Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Trick-or-treating was very odd this year. Because of changing daylight savings time, it was still broad daylight out at 6pm (our normal start time). In fact, it was still awfully light out when we finally went out at almost 6:45. I think the kids got tired at about the same time as when we went out earlier in years past. We were home around 7:30, which is about normal, but hit many fewer houses. They still seemed to get plenty of candy though!

I have pictures of the kids from tonight, but Blogger isn't cooperating about uploading them. Sigh. I don't understand how some people can get 6 or 8 or more pictures in a post. I struggle to get 2 or 3 to load. Trust me, the kids were looking good in their costumes. I'll post photos tomorrow

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween party at church

We had our annual Halloween party at church Saturday night. A has known that he wants to be Harry Potter for weeks now.

Harry is an amazingly easy costume to pull off - especially since we've done it probably half a dozen times already. I think M was HP twice for Halloween and this is probably A's 2nd time too. Plus they have each been HP for the book character parade at school at least once. But there is always some issue - Sat night it was not being able to find a wand. In fact, we still haven't found a wand, so perhaps A will be hunting a stick sometime before Wednesday.

M couldn't decide who/what he wanted to be. Finally last week he decided he wanted to be a vampire. Sounds easy enough... but wait - I have to make a cape?? Fortunately I mentioned this to my mom and she just so happened to have a cape that she made years ago for my brother. Even more amazing, she was able to put her hands on it in just moments!!! Wow. Of course it was too long for M, but a simple hemming job took care of that. M would have liked a more standy-up collar and a red lining, but he was pretty happy with the costume. Then, Saturday afternoon, he tells me he wants his face pale. Uuhhhh. We tried cold cream and flour - NO. Definitely not working. His face looked paler once we slicked his hair back, but he still wanted paler. Again, I was saved - this time by a friend at the party who just happened to have white face paint. What do you think?

M won the "scariest" costume for the "big kid" category. I think it turned out pretty good!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where M gets himself off to school

This morning A had "Pastries with Parents" at his school. Nice pastries and a chance to see other parents and kids. All well and good, except that pastries were from 7-7:30, and then I needed to check on something at school and I wasn't sure I would be back in time to hustle M onto the bus.

Now, M is a morning person (actually all the males in this family are morning people. I am NOT), so getting him up in time to get ready is rarely a problem. He was up by 6:15 this morning, had breakfast and even a shower by the time A and I left for pastries at 7. So, M was all ready - what's the problem you wonder? Well, its the computer - it sucks M in and consumes all his time (or rather all his time plus a little more). M was convinced he could get himself off fine, I was a bit worried. We compromised - I set a timer for a few minutes before he needed to leave. As things went, I was pulling in the driveway just as M was leaving the house - at a perfectly appropriate time for the bus. Yay for M! He said he didn't even need the timer, but it made me feel more confident, just in case the computer video or webcomic was too interesting to notice it was time to stop.

I get to go have pastries with M at his school next month. None of the bus worries then, as pastries will be starting after A's school has started.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

more on M and the walk-a-thon

M at the walk-a-thon:

M raised $168 (so far) for his school PTO. This is a big deal for him as he doesn't like approaching people. But he took the initiative and asked me to help him make a sign-up sheet (he had left his official form at home) at church on Sunday and went around asking people for donations. The fact that he can win prizes of cold, hard cash for raising money helps his motivation I'm sure!

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Monday, October 22, 2007


A's class had a session on goal-setting with the counselor last week. A decided his long term goal is to be an entomologist. Oh, yay, more bugs in the house - as if the cats didn't bring in enough already...

A decided that the steps on the way to becoming an entomologist are:
Study hard in entomology (gifted class he's taking this semester)
Get good grades in Challenge (gifted classes)
Study insects in college
Finish college

There were statements to finish:
I think I can achieve my goal with this plan...
- because I made it.

I believe my goal is important and I can achieve it because...
- It is my life-time goal

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


Walk-a-thons to raise money for the school seem to be all the rage suddenly. Both kids schools added one this year, and I know I've read of some other schools doing them too.

M came home early on in the school year all excited about the walk-a-thon. Raise money (some for your favorite teacher or program - he chose his technology teacher), win cool prizes, etc. I filled out the permission slip and he got a sticker that allowed him to cut in the lunch line or the library line. Oooh aaah. Big stuff. Then a sponsor form came home. I dutifully agreed to sponsor him - at $1 per lap number. ie $1 for lap 1, $2 for lap 2, etc - with a total donation cap of $50, though, because they were billing it as a 20K, consisting of 14 laps. If he had walked all 14 laps, that would have been quite a donation! ($105, as M learned how to figure consective addition in math class).

