Sunday, November 30, 2014

Land Of Our Pilgrim's Pride and Other Thankfuls

Here I am, behind the 8-ball again on getting my Ten Things of Thankful post done in a timely manner. Was this really a long weekend? Because it doesn't seem like one, even though it was a two day work week and five day weekend. But I'm thankful for that long weekend, plus:

1. Emma started practices for her club volleyball team last weekend. I'm so glad she's back with this team! She played with them for two years, got talked into playing on a different club team last year after deciding she wasn't going to play club ball at all, and now we're back to her original club team. Go, Spikers!

2. We celebrated Thanksgiving at preschool with feasts both days. Our Pre-K kids dress as Indians, Primary as Pilgrims and Toddlers as turkeys, and they all contribute items for the feast, plus we've talked all month about the importance of being thankful for all we have. 

Poster child for the Puritan life, right?

3. I received a delicious turkey from two darling "Indians" on Monday. Thanks, girls!

4. On Tuesday afternoon, Emma and I went to the hospital to visit a dear friend who is in hospice care. We only stayed a few minutes, just wanting to tell her we loved her, knowing it would be the last time we would see her in this life. I'm grateful we took the time to go see her, as difficult as it was for us. She looked beautiful and was so glad to see us! I wrote a 101 word story about it for a writer's workshop at Mama Kat's, and you can read about it here.

5. Wednesday morning, my parents drove to our house, then we loaded all of our stuff into their vehicle and all of us headed off to my brother's house for Thanksgiving. We turned a three and a half hour trip into a six and a half hour trip, but we made it!

6. Wednesday evening, we continued a tradition of going to see the Mizzou Tigers volleyball team play their last home game of the year. It's so exciting to watch college level volleyball! Holy mackerel, they hit that ball hard! After the game, we took time to visit with a player who is a sophomore from Springfield, Missouri, and whom we had the privilege of watching play high school ball when her high school team beat the pants off our varsity team. She even remembered meeting us last year!

My dad and brother, watching the game.

Chancellor Loftin was there. That's impressive.

This guy was wearing an SEC belt.
Who knew there was such a thing?

7. Part two of going to the volleyball game was that Emma got to visit a few minutes with her favorite Mizzou volleyball player, Sarah Meister, a senior who just played her last home game of her career. She was so sweet to take time out to speak with Emma and get her picture taken with her again. They both play libero and they are both #4, so she remembered meeting Emma before as well. When we got back to my brother's house, Emma posted the picture on Instagram and tagged Sarah, who wrote a sweet comment and then started following Emma on Instagram, which made her feel like da bomb.

Emma with Sarah, two years ago.

And with Sarah for the last game of her
college career. What a darling girl!

8. Part three: Shakespeare's Pizza. If you've ever had it, then 'nuff said.

9. Thanksgiving dinner was excellent! My brother outdid himself this year. It would have been nice to have had more mashed potatoes, though. Hopefully, next year....

My brother. Write you own caption.

10. My niece SWEARS these are not weevils in the soap in her shower, as I originally thought, but just to be on the safe side, I did not use it. (She swears it's some kind of lavender bits, but I'm still not completely convinced, given the family history, and if you haven't read this post about how my brother fed me weevils, then you should.)

Lavender? Mhm.

Now home again from our trip, Christmas decorations out of the attic and in much disarray around the house, and I've got a college boy to return to school, so I'm off and running again. Link up, if you haven't already!

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Slipping Away

The door to the room was ajar.

“Is she asleep?” I asked. “Don’t wake her up.”

But the woman gently shook her mother, who blinked, then held her arms out. My daughter went first, hugging her gently, then me, feeling how fragile she was.

She was wearing pretty pajamas instead of a hospital gown. No poking or prodding necessary; just pain medications to keep her comfortable.

“Sit down,” she instructed, and we did. We each held one of her hands, talking, smiling.

We hugged her again, told her we loved her.

And we left, not able to say the words “goodbye.”

