Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NanoNinja and the Big Wiggly Puppy*

Small but FIERCE!


A Ninja and her Dog...



B.W.P.



Other costumes considered by Grace starting from Monday up until the bus's arrival at 8:55:

"Something Disgusting"

Princess

Mummy
("you can wrap me up in toilet paper and tape it!")

Puppy

Ladybug

Ladybug-Puppy


Will Grace still be a puppy when she goes trick or treating? Your guess is as good as mine.

This one exercises "a woman's right to change her mind" to the fullest extent allowed by law.

I'm just holding my breath that she really has ditched the mummy idea. Can you just imagine the nightmare that would be trying to keep her "dressings" of perforated TP from falling off every time she bends over to pick up an errant Skittle? Oy.

There is a reason mummies walk with stiff legs and arms straight out... they're hermetically sealed in SCOTCH TAPE!

Happy Halloween, Y'all!


* "The Big Wiggly Puppy" is the name I have given to the part of my personality that leaps out when I get really excited about something. It's very well-meaning and joyful, but also just as likely to knock you down and slobber all over you... which I imagine can get a little annoying for the slobberee.

It is very appropriate that I loan this moniker to Grace, not only because of her choice of costumes, but, well, her B.W.P. is on the loose pretty much 24/7.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Jiffy Pop," Anyone?

For some reason, these little guys just make me happy.

I don't know why I've suddenly become obsessed with the mushrooms growing in my in-laws' yard. Every time I go out to do my cow chores these days, it seems I can't help but snap a shot of friendly-looking fungus.

I know. It's silly.

Surprised?

Me neither.

The last Rio Samba

This is one of my all-time favorite rose varieties. In warm weather, this buttery yellow gives way to intense, deep oranges and pinks. Its aroma is reminiscent of really good citrus fruit punch.

Just looking at it makes me pine for next June.


Okay, gotta get back to my *job* now.

Oh, and, the cows say "hi."

Ciao, now, brown cow!


Monday, October 29, 2007

Odds and Ends. Bits and Pieces. This and That.

Harlequin Glory Bower Blossom*


It was a full weekend here on the Ranch and elsewhere.

My Little Purple Belt

It started off on Friday with Anna's Belt Ceremony where she received her Purple Belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is so very proud... almost as proud as I am of her. She TOTALLY ROCKS!
Plus, can you imagine what I save in personal security detail costs just by hanging out with her?!

Seriously.

Don't muck with this little ninja. She'll mess you up.

Oh, the half-a-board she's holding up was one of a stack of five her instructor (yes, the big guy on the right) broke as a reward for the higher ranking students passing all of their board breaking tests. It was really cool... and painful to watch. He was going to break a brick, but that wasn't possible at the time, so the equivalent is about five boards. He wasn't successful on his first attempt. He was, however, victorious on his second... using the same arm he slammed into those boards just moments before! GAH!! I fractured my elbow just watching!


Pumpkin Palooza Prep


Anna's friend, Julia, joined us for PP and to celebrate her (Julia's) 11th birthday.


The competition was fierce!


Um, Grace and Anna kind of got inspired by the same theme, but Grace (and I) did take home second place! Ours is the TotemPunkin on the right. Anna's is on the left. The little guy in the front? I have no idea who it belonged to but it's kinda cute so I let him stay.

I forgot to get a picture of Risa's winning entry. (I must have been addled by all of Charity's Award Winning Pumpkin Cheesecake I scarfed down... or maybe it was some kind of subconscious passive-agression over not winning the much coveted trophy... hmmmmm?)


Risa made the CUTEST little house, complete with an opening door and free-standing picket fence from a white pumpkin that was just adorable enough to house Hello Kitty.

Congratulations, Risa!! ;)


My first GOOD batch of 'Bucha Tea... or what's left of it.
I started out with a gallon.

Thanks to Lisa B. I finally managed to produce Kombucha Tea that is actually good enough to drink... for less than $7 a four-pack! With the way my Peeps put this stuff down (we drink it instead of soda) we'll be flying to Hawaii on the savings in no time!

