Archive for July, 2010

Beetle with snout

Katie and I turned from the Hwy 65 exit ramp onto 76 westbound yesterday to take Andrew to AIM.  The line up 76 was really long, so I decided to be “a little bit rude” and take the right-hand left turn lane and hope some innocent tourist would let me in.

No such luck, and I eventually ended up forced to make a right at the light followed by a U-turn in the middle of Roark, but I excused my driving behavior with a generic, “Hey, I don’t live in Branson” comment.

However, as we eased along in the right-turn-only lane, what to our wondering eyes did appear (inching along the left lane), but a pale PINK Volkswagen beetle.  It was one-and-a-half shades darker than a Mary Kay Cadiallac.  I had never seen a pink VW before, and neither had Katie.

There were some two-toned markings on it and some darkish swirls on the trunk.  We were wow-ed.  Katie studied it closely, and as we passed, she realized that the round thing on the front end with the two round spots was. . .  a snout!  That car was painted to be a little pink piggy, so that swirly item on its back was the tail.  How terribly cute and creative!

There was no time to get a picture, but we were both QUITE impressed.  Katie remarked that that person never has trouble finding his car in a parking lot.  I wonder if it squeals when he presses his horn.

NOTE:  Katie found pictures online of this car (or one just like it).  Here’s the front view and here’s the rear view!

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So much to write; so little time

I am not doing very well at keeping my blog updated and I do apologize to both of my loyal readers.

Jessica is away on a mission trip right now and many people are praying for her.  My role in that project is to keep them informed and inspired to pray for her regularly, so I’ve been trying to send Jessica news emails several times a week.  Then we have our regular weekly (or bi-weekly, or monthly, or whenever. . .) ministry email update to write.  Scott used to write them and I’d proofread them and send them, but lately I seem to be writing them.  Generally, when a lot is happening with the ministry, those are written weekly, and right now, there’s stuff happening.

The Jessica and ministry updates are two writing projects that I do because I like to do them and because they are my small contribution to ministry, but the thing I am really enjoying more than all that is writing emails and letters to Jessica to keep her updated on what’s happening with the family here at home while she’s on the other side of the world.  So I have been writing her several times a week.

All that to say. . . what with Jessica updates, ministry updates, and letters to Jessica, (A), I don’t have much time left to write blog posts, and (B), I can’t remember what I’ve already written to whom in what setting, and since I fear I might be repeating myself (which would be boring for both loyal blog readers), I often can’t think of anything “new” to blog about, and so I just don’t do blog at all.

Here are a few family tidbits. . .

1.  Katie will be working 13 hour days for “Moonlight Madness” at SDC this week and and a half.    I think she will work there through about August 5, which is when her roommate flies in for a short visit before they drive together (well, realistically Katie will drive and Amy will sleep) back to PHC on August 9-10.  Katie is getting tired and is very ready for this summer of  intense work (six full days a week all summer, except for one week when she had two days off) to be over.  I think she’s thankful to be able to earn the money, and having two different jobs has helped break up the potential monotony of running kiddie rides continually, but she says she’s going to go back to college so she can rest and relax!

2.  Scott made pancakes this morning, and because some of them were chocolate chip, Katie actually got up early and ate breakfast before going to clean.

3.  Josiah LOVES his new computer.  He saved up forever, researched it to death, and then took the plunge.  As best I can tell, no buyer’s remorse so far.  He also – after having had the checking account for two-and-a-half years – finally ordered checks.  I think it had something to do with Scott buying the computer on Scott’s credit card and then asking Josiah to write him a check for it, but Josiah had no checks. . .

4.  Today on the way home from church, I took my afternoon diuretic as I always do, just a few minutes after we left church.  It’s 45 minutes home, and that usually works out just peachy.  But today, there was a train, a LONG train, at the 65/60 interchange.  Not a good sign for a rapidly filling bladder.  Given that, I knew I couldn’t drive straight home, but I was pretty sure I could make it to Saddlebrooke without exploding.  We tooled along for a number of miles, and then suddenly, just north of Busiek, everything ground to a halt.  Miles of traffic in both lanes sat there for some ten minutes. the discomfort increase, but what to do?  We assumed there must be a bad accident somewhere ahead of us, but we had no way to know how far ahead, how bad, or when the traffic would move again.  I began scanning the rocks and grass beside the road for any signs of possible cover.  Absolutely nothing, and of course, hundred of people sitting there in plain sight.   Suffice it to say that once the long lines of cars finally began moving again, I was lead-footing it to Saddlebrooke, and I almost body slammed a cute three-year-old girl as I made a beeline for a stall.  Nuff said.

