Friday, July 31, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

While getting the newspaper might be a good job for Clifford down the road, he's got a ways to go. I'll need to toss the paper onto the truck next time I throw it up the driveway. Or just keep it in my hand. Good thing I do most of my news reading online?

It's not that hot for late July / early August this year, but Dog Days still applies. Between two dogs and three children who are completely out of their minds, I'm dog tired.

Cannot wait for school to begin. Being off a tough schedule was fun for a while, but I'm over it. I want regular bed times. Breakfast and lunch at established intervals, not based on what time I manage to drag the two night owl children from their beds in the morning. Since getting back from vacation, B1 and DD seem to believe they are still on mountain time. No amount of summer reading, music practice and math games seemed to work at holding back the kids' brain rot. (Not that I was immune. My vocabulary and ability to form complete sentences has decreased at approximately the same rate as their bickering and nonsense has increased.)

The summer with the kids at home, instead of in day and away camps has been good for all of us, but I think we're all about ready for it to be over.

One week. That's what's left of summer vacation. Then, it's back to homework help, school/class volunteering, packing lunches and pressing uniforms. And... regular veggie lunches, midday run and ride time. Being able to do 90% of the shopping by bike again. No more sandwiches for lunch, or random stress snacks. The five pounds of summer weight will melt away. (Yes. I gain weight during the active summer. Who does that?!)

On a "you are not alone" note, I came across this at MomFiles yesterday:
Wow, I did not think I would say this but I am ready for the girls to go back to school. I have enjoyed having them around and they are so helpful to me but it's just time to go. I have not been on a proper schedule at all. My eating is so not right. Too much snacking with the kids around or I just don't eat on time. I am always scattered all over the place and I don't like it.

So glad to know it's not just me.

To complicate matters for the last couple weeks at home, we've hit a rainy patch of weather. Finding alternative outdoor exercise is a little tougher than when the kids were younger and happy to run around with umbrellas, splashing barefoot through puddles. Might break out the waterguns for a battle in the next rainstorm. Will have to see how B2 is feeling - has a bit of an upset stomach. At the least, I'll send out B1, DD and the dogs. The long waist leash should keep the puppy from getting into too much trouble.

Yesterday was a walk with the dogs in between downpours. Peter T. Dog is always great on runs, but usually enjoys walks as a chance to stop & sniff... every 10 feet. Drives the kids nuts, and since he's still got 15-25 pounds on the little ones, there's not much they can do to keep him moving. With Clifford tagging along though, Pete keeps moving. Can't let that little ball of fluff take away his spot as lead dog, after all. Good walk, with a little bit of playground time, during which I filled up the travel water dish for the four legged kids.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spiced Blueberry Chutney = YUM!

After first amadeus & chutney on toast, I thought to snap a photo. Good thing, as it went very quickly (and a rather messily) from this point on.

So very good. The vinegar really mellowed in the few days since canning the batch. Was a bit worried by the strong scent during cooking. Will pick up more of the Amadeus at Whole Foods this weekend, and repeat this meal as Sunday lunch. May have a 1554 belgian black instead of the unfiltered wheat beer.

On a "try something new" note for the kids, even though they were having leftovers from Tuesday, they all tried both kinds of cheese. B1 preferred the buttery taste of the Amadeus (if he had to eat it), DD loved the Amadeus, and thought the Parrano was okay. B2 loved them both, and tried to get me to trade part of my cheese for part of his dinner. (Let him have a couple more slices after he finished up veggies.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More experimenting with presersves: Blueberry Chutney & Plum Preserves

After the recent success with delicious (and properly sealed) jars of blueberry preserves, I decided to try a couple more recipes - plum preserves, and the spiced blueberry chutney I'd seen on Grist.

Along with three of the four pounds of plums and the two pounds of blueberries from my last Costco trip, I needed fresh ginger, shallots and lemons. Followed the recipe on the chutney - cut in half - but decided to wing it on the plums.

Since the plums would need extra time for sitting in the sugar and simmering off water, I started with those. Sliced the plums, then cut each slice into chunks. Mixed in 2-1/2 cups of sugar and set it at the back of the counter while prepping the chutney ingredients.

Poured sugared plums into pot and brought to boil on medium high. Added lemon juice and 1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and brought the temperature down to medium low. (Just high enough to keep it at gentle boil.)

On the other side of the stove, sauteed shallots and fresh ginger in olive oil, then added one cup sugar and four cups of blueberries. Once this came to a boil, I added lemon juice, red wine vinegar, white pepper, allspice, nutmeg and one bay leaf. After it had been at a low to medium boil for 20 minutes, it had thickened quite nicely. Ladled the hot chutney into jars which had been simmering at back of stove.

By the time I'd finished with the chutney, the liquid had been cooking off the plums for about one hour. Used the potato masher to break up any remaining chunks, and brought up to a full boil for ten minutes before ladling into the remaining jars.

All jars were sealed, popped back into the hot water pot, and "cooked" for 10-15 minutes. Once everything had cooled, I had seven jars total, all with the lids popped down.

Opening the first jar of blueberry chutney tonight, to go along with fruit, flatbread and mini-melba toast. Have some Amadeus (buttery) and Parrano (sharper tasting gouda) from Whole Foods to have with it. Just have to decide between a glass of chardonnay or some of the wonder Mothership Wit from New Belgium. (Kids are eating leftovers from last night... they liked last night's turkey/vegetable loaf so well that they asked for it again. Far be it from me to discourage them.)