Well, now that I've got you all updated on the minutia that was my weekend, I'll be off to practice my hula.

Aloha, Y'all!



*This is one of my two favorite trees in my in-laws' yard. Those blossoms smell like jasmine. Delicious. My other favorite is their Catalpa tree whose leaves are slightly fuzzy and the size of dinner plates. The kids fold them into "nature pockets" and collect treasures from the yard in them. Sadly, the tree is dying and will be removed soon. :(

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ring Around the Ranch

Alternate Title:
No Pheasant Present, But Dew? Can Do!

sorry.

Clothesed for the Season

Today I won't subject you to any feeble attempts to wax poetic, but did want to share some shots of my tour around the Ranch this morning. It is such a glorious day, I took a good long time to wander the property and drink in all the breathtaking beauty Fall has to offer.

Faerie Skyscrapers

If only I knew if they are poisonous...

Animation Suspended

Everyone Shares on the Ranch

Dewy Dandelion


Today's Chore Companion, Jack.


Still Trying

Where Faeries Get Their Silver

Barn Boss

Cow Candy


Brilliant

Should've worn the boots.


I hope you are enjoying this amazing day as much as I am... Cheers!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pheasant Present*

(For illustration purposes only... not my actual pheasant... obviously.)



What a present
Was the pheasant
I did glimpse upon this morn.

Not a peasant
Of a pheasant,
He, so regally adorned.

Til’ now I had
But seen him at
The far side of the pasture.

The bushes and
The fences had
Obscured his noble stature.

But on this day
He came my way
And stood there in the sunshine.

Mere feet away
His fear gave way
He scuttled for the tree line.

For my presence
To this pheasant
Was to surely be construed

As not pleasant
For the pheasant
But, a plan to make him food.

So effort he
Did make quickly
To end up
not under glass.

How could he know
I would not go
And eat his fine, plum'd carcass.

Cam’ra in hand
Across our land
I searched through garden and trees

I did intend
To show, my Friend,
The pure glory that was he.

To write a post
For those, at most
Whose number has surged to three!

Not how to roast
Or even toast
But share his unique beauty.

But at present
My dear pheasant
Is a hidin’ in an a tree.

Seems the present
Of my pheasant
Was a gift saved just for me.


*Disclaimer:
Yes, I am aware this composition is a syllabically-rhythmic train wreck. I'm no poet, but as I was tramping around in the grass trying to find said purty birdie, this started rattling in my cranium so, I thought, "What the heck? Why not open myself up to a whole new reason for folks to point at me and laugh, 'eh?" I say,"What better way to start a Monday?!"...

... Except, of course, for going out to the garage to get some bread yeast outta the fridge and seeing a freakin' gorgeous bird hanging out right outside the window!

Very, VERY cool!


Happy Monday, Y'all! And enjoy that belly laugh at my expense. Really. I don't mind a bit!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Grilled Cheese Gets an Upgrade


Grilled Cheese Mania has descended upon my household since the minute the fresh bread cooled enough to slice it.

Grace not only requested it for breakfast today, but also the minute she got home from school... and again before she was done eating her lunch! (I talked her into something else instead of a third one, however... I have real concerns about *plumbing*... in every imaginable sense of the word, should she consume much more Tillamook Cheddar.)

She made that humble, cheesy comfort food favorite look so good, I decided to have one myself, but my desire leaned toward something a bit more... um... interesting. To my crispy, buttery, toasted perfection I added the roasted tomatoes from a couple of posts ago, some thinly-sliced zucchini, lightly salted and sprinkled with fresh-ground pepper. Served alongside a salad of fresh mixed greens, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette it almost made me forget how much fat and carbohydrates I was foisting upon my unsuspecting vascular system.

Awe, who am I kidding. My arteries have been with me for forty years now. I'm sure I could eat a wheel of brie the size of a tractor tire and my body wouldn't be remotely surprised...

... though that doesn't mean it wouldn't retaliate against any gross assault on my part.

