Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things I Should’ve Gotten Done This Summer… and Didn’t

With today being the last day of August, it practically means the summer is over. And with that, all the summer projects I wanted to complete and didn’t.

Okay, so really, it isn’t the end of the world. I can always still do a majority of these projects, if not all of them. But, I had set a goal to finish them this summer and I think we got one out of a dozen things finished. Why summer? Simply put, they were projects that would require being outdoors or we would need to spend more time outside due to the nature of the project. Still, all is not lost, and other projects were added to the list due to necessity, which in turn, probably would have cancelled out some of the other projects anyway.

There were some things at the top of the list I really wanted to get done: paint our bedroom; paint, tile and put in a new shower surround in the main bathroom; replace the broken windows; thoroughly clean out the rock garden of weeds and trim the plants as needed; put in a shed in the backyard; clean out the garage; gravel the side driveway; put the gutters on the chicken coop. Hmm… it looks like the things at the top of my list are, well, everything left to do on the list. At least we got our closet cleaned out and clothes garage saled or Goodwilled.

Of course, other projects took precedent. Our roof, for instance, on the south side of our house has had a few issues now for a few years. The main issue being that because there was no flashing between the gutters and the roof rain would get between the crack and eventually rotted the wood, including the plywood under the shingles, the facia and soffet. The gutter nails weren’t even attached to anything in the center stretch and were barely hanging on from either end. Fortunately we have a roofer friend who helped my partner fix that issue and we paid him in imported Jamaican beer, which was our only cost along with the materials required. This project alone took up a majority of our nonexistent budget, as we could have replaced both windows and painted our bedroom with that money. Not that we necessarily would’ve gotten around to doing either of those things, but still, it was spendy and had to be done. If for no other reason than to get rid of the rampant bird population living in that portion of the house.

Alas, while the summer is not really over, perhaps there is still time to get a couple of the outdoor things off the list. I know putting the gutters on the chicken coop will be rather quick once we get a downspout for it, and with the cooler weather, it might be easier to clean out and trim the rock garden, so perhaps there is still some time after all to cross a few more items off my summer to-do list.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homegrown Vegetables

Last night I made Chicken Curry and decided to pull a few carrots and onions out of the garden to make it with. It was, hands down, the most delicious curry I’ve made.

When I pulled the carrots, I expected them to be like ones that I’d pulled before: short, stumpy and wide. However, the three I pulled last night were near perfect specimens. Okay, so one was a near perfect specimen, one looked like a mandrake root from Harry Potter, and the third was somewhere in between. Still, larger than any I had pulled up before. The onions have been slowly getting harvested as needed, and part of me wishes I had planted more. They are sweeter and have a pretty intense bite compared to their grocery store counterparts, and actually made me cry as I cut into them. I lit a candle and moved on.

Potatoes I can’t justify planting myself, just yet anyway, because they are so incredibly inexpensive. The same, I know, can be said of onions, but if you’ve been buying onions for the last few months, at least here in the Northwest, they’ve been pretty terrible. I’m glad we planted our own this year. Perhaps I should plant a winter crop of onions for a spring harvest?

After roughly chopping the veggies and throwing them in a pot with a few chicken breasts cut to about the same size, I allowed everything to simmer for a couple hours as we waited for my cousin and her daughter to show up for dinner. The rice had been done before I even got to cooking the curry, so I put a lid on it and kept it off the heat. Meanwhile, we watched the Emmy’s. Our favorite show one best Comedy and my cousin never showed, but the curry was to die for. I’m telling you, there really is nothing like making a meal with food you’ve grown yourself.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lack of Energy

How appropriate that today’s episode of “Super Why!” is about energy of the human kind. I don’t have any.

The kids we’ve been watching, well, take a lot out of an inactive person like myself. They seem to be constantly moving because, well, they are. Of course, we have probably got one of the most child-unfriendly houses ever, full of places for little ones to impale themselves on or find ways to harm themselves or others. However, they haven’t hurt themselves yet, so I suppose it isn’t that child-unfriendly… yet.

This morning I’m having a hell of a time waking up, even my trusty sidekick, coffee, isn’t working fast enough. Perhaps I should take the advice of the “Super Why!” gang and eat some fruits and vegetables. Then again, I don’t know if it is all that wise to take advice from a group of kids and a pig, which makes me want to ask, “Why is the “Super Why!” group made up of three kids with magical powers and a pig who doubles as a construction worker? I guess I’ll need to go eat a banana to have the energy to research this. For now, I’ve got to go get the munchkins ready for church.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No! Don’t! Why’d you? Go Sit in Timeout!

When kids are doing something you’ve asked them not to, the first response I always get is, “I don’t know.” Hmmm… I remember my responses as a kid eventually became known as one of two: I.D.K. (I don’t know) and I.D.C. (I don’t care.)

Okay, seriously, it has taken me a half an hour just to get that first paragraph out due to two children constantly asking me for this or that. Okay, one is being entertained by PBSs morning children’s programming, but the other needs food, milk, and vast amounts of attention. While writing that last sentence, he decided to sit next to me, which means his milk must be gone, he doesn’t care for Cheerios, or both. Or perhaps he just wanted to sit next to me. Reading a child’s mind is difficult. Getting them to tell you why is even more so.

So, say, you ask them not to throw sticks at each other and the little one gets an evil grin on his face and clocks his brother on top of his head and then you pick him up and put him in a chair for a timeout. This particular session was obvious from the get-go that it’d be abnormally difficult. Fortunately, the child is deathly afraid of our dog (okay, so maybe not so fortunate for him) and when I threatened to bring out Lucy (our Great Dane) to watch him and keep him in the chair by asking, “Do I need to have Lucy watch guard over you to keep you seated?” he responded with a sob-filled, “Yes.” And so she did… for the next ten minutes.

Upon asking him why he was in timeout, he said, “I don’t know.” When I told him it was because he hit his brother with a stick, he said, “I don’t know.” After asking him if that was appropriate, he said, “I don’t know.” Lastly I asked if he would want his brother to hit him on the head with a stick, he said, “No, that hurts.” A breakthrough. Eventually I got him to acknowledge that his behavior was inappropriate and he apologized to his brother.

