Thursday, October 29, 2009


I remember when the answer to "What should we carve this year?" elicited characters from Disney, various comic books, Nick Jr and Nickelodeon. Blue, Dexter (the labcoat wearing 1st grader, not the serial killer), Bob the Builder & Pilchard, Spiderman... even Bender & Zorak have been on the list, along with aliens, black cats and spiders. Not this year.



"Zombie cannibals... that eat baby pumpkins"

So, after a little bit of time on google, they presented me with a few options from Here's what happened:

And, I don't remember what was going on right at this particular moment, which is probably for the best...

After many hours, and a whole lot of squishing about in slimy pumpkin guts...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

There are no cows in space.

(***Nerd Alert***)

I had so much fun watching Monday night's episode of Castle on ABC. (Don't judge too harshly... it's a fun show. And, it has Nathan Fillion. The stories are clever and rather campy, which makes it a perfect show for kicking back and disconnecting from the chaos of a typical Monday.)

The show was everything you want a Halloween week episode to be. Supernatural references, graveyards, curious subcultures, hauntings, and extra camp. As much as I enjoyed the whole episode though, this opening made my day. From the brief flash of the gunbelt, I knew exactly what we were about to see.

And, in a brief follow up to yesterday's bookshelf post, I placed the show's tie-in novel Heat Wave in my Amazon shopping cart last weekend. With my next purchase, I'll be indulging in a bit of guilty pleasure reading about one Nikki Heat. Just out of curiousity, what do you call the fictional character in a book who is the fictional version of a fictional character?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bookshelf & - What I'm Reading

I've been really bad about reading over the last few months. It's not that I'm not reading enough, though I don't think it's possible to read too much. It's having four, five, or more, books going simultaneously.

Where I used to have three books mid-read at all times (fiction, non-fiction, and read-aloud-to-kids book), has made it possible for me to have a similar thing going on the iPod/iPhone at the same time. Audiobooks for long bicycle rides, housework, family car trips, etc... Makes it a little hard to keep track sometimes.

Started listening to Stumbling On Happiness during our cross-country trip this summer. Figured I'd have drive times with sleeping children and navigator and would appreciate the company of a book which kept my brain active. Fortunately (occasionally unfortunately), I had company for all those hours, so books from the Artemis Fowl series kept everyone entertained for much of the driving. At home with the kids, there was no way to listen. With the return to school, and more opportunities to steal away for an hour (or more) of cycling/running, I was able pick back up on the book by Daniel Gilbert, starting from the very beginning:

What would you do right now if you learned that you were going to die in ten minutes? Would you race upstairs and light that Marlboro you've been hiding in your sock drawer since the Ford administration? Would you waltz into your boss's office and present him with a detailed description of his personal defects? Would you drive out to that steakhouse near the new mall and order a T-bone, medium rare, with an extra side of the reallybad cholesterol? Hard to say, of course, but of all the things you might do in your final ten minutes, it's a pretty safe bet that few of them are things you actually did today.

Now, some people will bemoan this fact, wag their fingers in your direction, and tell you sternly that you should live every minute of your life as though it were your last, which only goes to show that some people would spend their final ten minutes giving other people dumb advice. The things we do when we expect our lives to continue are naturally and properly different than the things we might do if we expected them to end abruptly. We go easy on the lard and tobacco, smile dutifully at yet another of our supervisor's witless jokes, read books like this one when we could be wearing paper hats and eating pistachio macaroons in the bathtub, and we do each of these things in the charitable service of the people we will soon become. We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy. Rather than indulging in whatever strikes our momentary fancy, we take responsibility for the welfare of our future selves, squirreling away portions of our paychecks each month so they can enjoy their retirements on a putting green, jogging and flossing with some regularity so they can avoid coronaries and gum grafts, enduring dirty diapers and mind-numbing repetitions of The Cat in the Hat so that someday they will have fatcheeked grandchildren to bounce on their laps. Even plunking down a dollar at the convenience store is an act of charity intended to ensure that the person we are about to become will enjoy the Twinkie we are paying for now. In fact, just about any time we want something—a promotion, a marriage, an automobile, a cheeseburger—we are expecting that if we get it, then the person who has our fingerprints a second, minute, day, or decade from now will enjoy the world they inherit from us, honoring our sacrifices as they reap the harvest of our shrewd investment decisions and dietary forbearance.
I love reading about why and how people make decisions in their lives. I'm not sure if it's an off-shoot of looking at my life with the question "what the heck was I thinking?!" - which I'm not sure I like, as it seems terribly self-absorbed, or just a genuine interest in what makes people tick. (Of course I'd like to think it's the latter, and that the armchair quarterbacking of my own decisions is just the most convenient.)

