Monday, November 30, 2009

And now...

...now that Thanksgiving is officially over and I've officially gained 5 pounds - and yes, that is according to that hateful thing in the kitchen who mocks me by flipping back and forth between two numbers for a few seconds before settling on the higher option EVERY time - I shall return to blogging.

Christmas decoration, piano, and gift posts to arrive soon. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving

I hope everyone out there had a great Thanksgiving! We didn't do a lot. We went up to visit my 85-year-old grandmother on Tuesday. She lives in Kansas, all by herself in her very own cozy little house, and she even still does all the cooking. She's a great lady, very tough. She's survived the deaths of two husbands, her son, and three of her siblings (her two sisters are both still living).

We came back home on Wednesday, and when I got up on Thursday morning (motivated only by the sound of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I've got a story about M2 and that in a moment), I made a couple of pies - apple and cranberry-apricot. I sliced up six apples for the pie because usually five or six is just the right number, and I wound up getting TWO pies out of that. Who'da thunk?? I had made applesauce out of some red apples the other day, and I still have four green apples left. I have apples coming out of my ears!

After the pies got done, we headed over to my mother-in-law's house for dinner there. She cooked a TON. There were just eight of us, but she made a turkey, a ham, tons and tons of stuffing, green bean casserole (which I happen to LOVE), and gravy. We brought mashed potatoes, rolls, and the pies, and she also had a cranberry salad and something called pistachio fluff which was really really good. We all ate till we just about popped.

When it got dark outside, Papa took the kids outside where my brothers-in-law had strung up all the Christmas lights, and M2 got to do the countdown (well, count-UP as the case was) and M1 pushed the button to turn on the lights. Then they ran up and down Papa's ramp - Papa uses a motorized wheelchair to get around - until they were completely worn out.

Now... about M2 and the parade. The very first 'act' in the Macy's show was about 250 cheerleaders, all doing an act to a song. M2 was mesmerized. She sat with her mouth open and was completely silent, which happens about once in a blue moon with her, until she found her voice long enough to say, "I want to be able to do THAT."

This is scary in some ways. I have a potential cheerleader on my hands... who loves shoes, pink, scarves, dancing, arts and crafts, and people. I'm a tomboy mom with a princess daughter... seriously... I need tips!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Busy days and proud moments

I haven't posted anything for a while. It hasn't been deliberate. It's more like there hasn't been anything horribly photo-worthy! But lest you think I've been neglecting you, I wanted to post an update.

First, M1 and I went to the Elsing Museum with our homeschool group on Monday. It was a wonderful place! I'd never even heard of it till this trip got set up, but I'm so glad we went. M1 had a blast. The only thing he hated was that there were so many other people there that he didn't get to ask all the questions he wanted. I foresee many trips back, probably with M2 and/or other friends.

M2 got her progress report for the second quarter this week. All +'s, which is an improvement from earlier this year when she did, in fact, get a minus in some areas (mostly related to asking for help - my kids are fiercely independent. I wonder where they get that... hm...). I'm proud of my Bean!

M1 is almost done with his math book. He's been progressing through math at a rapid pace now that he understands the concepts. This book focuses solely on single-number addition and subtraction, and he's on lesson 24. There are 30 lessons in the book plus extra lessons on time, which we've already covered. I've already ordered the next book in the series, and he can't wait to get started on it. He's been really paying attention to his work to reach that goal and has aced his last two tests!

He's also begun working on human life science, aka anatomy. He had a lot of fun with that this week.



Don't worry. I let him stick these all over me, too.

M2 has a violin concert coming up in a couple of weeks. She's very excited and is working hard on the pieces that she'll be playing. No solos in the Suzuki method (at least at this age), but it's a big deal for her. I'm amazed that my little girl has come so far in just six months, and at the age of 4. Sure, she's probably not moving as quickly as some of the other kids, but in the two group lessons we've managed to attend, she's been by far the youngest! She takes great pride in being able to keep up with 9-year-olds.

Finally, M1 has another accomplishment that he would like everyone to know about.

He did that all by himself with his birthday BB gun today from a distance of about 8 feet. I didn't even think it was cracked till I got close. With a little practice, he's going to be a great shot!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When you feel like wasting time in the kitchen

When you feel like wasting hours and hours of your life in the kitchen doing something that even your grandmother would probably look at you and think you're crazy for doing, please read on.