This post was an entry for Mama Kat's Writing Workshop with the prompt:

Write a story in exactly 101 words.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In Which I Include A Lot Of (Mostly) Useless Links In My Ten Things Of Thankful

I am behind on everything blog related this week, and I will never catch up. Even my husband has spent this weekend repeatedly asking me when I'm going to write my TToT entry. I've got 30 minutes while I wash away the grey (just shut up), so dashing it off now.

Last weekend, I was pondering my sanity for signing up to make four pies for a fundraiser, since I've really never made pie. Oh, sure, I can make a delicious pumpkin pie, using the recipe on the back of the Libby's pumpkin can my mother's secret recipe. I've made a couple of apple pies before, too, but I always used already prepared pie crusts my mother's secret pie crust recipe for those. If I were going to present myself as a pie baker (what an idiot!), then I needed to go big or go home. SO I WENT BIG! I spent last weekend practicing, and I got the crust DOWN. It was tender and flaky. My husband even said it was the best homemade pie crust he'd ever tasted. Rolling it into a perfect circle is a work-in-progress, but I don't think anyone but Martha Stewart can do that, and I have my doubts about her, figuring she relies heavily on the magic of television to accomplish that neatly rolled out circle of dough. But I get the job done with artful trimming, as my rolled out crust still resembles Great Britain more than it does a neat circle.

Picture sideways, but it doesn't matter.
It's not a circle no matter which way I turn it.

But I make it work.

And the filling? The filling was PERFECTION! Coconut cream is probably my favorite pie, especially when it has meringue on top. I learned a lot about "weeping" (which is not only what the pastry chef does but also what happens when the filling is not piping hot when the meringue is put on the pie and a layer of water forms between the two). I also made two French Silk pies, which are decadently rich, especially when made with Ghirardelli baking chocolate and covered with whipped cream.

Upside down. What's up with my pictures?
Coconut cream filling. Five eggs, milk, sugar, coconut,
other good stuff. Mmmmmmm!

Even if you don't like meringue (but you should),
you have to admit this is GORGEOUS.

Test piece of French Silk.

HUGE shout out goes to Christopher Kimball and America's Test Kitchen for being my pie tutor! I am a faithful watcher of the PBS show and proud owner of the cookbook. They don't just show you how to make something or provide you with a recipe, but they also explain why some things work and some things, well, not so much. 

I even made lemonade out of lemons with a pie crust fail. I did a horrible job rolling one out, I trimmed it too close and I didn't have enough to crimp the edges properly, making it slide down into the pan. I tried to patch a place that didn't patch so well (figured out how to do that the right way, so it wasn't all in vain), and while the pie shell was cooling on top of the stove, my husband knocked something off the top of the microwave, which, of course, landed right on the pie shell, breaking off the patch plus another huge chunk. Contrary to what you might think, I did NOT get mad about it (seriously, it was a crappy pie crust), especially because he spent the entire weekend doing all the laundry, and by all, I mean probably 9 loads, since Emma finally picked up all the clothes off the floor of her room and made a stab at making it livable again. I rolled out and baked all the other scraps of dough I had been saving, made the filling for chicken pot pie, and we ate that for supper, poured over all the sad, broken pieces of crust plus the extra pieces I baked. Happy tummies!

On Wednesday, my husband had a meeting in Kansas City, so I took the day off from preschool and rode shotgun. We left at 5:30 a.m. (gah!) and hit the road. As per my usual m.o., I drank a diet coke on my way up there. About thirty miles south of Kansas City, I realized I needed to go the bathroom. Like, really go. My husband was concerned he wasn't going to make it on time for his 8:30 meeting, so he didn't want to stop until we got closer. And closer meant about a block from the building, by which time I was absolutely whimpering when I pointed out a Burger King on the corner. "Oh, do you want me to stop?" my husband asked. Barely waiting until the car stopped moving, I lurched into the Burger King and finally relieved my poor bladder.

While in Kansas City, I made use of the time my husband was in his meeting to visit two friends with children at Children's Mercy Hospital, an amazing facility. One friend had a 14 year old daughter who was undergoing special therapy for an autoimmune disease, and we had a long visit at her suite at the Ronald McDonald House (another amazing facility). Then down the block to Children's Mercy, where I visited with another friend with a 14 year old son who has just spent 8 weeks in the hospital with a virus that attacked his nervous system. He was being discharged from the hospital, but they will be staying for another month while he undergoes intense physical therapy to help him regain use of his arms and legs (he's come a LONG way so far). Thankful that there is such a facility with specially trained physicians and nurses and therapists and other support staff to help both of these kiddos become healthy once again, and oh, so thankful for healthy children of my own.

