Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Version of Snow

I know if I lived up North, that my nemesis would be snow. Primarily, the ability of snow to find its way into my house. I've seen pictures of dogs bringing giant snowballs in, attached to their fur.
Here in Austin, we don't get snow. At least not on a yearly basis.
We get dead grass. Lots and lots of dead grass.
Some dogs just go out, do their business and want right back in.
Not my dogs.
They have to roll around in the dead grass. They have to run madly about, pounce on each other and roll some more.

The thing with dog fur and dead grass, is that there's an electrical attraction. Static cling becomes master over all. Trying to brush the grass out of their coats becomes a lesson in futility.
So what that means is, I do the best I can with a damp brush and just let them back in the house.
Do we end up with grass all over the house?
Would it be easier to wipe snow off a dog and clean up a wet floor?
Would I live up North again so I could trade grass cleanup for snow clean up?

The End.

PS...Off to vacuum for the second time this week.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's Not the Italians

Somebody in my house is very much looking forward to the World Cup.
It's not that he wants South Africa to win, but he certainly supports the country in which the Cup will take place.
I don't know which country is his favorite this year. Maybe France? He bought a French flag (desk size) in Washington D.C. over the summer.
I know it's not the Italian team. James thinks they are cheaters and fake injuries well enough to be on a made-for-TV movie. Heck, trash talk by Materazzi about Zidane's (French team) mother, got him a headbutt in the World Cup '06. Zidane got sent off, as he should have. But goodness, you can't trash talk another man's mother and expect that bad things won't happen to you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's August!

It's also May and June and Lily.

These little girls (pullets, in the chicken world) are Buff Orpingtons.
The Buff, referring to their color. The Orpington referring to their breed.
This breed was developed in England in 1886 and brought to the US in 1890.
They originally came only in the color black.

They lay very large, brown eggs---beginning sometimes as early as 20 weeks old.
Many chickens will stop laying in the winter. Orps are famous for laying all winter long. The two that I currently have, laid all year round for the first two years of their lives.

I had several different breeds to pick from at the feedstore. I looked long and hard at Australorps (the Aussie cousin to the Orpingtons). My primary reasons for picking all the same breed were as follows:

1. They lay fabulous eggs, nearly all year long. Every 25 hours. A bit of trivia for those interested in chickens.

2. They are the friendliest breed of chicken I've ever met. Lap chickens if you happen to provide them with a lap.

3. They are very large. Hens get as large as 8 lbs. That size discourages many of the smaller predators--our cat, the local fox, and Red Tailed Hawks, primarily.

4. They'll lay enough eggs to share. One of my favorite things to do is share with my loving father and mother in law. The eggs make them happy, which makes me happy.
Mom, Dad--start looking for eggs at the end of May. No more grocery store eggs!
Over easy or scrambled?

It's one of my top 10 books of all time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's True

Time really does fly.

Sunday was the anniversary of one of the most important days of my life.
Eighteen years ago, at 3:02 pm, Lee and I had our first child.
A boy.
PTC--you know him as Tom.
I marveled at his tiny toes and fingers. His head was covered with brown hair and had an unmistakeable sign that he is related to his dad, uncles and grandfather--a cowlick above the right eyebrow.

The pictures are out of order, as Blogger will only let me download 5 at a time. I couldn't pick just 5, and so got confused when doing them in bunches.

He's the tall one.

Everyone knows that whatever comes in the box, cannot hold a candle to the box it comes in. Bring on the playhouse!

Always the helper. It just takes a bit more coaxing now.

Still loves money. Only now, he knows how to spend it.

Back when it was just Lee, Tom and me. My smiling boys.

First day home. We had no idea what we were doing, but they let us take him home from the hospital anyway. I'm so glad they did!

Tom and his Aunt Jean. We're seven years apart and had little in common. Nothing bridges an age gap between siblings like a baby.

Goodness, I love him madly!

So does his grandma. Lee's mom.

Again, the helper.

Fast forward to his 13th birthday. New neighbors and new friends. They've all grown a bit since then.

A little smile.

Not really trick photography. His contacts are really that color. They were Nike's answer to athletes not being able to wear sunglasses during a game. I think they freaked out more than one opponent in soccer that year. The rest of the color in the picture and the size of his lips--I have no idea about. :)

Soccer, soccer and more soccer. I loved watching him play.

Catching some air. Some big air. Without a helmet!

Wondering why we've drug him out on a boat on choppy seas. In the cold.
He soon changed his demeanor. The whales appeared and all his grouchiness disappeared.

Seventeen! How can he be this old already?
He still smiles silly when I say, "Come on, give me a real smile."

