December 23, 2009

One of my favorite Christmas gifts as a kid

To be honest, there aren't a lot of toys that I look back upon with longing or nostalgia.  I never cared for dolls (much to my mother's chagrin). I did enjoy Legos, but I wouldn't say that I felt any loss when my mom passed them on. (And we have more than enough Legos in the house now to make up for any loss then, thanks to Nathan.)

But there's one toy that I remember hoping and praying I would get for Christmas. And when I got it, I adored it! It was a magnetic driving car. It would drive in circles around a track and you could steer it right and left as it drove. You could even make it go faster or slower with the accelerator.  Sooooooooo cool!

What was one of your favorite Christmas gifts as a kid?


--------------

Here's a couple pictures of two toys similar to the U-Drive-It.


I think this version came out in the UK.
Instead of a steering wheel, you used a joystick to move the car around.


This is the steer-n-go. The mountains in this version are cool.

November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner - 2009


Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and carrots. I also threw in an acorn squash, but I didn't peel it first. I think next time perhaps I'll try butternut instead. It's easier to peel. I sprinkled fresh rosemary from the back yard over the whole pile.

We had a stunningly delicious Thanksgiving meal this year.

November 22, 2009

Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon




As we were leaving the EconoLodge in Albuquerque I looked up to see two hot air balloons passing overhead. Everyone else was already in the car ready to go but I made them all get out and look at the balloons.

Then we headed into Old Town and ate at the Church Street Cafe which I'd highly recommend. The breakfast was delicious (skip the pancakes and go for something that comes with one of their yummy chili sauces). We headed out for Flagstaff and enjoyed the variations in the rock formations along the way. In Colorado most of the rock has been mangled to some degree (lots of folding, mostly) but here the rock was fairly level and the layers were so clear and well defined. It's really beautiful.

In Flagstaff, we ate at the Flagstaff Brewing Company which had good food, reasonable prices, the beer was crisp and fresh and they had live music (that was slightly too loud).

We got to the Grand Canyon just in time to watch the sun set across the rock face. Then we went to El Tovar for dessert which was mediocre at best (and also probably the most we'd spent on a "meal" so far in the trip).

We then drove on to Kingman for the night and plan to hit the Mojave Dessert today.

September 1, 2009

Under a Blood Red Moon - taken from Moby Arena after Greg Mortenson's talk


Outside the Moby Arena at CSU.

The kids and I joined several school friends and their families in going to hear Greg Mortenson ("author" of the Three Cups of Tea book). The Moby arena was packed. We had to wait an hour before they got started (We got there early because there was open seating.) and the kids got a bit antsy, but once Greg started to speak they were able to settle down and listen fairly well. Nathan's school is going to be reading the children's version of Three Cups of Tea this year. (Each grade will be reading through it at the same time.)

After the talk we walked out of the south side of the arena and saw the moon, red as can be. It was rather eery. I'm assuming it's red because of the fires in California. It was overcast/hazy yesterday and it is again today. And the sun is definitely a bit redder looking than usual.

If it's this bad here, I can only imagine what the skies in Southern Cal are like right now. (I asked Rob if it was hazy in San Francisco as well, but he said it was too foggy to tell.)

August 20, 2009

I destroyed my laptop screen today (or... how dulce de leche led me down the path of destruction)


*sniffle*

(If you look closely you might notice that some of the letters on the keys are worn off. That happened on my last laptop too. It couldn't be that I type too much, could it?)

I doubt this is visible but the plastic casing to either side of the mouse was cracking. I've wondered if that's why they switched to the solid body style of laptop. The plastic didn't hold up so well.

Last week the gals went to a dude ranch with my sister. The place is called Latigo ranch and I'll post pics soon. But that detail is relevant to this story because two 10-year olds were gone for a week and therefore weren't drinking milk here. And Nathan has had bumps on his arm for ages now and we finally decided to try cutting out (or at least cutting back on) dairy to see if that made a difference. So he's been drinking less milk.

