Archive for November, 2013

Water that bounces

I didn’t check the weather before walking today; I could tell it was cold by looking at the thermometer and windy by watching the few dead leave on the trees shaking.  I dressed appropriately and headed out.  Three laps were uneventful, except that for the first two a great blue heron was standing in chest-deep water, fish gazing.  He eventually (and majestically) flew off.

But as I was finishing the third lap and turned to begin the fourth, a few drops splattered on me – and no, they weren’t bird droppings from the overhead power line!  Not to worry; a little rain wouldn’t matter one way or the other, but as I walked back toward the bridge, I noticed that the rain was bouncing.  It looked like tiny white grains of sand bouncing on the shoulder ahead of me.  Wait a minutes!  That wasn’t rain.  It was sleet!  WOW!!!  Sleet is just one notch off of snow, so that was cause for rejoicing.  I turned at the end and came back, happy to think that I was getting walk in sleet instead of rain, but my first couple steps onto the bridge, I slipped.  I didn’t fall, but it was enough to throw me off balance and make me hold the top of the concrete wall for the length of the bridge.  Of course, I already knew that bridges freeze before roadways (and why), but I got some firsthand knowledge of the fact this morning.

An hour later, I talked with our bus driver friend, Tracy, who told me there were wrecks all over Branson.  Cars were evidently off in ditches on F Highway, one was slid into the guardrail on the 65 bridge over F, and there were more wrecks along Gretna.  I had errands to do in town this morning, but she strongly urged me to stay home.  A few minutes later, Scott called to say tha same thing.  He had seen numerous wrecks on his way to Springfield, including an SUV right in front of him that lost traction around Sawmill Road and slid into the median and another accident in Ozark.

By early afternoon, the roads were dry and clear, and I was able to go to town, but those bouncing white grains of water were still visible on our roof when I left.

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Nice colors

November tends to be one of our rainier months.  Although I’m not much on using an umbrella, when I have to walk some distance out in the rain, or when I know I might need to help cover someone else (older folks at church, for example), I like to have a nice, big one.  We do have such an animal – an enormous, non-collapsible model that is black-and-white striped and has two layers of flaps.  It’s just perfect.

However, several hundred people work at the same company Scott does, and that means that the parking lot is huge.  Since, as a contractor, he doesn’t work fixed hours, I suspect he sometimes arrives on the late end of the morning rush, and so may have a rather significant walk to the building.  That’s why he takes “the” umbrella on rainy days.  It usually doesn’t matter, because I’m either home or parked pretty close to where I’m going, and we do own a back-up; a collapsible navy blue umbrella with one slightly bent spoke.  In ideal conditions, it keeps one person marginally dry.

I have been thinking for several weeks that it would be nice to get a second really good umbrella, and the other day I was in Wal-Mart and finally remembered to look for one.  I knew I did NOT want a small, cheap, or collapsible one.  I actually wanted one just like our big black-and-white, but maybe in a different color.  I like bright colors, so I was really jazzed to find that (A) Wal-Mart did, in fact, carry the same kind of huge, sturdy umbrella, and (B) they had one – and only one – in bright multi-colors!!!  It looked like a rainbow.  What a score!!!  I grabbed that umbrella, paid for it, and came home feeling like a victorious conqueror.  Yee hah.

This morning it was raining when Scott left for work.  We were both trying to leave at the same time, and he initially grabbed the black-and-white (zebra), but then went back into the house for something.  I therefore took the new, colorful (rainbow) one, and Andrew and I left to go help with some things at the church, as is our Thursday morning custom.

On the way, Andrew broke to me the real scoop about the politically correct nature of my treasured new umbrella.  I had not thought a lick about this, but listening to him, I did suddenly recall that rainbows are now a symbol for homosexuality.  Sweet Georgia Peaches.  I think of rainbows as meteorological phenomena that represent God’s faithfulness!  I am certainly no supporters of the gay lifestyle, but I now have a MASSIVE rainbow-colored umbrella, and I’m pretty sure no other members of Team Roberts will be begging to carry it. Sigh.

Evidently the rainbow umbrella gave Pastor Barb pause when she saw me bring it into the church this morning, although she said nothing at time.  Then Andrew then made some comment about “my mom’s gay umbrella,” and we all talked about it a bit and laughed.  (She did tell me that she knows I’m not a lesbian!)  The whole thing made me sad, but I decided I needed to make a decision, and my choice is this:  I will hold my rainbow umbrella high and let people think what they want.  I know the truth, and in spite of our culture’s continued slide down an increasingly slippery multi-colored slope, these colors make me smile.