I also got to have lunch with an old friend from high school ("old" meaning one I've had for a long time, NOT old as in years - we are far too young for that!). Great little Mexican restaurant that had delicious salsa, and we talked and talked and talked. Growing up, I lived on a street with mostly boys, and most of them at least a year younger than me, so when Debbie moved in next door when we were sophomores, I was ecstatic! I love the kind of friends whom you can just pick up with just where you left off last time. Debbie, Heather, and Dawn are all those kind of friends, and I was so lucky to get to see each of them in one day!

My husband and I went to one of my favorite stores while in Kansas City, Pryde's Old Westport, an incredible kitchen store in, well, Westport, just north of the Plaza, if you know anything about Kansas City. They have bakeware and utensils and bowls and specialty items galore and AN ENTIRE ROOM WITH JUST FIESTAWARE! I could have stayed in there all afternoon, but instead, I picked up a couple of things to aid in my pie baking and a Christmas gift for my mom (shhh, don't tell her). The woman who rang up my order commented on the pie shield I bought, and I told her I was honing my pie baking skills. "How long have you been baking pies?" she asked. "Since last weekend," I answered, taking my purchases and heading to the car. I'm a pie baker, world! 

We ran into Trader Joe's next, a store I used to shop at in Los Angeles when it was just a cheap place to get groceries and wasn't so freaking trendy. They had brussel sprouts on the stalk, which my husband had never seen before, so we got a stalk, along with various oddball things, including a couple of bottles of Two Buck Chuck. Then, before we took the two and a half hour drive home, we stopped for an early dinner at an Italian buffet, the same place Christine and I, along with Cuckoo and Buttercup, ate at when they were in Kansas City last summer for a soccer tournament. Delicious!

I spent Thursday and Friday making pies, plus a German chocolate cake from scratch, delivered them all to the venue for the show choir fundraiser, then attended the fundraiser, (making sure to eat a piece of my own pie, since it was better than any of the store bought or bakery items available at the fundraiser). 

Saturday morning? Made more pies, this time for my mother in law, who commissioned me to make two for her to take to a party. Time out to take a jaunt through a craft fair with my friend Breana, then back to pie baking. A two hour nap while the pie was cooling, delivery to my mother in law, a stop at the mall to pick up a few things from Ulta, back home and to bed ridiculously early, then up again this morning to make the dough for my great aunt's sugar cookies, a family favorite and a requirement at Thanksgiving. Club volleyball practice this afternoon, a workout at the Y, a couple of loads of laundry, a quick trip to buy feathers for the pre-k Indian headbands for our feast tomorrow, and THAT'S WHY IT TOOK ME UNTIL SUNDAY NIGHT TO POST MY TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL!

I sure HOPE there were ten things there....

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tally Ho, It's Time For Tea And Crumpets

Yes, I'm posting ANOTHER Ten Things of Thankful this weekend. Here's why:

This morning, the wonderful, amazing Charlie came to my rescue and put in my new garbage disposal. I am so thankful he came on a Saturday morning, since I had planned to spend the weekend doing a little practice pie making and was desperately in need of my sink for that. Besides, the couple of hours last night that I had to run from the kitchen to the bathroom to pour something liquid down the drain grew really old really fast. So that's #1 on my second list.

(Following is an audio recording of an excerpt from the Bob & Tom Show radio show. It just seemed fitting to include it. When you listen to it, you'll know why.)

So #2 occurred when I opened the door to let Charlie out, because sitting on my doorstep was a box.

It arrived! It arrived! It finally arrived! Several weeks ago, I was in a Facebook conversation with Lizzi (Considerings) and Piper (Talk About Cheesecake) about crumpets. As in, what the hell is a crumpet? Piper said she'd mail me some. SHE DID IT AND THEY ARRIVED! 

