Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Busy Babes, Tired Nana

WARNING: If you are lukewarm in your adoration of my grandbabies, you may be slightly bored by this post.

Josh and Natalie arrived at ten a.m.
The first order of business was their second breakfast of the day.
Natalie said, "Nana, I have Cheerios at home. I wub it."
"Wow, Natalie, you love Cheerios?"
"No. I wub it."

If you click on the collage, you will get a better look.

Next on the agenda were legos. These two get along so well, playing side by side and having little conversations. I love to sit and watch them, but today I was doing laundry and trying to work up the nerve to get out of my robe and into my jeans.

Natalie is working on potty-training and has a perpetual bum crack. Jeff said it's genetic. My Dad was a plumber, don't you know? But I want it known here and forever that he NEVER sported a bum crack. Josh was wearing his pants backwards, as usual, but on one of the many potty trips of the morning he remedied the situation so I missed the photo op.

After I got dressed, we dragged the scooters out of the shed and took a walk. The sun was out, there was a brisk wind, and we were happy to be outside.

Listening to water trickling down the storm drain.

Dandelions are the flowers of choice for most kiddie bouquets. I asked Kenzie why? a few days ago. "They're so pretty," she said.

Natalie got tired on the way home and also needed to go potty, so I carried her and the scooter. When we arrived home (See Nana, I told you it was over here, said Josh) it was time for a snack.
Mandarin oranges.

Then some serious block building. Whereupon I took the opportunity to lie on the couch next to them and take a pseudo-nap...

...and of course Bethany and the older kids walked in the door a few minutes later.
We have been trying to talk Josh and Daniel into haircuts for some time. They were both very shaggy. Neither bribes nor shame had convinced them to endure the clippers. Today, Bethany told Josh that he could have a piece of gum if he got his hair cut.
"Okay," he chirped.
This is much better than the shaggy bedhead he was sporting all morning.

Natalie was determined that she needed a haircut too. She really wanted to be buzzed, but I appeased her with a trim.

Daniel got the shaggy prize. He still wouldn't bow his head to the clippers until I told him that he wouldn't look as handsome as Josh. "Okay," he chirped.

He doesn't enjoy the clippers and flinches every time I move to a new part of his head. This was his strained expression for the duration of the job.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fire in the Hole!

On Sunday, we had a family birthday party for Jeff.
Fifty five.
Bethany decided that so many candles would melt the frosting.
I made a chocolate-cherry cake, a tradition at our house. In its usual incarnation, it is a dark cake with whipped cream filling and a ganache coating. This time I used a German chocolate cake mix and put chocolate chips in it, with white chocolate filling and chocolate fudge frosting.
I was not happy with it.
The white chocolate was too sweet.
Sometimes I am too clever for my own good.
I hear my Dad's voice when I write that sentence.
However, the basic recipe is simplicity itself.

Chocolate Cherry Cake

One dark chocolate cake mix
One can of cherry pie filling
3 eggs
Mix all together and bake in two 9" rounds or a 9x13" oblong, about 25 minutes.

Because this is Bethany's favourite cake, I felt an obligation to make something gluten-free. Inspiration, in the form of a 3-pound container of cream cheese, dictated two cheesecakes: a big one with graham cracker crust, and a smaller one with a crust made from gluten-free cookies. Once again, I made the mistake of messing with the recipe. Let's just say that it is a perfect cheesecake by the recipe, but smarty-pants here went a little too far. It took way longer to cook than it was supposed to and came out kind of curdly and also dripped something all over the oven. I think the smaller one was pretty edible, because Bethany liked it.
Here is the original recipe, highly recommended by me because it usually turns out perfectly.
When I don't add extra sour cream and eggs.

Justa Pasta's Marvelous Cheesecake

2 c graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c unsalted butter
Mix till crumbly and press onto bottom of 10" springform pan. Refrigerate.

32 oz cream cheese
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 egg
Beat all together till smooth. Pour into crust and put in cold oven. Turn on oven to 350* and bake 40 mins.

2 c sour cream
3/4 c sugar
Juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
Drop of almond extract
Blend together, gently spread on cooked cheesecake. Return to oven and bake 15 mins at 300*. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
It is dense and creamy and delicious.

Here is the poor overbaked specimen.

Little Jeff ate a sweet orange instead of dessert.

Natalie tucked into the cake. She loves her food and is very independent in feeding herself.

Did I mention the substance deposited all over the bottom of the oven?
Monday was Jeff's actual birthday, so I made him a nice dinner of tilapia and roasted potatoes. I roast potatoes on a high heat, 450* or more. I had put the pan in the oven and was about to start on the rest of the dinner when I happened to glance through the window in the oven door.
Big flames.
I grabbed the pan out of the oven and had the presence of mind to locate the baking soda and throw a handful over the flames.
Immediate extinction.
I was so impressed with myself, you can hardly imagine.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the presence of mind to grab the camera before I extinguished the flames.