And, if I've any room left after supper, I'll join the kids in toasting up oatmeal muffins from breakfast and covering them in plums.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pushing limits this Autumn

Looking to push myself a bit harder this fall. If only a little from the physical, then definitely a lot from the scheduling standpoint. I'm not sure if the prospect of regaining my mid-day exercise time has made me lose my senses, but I'm thinking about filling many weekends this autumn with events. Considering a few new events, in addition to the races I enjoyed last year. Not just races for myself, but a few for the whole family. (Or whichever portion of the family in town that week.)

8 - Dog Days Run, 5k
At least one family member will be gone this week, but B2 and DD should be up for doing this one. After all, it's a technical shirt with a dog on it. They have race shirts with tigers, pigs and possums, but no dogs.

4 - Midnight Flight (Anderson, SC)
Think this year I'll push myself a bit, and run the 5k and 10k, back-to-back. Not sure that I'll take the whole weekend like last year, but I will definitely sleep in at the hotel Saturday morning and drive home by the slowest route possible, with stop(s) for delicious food & reading.
26 - Big Peach Sizzler 10k
Enjoyed run/walking the Big Peach 5k with B2 this spring. He won't be able to make the longer distance, but chances are I can get the 15yo B1 to run it with me. (He'll probably beat me, too.)

3 - Ted's Montana Grill Stampede 5k
This is a maybe. The race is downtown, and post race food includes sliders, so I'm all for making a day of it with the kids, and adding a trip to the Georgia Aquarium after the race. We'll see though, because the next day is...
4 - 1st Annual Locomotive Half Marathon & 5k
The idea is for kids & dad to run the 5k while I'm running the half. If we do the 5k on the 3rd, it may end up being just me. Or B1 doing the 5k, since he's old enough to hang out while I finish the HM.
17 - Big Peach Fall 5 Miler
This one would be just me, and largely depends on whether or not I sign up for...
24 - Carolina's Challenge Metric Century (Spartanburg, SC)
The ride is a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a cause I'd be glad to support. It would be my first "official" ride, and is in the town where I graduated HS. Rolling past all the things that have changed in the last 20+ years could be fun.
31 - Silver Comet Half Marathon
Definitely running this. Might even wear some sort of costume - or at least orange - since it is Halloween. Chances are good B1 would be running this as his first HM, if he'll do the work and get out of bed for training runs in Sept/Oct. (Yes, he'd probably finish this faster than me, too.)

Not sure what, if anything, I'll schedule us for in November, but the one event I'm planning on is the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day. It worked out so well last year, I'm hoping to convince my family (and any relatives who wish to visit) that having our big family dinner on Friday is a perfectly good tradition to build. After all, even without all the money we'll be spending on race fees, there is no way I'd be participating in Black Friday shopping madness.

Now, to get everyone signed up for any August and September races, then figure out what comes next. And by next, I mean October through December of this year. I'm not quite ready to talk about where I'm thinking about setting the bar for 2010.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Behold the poor, pitiful puppy, banished from the cozy sofa on Saturday night. Not for being on the sofa. I'm fine with snuggly dogs. Not for bringing his chew toy on the sofa with him. I can appreciate the snuggly puppy with a teething ring. What I'm not fine with is having my wrist used as a teething ring by the snuggly puppy on the sofa. I think Clifford has designated Mommy and Peter T. Dog as his favorite things. Or maybe we just taste good. Either way, Clifford needs to learn that Peter T. and I are not chew toys. Pete's better at getting the message across, with a bark and a bit of shunning. I'm hoping a "NO" and being booted from the sofa will work as the human equivalent.

Aside from that, it's been a good week for learning around the house. The kids are learning to keep tasty toys, shoes and "stuff" off the floor, along with learning to recognize the signs of a young dog in need of a trip to his favorite potty spot under the magnolia tree.

I've learned that the coffee table isn't a safe spot for folding laundry, unless I was looking for a reason to run laps through the house, retrieving the socks Clifford steals. He's not chewing them, just trying to start a game of chase. It's very much like a baby deliberately dropping things from the high chair, just for the fun of mom or dad picking it back up.

Peter T. Dog isn't really learning anything, but he seems to be having fun being a teacher. On a family hike at the Chattahoochee River trails, he was not-so-subtly asserting his place as official scout by walking directly in front of Clifford to keep him from passing. And, during our normal side trip to the boat ramp for a doggy cool-down, Clifford was initially shying away from the water. Pete walked up to Clifford, chuffed in his general direction, and walked into the water. Only after seeing Pete soak himself would Clifford set his paws in the water at the edge. When Pete cooled off with his normal lie-down in the shallows, Clifford walked about a foot into the water and sat. Never took his eyes of the grown up dog. (I watched.) Clifford sat in the river until Pete stood up and shook out the water. Clifford tried to shake on his way out, but with far less grace. He fell over midstep, providing the whole family with a good laugh. I'm pretty sure Peter T's snort was an amused snort.

Anyway, after 4.5 miles of walking and a bowl full of food, both dogs are napping quietly by my desk.*

*Darn. Tried to get a picture of the two dogs. Peter T. Dog wasn't as sacked as I'd thought. He noticed the camera, and moved to the other side of the desk. (It wasn't even the camera with flash - just my phone.) Clifford, the chalk outline puppy, didn't even stir.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grocery Challenge - At the halfway point

Slightly past the halfway point for the year, but I'm making progress on dropping the regular weekly grocery budget for the family into the range I tried out for one month last year. Getting my weekly shopping information into Google Docs has taken a while. I put all the weekly totals into a spreadsheet, and found I lost my ability to add a list of numbers properly, at least by the old paper & pencil methods. Somewhere over the last six months, I'd gotten off by about $40. Not sure if it was an incident (or three) of reversing numbers in transfer, or if the children and old age are taking their toll by erasing the basics of addition from my mind.