I get too crazy with the bread or the cheese and my mortal coil will waste no time slapping me with a massive headache, just to remind me who's really in charge here.

That's my life on the edge folks... walking the fine line between just enough baked goods and fine dairy products to sate my highly-evolved palate and cowering in pain, shunning the smallest shaft of light like a vampire with a hangover.

Yes, that's me. Angeleen, Culinary Daredevil.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's Bread and Soup Weather!

"Daddy, what smells so good?!"

"That's homemade bread, Anna. Homemade bread!"

"Yea!!!"

This is half the reason I roast a chicken, people.


(head swings around to me, wide-eyed and breathless)
"Mommy, what's for dinner?"

"Chicken noodle soup and bread."

"*gasp!* Yea!!!!!"

My mixer arrived almost two weeks ago but I haven't had a chance to put 'er through the paces until yesterday. Man, the wait was *killing* me! Just didn't have time or the right stuff, but I finally made it happen and everyone I live with sure is happy about it.

Anna is big on dipping her slab of buttery, yeastified goodness into the soup. Grace regards this as disgusting even to watch. Anna just rolls her eyes and shakes her head at her sister's immature culinary preferences.

The girls were totally stoked to have toasted cheese sandwiches for breakfast this morning... and I was totally stoked to clean up their scraps. Toasted cheese crusts and coffee... mmmmm!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go let out the waistband and fanny of my favorite jeans to make room for the continued carbohydrate onslaught.

Toast 'em if ya got 'em.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Desiccated and Delectable

Before
After 4.5 hours at 325°.
(Sorry about the flash on the white plate. It was unavoidable, but *yikes!*)

If it seems to you like that many fresh tomatoes should make a lot more roasted ones than are shown resting on the blinding-white plate, you would be right! These babies are so dang tasty we can't leave 'em alone and have already demolished about half of the finished product. Now that's gooooood.

Many thanks to Lisa E. for the recipe and Angelina for posting it along with lovely pictures that I found overwhelmingly inspiring. They used some beautiful Beefsteak or some other big, fat slicing tomatoes. I had only small specimens, though being at their ripe and juicy best, the flavor is absolutely astounding! I wish I had roasted a bushel of those little sweeties!

Next year, my Darlings, next year...

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Accidental Afficianado

This is Midna*. She looks like she has a guilty conscience, doesn't she?

That is probably because a split second before Anna took this picture, she most likely just took a dump behind the couch! Or perhaps she recently peed by the front door...

Charming.

It was when she started leaving *presents* RIGHT NEXT TO THE CAT BOX that we were left with one of the following conclusions:

1. Having never lived with a cat that didn't catch-on to the box within about 10 seconds of being introduced to it, she was obviously severely brain damaged.

2. She was acting out her extreme angst over our blatant favoritism for her little sister.

3. Said angst had rendered her maniacally suicidal.

4. She didn't like the cat litter.


We had always used clay litter until I, on a visit to our local she-she pet boutique, read an article posted right there on the glass of the kitty-love-a-thon room that clay is supposedly very bad for the health of your cat and, not too surprisingly, that of the owner changing the cat litter. Seems the dust gets breathed in and all that wonderful clumping power works its own special brand of Voo-Doo on the dewy-moist lining of the lungs. Also, since cats aren't inclined to hop into the shower with their kitty-sized bar of handmade lavender soap, they also get it into their digestive system where it can wreak havoc.

SO...

Being the ever vigilant cat owner I began a quest for the best non-cat-killing litter I could find to assure a safe potty experience for all our cats, but especially Ashly's soon-to-arrive litter of kittens. ("Cat litter" ... "Litter of kittens." Coincidence? I *seriously* doubt it.)

First, I tried "S'Wheat Scoop" made from ground up wheat kernels. Lovely idea though obscenely expensive. It worked pretty well except for two things: The gluten in the wheat is what makes for the highly-touted "natural clumping action." This is also why you can use flour and water to make GLUE. Not so bad when kitty only piddles in the top inch of the litter, but most cats love to dig... hence, imagine cleaning four cat boxes with sticky pee clumps inexorably adhered to the bottom...

