Wednesday, March 28, 2007

News flash

Here is a paraphrase of somethin I just heard on NPR:

Two executives from the company hired to build the fence on the USA / Mexico border were fined $5 million dollars today. . . . for hiring illegal aliens.

That kind of irony gives me goose bumps.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Track meet

Tim and Luke are beaming tonight; it was another successful track meet.

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Luke finished fourth in the mile (first time he's ever raced the mile); then he finished second in the two mile. He makes running distances look easy. (He did not get this gift from me.)

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Way to go, Luke. You make us proud in so many ways.


I've been to Michigan checking in on all my bag accounts. It was a successful trip; my customers are so nice. And I'm not just saying that because I think they'll stumble upon my blog as they cruise the 'net. The folks in Michigan were laid back and actually seemed kind of glad (?) to see a sales rep. They had all day to talk.

Everyone was pleasant all day long except the waitress I had at lunch who was cloying and hovering; she was on some rocking stimulant. I was reading but she never missed a chance to interrupt to see if I needed anything. What I needed was for her to leave me alone.

One other complaint and that's it - I was doing all that driving, zig-zagging back and forth across Michigan and it was Michigan Public Radio's pledge drive week. So I only got half of every show. Sigh.

Oh well, I turned on my iPod and sang myself hoarse. It served well to keep me awake while driving. All in all, a good trip.

Better to be home, though, with my boys.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

We're Under Attack!

See this guy? Doesn't he look like he's just hanging around, whistling a happy tune?

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Think again.

This is Kamikaze Kardinal.
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He is pissed at the birdie in the window.
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We spent too much time this morning watching this guy beat himself up against our window. How do we get him to stop this foolishness before he hurts himself?

If you called me on the phone and said, Hey, what are you up to? I would think for a minute, draw a complete blank, then, mumble, uh, nothin'. Which is not true; we are always up to something, I just can't ever think of what it is we are up to when asked. The great thing about blogging is that I try to capture what we're up to while we're up to it. Here are photos of what we were up to today.

Logan, Trixie, and I took a walk in the Nature Preserve:
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Trixie is part swine:
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We saw two snakes. If you look, you can see there is a big snake (momma?) and a little snake in this photo. Question: I thought snakes just laid eggs that hatched later without benefit of parental intervention. Do snakes raise their babies?
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While Logan and I were lolly-gagging around the nature preserve, Tim was hard at work digging a trench behind the barn so that we can install an automatic waterer for the horses (yay!). You can't tell in the photos, but the trench goes all the way around the back of the barn so that the downspout drainage can go down to our neighbor's pond instead of flooding all around the back of the barn.

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Tim finally got some help from me.
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It wasn't all bad though, cause it gave him an excuse to use his new macho tractor.
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Okay, it wasn't all fun tractor work. Thanks, Honey. Huge brownie points for you!

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(Important point to my girlie friends out there - don't shorts and work boots on a shapely leg just do it for you? Me too!)

Okay, Luke is gonna kill me if I don't brag on him. He ran in his first track meet yesterday, the two miler, and came in 11th (out of 24) with a time of 11 minutes and 34 seconds. It was a big, tough, invitational meet, Lukey's first ever, and he did great. I don't have any photos cause I missed it - I was with Logan at the junior high music contest (Logan had a successful day too, but I write too much about Logan in here.) This is Luke's paragraph.

Here are photos of the two of them today, cleaning up the patio table and chairs. The furniture is under attack, too.

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Everyone, now: Stop, drop, and roll.
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Hope you're doing nothin' today, too!

Friday, March 23, 2007

What a day.

You know that time in the morning when you're still in bed, half awake, half asleep? That place in between two worlds? That's where I was when this song popped into my head. Not a song I knew; it was a new song for the world. That's the only way to put it because this song just appeared, unbidden, in my brain. I could hear the whole thing - the words and the orchestral arrangement. I was just awake enough to think, wow, I should write this down, so I did. The funny thing is, I'm not a song writer. I wasn't thinking about writing a song. I was, however, thinking a lot about and looking forward to writing here in my blog. Does writing beget writing? Does the act of writing open a creative faucet that flows in unexpected directions? Talk about a great way to start the day - I wasn't even out of bed and I had this amazing gift from the cosmos bestowed on me.