When I brought the package inside and opened it, the first thing I saw was a card. I pulled it out and opened it and SHE GLITTER BOMBED ME! That's #3.

Also inside the package? Two, TWO packages of crumpets. (#4) My husband got very excited just by reading the label on the package and seeing how different it was. "Look, it says 'energy' instead of 'calories.' Which is more accurate, really. Of course, they spelled 'fiber' wrong." Funny guy.

I jumped on Facebook and sent Piper a message to tell her the package had arrived. She told me how to fix and eat the crumpets. Lizzi chimed in, too, and they told me I should drink PG Tips tea (and use lots of butter and jam and toast them well, among other things). I figured some good ol' English breakfast tea would have to do, but my daughter and I had to run to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things, and I just happened to walk down the aisle that included tea and coffee. As I passed by, out of the corner of my eye, I saw (#5):

And at the Walmart Neighborhood Market, no less! I've looked at the tea display before and never have I once noticed a brand of tea called PG Tips, but there it was, so, of course, I bought it.

Following Piper's recommendation, I thoroughly toasted the crumpets. (#6).

And I got out my grandma's china and our good silverware, butter and strawberry preserves. (#7)

Miss Picky Pants, here, even poured a little milk into my tea and found out that I quite liked it that way. (I still don't like jam or jelly, but I tried it on my crumpet, just for you Piper!) The crumpets were like English muffins, except they were thicker, and the tops aren't browned. Piper's description of crumpets was that they were wet bread that you toasted and then slathered with butter and jam. In actuality, crumpets are MUCH BETTER than Piper made them sound (because how good does "wet bread" sound to YOU?). (#8)  "Tell Lizzi I feel very Downton Abbey," said my husband.

Fletcher even tried to get into the action when my husband got up to get more water for tea. (He really only wanted the butter.)

Do I look like a proper English woman, enjoying tea and crumpets? BECAUSE THAT'S HOW I FELT! (#9)

And now I've had crumpets and real English tea with sugar (okay, Stevia) and milk. And now I get to send something quintessentially American to Piper (#10).

So, fellow 'Muricans, what IS the quintessentially American food product that I should send to Piper? Shout it out below, and if you haven't done so already, link up YOUR Ten Things of Thankful while you're at it.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Uncomfortable Shoes And Then Some

It hasn't been a terrible week, but it hasn't been spectacular, either. 

The Polar Vortex made its first (wish it were last) visit to us this week. Temperatures dropped down into the teens, something we don't usually get until January and over 40 degrees below normal. BRRRRR!!! 

I bought some new boots (two pairs) and they KILL my feet. Didn't when I tried them on; in fact, they were marvelously comfortable.

I had to go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. I hate hate HAAAAATE going to the dentist. I hate the x-rays. I hate that little scrapy thing the hygienist uses. I hate the tooth polish taste and the grit it leaves in your mouth. I hate the little sprayer that always gets water all over my face. I hate the sucky thing and always get my tongue in the way. I hate having someone floss my teeth. I hate being tipped practically upside down in the chair. I hate the chair. I hate the bib. I hate the taste of latex glove in my mouth (although it's better than a bare hand). And that's just cleaning them! Don't get me started on actually having to have a procedure done.

I committed myself to making two chocolate and two coconut cream pies for an event next week, and I've never made either before. What was I thinking?

I went to the mall, trying to find a Thanksgiving-themed gift (complete fail), and the entire place is decked out in Christmas, including Christmas carols playing in every store. Sorry, Pilgrims, who created my favorite holiday. You've been squeezed out by Christmas commercialism.  

I reached under my kitchen sink tonight for some spray cleaner and the bottom of the bottle was wet. Upon further investigation, I found there was water dripping down from the garbage disposal. Instead of leaving it at that, I decided to run some water and turn on the garbage disposal to see what would happen. Well, what happened is water with bits of whatever was in the bottom of the garbage disposal spewed out through a small, previously unnoticed, hole in the side of the garbage disposal, spraying me and the inside of the cabinet with mucky water.

And now I have to write a thankful list.
Not my hat.