Funnily, they play really well together most of the time, contrary to what we’ve been told. They share toys, interact with each other, and laugh a lot… usually at me. I can take it. I’m usually doing something goofy or they just find me hilarious. But every once in a while, and it seems from out of nowhere, they decide to misbehave. I don’t know why, as I don’t ever remember having to be in timeout as a kid, probably because I was a perfect angel, but the kiddos seem to enjoy the time to cool off… most of the time.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Buying diapers as a novice is one thing. Buying diapers with the advice of a seasoned pro sometimes yields the same results.

Last night on our way home we had to pick up some diapers and were advised to pick up size 6. Reading the box, I presumed that a 5 would be more appropriate, but alas, decided the person actually related to the kids would know what size would fit and so I picked up a box of 6s. This morning as I was putting the diaper onto one of the kiddos it was painfully obvious this was an accident waiting to happen… literally.

Then again, it is entirely possible that I’m just not putting them on right. Bigger diapers are a little trickier because they seem to have so much more room and don’t seem to fit as well as the smaller diapers. Alas, I’m sure they’ll work, I just don’t want them to leak all over. Perhaps it is time for some internet research or a few calls to parents to get to the bottom of this situation. Of course, the two and three year old boys we are watching should be potty trained or at least beginning the process, and we’re working on that with the help of cookies, which would alleviate the ill-fitting diaper dilemma.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Other Chickens

Our neighbors behind us have chickens, this is nothing new. However, a couple of their hens have made a habit of breaking out of the coop.

The first incident was about a month ago, and there have been many since. It always seems to be the same two chickens that dig their way out of the coop and then freak out, sometimes for hours, trying to get back in. Of course, this also usually happens when the neighbors aren’t home.

Last night one of their hens decided to find a nice place to roost… on the roof of her coop, but not after what sounded like a particularly violent chicken torture session. I’m not sure what all the ruckus was about, but it was enough for us to actually go investigate this time. I mean, if they were being attacked by raccoons or possums we’d want to know why their dogs weren’t fending them off. More than likely it was one of their dogs trying to herd her back into the coop, something she had no intention of doing. After a while, she calmed down and we went back into the house to watch Up! for the first time, which, by the way, was much more emotional than I was anticipating.

So this morning I hear more ruckus, but was unable to figure out if it was just a chicken laying an egg and singing the egg song that chickens sing ever so loudly during the egg laying process, or if the chicken torturer had returned. More than likely it was just two hens gossiping louder than usual. Anyway, the neighbor was out feeding them breakfast, probably whatever was leftover from last night’s meal, and looked like he was trying to get her back into the coop. Did he succeed? I have no idea, I was busy making coffee. Priorities. I guess I’ll find out when I go water the vegetable gardens.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Day at the Beach

Figuring it would be hot, our friends and us made plans to go to the beach. We didn’t factor in the wind.

For a few weeks now we’ve been trying to plan a trip to the beach with our friends and their four girls and yesterday was the decided upon date. It was going to be warm, even at the beach, and full of sunshine. And it was warm and full of sunshine in town when we arrived. We went to a few shops in Long Beach, got doughnuts from The Cottage Bakery (mmm… Devil Dogs), and made our way to the beach to spend the day. It became painfully obvious, after unloading our cars, that the wind associated with this abnormally beautiful day at the beach was not going to let up.

After braving the wind for a couple hours, we all had sand in our eyes and every crevice it could reach and were crabby and ready to pack up and go home. Instead, we decided to load up the cars and head down to another beach, Gearheart, where we spent a full day at the beach last year. With the exception of the lack of public restrooms (we ended up using the facilities at City Hall) we probably would’ve gone here to begin with. While it was a few degrees cooler than Long Beach, the wind was much more bearable.

With our location scouted out, the kids all enjoying the water and various pools filled with aquatic wildlife, the dogs running around chasing each other, and the adults just happy the wind wasn’t blowing nearly as hard, we finally started settling out of our bad moods. Of course, all the beer we packed helped too! After we got the fire going, we roasted hot dogs (some just had theirs cooked on a small portable grill) and ate those before we all gathered around to toast marshmallows and make S’mores and watch the sunset and moonrise.

So, was this an idyllic day? Not really. But we salvaged it rather than giving up, and decided it might just be a better idea to stick with our less crowded, less windy beach next year when we do this all over again… maybe.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kendra's Gone Broody... Yet Again

Our broody hen we gave chicks to earlier this summer has decided to go broody yet again. I’m not giving in to her demands.

It seems that our perfect mother hen wants to be a mother again. The chicks we got back in June are growing so much, one of them, Harmony the Cuckoo Maran, is practically the same size as Kendra right now. The other two still look like chicks, just that White Witch Willow the Rhode Island Red is tall and skinny while Joyce the Speckled Sussex is short and plump with huge breasts.

I have a feeling before too long it’ll be the cage for Kendra, this time without the bottom tray so that air will flow under it through the mesh. I don’t know if we should put her inside the hen house like we did while she was brooding the chicks or just set it outside in the run where there will be a breeze. But one way or another, we’ll break her this time, as she doesn’t seem as intent as she did this spring. Still, it’s annoying.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vacation Bible School: Contemplation

I needed a few days after finishing Vacation Bible School at our church to fully contemplate whether or not it was successful. After watching the kids sing the songs they learned while using their rain sticks we made, I believe it most certainly was.

Day one was easy. Day two was more engaging. Day three was chaos… at least for me. To say that I don’t deal with chaos well is an understatement. The older I get, the less patience I have. While most adults would be perfectly fine with children running around farting on each other while they are supposed to be seated, I find it easier to raise my voice to get them to stop. “That’s it! Everybody go wash your hands then head to the kitchen for a snack. Now!” Yes, I really did pass them off to the next person on the list. Sorry about that. And for the record, the girls seemed to be better at farting on command then the boys.

