Saturday, December 19, 2009

College essay written Dec. 6, 1995 "Star Stuff"

I grasp the banister and begin to climb the damp concrete stairs. Lighting being virtually nonexistent, I pull my flashlight from my pocket and focus its beam onto the dented metal door standing before me. The faded red sign screams "Authorized Personnel Only. Others subject to fines. MIT Physical Plant. Blah, Blah, Blah". Feeling pretty authorized, I make use of all the "training" I have received over the past two years and unlock the door. I place a piece of wood between the door and its frame to ensure the possibility of a later departure, then step over the rim of the door casing onto the pieces of gravel and glass lining the tar-covered roof.

The night air is warm and a bit humid, but nonetheless comfortable. I survey my surroundings for changes since my last visit. Noticing nothing new, I proceed to the opposite edge of the roof and lean over its rim. Several cars speed down the narrow street disregarding the numerous speed bumps. Horns blast, car alarms sound, caution lights flash and somewhere in the distance a police siren screams. I turn my attention away from the edge and begin to search for my favorite chair. Several feet from where I had last seen it, I find the beautiful ragged remains of the school bus seat; its vinyl is faded, dirty and torn. I lean it against the short wall at the edge of the building, drop my backpack to the ground, and rest my body against this old friend.

I tilt my head, leaning it against the cushioned vinyl behind me. Again, a siren pierces the air attempting to invade my space, only to be reflected. Shields are holding, Captain. I gaze into the night sky, past the glow of the Boston skyline. The little guys try to hide, but I know where and how to find them. As my eyes slowly being to adjust to the darkness surrounding me, the small white dots gain intensity and become visible against the blackness of space. Like children who are playing hide and seek when they hear the ice cream truck, the tiny flames jump out from their hiding places revealing themselves to me. "Twinkle, Twinkle little star..."

I have always been intrigued by the stars. As a child I would lie in the grass in my back yard staring into the sky until my mother called me in for bed. I wondered how far away they were, and if on one of their planets someone was staring back at me. I learned the names of the constellations at a very early age, and soon after I could place the names to the stars in the sky. Orion became my best friend as I rode on the back of Pegasus across the blackness of the heavens.

On my eighth birthday my grandfather became my hero; inside the long, narrow, badly wrapped box displaying his name, I found a "SkySearcher(tm) junior telescope with adjustable tripod". It was the most beautiful piece of shiny red plastic I had ever seen. I extended its three stainless steel legs, placed them on the damp grass in my back yard, and didn't come up for air for over six months. When the temperature began to get cold my mother refused to let me sit out in the wet grass, and I was forced to worship the little flames through the glare in my bedroom window. It wasn't the best method, but I took what I could get. "...How I wonder what you are..."

Technically, I always knew that there was nothing physically magical about the bright little flames in the sky. They are simply giant balls of superheated gas, formed from the explosion of a dust cloud, that have been spinning in the sky for over four and a half billion years...Sounds pretty easy, huh? Maybe I'll make one in my dorm room this weekend. Nonetheless I have always been drawn to their mystery, their intrigue, their implied knowledge. Maybe if I learn enough or wish enough they will let me join them. I can dance among the immense sparklers, propelled by their combined consciousness. Their serenade will move my feet as I glide over dust clouds and comet trails. I will finally be one with the universe. "...Up above the world so high..."

With vast convolutions Draco holds
Th' ecliptic axis in his scaly fold.
O'er half the skies his neck enormous rears,
And with immense meanders parts the Bears.
-Erasmus Darwin's Economy of Vegetation

The salt scattered black of the Milky Way contains over two hundred Billion stars, all of which have been in existence at least a couple of billion years. I can't even begin to comprehend the magnitude of a billion. I have only been alive twenty years, and I think I know quite a bit of information. Their knowledge must be immense; they have been soaking up data since the beginning of time. If only I could access their memories, know what happened at the genesis of the universe...if only. They must have seen planets created and destroyed, life emerge only to become extinct, and great civilizations slaughter one another throughout the universe. They have seen it all and probably even created some of it. They are giant spheres of superheated gaseous knowledge just waiting to be cooled into a drinkable puddle, and I am the one to do it. "...Like a diamond in the sky..."

We are all made of star stuff.
-Carl Sagan

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel among the stars to experience their beauty and wealth of knowledge close up. I will climb into a space shuttle bound for the cosmos someday. It will take me to uncharted territory, a new frontier, filled with wonders never before seen by human eyes. I will know what the stars know; their secrets will be revealed to me, and I will truly be star stuff.

A fire engine siren suddenly yanks my mind back onto this planet and into my sweating body. Captain, we have lost shields. I gaze into the eyes of Medusa once again, refusing to turn to stone this time. I notice Centaurus prancing across the heavens while Leo tends his pride. These are my friends; they have remained a constant throughout my life. Regardless of where I find myself, be it the backyard of a rural farm in Peach Orchard, Arkansas, or on the roof of a dorm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I can tilt my head towards space and see my old companions, my loyal friends.

My own star is slowly beginning its ascent sending its brothers and sisters off to bed. I should probably do the same. With every sunrise a small part of me feels remorse, regret that I did not have more time to spend with my guardian angels. Maybe some day I will be where the sun never rises, an eternal night filled with waltzes and lullabies. Only then will I truly find my place in the universe.

I should not be here when the rest of the world wakes up; a fifty dollar fine for being on an Institute roof is not exactly the way I want to end my night, or begin my day for that matter. I stumble to my feet, head downstairs, and enter my room. The television is still blasting static as the little hand of my clock points its finger at the five. I turn off the static maker, pull down the shade, and set my alarm for sunset.

College Essay written October 30, 1995 "On Walking through the Institute at 3am"

The night is cold. The wind plays the music by which the leaves perform their ballet. They pirouette across the concrete then exit stage left. I approach the short set of stairs, noticing how their worn edges give them an unnatural tilt. A pair of large wooden doors, ornamented with a giant tarnished knob, stand guard before me. I begin to feel as Alice must have when she obeyed the "Drink Me" sign in Wonderland, but I defy the stately protectors none the less. As the light from within attempts to escape through the compromise in the perimeter, I begin my journey through a place riddled with oddity, nostalgia and promise, a place many will enter but never fully appreciate.

I walk to the marble bench in the corner of the lobby to rest my stressed body. A bubble in the machine near the opposite wall slides gracefully across the nose-smudged glass. The way the bubble's colors swirl about on its surface reminds me of oil on water, each color desperately struggling to stay intact while laws of nature dictate otherwise. Just as each bubble and each color feels safe in its existence, the machine hums to life sending a sheet of soapy water down the glass erasing everything in its path.

As I stand up to continue on my journey, I notice the dead scientists adorning the walls. The air is suddenly filled with their thoughts and ideas. Equations fly about colliding with theorems and hypotheses as the lot attempts to penetrate the minds of all who pass by their discoverers. My walk turns to a sprint as I avoid the numbers and letters once again today. At the top of the steps leading out of the lobby, George Eastman, wearing his polished gold nose, keeps watch. I rub his nose for luck then turn my attention and body to the right as I continue down the hallway.

The walls are cluttered by brightly colored bulletin boards announcing lectures, parties, credit card offers and discounted futons. Several boxes of paper labeled "Trash, please remove" line the walls outside of a professor's office. A water fountain kicks into gear and begins to purr loudly as if to tell me I am thirsty. I comply and allow the cold water to run over my lips.

I turn the corner and see the infamous path traveled on by thousands every day. If these walls could speak, each crack on the plaster would have a story to tell. The rocks below my feet have felt the soles of the shoes of world leaders, scientists and humanitarians, as well as the students who have gone on to replace them. I have heard that on two days each year, a sun beam entering at one end of this Infinite Corridor will reach all the way to the opposite end. Although probably quite magnificent on these two special days, the sun's rays are just as needed and should be just as appreciated on the other three hundred and sixty-three.

I continue down the hallway bounded by huge tributes to famous people and padlock-sealed wall boxes containing student group propaganda. The only sounds in the air are the squeak of my sneakers and the swish of my arms rubbing against my body. As I retrace my steps, familiarity lulls me into a trance; I glide across the cracked rock unaware of my surroundings. My consciousness takes the backseat letting instinct drive me to my unknown destination.