Be still my heart. I can't believe that we've been blessed with such a wonderful guy in our lives. He is truly, a gift from God. I am so proud of the guy he's become. He's made such good decisions and avoided the troubles that many high schoolers get themselves into.

Happy 18th birthday honey.
I think you hung the moon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chick, Chick, Here--Update

Well, I let Lee know that I wanted more chickens. I gave him my reasons.
1. I didn't get miniature horses for Christmas.
2. I miss fresh eggs.
3. My oldest child will be going off to college in the Fall and I'm feeling maternal about the whole thing. I will need something to soothe my heart. When my oldest went off to preschool and started loving another woman (his teacher), I needed something to soothe my heart then too. We had another baby.

Lee's okay with a few chickens.
He asked one thing. "Do you think you could train the new chickens to NOT poop on the front porch?"
I'll see what I can do.

Hugs and kisses to the bestest hubby a girl could have.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Pan for All Seasons

I love this pan. I love this pan's twin brother.

I cook, I bake, I cut, I saute', I braise, I knead, I fold in, I chop, I whip, I beat, I ....spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I think my family is lucky in that way. I hope there are memories around certain foods that will outlast me. There's a sneaky little part of me that hopes there are certain things I make, that my children's spouses won't be able to recreate.
I say that with love, though.
My own husband came into our marriage with food stories from his childhood.
There are three dishes that his mother made, that I have tried to recreate, but cannot. That is perfectly okay with me. Homemade lasagna, beef stroganoff, and cheesecake.
I choose to let those be lovely food memories that they share. They make me smile. I love that my husband loves his mom's cooking.

This pan was nothing special when I bought it. It is a Calphalon pan, but it wasn't expensive. For the untrained eye, it would look like something that needs to be put in the trash, or gone over with a brillo pad. However, that deep mahogany color that you see is the stuff of greatness. It has been, what cooks call, seasoned. It's natures teflon. I will admit, that the shininess is from a thin coating of vegetable spray. Biscuits were about to be put in the oven.

These two pans make my life so much easier. It allows me to put a bit of canola oil on the pan, toss in some potatoes and have them look like something out of Gourmet magazine. Cookies and tarts and biscuits are beautiful in the same way. Perfectly browned via the magic of the oven, high temperatures and a little canola oil.

A couple years ago, I visited New Orleans. I went to a cooking class. Both of the chefs in the class were from there. Both had horror stories about hurricane Katrina. One, more so than the other. She, was from the 9th ward. She lost everything. She took a few things and got out. She had no idea that she'd come back to something that was no longer there. No house, no nothing. One of the things she wished she'd taken along with her important papers and few pictures---her grandmother's cast iron skillet. "It was so perfect", she said. I feel little bit that way about these two baking pans. They hold no sentimental value, but gosh they'd be hard to replace.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Chick, Chick Here, A Cluck, Cluck There

Lee doesn't know it yet, but it's time for more chickens.
My hens (pictured below when they were chicks), are now five years old. The last two years, egg laying has tapered off significantly.
If I were a real farmer, my hens would have been a part of chicken and dumplings, long before now. The trouble with that is, they have names. They're pets with benefits---they lay eggs.
The real road block with getting new chickens, is the old chickens.
A couple summers ago, I 'chicken-sat' for a friend of a friend.
I knew better than to just plunk the temporary hens in with mine. They'd get killed--literally. Chickens are not good at accepting new neighbors.

I did what all chicken owners and chicken books said to do. I set up a temporary area where the two sets of chickens could see each other, and live along side one another (see pic below), all while keeping them apart.
The notion is, that they'll get used to each other and eventually the old flock will think of the new chickens as part of their flock. It has worked with everyone I've ever known who has chickens.
Mine must not have gotten the memo.

When I finally released the visiting chickens (a month) in with my flock, it did not go well.
The next day--same thing. Day after day, the visiting chickens were getting chased, pecked and generally terrified. Even my rooster was in on it, and I thought he would have appreciated a couple new girls to the group.
For the safety of chickens that didn't even belong to me, I separated them for the rest of the summer.
I really want some more laying chickens. I'm perfectly happy with the ones I have, but I miss farm-fresh eggs. The grocery store eggs are good for baking, but not eating over-easy. I refuse to buy the $3, organic, cage-free eggs from the store. I won't even go into the reality of that situation.

If you own and have successfully integrated your flocks, please tell me what you did that was different than what I've done.
Time's a wastin'.
I need to get some chicks soon if I have any hope of having eggs this summer.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bacon Grease Trumps Terror

A couple weeks ago, I pointed out that our dog, Smokie, is a fine pre-washer of dishes. Not only while the dishes are on the ground, but in the dishwasher as well.