New game a winner

It is hard to find games that various members of Team Roberts like to play.  In fact, pleasing everyone on a game is about as challenging as pleasing everyone on a meal.  These kinds of things just don’t happen in our family.  It’s not that we don’t have a decent selection of games.  Just off the top of my head, I can think of these in the dining room drawer:

Cards (bridge, hearts, spades, and gin rummy)

Pinochle

Phase Ten

Uno

Swap

SET

Five Crowns

Quiddler

Blink

Wizard

. . . and these in the playroom:

Monopoly

Risk

Scrabble

Trail Blazer

Scrabble Up

National Geographic

Boggle

Perquackey

Rummikub

Tri-Bond

Scattergories

Probe

Hail to the Chief

Sequence

So, we have plenty of games, but for each of the 27 games listed above – and that’s not all of them, trust me – (“And there’s more!  For $29.95,  you get to organize all these games AND you get some a few MORE games; you only pay processing and handling.”)

Sorry.  Got carried away there.

As I was saying, no lack of games, but for each and every one, there is a finite positive number (integers ranging from one to five, inclusive) of family members who prefer not to play the game, intensely dislike the game, passionately abhor the game, and/or flat-out refuse to play the game.  Now that we’re down to an average of three family members in residence 73% of the time, one would think it would be easier to settle on a game, but alas, that would not be true.

After a fairly full day of (for one or more of us) a piano festival and recital, lunch at Subway, two rounds of frisbee golf, an amount of academic planning, time at the creek, the raking of an insane quantity of leaves (all from that pesky bottom corner of the back yard), the burning of said, and a fine supper conglomeration of leftover Subway from lunch and pizza baked to the specifications of our resident skink, Scott decided he wanted the three of us to play a game.  So, we started through our usual Q & A about who did or didn’t want to play what, and we just weren’t getting anywhere.  Andrew was doing the clean up, so Scott and I went into the playroom to survey the offerings yet again, and after eliminating a few games that we probably would have all liked well enough, but for which Andrew just didn’t have the breadth of life experience and knowledge to compete successfully, I spied the blue metal domino tin.

I don’t remember whether or not I’ve written about my domino issues, but they are fairly severe.  Playing with a partial set of dominoes is a lot like playing with a partial deck of cards; it just doesn’t work.  Not once, but twice I have purchased sets of dominoes that have been manhandled by who knows which kid(s) and dominoes have been lost.  It may have been our kids, but more likely it was life group kids who were stuck in the playroom and were bored and were looking at all those games are in there, and someone opened up the dominoes tin, and they were used more like Legos, and some got lost.  This is not a big deal, until one wants to play dominoes, so some months back, I bought a double twelve set in a nifty suitcase-looking silver box, and I hid them – and no, I’m not going to tell you where – so that when I want them, I can find them AND all the dominoes will be present and accounted for.

Standing in the playroom peering at the shelves under the white counter, I said to Scott, “How about we play dominoes?”  And thus the decision was made.  Being lazy, I asked Andrew, who had very nicely whipped through the three piled-up cleanups of the day, to go up and retrieve the metal suitcase of double-twelves.  Which he did.

And so we played.

This set was a “Mexican Train” set, a form of dominoes we had heard of, but had never played.  In fact, this set came with instructions for – are you ready? – SIXTEEN ways to play dominoes!  I thought that was overkill, for sure.  Glancing through the instructions, I saw the version Scott has had us play in the past.  It’s quite math-y, in that every time you place a domino, the total of all the ones on all the ends must total a multiple of five.  I can, of course, do this, but it makes my brain sweat, and after looking at my dominoes, realizing there are three that I could in theory play, running the calculations if I play the four-seven against the existing ten-four (seven plus eleven makes eighteen, plus eight is twenty-six, plus five is thirty-one, plus nine makes forty, but, oh! there’s another six down there, so shoot, I’d be at forty-six, which is not a multiple of five, so maybe I should play my eight-blank against that existing two-eight) I end up thinking, “Do I really want to work this hard to have fun?”

That version seems to be called “Muggins,” and I’m pretty sure it’s a version I will endeavor to avoid in the future.