I’m not a very good teacher. I’m unable to clearly give instruction, I don’t know how to manage a large group of kids, and I really don’t care for the lack of respect most children have these days. Naturally, they’re all drawn to me. To clarify, I enjoy genuine curiosity and question asking from kids, as it can lead to a much more engaging discussion about subjects, as long as they are respectful of each other by speaking in turn. I do not enjoy the screaming-pouting-I-don’t-have-to-do-what-you-say attitude from some kids and wish I could just make them sit in a corner and watch as I pull out something fun to do that they can’t be a part of. Yes, I’m evil like that.

However, with the exception of my one real freak out moment at the end of my final session with the kids, I’d have to say we all had a great time. And when I was able to show the kids all of the various ways they could use their rain sticks as a percussion instrument, I thought for certain we were headed for disaster; broken rain sticks and black eyes from violently flailing nail-studded mailing tubes filled with rice, beans and/or sunflower seeds which could possibly go flying everywhere after a particularly heady thrust. Okay, so my imagination likes to think up the worst possible scenarios, but still, it was there. To my surprise, the main teacher, who is the head of our church’s Christian Education, was able to get all the kids to hold their rain sticks in such a way they couldn’t hurt anyone (on purpose.) And you know what? They played them perfectly, even a couple days later in front of the whole congregation. I, on the other hand, missed a few beats.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Family Days

During the summer months, my uncle and aunt have an open invitation on Saturdays for family to come hang out, swim, play games and eat food. It’s a tradition I hope continues.

Years ago as a way to get the family together without it being a holiday, my uncle and aunt decided to have a weekly get together at their house. While the days have changed, the spirit of the event hasn’t. It is simply a time for the family to relax without the worries of wrapping last minute Christmas presents, hiding Easter eggs or coordinating all the food required for Thanksgiving. Just bring a simple side, drink or dessert to share.

While the family that attends these weekly family days has dwindled due to complicated family dynamics, the spirit of these summertime get-togethers remains the same… love. It is difficult enough to lose the extreme closeness our family once had, where brothers, sisters and cousins are your best friends, but it is a joy to see that those of us who chose to continue finding ways to keep in touch have gotten even closer. Traditions come and go and families sometimes drift apart, but perhaps if everyone implemented something similar with their own family, whether it be blood related or the ones who’ve become family over the years, we might just find out a little bit more about ourselves in the process.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


If you are growing onions in your garden, you know the joy of seeing those beautiful spherical flowers adorning the tops signaling the end of their lifecycle. If not, I’m sorry.

Currently my onions are in between stages right now where there are still a few flower stalks that haven’t fallen over to dry, but for the most part both our yellow and red onions we planted earlier this spring are ready for harvesting. The best thing about onions and pretty much most alliums for that matter is that they can be harvested and eaten at any stage. But if you plan on storing them, you’ll need to do a little prep work.

That thin, papery skin you see on the onions in the store develop from a process of drying them in the sun for a few weeks. This is easily accomplished by trampling down the flower stalks and leaves to the ground or simply cutting them off about six to eight inches from the top of the onion itself. This part will shrink and the outside will develop a few more layers of paper to protect the delicate vegetable inside for months in a cool, dark place. I leave most of mine in the ground, although some do find themselves toppled over, and do not water them during this time.

While it is said that an onion can only be kept at room temperature for a few weeks, I’ve had some for months before they showed signs of decay. Cool, dry air seems to preserve them better than hot, humid air, and depending on where you live will determine your shelf life, and any cut onion should be stored in the fridge. I keep mine in Ziploc bags to prevent any odor absorption. Green onions and leeks should also be stored in the fridge, but I’ve noticed they stay fresher longer if I keep a barely moist paper towel wrapped around the base and keep them in plastic bags as well. I’ve also noticed using this method that you can get a couple extra growths of green onions if you only cut most of them off and put them back into the fridge, as they will grow new shoots.

I know some people just don’t like onions, and I feel sad for them because the onion is so incredibly versatile and used in nearly every cuisine the world over. Caramelized onions on a burger or baked chicken; crisp red onions on a sandwich; green onions added to a salad; chives and blossoms on a sour cream covered baked potato; Walla Walla sweets eaten like an apple; the humble onion has a way of making simple dish delectable.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Operation TV: Complete

Our television was finally on the brink of complete color wheel failure. So we broke down, ordered the part and fixed it.

It’s a safe bet that if it wasn’t for my Etsy shop, we wouldn’t have been able to fix the TV because I used the money I made from selling items to pay for the color wheel, a $100 part with $7 for shipping. It’s also a safe bet that if our TV died our main source of entertainment would die with it. Alas, we are addicted to the boob tube, albeit, not boobs… not that there’s anything wrong with them!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’d know that we got rid of our cable television (we still have the internet, which thank God was fixed after the damn huge white semi-truck took out the overhead line!) This means that our channel lineup is whatever you get with bunny ears, which we literally have a pair on top of our TV. However, we watch a lot of movies, and occasionally play the Wii. I think my Mii will look sad, pathetic and drained of all energy if I put in the Wii Fit as it has been quite a few months since my last workout session. I’m almost afraid to try it for fear of what it says I weigh now!

So when the television screen started flickering a sequence of colors that would make you think you were tripping on something illegal, we decided it would be best to replace the part rather than wait for the glass color wheel to shatter into thousands of tiny pieces. I had just made a few sales in my Etsy shop so there was money in the account I use for that to pay for the part and so I got online and ordered it Monday evening. It arrived yesterday.

Performing the necessary surgery was really quite painless, as my partner began taking the back panel and parts that needed to be moved out of the way. When I read that it was like replacing an internal computer part I thought it would be similar, but it was exactly the same thing. Within half-an-hour the TV was up and running and looking as good as it did when we first bought it. My partner commented that the color wheel must have been bad for a while because not only did it start right up, it didn’t make a whirring sound like a hamster spinning in its wheel for a few seconds as if warming it up, a sound I’ve never heard due to my limited hearing.

And so with a fixed television, we watched our favorite evening game shows, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune then put in one of our Netflix movies, Avatar. We’d never seen the movie and I’m glad we waited until the color wheel was replaced. Of course, with it replaced and the shadows no longer green and magenta and the skin tones no longer looking like a poorly done Paint by Numbers kit, I’ve got a feeling we’ll be watching a few more movies in the near future.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Threat of Company & Clean Houses

What is it about the threat of company coming over that impulses most of us to suddenly start vacuuming and doing dishes? Perhaps we don’t want people to see how we really live.