While hearing about how our brains look forward in time and use imagination to create a picture of what to expect, I got to see it happening right in front of me, in the way my children remember, and feel about, the same event in completely different ways. The different scenarios they play through in their minds before really did have more to do with their feelings about things in the longer term than the actual event itself. A school event my daughter gushed about for days in advance is now remembered as "so much fun", even if she had more fun running around with her friends after than in the auditorium. My son, who complained for days ahead of time about how lame the same event would be, had a blast. Maybe it was a subject he loves, or the activities suited his hands-on style... he loved it. But a few weeks later, if you ask him about it, he remembers as the whole evening as being "so lame." It was pretty cool to see the book in action. (Well, the kids do that all the time, but it was fascinating to notice it and watch the process take place.)

Stumbling On Happiness is one of those few audiobooks I plan to also buy in print. Okay, maybe not that few, once I consider the growing list of books which fit this category, including: Logic of Life, Predictably Irrational, Founding Brothers, The Undercover Economist, and the non-fiction audiobook I downloaded this month, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.

For the current books with pages:
On the end table by the sofa, for nightly reading to kidlets - The Hobbit, by Tolkien. So far, they seem to like it. Wasn't sure how it would go, since the attempt to read Fellowship of the Ring didn't sit so well a few years ago. Of course, that was when DD was in Kindergarten. Her restlessness at sitting still for something a bit beyond her was contagious. We aren't having the same trouble this time.

On the nightstand - The Weight of Silence, by Heather Gudenkauf. This isn't my normal type of book, but comes highly recommended from a friend. Just started reading this last night, and am already beginning to get sucked in to the story, so maybe it's time to break away from my typical book genres.

On the iPhone, for when I feel like something escapist - The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Simon Jones. I listened to this a couple years ago on a car trip with the kids. Started listening again last week, when I accidentally removed Outliers from my playlist during a sync. Bartimaeus & Nathaniel are just as much fun the second time around.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Supper Wars: Spaghetti with Sweet Potatoes & Ricotta

Another recipe from the Real Simple magazine Month of Easy Dinners. We've tried four or five over the past two weeks, and I'm sorting through photos to post while I can still remember what the kidlets had to say about them.

The first was the Gnocchi & Roasted Cauliflower, which garnered three positive reviews, one neutral, and one "why are you trying to kill me?" The good news is that all three children have now decided potatoes can be a part of pasta, and have asked if I'll make gnocchi again. (Though only one wants it served with the cauliflower next time.)

This time, Spaghetti With Sweet Potatoes & Ricotta. Stuck very close to the original, aside from making a little extra pasta, since I'm feeding more than four, and adding a few more dollops of ricotta at the end. Knew adding extra sweet potatoes would be pointless, since the two boys weren't going to eat more than one or two token bites of that ingredient.

It took 10-15 minutes to get the ingredients together and prepped.
While doing this, the water was heating for the pasta. Means this
recipe completely avoids pushing one of my big frustration buttons ofsupper-prep, the hurry-up-and-wait stage. Kept busy the whole time, and not just because I was being bombarded with homework questions from third, fifth and ninth grader.

