Friday, November 28, 2008


I have succumbed to the pressure (Barb, it's all your fault) and started my first pair of socks. My excuse is that there's something else I want to knit on double-pointed-needles and this is a good way to practice. Ummm, yeah, right.

I had knitted about an inch of the first sock, and realized that something was screwing up one of the joins between the needles, and it was bad, so I ripped the whole thing out and started over (in the interest of cutting my losses). This go-round, it's looking better, but I've discovered a tendency to yarn over in one particular place in the pattern. I've caught it every time, but now have to be a little diligent in that one spot.

Of course, I've now bought yarn for about 5 different projects, so I really need to get cracking, or I'll have the same problem with yarn that I do with paper crafting. It's just so much fun to BUY all that stuff!

And the Gravy Rocked!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you all enjoyed some quality time with family and friends, or had some nice quiet time with yourself.

We had a very nice day with John's sister and two of her kids. Her husband and oldest child were off in Utah skiing, so we invited them up here. They went to the Macy's parade in NYC in the morning, and then came out here. The kids got along well, and mostly everything I was cooking came out at the same time. For some reason, the turkey took WAY less time than the estimate, so we ended up not making potatoes (which seemed fine with everyone). But I made the gravy from scratch and it came out EXCELLENT. Woo Hoo! I handle everything else ok, but gravy is often challenging. I highly recommend the method in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (the big red gigham print one). Worked great, easy, no lumps, flavorful!

Can you tell gravy is important to me?

And I made the Candy Bar pie from the same cookbook, which ended up being a huge hit as well. And of course apple pie (secret- put chopped crystallized ginger in it) and found a "Pumpkin Mascarpone Bread Pudding" at Costco. Also very yummy.

The only minor disappoinment was the stuffing, I just did the bag of Pepperidge Farms, and followed their directions. A little dry, although the flavor was ok. Needs gravy!

So today? No Black Friday shopping for us (well, maybe later). I am currently putting off going to the gym, so I guess I gotta get off my tuckus and get moving.

Happy start to the holiday season!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dust Mice

We have some serious dust mice around our house.

They tend to congregate under the stove. Periodically I have to send William on a hunting expedition to flush them out.

The tools of the trade are a flashlight and a yardstick, and being young and limber helps.
This particular expedition yielded 14 dust mice, and at least one bouncy ball.
George was extremely interested in both the process and the result. Of course, it's primarily his fault that there are so many under there...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So Cold...

You would think, since I grew up in Idaho, that I would be immune to the wimpy temperatures that make the rest of the East Coast shiver. I guess I haven't lived in Idaho for, say, 20 years or so? I'm cold.

We barely cracked 40 today, and there was a wicked wind. And I've been freezing most of the day, even while wearing a heavy sweater (with a long sleeve shirt under!). Actually, it's mostly my hands are freezing. Anything where I have to sit still, such as, say, the computer, and my hands are like ice. I got smart this morning and put on wool socks, so the feet aren't too bad.

Much as I actually like winter (really!), I do get tired of feeling cold all the time. I try to be "green" and keep the thermostat at 68, and then I'm freezing all day. And oddly enough, I get really warm during the night and would prefer it chilly then. Somehow, the other members of the family start complaining if I turn it too low at night. But in the morning, the programmable thermostats are wonderful, because it's warm(ish) when I get up.

Guess I'm getting old and cranky.

Oh, and we are still under a boil advisory. And to those who commented that their towns have an update system, I subscribe to the county health updates. I didn't get a notice about the boil order until noon today. And I subscribe to the email-blasts from the school system - the only people who got a notice were on the high school list because that school had low pressure. Seems like the school system could have put out a courtesy notice for the safety of their students, or that the county health office could have been a little more on the ball. Most or all of the TV and radio stations in this area are New York or Philadelphia - we have almost no local news. It's just very frustrating.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Water water everywhere

But not a drop to drink. A water main broke and as a consequence, most of our county and parts of two others are under a boil advisory. It's a precautionary measure, since there was a pressure drop in the system, but here's what really bugs me.

How am I supposed to find out about these things?

John called (from Denver!) to tell me that the water at his building here in town was low pressure and he'd heard about the break. But it didn't really occur to me that there might be a boil advisory here, because our pressure was fine. So I didn't check the water company website. A friend called after dinner to let us know, and then I called a few more people to spread the word. Even then, someone had checked the company website and didn't see the alert.

Ummm, hello? Wouldn't you think you'd at least want the alert to be, well, noticeable? And why am I relying on the kindness of neighbors to find out this potentially important info? The schools have implemented a robo-call system, why can't the water company? Or let me register my email or phone or something. Anything! This wasn't really serious (IMHO) because a) it's precautionary and b)we don't appear to have a pressure drop on our part of the system, so contamination seems unlikely. But what if I had an immune-impaired person living in my household? It could be serious!