Then I took my super-cool, super-special niece, Carlena, out for lunch to celebrate the fact that she just last week finished her classes for her bachelor's degree in Education. If you knew her story, you wouldn't believe she made it through college (while raising two kids and dealing with drug-addicted family members). She is totally amazing. Everyone now, hats off to Carlena! And hugs and kisses to her, too. Queenie, you rock!

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Cory, Carlena, Pidd

And then to top off an already amazing day, This American Life, the TV version, premiered on Show Time and it was excellent. They kept their radio groove-funk (which I was worried wouldn't translate to television). But I was wrong. The groove-funk is all because of host Ira Glass; all is well.

This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime really cool day. Hope you all have one of those soon.

Watch out. Cory's got his eye on you.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blogging the Bible

I just figured out how to use links because I want everyone who's ever wondered what's really in the Bible to go check out Blogging the Bible on Warning: only to be read by those who are strong of faith. There's a lot of really nasty stuff that goes on in there. I think they may have been sugar-coating things in my Sunday school classes.

In his intro to the blog, David Plotz says, "I want to find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based." Later he asks, "So what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents." (Plotz is Jewish so his Bible is the Old Testament.)

It makes me feel better to know that Plotz basically has the same reaction to the Bible that I had when I tried to read it: Horror. Besides the lying, cheating, stealing, land-grabbing, prostitutioning, incest, rape, and genocide, there is the constantly recurring theme of mass murder, attributed to no lesser a character than God himself. It's a wonder the Christians don't try to have this banned from schools and libraries. There's some rough stuff going on in there.

Blogging the Bible is not completely unmediated. One of the best features of the blog are the comments from readers all over the religious/non-religious spectrum. When Plotz raises a question (often), readers respond with various answers and also, when he mis-states anything, he is quickly corrected by the readers (wouldn't you like to be able to do this in church on Sunday morning?)

After I finish the Bible blog, I'll check to see if anyone is blogging the Koran. It would be fascinating to compare the two. And also to see what is in the Koran, really. How can so many Muslims say their's is a religion of peace in the face of the violence carried out in the name of Islam?

If you check out Blogging the Bible, I'd love to know what you think.

Monday, March 19, 2007

All about Lukey

Looking over my blog thus far, I see that I feature Logan much more than Lukey, and if I'm not careful you (and he) may begin to think that I favor one boyman over the other, which would be a terrible think for anyone to think because I am as crazy about both of them as it is possible to be.

Whereas Logan is excitement and energy and drama and silliness, Luke is calm and fun and self-possessed and wise. If they were a song, Logan would be the flutes, the high busy notes; Luke would be the strong deep notes steadily driving the song forward.

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Top ten cool things about Luke:

10. He is a trivia master.

9. He loves Broadway music (and theatre).

8. He is an accomplished clarinetist, pianist, and singer.

7. He plays tunes and lets me sing along, loudly and often.

6. He looks great in a tux (one of which he has owned since he was 13 (pieced together secondhand) and which he wears often for musical performances).

5. He scored a 34 (out of 36) on the ACT (when he was 15).

4. He can run five miles in 37 minutes.

3. He thinks straight-A report cards are just a normal thing.

2. He has never told a lie (that I know of).

1. The number one coolest thing about Luke is that he is a geek and proud of it.

He is who he is through and through, impervious to the fashions of the moment or pressures to be someone else's idea of cool.