4.  Scott and Josiah are currently have dueling laptops at the dining room table as they research our upcoming Colorado vacation.  So far it looks to include a visit to Royal Gorge, an overnight hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (Scott and Josiah), a whitewater rafting expedition somewhere in Colorado (Scott and Andrew), and climbing at least one, probably two, and possibly three of Colorado’s “fourteeners” – 14,000 ft+ peaks – (Scott, Josiah, and possibly Andrew).  I’m going to make sandwiches, provide shuttle service, do laundry, and take LOTS of pictures!

My moment of beavish joy today came when Scott said, “I have a topographical map that shows all three of these peaks and the trails to them!!!”  That would be the map of the Georgetown / Guanella Pass area that debated about buying on one of our winter trips there.  I really wanted to buy it, because I liked the area so much and I enjoy good maps.   But I didn’t want to buy it because it seemed awfully expensive.  It was high because it’s printed on some kind of semi-plastic-ish extra durable paper.  As it turns out, it will hold up well without tearing when they do this mountain climbing.  I was SO pleased to have on hand exactly what he needs.

More could be said, but I’m out of writing time.

Does MO = pink?

My kids are all quite logical.  This doesn’t mean that they always make sense to me, but each of them can certainly present and forcefully defend a case that s/he deems valid. Hence, I get to listen to a LOT of commentation, justification, and reasoning (both deductive and inductive); and hence, I am not surprised when I see or hear something and find myself involuntarily analyzing the logic (or lack) thereof.

Yesterday evening, I went out to water the containers.  I normally water thoroughly on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, but with the heat we’re waving under these days, things in pots dry out, wilt, and generally can’t survive the three-day gap from Saturday to Tuesday.  By Monday evening, several tomato plants and and my Bachelor’s Buttons appeared at death’s doorstep, so I went out with gallon jug in hand.

I have this wonderful hose that Scott bought me two or three years ago.  It’s really very nice – sturdy, doesn’t kink, no leaks, etc.  However, it’s a real bear to get down off the holder and an equal bear to hang back up.  When I’m doing a full early morning watering of everything, I do get it down, use it, and put it away, but since there were only a half dozen plants that couldn’t make it till morning, I did NOT want to mess with hose hauling in the heat.  I just filled and dumped my gallon jug over and over – which may have actually been more work than hauling the hose out and in. . . hmmmm. . .

Anyway, as I walked across the yard lugging my gallon jug, something pink caught my eye.  I assumed someone had thrown trash in our yard, so I walked over to get it.  (Thanks to our corner location – I guess – we get more than our share of trash, in addition to stray animals and lost people.)

It wasn’t trash.  It was a dot.  A hot pink dot spray-painted into the grass at the front corner of our yard.  It was basically round, probably eight inches in diameter.  As Sergeant Schultz would say, “Velly intellesting!”  Does everybody’s yard get a pink dot on an evening in July?  Is it something for which my yard has been yearning? If so, would that make it a mid-summer night’s dream?  And what on earth does it mean?

I finished my watering and made a beeline back into the air conditioning, deciding that if the evening sprites wanted to decorate our yard in pink spots, things could be worse.

This morning I went out to walk, and on the shoulder (Highway 160’s; not mine) in perfect alignment with the pink spot, were some pink letters!  They spelled M-O-D-O-T.  They both wore the exact same shade of pink, and the close location of the two marks clearly indicated a correlation, so I began to ponder logically:  In the yard is a pink dot.  On the pavement is a related MODOT.  Thinking algebraically and assuming an equivalent relationship between the two. . . this situation resembles an equation with “dot” on both sides.  Subtracting a dot from each side, we are left with pink equaling MO, but I am not sure that MO really does equal pink.  In fact, MO may not even be a function, because MO could equal a number of different things.  Things like “tourism, ” and “Ozarks,” and “Gateway Arch.”  It could also equal “humid,” and “redneck,” and “home.”

So the conundrum continues:  Does MO = pink?  Walnut Shade Mom simply doesn’t know.

MORE flowers!

Last night, one of my special friends GAVE me about 18 lovely flowers to beautify our yard!  She presented me with a big tray of potted flowers, all in full bloom.  There were eight Rudbeckia (black-eyed susans) in three inch pots, four hot pink vinca, and six pale pink vinca.  She said they came from the C of O nursery, and we all know that all the plants from the C of nursery are uncommonly healthy and vigorous, so I have the highest expectations for these flowers.