As far as errors go, it's a good one. My botched YTD was higher than the correct number, so I'm glad to admit it. I'm not going to go back through every single shopping trip, item by item. But, I will pop a snapshot of the year so far right here:

I haven't managed to get the weekly average below the target of $25/person (or less), but I'm getting closer. With the last few weeks of summer, there's a bit more "junk" food than there will be once school starts. Popsicles for handing to kids during outside chores in the heat. Ice cream and cones - so I can easily head off requests for $2-3 frozen treats at the pool. Single serve snacks, juice boxes and pre-sliced apples for hikes, bike rides or mommy pool camp. Between those items and the fact I'm shopping with the children throughout the summer, I look forward to the totals continuing to drop over the next few months.

The ongoing "try something new" suppers are a big part of the difference. By treating a few meals each week as experimental dinners and letting the kids make suggestions for how recipes can be altered to make dishes more kid-friendly, we're finding ways for everyone to eat the same meal, though sometimes with slight kid/grownup variations. I'm not cooking two completely separate dinners very often anymore. If I have a hankering for a really spicy curry dish, or something they've tried and truly disliked (like the pan-crisped deviled eggs on french lettuces), they get cheesy pasta and veggies. Other than the snacks mentioned above, we really don't have much in the way of heavily processed foods.

Here's the weekly lists for the last few weeks. I know the YTD and average don't match up... like I said, my math skills are not what they once were. Thankfully, there's technology to make up for my failings.
Week 28 - $96.67
Week 29 - $91.78
Week 30 - $106.33
Week 31 - $102.58

**Shoot. Along with my diminishing math skills, I've also forgotten how to correctly set up a batch of images for conversion. Will need to grab the last week and add to post in a bit.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Yeah?! Well, your feet smell like cheese... and death"

Overheard while packing the cooler and sunscreen for afternoon at the pool.

Said by B2, as part of a strange conversation among the children involving the sniffing of flip flops. Cue the hurt feelings, arguments and waterworks.

It's official. As of this afternoon, I'm ready for summer to end.

Until then, I'm adding a beer to the cooler, in place of my regular iced Dr. Horrible's Tea of Evil.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In a jam

Blueberry Apple Jam... YUM!

Whole Foods has had fantastic looking two pound containers of blueberries on sale the last couple of weeks. Went through blueberry scones, blueberry oatmeal crumble cake, blueberry waffles with the first package, along with sprinkling a few berries in every bowl of yogurt, ice cream or cereal. This weekend, I decided to try my hand at preserves.

I make jams, chutneys and jellies - in small quantities which go in the fridge or freezer. Have never tried official "preserving" before. Picked up a dozen half-pint ball jars at the local Ace, dug out my largest pot, and got all the necessary implements ready to go.

4 cups blueberries
2 grated granny smith apples (with skin)
2 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Bring to full boil for 10 minutes. Add a small pat of butter if the juices get foamy. Turn off heat and ladle into hot jars. Seal and place back into large pot of hot water. Bring to boil and cover for 10 minutes.
Cool for 24 hours. Check seal on jar lid when cool. If the center of the lid pops up after pressing, store in refrigerator or freezer. If lid center stays down, it's sealed, and can go into the pantry.

All four jars sealed, so we're good to go. The little bit extra was used up right away, on a batch of cornmeal waffles.

Now that I know I can do it, I'm going to try something savory, while the blueberries are still a bargain. I found a recipe for Spiced Blueberry Chutney over at, and am hoping to try it out later this week. A batch of pint jars might be in order soon too, as the grape and heirloom tomatoes in the garden are growing like crazy. When the yield is greater than we can eat fresh in a few days, it'll be time to put up jars of tomato basil sauce and spicy corn relish.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation Photos: This year's "awkward" shot

Every year there's one shot taken, usually by the children, that must be immediately deleted. Usually taken at an upward angle. Up the nose, just right for creating a triple or quadruple chin. Mid choke on a bite of food, while in the process of getting up from table, so as to get a photo with the perfect storm combo of closed eyes, open mouth... and a view straight down the bathing suit top. It's always the worst shot of the trip, and it generally seems to be my luck to be dead center.

Not this year. In sorting through the images restored from the deleted memory card, I've managed to recover most of the vacation photos which disappeared when the laptop was stolen. And, in the tradition of shots taken of mom at awkward angles, highlighting my least favorite attributes, here is this year's shot. It was taken at Garden of the Gods, while DD and I were scrambling to get a better look at some of the holes in the rock. Higher up, beyond where we climbed, the birds fly in and out of the many holes in swooshing waves, looping around and back into the nests. There were many parts of the trip which were wonderful, but the mini-adventure with my daughter was definitely a highlight.

I'm going to treasure this photo, expecting next year's crop to be back to normal.

Is multi-tasking a personal style idiom?

In putting away the laundry today, I realized I never exactly got around to my summer wardrobe updating this year. Earlier this year, I had plans for buying a couple of sundresses, finding some sandals which would fit both outdoor activities and looking cute (if still outdoorsy) with previously mentioned sundresses.

That's not to say I haven't purchased anything. I've just done my shopping with a different point of view, and at sporting goods stores.

A running skirt and pink singlet (tank) by Nike. The water resistant zipper pocket in the skirt has been a lifesaver in keeping the iPhone nice and dry on rainy or hot & sweaty runs.