And as if that weren't pleasant enough, the wheat has a smell that one normally associates with food, of course. Nothing is quite so appetizing as the perfume of fresh baked bread slathered in newly minted cat poop. MMMmmmmm YUMMY!

::GAG::

I wasn't willing to do litter "pearls" or any of that chemically, high-tech junk. Please. They're cats. Cats poop in dirt, NOT on a freshly strewn bed of fragrant white marbles.

My last resort was to try "Feline Pine." Basically, it's sawdust that comes in pellets and now, "New Scoopable!" I knew my cats would have a hard time adjusting to pellets and, well, the loose kind just made more sense to me, so I got it.

This stuff is GREAT!! Yes, it tracks, but all cat litter does, really. The thing that is so amazing about it is that we never** smell the cat boxes even when I'm changing them! I think it smells like "new house in progress." You know, the scent of freshly sawed lumber? To me, that's a happy association. The litter clumps really well though, because it is very light, you have to jiggle around the little scooper thing to separate the solids from the clean stuff. Not a huge deal in my book.

So. Here I am, thinking I have struck kitty litter gold! The Old Cat's frequent, spontaneous vomiting had stopped except for when he actually had a hairball (a VERY welcome change, I might add, especially since he spends 99% of his life in our bedroom...) and the other cats took to it immediately. Super!

Bring on the next challenge!

Stupid, stupid girl.

Fast forward to the present. Of Ashly's six fuzzy little offspring, we kept two: Midna and her little sister, Winky. Naturally, there were a few accidents around the house as the kittens were learning the ropes, but someone was exhibiting a severe learning disability! We were never sure exactly who it was, because we never caught her in the act, but had suspected Midna as I had regularly seen Winky leaving the cat box.

I was NEVER without my Kitty Clean-Up Kit within easy reach.

Damned cat.

Finally, timing was on our side and Midna was exposed as the resident vandal. Every time she would slip up, we threw her in the cat box or outside and thoroughly cleaned the accident spot, but she just wasn't *getting it.*

I was sick of spending my *free* moments inhaling kitty fumes.

James, who can hardly stand two magazines resting askew on the coffee table, let alone kitty bombs regularly defiling his domicile, gave me a week to figure it out or Midna would become an outdoor cat. Where we live, given her minuscule size (even at seven months old) and lack of experience in the "wild" this translates directly into "Coyote Food."

Did I say "bring on the next challenge?" Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

It wasn't until I noticed that she would sometimes poop NEXT TO THE CAT BOXES that it hit me. James, in reading about "Feline Pine" when we switched, had mentioned that a certain percentage of cats don't take to it. The pine aroma is just too strong to them or they don't like the way the particles feel between their pads... who knows.

In a last-ditch effort to save this cute, friendly, if *frustrating*, little creature from the maw of a violent, predatory death I decided to try the clay litter again in one cat box.

I put her inside it and dragged her tiny paw across the clay in a hope-filled demonstration of Remedial Cat Box Training 101... "First we scratch the surface..." Clearly oblivious that her very life was at stake, she walked off with a swagger of indifference. My heart sank but I crossed my fingers anyway.

Lo and behold! Since her introduction to the potentially hazardous glory that is clay litter, Midna has not had ONE accident! HALLELUJA!!


We are ALL very relieved.

Yes, I have to clean that particular box out at LEAST once a day or the smell drives me out of the house***. And, while I tried to find the least harmful litter I could, I do hold by breath and turn on a fan when I change it. However, until Midna starts showing signs of ill effects, I will consider the compromise worthwhile as my carpet, the kitty and my marital bliss have been saved.

Scientific conclusion: ratio of cats who love "Feline Pine" to those who would rather risk being eviscerated than use it: 6:1.

Bring on the next...! OH, would you just SHUT UP!!