I arrive at another lobby, the consciousness once again takes the wheel. Huge windows criscrossed with black bars dominate the area, compelling me to move toward them. I press my nose against the glass then adjust my view to see beyond the smudge. Even from inside, the vastness of the courtyard is overwhelming. In the distance, I can see the lights of a city, but miles of dying grass separate me from that real world, a world where problem sets and office hours are foreign and Athena is an ancient Greek goddess, no more.

The cold wind howls beyond the glass, commanding the trees to bow in its presence. The quivering leaves run and hide in a corner, out of the wind's reach. I suddenly notice that the cold glass has numbed my nose, and like the leaves, I decide to relinquish my rights to the territory. Before I leave, I pause to read the news on the bouncing-ball-channel; noticing nothing new, I continue my exit.

I journey down the next section of the repetitious hallway glancing occasionally at a wall poster or into the fishbowl Athena cluster. No signs of life; mark the death certificate 3:27am. As I approach the next bulge in the corridor, I can see papers scattered all over the floor. Tech's not taken as well as the unwanted bright pink credit card ads that were so neatly stuffed into each copy, tile the marbled floor. I walk into the center of the domed room and spin around furiously. A frat drop poster whizzes by as do the ones announcing something about a food drive. I stop myself from twirling just as I am facing the towering windows that should be stained glass. I lower myself into the lotus position and stare up into those giant reflective eyes. The irises should be vividly tinted to contrast with the darkness and depth of the pupils. The glass was stained at one time. As a hack the entire lobby was transformed into a cathedral, and the glass was painted to enhance the effect. Pews were brought in, hymns were played through a sound system for the entire day. The cathedral was built in honor of Our Lady of the All Night Tool. Tool...we even have our own language here; for common folk in the real world, that translates into Our Lady of Working All Night.

I lay back, rest my head on the marble and look up into the lit hemisphere above me. All of my problems and worries are pushed back into the farthest reaches of my mind and locked behind a steel door. I gaze into the softly glowing dome and let my mind wonder to times and places long ago and far away. I remember playing basketball in the back yard on warm summer afternoons, sitting on the tailgate of a truck talking to friends on a Saturday night, and making uneven snowmen in the front yard on snow days. I remember those as times without worry, carefree days with no regret, the infamous "Good Old Days".

As long as I'm throwing out cliche's, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" comes to mind. Maybe I can never be happy with what I have and where I am. When I was living in "The Good Old Days" they didn't seem so good. I wanted only to be free and on my own, and I never realized how good my life was. Maybe only in a few years when I am free of the Institute will I truly realize what I have going for me now. Maybe the stress I feel at this moment is present without cause...maybe

I get up and brush off the floor's grime. I turn toward the Infinite Corridor, close my eyes and listen to the deafening silence. Remembering that I will soon need to look for the key to the steel door in my head, I glance once more at the soothing glow above me. The Infinite Corridor seems shorter now, maybe even finite. I begin my journey with the first step home.

Friday, December 18, 2009

College Essay written November 21, 1994, "Open Arms"

Every family has its stories about embarrassing and touching moments that are told hundreds of times over the span of a generation. There are stories about children embarrassing their parents in public, stories of first steps, first words, first haircuts and stories about more children being born into the family. Each one can easily be recited by every member of the family.

One such notable story in my family involves my birth. Upon arriving at the hospital, my father was assigned to wait in the outside waiting room during my delivery. Being his first child, I caused him an extreme amount of anxiety as he waited for the doctor's word, and as most fathers-to-be do in this time of waiting, mine was pacing from one side of the room to the other. On one such trip across the stark white space in mid-stride along the linoleum covered floor, he lost his footing and fell face first into the edge of a magazine scattered end table. The corner of this near lethal piece of furniture caught my father on the forehead above his left eye leaving a large gash in its place. Refusing to allow the nurses to stitch up the wound, he raced from the emergency room displaying a new row of butterfly band-aids across his forehead. Upon arriving at the maternity ward's waiting room, my father was greeted by a smiling doctor announcing the arrival of a baby girl. My mother relinquished her hold on her first child to her bandaged husband as he hurried to her side. He then mumbled something about wondering if I was worth all this trouble as he laughed and hugged me gently in his arms.

Throughout my early childhood I was always very close to my father. I have seen pictures of him asleep on our couch with a baby stretched across his chest dreaming just as soundly. I apparently preferred that sleeping location above any other. Still more pictures showed a toddler dressed from head to toe in heavy winter clothing riding through a thick layer of snow in a bright red Radio Flyer wagon being pulled by a large stout man wearing a brown quilted jacket, thick black glasses and a look of strain on his face. However, my favorite childhood photo is of my father holding me with a single strong arm against the ceiling of our house. In this picture my arms and legs are dangling from my body while my back is being rubbed against the bright white acoustic tile on the ceiling. The expression on my face conveyed exhilaration and terror, while my eyes showed complete trust.

Both of my parents have always worked away from the home. Having extremely different schedules, they would often take separate vehicles to events occurring shortly after the end of the work day. Occasionally my parents, my brother and I would eat dinner with my grandparents at their home. At the end of the evening, my brother and I would have to make a decision as to which parent's vehicle would be our ride home. Without fail my brother would ride with my mother and I would ride with my father. I always wondered why my brother consistently declined the company of my dad. The black Ford pick-up truck's huge cab and soft bench seat were always an inviting sight. On the half hour trips home I could rest my head against my father and sleep the majority of the way. The crook of his arm would wrap around my shoulder as I leaned against the cushion of his chest. Sleep would come to me before I would even notice my exhaustion.

Upon entering the fourth grade at a new school I began to have some problems with my school work. Having been moved up a grade, the homework took me off guard. I would sit at the dining room table for hours struggling to understand the foreign language of multiplication. As the time ticked steadily onward my frustration and fear of failure would begin to overtake me. It seemed as though my father would always know when I was at this point. He would remove himself from his La-Z-Boy, amble into the tension filled dining room, wrap his strong arm around my shoulders and sit with me until I could finish my homework with complete understanding.

Upon receiving an invitation to attend a movie with a boy I knew, I was forced to ask my parents for permission. As I pushed open the screen door leading to the carport where I would find my father, my heart began to leap in my chest and my feet did a little dance on the cold concrete below. I tip-toed down the front porch steps and began to walk around the big black Ford pick-up which stood between me and my first date. As I rounded the corner of the bumper, my father's face turned from the truck entrails he was examining to my anticipating upturned smile. He slowly raised his body out of the truck's mouth while wiping the grease from his rugged hands. The look on his face was one of knowing. He seemed to be able to read my mind and answer my yet unspoken question solely with his facial expression. As I asked the all important question his expression changed to one of mischief. His eyes said yes as his voice asked the 1001 questions I had expected him to ask. Throughout the interrogation which I new to be a formality, my stomach slowly rose to meet my throat as the anticipation of the night's events began to overwhelm me.

I readied myself and then took on the task of persuading my father that the time to go had indeed arrived. As I waited for his eyes to leave the television screen during the last minute of 'The Rifleman' my fidgeting was uncontrollable. Being too young to have a driver's license of my own, as was this evening's date, my father drove me to the movie theatre where I was to meet my 'friend'. As my hand reached for the truck's door handle allowing me to embark on my evening, my father's hand rested on my shoulder. As I turned to inquire, his strong arm pulled me close to him in a gentle hug. He mumbled something about having a good time then released me out into the cold night air. After the credits had rolled and the popcorn box was emptied I hurried out of the theater doors. Just as I had suspected, my father had waited outside in the truck the entire length of the movie. As I approached the passenger side door and tapped on the window his nap was abruptly cut short. I opened the unlocked door and climbed into the warm truck cab. As the rather long trip home began, my father wrapped his arm around my shoulder, I leaned my head onto his chest and was fast asleep in seconds.

