Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Not A Problem We Have At Our House

This made me laugh out loud.

Between drop-offs and pickups for a soccer camp and two playdates, I estimate that I will be driving between 150 and 200 miles tomorrow alone!  Unfortunately, too much down time at my house leads to fighting, so we need to keep the kids occupied during school breaks...this translates to a very 'occupied' mother as well.   I'll be happy to see that school bus on Monday morning!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Learned Something Today

Huh.  I always thought that worms crawled out of the dirt and onto hard surfaces like driveways during rain to avoid drowning when the air spaces between the dirt particles fill with water, but I guess I was wrong.  I just read that worms breathe through their skins and actually require water in the soil to do so; what's more, evidently they can survive being fully submerged in water for several days.  I gather that the current theory, or at least one current theory, is that earthworms surface during rainstorms for migration purposes, because they can move longer distances across the surface without drying out during rain.  It had occurred to me to wonder why there were worms in the middle of my driveway today--surely just getting up on the edge would have been sufficient to keep them from drowning?--and I guess now I know the answer to my question.  I also know that I am a raging dork, had there been any doubt.  Who else spends any time whatsoever voluntarily contemplating the motivations of earthworms???

And of course, the fact that there are worms on my driveway at all means that it is once AGAIN precipitating at my house.  We're getting rain this spring like we got snow this past winter, which is to say by the bucketload.  Somewhere, not too far from here, Noah is building another ark.

Speaking of flood stories, I find it absolutely fascinating that so many world cultures have them.  Who could read these stories (some listed here and here) and not see their striking similarity to the later Biblical versions??  The Sumerian story has been dated to about 1600BC...proof that there is truly nothing new under the sun.

Yours from the land of pouring skies and pruny fingers...

Mama D

Monday, April 14, 2014

Snapshot Of The Past

My maternal grandmother received a cookbook as a wedding present in the 1930s and used it until she passed away in 1995.  By then it was worn and shabby: pages were frayed; she'd taped recipes cut out of newspapers onto some pages; the scribbles of grandchildren occupied others.  If you look closely enough, you can find the wobbly traces of both my hand and my younger brother's from when we were kids, a permanent record in pencil of our small size back then.

When my grandmother passed away, her oldest daughter (my beloved godmother) inherited the cookbook.  My mother made copies for family members, though, one of which is a prized possession of mine.  Grandma's distinctive handwriting covers many of the blank pages, including her recipes for spaghetti sauce, pizza, cheese croutons (for wedding soup--so good I used to eat these small squares straight from the bag she kept in the freezer!), pickles, sausage, cookies, cavatelle, and more.

For some reason I was looking through this cookbook the other day and was reminded anew that it is a relic of a bygone era.  This period was the heyday of the woman's club, domestic advances having given middle-class women more time for intellectual and social pursuits.  Grandma's cookbook was published by her city's Federation of Women's Clubs, and the contributor of each recipe was identified by both her name and the name of the specific club to which she belonged, of which there were dozens.  These clubs have names like "Mother's Progress" and "Monday Conversational Club" and "Women's Literary" and "Garden Guild" and "Drama Guild" and "Reading Circle" and "Monday Musical."  This grandmother worked, and so did not have the free time to belong to one of these clubs, but my other grandmother lived nearby and did belong to a club--which one seems lost to time, though.  My dad remembers his mother's club friends coming over for luncheons and cards.

I wish I could tell you what year this cookbook was published, but I can't figure it out.  The date doesn't appear anywhere on my copy, and my aunt was kind enough to go through the original (just in case Grandma taped a recipe over the copyright page) and she couldn't find it either.  Even a Google search came up with a blank.  My best guess is that it dates from sometime between World War I and World War II.  The ads are illuminating: for one thing, the telephone numbers in them are still five digits (e.g. 2-6685) and one is for a coal delivery company!

 ETA: My mother told me after reading this post that my great-aunt's family (this grandmother's sister) actually owned a coal company that made those home deliveries!  Who knew.  She also said that in her own house growing up, there was a coal chute through which the delivery people would pour coal for the furnace, and that her mother would get up early in the morning to shovel coal so that the house would be warm when she and her sisters woke up.


The recipes themselves speak of the general era as well.  One page is titled "If War Should Come, Bread, Buns and Rolls" and gives recipes for breads made with barley or rye flour substituted for some of the white flour.  An article taped onto another page describes ways to use honey instead of sugar because of sugar rationing, perhaps from WWII days.  A third page contains a recipe for a coffee substitute made from bran and black molasses toasted to a golden brown in the oven.

Most of the recipes in the book are relatively simple fare, but not all that different from things we might cook today: the glaring exception is the appetizers and salads, which in a few cases feature some, er... unusual combinations of ingredients.  At least to the modern eye.

Trying to envision combining marshmallows, peanut butter and mayonnaise.

Or lime jello, pimiento, onion, mayonnaise and whipped cream.

This one I just can't wrap my head around at all!

I will say, however, that there were FOUR recipes in a row requiring soy sauce (all variations on chow mein and chop suey), which absolutely blew my mind.  In a cookbook dating from this time period featuring recipes collected from women living in a small city in the Midwest??  Nice.  The other thing that surprised me was how spare the directions are: generally only a few lines per recipe.  Apparently back then people didn't need things spelled out...for instance, two jam recipes list the ingredients to be combined and then the entire preserving process is summed up in one word of instructions!  "Can."

