Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dust Bunnies

Right now I feel about as big and ineffectual as the dust bunnies that were creeping out from under the furniture yesterday.

They are back in hiding today, as the windows are closed.  It has been snowing since 10:00 this morning.  It doesn't do much for one's drive when it is grey and cold and snowing in April.

If you look closely, you can see snow blowing at the top of this picture!

Despite the weather, my day went pretty smoothly until it was time to pick the girls up at school.  It is a madhouse up there at pick-up and drop-off times...too many vehicles and not enough parking spaces, and buses and kids all over the place.  I turned in to a parking area where I saw a couple of open spaces up ahead, and then waited behind 3 or 4 other cars which were waiting to turn out.  I noticed that a women in a parking space on my left was trying to pull out, so I pulled as far to the right as I could go to give her room.  She pulled part way out, and then began pounding on the steering wheel, yelling and pointing her finger at me.  I opened my window, "Excuse me..."  I began.

"You have GOT to get the H&*% out of here!"  She screamed.

"I am trying to get to a parking space."  I told her.

"There ARE no f*$#ing parking spaces!"  She shouted, and lurched forward in her car.  I was afraid that she was going to hit  my car, but she managed to maneuver her way out, cursing the entire time.

I was shaking as I signed to get the girls released to my care, so I stuck my fists in my pockets as we walked back to the car.  J was grumpy because I told her to put her coat on, and slammed the car door.  I calmly told her that was not acceptable behavior and doled out punishment.  She flipped out.  I turned the radio up.  Both girls complained that 1) They would have to wait until we got home to get a snack, and 2) They didn't want a snack from home - there was NOTHING good to eat there.

As we turned on to the interstate to head home, I took a deep breath to try again to calm my trembling, and asked how their days were.  L said "Long." and promptly fell asleep.  She snored gently the rest of the ride home.

J talked a bit about her opera in Music class, which apparently didn't go well as she was the only one who knew her lines.  I asked her several questions about it, and she would sigh and roll her eyes, and began to get testy and raise her voice.  "You know what?"  I said, tearing up.  "I'm just trying to talk to you and have a pleasant conversation.  You are being rude and really hurting my feelings."

So...I feel like a fluffy dust ball.  Nobody really wants them around, they are dirty and good for nothing, and they hide under the furniture all winter long.  I'm crawling back under the sofa now, and I'm waiting for better weather and moods before I come out again!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cheshire Bird

Miss J Bird has glow-in-the-dark bands on her braces at the moment.


It makes bed time that much stranger!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Green Egg & Ham

I have spent a lot of time indoors this week, finishing up a couple of projects.  One was helping Mom to create a photobook of their house building project (and I made a small one of my own of our Williamsburg trip!)

Another was finishing projects that Dad has been working on.  He made 3 new oak shelves for our built in shelving unit in the Great Room for DVD's.  I stained and sealed them, and then the whole family worked to install them and rearrange DVD's.  The girls' job was to alphabetize (heh, heh...school work, and they didn't even realize it!)

The last project was to paint and varnish the "Ham."  It is the grill table into which we have installed JP's ceramic grill, the "Big Green Egg."  This table began life as a buffet/storage table that we picked up on clearance at Big Lots.


After we acquired the "Big Green Egg", about 3 years ago, the table had been moved to the veranda to be re-purposed as a potting table or grill table.  JP cut a hole in the butcher block wood top for the grill to go into, and we tore out the drawers and most of the internal support system in preparation for installing the grill.  That project, however, stalled right there, and the table has been sitting back there with grilling implements stacked all over it.  We put a piece of plywood and a tablecloth over it when we have picnics out back.  Finally, we put Dad on the job, knowing that he would be able to create a durable and useful table again.



After all of his work, two coats of paint, and 4 coats of exterior varnish on the table top, this is what we have on the veranda today.  Dad calls it a "Ham", since it goes with green eggs.


Our gas grill looks shabby and filthy next to it!

