stills is:

Praying Mantis peeking out from behind her Cosmos hiding spot

Female Gulf Coast Toad in her favorite drain pipe

Last years only fawn. He didn't survive the summer.

Self portrait.
Pearl on the airplane to New York City. She still misses the city, two months later.

Our baby's, baby blues.
Does James have his father's eyes or mine? Maybe they are all his own.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Five years ago, girls liked flip-flops. They didn't just like to wear them on their feet, either. They were on jewelry, towels, t-shirts and bedding. They caused a media frenzy in 2005 when several of the young women from Northwestern University's Lacrosse team wore them to meet the president. I guess the war wasn't interesting enough at the time.
Above, you see my attempt at recreating the flip-flop in cake. Unlike many of the cakes on the Food Network challenges, everything about this cake was edible except for the straps. I made this cake with much love, for one of my best friend's daughter. She was turning 13.
The method used was making hundreds of frosting stars, ala' Wilton Cakes. It wasn't perfect and the design wasn't symmetrical. I don't think she cared. Thankfully, I didn't either. In my 20's, I would have freaked out. I was way too smart for that in my 30's. Age has its advantages.

This is my newest attempt at a more modern cake design. It is cake covered in something called fondant. It makes for a perfectly smooth, almost fake looking cake. You can be creative and have fun. It's fairly forgiving stuff to work with, unless you roll it out too thin. Imagine working with homemade playdough.

The only downside is, it tastes quite a bit like playdough. Actually, it tastes like crisco and rice mixed together, with a little powdered sugar thrown in for fun. If you ever eat a piece of cake that has this on it, plan on eating around it. Well, take one bite and decide for yourself. Lee said it was like eating cake and chewing gum at the same time. Eeww.

This cake is a prototype for another birthday cake. I wanted to see if I could even work with the stuff, before I committed to such an important cake. The birthday cake is for that same young lady. Only this time, she's 18! Time has flown. She's off to college next fall.
This year's theme is a bit different. She's hosting a murder mystery party---CSI style. Her cake will be red and black. I might add something fun, as a surprise.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Practically Perfect In Every Way

Yesterday was a post about a garden failure. Today is a post about a success.
James asked if we could plant peas this year. When a kid asks to plant a vegetable that he or she has never touched with a ten foot pole, I jump on it. In fact, 'experts' say that planting a garden may encourage your child to try new foods. I must confess, that it does. At least in James' case.
He tried a fresh pea, right out of the garden and declared it to be, "Okay, I guess." Did he want another one? "No, thanks."

Strangely enough, that works out in my favor. You see, I adore fresh, raw peas!! I consider them the Mary Poppins of garden veggies. "Practically perfect in every way." They are sweet, portable, and easy to get into. A bug I could never catch sight of, loved snacking on the plant, but the pods were left unharmed. Every night after dinner, I make my garden rounds. I check for bugs, new blossoms, ripe strawberries, water needs, tie up tomato plants, fish dead snails out of my fountain, and lastly check the peas. They are my reward for garden duty. The fullest pods never make it in the house. I sit right down in the garden and have a post-dinner treat.

The peas in the picture represent the end of the peas until late next fall. Peas do not like warm temperatures. They are the snow-birds of the southern garden. Once temperatures go above 90*, they start to suffer. This morning I pulled up the last of the peas and picked the last of the after-dinner snacks.
They will not make it to dinner. In fact they will not make it to lunchtime. As I sit typing, I am consuming the last of them. I am flanked on both sides of my chair by my dogs. Smokie likes only peas and Mandy likes only the empty pod. In Smokie's case, it doesn't pay to be picky. I'm not sharing very many peas.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"O" for Two

Twice now, I have planted carrots. Twice I have failed. You would think, by looking at this picture that I did a fine job.
They look great. Most of them were nearly straight. That means I got the soil composition right.
What you can't do is taste them. They taste awful. They taste just exactly like you'd imagine dirt would taste. Not a hint of the magical sweetness that homegrown carrots should possess.
I spent over 2.5 months babying these carrots. Water, bug deterrents, and liquid seaweed feedings. The very same thing happened last year.
Just last week, I came upon an article that said early heat waves over 90+ degrees can cause carrots to be bitter. Sure enough! We've had several days well over 90*.
I will try carrots one more year, and plant them earlier than suggested. After that, I give up. The carrots from my CSA are amazing. I can concede defeat if someone else has already won the battle.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Stills

This week's Sunday Still Challenge is:
Black and White

I chose to follow another theme as well. That of Mother's Day. Human's are not the only Mothers in the world, although I doubt in the animal kingdom that they get celebrated with kisses, cards, flowers, and dinners out.
I choose to celebrate the Mothers in the the animal world because they have it so much harder than I do, without all the benefits.