The last time we had a boil advisory, I had the same issue with the water company. The technology exists, and probably isn't even that expensive. Guess I have to write a letter. I wish there was some way to force companies to be ethical, but that's probably unrealistic.

Hey, folks! Do the right thing!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Toof Fairy, again

William lost a tooth in gym today. It's been loose, but someone apparently kicked him in the face while they were crawling through a tunnel. If he was upset about being kicked, it was more than offset by the tooth coming out.

So I asked what the tooth fairy would bring him. "A gold coin," also known as a Sacajawea dollar coin - which I don't think I have any of. SO we had a little math exercise about that's the same as 4 quarters or 10 dimes or 100 pennies. I'm leaning towards the 100 pennies, personally.

However, at bedtime, I found him putting the tooth inside multiple containers, "so the tooth fairy can't take it." We have a checkered history with the tooth fairy so I wasn't surprised, but it does leave me with a dilemma. Does the tooth fairy come tonight or not? I asked what he wanted to do with the tooth if he kept it, and he didn't have an answer. I'm not sure what I'm going to do - I guess it depends on if I can find the tooth and how well he's hidden it.

On the plus side, he's all excited to sing "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lucky Seven, part 2

There was much excitement on William's birthday. This was the big present from us - it's a Playmobil Pirate ship. They've been having huge naval battles with the Romans. Somehow the pirates usually win and loot the Roman soldiers. This kid doesn't have an older brother or something, does he?

Yes, the cake is homemade. I did use a cake mix, but doctored it up with cocoa and buttermilk. Very rich, not overly sweet. And homemade frosting, of course. I was trying not to make too much extra, so we did chocolate sprinkles on the sides rather than any fancy icing tricks.

There was a little too much silliness when blowing out candles, so he didn't get them all out on the first try.

And John took very nice pictures of all three kids, so you get a bonus! JC, with not too much teenage attitude.



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lucky Seven

William is 7 today. My baby is 7 years old! Where did the time go, and I can't possibly be old enough for that to be true, can I?

If I can catch him long enough to take a picture today, I'll post it later. He's in a very goofy 7-yr old phase of missing teeth, and loose ones that look crooked, and desperately needs a haircut, so he's pretty cute/funky right now.

He was a little grumpy that he had to go to school on his birthday ("I can't believe my birthday is on a SCHOOL day!"), but he's very excited to tell his teacher. Probably so many times that she'll have to tell him to stop.

And now I'm off to go make a devil's food cake with chocolate frosting. Betcha can't guess HIS favorite flavor! And we're going to the hibachi steak house tonight - my kid's favorite special occasion restaurant. Dinner AND a show AND fire! What more could you want?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Troops and Trains

On Saturday, the PA RR museum had a special event commemorating World War II. They had costumed re-enactors all over the place, tons of artifacts, and even a complete 1940's era apartment (in a semi trailer) to tour. It was marvelous.

I don't know if the kids enjoyed it quite as much as I did, but it was just so cool to be able to show them a slice of history. Iceboxes, ration coupons, skate keys, a rotary phone - things that I either grew up with or was familiar with from my parents and grandparents.

My favorite was the knitting table. Yes, they had a whole display dedicated to WWII knitting - "Knit Your Bit." Did you know that knitting in church was allowed because it was patriotic? "Remember Pearl Harbor - Purl Harder."

They had a whole collection of WWII knitting patterns, including a balaclava one of the women had made for her husband when he was a helicopter gunner in Kosovo. Seems you can't have synthetics on the choppers - if there's a fire, it melts to your face. So she used an old pattern to knit him a wool one, complete with slits for your headphones. Apparently all the guys on his chopper wanted one! And the Red Cross has some of the patterns up on their website - no balaclava though, I checked.

We talked socks and knitting needles and it was just so much fun. This knitting thing is like entering a secret society - you just never know who else is going to turn out to be a knitter. I love the paper crafting, but knitting, well, it's everywhere, and it's portable.

It was really an enjoyable weekend. But now we have to clean and winterize the trailer - and I just keep putting it off. Can't we go just one more time?

Last Man Camping

In NJ, the teachers' union has written into the contracts that all teachers must be allowed to attend the annual teachers' convention in Atlantic City the first week in November. It's on Thursday and Friday. I don't know how many teachers actually attend, but it means we get a 4 day weekend every November. Add to that the fact that our district closes the schools whenever there is a major election (not sure if it's logistics, since voting is mostly in schools, or fear of terrorists), and we had a pretty useless "week" of school last week. Monday and Wednesday. If I had more guts (or less integrity?) I would pull my kids out, like so many other families did, but no, we sent them to school on Wednesday.