A couple of Royal Robbins and Columbia tanks with built in bras, in moisture wicking materials.

Cycling skirt by Novarre (in black), to replace the thinning and fraying Sugoi wrapskirt.

My only purchases from a typical clothing retailer? One pair of khaki bermuda shorts and a lightweight collared shirt from Old Navy, to replace stained/wornout items.

My summer uniform is all about the multi-tasking this year. I'm always in one of the new tops, other technical tops or my lightweight fitted T's paired with running skirts, khaki shorts or the marvelous hiking skort I purchased at REI last summer. On rainy or cooler days, the cargo capris I purchased for $3 at the thrift store, two years ago come out of the drawer. Footwear is almost always running shoes or a pair of ballet flats, unless we're at the pool.

If an outfit can go from baking breakfast muffins to hiking by the river with kids and dogs, hopping on the bike mid-afternoon for a trip to the store, followed by strapping on the hydration belt and going for a run... that's what I'm wearing.

So much for being a "put together" mom. I know I'll never be the "stylish" or "glamorous" mom, and that's quite alright. I don't have the patience for the higher maintenance which goes with those style types. I'm long past the "new mom" style of wearing whatever will be the easiest to hide and/or wash out the various substances which are produced by babies and smudged by toddler. I'm not in the "frumpy" category, at least I hope not.

After the kids head back to school next month, I should be able to segment my wardrobe a bit more. Along with having definite times for certain activities will come the chance to be a bit less multipurpose when getting dressed. It's going to be almost like shopping when I start perusing the closet for non-sports related outfits, those first couple weeks of the school year.

It's definitely time to do a bit of thinning and updating. I'll be hitting the color posts over at The Space Between My Peers, Inside Out Style and a few others before doing any shopping. My preferred color palette has been shifting over the last couple of years. I'm starting to like more variety in colors, and my standard base color has somehow moved from black and grays to shades of brown.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


We're all loving the new family member, runny wet puppy nose and all. The cold should be clearing up, so we'll be seeing less of the runny part of the wet puppy nose soon.

He and Peter T. Dog are still getting along quite well. Playing chase around the house is all the rage with them, even though Clifford does occasionally forget what he's doing and wander off, mid-game. (It's the grasshoppers. They're very interesting. And so are fireflies.) When he does get distracted, Pete comes back, snorts something - I like to think it's "neener-neener, can't catch me" - then takes off at a slightly slower run to let Clifford keep up.

The kids and dogs play together very well too, but I think I've got myself two 4-legged babies now. I'm used to Pete coming to me for reassurance, but now there's two. Not a problem when I'm at my desk, or curled up on the sofa with a book. But in the kitchen, it's becoming quite the adventure.

This is a photo of the furry boys during my ironing the other night. This is pretty much how they land in any room where I stop for more than five minutes.

My kitchen is a good old (except for the appliances) 1950's ranch house kitchen, meaning it's tiny. Pete's favorite spot is dead center of the stove-sink-refrigerator triangle. I'm used to stepping over his stretched out form, as he pretends to nap while secretly hoping for dropped food. With two dogs sacked out in the middle of the kitchen floor, cooking looks more like a strange new form of hopscotch. And, when you add children getting silverware for place settings and passing dishes to the table... think Twister.

Speaking of kitchens, the dishwasher just clicked off. It's time for me to take myself and the 8-legged furry obstacle course back into the kitchen.

Tomorrow morning is going to be Clifford's followup on his little suture site infection, along with Pete's annual checkup. After clean bills of dog/puppy health, it's into the bath for the both of them. They both have the hot weather dog smell about them, and Clifford's fur is a magnet for dust and pollen during his exploration below furniture and thick hedges.

Bicycle built for two

Had intended to rent a city trike for the reluctant cyclist at the shop in Hiram, but they were closing early today. Drove back in to Mableton and rented one of the tandems from the Silver Comet Depot today.

B2 (almost 10) hasn't ridden a bike since the big spill last fall. He was only scraped up a little, but Dad's arm took two metal plates and 16-18 screws. Threats, cajoling and bribery have all failed to get him to try on his own, and at half my weight, there's no way for me to keep him balanced on the third wheel trail-a-bike.

After a study of the solid frame, two wheels and comfort saddle, he decided that one minor threat and promise of mid-ride Nutter Butters were sufficient to get him to try riding again. We let the single riders of the family get a head start, while we did a test spin around the parking lot. B2 was very nervous starting out, and I was prepared for the worst.

By the time we'd looped around and were getting ready to turn onto the trail, this is how the conversation was going:

B2: Hey! We're not wobbly.
Me: Nope, we're not.
B2: This bike is pretty stable. I think I like just having two wheels.
Me: So... you're okay with heading out now?
B2: Yeah.
Me: Need those Nutter Butters?
B2: No. I'm okay. I think this will be fun.

Within five minutes, B2 was telling me all about how he likes the bike, and loves riding with me. We had a pleasant five miles out, stopped for ice water (and nutter butter cookies), and headed back. The way back was filled with more pleasant conversation, as we tried out code words for when his feet slipped off the pedals. We finally settled on "Heinz". That was my cue to coast for a minute, so he could "ketchup".

Really great experience. And not just because it wasn't the constant worry about him throwing a fit and causing a crash. (Fit meaning deciding to go totally passive in protest and let the front rider do ALL the balancing - and it's happened... like during the crash last September.) In discussing the ride with Dad later that evening:

Dad: So? What did you think about riding the Tandem? Want to try it again sometime?
B2: No.
B2: ................[long pause*]................
*Moment of being utterly crushed as my hopes for happy family 2-wheeled day trips are dashed.
B2: I want to go again next weekend. Or maybe in three days.