Dinner was a little late.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Disneyland with guns

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, way too early for a Saturday. Karen and Mark picked me up at 6 and we had to roust Jonnie out of bed. The poor lad works graveyard shift and he had worked part of it last night and then gone home for a few hours sleep. We wended our way swiftly down to Brownsville to the Oregon Firearms Academy.
Basic Firearms Safety course.
Disneyland with guns, as one of our instructors put it.
We met Nicole in the parking lot. Here we are, at the beginning of the day, looking relatively normal.

First on the agenda was a trip to the loo.
Which was unusual, to say the least.

Note the details, such as the valance around the ceiling.
Of the porta-potty.
Mind you, I did hear that the boy's loo wasn't so pretty.
Not that I would know firsthand or anything.

We sat for four hours in the morning, learning all about safety. Luckily, the instructors were quite entertaining. There was a guy, named Tom, who needed to shut up, but I managed to restrain myself and I didn't say it to him. But seriously, why is there always one of those in the class?
Lunchtime finally arrived.
Here is Mark, who ingeniously (and kind of nerdily) took a little camping stove with which to warm up his Campbell's soup.

After luch, outside to the range.
We then proceeded to find all kinds of ways to look berky.

I was hoping to get photos of us looking awesome, shooting our guns, but I was too busy looking awesome, shooting my gun.

Even the outside of the porta-potties was cool.

Here I am, on the SECOND walk-through for my graduation. The first one was too fast for the camera.

Oh yes, I asked them what you call a girl redneck.
"What?" they replied.
No, I said, I really want to know. They had thought it was a joke.
The answer?
Now we know.

Friday, March 26, 2010

You win some, you lose some

Karen, Lori and I went to the better Living Fair today.
Strike one: Karen slept in and was half an hour late.
Strike two: We got to the Expo Centre and there were hardly any cars in sight. Turns out we were two hours early.
So we went up the freeway to look for a good place to pass the time and eat an early lunch.
We're all about the lunch.
Strike three: I missed the exit and we ended up in Vancouver.
So we went to Sports Authority (Strike four: no ammo) and then to Michaels, where Karen did not disappoint us with her spending on cute garden gizmos and Lori bought some snazzy reading glasses.
Did you ever wonder what women of a certain age do for fun?
Just follow us around for a morning, we'll show you FUN!
We laughed at how many times we got lost.
We laughed at the Bear/Bare Dancing establishment.
We laughed at how many strikes I had against me already.
We found a pub for lunch.
Harleys in the windows.
Scruffy looking gents at the outside tables, luring us inside with a promise of awesome clam chowder.
We succumbed.
Four dollars for a giant, delicious, chunky, bowl of clam chowder.
On the corner of Denver and McClellan in North Portland, for future reference.
I was happy.
Back to the Expo Centre, right on time.
Strike five: I forgot my camera.
Which turned out to be not a bad thing, because, other than the free organic icecream bars and free frisbee from the Red Cross, it was less impressive than usual. Maybe because we have seen it all before. Solar seems to be a bigger presence than at former shows, so maybe it will get cheap enough for the masses some time soon. We have noticed that some of the vendors are quite aggressive lately. This bugs Lori, the soul of cheerfulness, and she is gleeful while telling them she is not interested. We decided that bigger is not always better.
Especially when it comes to Better Living.

P.S. Found some ammo at The Gun Broker on the way home. I am in danger of turning into a redneck. What do you call a girl redneck, I wonder? Stay tuned. I may find out tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bits and pieces on a rainy day

The week has turned stormy. Yesterday was almost like summer and now the trees are being whipped in the wind and the rain is relentless. Kenzie has gone home after an afternoon of shopping with Bethany and Josh and Natalie. I managed to talk myself out of buying anything, so it was only minimally fun.
I was awake for a while on Saturday night and all of a sudden it hit me. Ack! I forgot to make the last payment on the new piano! Now, how could I possibly just forget to pay $2,000+? So after sending the money off to the piano store, I am being frugal until I know how much we owe on taxes. Because you know, we will owe, we always do.

Wow. That wasn't a very entertaining story, was it?
Here, to make up for the non-entertaining story, is a word from Maxine.

Annie took this photo of me when I was in North Carolina. I don't make a habit of posting gratuitous photos of myself. Usually, when I see a photo of me, I think, Oh, this how other people see me? But aren't I still 25 and 110lbs?
Apparently not.
But at least I'm having a good time.
And I think that this "me" is the one with which I can live.

Tomorrow, some friends and I are off to the Better Living Fair at the Expo Centre. Lots of good ideas on green living and sustainability. Then on Saturday down to Lebanon for an all-day Basic Firearms Safety course. I shall tote the camera and be back with entertaining stories and maybe even a life-changing notion or two.
Liberal on Friday.
Conservative on Saturday.
It's very conflicting to be me.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who's the Princess now?