Little buck fawn, waiting for mom to return with lunch.
Fawns wait most of their first month of life. Mom only comes back to nurse 3-4 times a day.

Mockingbirds wishing I was mom.
Or maybe wishing I was dad. Both parents attend to the babies.
Mockingbird parents work tirelessly throughout daylight hours to feed their babies.
However, they are empty nesters after only 12 days.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I Broke the Uni-Tasker Rule

I have a crush on a TV star. Alton Brown. He's Bill Nye the Science Guy crossed with Emerill Lagasse (just kidding, AB). He's not what Hollywood would call 'eye-candy', but I don't think he's bad looking at all. Quite handsome in fact. Except during his 'fuzzy face' stage during several episodes of Iron Chef. Don't know what was up with that. I guess as long as his lovely wife and daughter liked it, that's all that matters.

Anyway, he has a rule that is so ingrained in his persona, that he had a T-shirt made. "No Uni-Taskers." That means, no kitchen gadgets or tools that can't be used for at least two things. His only caveat is a fire extinguisher. Although, I may remember an episode of Good Eats where he uses it to flatten some chicken for chicken fried steak.
His main reason for this rule is to save kitchen space. I currently have a pasta machine that gets used about once every 8 years. Same thing with an ice cream maker. I have one of those cake pans with 3 pieces where you can freeze ice cream in the middle and then make an ice cream cake. Used it twice, and failed miserably both times. Did I donate it to Goodwill? No, it's taking up space in my pantry because I might magically figure out how to make a beautiful ice cream cake one day. I have since, really tried to stick to the Uni-Tasker rule. It makes such good sense. Mr. Brown is sensible, if nothing else.

I broke the Uni-Tasker rule last week. I bought myself a citrus juicer! It is good for nothing but juicing things that can be cut in half. I have an old fashioned version of this juicer. I used it last year on my pomegranates. My hand about fell right off.
We love limeade at our house and have an over abundance of mint. The two flavors together are amazing. I also juiced several batches of orange juice over the winter when I had too many oranges from the farm. Again, hand about fell off.
So, AB, I'm breaking the rule. A darn good rule, too. Maybe to clear my conscious, I'll donate that ice cream cake pan.
What follows is a lovely recipe for Limeade with Mint. I believe some folks add rum to this recipe to make a Mojito. You won't be getting that recipe.

List of Players:
10-12 limes (1 cup of lime juice)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 sprigs of mint
1 quart cold water/ice
Juicer of your choice
Important note: If you're getting your mint fresh out of your garden, be sure to wash it throughly. Stink bugs are not, as Alton says, "good eats".
Heat water in microwave and add mint.
Add the sugar slowly, if the water came to a boil in the microwave. Hot water has a tendency to react rather violently when stuff is added if it has been in the microwave.
Find a handsome assistant to stir the sugar and mint into the water until all the sugar dissolves. For foodies, this is called a 'simple syrup'.

At this point, refer to the top of the post for the picture of the Uni-Tasker being employed by my handsome assistant, James. You'll need at least 1 cup of lime juice. Note that his hands are still firmly attached. His hands did NOT fall off.

Mix the juice, water and simple syrup in your favorite pitcher. Add some ice and some limes for decoration and you're all set. Bring on summertime, I'm ready with my Uni-Tasker.
I hope AB is still speaking to me. Maybe if I can figure out how to put out a fire with the juicer??

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hiding in Plain Sight

I'm not sure if this fawn is the same as the fawn in the next two pictures. I only know that it is a little buck. Just like goats, they are born with tiny buds where the antlers will be.
This little guy was just laying in my neighbor's front yard.

Two days later, this little man showed up on my side of the fence I share with the neighbor.