*Yes, for all you "Legend of Zelda" fans, thanks to James, she is named after Link's impish "Twilight Princess" cohort. I had named her Mojo, but he thought it sounded too masculine. *Whatever*


**Okay, so , when someone has been eating too many mice and you walk by the box after they've just stepped out of it the aroma is, shall we say, pungent... okay, ASSAILANT, but it is soon overtaken by the clean, fresh scent of pine trees!

*** I have the olfactory senses of a freakin' Bloodhound.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This Could Explain The Multiple Contusions and Sketchy Memory

video

This is why only our 14-year-old cat sleeps inside.

He's too old and fragile to lift any blunt, heavy objects, but will at times resort to the old "knock-over-the-glass-of-water-on-the-night-stand-with-my-head" maneuver.

Can you imagine the carnage if all seven slept inside?!
::shiver::

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Jar Full of Memories


It's the little things. Simple, unassuming objects of everyday life that hold potent powers of recollection.

These make the best gifts. Give me pause. Like snippets of life handed over to be locked in timeless suspension to be visited and cherished. The smells, the sounds, the feelings. Bits of conversations and lessons learned. Warm moments shared that seemed so ordinary at the time, but gain emotional momentum until they are gilt with a sheen of preciousness and longing.

It is in these ordinary objects that I feel my Grandmother. I know I'm not the only one.

Grannee was the kind of woman that made an impression on everyone she met.


She was the embodiment of elegance. The definition of grace. Manners personified.

And just as comfortable milking a cow or working farm machinery as she was hostessing a dinner party for 30 or working in an office downtown or tickling a grandchild.


I could go on. I'm sure you can tell.

Suffice to say, Gran had so much spirit and love in her that, now that she's gone, it makes throwing away anything... even breath mints I found in one of her purses, agonizing and heart-wrenching. About the only things it didn't nearly kill me to pitch were her bank statements from 1984.

Obviously, my mom has similar feelings, but has been working on becoming more callous about such things out of sheer practicality. You can't keep every tube of rancid, coral pink lip stick or butter dish. There just isn't room and they're just THINGS, right?

So, when she read my post about toothpaste, where I mention how Gran kept her salt and soda in an old cold cream jar her heart fell to her stomach. "If I had only known! I think I remember throwing it away thinking, 'well, I guess she won't be needing this anymore.' Now I wish I had it to give you!"

We both sat there trying not to wallow in disappointment. "It never fails..." and all that. Still, I applauded her at letting go of at least ONE thing and reassured her she could never have known that little jar held such vivid memories for me. I didn't really know it myself until I wrote the post.

But, as REMAINS my Grannee's way, she finds the means to get things done, even from the other side. She's an ambitious one. And generous. And kind. And just as sentimental as her girls.

On Sunday, as my mom continued on her never-ending task of sorting though bags and boxes in her garage... guess what magically appeared among the flotsam...


And on Monday, when I walked into my bathroom, it was sitting on the counter.

I shrieked in disbelief. And now, as I write this, my face is wet with tears, thinking of her and how much this single little object brings her close to me again. I feel her arms around me almost tangibly. I miss her so much, but at the moment, I feel like we've had a visit.

This little jar that is older than I am, that she saved because she thought it was pretty. That she held in her hands twice a day in the most mundane of daily rituals, is now a vessel for my tooth powder and my memories. A place for us to meet as I stare at myself in the mirror and wait for my toothbrush to stop buzzing... and remember her as I polish my smile.

I know she likes that. She is very big on good teeth and a bright smile.

Thanks Grannee... and mom... for the treasure.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Nerd Girl Word Freak


Few things give me more geekish pleasure than stumbling across a word that sends me scrambling for my dictionary.

Seriously.

So, there I was, minding my own business when, WHAM! This woman being quoted in an article about how the "Shanghai Tunnels" under downtown Portland may have a much less sinister history after all whips out this magnificent beauty from her own personal lexicon.

And now, I present to you, the word of the day:

obfuscate: 1. To make so confused as to be difficult to understand. 2. To render indistinct or dim.