Once the spaghetti was drained and set aside, I rinsed the pot and put it right back on the stove, with olive oil for the sweet potatoes & shallots. That's correct, same pot, which hits another high point of an "easy" meal... less cleanup!

While the potatoes & shallots cooked, I prepped broccoli for steaming, shaved parmesan, and chopped rosemary. (And came up with a 3rd grade level interpretation of wikipedia's entry on metamorphic rock, checked a math worksheet, and repeated "no, you may not watch tv" at least three times.)

By the time for adding pasta back to the pan, along with rosemary and scoops of ricotta, the kidlets were clearing away homework and setting the table. About the same time the last napkin was placed , the first plate was ready for the table.

Like with most meals which the adults like, this met with mixed reviews from the kidlets. B1 & B2 LOVED the ricotta, liked the flavor, but HATED the sweet potatoes. (This is after saying they liked the flavor of the pasta which had been tossed with the sweet potatoes... Ack!) DD was not a fan of the ricotta. Something about the texture when the ricotta is on it's own - she likes it as a filling for lasagna or in ravioli. She did like the sweet potatoes very much, though.

General kid consensus - neutral, leaning toward good-ish. If I want to make it again, that's okay, but could I please not give any of them the parts they don't like. Since this is a little difficult to do with something cooked all in the same pot, TOUGH. I will make it again, and they will eat exactly the same way as they did this time - token bite or two of the least favorite part, then scarfing down the rest.

The recipe in Real Simple says this meal takes 25 minutes. I didn't get it prepped and cooked in 25 minutes. In a perfect world, working in a perfectly ordered kitchen, quiet children studiously doing homework with nary a question, sure. But even at 35-40 minutes start-to-finish, this is still a keeper for easy suppers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Morning Reads: A lazy post

Not quite together enough to edit the post I typed up over the weekend, so I'm taking the lazy way out and putting up a few things which did almost as much as my cup of coffee to get me moving this morning.

Followed a link from Slamdunks over to A Police Wife. PW's husband, aka Hot Fuzz, writes about his first death on the job. It's a very moving post. It was the death of an infant he'd performed CPR on. HF also writes about a young man whose late night concert wasn't quite what it seemed - and connecting with him over the experience of selling a much loved guitar. I am so thankful that HF was there to be a part of the lives of people in his community when they needed him, and that he shared the stories.

Then, there was Charlotte's post on How to be "Skinny Pregnant". I am not likely to be worrying about body image during pregnancy anytime soon... or ever again, but the book "Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?" she talks about sure would have come in handy back when I was. Memories are still fresh of month after month of insecurity during a time which you're constant hit with the dual message (from internal monologue, friends, family and the dreaded media) of the miracle of growing a miniature human being, and the much louder comments about prenatal weight gain... "Oh, my! You're huge!! Are you sure you're not due for another three months?!"

Years, and three children later, there's still the flashes of insecurity. I'm in better shape than I've been my whole life, but still see all the things which changed because of three pregnancies, instead of the positives in the mirror. I have to remind myself that the stretch marks, scars and smooshy bits are not something to be ashamed of. I am the happy and healthy mom of happy and healthy children - three unique people with different interests and developing personalities - and I love to be a part of who they're becoming. Stretch marks and couple of varicose veins are nothing in the face of that.

Finally, a just pretty darn cool link, from Cranky Fitness:

I'm sure there's all sorts of reasons for property owners not to install these stairs in malls, airports, and bus/train stations. Installation costs, maintenance costs, liability issues if anyone's hurt while "playing" on stairs... but wouldn't it be fun if they did?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Word for the Day: Pica

Pica is defined as a compulsive craving for eating, chewing or licking non-food items or foods containing no nutrition. These can include such things as chalk, plaster, paint chips, baking soda, starch, glue, rust, ice, coffee grounds, and cigarette ashes. It may sometimes be linked to certain mineral deficiencies (i.e., iron or zinc).