Kenzie is here for a day or two.
Nana, Nana, can we get Princess and the Frog from Redbox?
How about tomorrow Kenz? You can watch one of my new movies tonight.
So she watched The Other Side of Heaven.
Nana, can we get Princess and the Frog now?
Oh, okay.
So we reserved and paid for it online and walked down to the McDonalds Redbox.
A walk isn't really a walk with Kenzie.
I smell barbecue. Daddy likes to barbecue when it's warm, even though he's lazy. We had barbecue so much last summer that we got sick of it.
Really Kenz, Dad's lazy?
Yeah. When he wakes up in the morning, he lies in bed for an hour and doesn't get up!
Well, I guess I'm guilty of that too.
Prancing like a pony.
Nana, when I was watching videos the other day, I realized that I am really obedient for Mommy.
Really Kenz? What does that have to do with watching videos?
Nothing. I just realized it.
Oh. Okay. You are obedient. I like it.
Balancing on the curb.
The moon looks like a smile.
No. A frown
Skipping backwards.
Nana, I already saw the Princess and the Frog this morning.
You what?
Yeah, I watch it every day.
You watch it every day, and you made me go rent it????????
Guess who's sitting on the cushy couch, monopolizing the new TV, watching Princess and the Frog while I write this?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Break: Day 1

After my piano students gave an informal piano recital at the local senior care home this afternoon, Jonnie, my friend Karen, and I went to the range. As in "firearms", not "Home on the". I fired my little Ruger LCP for the first time. I was awesome. Karen, somewhat of a veteran, was awesom-er. She just stood there with her piece (note the cool armament lingo) and Bam Bam Bam, got herself a bulls-eye. Jonnie was awesom-est. He squatted, bambambambambam, shot his Glock pistol. BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM, lying on the ground, sniper-style, shot his semi-automatic rifle. He is the guru of all things firearm related. Too bad I forgot my camera, or you could have seen for yourself how awesome we all were.

Tonight, Jeff and I attended the long-awaited Jamie Cullum concert. Jamie Cullum, you may remember, is our favourite rowdy little Englishman. He is multi-talented, playing piano and guitar, body percussion, singing up a storm both rumbunctious and croony, occasionally jumping up and down on the piano. He gives an energetic concert and Jeff likes his charisma. Tonight's concert did not live up to expectations. It was at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland.
In spite of the bouncy floor.
We walked into the ballroom and realized that there were only a few chairs set up around the edges and they were all full. And we were an hour early. Me, I'm not about to spend the next three hours in agony, so I found somebody important and told them my problem and they set me up with a chair.
Thank you.
The next big problem was the beer garden, which took up half of the floor. Apparently, when you are drunk, you have no interest in the concert that you paid many dollars to see, and just want to yell above the music to your friends all night. So, while the rowdier numbers were enjoyable, the softer numbers were ruined by the hubbub from the other half of the crowd.

And parking set us back seven dollars.
AND there was a very funky smell by my chair.

Ah well, here are two of my favourites for you to try.

This lass from Dublin was the lead act.
Imelda May.
She was much rowdier in person.

We have tickets to see Mark Knopfler in April.
Last time we had tickets to his concert we forgot to go to it.
Two hundred dollars down the toilet.
I am hoping for redemption.

And now, it is already Day 2 of spring break.
Just barely.
So good night.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Up the Irish!!!!!

Just to clarify, that is an Irish cheer, not an insult.

In honour of St. Paddy's Day, and our anticipated trip to the fair isle's shores in the fall, here are some of my favourite Irish toasts and sayings.

When we drink, we get drunk.
When we get drunk, we fall asleep.
When we fall asleep, we commit no sin.
When we commit no sin, we go to heaven.
So, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!

Here's to health, peace, and prosperity.
May the flower of love never be nipped by the frost of disappointment,
nor shadow of grief fall among your family and friends.

May your home always be too small to hold your friends.

May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.

Here's to me and here's to you,
And here's to love and laughter.
I'll be true as long as you,
And not one moment after.

May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load.
May the mist of Irish magic shorten every road.
And may all your friends remember all the favours you are owed!

May neighbours respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

May those that love us, love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nana the Barber

Jon and Jenny and the boys came over tonight. The boys were decidedly shaggy. They have hair just like Jon's, which resembles a hedgehog when it gets to a certain length.
Thomy was easily talked into a haircut with a bribe of a Three Musketeers. But Jenny said "No." She has had enough of the brutal buzz, so I gave him a real haircut.

Jeff was not so easily bribed and it was dark before the chocolate sounded tempting enough.

The brush tickled!

Handsome boys.

Afterwards, we watched Horton Hears a Who.

What the mouse does

Jeff is gone.
Early this morning, to Wisconsin or some other cold, forsaken place.
Until so late on Thursday that it might as well be Friday.
I am sitting contemplating...
no cooking,
no early morning alarm,
no health-care updates,
no work woe updates,
no lunches to pack,
no snoring on the other side of the bed,
no ever-growing pile of black socks on the bedroom floor.

Just me and the leftovers in the fridge.
Book club on Tuesday night.
Dinner with the girls and Alice in Wonderland at the Cameo on Wednesday night.
Little grandsons over to play tonight.


Solitude is a precious thing when it's a choice.
Not so much when it is imposed.
Variety, once again, is the spice of my life.

Then, on Friday, back to...
comforting shoulder rubs,
goodbye kisses on my sleepy face in the mornings,
a hand on my back as I fall asleep,
friendly pats on my bottom as we pass in the hallway.

Was that too much info for my kids?