Yesterday after I was finished watering the gardens and cleaning out the chicken coop, my partner suggested we call our friends who are currently living in a hotel while their house is being renovated and invite them over for dinner. Now, mind you, this dinner wasn’t going to be prepared by me, but simply implanted the idea of getting takeout and bringing it over to our house. We figured they were probably tired of wrestling three to four little ones in a restaurant and thought our backyard deck would be a nice reprieve as the kids could roam the yard freely and eat fried chicken while watching live chickens stare back at them as if telling them, “I know what you’re eating!”

So, even though we were planning to eat outside, I had a ton of dishes and pans that needed to be cleaned, and the floor needed to be swept or vacuumed. My partner decided that vacuuming would be better and kicked the dog outside and started doing so. About halfway through he gets a call from our friends saying that they’d rather go out to eat at a different restaurant and thanked us for the offer. I can’t be mad, as they wanted to go to Sweet Tomatoes and we were craving Kentucky Fried Chicken because clearly their choice was probably in the much healthier range of choices. And besides, the dishes got done and the floor got vacuumed and we ended up getting our fried chicken and eating out on the deck with our chickens staring at us from the coop, crowing, “I know what you’re eating!”

This all got me thinking, why do we feel the need to tidy up for other people but not ourselves? I know that I feel less stress and happier in a clean house than I do with a damned quilt I don’t want to make sitting out on top of the ironing board in the dining room for the last month begging to be finished and dust bunnies that seem to reproduce like their namesake. However, I don’t always feel the need to keep the house as clean as it could be when it is just the two of us and we rarely have company over.

Perhaps I should do what some people do, and no, not those who leave their house a complete disaster where you have no idea if they have carpet or hardwood floors because you’ve never seen them before and just traversing through their house is like an obstacle course, but keep the house company ready at all times. Hmmm… perhaps this is a little ambitious. Maybe keep the projects left out to a minimum and the dishes kept up on, the latter of which I’ve been pretty good at doing, with the exception of the last few days. The former on the other hand…

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ode to the Internets

The old adage, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” rang true yesterday afternoon. Our cable line was taken out.

Now, the fiber optic line that brings us our wonderful high-speed internet capabilities wasn’t removed for lack of a bill being paid or for replacement. Rather, it was taken out by a very large white semi-truck with a tractor trailer attached barreling down our small suburban road. I’ve seen the trucks themselves drive down the road, as he parks it on the next street up from our house, but never with a full trailer on it. Why? Low lying lines.

Okay, so the other situation is that our cable comes from a pole across the street from us and is supposed to be attached to the house without any slack. Unfortunately, where it is attached to the house is still too low for the wire to safely be swinging in the middle of the street so it was thrown over a branch on the maple tree in our front yard to keep it up high enough. Well, unfortunately that particular branch broke some time ago, as it was dead wood, while my partner was doing work on the roof. It had to be disconnected in order to fix the section they were working on, and so it was placed next to the pole across the street waiting to be reattached. Which it was. Well, I might add. I did it myself.

So yesterday afternoon as I was preparing a little something for Vacation Bible School, I hear a truck coming by rather quickly, and much faster than the 30 MPH speed limit, which also makes me wonder if they ran the STOP sign too (not uncommon) when I suddenly hear a loud POP! It only took a second to realize what had happened… that damned truck took out our cable internet line! I went outside to investigate and to make sure that it didn’t take part of our roof off in the process. Fortunately it didn’t, but there I stood, waiting for a few cars to pass over my downed internet line before I pulled it out of the road and into the yard for our internet provider to come out and fix. Of course, calling them and explaining the situation they say they’ll be able to assess the situation the next day.

Alas, no internet for research on my craft project I’m doing today means that I’m just going to go with what I’ve got. I suppose the lesson is to not be such a procrastinator… and you never know when a gigantic white semi-truck is going to take out your internet!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Basket Weave

So, a couple weeks ago I made a wedding cake using a technique I had never tried before. Surprisingly, I pulled it off.

When I didn’t hear back from one bride after multiple contacts, I had no choice but to cancel the cake order. I mean, it would’ve been silly for me to assume that I was still needed to make her cake if she wasn’t going to get back to me, and the fact that this wedding was 75 miles away, it would’ve been sillier to make the cake and go to the town and drive around looking for the wedding destination. This meant that I was able to pick up another wedding cake that was rather last minute. I won’t get into the drama that ensued with the first bride, but I do know that she did end up getting another baker to do the cake so she wasn’t cakeless on her wedding day.

Anyway, the new cake order I took the bride wanted a basket weave, which is an icing technique I’ve never gotten around to learning because, well, it really isn’t used all that much anymore. A few days before the wedding, I decided it would be a good idea to practice so I made a cake, a batch of icing, grabbed the appropriate tip and attached it to a pastry bag and started. I’m kicking myself in the ass for not attempting this earlier. Not only is this probably one of the easiest techniques I’ve ever tried, but it practically eliminates most of the stresses of icing a cake smooth. I mean, all you do is crumb coat the cake (a thin layer of icing to catch the crumbs) then start piping over it. My first try turned out much better than anticipated, so I took it to a meeting I had at church that evening for them to enjoy.

Now, the only issue I had to attend to with the actual wedding cake was transporting it 25 miles to the wedding. Fortunately weather was on my side, as it was cool and overcast. Driving along the windy roads, some of them covered in gravel, was stressful to say the least, but when I did finally arrive, the cake was perfectly fine. I didn’t have to do any touch-ups at all, and instead, because I was asked to deliver the cake four hours before the wedding (for the photographer) my only concern was how it was going to hold up until the cake cutting.