What I'd like to know is which mineral deficiency is linked to the disappearance of scissors in my home, because I am pretty sure one (or more) of my children have been eating them.
Or burying them in the yard. Or hiding them in an attempt to make me question my sanity.

I know there must be half a dozen pairs of adult size scissors in this house. And at least twice as many junior and child sized safety scissors. Yet I can't find a single pair. Even the kitchen shears are missing from the knife block. My fabric scissors, which are kept out of reach with the sewing machine, are the only pair I've been able to find in two days.

Which reminds me - now that I'm finished with the sunflower curtains for my daughter's classroom, I'd better get the fabric scissors put away ASAP. Pretty sure titanium is not a mineral the kids need, but I'd rather not take any chances.

*Scissor Buddha photo is from TreeHugger.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where's the AT-HOME in Stay-At-Home-Mom?

I'm going through a bit of a transition right now... becoming the SAHM I've never been, aside from time right around the births of the children. The current state of the economy has many of my clients deciding to make-do with older maps or more generic versions they can get on line. This made the last six months very good for scaling back as the contract income dwindled.

I started to worry a bit during the last couple of projects about what I'd do with myself when I didn't have to answer to clients or meet deadlines. Figured once the house was clean, I'd have big chunks of time each day for running, riding or studying. (My version of bon-bons & soaps.) Also figured it would be a great time to start figuring out what would be next. (Enrolling in school - either for personal growth or future dream career?)


Turns out keeping myself busy shouldn't have been on the list at all. I don't think I've had a full day at home since the beginning of the school year.

First there's the move, and some changes in the family dynamics causing good deal of upheaval. (Some of this should be dying down soon, once the boxes are unpacked, the rain stops long enough to seal crack in basement floor, and the teen is enrolled in the HS down the street.)

Second, third & fourth, there's the three children in two different schools. (Next year, it will be three - ES/MS/HS.) Charter schools, which require volunteer time. One hour at one school, three hours at the other may sound like only four hours, but it's really a full day commitment, by the time you figure in travel time between, along with being in the right place at the right time for regular school pickup. Then there's the volunteer opportunities which pop-up unexpectedly. Once you volunteer last minute for a couple of different things, then you're known as being "flexible" about hours. Being "flexible" puts you on email lists.

Maybe all this running about is a good thing for making the transition. When things finally calm down enough that there are stay-at-home days, it'll feel more like a blissful mini-vacation, and less like a time to panic about losing a sense of purpose. Contemplating the future in a relaxed state of mind ought to make coming up with ideas more a creative process of figuring "want to do" without as much worry about what I "need to do." (MizFit's posts so far this week have me thinking about making those future plans with the What would you do if you couldn't fail? question in mind.)

That's the future. For today, I'm getting the fans and wet/dry vac ready for the next 24 hours of heavy rain. Tomorrow's cross training workout will be bailing out the basement and pulling carpet... should that count as cardio, or weights?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Supper Wars: Gnocchi & Roasted Cauliflower

Real Simple magazine had a feature this month with four weeks of easy meals. There are some things on the menu which don't appeal to me, and many which will spark a dinner table battle with the kids, but there are a few I really think we should try. This is one of those.

"What's a g-notchee?" was the question from a younger child. They wouldn't remember the last disasterous attempt at serving the puffy little potato pasta. B2 was a toddler, and DD wasn't even born. B1 was VERY PICKY about textures, and the experience was so bad that gnocchi hasn't crossed my mind, outside of restaurants, in almost a decade.

The kids were less than thrilled about the stack of ingredients on the counter. I did have two children sneaking raw cauliflower off the cutting board. (I had to pretend to be cross about the swiping, but... Yea! They were eating it like chips, and enjoying the crunch.)

My quantities were a little different than the original, since I was making this for more than four.

Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower
2/3 head of cauliflower, trimmed to florets
(I used the orange cauliflower, it turns a lovely color in oven)
12-16 sage leaves
3 Tbs Olive Oil
Sea salt
Cracked pepper
24 oz Gnocchi
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Toss cauliflower with oil, salt, pepper and sage leaves. Roast on baking sheet for 25-30 minutes at 400F.

While roasting veggies, start water heating for gnocchi. Cook according to package directions, then drain and toss with butter. (Original recipe I read didn't call for it, but I like it sooooo much more with butter.)

Place gnocchi on plates. Top with roasted cauliflower. Sprinkle with cheese.

It was so very good. Not only from a taste standpoint - the textures of the slightly crunchy cauliflower and soft, puffy gnocchi were fun. The kids gave mixed reviews, of course:
  1. B1 thought it tolerable, but liked the gnocchi, and asked if we can do more with that.
  2. B2 felt this was the best supper ever, had seconds, and let me know I could fix the same meal for him the next night, seeing as how there was a little bit of cauliflower left in the veggie bin.
  3. DD announced she only likes food with "colorful flavors" and that this meal was not colorful enough for her. (Obviously, this is the child targeted in the decision to avoid plain white cauliflower. She ate it, but only because there were chocolate-dipped biscuits at stake.
From a convenience standpoint, this was great recipe for a night where afterschool activities and carpooling led to a later supper than usual. Start to finish, less than 45 minutes. Easy meal for kids to help prepare, and not a lot of mess to clean up after. With the side of steamed green beans, tossed with butter, the cost per person was about $1.45, making it far less expensive, and more nutritious than any fast food option... or any of the "healthy" prepared meals at the grocery stores. (Plus, I didn't have to sit in traffic for 30 minutes plus to get it.)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Silly ol' dog

Bought Peter T. Dog a new cushion for curling up on the hard floors downstairs during the day. He likes it, except for when he's sleepy. When he's ready for a nap, he prefers the flattened old dog bed, and paces restlessly until I get it for him.

As you can see from the photo though, he doesn't want to completely give up the new dog bed to let Clifford fully claim it, so he lays on both mats, and snoozes happily.

I love my big dumb dog.


Digital cable & high speed internet up & running.

Just in time, too. I've had quite enough of talk radio for a while. It's so nice to be able to pull up weather, news and/or traffic without having to sit through 15-30 minutes of other stuff. It did give me time to start formulating a schedule for cleaning this monstrously large house. (I love the house, this isn't a complaint. More than double the space on 2-1/2 floors just requires a different plan than a 1600sf ranch.)

I'm tackling two rooms today, to see if I can have completely set up - all boxes removed - before school pickup.

Hopefully, that will make for a relatively "normal" day tomorrow, including time to post thoughts on the two audiobooks finished while I was offline. I'm very thankful for Audible - without it, I'd have been stuck with only NPR and talk radio last week. Or, worse yet, my own thoughts.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

95% Complete

All moved in to new house. Tiny little bits of order are popping up around house.
They're random, and not in the final state, but it's quite nice to see in the warehouse.

Window seat - perfect for kid's reading time and for Peter T. Dog's important duties of neighborhood watch.

Have been able to walk kids to & from school most days. Two miles for them, four for me. Keeps us all getting a bare minimum of exercise. And makes for very little time in the truck each week. LOVE IT!

Everything seems to be here... except internet service.
Cable company working to install new line to house.

Didn't miss it much the first few days, but trying to handle all the normal email, online bill pay and news / blog reading on the iPhone has gotten quite tedious.

Half marathon tomorrow morning. 7am. In Kennesaw.
Ugh. 5am seems a whole lot earlier tonight than it did when I signed up last month.
Especially when I haven't trained, and plan to lazy my way through the course.

That's enough of the screen tap typing for one evening. I'm off to bed.

Enjoy the beautiful beginnings of crisp Autumn breezes!