But, after getting my sponsorship, nothing else happened. I suggested asking grandparents. My mom even promised she would sponsor him, but he never actually asked her. The last few days he decided he didn't want to go walk. "What's the point - I'll only get a few dollars...not enough for a prize." and "I hate walking. I never wanted to do this." However, we decreed that since he signed up, he had to go walk.

So this morning, we headed off to his school for the walk-a-thon. We got there and got signed in, M still grumbling. I sent him off to get started and said that A and I would follow. And we did, though far enough behind that we weren't exactly sure where M was. Then M must have passed us at the end of the first lap, while A and I were looking at the silent auction items. I bought some cookies to support the chorus and A and I waited for M to give him his cookie - by the time we met up again, M had completed 3 laps. He still wasn't thrilled, but was in a better mood and was seeing some of his friends and listening to his iPod. We went back to the car so M could change out of his sweatshirt and into his walk-a-thon t-shirt, then I sent M off again while A and I headed home for lunch. We could have stayed there and bought hotdogs for lunch, but I figured M would keep walking more if we weren't there.

We came back a little after 1, to see the "surprise guest appearance" of his principal's band. M allowed that they were "OK". By this time, he had completed 8 laps, of roughly a mile each - and about 11.5K, so a good effort (and one that A informed me would cost me $36).

I have a picture to go with this, but unfortunately blogger isn't inclined to let me get pictures tonight, so maybe I'll try adding photos tomorrow...

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Fake Italian dinner

Or rather, it was dinner with a fake Italian accent. I can't remember how it started, but suddenly M was talking like Mario, in a VERY fake Italian accent.

M: Why-a I hava to eata my pototo-as?
me: Becausa if-a you don't-a, I will haffa to maka you swima witha the fishes.
M: I can-a swima witha da fishes.
me: without-a your head-a...

Somehow its just not the same in print. I guess you had to be there... There was much laughter and finally the dreaded pototo-as went down the hatch.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

North African Beef Stew

It's what's for dinner.

And it was yummy too. Served over couscous.

For some unknown reason though, neither kid liked it. Go figure. A usually likes everything, but he said he didn't like the sauce - such as it was. It was supposed to be a bit more soupy, but I didn't have the diced tomatoes the recipe called for, so I subbed crushed tomatoes with extra puree - made it a bit thicker of a sauce.

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New Dryer, Finally!

Since our dryer died, oh, about 2 months ago, we have been hanging clothes out to dry. We had a bad spell where it was humid and threatening rain for most of a week, when it was really hard to get laundry done. Of course, we're in a drought - it didn't actually rain more than 0.1 inches that whole week - but it certainly threatened to rain.

On Friday I went to the S*ears scratch and dent outlet store and looked at dryers. I had looked elsewhere and checked out C*onsumer R*eports and had some ideas about dryers. The dryer manufacturers change model numbers faster than I can keep up. And different stores have slightly different models - that may be the same or then again, they may not. Reminds me of shopping for mattresses - ugh.

Anyway, I was at the outlet and WOW, there were a LOT of dryers. Looked like more than were carried by my local S*ears, but maybe that's because there were multiple dryers of the same model at times. It was rather mind-boggling.

I was intending to get a fairly basic model dryer, not the bare bones model though. I wanted a no heat cycle and some sort of sensor drying. I didn't particularly want a touch screen. Well - here's what I got:

Yep, its got all sorts of bells and whistles - touch screen, interior light, etc. But it was too good a deal to pass up. Evidently it sat on the outlet store floor too long and it was a "manager's special". This dryer was priced way less than some of those basic models. It was roughly 1/3 the original price. WOW. And this for a dryer that was the best rated one I saw in CR.

Today was another of those overcast, humid days. So, I actually used the dryer for a FULL cycle. Well - I did pull out D's pants and 2 dress shirts about 10 minutes into the cycle so that they wouldn't get wrinkly while I was over at the school volunteering.

Every time I glance over at the laundry area, I think I must have left the dryer door open - but no, I'm just not used to seeing the inside of my dryer while its closed. And the capacity of this dryer is HUGE. It loooks like A would fit in there (NOT going to happen, but still). My full load of wash looks rather puny in the dryer.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Double Kitty Love

As its gotten cooler, I often get a cat on my lap when I sit down in the favored chair (or sometimes when I sit in any chair - like right now I'm typing one-handed because I have Shadow on my lap and arm).

