Sunday, November 30, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Petunia loves to bake with me.  I've wanted to try making spritz cookies for a while now (the kind below, that are made by forcing a soft dough through a cookie press.)

While at Costco on Black Friday, I found a cookie press for about $15 and tossed it into my cart.  Unfortunately, when I opened the box at home I discovered that it did not come with any directions (thankfully, I am married to an engineer...) or, more annoyingly, a recipe for spritz cookie dough.

Undeterred, I found a recipe online yesterday, made the dough, and then belatedly realized that the pot roast I was making for our company last night was going to be in the oven all afternoon, so I just wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and stuck it in the downstairs fridge to deal with today.  After church, lunch, a small caching adventure and helping Himself get the Christmas tree set up, I grabbed the dough back out and realized that I could use it as building material: it had set up as hard as cement!  No way that stuff was ever going to squeeze out through a cookie press, even after being allowed to return to room temperature.

Plan B: roll it out and cut it like sugar cookie dough.  Not so crumbled and broke all over.  Plan C: roll it into logs, cut those into discs and bake those.  Worked OK, but still crumbly.  Finally resorted to plan D, which was slicing the big disk of dough into rectangular or triangular logs (no rolling involved)  and further slicing those crosswise to make rectangular or triangular cookies.  That finally worked: they look more than a bit odd but who cares.  They taste good and Petunia had fun decorating them with sprinkles.  And I sure as HECK am not using that spritz cookie recipe ever again: anybody have a good one for me??    

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Man, This Introvert is Fried

Thanksgiving day with a crew at my in-laws'.  Day after Thanksgiving surrounded by Black Friday shopping craziness, followed by dinner again with the extended family.  Errands to run this morning, cooking all afternoon, then some friends here for dinner all evening with their kids and dog.  I want nothing more right now than to crawl into some *very* quiet place all by myself and stay there for a very long time.

Has nothing to do with the people involved: my husband's family are great people and the guests who were here tonight are dear friends who will soon be moving to Canada.  We really wanted to have them over before they go and the dinner tonight was our idea.  Three straight days in, I've just had it up to my ears in general with noise and confusion and talking and crowds; the tank is empty and desperately needs to be refilled.  Glad that there is nothing whatsoever on the agenda for tomorrow!

Friday, November 28, 2014

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Every year, I stay over at my in-laws' house on Thanksgiving night while the rest of the family makes the hour's drive home.  My mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I have gone out shopping every Black Friday morning for years's the tradition and we have the routine down.  When my alarm went off this morning, I jumped in the shower and then ran downstairs to grab a quick bite.  My father-in-law was the only other person in the kitchen, and he pointed to the styrofoam Dunkin Donuts cup on the counter and told me to make sure I grabbed it.

Seems that my MIL woke up this morning, realized that there was no caffeinated coffee in the house (my in-laws only drink tea) and MADE A RUN TO DUNKIN DONUTS JUST TO GET ME COFFEE.

Absolutely unnecessary--I would have been perfectly happy with tea, I've been married to their non coffee-drinking son for a long time--but such a tremendously kind gesture, I couldn't believe it.  That, my friends, is love, and I'm a damned lucky daughter-in-law.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It Started With The Cranberry Relish

My mother-in-law makes a really fabulous cranberry relish every Thanksgiving.  It has blueberries and oranges and nuts in it and I could eat the whole bowl with a spoon all by itself, never mind putting it on the turkey.  She knows that I love it.  This year, while we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, she told me that she made double the usual amount so that I could take the second batch home with me.

I've been thinking about what to write today for a few days now: there are so many things I'm thankful for, and I really didn't want to just post a laundry list.  This many not be something you see often in general, but I've decided that the blessing I'm going to focus on this year is my mother-in-law.  I couldn't ask for a better one, and after almost thirteen years of marriage and three kids, that's really saying something. 

She's been nothing but kind and thoughtful since the first time I met her, which was before her son and I actually started dating (I think...the chronology there is a little shaky.  Certainly before it was public and official.)  She voluntarily hosted a bridal shower and a baby shower for me at her home.  She doesn't interfere between me and her son or get involved in our parenting decisions at all...the biggest problem I have with her is getting her opinion on something when I actually WANT it, since she tries so hard not to step on my toes!  When we need help with the kids, she's there.  She has a daughter as well, and she is every bit as loving to me as she is to my sister-in-law...for all that I am married to her only son (the setup for many a horror story) I have been welcomed into the family with open arms.  