Needless to say, I'm very, very happy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tire Troubles

That ride to store on the just-out-of-the-shop bike?

Beautiful ride on the way to Trader Joes. Flowers, dried apples, cinnamon pita chips, brie... yes, I did stretch a bit to create a "must have" shopping list.

On the way back, I was edged to the right of the white line by a cell-phone talking driver in an SUV. The bike lanes are useless on Johnson Ferry. White line, six inches of asphalt, then an uneven joint to the six inches of concrete & curb. No way to get around a smashed beer bottle, and not enough time to stop.

Front tire made it through in one piece. The back tire was slashed open and instantly flattened. Had to walk the last third of a mile home.


On a silver lining note, I guess The Duchess will be getting those whitewall tires this weekend, and I'll be getting more practice at switching out tubes, tires and putting everything back together. Think I'll be looking at heavier duty tires this time around, too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bike Love!

Picked The Duchess up from the bike shop today. With the right cables & housing installed, all 10 gears are available and shifting smoothly. The fellows even managed to soak the bolt on the seat post free, so I can adjust the saddle height.


Am so excited, I'm scanning through my reasonably well-stocked pantry, looking for an excuse to ride to Trader Joes this evening after the rush hour traffic has died down. Surely there must be something I need for breakfast tomorrow.

If not, there's always dog treats, a bouquet of flowers and a couple bottles of Three Philosophers or Project Happiness White.

Must. Ride. Today.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dog blogging

Dragged the teen out of bed this morning for breakfast/cartoon duty with the younger two, so I could get in a run with the dog. The teen's going to be crabby all day, but... too bad.

It's been a few weeks, so it was just short run. A couple of miles (1.95 miles, 9:15 pace) with Peter T. Dog, sunshine and the sounds of birds and not-too-distant rush hour traffic. Yea!

It was a tiny bit of good exercise for the both of us, and a much needed bit of peace and quiet, away from noisy children and teething puppy.

That's right, I said "puppy." Clifford, intended to be Peter's packmate. Pete's been mopey since coming home from his two weeks in the country with dogs, cats and horse. A younger dog is supposed to give him a bit of zip to keep active and happy in his old age. It's worked well for my mother's dogs over the years, and the vet suggested it last year. The final straw was last week, when I was reading Radley Balko's blog. The kids were passing by the computer while I was on his normal Sunday dog blogging. It was a puppy blogging post. In looking at the cute photos, my little girl read the story about the puppy being a pal for his older dog. The lobbying began.

The intention when we visited the Atlanta Humane Society (no kill shelter) was a 6-12 month medium dog, preferably female. Found the perfect dog, 6 month old Annie, a beagle/terrier mix. Went back again the next day with kids & Pete, to make sure the two dogs got along as well as the first day, and to bring her home. That's when we met Clifford.

At 2 months old, he's bigger than the almost-grown Annie. He's a Collie/Shepherd mix, so has quite a ways to grow from his current 20 pounds. In fact, the general consesus was to purchase a crate for a future 70 lb dog, but not to be surprised if we have to go larger by the time he turns one. He's teething. He's so young that housebreaking isn't going to take until he has bladder control. He likes to flip over water dishes and play in the puddle. He's not good on a leash yet, as the older puppy was. He's on antibiotics for an upper respiratory thing, and for the minor infection at his sutures (post-neuter). And, did I mention he's teething?

He's an absolute sweetheart. Playful, but not in a crazy way. Sleeps through the night, as long as his crate is by my bed. Pays attention when Peter backs him down with a sneer for too much ear/tail nipping, so there's been no growling or big dog bites. Only a couple of messes in the house over the last week, mostly due to children not quite knowing the signs of when a puppy goes from general sniffing to sniffing for a spot.

As for perking up Peter T. Dog, it seems to be working. He's now happily herding Clifford in loops around the house and yard a few times each day, instead of just napping in a sunny spot. (I make sure he still gets some time for peace and quiet in his nap spot, sans puppy.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Reading

I am zipping through the books this summer. Not audio books, but good old-fashioned printed books. It has a lot to do with being home with kids. I thought there wouldn't be time for reading, but there is quite a bit.

Some is during the daily 30-60 minutes of enforced "quiet time." Figure if the kids aren't allowed to play games or watch television during that time, it won't hurt for me to follow the same general rule. Most of the reading is poolside though. I do get in and swim, but have no desire to spend three solid hours in the water.

So far this June & July:

Robinson Crusoe - Don't know how I made it through grades 1-12 (never went to kindergarten) without reading this, but I finally got around to it. I liked it more than I thought I would. I knew the story - who doesn't? - and knew I'd like the tale, but thought the style might be dry. I was wrong. The writing is more formal than the books I read to the children each evening, but it's not at all stuffy. The details of survival and character study were quite engaging. It was interesting how much it felt like reading a book after seeing the movie based on it.

Finished up Nation of Sheep by Judge Andrew Napolitano late last week. I'd have finished it several weeks ago, but misplaced it while packing for vacation. (It turned up on the kid's bookcases, between Emmy & the Incredible Shrinking Rat and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, two good books, though for a different audience.) It very clearly spells out the violations of the rights guaranteed to American citizens in the name of National Security. You hear all about them in any conversation with a Bush bashing liberal, though never so clearly explained. What's funny - and not in a ha-ha way - is that you could swap out "terrorist" or "homeland security" with various economic crises of the last year, and see how the same arguments to pass the Patriot Act and appoint new homeland security heads and hire thousands of employees are being used to pass economic stimulus bills, appoint financial czars and take over private businesses in the current administration. Maybe I should pick up Higg's Crisis and Leviathan sooner, rather than later?