I think I'm going to have to make something from this cookbook soon.  Miss you, Grandma...




Sunday, April 13, 2014

Where Children Sleep

Fascinating images.  And in some cases, depressing and/or frightening.  Talk about a reality check!

This link contains some additional images from the series as well.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Can Somebody Please Explain This To Me??

Walked past this product on a Walmart rack, caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye and had to backtrack to make sure I read the package correctly.

Apparently it is catfish bait.  I actually looked for an ingredient list, but there wasn't one.  In retrospect, not sure I want to know!

Friday, April 11, 2014

On A Roll Here

Over the past two weeks, I've located four (count 'em, FOUR!) caches that had eluded me on previous searches.  Sometimes multiple previous searches.  In cacher parlance, a cache that you can't find is referred to as a DNF (for "did not find") and my OCD self does not like having DNFs.  :)

One was straightforward enough...I couldn't find it on my first two tries because it wasn't actually there.  I was at the correct spot, but the cache container had been muggled (aka stolen.)  The owner checked on it, confirmed that it was gone, put a new one in its spot, and Bob's your uncle...a very quick find for me on my third visit.

A second cache owned by the same guy proved a little trickier.  I did eventually find the necessary clue at stage 1 (did YOU notice the three-digit numbers etched into the bolt heads on the left?  You may need to click on the picture to see them.)

The bolts in question were about waist-height on a post, helping to hold up a gate.

I then tried to get to the final stage back in the fall but was defeated by wicked, marauding thorn bushes.  I swore that I would return in winter with a machete.  Well, it may have been the beginning of spring, but there was significantly less underbrush, and I was armed: I made the hike to the final site with GPS receiver in one hand and handheld garden shears in the other!  One more down.

Number three: no explanation other than that I must have been blind the first time around.  Solved the puzzle at stage 1 with no problem, got to stage 2, couldn't find a darned thing.  The second time, I all but tripped over the container...go figure.  It was exactly where it should have been and I just missed it.  (But isn't the view from that cache site something??)

Number four was a raging beast.  There's a guy in my area who gets his jollies out of hiding caches so well that people have a terrible time finding them...I've run into a few of his before.  This particular one had a terrain rating of 2 out of 5, meaning not sidewalk but not terrible terrain either, but a difficulty rating of 4 out of 5.  I actually think the latter was underrated, in retrospect.  After a thoroughly frustrating stomp around in the woods looking for it the first time, a friend gave me a small hint and I went back today.  Even knowing the general sort of hide I was looking for, it took me an hour to find the damned thing!

And this is why.

This is where I was looking for it.  Forested area, tons of dead leaves and downed branches.

And THIS was the freaking cache container!!  A small chunk of old-looking wood with a hole drilled into the bottom for the tube that held the actual paper log.  (The container is only the round bit of wood; I had it sitting on a downed tree trunk so I could take the picture.)

A better picture of the wooden container with the tube inserted into the hole.  Again, bear in mind that this piece of wood was placed upside-down on a forest floor littered with leaves and sticks and random pieces of wood.  The fact that I managed to turn over the right piece of wood was little less than wonder it took me so long to find the blasted thing.  Talk about a needle in a haystack!

But I did find it, and that's what matters...another one bites the dust.  There's nothing special about the actual containers when you find them most of the time: the fun for me is the hunt (and the puzzle-solving as well, for the puzzle caches.)  To each his own form of entertainment!



Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Picture Of Happiness

Because I love my dog dearly, in the mornings, when it is not too cold outside, I open the front door and drag her beloved bed to the spot immediately in front of the storm door, where she can recline in the sun-warmth and monitor all passing activity outside.  Dog nirvana.

After the germ-ridden beginning to our week, all is much better (and believe me, I rap the desk with my knuckles as I type this!)  Thing Two still has a bit of a cough but is back in school, thankfully.  In other good news:

1) I managed not to be eaten alive by the fifth graders when I went in to give a nutrition-related presentation to them yesterday--this is in connection with a state health grant for which they needed parent volunteers, and these kids really are on the upper end of the age range for the material we were supposed to present.  I ended up raiding Petunia's toy kitchen for every plastic fruit, vegetable and grain she owns and bringing them in for a competitive game to get them engaged.

2) Thing Two cheerfully cooperated for the purchasing of a First Communion suit...he is now the proud owner of a beautiful black suit and new matching dress shoes!  About a month and counting now to his big day, and believe me, I am not taking any part of this for recently as last year, I wondered if he would be able to understand enough of what was going on to be able to participate, and this has not been an issue at all.  He's got this stuff down cold.

3) I've had some good luck over the past week with finding caches that had previously eluded me, including one yesterday.  Going to try for another one again on my way to taekwondo this morning in hopes of continuing the streak...wish me luck!

4) And, most amazingly...I FOUND A PRESENT FOR MY DAD!!  I wasn't even looking, either.  The man is the single most impossible person in the universe for whom to buy gifts, since he doesn't need much and whatever he does need, he buys for himself.  (Growl.)  Duly ordered and will be put away for Christmas!!!

So, I guess I'm doing okay in the happiness department myself this week too, kid sickness notwithstanding, even if I can't quite compete with my dog.  Happy Thursday!