The other night Pounce was in my lap when Shadow came by. He looked at my full lap (I tried to convince him to lie next to Pounce, but no go). Then he walked down past Pounce and settled on my lower legs.

I enjoy cuddling with a kitty (or 2), but 2 down the legs is a little odd.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fall, finally

It's finally beginning to feel like fall.

Warm days, cool nights. I've gone from opening the windows at night and closing them in the morning, to leaving them open all day, now to closing them at night and opening them during the day.

We went to a football game last night and the weather was great. A bit of chill in the air, but not too cold. I had brought a blanket, but we didn't need it - just sweatshirts.

The cats have decided that they like being closer to us humans as the weather turns cooler. Many nights Shadow sleeps at the foot of our bed most of the night. Some mornings I wake up to find Pounce snuggled up in front of me. And the cats will come sit with me on their favorite chair. For long periods of time - like an hour or more.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Progress reports, already

It's hard to believe that the kids have already completed 1/4 of the school year. My, how time does fly. But here it is, early October and they came home with progress reports today. No surprise, both kids had very good report cards. And there really were NO surprises since I can check their grades online. So, for instance, I knew that M had brought his reading grade up to a 90 with a grade his teacher entered over break.

It is still nice to see those good grades in hard copy. And then I got to sign them and they get sent back to the school tomorrow.

M's 90 was the lowest grade between the 2 report cards. I think everything else was in the 95-100 range. And yes, there were several 100's. Indications to me that the kids aren't being challenged enough. I don't mind so much the 100 M got in his "foreign language" class. Note the quotes - I'm still not exactly sure what they were learning, but it sure as heck wasn't how to speak a foreign language. They learned a few phrases each in various languages, including Spanish, French and Latin at least - maybe others. Most of the grade seemed to be based on taking notes, open notes quizzes and class participation.

The other things I got a kick out of from the report cards was the comment section. Evidently they have a canned list of comments that the teachers can insert. M got multiple "Conduct Satisfactory" and "Excellent Student" comments along with a smattering of other pleasant comments. A didn't get the multiplicity of comments, having the same teacher for all academic subjects, but he got a couple of nice comments also. Plus a needs improvement comment that he "needs to pump up his writing with more details and use adjectives or specific verbs to enhance his writing" - this on a writing/grammar grade of 97. To me, and as I explained it to A, that means that his writing is grammatically correct for 3rd grade level, but that he needs to work on "painting a picture with his words". I also think that his teacher feels a need to show that there is something he needs to work on.

Both kids had ice cream at lunch one day this week already in celebration of the great report cards.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

No more watering

Last week the state declared the northern 1/3 of our state was in severe drought - they called for level 4 watering ban. That means NO outdoor water use - no watering the lawn, no washing cars, etc.

Now there are a few exceptions. You can still water a food garden. You can water if you draw your water from a private well, spring, stream or lake. The people in our neighborhood who live on the lake generally have a pump to use lake water for their lawn - that's ok still. You can also water new landscaping for 30 days - but ONLY if it was professionally installed.

Car wash businesses are still allowed, but not charity car washes (they aren't set up to recycle the water). Outdoor fountains, even those that recirculate the water are not allowed - I'm not quite sure why on this one - maybe they loose too much water to evaporation and then they have to replenish it?

They're saying that unless we get a lot of rain this winter - much more than normal, we may well be in a level 4 watering ban still next summer. That will hit people a lot harder than no watering here in the fall. Plus, no filling of pools. I hope people don't drain their pools this winter.

I haven't seen anyone violating the watering ban yet, but I wouldn't be surprised. All summer people were watering and washing cars on the wrong days/times of day (we were on an odd/even watering system, with water use allowed only between midnight - 10 am). I've seen in the paper that many people still aren't aware of the ban, and that people are being turned in anonomously.

For us, it doesn't mean a whole lot. I don't really believe in watering the lawn - I haven't intentionally watered it in the 8 years we've been here and it's still doing fairly well. (It has gotten byproduct watering from the kids playing in the sprinkler or when I used to water the shrubs and the sprinkler would also get some of the grass.) The plants that need watering are getting it from our "grey water" - we have buckets in the shower and any water collected from while we shower or while the water warms up gets used on the plants. The plants got a bonanza last night - both kids took baths instead of showers. I must have taken out 10 2-gallon buckets full of water.

As you can see, my Gerber daisy is doing quite well, even in this drought.

The snapdragons are even holding on - some of them look a little ragged, but these are ancient snapdragons.
Around here , snapdragons are supposed to be an annual - these have become perennials. I planted these at least 4 years ago, expecting to get one winter and one spring out of them and then they were "supposed" to die in the heat of the summer - sort of like pansies. Only my snapdragons never got that memo...