Mom and I finally got out into the garden on Thursday.  I loosened up the soil in 2 beds with the broadfork, and hauled 6 wheelbarrows full of compost that we worked in.  They have now been planted with peas, spinach and lettuce.

Yesterday, Mom, the girls and I went back out.  JP helped too, and we got 4 more beds loosened with the broadfork, and I have added compost to 2 of them.  Mom began planting carrots and parsnips in one.  2 more are ready to plant potatoes.  We got a good rain on Friday, which should have been lovely for the peas.  I hope to get the taters and the rest of the root crops - beets and radishes - planted on Monday before it rains again.

The girls have been asking to have their own guns, so JP bought Red Ryder BB guns for both of the girls and taught them to shoot with them yesterday.  They spent a lot of time shooting the surrounding trees, posts and dirt piles.


This AM I checked the hens for lice for a final time.  I am happy to report that they are all louse-free! 

We have been washing windows and screens, and little by little, getting the screens put back in so that we can open up the house and fill it up with this delicious, Spring air.  The only drawback is that the dust bunnies, that have been hiding out underneath the furniture are being flushed out by the breezes, and have been scampering across the floors all morning.

Spring has finally arrived at Poplar Ridge...just in the nick of time!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Down South

We returned Sunday night from a short escape to the South.  JP had a conference to attend in Williamsburg, VA, so the rest of us went along for an "Educational Leave" (aka Spring Break, since ours was spent in the snow in Jan/Feb.)


When we left our corner of PA, the crocuses were blooming, and the temps were milder, but the grass was still brown and dry.  We actually had two small grass fires in the prior week - one near the wood burner, and one by the incinerator.  It was pouring rain when we pulled out of our driveway.

There's a Primrose coming up too!

Down South, it was full on Spring.  The trees were blooming, with tiny green leaves sprouting, and many Spring flowers were in bloom as well.  The days were sunny, with temperatures in the 70's and near 80...things we haven't seen at home since November! 

We stopped at our favorite "Museum" on our way South, the Frontier Museum in Staunton, VA.  We didn't have long to visit before it closed for the day, but we visited the English and German farms, as well as the Irish Blacksmith's shop, the 1800 American school house and farm, the 1700 log cabin, and the Native American village.

Playing a game at the
Native American
Village
Writing on slates in the
School House

Twisting linen at the English Farm
Playing the German scheitholt
 
In Williamsburg, the conference was held at a Great Wolf Lodge, which almost outdoes itself in amenities and activities for kids.  The girls spent hours and hours in the indoor water park.  I was suffering through the particularly nasty cold that JP had the week before, so I was relieved that the girls are finally at the age that I could trust them to be off on their own.  I spent a lot of time in the 21 and over hot tub, and reading in a deck chair, while they had the run of the place.  I figured that the famous pacing life guards of Great Wolf Lodge had their backs as well!


 
On a particularly lovely day, we bit the bullet and bought the extremely pricey tickets to visit Colonial Williamsburg.  I was worried that the girls would whine the whole time, since they wanted to be back at the water park, but we had a very enjoyable (although tiring) day.  We visited multiple sites around Colonial Williamsburg, and spoke to several interpreters.  The girls enjoyed collecting punches on their maps from different sites that we visited, in order to win a souvenir pin.

Near the Governor's Mansion
In handcuffs
Gunpowder stores
at the Magazine
The Public Gaol
The Wigmaker's Shop
 
We arrived home to more chilly temperatures and more rain.  However, in our absence, the grass has begun to green up, and some more of my flowers have bloomed, including the Lenten Roses and Hyacinths.

It is so good to be home!  I am finally feeling better, but now poor L seems to be the next victim of the Raging Virus.  JP and myself are recovering from inadequate sleep in a Hotel bed, and from the loss of L's special blanket, and one of our pillow cases during a visit by Housekeeping.  Once the rain lets up, I need to head to the garden!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Taming the Beast

Even though we woke to another coating of snow this morning, it was all blue sky, sunshine and mild this afternoon. 