As my high school career progressed I began to become more interested in school sporting events and the social life that went with attending the games. Still being unable to provide my own transportation, my father was the next best thing. He would drop me off at the beginning of the game, occupy himself during the event while listening to it being broadcast on the local radio station and return to pick me up after the game was over. One rainy night, the hoard of teenagers rushed out of the gymnasium after the home team had been victorious to find a dark and dreary night ahead of them. As we each looked across the slushy parking lot wondering which car would be our ride, I noticed a large pick-up flashing its parking lights. I ran across the messy lot to the signaling vehicle while shielding my eyes from the piercing raindrops. I thankfully climbed into the warm dry cab while noticing many others bracing themselves for the long walk home.

Although during my high school years my father wasn't as much a part of my social life as when I was younger, he continued to play an essential role in my new life drama. Along with receiving my driver's license I also received a curfew. I was allowed to participate in social activities whenever I chose as long as I arrived home by the designated time. Each night as I pulled my car into the lit carport I knew what I would find behind the large front door. I consistently found my father sitting in his worn brown La-Z-Boy watching some late night movie, denying the fact that he'd waited up for me to arrive home safely before going to bed himself.

After the many years of living with my parents the day came when I was to board the plane at the Memphis, Tennessee, airport en route to Logan International Airport in Boston. As my parents and I loaded my bags into the car and prepared to leave for the airport and the plane that would whisk me away to begin my college career, I could feel the tension in the air around me. My mother gave her usual lecture about what do to and what not to do, call her when I arrived and eat right. My father said only one thing as he hugged me goodbye. "I love you, and we'll always be here if you want to come home."

Whenever I think of my family, I think of things like Sunday drives around the countryside, watching the sun set while playing basketball behind the house and snowball fights in the slushy front yard. At least, those are the first things that come to mind. Occasionally when I dig deeper into my mind I am able to retrieve some more obscure memories, those that get tumbled into the piles of random thoughts. These memories are the ones I grasp when I'm feeling alone or frightened. These memories get me through the hard times and remind me that I will always have a place to go home to, a place where someone will always wait up for me and leave the porch light lit, a place with open arms.

College Essay written Sept. 26, 1994

I have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. I close my book, put my pencil on my desk and walk over to my mirror. The face I see does not appear to be the face of someone so young. The dark circles under my eyes and my pale complexion tell the tales of days past. I glance around my room at the scattered books and papers, the unmade bed and stacks of empty Coke cans. I need a break from the monotony and a change in scenery. I put on my coat and my shoes and leave the confinement of my four walls for the first time in forty eight hours.

The night air is cold but inviting. Its welcome frigidity burns my nasal passages and stings my face. In the darkness no one can see my aged features. I walk along the dimly lit sidewalk avoiding the hallways of the buildings nearby. My legs thank me for stretching them as does the rest of my weary body. I continue to walk down the never ending strip of concrete until I reach a row of neatly trimmed hedges. Their flat tops end just above my head, not allowing me to see what they protect. I follow the row to its end, then cautiously peek around the corner. Before my bloodshot eyes lies a large open courtyard sprinkled with trees and sculptures. I like this place, and I think I will stay a while.

I walk up to the stone blocks. The dew drops on their surfaces shine in the bright moonlight reflecting each beam in a million directions. The large grey rocks beg to be climbed, and I comply with their wishes. The moisture slowly begins to soak into my clothing. Coldness diffuses throughout the fibers and covers every inch of my frozen body. I lay there motionless, unable to stop winter's invasion of my anatomy. The blocks remind me of something that I can't quite place. Cheese! The blocks look like cheese. The colored rocks embedded in their surface are pores in the Swiss wheels. The cheese begins to melt under the weight and warmth of my body. Its pliable form fits my outline, hugging my every curve, inviting me to stay. I open my eyes and notice that I am not alone. The leaves directly in my view are whispering to me. Their shapes are outlined in thick black magic marker and colored in with a dull crayon. The image is too sharp, and the color's not right. I turn my ear to hear their words but realize that the wind has blown them across the courtyard. As the letters tumble head over heals across the desolate grassy plain, they are mixed in with the lifeless ancestors of my colored friends. The chatter above me stops; the leaves know their whispers will be lost in the winter gales.

My focus shifts. The small white dots behind the leaves are more important. They wink at me and call out for me to join them. These cut-outs in the blackness become my world. My surroundings disappear as I float to meet the sparkling specks in the distance. I am enveloped in the darkness with only my soul in the stars' spotlights. I dance with them; their collective music moves me along the dust clouds and comet trails. I am mesmerized by these tiny flames in the night. They seem to be able to see through my eyes, into my soul. They have learned all the secrets and know the answers to the questions even before they are asked. They share their knowledge with me; they enlighten me to the secrets of the universe. The liquid information is poured in through my ears, my eyes, my nose and my mouth. Some of the juice spills but is soaked into my pores. I refuse to lose even a single drop of this precious nectar of the gods. I can feel the power I possess, as invincibility shoots through my veins. With each contraction of my heart muscles, strength surges throughout my body.

To my surprise the new knowledge is extremely heavy and adds weight to my otherwise immaterial existence. I am no longer able to float among the stars, and I begin to fall toward the earth. I want to stay with my new friends and to dance freely in the darkness. I flail about struggling to regain my weightlessness, but I am fighting a losing battle. The freedom from gravity is gone forever; I am confined to the surface of the earth for eternity.

I sit up and cross my legs Indian style, or lotus position according to my yoga instructor. I survey the rest of the courtyard which ends with a large spotlit building. The huge structure smiles at me with a wide sadistic grin bearing its column-like teeth. Atop this creature's head sits a concrete beanie resembling a large cereal bowl. The monster tries to scare me. He growls and snarles and tries to suffocate me with his hot moist breath. The gas invades the air around my body, but I hold my breath refusing to inhale the stench expelled by the loathsome beast. I have the power to defeat this creature, but I do not have the courage. I cower under the glowing eyes before me, the eyes that see all.

Suddenly, I hear voices above me. I lift my eyes to find their source but see only the salt-scattered darkness of the Milky Way. As the volume increases, I realize that the noise is indeed coming from the wise little flames in the sky. I listen intently to their encouragement and try to convince myself of its validity. I have the knowledge to slay the evil creature; therefore, The courage to do so must also be embedded somewhere in the fibers of my being. I reach deep into my consciousness; I dig into the ooze that makes up my existence hoping to find the element I so desperately need. My shovel hits something. I carefully wipe the dirt from the lid of what I hope to be a treasure chest. A gold colored emblem is stamped across the top of this large box, and a tarnished pad-lock holds the lid tightly in place. How do I open the box? I look to the sky, to my friends and teachers, for the answer, but they will not give me the answer this time. They say I must find the key for myself.

I have to find the key by myself? I spend hours each morning trying to find my shoes; finding a key will be impossible. I retrieve myself from the depths of my mind and stare down at my shivering body. I can't remember if I am shivering from cold or from fright. The teeth are now just columns, but they still scare me all the same. Where can I find this key; where should I start looking? I decide that the big wet rock is not the place to begin my search and hop down onto the thick green carpet below.

The sky has become a pale shade of orangeish-brown and my friends have gone to sleep. No longer can they guide me in my search or encourage me along the way. I am alone. I must make this journey without someone to keep me company or hold my hand, and I must fight the monster without any army beside me. I look up to the leaves gently swaying in the morning breeze; their mouths are tightly clamped shut as they watch me begin my quest. The letters that were piled on the ground are now gone. They have all been erased by the swift hand of time. All that is left before me is the monster. His features have hardened and become stone, but they are still distinguishable; his eyes still mock me.

I begin to walk across the empty courtyard. Soon this place will be filled with sleepy-eyed joggers and backpack wearing students. Are they afraid of the monster? Does it stare into their souls and laugh at their failures? Maybe they can help me find the key. Wait! I can do this on my own. I don't need someone to tell me where the key can be found. As I utter these words to myself I realize I am standing only a few feet from the mouth of the monster. His breath still reeks of those who have been devoured in the recent past, and his eyes glow in anticipation of the next meal. I look down at my now quaking body and wonder if my will is strong enough to move my feet. I stare directly into the eyes of the beast. I refuse to blink or cower in their presence. My feet free themselves from their glue covered shoes as they bravely begin to move. I glance over my shoulder to the realm of my true friends and whisper a soft 'thank you' as I walk into the mouth of the monster. I feel the key is hidden here, and someday I will find it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

So far behind in blogging!