Thud and Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett. Until reading the book written with Neil Gaiman, I'd not read any Pratchett. After reading Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, I started on the Discworld series by Pratchett. Really glad I did. Think the kids will enjoy these someday. Especially B2, who seems to have a similar sense of humor and is developing book habits like mine.

Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes. I highly recommend this book, even if you're not a runner. It's truly inspiring. It doesn't make me want to run through Death Valley in the middle of the day, but that's not the point of the book. It does firmly remind me that I can do anything I set my mind to, and push beyond limits I don't even know yet, if I only try. (This is a book the kidlets will read at some point.)

Seeing as how I'd misplaced the Napolitano book while packing, I grabbed Terry Goodkind's first book from the Sword of Truth series before taking off for Colorado. After finishing the re-read of Wizard's First Rule, I had to start on Stone of Tears, which lead to the current re-read of book three in the series, Blood of the Fold. Only seven or eight more to go... can't stop part way through the story. (What if it ends differently?)

Other current books are Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg and A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz. The subject of the first is fairly obvious, so I'll just say it's been interesting so far. I've always been curious about Burr, but the story of the duel with Hamilton in Founding Fathers, and some of the events leading up to it, set me to looking for more of the story. The Horwitz book - full title A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America - is really good, both in information shared and his wonderful writing style. If he were teaching history classes, I can't imagine anyone finding the subject dull. Right now, I'm reading of Horwitz's research trip to the Dominican Republic, in the chapter on the curse (or jinx) of Columbus.

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 27

Week 27 Shopping:
Trader Joes - $28.17
Costco - $120.15
Trader Joes (bike) - $24.06
Total - $172.38

2009 YTD - $3,665.52
Average weekly spending - $135.76

Still a bit higher than I'd like, but there was still a bit of restocking to do for both pantry and freezer. I took the June coupons to Costco for a few things I knew we'd use, and decided to buy the big pack of chicken breasts, onions and potatoes while there. The potatoes and vidalias have been definitely been worth it, but I'm not quite sure about the chicken. The two packs I used from the refrigerator were quite good - I'd say as good as the regular chicken breasts from Whole Foods. The Costco packs used from the freezer so far have been a bit stringy, though still tasty. If freezing poultry, I think I need to stick with the super-fresh from the Farmers Market. Even though the packets were "never frozen", they don't thaw out quite as well as the straight-from-the-butcher-counter breasts.

Supper Wars
Didn't try anything brand new this week, but did re-try a few things which have not gone over so well in the past. Meatless burgers being one of them. We bought boca burgers at Costco because of the coupon, but the samplers were handing out pieces of the store brand portobella & garlic burgers, which two of three children said they liked. Next time, we'll get those, because they were delish!

Snacky Dinner: Brie, Cilantro/Chive Yogurt Dip, Pita Chips, Red Wax Gouda, Baby Carrots, Berries & Apples
Went with a movie night. Mostly a hit, sort of. B1 didn't care for the yogurt dip; other two did. B2 still doesn't like Brie; other two do. DD is still the only one who eats strawberries...

Boca Burgers, Roasted potato & vidalia (foil packets), spinach salad
Burgers declared edible, but not good. Wasn't the texture, which surprised me. B2 suggested I use worcestershire sauce, so it would taste more like a real burger. As usual, kids enjoyed taste of potatoes cooked with onions, but skipped eating any pieces of onion.

Brinner! Turkey Bacon, Spinach Omelette, Whipping Cream Biscuits
Less whining this time, but there's still more spinach left on the plate than eaten when the egg is all gone.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Chicken Basil (Thai)

Spicy Basil Chicken (or Tofu) with rice or noodles is my standard order in a Thai restaurant. It's one of those dishes I always think "I could do this at home" but never actually try. Probably due to the spicy part of the name. The younger kids are just starting to be okay with flavorful spicy. Hot spicy is still a while in the future.

But when we came home from vacation to a planter thick with Sweet & Thai Basil, I decided to give it a shot. Googled "Thai Basil Chicken Recipe" and started sorting through the many, MANY results. Skipped anything which was attached to a particular brand of sauce, television show or magazine. Narrowed it down to two recipes I could work between to get the dish I love in restaurants... minus some of the heat.

Chicken Basil Recipe from ThaiTable
Spicy Basil Chicken from Thai Food & Travel

Once you get over being hung up on not having packets of Holy Basil in the pantry, it's really a very simple dish. Chicken, basil, garlic, peppers, lime, fish sauce and oil for stir frying. Steamed rice on the side.

Sent kidlet outside to gather a small bowl full of both types of basil from the planter, set other kidlet to juicing a couple limes. Here's what I did to make it for the picky members of my crew:
  • Cut two boneless skinless chicken breast fillets into very thin, 2" long strips. Put them in the freezer for 20 minutes before cutting, so they'd be easier to handle. (Recipes called for ground chicken or chopped chicken thighs.)
  • Used a little over a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed Indian red pepper, since there'd been no thai chili peppers at the store. I could have substituted jalapeno, but didn't want to. (Would use more than 1/2 tsp if not making for kids.)
  • Added a thin sliced Vidalia onion. The one recipe called for shallots, but it's summer in Georgia, which means I'm happily putting Vidalias in just about everything.
As with any stirfry, the ingredients are important, but the magic is in the timing. The recipe from ThaiTable has step by step photos, which made it very easy to get the timing right.