We usually go through 6 gallons a week and sometimes I even have to run out and buy an additional gallon to see us through till the milk man arrives next. But not this week. This week we have more milk than we can shake a stick at. So I decided to shake a wooden spoon at it instead just to see what happened. I boiled the milk, added some sugar, cooked it and stirred for aaaages. (In other words, I used a gallon of milk to make about 4 or 5 cups of dulce de leche.) While stirring I read through the New York Times and the Denver Post and I still had to stir longer but had nothing left to read. So I decided to try to get some work done. I grabbed my laptop (the Macbook that I won from me.dium (now OneRiot)) and set it near me and sorta... on top of something that was sturdy at the time. So here I am stirring and entering data, stirring, stirring, entering data. You get the picture. It was all going somewhat OK until... that sturdy thing that I had set the computer on got hit by one of the breakfast dishes shifting in the sink. It didn't shift far. It really wouldn't have been a problem at all if I hadn't set a thousand dollar computer on top of it. But I did. And the computer fell. Down. to the Ground.

The screen doesn't work so well now, though the rest still seems to be functional. So I suppose if I can find a cheap screen around somewhere we can still use the thing.

Yeah, so that's what happened.

Fortunately I just backed the thing up yesterday. It had problems overheating this summer (which I found particularly odd since it never overheated last summer and last summer was quite a bit hotter than this summer) and shut itself down a few times. It's never acted quite the same since so I was already thinking of doing a laptop switch. The dulce de leche sorta spurred me on toward shifting sooner rather than later.

What am I using now? A Macbook Pro that's somewhere around 6 months older (I think) than the Macbook that did that "kiss the ground" thing. It's a cast-off that Rob bought from his work place. Thank God for start ups that do mini-layoffs and end up with a few extra computers laying around. ;-) (Hey, look at that! A silver lining to the unemployment debacle.)

July 15, 2009

Talkin' Trash

On average, I/we set out _____ of trash to be picked up each week.

2 kitchen trash sized bags (13 gallon) or less
 13

1 small trash can full (about 3 bags)
 5

2 trash cans full (or one of those larger gizmos the trash companies give you)
 7

I don't use a trash service. I use only public trash cans for all household waste.
 0

None. Period. I don't do trash. I'm 100% compostable. Here, pat me on the back.
 0

I have a dumpster. And I fill it up. HooRah!
 1

Trash was always a big deal in our family when I was growing up. There were rules and carefully outlined procedures that one must follow when dealing with trash. I wrote a paper about it in college. When I showed the A+ paper to my mom, I expected her to protest that I'd overstated how things were in our family. Instead she read it, laughed, nodded and was quite pleased with the extreme type A behavior that I had described.

One of the house rules was: Always get rid of trash at the first opportunity that presents itself. A follow up rule was: If no opportunity presents itself, make an opportunity. My grandma actually got in trouble with the law because she was following rule number 2. She was caught putting a bag of trash in another person's dumpster. I'm the only person I know who's grandma started her police record at the spry young age of 70, and for getting rid of a bag of trash at that.

As far as procedures go, the main rule of thumb was to always put trash into the trash bag the instant it could conceivably be considered trash. In fact, many times items were added to the trash bag long before any of us thought they were really at that "this is trash" level. (My dad had a favorite pair of shoes that became trash in my mom's eyes probably a year before they would have become trash in my dad's eyes.) BUT, and this is critically important, IF IT IS TRASH DAY, then trash is not to be put into the trash bag because that would have already been set out on the curb the night before. No, at this point, you have two options. You can either walk the trash out to the end of the driveway and deposit it there yourself.  Or you could add it to the temporary mini-bag that was set up for this purpose and which would be run out to the trash men at the moment of their arrival. Perhaps a specific example would help make this procedure a little more clear. (This is the example I used in my A+ paper, by the way.) Suppose you have a cold and you need to blow your nose. After blowing, one would usually deposit the tissue into the nearest trash bin. That was the usual procedure. But on trash day, that would be the exact wrong thing to do. Instead you would walk out to the end of the drive-way, no matter how ill you might be, and make sure that tissue was safely deposited where the trash men would get it.