“Mexican Train” was a lot easier and more fun, with just enough luck to give our Drama King opportunities to do his Black Mama imitation and just enough strategy to keep Scott engaged.  I won.  = )  Better still, there was no math involved at all until the very end, when one person played his final domino and the others had to add up how many spots they still had in their hands.  Low score wins, which, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, means that I won with the lowest absolute value!

We all three enjoyed “Mexican Train,” so I think it’s a keeper.

Equidistance and other ponderings

I’ve been thinking lately about the deeper issues of life.

How is it that when 17 birds (of a feather) decide to simultaneously alight on the same power line, they just happen to land almost perfectly equally spaced from each other?

And then, after resting immobile for 26 seconds, how (and why?!) do they play leap frog while still maintaining consistent equidistance?  And who decides which birdie leaps over his neighbor when?

Given an estimated yard slope of 11 degrees and a confirmed wind speed of 18 mph, which is easier:  to rake uphill with the wind, or to rake downhill into the wind?

Why is the kitchen always a mess when it is time to prepare food there?

What was Chopin thinking, anyway?  And is there perhaps something slightly, ummm. . .  wrong with people who can actually play what he wrote?

Why is it that, no matter what time the task is begun, the volume of leaves raked always exceeds the amount of daylight available to burn them?

How is it that my son rakes leaves the same way my father eats corn on the cob?

Putting on the full armor

I walk in the mornings and now that the weather is colder (16 degrees this morning, 11 yesterday), the process of garbing myself to go out almost requires a checklist.

Two major factors necessitate all the prep.  1)  I hate to wear a coat or gloves when I walk.  2)  I don’t deal well with cold wind.

Therefore, this is the current procedure most mornings.

1.  Get dressed in sweat pants, T-shirt and sweatshirt, socks and tennis shoes.

2.  Check thermometer (if I can see it; sometimes it’s too dark) for temp and weather.com for wind speed.  (This may determine whether or not I need the scarf or possibly even a coat – ugh.)

3.  Lotion hands; pull on wrist warmers.

4.  Tuck turtleneck dicky into sweatshirt to keep neck warm.

5.  Put on knit cap (no heat loss through THIS head!).

6.  Apply ear muffs over cap.

7.  Wrap scarf tightly around chin up to lower lip, with ends criss-crossed over chest.

8.  Put on and zip up neon vest (the only time I can get away with wearing yellow; also helps hold scarf in place).

9.  Pull floppy (olive drab) hat down tightly over knit cap (keeps sun out of eyes when applicable and is simply my trademark walking hat; can’t leave home without it).

10.  Affix headlamp over floppy hat (used mainly to make me more visible to oncoming traffic; also useful for reviewing memory verse cards in the dark).

11.  Grab memory verse cards and outgoing mail; pull down sweatshirt sleeves and grasp cuffs to completely cover hands.

12.  Hit the shoulder!

It takes a few minutes to get my act together, but once I do, I am generally warm and visible while walking.  Right now, it’s light enough that I only have to use my headlamp before 7:00, and then only intermittently, but I know the time is coming when I’ll be doing the full walk in the dark.  I’m not complaining, though.  I do really love my morning walks.

Jeopardy question: What is 43?

Answer:  The minimum number of hours during which every cubic inch of one’s 3000 square-foot home will smell like smoke, following the complete and total incineration of one bag of microwave popcorn.  (This figure assumes that the charred contents of said bag resemble glossy black plastic.)

Daring dessert

Sometimes I do a thing just for the heck of it, or simply to prove that it can be done.  We were invited to an evening of dinner and cards with several other families at our pastor’s house this evening.  I had asked what I could bring for the meal, and she said, “How about dessert?”  So even though we all know it’s rarely a good idea to try out a new recipe on non-family members, I did that very thing.

Given that we do have a plethora of green tomatoes, I had researched recipes that might use them, and I came up with a recipe for green tomato pie.  Yes, I know it sounds gross, but I decided to not only give it a whirl, but to take it to this dinner.  Brave, huh?

I also made a Chips of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which I figured would work for those who were not adventurous enough to try the pie.

As it turns out, about half the pie was eaten.  Bill said it was good, and Norma liked it a lot and commented that it reminded her of mincemeat pie.  I have never made or even eaten mincemeat pie, so I had no basis to respond to that.  I also got compliments on my delicious and very flaky crust, but being as how we were at the pastor’s house, I decided I shouldn’t lie.  With some embarrassment I admitted that Pillsbury deserved the credit for the crust.