My children, God love 'em, talked me into making pumpkin pie last week.

Not just any plain ol', dump-the-pumpkin-out-of-the-can sort of pie, though.

NOOOoooooo.

That'd be too easy.

They talked me into making pumpkin pie from scratch with a pumpkin they brought home, oh, a month ago (MAN, do gourds last a long time) from a visit to Granny's house. They decided this when they saw a similar pumpkin at the pumpkin patch we visited and the sign beneath it said that it was great for pies.

Yeah, thanks for the info. I needed it. (Insert sarcasm here.)


So I started dissecting the sucker. For the record, this is a Cinderella pumpkin, aka a rouge vif d'etampes pumpkin.

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the French, with my German heritage and all.

Die, pumpkin, die!


I did get some help. M1 volunteered to scoop out the goop.

He was even more keen to 'help' when he discovered that Vixen apparently thinks pumpkin goop is the shiznit.

Nothing's more fun than hauling a 4-month-old kitten out of the trash can repeatedly because she's headed for the pumpkin innards that stick to her long fur like burs on a dog.

Cats are NOT classy. I don't care what they think of themselves. They're not. Anything that goes dumpster diving goes in a category that's less than classy.

Moving on, I did manage to de-goop the pumpkin, chop it up, throw it in a pot with a bit of water, and simmer it for half an hour while keeping the kitten also de-gooped. It's a good thing.
While the pumpkin was steaming its way to shapeless mush, M1 and I whipped up a batch of pie crust. This is my recipe, translated into first-grade handwriting on a board without lines. It reads:

1. 2 cup flour
2. 1 t. slat (salt)
3. 3/4 cup Crisco
4. Ice water

That is how my grandmother makes pie crust. I am not ever allowed to make it any other way on pain of excommunication from any more of her pies in the future. Given that her pies are fantastic, I can work under those parameters.
This is what the pumpkin looked like after it was done cooking and was draining and steaming in the colander.

And this is what it looked like after I put it back in the pot and mashed the tar out of it. I have anger issues. Pumpkin therapy is a good thing.

And this is what it looked like after I combined it with all the other ingredients (Note to self: Do not use a mixer with pumpkin pie unless you want the kitchen to be redecorated with orange polka-dots), put it in the pie crust, and stuck it in the oven.

And THIS is what my kitchen looked like after all was said and done. Did I mention that one Cinderella pumpkin yields a whole crapload of pumpkin? And did I mention that I may have had to make a second recipe of pie crust for those mini-pies?

I told you you're insane for even thinking about it.

The rewards, however, are sweet.

In case you're ever inclined to be as nutso as I am, I'll give you the recipe, but don't say I didn't warn you!

PUMPKIN PIE - FROM SCRATCH

1 9" pie crust
1 small pie pumpkin
2 eggs
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
(Can also use 1 T. pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg combo)
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

Cut pumpkin in half; remove seeds and pulp. Cut pumpkin into chunks. Place in a saucepan over low heat with 1" of water. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or till tender. Drain WELL and remove the peel. Return the pumpkin to the saucepan and mash thoroughly. Drain again, if necessary.

In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg (or pumpkin pie spice), 2-3 c. of pumpkin puree, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition.

Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust. Place foil around the edge of the pie to prevent overbrowning.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake pie 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove the foil about 10-15 minutes before the end of cooking to brown the edges of the pie.

Cool and refrigerate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm here, I'm here!

I really am alive, and I haven't forgotten this blog - I've got post ideas coming out my ears! I just haven't had a chance to post anything! This post is actually from two weekends ago.

To really appreciate this post, you have to understand Oklahoma weather.

It's unable to be understood.

That's why we have the National Storm Prediction Center here.

It's been in the 70s or 80s every day for weeks. Hence the short sleeves you'll see in this post. I'm lovin' it!

This doesn't prevent the leaves from falling, though, and we have a tradition in my family that everyone (except me, because I'm the one taking pictures) gets buried in a leaf pile every fall.

My children spend weeks looking forward to Leaf Pile Day.


They really revel in it.

The ritual burial of my son. My daughter wouldn't hold still long enough this year to get herself properly interred.

Because the weather was so unusually warm, M1 and I ran to the store and picked up some groceries (OK, I lie... he carried the basket and did the shopping. I was merely there to supervise, pay, and chauffeur) for a cookout.