This morning I planted all of them.  They are scattered among the big be, a few of the pale pink vincas are in the mailbox bed, and a few of each kind are in the pots along the front walk.  I even planted some in the “window” box where my beloved red pepper plants has died.  No sense having empty dirt when it could support something lovely.

I have also picked about half a dozen tomatoes, and, other than being cracked and therefore unsightly, they are QUITE delicious.  Considering what has been spent on their production, this is as it ought to be.  (Righteousness, but that’s an inside joke.)

In addition to that, our neighbor GAVE us an enormous, old-fashioned (that means long, striped, and with seeds) watermelon that weighs about 45 pounds (!!!) and a canteloupe that is as big as a basketball.  No, he didn’t grown them, but he was buying ones for his own family at a stand somewhere and thought of us.  I’m going to cut the canteloupe for breakfast, and I think we’ll share part of the watermelon with some 50 (?) of our friends at a cookout tomorrow afternoon.  It’s gonna be hot, but not nearly as hot as where Jessica is in SE Asia with no A/C.

(whipped) Butter Bell workaround

A few years ago, we went back to butter.  Now, I know there are all kinds of issues and controversies about butter and margarine and all those other substitutes, and I don’t want to argue any of that here.  The fact is that we now buy butter in tubs, and in fact, we actually buy whipped butter in tubs.  That would be airier-than-normal butter, I suppose.

The issue with tub butter – whether whipped or not – is that in the fridge it gets hard.  It gets rock hard, and then when you try to spread it, it just scrapes and bounces and is not at all satisfactory.

Well, last fall I had the brilliant idea to LEAVE THE BUTTER SITTING OUT.  Yes, I know that would be heresy in some circles, but at the time, Jessica was babysitting for a family who, she said, left their butter in sitting in the cabinet.  I couldn’t quite go for the cabinet thing, but I did try setting it on the radio (just to save counter space), and, lo and behold, we had soft, sweet, creamy, spreadable butter.  What a novel concept.

Then a few months ago, I was deeply saddened to realize that the butter was going rancid.  Clearly, the butter preferred our thermostat setting of 68 in the winter to our summer setting of 80.  What would we do?  Could we face the return of rock-hard refrigerator butter?  Should we?  This was obviously a major problem, and something had to be done.

I recalled that one of my online friends swore (not literally) by her butter bell.  She was sure it was the greatest thing since (or for?) sliced bread.  You can see one and read about all its great features here.

I then researched butter bells on numerous sites, read a slew of reviews and was just about to take the plunge and buy one, when a question occurred to my lightning fast mind:  although the butter bell obviously seemed to work well when packed with a stick of butter, would it be equally efficient when packed with whipped butter?  You see, I did NOT want to pay extra to buy stick butter.  Whipped butter costs enough for me, and I like it just fine; I merely had to find a way to keep it cool enough to avoid spoiling without turning it to concrete in the fridge.

I am sorry to report that my research finally revealed a statement to the effect that butter bells do NOT work for whipped butter.  Oh, sad day.  But at least I had figured that out before making a purchase.

I spent some time cogitating on possible alternative solutions and lit upon Tony the Tiger.  Some years ago, when Andrew was a toddler, our then next-door neighbor had given us two monga-deep cereal bowls emblazoned with Tony the Tiger.  He had thought Andrew would like them, and Andrew did like them, although we didn’t let him use them too much.  Each bowl would hold enough cereal for a family of four – or a teenage boy.  But these bowls are nothing if not deep, and my rough eyeball analysis said that they just might be deep enough to hold a tub of butter.  Hmmmm . . .

I put a handful of ice cubes in a Tony bowl, placed it on the kitchen counter, and set the butter tub on top of the ice.  Nice.  Then I waited to see what would happen.  Obviously, over the next couple hours the ice melted, BUT the cool water kept the whipped butter fresh.  Now granted, the Tony bowl did sweat, but I solved that problem by placing it atop a folded washcloth.

For a few days, I changed the ice morning and evening, but experimentation revealed that the ice really only needs to be changed every other day.    In fact, if it’s not blistering hot, I can actually go three days, which is a helpful  when my nearly half-century brain forgets for days at a time to do the dump and re-fill.

Now we are back to sweet, creamy, soft, spreadable butter whenever we want it, and come fall, I’ll put Tony away and let the butter ride the radio for the cooler months.