I'm so far behind I don't even think I know where to start! And staring at the blank page makes my mind go completely blank.

Well, we're here and survived the very cold weather last week. This morning it was warmer but the roads were icy enough to keep us home a little later than I'd have liked. I have yoga at 9am and my dad has a trainer appointment at the gym as well. So we had to reschedule the trainer appointment but did make the massage appointment he had and I got a little workout in for me. So all was not a total loss.

My dad is visiting us for a while, and while he's here I'm squeezing as much therapy in for him as possible. He had a massive stroke in April, but is recovering nicely and can get around with a walker. While he's here he works with a personal trainer twice per week, has a massage twice each week and sees an acupuncturist 2 times as well. He can see improvement in his balance, sensation and strength. The other day he even made it all the way up and down our stairs without any help at all. The kids are enjoying having him here, too. He's been teaching them how to play chess and reads to them all the time. Christmas will be especially nice this year with him here to share it with us.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2010!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Deck in progress

When we moved into our house 3.5 years ago it came with a long somewhat narrow freshly painted deck off of the back of the house. We loved our deck and had many meals on it, hosted parties that gathered on it and even put wadding pools on it in the summer for the kids. But after a couple of years we noticed that the paint was peeling and in some spots the boards were starting to get soft. This past summer this got really bad, and before any gathering I had to go jump on the deck to see if any of the boards were rotten. On a couple of occasions I even put my foot through the deck. Then Hubby would have to go scrounge some scrap 2x4s to patch the hole. It was time to replace the deck!

So I called a few companies for quotes on expanding and fixing our beloved deck. Some quotes were fairly high and didn't really give me exactly what I wanted, and most of them didn't include replacing the underlying structure of the existing deck, just re-decking the surface boards. Other companies didn't even get back to me with a quote at all...I guess if you're not putting in a huge composite deck they don't really want your business. So after much thought, Hubby decided to just replace the deck himself. He ordered the lumber online, had it delivered and even got the contractor rate because the order was so large. Then the tear out started. He wasn't sure what he'd find when he tore off the top boards and thought that the structure might be in good shape, but that's not what he found. Basically, the deck seemed to be built out of lumber that really wasn't supposed to be used outside, and then got painted to "seal" it for outdoor use. The top boards as well as all of the underlying structure was rotten and just waiting to collapse. So it all got torn out and thrown on the scrap pile.

















Now we're a few weeks into the re-build of the deck and it's looking really nice! The structure probably took the most time to build, and now the decking boards are going on really quickly. Stairs will come next and after that we'll think about railings on a couple of high places. But I'm really pleased with it. We almost doubled the width of the deck in the middle and added on a long section next to the house. The funny shaped section at the end under the trees will most likely not be re-built. I'm thinking of putting a paved patio there or using it as a garden space...or something I haven't thought of yet. And by having hubby do it himself I think we probably saved about $5k in labor costs. Yay!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What do I want to do when I grow up?

I've been thinking a lot about getting back into the "making money working world" ever since son started his last year of preschool. Next year he'll probably be in full time kindergarten, and I'll have from 9am-3pm kid free. I guess if I don't have a child to care for most of the day I'll feel kind of lazy just doing my own thing and not working at something that makes money or makes a mark on the world in one way or another. I don't really think I want to go back into the corporate, full time, cubicle world. I just don't think I'd be happy doing that even though I know it'd bring in a lot more money than any alternative. So I've made a list of things I like to do and think I'm pretty good at doing. Maybe one or more of these things can keep me busy and make me feel productive.

  1. Tutoring kids in math, reading, etc.
  2. Edit technical articles
  3. Database/Website contract work
  4. Write articles for magazines
  5. Before and After school care
  6. Nanny for infant/toddler
  7. Teach Basic Yoga
  8. Teach Basic Sewing
  9. Plant Gardens for others
  10. Home Organization/Remodeling plans
  11. Sell Plant starts or grown plants
  12. Pet Sitting including chickens or other farm animals
  13. Sewing Projects for others
  14. Selling sewn items
  15. Selling prepared food items from garden (zucchini bread, pickles, etc.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I love baby chicks


Baby chicks have to be one of the cutest things in the world! They're soft and fuzzy, curious, playful and just downright adorable. I love watching them. We have our 25 new chicks in our greenhouse right now. They get a little startled when you open the door and walk in, but after a few minutes they get used to having these 2 giant feet standing in their room. They love to huddle together in a pile under the heat lamp standing on top of one another. And just like babies, they want to sleep a lot. A chick will be standing there and all of a sudden it will fall forward fast asleep with it's beak in the dirt. Other chicks can walk all over it and even step on its head but the chick just stays asleep. The first time we raised chicks I got really worried when I saw this. I thought "Well, that's it, we just lost a baby chick. It's dead." Then about a minute later it'd get up and walk around. Every now and then they seem to just need to move and will run across the floor like something's chasing them or flap their little almost-wings and try to fly. They don't seem to be scared of us at this age and the kids can squat down and pick one up without it even trying to run away. They also like shiny things and will peck at my ring or at the shiny bits on my shoes. The only part I don't like about baby chicks is that they grow up into ugly in-between chicks before they become hens. I guess chickens have an awkward phase, too.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Garden update




The garden is doing pretty well right now.
I'm picking green beans every day, got 3 baseball bat size zucchini today, pulled several beets and even found a few small ears of corn in the bean vines.
Our 3 sunflower plants are probably 10 feet tall and have just headed. We call one of them the Leaning Flower of Pezzee. :)

Cabbage should be heading pretty soon, the onions will be ready to pull soon, too, and the couple of pumpkins in the garden are starting to turn orange. The pumpkins in the separate pumpkin patch have probably gotten a virus of some kind. They have white powdery stuff on the vines and they are starting to die back. There are a couple of small pumpkins in there that may still be OK, but nothing spectacular.
(Ghost Pumpkin, Swiss Chard and Carrots)

Oh, Oh, Oh! I found a handful of RED tomatoes in the garden the other day!!! Didn't think I could do that. The ones in the greenhouse grew huge, but only produced a few small tomatoes.

(The jungle in our greenhouse)

I think the insects just didn't go in there, so the flowers never got pollinated.

Overall it's been a great garden year. I haven't bought veggies all summer, which is the goal. I think every year I change what I plant and move things around to a better place. Maybe one day I'll get it just right...maybe not. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beet Salad

I was talking to Kate and Sue today about beet salad. So I thought I'd post the recipe I used a while back that was very yummy!

Beet Salad:
4 medium beets - scrubbed, trimmed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons maple syrup
salad greens
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate (I used this, but I think it made it too sweet, so maybe omit this one)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese (I used crumbled goat cheese)

DIRECTIONS
Place beets into a saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool, then peel and cut into cubes.

While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.

Place a large helping of greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer recap

Well, the last 3 weeks were jam-packed with summer goodness due to our to-do list. We got through all of the kids' items and all of mine except the Ballard Locks. I didn't really try too hard to cram that one into this last week. It's there all year round, so we'll go see it on a weekend sometime.

Riding the bust to Seattle to go up in the Space Needle was very interesting. The fares were very confusing as they are based on time of day, where you get on the bus and age. So I just asked the driver how much our total would be and paid that. We missed our first stop after arriving in seattle and got off the bus when I realized it. That resulted in a half mile walk through the city while aiming us toward the Space Needle that I could see above all the buildings. The kids were pretty excited to be at the Seattle Center, but I could tell when we got there that the carnival rides at the base of the Space Needle were looking way more appealing to them than the Needle itself. But we went up anyway, and they didn't ask me too many times to go back down and ride the rides.

I think my favorite wish-list item was the ferry ride to a sandy beach. We went to Port Townsend last weekend and spent 2 days bumming around the beach, touching animals in the touch tanks at the Marine Science Center, geocaching, swimming in the hotel pool and playing at a park. It was a nice relaxing weekend with the family.

Maybe next year we'll make our list at the beginning of the summer, but then I guess we risk forgetting about it and cramming it all into the last 3 weeks like this year. But either way, I think the kids and I had a fun summer to remember.