We had dropped off the trailer at a campground in Lancaster County PA on the previous Saturday, because John was in London until Thursday afternoon. So Wednesday after school, I packed up my three kids, all the clothes we'd need including winter gear, food for 4 days, pillows, firewood, etc., and we picked up JC's best friend Adam and all HIS stuff. Of course, it was raining, and dark because the time changed. The good news was that roller hockey was cancelled, so we could leave on Wednesday. But the Suburban was PACKED - Adam's mom made brownies and coffee cake for us, and they actually went under William's feet (he's short, you know) because there was no other room in the car.

We stopped for dinner on the way, and got to the campground about 9:30pm. Unpacked the car (mostly) and cleared off the spare bunk for Adam, and hit the sack. Thursday was grey and drizzly, but not really rainy. The kids opted to go to Intercourse. There's a lovely little pedestrian mall there, and we walked around looking in all the little shops. And I'm a sucker - I bought them kettle corn, fudge, sodas, beef jerky, pretzels... We found a lovely quilting shop with a little quilting museum on the second floor. The kids made quilt patterns with blocks. We tried to go to the Toy Train Museum, but it was closed on weekdays this time of year, so we went to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum and looked at and climbed on real trains.

We spent the evening making dinner and building a campfire (Adam was happy to play with fire). The two other families we were camping with arrived that evening. Friday, John drove out to join us, and we ended up splitting up. The dads took the kids mini golfing, and I got to go outlet shopping with the womenfolk.

Lancaster County has a large Amish and Mennonite population, and this Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is all over the place. For tourists, one of the manifestations is the smorgasbord. Technically, it's more of a buffet. Our friends prefer the Shady Maple Smorgasbord, and it is truly an astounding place. It is GIGANTIC, seating hundreds of people at once, and with probably a hundred or more dishes to choose from. The food is good, not great, in my opinion, but since it's their favorite, that's where we went. For someone on a diet, it was... challenging, but I did pretty well. I had a little bit of a lot of different foods that I like, and if it wasn't a favorite, I didn't bother. I even had dessert - one small piece of shoo fly pie, which unfortunately wasn't as good as it looked.

Saturday dawned grey, and started raining while I was making the pancakes on our outdoor griddle - let me just say that holding an umbrella while pouring pancakes took three hands. But it stopped raining after breakfast, and we split up again to hit the OTHER gigantic outlet mall in Lancaster. However, this time I took John's car, and was able to join up with the guys and kids after they did the Toy Train Museum (truly a charming place). We went to the PA RR museum again - but this time, they were having a special event for Veteran's Day.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Out And Vote!

My mother emailed my siblings and I with her voting experience this morning. My sister replied to all with hers, and I just added mine. It's kind of fun comparing experiences. Mom spent about 40 minutes on the process, my sister in AL spent 1 hour 20 min, and I spent about 15, including the walk into and out of the school.

I don't care who you vote for, but if you'd care to share your voting experience, I'm curious. Mine was no lines at all, and bringing all the kids into the booth with me to explain the process. Pretty painless.

And in honor of election day, Itty Bitty Kitty Committee ( has a list of presidential cats over the years. Fun!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Can't believe it's been and gone already! William's costume got finished in the nick of time. We carved pumpkins Thursday afternoon to minimize rot/animal damage. I didn't take pictures that day - wish I had.

We came out the next morning to this. Pumpkin carnage! This was all that was left of Rachel's. It was cute, too. Long triangle eyes, little triangle nose, and big round mouth, so it looked like it was screaming.

William's did a little better. You can still see one eye, and the mouth was big and round, but with little vampire fangs. It looked like it was opening its mouth wide to bite! John propped it back up and put the lights back inside, so we at least had something. I contemplated going out for more pumpkins Halloween afternoon, but that seemed more than a little silly. Just more deer food.

The kids in their costumes.

Yes, William is a pile of leaves. It was his idea, but as soon as he said it, I knew how to make the costume. We started with a ghost costume from a couple of years ago - just a white poncho. I dyed it brown, and attached the leaves with a tagger (like they put price tags on with) I borrowed from a friend. It looked great (could have used a few more leaves in front), and everyone thought it was wonderful.

Rachel is a sorceress. I kept suggesting accessories and enhancements, and she did finally find a book to carry around as a spellbook. We're going to work harder at it next year.

JC went for the easy way out. His best friend lives in a condo complex, so the boys put on their roller blades and skated around for trick-or-treating. They covered a LOT of ground and came home with a ton of candy.