Archive for March, 2011

2nd day of school

I think I forgot to mention that last week, Jessica had her first day of school – and I didn’t even take a picture.

She’s auditing a Chinese 2 class at MSU on Wednesdays, and as she headed out the door that day, I realized with a start, “Oh my, this will be her first day of school!”  With all the incredible places she’s gone and things she’s done, until last Wednesday, she had never sat in a traditional classroom in her life.

It’s a small class of about a dozen, and I think she held her own.  She’s behind the other students in not knowing characters, but she’s ahead of them in verbal understanding, vocabulary, and pronunciation.   She’s studying and practicing characters on her own, and that seems to be a successful approach for Our Fair Peacock; after last Wednesday’s Chinese class she took and passed her American Government CLEP with flying colors!  She devised her own study plan, collected her own materials, and disciplined herself to do it four hours a day.  All that work paid off, as she now has two college classes out of the way, with more on the horizon.

I think she’ll do extremely well in school.  = )

In praise of heeding warnings

You might ask why a cookie sheet has been carefully balanced in my washing machine all day.

I did something silly last night, but I did it knowingly, because, to her great credit, Jessica had warned me.  It’s like this.  Our whole family attends our church’s Sunday night home group.  Then Scott and Josiah also attend the Monday night home group.  At the home groups, we always have snacks.  In fact, we wonder if the food is the main reason some people attend. . . hmmm. . .  I digress.

Generally speaking, we have a sweet treat and a salty snack and some drinks at each group.  I prefer to sign up for sweet treats, because they are the easiest for me.  I don’t care for drinks, because the cheap kind (Kool-Aid) is difficult to transport without spilling a sugary mess.  This means one must buy a variety of 2-liter sodas and/or juice jugs.  Salty snacks are even worse because I have this conviction about bringing homemade things and I simply don’t have a good repertoire of salty snacks to make.  If I just buy some chips and a couple jars of cheese dip, I feel kind of guilty.  I figure since *I* prefer homemade, everyone else does, too, but on my salty nights I never know what to make.

As you can see, since our Team has attendees at groups two nights a week, it means that I am making or preparing treats of some kind two nights in a row most weeks.

Well, a few months back, Andrew (at least I think it was Andrew, but maybe it was I) found in one of our cookbooks this “easy” recipe for Pepperoni Bites.  The recipe actually had the word “EASY” in big letters next to it, so it was clearly my kind of recipe!  Jessica offered to make them up for me, and I did not complain.  (I am no fool.)  However, she told me afterward that they were a royal pain to make.  Hmmm. . .

So, when this week’s Sunday group drawing of lots had once again landed me responsible for salty treats, I thought to myself, thought I, “Everyone loved those Pepperoni Bites.  I have a stash of pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.  All I have to do is grab a four-pack of biscuits and a jar of pizza sauce and this is made in the shade.”

I was wrong.

I spent 45 minutes Sunday afternoon smushing the filling into those forty biscuits and Jessica was right; it was a royal pain.  But I decided to be cheerful because I knew they’d be yummy, AND I got to listen to “A Prairie Home Companion” while I smushed them; so I figured it was all for a good cause and I had a great attitude toward those beastly little Pepperoni Bites.  I baked them on two cookie sheets, and whipped them out of the oven 47 seconds before we headed out the door.  They’re supposed to be served warm, ya’  know.

Well, the problem was that they kind of exploded in the oven, leaving a a significant baked-on mess all over my two “air-bake” cookie sheets.  Since we were literally flying out the door (had to be on time ’cause I was leading the discussion!), I had no time to clean the cookie sheets while the mess was fresh, and when we got home three hours later, they were really crusty and nasty.

I have breakfast clean-up on the weekdays, and I knew I’d have to tackle those two sheets before I could hit the breakfast dishes, so, late that very night (at something like 9:30 or 10:00 PM), being the Suzy Homemaker type that I am (yeah, right!), I am proud to announce that I had the extreme presence of mind to soak those puppies overnight for easier cleaning in the morning.