Realizing that there may be among our readers someone else who is also adventurous and overburdened with green tomatoes, I will share the recipe here:

Green Tomato Pie

 4 or 5 really green tomatoes (2 1/2 cups coarsely grated)

pastry for an 8-inch, 2-crust pie

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

6 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice

3 pinches ground ginger

Put tomatoes through a coarse grater. Put in a colander and let drain overnight.

Prepare double pie crust. Line 8-inch pie pan with half. Roll out second half and set aside.

Mix remaining ingredients with tomatoes. Place in pie shell and cover with top crust. Prick holes in crust.

Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Note of curiosity:  Did you know that tomatoes ripen from the inside out?  As I began grating tomatoes for the pie, I saw that sometimes a rock-hard tomato with bright green skin would initially (near the skin) have green flesh, but as I got closer to the center, it would actually be slightly (or significantly) pink in middle!  And that was a tomato that, had it been able to remain on the vine in decent weather, might not have shown any sign of ripening for probably another two weeks.  The change occurs inside long before it can be seen outside.

I found that to be a very interesting life lesson.  = )

Like a skunk

I went down to the creek yesterday, as I like to do, and on the way there, everything was as usual, but on the way home, what a delightful surprise awaited me.  I came up Blansit, and when I paused at the stop sign to check for traffic, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a gorgeous white line, elegantly positioned between the cars’ driving lane and my walking shoulder!  I was so very, very happy.  And this morning, for the first time in six months, I did do my full walk without once having to concern myself with whether or not the passing vehicles were aware of where they should (and should not) be.

Ah, what a relief one white stripe in the midst of much black can bring!

Doo-doo

Where does it come from, anyway?

Our church has one of those hideous signs out front at the street.  You know, the kind that you put letters on, and it sits on some kind of a metal stand, and sometimes has yellow lights on the top in the shape of an arrow, and has been known to say mindless things like, “Eat at Joe’s” or “Garage sale this Saturday.”  That kind of sign.

The (stupid) sign arrived at the church long before I did, and it never said much of anything.  I decided, and subsequently told our pastor, that if we were going to have such an eyesore out at the street, it ought to at least say something useful.  And she invited me to make it do so.

Well. . . the letters were in a file cabinet in the copy room at the church; hundreds of them, all thrown, in no order whatsoever, into too few, poorly-labeled hanging files.  After church, I would search out some letters, walk down to the street with them, change the wording on the sign, and think I was finished, only to realize that I was somehow missing a U and two Ls.  Sigh.  Back up I would hike to try to retrieve the missing letters.

It only took me a few times of doing this to realize that that system was way too inefficient for my taste.  I asked Pastor Barb if she would mind if I took the letters home.  “Are you kidding?  I hate that (stupid) sign.  We really ought to have it hauled off, but if you’re willing to change it from time to time, you can keep the letters wherever you want!”  So I did.  I outfitted two crates in our cellar with sufficient hanging files, labeled them clearly, and organized the letters.  Half the letters were no good, but since I didn’t know if I had authorization to throw them out, I put them in a box, labeled it “Church Sign Letters” and set it aside.

Since that time, probably for the past year or so, I have changed the words on both sides of the sign every two weeks.  Each side says something different.  Now that I am helping in the office on Thursday mornings, I usually do it when I first get there, but a month or so ago, I started taking Andrew to the office with me, and now I have him change the letters.  = )  I figure out what it’s going to say and bring the stack of letters (in order, of course), and he does the grunt work.

Yesterday, it was cold and wet out at 8:00 AM, so I told him I’d help him.  Together, we got it done in about 14 minutes, a new land speed record, for sure.  The only problem was that the letters we took down and put in the bag were soaking wet on both sides.  They were really a mess.  I just dropped them in our little carrying bag and left them in the van while we did our stuff inside the church, but when we got back home, I realized that I couldn’t put those wet letters in the hanging files.  They’d all mildew, and that would be truly nasty.

But how to get some 30 wet letters dry without them blowing away?!?  In a flash of brilliance, I spread them out on the porch in the sun.

Words to the wise?

Words to the wise?

There they sat for a couple hours, and then I even had the presence of mind to remember to turn them all over, so they could get dry on the other side.  However, that action must have used up what was left of my mind.