I've diverged from the family path a short ways when it comes to trash. I'm not nearly as type A as my mom or grandma. But there is one way in which I've carried on the family tradition. Despite my family's love of getting rid of trash, we've never been very big on making trash. 

When Rob and I were first married (14 years ago next week), we had two housemates.  Soon after, we picked up a third and not long after that we added three kids to the mix. During that whole time, we never had more than one normal sized trash can. (It was a trash can that we found along the side of the highway once on our way back from a weekend retreat in Grass Valley.) When we moved to Colorado we reduced our number by 3 (since we no longer had the housemates) and the kids grew out of the diaper stage, so our trash accumulation plummeted.  Though I've been able to fill a trash can during a deep cleaning week, in general we seem to average about a bag and a half of trash a week (and the bags aren't packed down at all).

So I was struck recently, when reading the blog of an old youth group friend, that some people produce more trash than that in a week. Joanne (the Simple Wife) is trying to become more frugal and one of the by-products of that has been that their family has greatly reduced the amount of trash that they generate each week.  She wrote, "Since we've cut WAY back on being consumers and stepped up our recycling, I'm astounded at how little trash we have on trash day. This morning, there was only one trash can--and it was only half full. Used to be two full cans every week!" That comment really piqued my curiosity. Two full cans?!!!  What would you be throwing away that you'd have that much trash?  I asked that question in a reply on her post, but I suspect that I might have come across as a bit of a snot (not that that was my intention at all.  I am a bit of a snot at times. And generally I intend to be a snot when I'm being snotty. But this is one of those cases where I was asking a question because I was honestly curious, and the snot must have leaked out without my permission.  All I know is, she never responded to me.)

So, believe it or not, the whole point of this long and convoluted post hasn't been to tell you about my Type A family, nor to introduce you to Joanne. What I want to know is, how much trash does your family produce and what goes into it? Inquiring minds want to know.  ... Well, my mind wants to know.

And if you'd like a twist on what to do with trash, check out Cat's post on her garbage experiment in which, for a short time, she got creative about getting rid of the goods.

May 9, 2009

A few lines on Dementia


Some versions of Picks disease are inherited.  (There is a family in Italy that can trace the path of the disease down their family line for 500 years.) And sometimes Picks hits one person in a family but everyone else remains untouched (except for the changes that come about due to the caring for the one).  My mom thinks that my dad's situation falls into the latter category. 

My dad's dad lived well into his 80s and was knocking out crosswords like they were child's-play up until the day he was taken to the hospital. My dad's mom is starting to slip a little mentally, but once you pass 85, I think that's often to be expected. And she's still the social butterfly she always was. None of my dad's cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents have or had any form of dementia. (And he has no siblings.  So we can't make comparisons there.) So it's quite likely that my mom is right. Perhaps this is an isolated event within our family. Perhaps my sister, and myself, and my children won't get it. ... But then again, it's hard not to consider the possibility that we will.

I've written two poems recently. One is about taking a walk with my dad and how special that was to me, even though he wasn't really there. And the other is about losing several things at once and wondering if this marked the beginning of my end.

Relations

I hold his hand as we walk.
I am walking not with who he was,
    all of that is gone,
not with who he is,
    who is he when he cannot speak?
    cannot make a decision?
    cannot respond to his body's needs.
I walk with who we are.

I cherish who we are.
He is my dad.  I am his daughter.
In all our frailties
    our relationship gives meaning to our walk.


Children of Dementia

When you misplace things
    do you fear
not that you will never find it again
    but that you have entered upon that road?
Do you see
    in a missing note,
    a misplaced camera,
    a forgotten meeting
signs of greater loss coming,
no longer crouching in wait
    but now stalking
    wrenching a memory away here
    a modicum of your personality there?

Which is worse, that you can't find your keys?
or that this might be the key to how your end will come?

April 13, 2009

Mom's Molasses Cookies

Description:
Mom made these all the time when we were growing up. My Gramps loves them so she makes them any time he's coming to town.