And that is so totally cool.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Signs of spring everywhere:

Logan staying up too late watching the NCAA tournament.
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Logan celebrating when his pick wins. His gambling career starts right here.
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Working on Luke's track cleats.
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Green snowballs for a St. Patrick's Day card party.
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A photo I call "Nude in the Crocuses".
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O bless the crocuses, first flower of spring.
And bless us one and all, too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Staff of Life

Tim and Luke are in track practice now. This is Luke's first time running track although Tim (and I) have always known he is an amazing runner. Tim got asked to be one of the assistant coaches so he is in his element. Tim missed his calling as a coach; sports of all sorts are his passion. On the first day of practice, at 3:15, I said to Logan, "Hey, right now, daddy is doing the thing he was born to do; we should send him good thoughts."

Here is a photo of Logan sending good thoughts to Tim:

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Logan was home sick today. He was chilled so he put on Tim's blue sweatshirt and pulled the hood up. It made his blue eyes look even bluer.

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Snoggy Blue Eyes

My Snoggy is a snuggler. He was laying around, not feeling good, I was piddling around in the kitchen. He was trying to get me to relieve his boredom by snuggling with him. I kept protesting that I was busy. He hollered, "One of these days my childhood is gonna be over and you're gonna regret this."

One wise brat.

So of course I snuggled with him. I wrapped him in a hug and did "the claw" a bunch of times. And tickled him. Never one to miss a snuggling opportunity, Trixie came and sat next to the couch so I could pet her at the same time.

While we were snuggling, Logan gave me the best compliment of my life.

"Remember," he said, "when you told me what people call bread?"

"Yeah," I said, "the staff of life."

"That's right," he agreed brightly, as the words came back to him.

Then he said: "That's what you are in this family."

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Weekend with Cynthia

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Cynthia and Tim play Scrabble

Defying convention, my friend Cynthia left sunny Florida to come to Ohio last weekend and dip her toes into winter.

I picked her up at the Cincinnati airport on a sunny but cold Friday evening. We got stuck in rush hour traffic but were so busy catching up that we hardly noticed. It was dinner time when we arrived at my house; I had spaghetti sauce in the crock pot - all we had to do was whip up a salad (Cynthia's job and it sure turned out good - she raved and raved about it), boil noodles and stick the prepackaged garlic bread in the oven. Very easy and so fun to be in the kitchen, hands busy, laughing and talking a mile a minute. That's the way to cook and I highly recommend it.

Tim had built a fire so as soon as dinner was finished we sat in front of it, still talking away. Oh, we did the house tour of course, and maybe some Scrabble was played, but mostly we talked.

Tradition dictates that when Cynthia is visiting, there will be chocolate chip cookie dough in the refrigerator. Question: Can one become immune to salmonella? I have been eating raw dough and batter with eggs since, well, since ever, and, knock on wood, I've never been sick from it. Same for Cynthia. My MO is: eat a bite of dough, put a spoonful on the pan, repeat. To go with our cookies we had hot chocolate, the recipe off the box of Hershey's cocoa. (Always Hershey's because that's the kind I grew up with; to me it tastes right.)

Late Saturday morning we packed up sandwiches and the trailer with Buckles and Speckles and headed down to the bike path to go trail riding. Funny to note that, when planning to go riding, my thought was, Yeah, Cynthia can ride Speckles, he's safe. Not, "she can ride my 19 year old horse," but, "she can ride my three year old horse." Speckles is very good and steady. Very honest. Buckles is a Thoroughbred and that's all I have to say about that.

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Mr. Buckles and me

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Cynthia and Mr. Speckles

I couldn't believe how snow and ice-covered the trail was. And I couldn't believe how good the horses were. They stood tied to the trailer and munched hay while we groomed and saddled them. We rode out an hour, stood down by the river to eat our lunch while the horses snuffled around under the snow for a bite of grass. And then we rode back. Two hours was plenty for Speckles. He was tired. We were cold. The seat heaters felt wonderful.

Back at the house, we piddled around for a little while, showered, then went to dinner at the restaurant where we had met, as waitresses, twenty years ago. Even though it had begun raining and sleeting, the place was packed. We had a fifty minute wait which flew by because we still had plenty to talk about. We had a good "shrimp trio" dinner, then drove home, slowly, in a sleet/snow blizzard. For dessert, we baked the rest of the chocolate chip cookies, had more hot chocolate, more fire in the fireplace, more Scrabble. As far as I'm concerned, a perfect evening.