Of course, the location for the cake wasn’t ready when I got there and I was told to put it into the garage, a bit concerning as there were children roaming freely around the property. And so I showed two people involved with the wedding how to set up the cake and how easy it was to take down to move it to its final destination. Being that the wedding was still hours away, we all felt it best to not put the flowers on the cake at that time, but I heard that once it was all put together it was beautiful. Perhaps I’ll get a picture from the bride to post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Vacation Bible School

In a couple days our church’s Vacation Bible School will begin. Which means in a couple days I’ll be quite busy with craft projects.

When I was a kid, Vacation Bible School meant that we would go to the church across the street from us (which we never attended, by the way) and partook in a variety of activities over the course of a week in August. I don’t ever remember getting anything religious out of it, but I do remember making placemats… and playing Red Rover. Kids being kids, and none of us really knowing each other’s names nor were wearing name tags, while playing Red Rover we would simply shout out the most obvious difference between us as the next person to try to break our line. Yes, I’m guilty of yelling four eyes to the only kid with glasses, but in my defense he called me dog ears thanks to my hearing aids I wore as a kid. It wasn’t malicious, it just popped out.

For the first time in a while our own church is stretching out V.B.S. over three half days, which has its ups and downs, but I think will be better for the kids involved. The past couple years anyway we’ve had one long day, which towards the end kids were a little rambitious (please note that I will use any random non-word in place of real words if it so suits me, which if you’ve read my blog over the last 225+ posts I’ve written since the beginning of the year, you’d know isn’t an uncommon occurrence.) Having half days will hopefully mean the lessons being taught towards the end of the day won’t be fraught with crankiness.

My part in all of this is that I’m making crafts, in particular rain sticks and bracelets depicting the life cycle of a salmon. Honestly I should have gotten all materials needed for this by now, but alas, I have an uncanny ability to procrastinate everything until the very last possible minute. I should probably read up on rain sticks or figure out a list of items to get at the craft store, hardware store and office supply store, but instead I’m drinking coffee and writing about my intentions. Good thing I’m not a real teacher!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Random Guest Status

Last night I attended the wedding reception of someone I do not know. When asked to write our connection to the bride and/or groom on a name tag, I assigned myself as a “Random Guest.”

Okay, so I’ll freely admit I wasn’t planning on attending this particular reception. I had every intention of setting up the cupcakes and heading home as I wasn’t feeling well due to the heat and lack of sleep over the last few days. However, I was invited by friends of ours from church because it was their son’s reception, and after putting the cupcakes into place I felt much better. That, and there was beer and wine.

This isn’t to say that the only reason that kept me there was the presence of alcohol, but I’d be lying to myself if I say it didn’t factor into my decision. I guess I would also have to admit that I went to high school with the groom, albeit graduated the year before him and was quite familiar with him during the three years we attended Hudson’s Bay High School. However, we never talked nor had any classes together so our paths never crossed.

Still not enough of a reason to stay? Okay, the place was air conditioned. There. That’s the real reason. I mean, after baking in our home for the last few days in a hot kitchen in a hot house and spending the afternoon outside in the hot heat, the cool air coming out of the floor vents while I was putting cupcakes onto a stand and around the table felt quite refreshing. Mmm… Freon. During heat waves it is enough to make me want to just go turn the car on in the driveway and sit with the air conditioning on, feeling the cool breeze on my skin. But alas, this time it was in the form of a wedding reception with beer and wine and good food in an air conditioned building. At least I was honest when people asked my connection!

Does this make me a wedding crasher? I don’t think so. I did know quite a few of the guests, as there were people from our church there, so my “Random Guest” didn’t seem so bad… especially next to the jester who had “Groom’s Biological Father” on his name tag. Besides, I brought cupcakes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Failure is Not an Option

Okay, so here’s the situation: I’ve gone and stretched myself too thin again. I can’t say that I’m surprised.

I don’t know what it is, but I find it especially hard to say no to family unless I absolutely cannot do something. Usually this means I won’t even be in town. However, I swore that I’d be able to make my 2nd cousin’s 5th birthday cake today and I feel like I’m going to let her down because I honestly don’t have the time to devote to making it perfect. I just hope that I can at least make it look decent enough for people to want to eat it!

Last night I was able to deliver two cakes from my overbooked day I have today, which alleviated having to figure out how to get them 45 minutes from here to Kelso when I knew I’d still have decorating to do. I have about half of the 200 cupcakes for that order frosted and will finish those up after posting this blog. After that I suppose I’ll have to decorate my 2nd cousin’s cake with a whimsical under the sea theme. It’s a Jell-O cake, so I’m thinking it’ll have to have real whipped cream (I know I posted using Cool Whip in yesterday’s Jell-O cake post, but honestly, there’s nothing like real whipped cream… and I have a ton of heavy cream in the fridge from my overestimation for all these cake orders!) Fortunately most of my decorations are in the form of gummy mermaids, lobsters, sharks and shells.

While I am confident in my ability to get all these cupcakes frosted and decorated, it is the transported I’m worried about. With the heat expected to be in the upper 90s today I fear that my chocolate ganache covered cupcakes will possibly melt. I’m not too worried about the cream cheese or buttercream frosted ones as they seem to be able to withstand some heat stress, I just need to make sure they are all frosted and allowed to crust, which is a thin protective barrier between it and the outside world. Alas, I know everything will turn out okay in the end, but it is the present that freaks me out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jell-O Cakes

Cake and Jell-O don’t at first seem like an obvious pairing. But together they can be a light dessert perfect for a hot summer day.

When I first met my partner back in 1995, one of the few things he made was Jell-O cake. My first reaction was, “Ew!” However, after having tried it many times during our first couple years together, it became almost a weekly thing, especially during the late spring and summer months. I can honestly say that I don’t remember the last time I actually had it, but a conversation we had a couple days ago sparked my interest again.

My little 2nd cousin is having her 5th birthday party on Saturday and wanted cake and Jell-O shots (nonalcoholic, mind you.) While drumming up a design, my brain went back to the Jell-O cake, so simple, light and delicious. So much so, I feel the need to share it with you.