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 more weeks of summer

Starting today we have 3 weeks of summer vacation left before the kids have to go back to school. I'm starting to feel the push to cram as much summer goodness as possible into these last 3 weeks. This morning the kids and I made a list of things we wanted to do before the grind of school sneaks up on us. Here is daughter's list.
  1. Go to the Space Needle
  2. Go to the Woodland Park Zoo -- have to see elephants and flamingos
  3. Go to KidsQuest Museum
  4. Ride the bus to Seattle
  5. Go to a pool (even though we've done this a lot this summer)

Here is son's list:

  1. Go to Starbucks
  2. Go Hiking
  3. Ride Bikes
  4. Play in the toy aisle at Target

Here's my list

  1. Visit the Ballard Locks
  2. Go to the Camlon Fair
  3. Ride a Ferry to a sandy beach

I'm thinking that son's list will be super easy and daughters won't be too hard either. Mine's the toughest of the bunch, but we've got a couple of weekends left and may be able to do everything.

On the garden front, I'm getting a ton of beets, lettuce, cukes and zucchini on an almost daily basis. The green beans are growing vines but not producing many beans yet, and the soybeans will probably be ready to pick any day now. I'm seeing quite a few butternut squash growing now and could probably pick a rutabega or 2 when I want them. Pumpkins in the separate pumpkin patch are not doing very well. I only see 2 or 3 very tiny pumpkins in the whole patch. The 4 plants I put in the garden already have 3 fairly good sized pumpkins on them. And the corn is not doign well either. According to my dad I should have put a lot more nitrogen rich fertilizer on them earlier on. They are short and may not produce any ears at all. And the pole beans I planted next to them are growing huge and have started to break the stalks. I think if the corn was healthier the beans wouldn't have hurt them, but they did. Next year I won't plant pole beans around the corn, only bush beans. And Next year I'll put more nitrogen in the soil for them.

The apple tree is dropping some apples. I think the lack of rain this year has made the apples smaller, but they still taste good. I've got a good sized box of them so far and there are a lot more on the tree. Apple Pie here I come!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to my baby boy!





Today Son turns 4 years old! How did that happen? How did my youngest child get to be a 4 year old? Isn't he supposed to still be a little baby? I guess it doesn't work like that.

I asked him what kind of birthday party he wanted and he said "Martian Alien Monster" party. What the heck does that mean? So I went to the party store and looked around. The closest thing I could find that might fit the bill was a Monster bash party. So I bought a few decorations, napkins, temporary tatoos, etc. and brought them home. I guess I picked the right thing because he loved it and thought it was exactly what he wanted. He requested a strawberry cake with martian green icing and asked daughter to make some games for him like "Pin the goo on the Martian".

So after using a whole bottle of green food coloring I finished his cake. Daughter drew a martian and some goo to pin on it and we've got the decorations up. It's supposed to be over 100 degrees here again today, which could make the wading pools outside a big hit or could make them off limits. The house is air conditioned so we may get lots of people seeking the cool air. Whatever the case I'm sure we'll have a party worthy of a Martian Alien Monster...and a 4 year old boy.

Happy Birthday, son!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Trip Back in Time

While visiting the east coast, hubby and I took a walk around MIT and the surrounding area. It's been 10+ years since we both graduated and we had never been back with the kids. We only really had about 6 hours or so to sightsee before having to get back to the hotel, sleep and get on our 6am flight back home. I didn't want to try to do too much with the kids in tow; so we decided to eat at a couple of our favorite restaurants for lunch and dinner, visit the MIT Museum (which we'd never been to before) and walk around campus to see what had changed and what hadn't. We had reservations at the hotel at University Park, which is right up Mass Ave from MIT. It used to be called the Hotel at MIT, but someone else bought it and changed its name to something french.

First stop: Bertucci's for some Italian food. The kids had cheese pizza, of course, and I really wanted some of that Linguine and Clams that I used to have. But alas they no longer served linguine and clams; I settled for Rigatoni Abruzzi, which was good. The kids meal ended with ice cream, so they were happy.


Second Stop: MIT Museum. This was something we never got around to doing while living in Cambridge. I guess we felt like we'd lived MIT, so why go see the museum. When we walked in I noticed that anyone with a student ID got in free. I said something to hubby like "too bad we don't have our ID anymore", and the man behind the desk asked me which school. I told him that hubby and I were students at MIT a long time ago and showed him my Brass Rat (school ring). He said "You're all set. Go on in." Cool! My Brass Rat got me Free admission! The Museum was nice. It had some MIT History stuff, a large exhibit on robotics, 2 rooms of Holographic images (son loved this one), an interactive exhibit on DNA, and a couple of rooms with these neat mechanical sculptures (my favorite). I was hoping to see a larger exhibit on Hacking, but that was really confined to a small piece of a wall. Another interesting thing was the small bit about Athena (MIT computer labs). It said that 1991 was the first year that Athena became a permanent fixture that everyone used. That's the year hubby arrived at MIT! I thought Athena had been around a lot longer than that, but I guess his class were really guinea pigs in a way. Very interesting!


Third stop: MIT Campus. From the Museum, we walked down Mass Ave to campus and entered at Lobby 7. It was somewhat surreal taking the kids into a place that I'd only been when I wasn't Mommy. I pointed out some of the things about the building I thought the kids might find interesting. I told son that the long hallway that runs down the center is called the Infinite Corridor because it seems like it goes on forever without ending. Son: "Why does it never end? Will we be able to get out?" We walked past the place that used to house the Fishbowl computer cluster, but that was gone now. We walked past the bursar's office where there used to be a mural of a dollar bill covering the whole wall, but the mural was gone as well. We were beginning to feel that all of the fun things we remembered were gone when we climbed the stairs to 10-250 and found one of the lecture halls I did a lot of sleeping in. :) We opened the doors and went inside to find it looking almost exactly as it did when we were there. The kids sat in the seats and I got a picture of them looking very collegiate. It was pouring rain, so we didn't venture out into Killian court at this point, but told the kids about some of the sculptures in the field that we used to climb on and explained that we sat in that field on graduation day. We then went up a couple of floors hoping to find the Doc Edgerton strobe lab. Yay! It was still there. So we played with the exhibits on the wall a bit and looked at the neat and famous photos by Doc (apple photo, Milk drop photo). Next we took some pictures of the kids next to other notable artwork on campus like the jungle mural in building 2 and then had them rub George Eastman's nose in lobby 6.

Rubbing Eastman's nose brings good luck. :)

We walked out into Killian when the rain let up a bit and took some pictures of the kids in front of the big dome.

There was apparently some work being done on the dome as it was covered in scaffolding.


Then we ventured to the next lecture hall we spent a lot of time in: 26-100, then headed to East Campus, where we lived. The dorm looked just the same as we remembered it from the outside. I know the inside most likely looked a lot different from when we lived there, but I can live in my own fantasy world and assume it looks exactly the same on the inside, too. :) After that, we headed to the Coop, bought a few T-shirts and left campus.


Fourth stop: the T. I knew the kids would enjoy the subway (T) so we decided to take the T from the Kendall stop to Central Square back to close to where our hotel was. I showed daughter the neat chimes that are installed between the tracks. You swing this bar on the side of the platform and it swings these hammers into chimes over the tracks to make some music. She thought it was pretty cool. We got on the T at rush hour, so we were packed into the cars like sardines, but the kids didn't seem to mind. We then got off at Central and walked back to University Park to have dinner.

Fifth stop: Royal East Restaurant and Tosci's. The only thing I really wanted for dinner was Suan La Chow Shau, which you can apparently only get in the Boston area as I've never found it anywhere else.

It's like Wonton Soup, but has a soy-like broth instead of clear, and it's usually quite spicy. So we ordered soup and appetizers for dinner and ate until we were stuffed. Even the kids ate well! I was stuffed, but the kids still had room for ice cream. So we went down the street to Tosci's where the kids had some ice cream, and I stole a couple of bites.

I guess when you've been away for a while you forget some things like how the entire area in University park smells like chocolate because of the Tootsie Roll factory there. The kids really wanted to go in, but there didn't seem to be a visitor's door, so we just walked by and smelled. I do remember getting really sick of that smell when I lived there, but after being away, it was sort of nice.