Marriage takes work, no doubt.  Certainly good marriages do.  But how many women can truthfully say that their mothers-in-law make their marriages easier instead of harder?  Not sure how I got this lucky, but thank God for it.  I hope I manage to be half as good to my sons' wives as she is to me!

ETA: For anyone who may be wondering, she has no idea that this blog exists.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow Day

Winter's here. Bloody hell.

Husband worked from home because the commute would have been a mess and a half. Kids' school was cancelled today.  I was stuck in the house all day and I HATE being stuck in the house all day.

On the bright side, the house is now decorated for Christmas except for the tree, which we haven't picked out from the tree farm yet.  I baked a batch of gingerbread cookies, a batch of pumpkin bars, and a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and made the kids waffles for breakfast from scratch.  And I managed to get the address labels printed for the Christmas cards and a lot of the envelopes labeled and stuffed.

Still on track with the plan to get stuff done early this year. The goal is to *not* be a raging bitch for the entire month of December because I'm a stressed-out lunatic!  So far, so good.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Petunia has a longtime admirer.  He's a determined little guy and will be quite a catch in eight or ten years: he's handsome, bright, athletic and from a nice family.  Unfortunately for him, he keeps announcing that he has a crush on her, and she has absolutely no idea how to handle this!  He did it again at school today.  She likes him well enough, but has no romantic interest...that appears to be reserved for a friend and classmate of Thing Two's (an older man!!), based on her frequent unprovoked comments about how much she doesn't like him.  Ah, the drama of elementary school romance.

At least unrequited love is a little easier to deal with...her father was unamused two years ago when she came home from school one day and announced that she was engaged to a boy in her kindergarten class!  This one's going to run us a merry dance.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oh Well

I wasn't supremely vested in the whole NaBloPoMo thing, but I had managed a post a day until yesterday.  Just didn't happen and that's ok.  Great day otherwise, though...finally made my expedition to the swamp with the other crazy cachers and it was a BLAST!  30 degrees, wind, ice, mud and brambles everywhere...believe it or not, eight of us willingly chose to do this together on a freezing day and every one was highly educated, over the age of 40 and (apparently) certifiably nuts.  :)  We found everything we looked for, laughed a lot, fell down a few times, and walked about three miles total through the swamp while bundled up in hip or chest experience for the books overall, for sure.  Kind of like climbing Mt. Everest because it's there.  The most amazing thing was that one woman in the group is 74 and another guy is rapidly approaching 70, and they kept up with the rest of us in a minefield of ice, fallen branches, and knee-deep muck.  I want to be like them when I grow up, no joke!

Friday, November 21, 2014

High Praise

Longer-term readers may recall that I've been coaching some of my kids' basketball teams for three or four years now, and that last year I was a head coach for the first time. The only female coach, too, head or otherwise.  I had the occasional run-in with male egos, but not many, and the two guys who helped out as assistants with my team were both great.  

Fast-forward to today.  This year's season is gearing up, and some planning-type messages have recently gone out.  Got an email from one of last year's assistants this morning: "Are you taking a team this year?  My son wants you to be his coach again and I'll be happy to come back as the assistant."

From a guy??  About as good as it gets. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Introvert In Sheep's Clothing

Read something interesting today.  Don't remember the exact words, but the gist was that you can't necessarily tell an introvert from an extrovert by how they behave around people: an introvert can be plenty talkative when need be.  What makes the difference is where they recharge their 'batteries'...for the extrovert, being around people does the trick, while the true introvert needs time alone.

By this definition, I'm an introvert, always have been.  I remember being a little kid and going voluntarily to my room to read quietly for a while every day after school.  Even now, as outgoing as I generally am, I hit a threshold of contact with people after which I need to go be by myself for a while...there's only so much I can take even of people I genuinely love before I need a few minutes of quiet to regroup.  The really funny thing is that I decided to marry Himself in part because he's one of the few people I've ever known that I don't need to 'escape' from...maybe because he's an introvert too and can just sit quietly with me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three Days

Three whole days: that's how long we had between the end of the fall soccer season and the beginning of winter basketball season.  We had the final three soccer games on Sunday (blowout wins for Thing Two and Petunia, a tie for Thing One) and an evening of blessed peace on Tuesday, which would normally be a soccer practice night, but basketball starts tomorrow.

At least it's indoors...I think the high here *might* have reached freezing today.  Ugh.  I'm SO grateful that I don't live in Buffalo or wherever the hell just got six feet of snow in one dump.  Ye gods.  I'm not ready for either winter or winter sports yet.  How about some fall without fall sports in it??