Yesterday, while I was loading the dishwasher, Smokie was hard at work cleaning up the blue frying pan you see in the picture. It had the faint remnants of bacon grease on it and she couldn't resist. She even went so far as to climb up on the edge of the dishwasher door to get at the pan's innermost spots.
I needed to get at the top rack. As I slid it out, she backed up so she wouldn't get knocked in the noggin by the top rack. What she didn't expect, was that the bottom rack would come with her. I guess her dog tags got tangled up somehow in the rack. She pulled harder, out of fear, and the whole rack came crashing out. After a second, more terrified pull, she was free.

She raced upstairs and I didn't see her again for the rest of the day. After I stopped laughing hysterically, I worried if she'd ever come down again. Loud noises are not her thing. Most especially if they are attached to her!

She came down when James came home from school, and seemed to have recovered some from the trauma of the morning. At least she was downstairs.
I fully expected her to avoid the kitchen and the dishwasher like the plague.

Nope. After dinner, she was back at work, prewashing plates and pans.
I guess the lure of crumbs and bacon grease trump the feeling of terror.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Color Purple

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!

I was lucky enough to see this last night, thanks to the generous gift of my neighbor, Jay. His wife, Laurie, is one of my best friends. She and his mother got tickets as well. He decided that I needed a Christmas present for 'watching the house'. They are having extensive construction on their house (water damage, everywhere!--stucco gone terribly wrong), and have had to move to a rental. I can see part of the house and their lengthy driveway. I can tell if someone is coming or going if I'm in my office--which I am most days. The very few times I've called them to say that something was amiss, does not make me worthy of a theater ticket!

I went anyway.

This show just rocked the house! I smiled and laughed and cried. The beauty of the book and movie were captured without fault. The music, especially written for this show, was amazing. It was a 3 hour production with a 15 minute intermission. The time flew by!

The singing rivaled anything I have ever heard. Beautiful, strong voices. Gospel at its very, very best. Lots of Jazz and sass thrown in for good measure.

Jay, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was wonderful and amazing and fabulous!
Thanks also, for getting tickets for Laurie and your mom. You have great women in your life and I love them to pieces.

PS....As much as I love watching your house, I hope you get to come home soon. I miss y'all!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Well, well, well

I love living in a rural area. We have four acres, but neighbors fairly close if we need them. They cannot, however, peer into our house from their house. Something that could definitely happen at our old house.

The only thing that has been a challenge for me, is having a well and using well water.
The water is hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. Did I mention it was hard?
We have spent thousands of dollars softening the water.
We have spent thousands of dollars replacing appliances that use water.
We have lived in this house nine years.

We have replaced the washing machine, 4 hot water heaters, one water softener, two hot water circulators, a shower head and the dishwasher. The scale that the particulates leave behind is amazing. I often wonder, in my wildest nightmares, what the circumference of the water pipes is. I envision them becoming completely clogged with scale and having no water at all. The hot water in Pearl's shower is now at a trickle.
The water, even though it is softened, also eats metal. It has eaten the finish off all the water faucets in the house. It ate a hole in a pipe that brings water to the hot water heater.
Woe to the person that fails to use the squeegee on the doors of the showers. It will begin to look frosted in a matter of a couple days.
This summer, we had a whole different problem with the well water---potentially not having any. We were in 'exceptional' drought conditions. Barely any measurable rain in two years. Folks' wells were going dry. We had the pump protector installed mid-summer to (surprise) protect the pump. You see, if your pump is working and it starts pumping air instead of water, it burns up. It melts the casing. What that means is, a new well has to be dug. A modest estimate for that new well would be $15,000-$20,000! The pump protector is made to shut the pump off, if it starts pumping air. Money well spent.

We have, since September, received a fair bit of rain. The aquifer has risen and the threat of the well going dry has diminished greatly. That's why this morning's surprise of no water was befuddling. The well head had survived the hard freeze we'd had. That wasn't it.
The pump protector was showing a flashing light on "load". Don't know what that means exactly, but it meant no water in the house.

Our saving grace is our swimming pool and our 5 gallon, reverse osmosis(RO) tank under the kitchen sink still had water in it. We heated the pool water on the stove for washing hair and bodies. The RO water is for brushing teeth. Pool water comes in handy for flushing toilets as well.