Don’t look at my windowsill now, but. . .

. . . there is an orange tomato ripening there!

The first tomato was picked on July 2, but it ended up rotten inside.

The second tomato was picked on about July 6, but it had blossom end rot and was partially black inside.  It was good around the edges, however, and I did eat the edges in my Sunday lunch salad.  Quite tasty.

The one on the windowsill sports a few cracks on top, but, hey, who’s complaining?

Also, in my lazy and cheap state, I think I may have devised an inexpensive and easy cure for blossom end rot (BER) in tomatoes.  There are several causes of of this nasty condition, but the one I’ve most often heard to the be culprit is a calcium deficiency.

Normally, right after the first of the year, I spend a couple months saving, cleaning, and crushing eggs shells, which I work into the soil before I plant the tomatoes.  I have never had BER when I’ve done the prophylactic eggshell treatment, but this year, I was lazy and didn’t want to mess with the egg shells; sure enough, the first few tomatoes had BER.  = (

Generally, once you spot the condition, it’s too late to do anything about it – certainly for that particular fruit, and probably for all the fruit on that plant.  However, I have been DESPERATE for a decent homegrown tomato, so I took a gallon of milk that was just about past its prime and dumped several cups’ worth around the base of each of my tomato plants.  For good measure, I repeated the application 10 days later.  So far, so good.  I have a total of about 15 green tomatoes on several different plants, and none of them shows signs of BER!

The milk was much cheaper and much easier than buying, mixing, and spraying the recommended chemical treatments on all the foliage, and it took all of 30 seconds.  = )

Now, we just need a cold snap.  With nighttime temps staying above 70, the flowers on my tomato plants are not setting fruit.  Boo hoo.  However, if I can bring these few tomatoes to a successful conclusion on a sandwich or in a salad, I will truly be happy gardener.

Summer fun for Andrew

(and for us!)

Last week, Andrew was at Camp Lookout.  I dropped him off Monday at 10:00 AM and picked him up Friday at noon.  Our kids have been going to Camp Lookout for many years.  Let’s see. . . Katie went one time, Jessica went two or three times, Josiah went four or five times, and Andrew has now gone four times and will have one more grand blast there next year.  I think that means that I have taken kids to Camp Lookout some 13 times.

They do a lice check on every head when you drop off your kid, and you have to stand and wait while they do it.  I think I have finally figured out that no matter how I slice it, I WILL stand in line for one hour.  The official drop-off time this year was 9:30 AM.  If you get there at 9:30 AM, you will stand in a long line outside for 50 minutes, and then you will stand inside for the actual lice check for 10 minutes.  Total time:  one hour.

Last year, I arrived at 10:00 AM (the stated arrival time that year) and had to stand in line outside for 50 minutes and inside for 10.  This year, I decided to try to out-smart the system.  We arrived at 9:00 AM for a stated 9:30 AM drop-off time.  I was gonna zip out of there at 9:40!  Instead, we stood in the outside line for 50 minutes and in the inside one for 10, but I talked with another mom in line (who has also had kids at Camp Lookout for many years), and she said that even if you arrived at 8:30 AM for a 9:30 drop-off (and were therefore at the very front of the line), you’d still have to wait an hour for the line to start to move plus the ten minutes inside.  So, there is no way to shorten that wait time, BUT once you get through that and drive away, you know that your child is going to have the time of his or her life in a Christian environment AT NO COST, and your home is going to be a bit quieter and more peaceful than it is the other 51 weeks of the year.  It is all so very worth that hour in line!

Andrew had a total blast at Camp Lookout.  In fact, he has had a total blast every time he’s gone.  He loves the food, the vans, the counselors, the cabins, the pool, and (for the most part) the other guys.  He comes home very excited and talkative and very hoarse.  We are not sure what they holler about all week, but they have very little voice when they return – yet another blessing of Camp Lookout.  = )  THANK YOU, COLLEGE OF THE OZARKS!  You have ensured one mom’s sanity for yet another year.

Also, a few weeks ago, he was able to attend Hands On Clay (thank you, Branson Arts Council), where he made three really nice pieces.  And as if all that weren’t enough, he’s going each morning this week to the Children’s Theatre Workshop, a joint effort of the Arts Council and C of O.

We are really blessed to live in a place that provides so many fun opportunities for our kids at such low cost.  I guess we’ll see how fun it really is when we find out tomorrow how many lines he has to learn by Friday.