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

So Far, So Good

So, Thing One rocked his first marking period of middle school.  Straight As, all 9 subjects!  This with minimal academic supervision from me AND while playing on two soccer teams at once.  Kid is on a roll in middle school and I couldn't be happier for him.  He's still feeling his way through a lot of the social stuff, especially everything that relates to girls, but he has academics, sports and a good posse of buddies going for him and he'll eventually figure the rest of it out.  One step at a time!

Monday, November 17, 2014

'Tis The Season

The stores are in a full-court press for the holidays, commercials involving Santa and snow are all over the TV dial, some radio stations are playing nothing but holiday music 24-7, and there are even houses around me already bedecked with icicle lights and reindeer and inflatable monstrosities.  To all of which I say: "Bah, humbug."

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday before I became the person responsible for making it happen: the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the cooking, the decorating, the hosting, etc.  All of this while still doing all my normal jobs, mind: I wish the laundry and vacuuming and mom-the-taxi-ing and lunch-packing and the like would conveniently disappear during the holiday rush, but no such luck.  My mood starts getting surly around mid-November and woe to anyone who sings a Christmas carol in my house!  Not a great way to be, I freely admit, but the sorry truth.

This year, I've decided to do a few things differently and see if it helps a little.  I deliberately chose not to be a class parent, since that poor soul has to coordinate teacher gifts and holiday parties in December.  I'm going to simplify my decorating: we'll see if the world comes to an end if every decoration in my basement isn't put out.  And I'm trying to avoid some of the last-minute rush that always proves to be the icing on the cake of my I mentioned, I ordered the holiday cards yesterday, today I brought up the decorations, and hopefully I'll start getting some of them put up this weekend.  If all I have to do is shop, wrap and mail cards by Thanksgiving, I'll be in better shape than usual, at least.

It can't be just me, can it?  Surely some others reading this have at least mixed feelings about the winter holidays??  If not, maybe I'll just try hibernating next year.  At least I'd get more sleep!


Sunday, November 16, 2014


November 16th and the Christmas cards already ordered!!!!  Trying to spread out the holiday stressors a bit more than usual this year.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Joys Of Country Living

Himself saw a mouse behind the TV cabinet in the family room tonight. Damn and blast.  Cold weather always brings them inside.  Peanut-butter traps deployed: hoping for some small-scale mouse genocide.  😫

Friday, November 14, 2014

Girl Trouble

Thing One came home today grumbling that he doesn't understand sixth grade girls. I gather from the conversation that followed that one of his buddies got dumped today and that the buddy was dumped in favor of a specimen of much lesser worth in Thing One's eyes. He's come to the conclusion that the girls care only about looks and it's depressing him.  He's not a bad looking kid, but his best friend wouldn't call him hot.  I had to explain that it might be a few years yet before the girls learn to look beyond the superficial and that it's worth the wait.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

36 Degrees And Raining

Miserable, damp cold.  The only way to combat it is to turn on lots of lights and cook warm, filling things that make the house smell good.  Tonight's list: spaghetti sauce with peas and prosciutto, a coffee cake, apple strudel, two pizzas and a partridge in a pear tree.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things You Never Thought You'd Say To Your Children, Part 652

"Stop playing with my normal cell and put it back in the prop box!"

(The "normal cell" in question being the blue ball from the photo below...the orange ball was my cancer cell.)

Gave my talk on new cancer therapies to the eighth graders today, all three classes of them.  I was teaching pretty much the whole time from 10:30-1:30, and I now have a new respect for middle school teachers.  How in the world do you present the same material to every one of your classes multiple times a day, every day, year in and year out?  I've certainly given talks before, but never the same talk three times in a row on one day.

My biggest concern was the level at which I was speaking.  It's tough to target that age group in science: oversimplifications bore and insult them, but it's hard to get much below the 30,000 foot mark in Biology without things getting grad-school level pretty quickly.  I did the best I could with that, even bouncing some of my slides off Thing One ahead of time as a gauge.  He's only in sixth grade, but he's a bright, science-focused sixth grader...figured if he understood what I was saying, the older kids would.  As it happened, the kids seemed to be able to follow the talk and the teacher was happy with it...guess the acid test will be whether he invites me back to give it again next year!  We'll see.  At the very least, I'm glad to have it over with for the time being...I've been stressing about that for a good two weeks now.