I believe it's time to think about a rainwater catchment system. We have lots and lots of roof. If it only rained an inch, we'd get hundreds of gallons of water off our roof. I know cisterns, as they used to be called, were very popular when water was scarce and wells were shallow. Our well is 902 feet deep. They were either used to hold rainwater or well water. With the invention of deeper wells (drilling) and electric pumps, they went out of fashion.
Fashion or no fashion, it makes sense. Another thing about rainwater---it's soft. It has no particulates, no limestone. Our hair, our clothes, our drinking water, and our appliances would so much better off.

Ah, but what if it doesn't rain? We'd have an empty water tank, right. The thing is, water can be hauled in from a city water source. Believe it or not, the price is not exorbitant.

"Water, water everywhere, but nor a drop to drink."
S.T. Coleridge
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

I know, I know, it's about sailing and being surrounded by seawater, but it seems appropriate this morning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It just occurred to me that I have to have the house silent when I'm alone. No background noise is necessary or welcome. Wonder why that is? It's not like my family is extremely loud when they're home.

Please come out of 'lurking' and tell me whether you are a background noise kind of person, or a quiet kind of person---maybe why, if you know why.

You can post anonymously. This isn't for any other reason than my own curiosity.

It Can't Be...

...But it is. It's time to order graduation announcements.
What's more, it's time for me to realize that Tom is going to graduate.
I've added a countdown in the sidebar for him to look at longingly, as the winter days turn away and spring fever sets in.

So much will happen in the next few months.
I thought about it over Christmas. Tom will not be here next year for things like his little brother's birthday, or mine, or Pearl's. He won't be here for Halloween.
The Christmas tree will likely be up next year, before he finishes up his Fall semester at college. Depending on what university he goes to, he may already be back at school next year at this time.

I've heard from friends, that the first Christmas home is the hardest. The child has been away for several months, making their own decisions about everything. When to come in, when to wake up, when to eat, etc. Some kids expect that they'll be able to continue on that way when they come home. Tom, if you're reading this---just know that when you come home next Christmas, things will be just the way they are now (except for curfew). You'll still have to wake me up when you come in. You'll still have to let me know if you're spending the night at someone's house. You'll still have to throw napkins or grapes into your sister's drink at dinner.

Tom will be 18 in a couple weeks. I'll wait until then to wax on about how I can't believe that 18 years have passed.
There's so much to do before June 4th. Luckily, I have 142 days to make it happen.
Tom just has to keep his nose down and plow through the school work.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are You Finished With That?

Every morning, when the kids are all off to school and I've had my coffee, I sit down to the computer.
Lately, I've brought in my heart healthy breakfast as well.
It's either oatmeal (the real stuff, can't eat the instant stuff) with raisins, walnuts and brown sugar or Cheerios with a banana, 1% milk and soy milk mixed together.

Since Smokie was a wee puppy, she has understood that the clanking of a spoon or fork on a dish means the humans are nearly finished.

In case you don't already know this about us, we are one of those families.
The kind of family that lets the dogs lick the plates.
I know, I know---sanitation and all that.
Isn't that what they make the "sanitize" button on the dishwasher for?

I digress.
The trouble with our method, is that the dogs have us very well trained. If you follow Cesar Milan, dog whisperer extraordinaire, you know that we should never, ever let the dogs take the lead on such things as eating, going for a walk, sneaking up on the couch, etc.

So, every morning, I steel myself for being the Alpha Dog. "I will not let Smokie decide when the dogs get to lick my cereal bowl, I will not let Smokie decide when the dogs get to lick my cereal bowl.....". "I am the Alpha, they'll get the bowl when I'm darn good and ready and not one second sooner."

The dogs snicker to themselves. Smokie starts to work.

Let it be known across the land, that Mandy is a lady. She would never be so crass as to put her paw on my leg incessantly and "speak" until I caved in and gave them the bowl. The boldest she's ever gotten is to gently lay her chin on my leg, but now she doesn't bother. Smokie works the room for both of them.
I'll be Alpha tomorrow. Really. I will.
"I will not let Smokie decide when the dogs get to lick my cereal bowl...."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Day at a Time

Every year, about this time, folks make resolutions of one sort or another. The most talked about one is obviously weight loss. I think that it's foremost on people's minds because, if they are like me, they've eaten their weight in fudge, cookies, cheese, and little smokies---all in the space of a month. If they are further like me, their holiday eating began at Halloween, not Thanksgiving.

Strangely enough, this isn't really about weight loss at all.
It's about goals. We all set them.
Many, many, many (did I mention, many?) of us do not keep those goals.
We all have reasons. Mine are wide and varied.
The primary reason I don't keep to my goals, is that they are too big.
No one can expect, that on January 1st, they will suddenly give up smoking, eating fatty foods, drinking to excess, biting their fingernails, and spending every evening on the couch.
I don't struggle with all of the above, but many of them.