I'm not sure if I had a favorite part of the little jaunt into our old MIT life; I liked it all. But when asked what their favorite parts were, the kids said "getting the toys at the museum gift shop and going through the revolving doors". I guess when you're a kid the littlest things are the most fun.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Visiting the Berkshires

Well, after 3 years of being away we have returned to the place hubby grew up, the Berkshires in Massachusetts. The kids did very well on our 6+ hours of plane ride plus 2.5 hours of car ride. Thank goodness for the Leapsters and the MP3 players! My biggest complaint about traveling is the quality of food on the road. I feel like we only ate junk throughout the entire day, but it's just one day, right?

Now we've arrived and are enjoying the home cooked meals, the relaxing pool and the free time to just sit and read or play a game. It's not that I couldn't sit and relax at home, but I always feel that nagging sensation to get up and do something like fold the laundry or put the dishes away. Here the sensation isn't that strong. :) I'm also feeling like somewhat of a lump without yoga classes and my exercise bike. So I've been doing laps in the pool and we've gone on a couple of geocaching hikes. It's not the same, but it's better than nothing.

I looked up a few geocaches online before we left. Yesterday we went out to find a few of them. One was a nice hike in the woods and another was a nice walk along the river front. We didn't find the last one, but it was late and we were already getting tired. Maybe tomorrow we'll look for a few more. As I was looking up some of the details for some of the caches I noticed that it kept saying things like "boat dock" and "put your kayak here"; so we skipped those in favor of ones on dry land.

Hubby's dad turns 60 on Saturday and we'll be celebrating with the whole clan. I'm sure the kids will have a great time playing with the third/fourth cousins and eating Poppy's birthday cupcakes. Hopefully they'll save one for him!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why can't banks be logical?

So on Sunday afternoon someone broke into my car while the family and I were hiking. Luckily there was no damage to the car as they forced the window down rather than breaking it. We didn't really have anything of value in the car, so all the guy got was less than $10 in bills and change and my MOMS Club deposit slip book. Well, I filed a police report that will not be investigated and put a freeze on my chapter's bank account.

Yesterday morning I went into the bank with my list of outstanding checks so the bank could take care of my compromised account. I walked into the lady's cubicle with the kids in tow. Kids had their leapsters with them and were actually very well behaved through the HOUR I sat there. I told the lady my situation and she said she recommended closing my current account and reopening the account. I said "Sounds good, let's do it." Even though we've had an account for 2 years with this bank and they have copies of all of the pertinent paperwork, she asked for it all again. As I look back on it all, I realize that my mistake was handing her the piece of paper telling her who our newly elected officers were. That was a different matter to be handled at another time and I should have kept that to myself, but I thought I'd give her all the info I had rather than withholding. The second she sees a name on that paper with the title Secretary next to it then all of a sudden everything changed and the Secretary became the all powerful holder of decision making and I couldn't do anything without her in the room. The lady then told me that in order to open a new account I had to have a signed copy of our meeting minutes stating who the new officers were and that we voted to open a new account. The conversation went something like this.

Lady (and I'm using the term Lady loosely as she was as much unlike a lady as I've ever seen):"You have to bring in the signed minutes before we can open a new account"
Me: "I really don't want a new account. I want my same account exactly like it is but with an uncompromised number."
Lady: "We can't do that. We have to open a new account. And we have to have minutes stating that the chapter voted to open a new account."
Me: "But the bank book was stolen yesterday. Our business meeting was last week and our next one isn't until August."
Lady: "I can't open an account without the secretary's signed minutes. You may be opening a separate account to siphon money out for yourself."
Me: "So you'll let me take all of the money out of the account and walk out of here with it. but you just won't let me put it back into a new account."
Lady: "Not without the secretary here with signed minutes."

It went in circles like this for quite a while until finally I asked her to innumerate exactly what and who I needed to bring in to open a new account at which point she said "I've already told you that. You already know what you need." "No Ma'am, I do not. Please tell me again. " "I've already told you!" At which point she gets up and storms out of the room. She was gone for like 5 minutes and I was beginning to think she wasn't coming back when she came into the room with their manager. I explained everything to him again about how I just wanted the same account with no changes, no changes to signers or anything other than an uncompromised account number. He started telling me the same thing about having signed minutes. I told him the meeting was held last week and the next one wouldn't be until August. At that point he said "Can't you just alter the last minutes to include the vote to open a new account?" I looked at him with my mouth hanging open for a while then said "That would be lieing since we didn't vote on that at that meeting. You want me to lie and alter official minutes but you won't forget that we just elected a new secretary and let me act as one to open a new account?" "We have to have the secretary here so we can compare her signature." "You don't have her signature on file. She was just elected. I'm the only signature you have on file. " "Well we'll have her signature when she gives us the signed minutes. "

At that point I said, "What if we leave enough money in the account to cover outstanding checks and you give me the rest of it and I take it to another bank?" "You could do that." "Then that's what I want to do. "

So they would let me take all of my chapter's money out of the bank but wouldn't let me put it back in to re-open the account. Does that make any sense at all?

I went down the street to another bank and opened a new account without incident.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th and other random happenings

Happy 4th of July! Tonight we are having our 4th annual BBQ and Fireworks show. It started when we moved into our current house and realized that, being in and Unincorporated area, we could set off our own fireworks on 4th of July. So we invited over some friends for food and explosives and a tradition was born! I believe that this year we have about 10 families coming over, which is about the same as last year.

In other news, Olivia the fish bit the dust and has been replaced by Fuscia the Beta. So far Turtle2 the beta is still swimming around and doing well. Goldfish are just too hard to keep alive, I think if any of you are planning to get a fish for your child or yourself, a Beta is the way to go. They are more expensive, but worth the extra cost. A goldfish costs about 27 cents and a Beta costs about $4. But keeping in mind that you get about 27 cents worth of life and enjoyment out of a goldfish, a Beta is still a better value.

The garden is doing very well! I harvested my first beets the other day. They were about the size of golf balls, which is a little small to harvest, but they were too close to another beet. We haven't eaten them yet, but have eaten some of the greens. Yummy! My spinach is starting to bolt, so I've harvested almost all of that. The lettuce is getting big, too, but I've been snipping leaves off of it for quite a while now. I got a few strawberries off of last year's plants, but the plants aren't looking very healthy. I think they needed to be repotted this year with some compost. Hubby weeded all of the grass out of the front row in the garden last weekend, and put down a layer of compost. I'm planning to take all of my strawberries, the volunteers in the corn, the ones from last year's pots and the alpine ones in the hanging baskets, and plant them all in that front row. I think they'll be more healthy planted there...I hope they will anyway. I noticed that my pea plants have flowers and so do a couple of zucchini plants! If all goes well, I should get a few peas and zucchini in a few days or weeks. My cucumber plants have a lot of little tiny cukes on them, too! So I'm just waiting for those to grow big enough to eat. Oh, and the bean plants that the kids planted in their rain boots have some flowers, too. They are very excited about that! I think hubby ate the last of the cherries off our our tree the other day. They were very yummy, too! Now we're just waiting on the apples and blueberries!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Turtle1, Long Live Turtle2

Son's goldfish, Turtle, was dead when we got up this morning. So we made a trip to the pet store only to find that they had no goldfish. I asked the lady working in the fish department what the next cheapest fish was, and she proceeded to tell me that I should not put another fish in my tank because it was too small. She basically refused to sell me a fish to put in the same tank. Son was not happy about not getting another silver fish, but was ok with blue Beta instead. So now we have 2 tanks, each with one fish and all seems well with fishy world...for now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Treasure Hunting

So we finally tried our hand at Geocaching yesterday with Tina and her kids and had a great time. If you're not familiar with geocaching, it's basically treasure hunting using a GPS. People hide caches all over and post the coordinates where they are hidden on geocaching.com. So I go to the website, look for some that are in my area or wherever I want to go then put them on my GPS. When you find one, you sign the logbook that is in the cache, take a trinket and leave a trinket. And while doing all of this skulking around you have to look natural so as not to alert the "muggles" that there is something there.