1. Hats. I love to wear hats in the winter, because they make me warmer and keep my ears from aching.

2. My electric mattress pad. This has hit the list before, but it bears repeating.

3. Snuggies. Don't laugh. The blanket with sleeves is really warm and comfortable when you're sitting around in a drafty, old house during a Polar Vortex.

4. Kitties who sleep at my feet and make them even warmer than the mattress pad does.

5. The wonderful feeling of slipping off uncomfortable shoes. 

6. No cavities!

7. In the name of research, getting to make AND EAT chocolate pie and coconut pie this weekend. Even if they aren't fantastic, they're still pie.

8. Only 13 days until Thanksgiving!

9. A wonderful handyman who is going to come over on Saturday and put in a new garbage disposal for me.

10. Haircuts. I took the plunge and got another four inches cut off my hair. I think I'm going to like it; at least, I HOPE so, since there's no going back at this point.

Crappy before and after.

There. I did it. Ten Things of Thankful in a week when nothing stood out. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crank up the ol' electric mattress pad and settle into my cozy bed. Ruby's already there, waiting for me.

Almost as good as a Snuggie.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Thankfuls Big and Small

I've gotta say, I'm glad this week is over! My preschoolers have been post-Halloween, pre-Christmas wild animals. This weekend I shall recuperate by relaxing and taking it easy. PAHAHAHAA! Not really. It will be spent doing laundry, cleaning house, taking Emma to club ball tryouts and getting out the rest of the winter clothes before the Polar Vortex comes to visit next week. 

Here are my thankfuls for the week:

1. Back to Standard Time! I love Daylight Savings Time in the spring and summer, but I am so ready for the time change in the fall! Unlike SOME whiners out there *cough cough Lizzi cough cough Clark cough cough** I like it when the evenings are dark and I'm in my nice, cozy house. I also hate, hate, HAAAAATE having to get up in the morning when it's still dark outside. (I hate it so much that I don't do it, causing me to arrive at work progressively later and later until the time finally changes.)

2. Crock pots. Or slow cookers, if you will. I've used mine nearly every day for the past week.

3. Elections are over! I'm not happy about how most of them ended up, but I am grateful not to have to hear campaign ads on tv or on the radio anymore.  

4. There has been some grumbling and talks of rebuttal posts by the other two cats in my house, but no outright war has broken out since Ruby guest posted last weekend for my TToT entry.

5. Playdough sculptures. 

Are those the cutest little playdough snails you've ever seen?!

This is a gadicator. Sometimes known as an alligator.

6. Playdough sculptures that make me think of something ever so slightly inappropriate.

It's a pencil.

And this is a cherry popsicle.

7. Playdough sculptures that TOTALLY make me think of something inappropriate.


8. Ruby lovin'. Every time I walk in the front door, Ruby comes to greet me. This morning, I realized I forgot my sunglasses after I got to the car, so I ran back inside the house, aaaaand Ruby came to greet me. She loves her mama!

9. In August, I fell going up our basement stairs and cracked the side of my knee and shin on the tile steps. I had bruises and swelling for weeks from it, but they finally faded EXCEPT for a pretty good sized bump on the side of my shin. It is very tender when touched, and my husband's leg thrown over it in the night will send me straight to the ceiling. At the oncologist's office yesterday, I told him I still had pain and a bump from that fall. He looked at it, FELT it (and I DID NOT kick him in the teeth when he did so, although I could have), and said I had apparently chipped the bone when I fell. Nothing thankful about THAT, except that I had a little niggling fear that it was something horrible, like a blood clot, given how badly it was bruised when I first fell. No blood clot that's going to kill me; just a chipped bone that will heal on its own, eventually.

10. With any luck, I am officially half way through my cancer treatments! Two and a half years down, two and a half to go - yeehaw!

How's your week been? Have you been able to find thankfulness in little things like playdough sculptures and crock pots? Link up with us, below.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

You Survive A Power Outage Your Way, I'll Do It Mine

In December of 2007, we had an ice storm. Not ice. Not sleet. An ice STORM. As in an inch to an inch and a half of ice encasing trees, power lines, cars, playground equipment, roofs, grass, signs, gutters, and pretty much anything else but the streets. Weirdly enough, the streets themselves were relatively clear of ice covering. 