Nothing quite like hot dogs and marshmallows after a leaf pile extravaganza.

And those leaf piles transfer quite nicely to the compost bin as well!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Phobias and OCD

Phobias. Obsessive-compulsive disorder. You know you have them. You know it. Deep down in the dark recesses of your mind, you're afraid that you can't control the world. Or at least some little corner of it.

This is triply true if you're a mom and have to worry about things like your kid getting shanked on the school bus by some punk with a record (prayers going out to my friend Dawn right now).

It's nice to be able to control the small stuff.

Like Skittles. This is a blatant endorsement of Skittles here, folks. If you don't like them, step away from the blog. This is the only bag of candy that I actually purchased for Halloween (OK, so it was 50% off the day after Halloween, but that makes it all the sweeter, doesn't it?), because Skittles are delicious and nutritious.

OK, maybe not so much on the nutritious part. But there are fruit flavors and that makes them better for you than other things, like...

Um...

Like....

OK, so maybe they're just not good for you.

Moving on... I cannot eat them all hodge-podge and mixed up together. No-sir-ee. Can't do it. I have to eat the purple ones first... then the red ones... then the green ones... and then the orange and yellow last because they are by far the best. I do the same with Starburst and Jolly Ranchers. Orange and lemon are the best flavors for any sort of hard candy in my less-than-humble opinion. They just aren't allowed to mix.

It's a rule. And I follow the rules.

Mostly.

I'm also a little weird about this thing. That's right - the phone.

You'd think I'd have no problems using the phone since I used to be a reporter and was on the phone almost constantly for eight hours a day.

That's what you get for thinking.

I pretty much hate the phone when I have to be the one to make the calls. I'll answer calls all day long (if the Caller ID tells me I should), but making them is a whole 'nother story. Picking up the phone and dialing someone, especially someone I don't often talk to on the phone or - heaven forbid - someone I've never called before, is tantamount to death by firing squad. I have to clear my throat for fear of sound like a frog if they answer. My heart races. I get clammy hands. I'm never happier than when I hear the sound of an answering machine picking up.

Yes, I am a freak, thanks for asking.

So, just for the record, if I ever call and you're not one of a handful of people who know about my other quirks like smearing whipped cream over the entire piece of pumpkin pie before eating it, don't answer the phone. Let me talk to the happy little machine and call me back. Then I'll answer and be able to be human!

I'm sure all of this says volumes about my mental status, but that's another post for another day, don't you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blurb of a blog - Trick-or-treating

I know I've posted this photo before, but let's just call it a refresher.

This is the kids' costumes in pristine condition. This was a week before Halloween.

By the time we actually made it to Halloween night, I was a pro at this. DD's costume looked the same except she nixed the non-matching necklace and I had considerably more experience with putting that bow in her hair in a way that made it stay there for more than 20 seconds at a time.

DS's costume was another story. There were changes galore, such as:

1. The black hair was not quite so black. We only had enough hair dye to do his hair about 3/4 of the way on a second try, so he had red streaks down the sides on Halloween.
2. No necklace. The pendant fell off during the party at Nan's and we never did find it.
3. Black streaks all over the costume. Hair dye. 'Nuff said.
4. No teeth. They got left behind at the homeschool costume party.
5. No make-up. My sensory-sensitive boy was seriously not okay with make-up and refused to wear any of it ever, ever, EVER again. Moms don't argue with that logic. Usually.

I think that's all.

Despite all the changes, the kids were excited to head to my friend Bubbles' (remember the girl who helped us do the pranking with all the bubble wrap? She's now Bubbles. It fits her personality, anyway!) house for trick-or-treating. They knew several of their friends were going to be there.

Several of my friends were there, too! Please ignore the long hair on the girl in the rear. That's a wig. She wears wigs exceedingly well. Please refer to my previous wine "tasting" party post when I say that I can't say anything more about how I know this. What happens at the wine tasting stays at the wine tasting. Both these ladies were there, and they are both wonderful. Their daughters are adorable, too.


See? Adorable girls, even when they've achieved the zombie-like state that all kids reach after exceeding all possible candy-consumption limits for one small child in an evening and then consuming more.

Trick-or-treating is fun. Stealing the candy later is even better! Hope you all had great Halloweens!