Every year, hundreds of fawns get 'rescued' by well meaning people, who think they've been abandoned. Does get the coolest mom job of all---they get to feed the baby a few times a day and then go hang out with their friends. What's even better is that the baby stays exactly where she leaves it unless it's in mortal danger.

This sort of hit and run nursing, goes on for about a month. After that, baby gets to go just about everywhere she goes.

The mother of this little guy is a flake, but I'm sure trying to decide where the best place to leave a baby is a hard job. Not being a deer, I can only speculate why she'd leave him out in the wide open spaces, near humans. My guess would be fewer coyotes and fewer fire ants. Unfortunately, she's too fearful of humans. I watched her for nearly an hour (from a tiny, second story window) trying to get close enough to nurse. Every time she'd get anywhere near him, she'd bolt because of real or imagined scary things. Once, she got close enough to touch his nose, he stood up. That's when my neighbor decided to come out her front door. Mom was off like a bolt of lightening, with baby hobbling after. He dropped to the ground about 50 feet later and pinned himself flat again. Now he was really out in the open and in full sun.
She didn't return for him for nearly another hour. He was so close to our house at that point, that I didn't let the dogs out---even though a fence separated them from the fawn. Once she got up enough bravery, she came and managed to get him to follow.
Most does will stand their ground when it comes to fawns. They'll take on a dog and pummel it with their heads and hooves. Sharp hooves! This doe was absent on that day of her prenatal class.

Anyway, with fawn season upon us, please pass the word: Leave abandoned fawns right where they are. Mom has only gone out to lunch with her friends and will be back shortly.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Stills

Flowers and Plants
I've decided to join the ranks of those taking Sunday Stills. Goodness knows I love taking pictures. Each week a theme is given and we then post our pictures on our own blog and then send Sunday Stills a link.
This week the theme is flowers and plants.
I love taking pictures of plants and flowers. I have dozens of them, some are pretty darn good. Instead of posting one of them, I chose instead, to post my son's Science Project photo.
He is challenging the idea that Miracle Gro really does grow things "twice as big". After just one week, the Hollyhocks are indecisive on how they feel about any feeding at all. Right now, all three plants are running neck in neck. Same height and number of leaves. No flowers yet.
He only has until May 17th to complete his data. The project is due on the 18th. Hopefully, he'll be able to draw some conclusions by then.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Which Is It?

Thursdays paper

Todays paper

I gotta tell ya that this flu thing is getting old. Where was the media in years past? In the 2007-2008 flu season, 3,900 Texans died of flu related complications. Thirty-six thousand (36,000) people in the US die every year. Really, I kid you not.
Flu viruses that we knew about and had been vaccinated for. It happens every year, but since there wasn't anything else to report on, they decided to run with this.

Yes, many Mexicans have died from H1N1 (aka, Swine Flu). I'm sad about that. It turns out that many have died south of our borders because they delay seeking treatment. "It has to do with the culture, the idiosyncrasies of Mexicans, " said Dr. Padilla, an epidemiologist at the University of Guanajuato. "The idea is that I don't go to the doctor until I feel very bad."

One private school here in Austin closed because some students had recently been in Mexico. They aren't showing any signs of illness. I think the board members just wanted a long weekend. After all, our illustrious governor, Rick "Big Hair" Perry has granted a waiver to any school in the state that wants to close because of the flu. I wish our school would do that! I want a long weekend!

Dr. Richard Wenzel, past president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases has this to say, "There might be some over-reacting, but with an exotic virus that's never been seen before, you can't blame people for doing it." Really, he was the president of this society?? I'm thinking this society was probably about boondoggle trips to Cancun to discuss matters other than infectious diseases, because this is not "an exotic virus that we've never seen before." Then again, he may have picked up the virus in Cancun and be delirious.

Somebody needs to tell him that it's called the Swine Flu because we've seen it before. It even has a number, H1N1, already. Also, just because it originated in Mexico does not make it exotic. The jungles outside Kuala Lumpur, that's exotic. Cancun, not so much.

If you're still wondering if you might have the virus, please check out the following website. It will give you an honest answer regarding the possibility.
My advice regarding the transmission of the flu is the same as it is every flu season:
Wash your hands and don't pick your nose. Or at the very least, wash your hands before you pick your nose.