Jell-O Cake
1 box white cake mix, prepared
1 small box Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1 (8oz) tub Cool Whip

Prepare the white cake in a 13x9 pan and allow to cool. I recently acquired the knowledge that the technical difference between a white cake and a yellow cake is that white contains only egg whites while a yellow cake contains whole eggs. Huh, I feel silly for not know this, but whatever. Make the cake with eggs whites, please, as it shows off the pretty colors of the Jell-O. With a toothpick, puncture holes in various places all over the cake. About a dozen or two should suffice. For a different effect, use a fork.

Using any flavor of Jell-O, dissolve in 1 cup boiling water in a medium bowl by stirring for about two minutes then pour over cake evenly to fill in the holes. Refrigerate for at least a couple hours, four preferred. Cover with Cool whip and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

You can use a large box of Jell-O if you wish, just use 2 cups of boiling water, but I find that is almost too much Jell-O and runs the risk of making the cake too soggy. Then again, it isn’t going to harm the cake since it is a refrigerator cake, so do so if you’d like. Also try using two different flavors and colors of Jell-O for a tie-dyed effect.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Baking in the Heat

For all you homemakers out there who diligently bake even when the temperatures spike into the 90s and 100s, kudos. Of course, extra kudos for those who do so in a house without air conditioning.

Saturday I have three different cake orders due, and of course that means it’ll be in the mid-90s because everybody knows that buttercream’s best friend is heat. However I have ways to combat that and unfortunately it means compromising on flavor a bit. I do not, however, have ways to prevent the house from becoming an oven itself while baking in this heat we are expected to have.

When baking in hot weather, I usually leave the fan in the kitchen on all day with a window cracked open. Yes, I know this seems odd that on a hot day I’d have a window open, but in order for a fan to flow properly it needs a fresh source of air. Besides, after the kitchen hits above 85 degrees I don’t notice much of a difference. Another thing that helps is that my cake room that I store all my cakes in between frosting and delivering stays quite a bit cooler than the rest of the house thanks mostly to the fact that we have a very large maple tree in our front yard that keeps it shaded. That, and the door stays closed at all times… except when I need to open it to put in or take out a cake.

I also find it convenient to keep a tall glass of ice water with a straw in it on an out-of-the-way space on the counter to sip from without having to pick it up while working. Hey, anything to increase productivity is good, right? Sometimes if it is too unbearably hot I’ll put a box fan by the window and point it towards me. Another trick I use when decorating a cake in a hot room is that if I keep a gelled freezer pack next to my icing, I can put my hands on it to cool them off. You’d be surprised by how much heat your hands generate while squeezing a pastry bag. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t, but having a freezer pack will not only cool your hands off but start to cool you off too.

The only place I can’t help with is dishes. Unfortunately while doing dishes by hand (which when I have large baking projects requires a lot of washing in between batches) hot soapy water and hot rinse water are a must. One day, perhaps, I might have a plethora of beaters and bowls and maybe a minion or two to do the dishes for me. Of course, I’d hope at that point I also had air conditioning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Reading

When I was a kid I used to read at least a book a week, sometimes one each day. Now that I’m not, I don’t read nearly as much and that’s sad.

I’ll freely admit that when I was in high school I was addicted to R.L. Stine books, especially the Fear Street series. I’m not exactly sure what drove my obsession to devour them all, which seemed impossible as a new book was released every month, and yes, I was at the bookstore two to three times a month to locate the next book. This probably fueled my desire to try to write for young adults, and I tried to mimic his style of writing even, but alas it was hokey. I had already done quite a few children’s books and felt like I needed to evolve or at the very least branch out. Eventually I rewrote the few young adult novels I had done as a teenager when I was older and funnily they don’t seem anything like a Fear Street book any longer. In fact they seem much more like me.

So a couple weeks ago, after having finished a slightly less grammatically incorrect Twilight Saga book (Eclipse), I scoured my bookcases for another easy read. I happened upon my collection of Fear Street books and picked one of five I still hadn’t read yet. Yes, I can also admit that my R.L. Stine kick faded rather dramatically after I started college. Grabbing the first book my hands took hold of, I went into the living room, plopped my ass on the couch and began reading.

Now, two things happened when I started reading this particular book: First, it reminded me of sitting in a quiet wing at my high school to eat lunch and eat every word Bob wrote; second, this writing was horrible. I mean, how do I put it? It made Stephanie Meyer look like she actually knows how to construct a plausible sentence. You really have no idea how painful that was for me to write. I don’t know if it is just because the book was a little lack-luster or if my tastes have changed to the point that I’ve read too many good books that what I thought was superb writing as a kid now look like jumbled words thrown together and packaged as a teen novel. I’m thinking the only way to remedy the situation is to read a book I know I’ve already read and enjoyed and find out if that really is the case or if it was just this particular book. I mean, the author admitted that he finished a book every three weeks, perhaps this was just a complete miss, right? It’s possible he just had an off few days and pressure from the publisher had him churning out a dud or two just to keep the momentum going, isn’t it?

Fear set in.

I can’t breathe.

The breath I so desperately need to survive unable to enter my lungs as if they were paralyzed, as if my whole body was paralyzed. I watched as the creature I could sense and feel but could not see come closer.


Closer still.

Closer until I could feel the cold emanating from its presence, sending goose bumps down my arms, my legs, my entire body; the only thing that told me I was still alive. A finger twitched. I could move again! Quickly, I ran into my room, reached into the bookcase and grabbed a well-loved R.L. Stine novel I remember enjoying so much as a teenager, and hope I can find my happy place again within its pages.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Little Kids and Broccoli

What’s the difference between boogers and broccoli? Little kids won’t eat broccoli! Or will they?

It can be frustrating getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables, especially if they have not been introduced to these foods at an early age. However, some kids, even with well rounded dietary options just will not eat a piece of broccoli or halved cherries. That’s when it is time to get a little creative.

You can take a cue from many of the canned meals available that are geared towards kids and sneak them into their foods unknowingly in the form of puree or simply mix them into foods they already love. What kid doesn’t like macaroni and cheese? Why not put a half pound of cut up broccoli into the pasta water halfway through cooking the noodles? Covered in cheese sauce, most kids won’t even notice, and if you eat it with them and they see you eating the green stuff mixed into the orange stuff without making a fuss about it they will probably think that they’re just green noodles.