(I've had this recipe in here for ages waiting for a photo. I'm going to post it and add a photo next time I make them (which hasn't been very often lately. *sigh*).

Ingredients:
3/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1 egg
1 t salt
2 c. flour
2 t soda
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. cloves
1 t. cinnamon

Directions:
Beat the butter and sugar together. Once well blended, add the molasses and egg. Stir until completely mixed together then add the dry ingredients. Roll into balls and place on cookie sheet. If you want, mush the center of each cookie down with a finger and toss a dollop of jam in there. Yummers!

April 3, 2009

Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Description:
From the 25 March 2009 New York Times, which took it from "Party Appetizers," by Tori Ritchie (Chronicle Books, 2004)

I made these with medium cheddar rather than sharp and they could have used some salt and pepper.

Ingredients:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (i used freshly ground hard red wheat)
4 large eggs, at room temperature (who thinks that far ahead?!!)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:
1. preheat oven to 375 derees. line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. in a medium-size heavy saucepan, combine 1 cup water, the butter and salt, and bring to a boil. turn off heat adn add flour. mix with a wooden spoon until dough starts to pull away from sides of pan and form a lump. set aside, without stirring, 5 minutes. (lumps of this stuff taste so yummy!!! esp. if you used good flour.)

2. add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. with each addition, dough will look glossy and slick at first; let it come together before adding next egg. mix in mustard, cayenne and cheese. dough will be quite loose and sticky.

3. scoop up a heaping teaspoon of dough and use another spoon to scrape it onto lined pan; it should form a mound about an inch in diamter. alternatively, use a pastry bag or thick plastic bag with one corner cut off, to pipe small mounds onto pan. repeat with remaining dough, leaving 1/2 inhc between puffs.

4. bake until pffy and golden, about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. remove from oven adn serve immediately, or turn oven off and open door slightly to keep puffs warm up to 1 hour.

yield: about 36 puffs

March 12, 2009

Rob's Oat Cakes

Description:
When we first moved from San Francisco to Fort Collins, there were many foods that we missed -- freshly made tortillas, papusas, thai fish cakes (ok, so i was the only one that missed those), and oat cakes.

My search for tortillas and oat cakes particularly brought puzzled looks from people. Believe it or not, the only corn tortillas some of the supermarkets here had back in 2001, were the fried, taco shaped kinds. Now most supermarkets carry soft tortillas, but they're so full of preservatives that you're lucky if you can taste any corn. But at least when I asked for a tortilla, people in general seemed to know what I was getting at -- a flat thing made of corn.

When I'd ask about oat cakes on the other hand, people hadn't a clue. "You mean oatmeal cake?" they'd ask? "No, little round puck shaped things made with oats." "Oooooh." And that was that. They obviously thought I was a nutcase for even thinking such a thing existed and that anyone would want to eat one if they did.

So finally Rob, in exasperation, decided there's got to be a recipe out there somewhere so we could learn to make our own oatcakes. He did find a few online and modified them until he finally settled on the following recipe.

(In the meantime, I've finally seen oatcakes for sale in Fort Collins. They're over-packaged and marketed as heart-healthy food (instead of just being marketed as plain old yummy oat cakes). I haven't tried one yet, but that's largely because Rob's oat cakes are so good, I don't feel the need to even try the others now.)

Ingredients:
3 c. rolled oats (we used the thick rolled kind)
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 to 2 eggs
1/2 c. coconut oil (melted)
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. cane syrup (we use steen's)
1/2 c. sucanut (wikipedia says i was spelling this wrong. it's sucanat.)
3 T. flax seeds (optional)
1 c. dried cherries (optional)

Directions:
Mix everything together and pack into muffin tins. (We don't use any cups of any kind and we don't grease the tins either.) Cook for 22 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool before removing from tin. Eat within a week or store in the fridge to preserve freshness.

January 19, 2009

Pok-e-Kitty




This pic was not part of Naomi's email series of pics, but it was done on Photo Booth just like the other shots.

Behold, Poke-Kitty!

(Poor tibbies.)