My plating wasn't as pretty as this lovely finished photo from their site, but nobody seemed to mind. All the plates returned to the kitchen completely empty, so I'd have to call this a keeper.

Will probably try other versions soon. Tofu, most likely, with ribbons of egg.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Silver Comet to Chief Ladiga Trail

Rode the Silver Comet Trail on Saturday. Not my normal rides on the trail - rode the whole trail. The family was out for a short hike and a movie. (Ice Age 3 - something I really didn't have to be there for.) They were available for me to call in case of equipment failure - either bicycle or rider - but were planning to meet me at the Georgia-Alabama state line.

The first 20 miles of the trail are pretty well populated, but farther out, it gets to where you might go 10 - 20 minutes without seeing anyone. Didn't pull out the phone until I hit the point on the trail which had been my farthest point until Saturday.

Weather hot-ish, but not oppressive. Not very humid, and there was a nice breeze for most of the afternoon. Lots of stops along the way.

Picked up honey roasted peanuts and chamois butter at the Silver Comet Depot. (4.3 miles) So glad I did, as I'm not sure I'd be able to be sitting at my desk today - two days later - if not for the chamois butter.

Hopped off at The Chain Station in Hiram (14 miles?) for a break, and to grab more water. The breeze kept me from being drenched in sweat, but I'd gone through most of my first bottle. Had a talk with the bike shop owner about rentals while I was there. He has a city tricycle (think that's what it's called - upright, not the low to ground model) which he thinks he should be able to adjust from adult size to accomodate a 10 year old. Might be just the thing to get B2 back on the trail. He's refused to ride since the big wipeout last fall. If we can get him out on three wheels, maybe he'll get over thinking about which bones can be broken in a tumble.

Was extremely happy to roll past the 25 mile marker, between the Pumpkintown Trestle and Brushy Mtn Tunnel. At that point, it went from feeling like just another long ride out-and-back to exploring.

Coots Lake was the next stopping point, at 33-34 miles. Bought a big water to refill one bottle and top off the other, then enjoyed honey roasted peanuts and banana chips before heading back out. Am very glad I installed rear rack. Would have been a tougher trip without it.

Paused in Rockmart, to snap a few photos for sending to the family for my promised updates. (Supposedly to let kids in on the journey, but actually to reassure dad I was still alive & rolling.) They have a beautiful park along the creek (may be a river, but it's a small one), with shops and restaurants just off the trail. I can see this being a good turnaround point after stopping for lunch on future long rides.

Between Rockmart (39-ish) and Cedartown (51) there were remote sections and rolling hills. The trail zig zagged a bit when crossing roads, and this played a part in my "walk of shame" up a hill. Had to go up and over to follow the trail and didn't build up enough speed for the one and only big climb on the trip. Switched to granny gears, stood up in the saddle, and... lost my balance. Had to unclip FAST to get my feet on the ground. No way to get moving fast enough to clip in again, at least not for my clumsy riding style, so had to walk the last half of climb. Made the most of it by pulling out the vitamin water and the rest of the peanuts. (Ugh.) From that point on, it was rolling, so could build up momentum for each climb. Cedartown Train Depot was closed when I got to town, so sent a photo to the family, and kept pedaling west.

The section from Cedartown to Alabama was lovely, but definitely qualified as remote. I think I saw only five people during the last nine miles, and four of them were together. Rode through Gateway Park at the AL-GA state line a little after 4:00. Had gone about a mile down the Chief Ladiga Trail when I got a call from the family. They were back at the last Georgia trailhead. Was a nice lazy ride back to Esom though. Had a chance to snap a photo of Bloo at the Silver Comet Trail side of the gate, in addition to the Chief Ladiga.

62.77 miles in just under 4.5 hours, including breaks. Glad I did it, as it's good to know my legs can take it. If not for my sore seat, thunderstorms, and kids who wanted to play Monopoly, I'd have been out riding again on Sunday.

*Had a chance to listen to several podcasts I'd fallen behind on over vacation. Listened to Gardner Goldsmith's three part series on rights from Liberty Conspiracy (early June), and to the FreeTalkLive episode from June 20th with an hour of Walter Block. They were discussing Block's great book Defending the Undefendable, and it kept my mind quite busy, which probably helped distract me during the tougher part of the ride. Great discussion on "slumlords", in addition to a discussion with a caller about the self-ownership / ethical arguments for voluntary cannibalism. Yes, that's right. Voluntary Cannibalism. (Only something you'd ever hear from diehard libertarians.)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

On a good day... recognize the signs before an incident of sibling terrorism happens.

And on a really good day, that potential for hair-pulling, pencil jabbing and gadget throwing can be turned into a silly photo op:
This is on the way back from the Alabama-Georgia state line. Family met me at the Esom Hill trailhead on the Silver Comet Trail. They saw Ice Age 3 in 3d, went for a short hike, then met me at the end of my quest to answer the question of whether or not I could handle 60+ miles in one ride. (Longest ride until yesterday was 50.) Means the goal of doing a metric century this fall is reachable.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Heading to Alabama

All packed up, and ready to strap the trunk bag onto Bloo's temporary rack. Taking the Silver Comet all the Way to Alabama, 60+ miles. Two tubes, levers, pump/CO2, bare bones tools and a rag. Peanut butter pretzel sandwiches, banana chips, and an emergency GU. It's supposed to be close to 90, so I've two bottles of water, with spare drink in the trunk. There's places to stop along the trail, but I'd rather not chance running out, my first big outing. Have the sunscreen and chapstick...just need to check the charge on the phone, and I'm ready to go.