Now, air bake cookie sheets are deep and wide, and they certainly won’t fit flat in my sink.  Not to worry.  I slid them in at an angle, filled the sink with hot soapy water, and laid a hot soapy cloth over the worst still-exposed baked-on-edness of each sheet.  I went to bed.  Oh, by the way, ALL the Pepperoni Bites were scarfed down in nothing flat and many compliments were issued to the chef.  = )

This morning, I lifted the yuckky sheets out of the cold greasy water and set them on the counter while I cleaned out the sink and prepared to strip the sheets of their nastiness.  But while I was cleaning the sink, and while the still-cruddy sheets were stacked on the counter, I heard a dripping sound.  Water was dripping from the counter onto the floor.  Detective that I am, I quickly discerned that the sheets were sitting in a huge and rapidly spreading pool of water!  On the counter!

To further complicate matters, our silverware drawer, which is right beside the sink, doesn’t fit right.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but in the nearly fifteen years we’ve lived here, that drawer has never closed properly.  We’ve even had carpenter-type people work on it, replace the gizmo thing that it slides on, re-align it, etc., but the drawer won’t close all the way.

We’re nothing if not resourceful, so when we’re doing something really messy on the counter, we open that drawer, drape a dish towel over, and shove the drawer as far closed as it will go to keep water and goo from flowing into it.  When we fail to do that, the drawer has been known to develop a puddle (deeper on the left, because that drawer, like everything else in our 97-year-old house, is not level), which leaves the silverware in its mesh divider tray sitting in the watery goo.

In that case the silverware tray must be pulled out, all the silverware washed, the tray washed, and the watery good sopped up out of the drawer and the drawer scrubbed and dried.  Don’t ask why I can describe that process in such minute detail.

So, when I heard and then saw the water dripping, I feared the worst for Our Silverware Drawer.  I leaped gracefully (NOT!) across the kitchen, grabbed a towel off the stove and slung it mightily onto the fast-encroaching puddle, mere seconds before it all cascaded into the silverware drawer.  WHEW!  Catastrophe narrowly averted.

I finished cleaning the sink, added Palmolive and hot water and plunged the first cookie sheet back in to begin scrubbing.  Even after its all-night soak with the washcloth, it required a scratch pad and some elbow grease.  Somebody remind me never again to make Pepperoni Bites!

Drip. . . drip. . . drip. . .

There it was AGAIN!  What on earth was going on?  The second cookie sheet sat in a rapidly-growing puddle, water was dripping onto the floor, and the towel I had so recently slung onto the counter looked and felt like a baby’s full diaper.  A second towel helped, but WHERE was all that water COMING from?!?!?

I picked up the second cookie sheet and prepared to baptize it, but it was HEAVY.  Very heavy.  And it. . . sloshed.

Aha!  Mystery solved.  By sitting (or actually, standing) in the sink of water all night it had somehow filled with water, which was now destined to flood my silverware drawer.  I lifted Mr. Hefty Cookie Sheet out of the water and held him over the (empty) rinse sink.  He dripped for a few moments and then stopped. So what did that mean?  The water had somehow gotten in, but now it couldn’t get out?  Where’s the logic in that?

I bestirred my gray matter and cogitated the situation and eventually came to the following conclusions.  My cookie sheet weighed three pounds because it was full of water.  It sported no visible holes or cracks, but the water wouldn’t drain out.  What would happen, I wondered, if I tried to bake something on it?  In a 350 degree oven, the water inside it would boil and turn to steam, and wouldn’t that make the silly thing explode?  It’s an experiment I’m sure the Llama would love to try (remind me to write someday about his quarter in the bathroom), but I really didn’t want to risk it, especially in my nifty new oven.  Perhaps the thing to do would be to simply throw out the cookie sheet.  After all, I did have three of them and Mr. Waterlogged was the oldest of the three.  Man, those Pepperoni Bites were costly!

On the other hand, if the water had gotten in somehow, it would have to come out somehow, wouldn’t it?  I did a little experimenting and found that it would drip V-E-R-Y slowly from one corner, if and only if that corner were suspended at an angle of a very specific trigonometric ratio, but at that rate, it would take all day for the silly thing to drain, and I honestly couldn’t tie up my kitchen sink all day.  Besides, the sink is wide open and there was no way to prop it at the necessary angle.