In other news,  the most recent sign that the apocalypse is nigh came from Thing One, who bounded off the school bus and informed me cheerfully that the next middle school dance will be in December and that formal clothing is required.   He wants to go. (!)  And is planning to wear dress pants, dress shoes, a nice shirt, and A TIE. (!!)  This from the kid who fusses about wearing a collared shirt to church!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

It's a big day around here.  Today marks the start of our fourth year with our beloved dog--hard to believe she came to us from the rescue three full years ago.  It's also, as it happens, the eleventh anniversary of our move into this house.  I've lived here longer than anywhere else in my life by about five years now, which is pretty wild.  Not at all what I'd planned, but oh well.  Man makes plans and God laughs, isn't that how the saying goes?

On a much more important note, today is Veteran's Day in the US, the day on which we honor our current and former service members.   Reprinting the following from two years ago.

Four of my husband's cousins, two of his uncles, and one aunt are Army veterans.  An additional cousin is still on active duty in the Army Infantry.  Both of his parents are civilians who worked for the Army until retirement, and his grandfather was in the Coast Guard.  His best friend is a Lt. Colonel in the Marines, a helicopter pilot.  On my side, two uncles and an aunt are also veterans--two Air Force, one Army.  We take Veteran's Day seriously around here.

Honoring all current and former service members today.  The four-legged ones too.

It is the soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

--Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

(Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005. 
All rights reserved.)


Monday, November 10, 2014


After a normally crazy Monday (with, sadly, Himself out of town yet again) I ended the evening with preparation for my lecture to the eighth graders, which I found out today will be on Wednesday, three classes more or less in a row.  Talk about a baptism by fire!  Props are done, PowerPoint presentation is done, not much else I can do.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We're Growing Some Kind Of Puppy Here

Thing One needed new basketball shoes, so we went shopping yesterday.  Kid is eleven years old and now wears a men's size 9.5 shoe, which is dad wears 14s, so we know where he gets it, but still.  Dad is 6'4" to Thing One's maybe 5'2"...either the kid will eventually grow into his feet or we'll send him to clown school!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Work In Progress

Raw materials for my lecture to the 8th graders.

Raw materials in slightly less raw form, although not finished yet.

Can't you see ligands and receptors and conjugated toxins in that second picture??   Trying to put together some visuals to help the kids see how targeted cancer therapies work.  Got my PowerPoint presentation mostly done too.  Happily so, since it's been a long time since I had to put a presentation together. 

Spent some time cooking today as well...had to do SOMETHING with the 50 pounds of apples in my kitchen from apple-picking yesterday!  Made a big batch of applesauce and an apple crumble, along with a pot roast and a loaf of bread.  My house hasn't smelled this good in years!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dorkin' Out Over Here

About a month ago, I showed up a few minutes early to collect Thing One from a school soccer practice and met the school's 7th and 8th grade science teacher, who also has a child on the team.  I mentioned that I thought his curriculum was great (I reviewed it last fall in my school board capacity) and we got to chatting about the subject material he covers. When he found out that my professional background is in cancer research his eyes lit up, since his eighth graders do a cancer unit: before I knew it I had agreed to come in and teach a class for all three sections of his eighth graders.

Their cancer unit is pretty basic: what is the disease, what causes it, how the standard treatments (surgery, chemo, radiation) work.  I borrowed a textbook so I could get a sense of what they will know by the time I get in there and at what level of detail.  The really awesome thing is that I get to take the next step from their book, and explain how all the newer targeted anticancer therapies work: the vaccines, the biologicals, the gene therapy, etc.  I only have a 43-minute class period for each section and I have NO idea how to condense even a superficial view of the massive coolness that is this subject area into that limited amount of time at an 8th grade level, but my goal is to figure it out this weekend.

Love this stuff.  Science is just so damned fascinating...I was lucky enough to have biology teachers in my freshman and junior years of high school who lit a fire under me, and I'll be ridiculously happy if I can do that for even one kid myself.  Call it karmic payback!


Thursday, November 6, 2014


Thing Two has always been my wild-card child, the one with definite opinions as to How The World Should Be that don't necessarily conform to convention, shall we say.  As an example of this, for the past year he has adamantly and categorically forbidden me to accompany his school classes on any field trips.  Stings a little, but at least the other two still want me along, and some battles just aren't worth fighting. I suspect he feels that if I come along it would be to 'help' him in some capacity, and he's a proud child who's had it up to his ears with help.  I can respect that. So it came as a bit of a shock to me last week when he broke down in tears on the morning of a class trip because I was NOT going to be accompanying them.  Go figure.