In my limited experience kids will probably eat something if they see it in the garden growing or planted it themselves. The past couple days while we were watching our friends’s nephew, Josh, I would take him out to the garden with me to pick out some strawberries for breakfast. Of course it helps that this kid, while he doesn’t eat much, will eat pretty much anything or at the very least try it first. I thought sneaking the broccoli into the macaroni and cheese trick was, well, sneaky, but he ate it without even thinking twice. Then again, I should’ve know better as when we had stir fry with him a couple months ago he not only ate the chicken but the red bell peppers and onions too. Now, if we can only get him to eat cherries. Cherry pie?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Uninspired Quilting

It is time to get back to working on this quilt project I started last month. I just wish I had some motivation.

Thinking I needed to do something with all the excess fabric in my stashes, I pulled out the fabric for a quilt I intended to make four years ago but, well, never got around to actually doing anything other than cutting squares. Anyway, so I created a pattern that worked and cut the pieces further to fit said pattern and sewed up all the squares and most of the rows. That should recap nicely for my not-so-daily readers. Now I’m thinking I have got to get the top at least put together as I’m tired of looking at this project lying in my dining room.

I know that part of my reason for delay is that it I’m not keeping it or giving it away, but plan on selling it. I guess the Profit Motive isn’t such a motivating factor as the government would lead us to believe… at least not with me. Perhaps I’m not the best business person, but when I feel a personal connection with something it works, and when I begin a project with a disconnect it doesn’t so much. I know when I make cakes I feel personally vested in the project because I know what it will mean to the recipient. Methinks I need to rethink my rethunk.

While my partner and our friend were running a garage sale this last Saturday, I kept looking through the garage and house finding stuff to sell. I remembered we had a bunch of old wooden thread spools from textile mills in a box we had used as candle holders and priced them and put them out. Right after doing so I went inside to check what they were going for online and quickly gathered them all up, cleaned them of any wax residue and posted them on my Etsy shop. Funny, that was definitely motivated by profit, so what is my issue with this quilt?

Perhaps the underlying issue is that I originally intended this to be for a very good friend of mine, but some of the colors she dislikes and the patterns really aren’t her style. The more I look at them the more this becomes obvious, but four years ago I thought it would be perfect. Maybe after I get over that it’ll be fine and I’ll be able to finish the project. Or perhaps rethinking its purpose from a regular quilt to maybe a picnic blanket would help. Then again, maybe it could be a multipurpose quilt and I will just have to figure out how best to advertise that. I guess this will be a good learning experience in the future, but during the present it is just damned annoying.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Watching Josh

Why is it that the urge to have kids comes at a time when you are finally emotionally ready to handle them but you’re financially unable to support them, let alone yourselves? Being gay does have the advantage of not having any accidental babies, but being unemployed doesn’t.

For the past few months we’ve offered to watch our friends’s nephew, Josh, who has been pretty much given to them to take care of, whenever needed. Especially during this time where they are living in a hotel waiting to close on a house that needs to have work done on it before they can move in. Add to that that they have two kids of their own and that Josh’s mother just went into labor yesterday so they had her other son too and you’ve got one very crowded hotel room. If Josh’s little brother wasn’t beyond my patience level or their older girl, Abby, wasn’t so, well, dramatic, we’d have probably taken in one of them too. Okay, maybe not.

The weird thing about Josh is that he seemed to have instantly connected with us, and in return us to him. While any chances of adopting him are practically nonexistent, the thought has occurred and even been discussed. In the mean time I’ll be happy with whatever time we’re allowed with him, even if it is just the occasional babysitting or overnighter. However, I’ve had to somewhat emotionally disconnect so I don’t get too attached. My fear is that I may already be.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Post Surgery Lucy

To prevent our dog from completely tearing up her ear after surgery, our veterinarian put an Elizabethan collar on her. Honestly, she looks pathetic.

For anyone who has ever had a dog and that dog has ever been in need of an Elizabethan collar, or an E-collar as they are usually referred to, you know that trying to prevent said dog from shaking his or her head while wearing one is, well, near impossible. Of course, all the things you are supposed to prevent your dog from doing post-surgery or treatment are damn near impossible too.

Yesterday Lucy had her bandage and gauze taken off and with it came the potential for bleeding, so it came as no surprise that within a few minutes of returning home the head started shaking and the blood started splattering. I’m telling you, if there was a way to make money selling dog ear blood splatter art, we’d have it made. This dog seems to be an ever-flowing source of “inspiration.” Now, if we could just get her to do it a little closer to a canvas…

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prepping for a Garage Sale

Today we are pricing and organizing stuff we plan to get rid of along with stuff brought over from our friends’s old house they just moved out of. What fun.

Garage sales are, well, annoying in my world. While I like going to a few of them every year, actually having one is a whole different matter. Then again, this was all before both of us were unemployed and could afford to simply donate our unwanted stuff to Goodwill. The goal this time is to hopefully make a little money, which means a little more work.

Cleaning up items for sale seems like a no-brainer to most, but we’ve never done it. Usually we would just put a price sticker on it in all its glorious grunginess and wonder why nobody would buy it. Of course, some items really should just be thrown away if they are too far gone or at least put into a free bin for stuff that might need a little work.

Personally I can only think of a handful of items I’ve got in the garage now that I can sell and most of those are bagged up for a trip to Goodwill that never came to pass. Oh sure, we have a couple furniture pieces to get rid of, but seriously I think a majority of our stuff is sci-fi collectables. And by collectables, I mean action figures. Anyone interested in a Mulder and a Scully action figure? Perhaps Han Solo or Yoda? Star Trek comic books? The joke is on you if you think I’m kidding.

But alas, this morning our friends are coming over to get their stuff all priced and set up and we’ll do the same with ours. All this in hopes that we not only empty out our garage, but add some funds to the checking account.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pet Surgery

One day we’re contemplating how to pay the mortgage and the next thing you know your dog needs a $300 to $400 surgery. Life’s funny like that.