And THAT, my friends, is why a cookie sheet has been carefully balanced in my washing machine all day.

As I worked to adjust and balance it in its one and only drain-favorable position, I ended up turning it around, and through the heavy stains on the underside – how DO cookie sheets get so nasty on the back when no food ever touches that side?  – I was able to barely able read these faint words:  DO NOT IMMERSE.

Moral of the story:  Heed all warnings and never under any circumstances make Pepperoni Bites.

Seen in creek THIS MORNING!

As I crossed the bridge on my first of six passes, I paused – as I have been in recent weeks – to look for my good friends, the soft-shelled turtles.  So far, this spring there have sadly been no reptiles in evidence, BUT, as I looked upstream, I saw something floating with the current toward me.

It appeared to be a log, or a piece of bark, but it didn’t spin at all with the current, so I wondered if it were some kind of a dark brown animal.  As the floater got closer, I realized that it was indeed an animal, and not just any animal.  This one had a pointed face with whiskers, and in its mouth was a bark-free stick some two feet long and maybe an inch or so in diameter.  It was a BEAVER!!!  Complete with flat tail and everything!  WOW!  It was so beautiful and sleek.

As it slipped under the bridge I waited impatiently for traffic and then ran across to try to figure out where it was going with its construction material.  Without any obvious movement, it smoothly headed toward the left bank (I guess that would be rive gauche), then turned to the right and crossed back over a riffle, exactly where you’d go if you were steering a canoe on that section of the creek.  Along the right bank there, it disappeared.  Now that I know where it lives (or at least where it works for its day job) I will surely be looking for my beaver friend again.

I was so thankful to God for letting me see it.  Had I started my walk a minute earlier or a minute later, I would have missed it.

As an added bonus, just as I lost sight of the beaver, a great blue heron flew over!

In with the new!

This morning we planted our new red maple in the front yard.  He’s quite noble and suave-looking.  He’s tall and thin and has much potential.  Much like some other males in my life. . .

Anyway, after a phone call to a nursery and some online research, I have come to the conclusion that I am probably responsible for killing the former red maple by having a flower bed around it.  This is quite sad to me, because I love to grow things, not kill them!!!  However, I am choosing to have the attitude of my friend, Kelly, who, even when criticized, is thankful for the input because she learns something useful for the future.

It seems that there was too much soil (i.e. the flower bed) sitting on the ground around the tree (thereby suffocating its roots), and it also seems to be a major arboreal faux pas to allow significant amounts of soil (i.e. the flower bed) to come in contact with the base of the tree.  Evidently this made it feel claustrophobic and unhappy.

For these reasons, I will now need to re-create a flower bed adjacent to, but not around the new tree.  I have yet to figure out exactly how to do this, so if anyone who’s been to our house has input, please fire away.  You can fire away if you haven’t been to our house, too.

We are all quite excited about our new tree, and after its planting, we encircled it and prayed that it would live and not die and declare the works of God.  We also reminded it of Isaiah 55:10 which says that all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Amen and so be it.

Out with the old

Victory!

Just as the guys got home from work today, Reggie arrived in his backhoe.  In the space of five minutes he yanked our red maple stump out of what remains of the front flower bed.  He widened the hole for us, wouldn’t take any money, and even hauled the stump away.  Thank you, Reggie.

Next step:  do a little hole prep and plant the new red maple (presently leaning against the porch) in it.

A short post for my lonely little blog

Well, what happened was that Katie came home for a wonderful nine days, during which we were also spending time with and helping the Browns; then the Browns moved and Katie went back to school and there was little-to-no rejoicing as we missed them all greatly; and then we spent a week trying to get life going again.  So that is why there have been no posts to my lonely little blog lately.

However, I do want to note the following milestones (both positive and negative) for all posterity.