Not sure I'll be able to make the ride all the way back, seeing as how this is my first over 50 ride. We have it timed so that I can meet back up with the family in Cedartown this afternoon. They're going to a movie and out for a short hike, then we'll all grab BBQ (or Mexican) on the way back home. If I'm feeling great, will start early morning next time, and do the whole thing out & back.

So excited. There's super views once you get into the rural areas. Tunnels, big trestles, rivers, and all the things you'd expect with an old passenger train line. At least that's what I've heard. Today I'll find out!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How I spent my Mommy Pool Camp free time...

You can lead a horse to water...

...then pop the trunk bag and grab a drink.

That's a 10 calorie Vitamin Water sticking out of the bag. I'm usually a water only person, but have to switch to alternating water and electrolyte beverages for the summer months. I'm not one of those women who "glisten" during workouts in the heat. I'm a completely-drenched-with-a-flaky-shell-of-salt-crust woman. The lemon and orange low cal vitamin water flavors are okay, but I prefer the Cherry Lemonade enhanced water from Whole Foods, as it actually tastes like cherry lemonade, and not just a chemical representation. (Fortunately, Whole Foods is not far from the house... great excuse for a ride.)

Next week's Mommy Pool Camp free time will be spent as plain old "Mom" (frequently said in exasperated tone, sometimes with eye roll), as I'll be going for a trail ride with the 15 year old. OMG - still can't get used to saying that number in reference to B1

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tourism by Detours

I have a view of vacations which is not always popular with my children. Ask kids where they want to go, and you're bound to get a list of theme parks. Or the kid-themed cruises. Ask my kids, and you'll get some of the same answers. Tough, I say. (Fortunately, I'm backed up on this one.)

I remember going to amusement parks as a kid, but they're sort of a hazy blur. The childhood vacation memories which stuck with me are of digging my toes into the sand along a creek bed. Putting worms on fishing hooks. Toasting marshmallows over the campfire and burning my tongue when I pulled them off the skewers with my teeth. Pouring over maps. Cheeseburgers in diners. Racing to finish a book before we reached our destination, so I'd get a brand new book for the drive back home.

Hoping to instill a sense of adventure in the kids, we don't do theme park vacations. We'll go to Six Flags here in Atlanta, and will bend to a birthday trip request for Sea World or even Universal - which is very affordable when it's just the birthday kid and a parent. But vacations are for getting out and doing something we can't do at home. Spending a week in the mountains of North Carolina on the river, with tubing, hiking and horseback riding. Camping in New Hampshire and swimming (some diving) in the icy waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. Renting a house and spending a couple of weeks exploring (and doing nothing) around Apalachicola Bay.

While we like to go someplace and stay there, the journey is a big part of it. We've seen some truly beautiful sights on the long drives, from a sunset while crossing the Washington Bridge in NY to miles of migrating butterflies in Florida. The long drives usually involve a little bit of time off the interstates, too, giving us plenty of opportunities for detours.

Carlsbad Caverns was one of those detours. A look at the New Mexico map on the way back to Santa Fe from Capulin Volcano - yes, an off-the-beaten path destination on it's own - sparked a discussion of how close we were to Carlsbad. By close, I mean 5-6 hours out of the way, but what's that in the middle of 1,500-1,800 mile trek?

The drive to get to Carlsbad was all highway, and part of it was on the Historic Route 66, which made for some cool "ghost town" driving, and an amazing sunset to our right after we turned south. Drove through Roswell, NM after dark, which gave the children great entertainment... alien head street lamps and a UFO shaped McDonalds. (My photos are missing, so this image is from the livejournal of a fellow named brennando).

And Carlsbad was probably one of the favorite road trip stops of my life. It was wonderful to be sucked into the enchantment with the kids, and to have conversations about not just the science and history of the geological monument, but to weave the fairies and greek gods from our trip audiobooks into the conversation during the miles long walk through the caverns.

The photos from the camera may have been lost, but here's a few of the images taken on the iPhone.

Oh... even the food in the cafeteria by the gift shop was delish. I expected high prices like you find at most tourist stops, but the meals were worth it. They had the typical beef hot dogs you'd expect, but we got bean or chicken burritos in tortillas made with organic flour and FRESH green chili sauce, a spicy pulled pork which is far better than from my favorite mexican spot at home, and a grilled chicken salad on locally grown mixed greens. (No, didn't eat all of those things. I had the burrito, but was sharing across the table.)

Mommy Pool Camp = Best Idea Ever!

Okay, it's not the idea that going to solve world hunger and global energy issues, but it's really high on my list of GREAT IDEAS this summer.

One of the other moms came up with the idea a few weeks ago that it would be nice to get the kids together three hours each Wednesday afternoon. Between the four moms, we each take a day and provide snacks and our skills at waterlogged child herding, while the other three get some much needed time to think in complete sentences.

As a bonus, the children will be able to break into groups that don't necessarily include the siblings they're beginning to get sick of during summer break.

Today is not my day for herding, so I will be taking The Duchess out for a ride, and then visiting the bike shop to put together an official list of what I need to do to get her 38 year old frame & gears ready for a metric century this fall. Hopefully, it's doable. Though I'd be happy to take Bloo (road bike), I like the idea of doing my first metric century on the old Raleigh 10-speed, seeing as how she's my age, and this ride will be one of those milestone events for me.