Yesterday, he came home with the permission form for yet another trip.  He took it out of his backpack, handed it to me and told me that he wanted me to be sure to come along this time. I have no idea whatsoever what caused his thinking on this subject to change so dramatically, but I'll take it: Things For Which I Am Grateful, #2.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

And For The Low, Low Price Of Only $50...

You could have bought this outfit for Halloween.  It's called the Delicious Women's Phd Darling Sexy Costume.

Apparently "Delicious" is the name of the company that makes it and not an attribute of the costume, although you could be forgiven the assumption...looks like it might be stocked next to the edible underwear at Frederick's!  Bet I'd have earned my Ph.D. a lot quicker if I had one of those, but at least I know how to capitalize and punctuate the abbreviation...some small consolation.  ☺️

If you want a few minutes of entertaining reading, click through to the link above...some of the reviews are really funny.  I'm too tired tonight to go off on a rant about the objectification of women in Halloween costumes in general and this one in particular, so I'm choosing to be amused instead...please take the rant as stipulated!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's Official...

Three more years. The votes are in, and I have been reelected to our school board.  The results weren't close, for which I am both humbled and grateful.  Taking that as a vote of confidence going into term #2!  Never saw myself as the politico type (quite the reverse, actually), so it's odd to see my name on the same ballot as senatorial candidates' names and be vying for an elected office.  There's no personal power or glory in being on a school board but the opportunity to make a difference for the kids is front and center every day, and I'll proudly take my oath again come January.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Things For Which I Am Grateful #1

Thought about doing the NaBloPoMo thing again this year but decided against it.  Don't feel like having to write something every day just for the sake of writing every day.  That said, it is November, the month in which we traditionally give thanks for the people and things in our lives that make us happy, and since I can be a cantankerous, crabby old buzzard, I figure it can't hurt me to focus on my blessings for a month or so.

Without further ado, I give you blessing #1: Thing One, my sweet, beloved space cadet of a son, has finally pulled his socks up and taken responsibility for his own schoolwork this year.  His grades (test, quiz, homework, the whole shebang) are all available online through the school's parent network now that he's in middle school.  Once I realized that, very early in the year, I called him over to my iPad, showed him what I can see and asked him to please not make me micromanage him.  His grades are good, his teachers are happy, he's bringing the right stuff to and from school, and I have absolutely nothing to do with any of that...I'm so far from helicoptering him that I'm not even at the same airport!  With two younger ones who still need lots of help and attention, having the eldest well on the road to self-sufficiency is a big deal indeed.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Holy Crap On A Cracker

Thing Two SCORED A GOAL today.  He hasn't scored in a game since he left his Rec soccer team for the travel team last December, y'all.  This is huge.

Left to the head coach's devices, the kid would play goalie for the whole game, every game.  Given that this coach is himself a goalie, this could be construed as a compliment, and it probably is.  Kid is pretty good and he gets better with every week's training.  That said, as parents we aren't thrilled with the idea of a nine year-old getting compartmentalized so early, so we've asked the coach to play him in other positions as well, which unfortunately in practice means that he plays a half in goal and then another quarter on defense...tough positions from which to score.  God love the child, but defense is not his strong suit...even his nonprofessional Rec coaches alternated him between goalie and forward.  I have no idea why the current trainer/coach thinks he should be a defender but neither of the assistant coaches see it either...they sneak him in at forward for a few minutes whenever the head guy misses a game!

Anyway, today he had a good first half in goal and it was tied 0-0 at halftime.  By the time the fourth quarter was winding down, they'd scored twice on our backup goalie and we'd scored once.  I looked up from my watch and Thing Two was coming back into the game as a forward...I noted in disbelief that the head coach was still there.  Then I watched with my mouth open as Thing Two took a pass from a teammate, dribbled it coolly and methodically a third of the way down the field and then jammed it into the net for the tying goal!

The end-of-game whistle blew within 30 seconds of that shot, no joke.  Kid walked off that field with a smile as big as I've ever seen plastered across his mug and if I could have cartwheeled with joy, I would have.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Best Kind Of Day

45 degrees and raining sideways.  Yeah, really!

All our activities for today were cancelled.  At 5PM, I took my shower for the day, changing from one set of pajamas into another set of pajamas.  Fire in the fireplace, chicken and dumplings for dinner.  Love it!  Now settling down on the big sofa to watch the ND-Navy game in peace and quiet.

Time In A Bottle

Okay, time can slow down now, please. When I was a kid, I remember my mother saying that the days were long but the years were short.  I d...