1.  The Browns did make it safely to Delaware in what sounds like one of the smoothest relocations in modern history.

2.  I think most of us are past the S.T. (severe tears) phase, which is a good thing.

3.  Jessica has been cleaning for Kelly and doing a lot of administrative work for the church.  These activities yield income for Jessica, happy owners for Kelly, and margin for Mom.

4.  Katie is doing well in college life.

5.  Andrew’s attitude in church was much-improved last night.

6.  Josiah will soon have a new (to him) mattress and box spring, so he will no longer have to (get to?) sleep on the floor, and he will be able to keep his room clean.

7.  Ministry is never easy or simple.  It is not possible for us to plan and schedule things that everyone can come to and about which no one will be hurt or offended.  We still try.

8.  Thanks, I’m sure, to the prayers of all the FNL ladies, I have been able to accomplish HUGE progress toward my goal of (in general) organizing my life and (in particular) organizing my weekly time commitments.  I now have a nifty yellow checklist that is daunting, to say the least, but at least I know that if I do everything on it, nothing critical will have been forgotten.

9.  Accounting is not my grace gift.

10.  Organization and communication are not Josiah’s gifts.

11.  I am pretty sure that Scott and Jessica both have ALL the gifts!

12.  Our daffodils are blooming.  They make me smile.

13.  I planted tomato, red pepper, and various flower seeds yesterday.  They are now in trays in the office closet, which is nice and warm.  Once they sprout I will put them in the attic under my very nifty grow lights.

14.  Scott’s taking me on a date tonight, so I don’t have to think about what’s for supper, cooking supper, or cleaning up supper.  Hooray!

One malted milk, coming right up

Our bedroom is almost completely painted.  All that remains is the inside of our bedroom door, which will be completed in a couple of days.

It’s really hard to convey how long, how diligently, and with what precision, Dave has worked on this painting job.  He is like a machine – he never tires, and his work is as precise at the end of the day as it was at the beginning.  He also paints perfectly straight lines without using any tape.  Amazing!

The hallway is completely painted and it is beautiful.  To set off the gorgeous paint  job, tonight Rex and Sue brought back and installed our new (actually probably more like 75-year-old) cedar-stained-maple banisters.  With the paint and banisters, our stairwell looks like something out of a magazine!  The only picture that is back up is the massive landscape one that you can only see as you head down the stairs.  We haven’t even had time to talk about which of all the other pictures to hang back up where.

The inside of the front door was not painted, because we plan to have that door replaced.  It’s been a cantankerous door for lo these fourteen years.  Although we have gotten used to not having a key for it, the fact that it now won’t even close all the way is a source of on-going frustration.

We’re in the process of having some major upgrades done as part of an energy audit.  There are a number of rebates involved that will cover a lot of the cost of making our home (supposedly) more energy efficient.  That whole thing is really another story, but while Dave was here painting today, Brett and his dad were here tearing out our old attic heating and cooling unit and replacing it (the interior part) with a new one and some new duct work.  It’s a good thing Brett’s not claustrophobic.   He spent a lot of time today with his six-foot-five-inch frame folded into the crawl space next to Katie’s bedroom.  He and his dad also made approximately 764 trips up and down to the third floor with nary a grumble.

But as I was saying about the front door.  It’s the only part of the hall area that wasn’t painted.  We had to get permission from some government entity to replace our own front door!!!  In the house we just paid OFF (praise God)!!!  It’s a 97-year old house, and even though it’s not on the National Register of Historic Places, we’re not allowed to replace our own doors or windows without permission.  Maybe it’s because we’re getting these rebates?  Our stimulus package at work?  Anyway, once Scott got that cleared, he retained Todd to replace the door.  It’s more complicated than it sounds – everything associated with This Old House is more complicated than it sounds – because he’s going to try to replace it with the same kind of wooden door we have now; except that the new one will close, and have a key, and stuff like that.  He’ll even take out the glass and put those same panes in the new door.  The kids and I like that idea.  We’re kind of partial to some of the quirks about our house, including the wavy glass in some of our windows.

We’re so very pleased with Dave’s work, and find myself over and over just walking through the Cottage Cream hall (and now the Malted Milk bedroom), just to look at the pretty paint job.