Sunday, October 07, 2007

A acolytes for the first time

This year, since A is now in the 3rd grade and has options of ways to participate at church, we gave him 3 choices of ways to participate:

be an acolyte
sing in the choir

A has chosen to be an acolyte. (M, who has the same choices, chose to sing in the choir, as the least odious option).

They held the first acolyte training session last Sunday - while we were on our way up to the Smokies. Needless to say, A wasn't at the training. Yet, he was scheduled to be on the altar today. So, I called K, who heads up the acolytes and alerted her last night. She apologized for the scheduling him so soon - none of the new acolytes were supposed to be scheduled before the 2nd training in 2 weeks. But K said she would meet with A this morning and give him a quick run-down on his duties.

I was a little bit worried that A was going to protest about going up there without training, but nope, not A. When I told him he was acolyting today, he said "fine".

The other acolytes helped him find a robe - the smallest size they had was too long in the arms for him, but they rolled up the sleeves a bit. And then they tied his belt on for him and got him a cross.

Here he is just before going into the church:

He was a torch-bearer. There are 2 torches, so they act together. They were twins, today - the other torch is also an "A". I told A to just watch the other A and do the same thing. I couldn't see A for most of the service, but everything seemed to go fine. He was reminded by one of the other acolytes when it was time for him to do something. And he did it - with a smile on his face.

Afterwards, he got many comments and compliments on how well he had done. A's take on it - "it was fun".

Good going, A!

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sticker? What sticker?

Another interesting visitor on our camping trip was the lovely "Stinky Sweatsock Casserole" sticker. It was just lovely to have along. M got it out of one of his magazines the day before our camping trip. M put it on someone, they put it elsewhere, etc.

Well, Saturday night before we went, M put it on my pillow just before he went to bed. When I discovered the sticker, I snuck into M's room and put it inside his suitcase. HA.

So, when M went to get something out of his suitcase Sunday night or Monday morning, he found the sticker. "Hey, who put this in here?"

And then he put it on someone else.

Of course the whole idea is to put it on someone without their being aware of the sticker. We all wore the sticker at various times - some of us longer than others.

Here M realizes that he's just been "stickered".

Here's A with the sticker, not realizing quite yet that he's been "stickered".

And M wanted to make sure there was a picture of me with the sticker. I realize that the only way you can tell its me is by the hair, but still, there I am with a sticker.

At one point, the sticker tore when D took it off his back. D then managed to put half each on M and A. A didn't realize it and wore his sticker on his back for several hours. If you didn't look closely, it just looked like a graphic on the back of his shirt.

I think the other half got thrown away.

M was always pretty good at noticing the sticker on himself right away, so I had to resort to other placements. On his pillow in the tent. On the bottom of his sleeping bag. And the last one, on the way home, inside the pillowcase on his pillow - not to be discovered until he went to bed here at home. I haven't seen the sticker since then, so maybe I got the last laugh. Or maybe I just haven't discovered the sticker's new home...

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Plan B for dinner

For the last two nights, we've planned something for dinner, only to discover, when cooking time rolled around, that one or more ingredients couldn't be found. Why, you might wonder.... Well, because the contents of my pantry are STILL contained in bins and totes in the dining room (hopefully safely moth free). Or else they are secreted randomly in the freezer - either the fridge freezer or the big freezer in the garage. So, I have a major hunt for ingredients every night.

Last night was supposed to be tacos, with the sale ground beef that needed to be cooked that day. Only problem - I couldn't find the taco seasoning or the bulgur (we mix bulgur half-and-half with the beef - tastes great and a bit better for us). So, plan B was hamburgers. They were yummy and had even been considered earlier and rejected since it was supposed to rain. But, since it wasn't raining at 6, D was willing to grill.

Then today, D suggested chicken stir-fry. Sounds good, we've had a good bit of beef lately, so I took out the frozen chicken breasts to thaw. However, I neglected to find the rice mid-afternoon. I thought it was on the counter with the flour, but evidently I tucked it away somewhere from the bugs. I peered in every bin and I poked around in both freezers, but I didn't manage to come up with the brown rice. I know I threw out the white rice as it had gotten infested, but I was sure the brown rice was still around. Oh, and I found the taco seasoning I was looking for yesterday, but still not the bulgur. I guess the grains are all hanging out somewhere together having a party without me.

Anyway, tonight ended up being chicken fajitas, since the chicken was thawing and we did have the tortillas and the rest of the ingredients.