So yesterday and today we found a couple of caches on the Tolt pipeline trail, one in a nearby park and found 1 of 3 in another park. The first park find was pretty easy. I didn't pay much attention to what the kids took from the box, but as we were walking away I noticed that daughter had grabbed a Travel Bug, which I thought was pretty cool. When I told her that she would have to put the cute little ladybug toy in another cache and couldn't keep it, she promptly put it back and took something else. So until we get a few more of these under our belt, I guess there won't be any travel bugs for us.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Olivia and Turtle



We have 2 new additions to our family: Olivia and Turtle! Olivia is the orange one and Turtle is the silver one. Guess which child named which one. :)
The kids have wanted a goldfish for a while and while at the mall the other day, we stopped into PetCo "just to look". Of course we came home with 2 goldfish. Granted each goldfish cost about 27 cents, so if they meet with an early demise it's not the end of the world. They are keeping both the kids and the cat entertained

Friday, June 19, 2009

Last day of school

Well, today is daughter's last few minutes of school. I'm not exactly why they insisted on having the kids go to school today as they will get out of school 2 hours after they get there. Seems like a waste of time to me, but I guess the kids will enjoy saying goodbye to all of their friends. And maybe the school district needed a couple more hours of school to have the right number of days for the year. Whatever.

We were going to have lunch in the park and try our hand at geocaching today, but now that it's raining outside I'm not sure what we'll do. Maybe we'll go to a kids' museum or something like that.

Son is mostly over his cold now. Yesterday he was sneezing out lots of yucky stuff, but after a great night's sleep in his own bed he seems to be better. Yay! He stayed in his own bed ALL night, which was great timing since the night before he kept me awake almost the whole night with his kicking. I was ready to go sleep on the couch if he did it again.

The garden and pumpkin patch are enjoying the rain, I'm sure. I seem to have lots of volunteer plants in random places throughout the garden. I noticed I have a volunteer tomato in with the butternut squash, one in the pumpkin patch and another one in with the beets. And yesterday I noticed I had a volunteer watermelon in with the beets, too. When I looked at the compost pike the other day I noticed a bunch of little pumpkin plants sprouting in the middle. I guess those came from the rotten pumpkins we threw in it last fall. Last year my volunteer plants did almost better than the ones I planted. My spinach is starting to show signs of flowering, which is not good. But I guess I've gotten quite a bit of baby spinach out of the patch anyway, so if it bolts it's not a tragedy. And the lettuce is growing like crazy. I think hubby is getting tired of salads already, but he better get used to it! :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rachel's Bean and Corn salad/salsa

Rachel made this awesome bean and corn salad at playgroup the other day, and I couldn't stop eating it. So I made some for dinner the other night with a few modifications based on what I had on hand. It wasn't quite as good as hers but was still pretty tasty. Thought I'd share the recipe.

Rachel's corn and bean salad

vinaigrette:
1/4 cup lime juice (1 lime is about perfect)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil

salad:
1 cup fresh or frozen corn (I used about a cup and a half)
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cups chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. cumin seed

mix together, pour vinaigrette over salad and mix well. refrigerate a couple hours before serving to let the flavors blend well.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Random stuff

So, I don't have much to write this time, but it's been a while since I wrote anything. So here goes. Today is daughter's ballet/tap recital. She had her dress rehearsal a few days ago, and as long as the teacher in the wings doesn't mess them up with the wrong steps (she did this twice during the rehearsal), they should do ok. We're thinking of going to see Up or Night at the Museum 2 as a treat after the recital.

Maybe before it's time to go I'll get out and weed more of the garden. There's a row at the very front that never got weeded when the we did the rest of the garden, mostly because it was the worst one and hardest to weed. But it's got really tall grass in it now and It's looking pretty bad. The rest of the garden is looking great. The beets are growing really well, zucchini, butternut squash, pumpkins, red cabbage, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, peas, corn, green beans, soy beans, cukes, chard, watermelon & Onions, leeks are all growing like crazy. Broccoli, parsnips, green cabbage and rutabaga are growing pretty slowly, but I think that's ok. I've already been able to harvest enough lettuce, spinach, chard and beet greens to have salad for the family every night this week!

I think the little baby starts that got planted in friends' gardens all over the place are doing well, too. I'm not sure if they've started eating theirs yet, but they probably could tear off a leaf here and there to eat. I took a few zucchini starts to friends the other day. Hopefully they've got them in the ground by now (hint hint). :) And, Kate, I've got a couple more zucchini starts you can have if you want them. Just let me know.

Friday was Daughter's last Daisy scout meeting for the year, and of course she left her uniform in her dad's car that morning. They decorated daisy cookies, made little daisy bracelets and had a little graduation ceremony where they all got a fun patch to put on their uniform. She'll still be a Daisy next year, but she'll graduate into selling cookies. I think we're going to be in trouble then. :)

This whole month is crazy busy for me. Our family has a ton of June birthdays, Father's Day, etc. to do, and I've got a lot of MOMS Club stuff to finish up before passing the torch on to the new president. I just finished the Annual and Financial reports the other day and will mail them on Monday. We had our Board transition meeting and I handed the president binder to the new president. The last thing to do is plan the End of Year party. I still need to compile and print all of our fun awards, print our game directions, shop for the food and clean the house. When that's over then I'm going to sleep for a week before I emerge and have to start planning our 4th of July party...oh, wait, I don't have a whole week between those 2. :oP

Monday, June 8, 2009

We are the Cure!

This Sunday my MOMS Club friends and I walked and ran with thousands of others in the Susan G. Komen Puget Sound Race for the Cure. It was a sea of pink of white walking up and down the Viaduct as we all made our way 2.5Km away from Qwest Field and 2.5 Km back again. Along the way we were cheered on by teenagers standing on the sidelines chanting "Mammograms and Breast Exams" and such. Some of the names of the teams were great. I saw one called "Save the Tatas", one that read "Save Second Base", another that said "Boobs: Love 'em, Rub 'em, Save 'em". Several people, men and women, were decked out in pink tutus, pink wigs, sequins, and hats with flamingos. One woman walked with a stroller filled with a half mannequin painted with pictures and slogan such as "I've faced death now I embrace life". But the most memorable things of all were the pink papers a lot of people had pinned to their race numbers. They said "In celebration of..." and "In memory of...". So many people had long lists of friends and family members who were survivors of breast cancer and many who had lost their battles. At the end of the walk we made our way back to the field where we watched the Survivor Parade. Here hundreds of women walked behind signs designating how many years they had survived breast cancer. Some of those brave women had survived 25+ years and some were under a year.

It was a very inspiring day! Our MOMS Club team exceeded our $2000 fundraiser goal for the race, raising $2735. I also exceeded my personal goal of $500 and raised $790! Thanks to all of you who supported me or the MOMS Club team. To make a donation to the Susan G. Komen foundation click here. We are the cure!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bees a buzzin'

Our yard is covered in bees! We have rhododendrons, azaleas & lilacs in bloom and the bumble bees are swarming them. The whole tree looks alive with them moving all around. (yes our rhodies are definitely trees rather than bushes!) And I can't keep from smelling the lilacs every time I go out in the yard. I love that smell!
I put a few more of my starts in the garden the other day. I now have rutabega, green cabbage, green beans and butternut squash in the garden. I put the rutabega in the spot that held my pak choi. I pulled them out the other day when a few of them started to bolt. I'm just not sure how to grow pak choi. I started them early and planted them in the garden in early April. They really didn't grow until it got warmer these past few weeks, but I guess it's now too warm for them. But we ate them anyway, and they were a nice addition to the baby lettuce and baby spinach I got out of the garden. I just picked a few leaves off each plant so they'd all keep growing.


I got rid of a few more of my red cabbage starts today. I now have just a few red and green leaf lettuce and a very few red cabbage starts left, and I think they will all go to Rachel on Friday. Yay!




Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ferry ride to the Island






Yesterday we decided to spend the beautiful day on Bainbridge Island. We got on the ferry just as it was pulling out into the water; perfect timing. The kids love to stand in the wind at the front of the ferry, so we went up stairs and went outside. Dummy me, I didn't even think about the wind and when son stepped over to look out at the water his Clifford the big red dog hat blew right off his head and over the side of the ferry. He was really upset (and so was I), so we had to go back inside and sit for a minute. We talked it over and after a while decided that he wanted his hat to go into the water because a turtle or a fish really needed a nice hat like his. Crisis averted and fun day saved.