Andrew and I left for choir (out the breezeway door) at 6:35 PM, knowing that Scott’s men’s group guys would arrive shortly before 7:00 PM.  Andrew and I returned home at 9:15 PM, and I suddenly remembered that I had left a bunch of dry letters all over the porch.  Those men must’ve had to step over them to get into the house!  How embarrassing.  Well, I would go get them right away, because I did NOT want them to stay out overnight and get wet again with dew in the morning.

So I bent down to pick up the first letter, and it was sopping wet!  On both sides!!!  I was too late.  Somehow, the dew had beaten me to the punch, and I was mad.  NOW what to do?!?  They had been totally dry at 4:00 PM, and now they were just as wet as when we had taken them off the (stupid) sign.  Ugh.

The only solution I could come up with was to cover the dining room table with beach towels and spread them out again.  Sigh.  Which I did.  And this morning, they were, yea and verily, completely dry, and I filed them before the ferocious dew could attack them again.

But the whole situation really made me wonder about dew.  I had assumed it came up from the ground. . . but the letters were laying on dry carpet.  Or, does it come down from the sky?  But the letters were on the porch, which has a lovely robin’s egg blue ceiling.  I asked Scott, “So does the dew come up from the ground or down from the sky?”and he immediately replied, “Both,” but I don’t know if that’s really true or if that’s one of those dad-like answers.  When I was a kid and asked a question – and I asked a lot of questions; hard to imagine, I know – my dad would answer immediately and authoritatively.  I thought he knew everything, but I am beginning to suspect that he was sometimes trying to fake me out; that he may not have known the answer, but figured if he responded quickly enough I would think he did.  He figured right.

So, I obviously don’t know where dew comes from, but I do know that it is strongly attracted to plastic letters on or related to stupid signs.

Jeopardy question: What is 230?

Answer:  The estimated number of green tomatoes I picked yesterday.

It was forecast to go down to 31 degrees last night, and since when I walked this morning, our thermometer, which always shows a bit lower than what the web says the temp is, registered 26 degrees, I am pretty sure it really did go below freezing.  That being the case, and having already covered the tomatoes on two separate occasions to try to give them more time to hopefully ripen, I went out yesterday afternoon in the windy, 38-degree weather to pick green tomatoes and peppers.

It was a particularly distasteful job, as it had rained for a couple days, and the cold, wet, slippery fruit was covered with cold, wet, slippery, slimy, dead, brown leaves.  Everything was soggy and nasty, and my hands were so cold my fingers went numb.

We have four cheap, plastic buckets, and I filled one of them three-fourths full of peppers.  The other three and-a-quarter buckets were totally loaded with green tomatoes!  Having hauled them all inside, I then proceeded to rinse each tomato to get the junk off, and I set them to dry on a beach towel on the kitchen counter.

Here’s a shot of the final batch, about a third of the total green tomato haul:

A subset of our finer collection of green tomatoes

A subset of our finer collection of green tomatoes

And on November 6th, amazingly, there were still blossoms on several of the plants!  I planted six Early Girls and four Big Beefs this year.  From those ten plants, we had all our family could eat, plenty to give away to friends, and at the end of the season about three times what you see above.

Of course, I then have to figure out what to do with all these left-overs.  My first technique has been to try to give away as many as possible.  Although I’ve never made them, many folks do rave about fried green tomatoes, so along with the nicest of the 23 green bell peppers I picked yesterday, I loaded a lot of green tomatoes into this basket and took them to church last night.

Greenness to give away

Greenness to give away

I plunked a sign in the basket that read, “FREE Green Tomatoes and Bell Peppers,” and I put some white paper bags beside it.  After church, most of the contents were gone, so I counted that a success.

A close-up.  Yes, I'm proud of the produce.  = )

A close-up. Yes, I’m proud of the produce.  = )

Of course, there are still QUITE a few green tomatoes left, and I have designs for some of them.  I threw out all the ones that had blemishes.  I loaded maybe 20 or so into a shoebox to make things with.  I have a recipe for green tomato pie, and I may try some relish or salsa.  Then I figure I really should do the fried green tomato thing at least once, as well.

The rest – probably 60 or so – are layered with newspaper in a box in the playroom to see if they will ripen.  If they do, that will be nice.  If they don’t, or if they just rot, I will throw them out and reckon it was a great year for tomatoes.  I have really enjoyed tending them and eating them, but I am ready to be done.  I am going to enjoy the extra time in the morning not watering, and if we have some sun this weekend, I’m going to dump the plants and clean and put away the pots, and won’t that closure just be marvelously satisfying?!?


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