M says he likes plan B better, having enjoyed burgers more than tacos and fajitas more than stir fry. Though he probably would have liked tacos about as well as fajitas, assuming I had remembered to take out some ground beef before I "sullied" it with taco seasoning. His tacos and burritos tend to be meat and cheese only. Usually with some raw green pepper on the side. Only tonight I didn't have enough extra green pepper, so M had raw carrots as his other veggie (we also had pea pods).

Unfortunately I'm still finding the odd moth around, so I'm not ready to unbox the pantry yet. I need to go ahead and paint in the pantry. Maybe all the paint fumes will do in any remaining moths.... I can hope!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Today's entertainment

We had lovely backyard entertainment today. Oh, and a little bit in the front yard too. But mostly in the back - with front row seating on the deck. Of what? Why, the tree guy came today. We got to watch guys climbing trees - one of the guys was trying it for the first time - he never made it any higher than in this picture:

He was about 10 feet off the ground.

We got to watch trees being topped. TIMBER!!!

And then thud, thud, thud - as the chunks of tree trunk came down.

It was really cool to watch the guy rapel down the tree once he'd gotten it to a managable height where they could just drop it. No pictures of that, but the kids enjoyed watching.

And we now have a BIG pile of mulch in our depression. Once raked out, it might even fill up the depression temporarily.

And, why, you might wonder, are we cutting down all these trees? Because they are dead and/or dying. Here's one, where you can see the mess the grubs and beetles have made under the bark.

I even got to see one of the grubs from the "munching tree". You could actually hear the bugs eating on the tree early in the morning.


Thursday, October 04, 2007


We saw various sorts of wildlife while we were in the Smokies.

Wild turkeys:

Deer. Lots and lots of deer.

We saw 2 deer in the campground the first evening, just 2 campsites over from us.

Then when we went on an evening hayride (in a flatbead 18 wheeler, or so it seemed), the person counting deer, supposedly counted 89. Wow. There were a LOT of deer, but I'm not sure there were really 89. 50 at least, though.

Squirrels aren't so odd to see, but this one came up really close. He stood right next to D's chair. If D had reached down, he could have touched the squirrel.

We even saw 2 bears - yearlings, we think. I took a picture, but can't for the life of me actually SEE any bears in the photo, so I won't post it here.

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Good eating while camping

It was quite interesting getting ready for this camping trip. D and I discussed it as we pulled out the kitchen boxes - we think it was 3 years ago that we took all the kitchen gear on a camping trip. Wow. I can't believe it's been that long.

We've been camping plenty of times since then - just usually with the Scouts where they handle all the cooking needs. When we went camping this summer, we took a cooler and the marshmallow sticks (cooked the hotdogs on them for dinner one night too), but not the cooking boxes (we didn't have room for them in D's car). We've camping generally twice a year with the Scouts for going on 6 years now. And some years more often - though usually if they camp in the dead of winter I stay home to keep an eye on things. Yeah, right. I just don't like camping in freezing weather.

Anyhow, we decided to look for recipes for our dutch oven. We found a great one for lasagna. Only one problem - it feeds an army. This is after dishing out servings to each of us:

We did all go back and have seconds (the only other thing for dinner was bread, heated near the fire), but there was still a LOT of lasagna left! Enough that we all had it for dinner back here at home last night. And one serving that M had for lunch today.

We debated whether we could reheat the lasagna there at camp. We didn't end up trying to, but I think I will look into the idea. We all enjoyed the lasagna, but... there really was too much of it. I would definitely make it again if we had more people.

We made one other meal in the dutch oven - German pancake. Yum. D mixed up the batter here at home, so all he had to do in the morning was start the charcoal and cook the pancake. The recipe calls for dusting it with powdered sugar, but we hadn't brought any, so oops. I had thrown in some honey sticks at the last minute, so we each had a tube of honey on our pancake. Quite tasty.

Other meals weren't quite so fancy. We cooked sausages over the fire one night. Followed, of course, by s'mores. Sandwiches for lunch each day. And a mish-mash of fruit, sweet breads, yogurt, oatmeal, cocoa, coffee and tea for breakfast.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just back from camping in the Smokies

The kids are on fall break from school this week, so we decided to take some time and go camping. We headed up to the Smoky Mountain National Park for a few days. We had a great time, but there's always lots to do to unpack from a trip - different from packing for the trip, but not necessarily easier.

We saw some great views of the mountains.

I've got a lot more pictures, but blogger is being very slow about letting me post them - so hopefully more tomorrow.

Now to sleep in my own bed!


Just back from camping in the