We'd never been to Bainbridge before so we went downtown to see what was there. We had lunch then had Ice cream at Mora. I guess this is THE place to go, and after eating the dark chocolate mint I can see why! Yummy! My plan was to find some hiking and maybe a beach. So we headed to the Grand Forest thinking that with a name like that it had to be good. Well, after driving around for a while with a map and a GPS we couldn't even find it. So we went to this park with a HUGE castle playground. I don't think I've ever seen a bigger play structure than this one. They had bridges, lookout towers, xylophones, ladders, climbing walls, swings and even a little covered sitting space in the middle for the parents. I want one of these here! We all loved the playground, and when the kids' faces got a little too red from the heat we got back in the car and went in search of hiking. Next we tried the Gazzam lake park. This one was almost as hard to find as the Grand Forest. We drove on these little non-maintained roads until we found a small sign for the park and a closed gate. No luck here.
Next stop was the Faye Bainbridge State Park. A state park has to be be easy to find and open, right? Right! This one was pretty nice. They had spots for camping, bathrooms and a nice Big sign that was easy to see! I was expecting a sandy beach here, but didn't find that. It had a TON of drift wood that you had to climb over to get to the beach, then the beach was all rocks (smooth rocks but rocks all the same). We got there at low tide, so there was about 10 or more feet of this seaweed covered "beach" with little tide pools before you got to the water. Well, this turned out to be better than a sandy beach would have been. The kids loved the tide pools. They were filled with tiny crabs, shells, sea weed and lots of wet sand. Daughter collected a lot of perfect shells in her bucket while son dug holes in the sand and made mud pies. Fun!

We then had dinner at this place that had terrible service but ok food and got back on the ferry home. This time we stayed in the car and used our binoculars to look out at the sail boats and Mt. Rainier. The kids were asleep by the time we got home. So they got carried up to bed and slept through getting their pj's on.

I think when we go again we'll just go straight to the beach and skip the search for the hiding forests. (Pictures will be added later)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lost Teeth and Veggie Starts

Daughter lost her first tooth yesterday evening! She's had shark teeth for some time now where 2 of her adult teeth are growing in behind her bottom front baby teeth. The dentist told her to wiggle the baby teeth until she could pull them out on her own or she'd have to have the dentist "wiggle" them out for her. So she's been working really hard to get those teeth to be wiggly and get them out. Yesterday at school the tooth was so wiggly that they nurse gave her the little tooth box to hang around her neck to put the tooth in when it fell out. But it didn't fall out at school; when she got home it was hanging by a thread. After bath she was really working on it and finally yanked it out. She put the tooth in her little tooth box that she bought at the Tulip festival; and during the night the tooth fairy left her $2! I believe that the tooth fairy was just glad that the tooth finally came out and will not be quite so generous with the teeth that come out next. :)

Son and I went from house to house today planting veggie starts in friends' pots and gardens. Well, actually the friends and I did the planting while son played. I brought both flats of starts to the first house early this morning, where 2 friends and I filled every pot and available garden space with lettuce, beets, carrots and cabbage and still had one whole flat left over. Then after spending a glorious day at the park with MOMS Club friends I went to my friend Kate's house. There we created a 7' x 10' garden space, framed it with wood found behind her compost bin and planted a ton of veggies. I found some strawberries growing wild in some weeds; so we dug those up and planted them in pots and in various places around the yard. So from the start of the day till the end I planted those little baby veggies all over. Spreadin' the love and the produce!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Manicures and tutus




Yesterday was a teacher workday for daughter's school but son still had preschool. So I thought we could spend some mommy-daughter time together getting manicures. The lady gave me a shocked look when I said we'd both like to get our nails done. I guess they don't have too many 6 year old clients. I'm not very fruffy so I picked a really pale pink for my nails, but daughter picked the hottest pink they had. We even went all out and had them paint little flowers on her thumbs and ring fingers. Her fancy fingers were a big hit with the preschool teachers when we went to pick up son (she used to go to the same preschool). She was very careful not to mess up her nails with bath last night and getting ready for school today, and from what I'm told the girls in her class oohed and ahhed over them.

Later this afternoon she had dance class. Today was picture day, and they all wore their costumes, did their hair and wore makeup! We both thought the fancy nails would be a great addition. When she went to have her individual picture taken the teacher positioned her in a cute dance pose then almost jumped when she noticed the nails. "Oh no, you can't have painted fingernails!" So she repositioned her so her nails didn't show for the photo. My thought here is that the individual photos are really just for me. The dance studio doesn't hang these up or even get a copy of them. So if I'm ok with her nails, then why can't they be in my photo? Daughter got a little distraught and thought she had to remove the polish ASAP. So she starts trying to peal it off her fingers. I stopped her before she did any damage and tried to explain that by the time she has her recital the polish will be worn off and her pictures had already been taken today. "No, no, Ms. Julie said I can't have polish!" "Well, Ms. Julie didn't pay $10 to have those little nails painted, so she doesn't have a say in it!"

Ahhh the joys of having a little girl! :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sprouts!

The soybeans in the garden have sprouted!

That is all. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Crazy gardening

I feel like this was a very productive weekend. Yesterday I put 6 coats of poly on our dining room table. I think it may need one or 2 more in order to make it as smooth and shiny as I'd like it to be. But all in all I think it's going to be a lot nicer than it was before I started.

I also went a little crazy with the loppers. We have a little stand of cedars right behind our deck that the kids call the Secret Trees. They like to play secret agent in there and call some parts of it the Sword Room because it has so many sticks on the ground to use as swords. So I decided to clean that out a bit. I took out the little holly sprouts and some of the smaller cedar branches to make it easier to walk around in there without getting scratched. Apparently cedar branches have a lot of tiny dead twigs hanging on them. So in some spots I could just run my hand up the branch and break off a dozen or more little dead twigs. So now there are a lot more swords for the kids to play with and a few more Agent Rooms to go along with that.

The garden is almost in a state that requires me to just wait and see what happens rather than needing to plant or transplant or weed. I'd almost rather have something to do. When I don't have something I NEED to do in the garden I find things to do anyway, which is not always the best thing for the garden. :) So yesterday I decided to divide the rhubarb. I believe that many years ago the rhubarb was one plant, but now it's divided itself into about 11 plants that produce a fair amount of rhubarb. I've been able to make a couple of rhubarb crisps already this spring, but I'd like more. So I broke off 3 of the crowns that were off to the side by themselves and moved them to another spot in the garden. I got a lot of root with them so hopefully they'll do ok. I then proceeded to dig up all of the volunteer strawberries that were in the rows where I'm growing corn and put them into a big planter. About 10 minutes after I'd put them in the new pot they all fell over and looked totally wilted. I watered them, and hopefully they'll perk up, but as of last night it didn't look too promising. I think I should have transplanted the whole root ball filled with dirt into the planter of compost rather than shaking the dirt off of the roots first. The compost is fairly coarse and will have more problems getting all around the roots to deliver water than the dirt they were already in. But we'll see what they do.

I also jumped the gun a bit on planting my pumpkins. We made a 10x10 pumpkin patch next to the big garden and would like to fence it to keep the bunnies and chickens out of it. We have enough fencing to go around 3 sides of the patch and need to get more to finish out the 4th side. I got antsy and decided to plant my starts in there anyway. I had chickens in there with me almost immediately trying to "help" me dig my holes and peck at the rhubarb stalks I'd put in my pocket to take inside. I shooed them away and managed to plant my starts. I then put the plastic fencing over the top of the starts to keep the critters from going back into the bed. I really should have waited until I had enough fencing...but I got antsy. :)

And, Yay! I have someone who's planning to take some of my many extra starts. Actually I have 4 someones. I guess I've talked about them enough that people are feeling sorry for them and will give them a home out of pity. Whatever the reason, they will be going to some good homes and will hopfully grow up to be big strong yummy veggies. It makes me so proud to see my little ones going out into the big wide world. :)

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...