Poor Kali, who is covered with about 3 inches of thick, black wool all over, has been overheated more than not lately.  She looks more like a bear than a dog, and I've taken to calling her "Beast."  She pants and paces all day long.  Since she is not scheduled for a haircut for over a week yet, JP and I couldn't stand it any longer.  We double teamed her for over an hour this afternoon with scissors and electric clippers.

Trash bag full of hair clippings...
 
Now she looks like she lost a fight with a hedge trimmer, but her hair is significantly shorter, and we can see her eyes again.  When her hair appointment comes up in early April, the groomer can fix all the boo-boo's, and she'll look lovely and sleek again.

 
At least for now she will be ready for the 70 degree temps forecasted for tomorrow.  Just don't tease her about her bad hair-do...it's not her fault!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Follow Up...

It snowed again last night.  When that fact is paired with the one that demonstrates that it has not been above freezing up here for 72 hours now, it causes me to feel like shriveling up inside.  There has to be an end, right?  If it doesn't come soon, JP and I are going to have to cut wood again, and that isn't an attractive option at this time!

To follow up on the snacks that I prepared yesterday:  none of them received rave reviews, although J liked the Roasted Chick Peas (as did I initially...but they were mealy and less crisp just a few hours after baking...?)  L told me that she wasn't really tired of peanut butter crackers.  I guess we're back to that and the hummus then.

Peanut butter, snow, cold - repeat ad nauseum until some day...Spring arrives.  Wake me up when that happens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Peckish

It's official.  I have completely run out of ideas for after school snacks.  There are only so many days of hummus and carrots, apples with peanut butter, cinnamon toast, ants-on-a-log or peanut butter/nutella crackers that we can tolerate.  I have recently resorted (rather guiltily) to buying snacks for after school...trying to change things up and have something that lasts until we eat dinner around 6:30 - pizza bites, mozarella cheese sticks, fried mac-and-cheese.  These things are not only unhealthy, but they are also fairly expensive!

This morning, I finally went on line and googled "after school snacks."  A wide variety of ideas came up, many of them including bananas (which I have to rule out since L cannot even be in the same room with someone eating a banana.)  Some seemed rather time consuming to prepare, or featured ingredients that are not typically staples here (asparagus?)

I settled on 2 recipes that I have already prepared this morning.  I'm hoping that the Roasted Chick Peas actually last until the girls arrive home from school!

Roasted Chick Peas

 
There are literally dozens of recipes for these on the web - this is what I did:

1 - 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/8 t cumin
1/8 t garlic powder
1/8 t black pepper
1/4 t kosher salt

Drain and rinse garbanzos in a strainer, then pour onto paper towel lined baking sheet and top with another paper towel.  Gently rub until dry and skins are loosened from beans.  Pour beans onto baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and shake to coat beans.  Bake at 400* for 30-40 minutes, shaking pan every 10 min, to desired crispiness.  Combine seasonings and sprinkle over beans after removing from oven, then shake to coat.

HINT - line your baking sheet with tin foil and you won't have to wash it afterward!

There are so many possible spice combos, so be creative.  I'm thinking Italian Seasoning-salt-pepper-Parmesan might be worth a try, or sweet/spicy with cinnamon sugar, ginger and a dash of cayenne!

Granola Balls

 
I adapted this from a recipe on Martha Stewart's web site.

1/4 c honey
1/3 c crunchy peanut butter
2 T unsalted butter
1 c cereal (the recipe called for Rice Crispies, I used Puffed Rice, I think Cheerios would work equally well)
1 c rolled oats
1/3 c dried fruit (I used apples and blueberries)

Melt honey, PB and butter in medium saucepan over med-lo heat until creamy, then stir in remaining ingredients.  Drop tablespoonfuls into paper cupcake liners and refrigerate for 15 min.  Makes 24-28.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

These are like healthy no-bake cookies.  I think the addition of a few coarsely chopped almonds would be nice, as would a smidge of salt.

I will keep you all posted on how these snacks go over with the kiddos.  Please share any snack time favorites from your kitchen!