It was a Sunday morning, only a week before the children's Christmas program at our church. My daughter, almost 9, and I left the house to go to church, because we couldn't miss play rehearsal! As the streets were not ice covered, I thought it wouldn't be that bad. My daughter, however, was sure we were going to die, and I assured her it would be fine once we got out of our neighborhood. We crunched and slipped and slid across the grass to the driveway, and just as we got to the car, we heard a crack, crack, cracking sound.

"Listen," I said to Emma. "The ice is already melting and falling off the trees."

The next thing we knew, there was a tremendous CRASH, and a 25 foot tall tree across the street crashed to the ground. Had it fallen a few feet in a different direction, it would have landed onto the street and dangerously close to where we were standing. Emma immediately began howling, and we crunched back to the house and went inside to safety.

Within an hour, our power went out.

This was not good.

Our house is old (built in 1926) and drafty. It has 3800 square feet of hardwood floors with no carpeting. There is a gas furnace for each floor, but the blower needs electricity to work, so no heat. There are two fireplaces that were not usable (we were kicking ourselves that we had never done anything about that, but the remedy was very expensive). The house started to get chilly very quickly.

My husband called my in-laws, who lived on the other side of town, and when we found out that they had power, we headed there. Sadly, we had to leave our kitties at home, because my in-laws are not cat people (and one of them may or may not actually be allergic and I'll leave it at that). We drove the few miles to their house, creeping down the streets, avoiding fallen limbs. Their house was warm and had LIGHTS, and we settled in for a cozy stay. 

An hour later, THEIR power went out.

Their home was in a heavily wooded area. I went into an upstairs bedroom to look out at what the storm had done. It was a winter wonderland, if you could discount the fact that power lines were down all over town. As I looked out the window in the quiet of a house with no electricity humming through it, I could hear the cracking of ice, followed by the crash of tree after tree falling from the weight of the ice on its limbs.

My father in law built a fire in their fireplace. We cooked on the gas grill on the back porch. It was all campy and kind of fun. Fun-ish.

By the next afternoon, I was done, especially after I drove back to our house to check on the kitties. The house was very cold (we left water running in our bathroom sinks to prevent freezing). Per my dad, I poured antifreeze into the toilets. A thermometer in my bathroom showed it was 39 degrees in there. The kitties were curled up together on a bed of blankets in the basement. I went back to my in-laws home and told my husband I was out of there the next day and was taking the kids and cats with me.

My parents, who lived an hour's drive to the north of us, missed the ice storm. I loaded clothes, cats, and kids into the car and headed out. About twenty miles north of town, a chunk of ice fell off some power lines that crossed the highway and crashed onto the windshield and hood of our car. My son and I, sitting in the front seat, thought we were goners, but the windshield remained intact, and contrary to how it sounded and felt, there was no anvil-sized dent in the hood of the car from the impact of the ice, either. By the time we were thirty or so miles to the north, we ran out of ice almost completely. 

The kids, cats and I spent the rest of the week at my parents' house, warm and cozy. School was canceled for the entire week, as more than half the schools in the district had no power. While the power was restored at my in-laws' home late on the day we left (a perk of living near the two hospitals), our home was without power for 7 days.

Rumor has it that this winter could be very cold and wet. Should you experience a winter storm-induced power outage like we did, here are my recommendations for how to survive it:

1. Pack your bags, gather up your kids and pets and leave.
2. Before you walk out the door, turn on the water in a couple of sinks to prevent the pipes from freezing and pour some antifreeze into the toilet bowls. Better safe than sorry.
3. Go somewhere that has power, preferably a family member's home, where they have a familial obligation to take you in and keep you.
4. If the power goes off there, repeat #2.
5. Ignore your husband when he calls you an electricity whore.
6. Also ignore that everything in your refrigerator and deep freeze are defrosting, because there's not a thing you can do about it.
7. Stay in your warm, happy place until the power is restored at your own home.

May the warmth be with you.

This post was an entry for Mama Kat's Writing Workshop with the prompt:

List 7 ways to survive a power outage.