Sunday we headed back to the airport, but in time to stop at my favorite horse store, my favorite western decorating store (Bugaboo Moosetracks),and Barnes and Nobles where I actually spent some money. On Cynthia's recommendation I bought a dog book by Jon Katz, A Dog Year, and a novel by Jim Fergis, One Thousand White Women. I haven't written in my blog this week because I've been busy reading. I enjoyed A Dog Year; Cynthia recommended it because she saw on my bookshelves that I read a lot of animal books, especially animal behavior. I'll be buying other books by Jon Katz.

Then I read One Thousand White Women and it is the best fiction I've read in a really long time. Here's the premise: Chief Little Wolf proposes to President Grant that the way for the Indians to become assimilated into the white culture is for Grant to send one thousand white women to live with and marry into the Cheyenne tribe. Pretending publicly to be shocked at this proposal, behind closed doors Grant and his advisors decide that this might not be such a bad idea; after all, there are plenty of women in jails and insane asylums they can send (in return for a thousand horses). The book is the journal of one of the women, May Dodd. I loved her; I loved the book.

By the time Cynthia and I did all this shopping and ate lunch, we were running late for the airport. Outside the Delta terminal, I rushed up to the curb, parked half in the street, threw Cynthia and her luggage out, hugged her, and got back in before causing a traffic jam. It was a perfect weekend.

The Recipes

Spaghetti Sauce
I totally cheat on my spaghetti sauce. I buy frozen meatballs, a jar of Prego or Ragu sauce, a can of diced tomatoes. I put all in the crock pot hours before dinner along with four or five cloves of garlic and extra oregano. The slow cooking makes it extra good. It is so easy and ready when you are.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
I have a bone to pick with the recipe off the back of the chocolate chip bag - am I the only one who thinks the cookies are greasy? Too much unnecessary butter! Butter is a wonderful thing but we never need unnecessary butter.

Here is my slightly modified version. I keep these ingredients constantly in stock in case of company. Everyone likes chocolate chip cookies.

3/4 cup softened unsalted butter (save 40 grams of fat from original recipe)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon (overflowing) pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg white (saves 4 grams of fat; plus, cookies have better texture)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached)
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt, if you must (I rarely put salt in sweet baked goods; I don't like the taste of it, especially in the raw dough or batter.)

Most of a 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I save about 1/4 of them for later chocolate emergencies. The whole package is a little too much chocolate for the amount of dough.)

Mix together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, stir in the vanilla, add in the egg and the egg white, mix well. Add the flour and the baking soda, mix just well enough to incorporate the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips. This can be refrigerated and baked just before serving. (Fresh baked cookies are the best. Plus, for company, they make your house smell warm and comforting.)

The secret to baking cookies is: Cold pan, hot oven.

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Spray oil lightly on your cookie sheet (one of the air bake pans is wonderful. The two layers of pan keep the cookies from over-baking on the bottom.) Drop by spoonfuls onto the pan. Now, put the pan in the freezer, if you have room, or the refrigerator if you must. Leave it there until the light on the stove goes off, telling you it has reached 350 degrees. Put the pan in the oven and set the temperature for 6 minutes. When it goes off, turn the pan so cookies to the back are now to the front, and set the timer for another 6 minutes. When the timer goes off, look to see if the cookies have begun to brown on top. This is when they should be removed. If they haven't begun to brown, they will be raw in the middle; if they over-brown, they will turn hard when they cool. The time differs depending on how big or small the cookies are. Small cookies cook faster.

All I need to say about Hot Chocolate is: follow the recipe on the Hershey's can except use less cocoa (about half of what the recipe calls for); use real vanilla extract, fill the cup only 2/3 full so there is plenty of room for the marshmallows. Really, isn't hot chocolate just an excuse to eat a bunch of slightly melted mini-marshmallows?

Invite over a friend who loves conversation, build a fire, enjoy.