Every year, I resolve to quit eating white foods and fatty foods. They are the primary factors in why I feel so bad.
Here's a list:
Sugar, flour, potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, butter, cheese, peanut butter, eggs, rib eyes, hamburgers, chips, ice cream and pastries.

While I'm depriving myself of all things wonderful and yummy, I am also trying change another thing about myself.

Or in my case, the lack of it.
I go from couch potato to an hour of exercise every day.
I hurt badly at the end of one week.
I need to see a doctor by week two.
Exercise must be bad for you?

More long-term goals this time of the year for me include:
Stop biting my nails.
Drink 8 glasses of water every day.
Take my vitamins, calcium (ginormous pills by the way!), and I've added a couple more supplements lately.

Really, the list is much longer.
The point is, I fall right off the wagon every single year. Instead of getting back on, and acknowledging that NO ONE is capable of going all year without ice cream or mashed potatoes, I just give up.
The end. Maybe next year. I'm a failure.

Okay, so you get it now. I set unrealistic goals.
I also have this self-talk that goes on in my head that says,
"Geez, just give up. You can't possibly keep this up for a week, let alone a year."

In weight loss circles (I've been a part of a few), it's called the
'What the Hell' syndrome.
Instead of eating something healthy for breakfast, you eat two pastries and a double-something coffee drink at your favorite coffee spot.
Instead of getting back with the goal, there's voice that says, "What the hell, I'm already dorked for the day, might as well have BBQ'd ribs for lunch." That day turns into two days that turns into a week, that turns into giving up completely.
After giving up completely, the "man, you're a mess!" voices start whispering in my ear. Those feelings bleed over into other places in my life.

This year, I hope for a turn around. Here's why.
I'm not setting long-term goals/resolutions. I'm not even setting short term goals.
I cannot fail at something I do not set.
I am setting DAILY goals.
If I happen not to reach all of the goals for that day, it's no big deal. I haven't blown an entire year or month or week. I've just blown that day. No big whoop. No feeling of defeat that lasts the whole year. No self judgement.

My goals each day will only concern self improvement. I don't consider vacuuming a personal triumph, although it could be considered aerobic exercise in some circles.
I will listen to my mind and my heart. I will not vilify food. I will make reachable goals and refuse to beat myself up if all I eat one day is cheetos, diet coke, ice cream, and buttered toast--all while sitting on the couch.

Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Up and Running

The title is two-fold.

One, my ability to post pictures to my blog is back!
It was taken care of by my own personal computer guru, Lee.
Thanks honey! Thanks tons and bunches and lots. :)
I know iMac makes you crazy.

Two, Lee is 'up and running'. Really, he's more up and walking, than running. All in good time.
Several blogging friends have asked for an update on Lee's progress.
The last time I blogged about it was on November 15th. We'd been home less than 24 hours. He broke his hip on November 10th. This coming Tuesday, it will have been 8 weeks since the break.
The first couple weeks at home were rough going for him. Lots of pain and a tough time getting around. He used a walker. The smallest things to do were the toughest--getting in an out of socks for instance. He spent a lot of time standing on his good leg. Sitting in the shower was just not something he wanted to do.

After a couple weeks, his orthopedists released him to do physical therapy. What he didn't know, was that Lee was already doing his own physical therapy by sticking to two out of town trips. One to Georgia the other to Florida. He got much flack from just about everyone he knows for making those trips. He just packed the essentials in his computer bag and got up on crutches. By his own admission, those trips were hard. There was one day when I couldn't get a hold of him and was positive that he'd re-injured himself and wasn't answering his phone until he knew the extent of the damage.
I was wrong. Thank goodness!

Now, eight weeks out, he is still recovering. He's walking without a crutch a little bit, but "waddling" as he calls it. We are amazed at how quickly the body loses muscle mass and the tendons and ligaments forget their jobs.
He's still doing things I think he shouldn't---mowing more of the pasture/sitting on the mower for 3 hours, but I'm not him. I can't judge what feels good and what doesn't. I also don't know what it's like to be very active and suddenly be out of commission for weeks on end. I know when I've had a cold or something, I find myself being 'sick and tired of being sick and tired'. That can't even begin to compare to his ordeal.

I'm proud of the way he's handled the whole thing. He has a been a great patient for me to care for. In fact, he was barely a patient at all. He could have wallowed in woe-is-me, but chose not to. Instead he seems to focus every day on getting one step closer to getting back to normal.