Our Lucy has had chronic ear issues since, well, the rest of her allergies kicked in at about one year old. Since then we’ve battled yeast infections associated with her scratching from being allergic to practically everything outside we would consider common here in the Pacific Northwest: grass; weeds; trees; mold & mildew; etc. But the most horrifying thing is her ears, which seem to bug her the most. It isn’t so much keeping them clean, but rather whenever she is excited or nervous or doesn’t get her way, she scratches the hell out of them and then shakes her head until she draws blood. Seriously, parts of our house look like a crime scene.

So today I’m taking her in for a surgery to take care of an aural hematoma that has gotten quite large. She’s had them before, but this one is taking up half her ear. If you are unfamiliar with an aural hematoma, consider yourself lucky. It is where a blood vessel has burst in the ear sandwiched between two layers of skin and looks like a water balloon, only it isn’t filled with water. It’s squishy and very painful to the dog and while smaller ones aren’t so much of a problem as they’ll heal on their own, larger ones pose a lot of other health risks.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fall Harvest Planting

For those of us with vegetable gardens Northwest, we can have a variety of fruits and vegetables growing all year long. However, most people only have spring and summer.

Right now is the perfect time to put in a second planting of peas and lettuces for a fall harvest. The soil is warm and a lot of spring plantings have bolted if you didn’t harvest them yet, meaning they’ve gone to seed. While a lot of us are just now seeing our first tomatoes of the year finally ripen, it’s a good time to take advantage of the space vacated by other vegetables that have gone the wayside… that is, if you haven’t filled up those spaces with more tomatoes!

After we pulled out all of our peas we were unable to use thanks to a heat wave right before harvest time, we planted tomatoes. Currently we have eleven different types and have them growing in all four boxes. So much for rotation, huh? Yes, bad gardener. However, once we started watering these new plants I noticed that some peas started to sprout, probably a few that were overcrowded in the box and bided their time until they could get more light. They are now sharing the supports for the tomatoes and unless they hinder their performance, I’m planning on leaving them up. After all, we didn’t get any peas this year and that makes me sad.

Lettuces and spinach are excellent options for fall harvesting, but I’d only recommend putting in what you’ll eat in a couple weeks, as lettuce doesn’t really keep. Spinach on the other hand can be frozen or canned so plant your heart out. What else can you plant? Carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green onions and chives, radishes, leeks and Brussels sprouts. Carrots and leeks will be ready for fall harvesting, but can remain in the ground until spring if you so desire, so plant extras to have throughout the winter for stews and soups. As always, only plant what you’ll actually eat, or take what you won’t to your local shelter so it doesn’t go to waste.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Cooking

During the summer it seems my desire to turn the oven on, especially in a house without air conditioning, is put on hold. After all, it is barbecue season.

Of course, here in the Northwest very few of us put our grills away for the winter. I mean, our weather is mild enough to barbecue all year long and rain really doesn’t deter us from being outside. But in the summer months our Weber gets a lot more attention, probably due to the lack of a pan or two to clean afterwards. Then again, that is also why I keep it up and running all year.

Grilled trout (if my partner went fishing that day or the day before), chicken or steak are the usual meaty things, and if asparagus is in the house that will get grilled too. Most of the time a simple garden salad and good bread finish out the meal, but occasionally a baked potato is in order. Of course, by baked I mean microwaved. What did the homemaker do before microwaves?

Nary a stove or oven is turned on in our home unless absolutely necessary when the temperature is expected to be in the upper 70s or above. I’m not looking forward to the August baking for cake orders I’ve taken from friends and family, as August and September here are the hottest months of the year. Oh, the things I do for those I love!

The best part about summer is that so many fruits and vegetables are in season that cooking anything might not even be required. But grilling many of these fruits and vegetables along with the rest of your meal will bring out a lot of hidden flavors, especially peaches and bell peppers. So tell your stove to take the summer off and enjoy what the grill can do for you.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Still Dog Sitting

Moments ago I kicked the dogs out of the house. For some reason they like to play inside but once they are out they sit at the door and whine to be let back in.

While it has only been five days, it seems like much longer that our friend’s dog has been staying with us while she is out of town. At first we thought he would be a little terror, but alas, he is just a little terrier and quite a sweet and surprisingly well behaved dog. Our Lucy hasn’t slept this well since, uh, the last time we dog sat back in March. Again, reaffirming the notion we need to get her a little brother, preferably a dominant one to be on an equal playing field with her.

The only thing I’m not sure about as far as a small dog is, well, their ability to sneak past you quite quickly. With Lucy being a Great Dane it is near impossible for her to simply sneak under your legs and run out the door, although she has tried. Of course we are not financially in a situation that will allow for us to invite another four-legged friend into our home, so I suppose dog sitting will have to be our substitute for a little brother for a while. Perhaps soon our circumstances will change.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An Excess of Phlegm

I can always tell when I haven’t had enough liquids the day before. I can tell because the morning after it takes an exceedingly long time to clear my throat.

Last night we attended my partner’s stepbrother’s wedding reception and since the beer on tap was, well, Rainier, I opted instead for the extensive wine selection. The groom’s mother, my partner’s stepmom, was apparently in charge of the wine, which accounts for the well over a thousand dollars worth of bottles lined up in order of when they should be opened. Fortunately for me when I came back for my second glass she opened up a bottle of the good stuff hidden behind everything else. What can I say, she likes me. The only other things I had to drink that day was four cups of coffee and a Coke, so possible dehydration might have caused me to have to sip that last glass of wine a little slower than normal. Plus the fact that they hadn’t started food meant I was drinking on a fairly empty stomach.

Anyway, so this morning I woke up with a dry itchy throat and a cough that won’t stop. I know, you’re probably thinking this isn’t any different than any other morning in my life, but the issue is that I can actually feel the phlegm clinging there, vibrating with every cough. This normally goes away after a few cups of coffee, the caffeine helping to open my trachea up and allowing me to breathe easier, but I have a feeling it’ll take a few cups of water after my coffee to alleviate these symptoms, especially since I don’t normally feel the phlegm. Hmmm… maybe when it isn’t there my body has phantom phlegm? Of course, there is also another theory rooted in more scientific fact. I could just have a cold.