Pronunciation? The "o" is short, the "u" is a schwa... you know the sound made by that funny upside-down "e" thing. C'mon, people, "SCHWA!" It's First Grade English.

Thank you, Jacqueline Peterson Loomis, for your outstanding contribution in the ongoing fight to keep delicious, tantalizingly archaic words alive in the age of Newspeak.

And with that, I had better cease and desist lest I belabor the point into obfuscation... ahhhh... nice!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Feet of Mercury and a Heart of Gold



For the first time ever Anna and Grace go to the same school and therefor, were able to do the biggest fund raiser of the year, the "Fun Run," together.

Grace, as I've said before, isn't big on crowds and was ready to back out when we arrived at the school, but Anna assured her she would be right there with her.

I figured she'd stay until Grace was comfortable with everything then feverishly pursue her goal of making enough laps to reach $200 in pledges. This would win her an iPod! Wow!

In stead, they ran side-by-side the entire time they had to run together... most of it hand-in-hand!


This was quite a risk for Anna to take as her goal was to finish 22 laps on a roughly 1/4 mile track, but she wouldn't leave her little sister in the dust... or, more accurately, the mud, given the pouring rain. Instead, she ran with Grace for the 30 minutes allowed for the Kindergarteners and they made it to Grace's goal of 13 laps! (Edit: Grace just corrected me that she ran 14 laps. I looked at the sheet again and she's right! So G. gets credit for meeting her goal plus one, too!) Having her big sister there made all the difference for her. Then, when Grace had to finish and go inside and the 4/5s ran their final 10 minutes, Anna turned on the heat and blasted out NINE MORE LAPS! That means she made her goal plus one extra for good measure!


I was SO proud of them... and especially Anna. Not only for her amazing speed, but her kindness and consideration for her sister.

What impressed me most, however, is what she did last night. That was when we tallied up how much each had earned for the school. Anna had made $214. More than she needed for her iPod. Yippee!

We figured out that Grace made $172... enough for a portable CD player, but just short of the iPod. Grace said she was fine with that, but Anna said, she knew Grace would be really disappointed when she realized the difference.

"Mommy," she asked, "how much more money would Grace need for an iPod?"

"$28"

"How much does she have?"

"$4 and a bunch of change."

"I want to give her $20 toward the iPod and maybe she can put in eight."

"Are you SURE?! $20 is a lot of money for you."

"I know. I just don't want her to be sad."

*gulp*

I tried very hard to make real to a five-year-old's brain, what this meant. Anna was giving up a full month's allowance just so she wouldn't have to be disappointed when her prize wasn't the same as what Anna had worked so hard for.

Grace thought about it for a second, then ran over and hugged Anna hard around the neck as they laughed together.

Later, Grace came to me and said, "Mommy, I'm glad God gave Anna to me for a big sister."



You guys... I get to be their mom.

Wow.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

My Moss is Perking Up


Ahhhhh... the sweet, glorious rain has returned in earnest.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good sunny day as much as the next gal, but the heat of Summer holds no true pleasure for me much past 80°. Pool or no pool.

I despise sweating.

There's a saying that goes, "You can tell a Native Oregonian by the moss on our backs and the webs between our toes."

Umbrella? Please.

I think I do own one, but I can't even tell you where it is. No, rain is for washing the earth and my face in splashy droplets of liquid sky.

Replenish.

Refresh.

Drink it in and feel my roots bore deeper into mother earth, secretly feasting on her hidden goodness that only well-watered tapping tendrils may seek out.

When it rains, the harder the better mind you, my truest self awakens and I feel alive and somehow relaxed. In my element.

Bake bread.

Make pot roast. Chicken and dumplings.

Read by a crackling fire while a torrent pounds and the wind howls past my chimney-top underscoring that I am safe and warm and well-fed.

Makes me more keenly aware of so many blessings overlooked when all is calm, dry and quiet.


Rain reminds me that I live in a place where things want to grow. Things I can eat and feed my family.

Growing things love rain.

Children are growing things.

My children love the rain...

... but, not as much as they love mud.