Saturday, December 24, 2011

#%$* Elf

Finally.  The last day I have to come up with a clever and unique hiding place for the #%$* Elf.  Finally.

Up at 5:45am, trudge upstairs to awaken the kids for Christmas Torture Training.  Bridget is so hard to wake up.  She growls and whines.  She begs and snaps.  Unpleasant.  Whoops, almost forget about the #%$* Elf, quickly shove him down the front of my robe before she comes fully awake and grumbling.

Back downstairs, where to put the #%^$* Elf this time.  Bridget's Christmas stocking is as good a place as any.  Must get him out of my robe, he seems extra scratchy this morning.

Maybe it's time.  Maybe I should insert a little note with the #$%* Elf, (but Bridget calls him Robin), from Santa, reminding Bridget that next year she will be thirTEEN (gulp), and the #$*^% Elf only visits children.  Maybe it's time.

Why is this #%&* Elf extra scratchy in my robe today?  Drag him out, and a bright orange sticky flutters to the floor.

In Bridget's neatest writing, I read:

Thank you for these many beautiful days of friendship this December.  Although I may have an odd way of showing it, I really do love you.  And not just because you put in a good word with Santa; you are a truly great elf and I hate to see you go back to the North Pole for almost a year.  But I know you miss your friends, family & you have much work to do up there. But I really do hope we've been hospitable this early winter so that you don't feel uncomfortable in this "hot" Texas winter.

Again, thank you very much for your kindness, heart, and long-time-forever-lasting friendship.  I love you.

Bridget Glynn


Now, I know Bridget has the whole Santa Thang all figured out, but she chooses to play along, and enjoys the mystery and excitement.

So, no.  No, I won't tell Bridget she's "too old" for the $#^* Elf.  I won't force her to face grown up issues any sooner than she wants to face them.  If she chooses to immerse herself in the magic of the season, who am I to deny her?

I am going to jump right in there with her, and enjoy every moment.

Thank you, Bridget, for keeping the magic alive. 

Merry Christmas everyone.  Let's all take a lesson from Bridget today and embrace it all.  Be of good cheer.  Find your inner child, open your hearts.  Be merry.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anatomy of a Mum

It resided in our house for 24 hours, hanging in the entry way in all it's glory.  I almost felt as if I ought to give it a name, it seemed to have taken on a personality all it's own.

Aidan had a sheepish expression on his face when he brought it home, I could tell he finds this a bit absurd too.

First of all, props to the "mum lady" who built the thing.  My renegade opinion and snarky comments are in no way a reflection on the creativity and workmanship that went into this thing.  I consider myself fairly craftie and can readily admit there is no way I would have created such a magnificent specimen.  It has been pronounced "beautiful" by my friend Paula, who loves Mums and is a bazillionth-generation Texan.  Bridget, who has lived more of her life in Texas than California by now, thinks it's pretty too and can't wait to have a Mum of her own.  I only hope that her future dates don't disappoint her.

The Mum weighs in at a whopping four pounds.  That is about as much as one of my chickens.  It has a harness so the young lady can strap it to her torso and have the chore pleasure of wearing it to school today, the game tonight, and the homecoming evening festivities Saturday. 

The Mum has over 40 ribbons attached to it, and what a variety of ribbons!  Varying colors, widths, and embossments.  Sparkly ribbons, jaguar spotted ribbons, ribbons with their names.  Never have I dreamed of such glorious ribbonry.

Apparently, every Mum must also have a braided ribbon, and Mumnifique here (that's her name now), was no exception.  A very complicated braid (which I could never have managed without strangling someone), with sparkly bows attached.

Adorning Mumnifique's ribbons are all kinds of blingy charms that signify occasion and the activities of the couple.  Aidan's date is a volleyball player.  I was surprised that there is swimming bling.

Embedded in the actual chrysyanthemum is a teddy bear.  See the chrysyanthemum there, under the teddy bear?  It's the white petals?  That is the origination of the Mum - an actual mum.  This little teddy bear has a silver lame top and a blue sparkly skirt.  This teddy bear looks angry at being upstaged by the curlicues and stars that surround it.

And all around the teddy bear and the mum are more gee-gaws symbolizing football, bling, and who knows what.

All along, I've been joking that I wanted to make A Mum that had a water feature and a food dispenser.  Well, the "mum lady" beat me half way....  one of the "ribbons" is a tubular structure that is stuffed with Tootsie Rolls.

So, Mumnifique, I will miss you.  More than that, though, I am missing the kidney that has funded your existence, your 48 hours in the spotlight, and living out your days hanging on a bedroom wall gathering dust.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let the money sucking begin.....

Well, Boy Child started (gulp) high school this year.  My usual philosophy with life changes, transitions, etc. has been to face them head on, embrace them, try not to spend too much time grieving for the past, and view it all as a big adventure.

But then, along comes Homecoming.

I find the absurd a bit hard to embrace.

I must admit that much of the absurdity mostly comes from the comedy that surrounds navigating unfamiliar waters with a Boy Child.  Mostly, the male species aren't totally observant, and they also don't communicate real well.  If it wasn't for the Mommy Network keeping me clued in, I would have no idea about all the processes and rituals surrounding Homecoming.

Talk about putting a lot of stress on people, especially the kids!

So, apparently you just can't ASK a date.  There have to be gifts involved.  Flowers, teddy bears, candy, I don't know really.  We went with the single rose.  Twice.  Forgetting one's cell phone makes it hard to arrange a suitable between-class meeting place and so the rose languished in the backpack.  $5.40.

Another early morning visit to pick up another rose ($5.40 again) and hopefully there will be good news today after school.

Next up are the logistics.....  where to eat, who else to go with, where is the after party, coordinating clothing, coordinating transportation.  For both the Friday game AND the dance Saturday.  It's a money sucking marathon, homecoming.

But here is the most absurd thing.  The dreaded MUM.  You know that quaint fall tradition of wearing a chrysyanthemum corsage to football games?  Well, in Texas, bigger is better, and apparently the lowly mum isn't enough.  It has to be A Mum.  What is A Mum, you ask?  It is a tacky conglomeration of ribbons, sparkles, feathers, charms, mini teddy bears, blinky lights, you name it - if a hot glue gun will hold it on, it can go on A Mum.  The bigger, the better.  Or maybe not.  A freshman Mum shouldn't be too big, but if it's too small, it could be mistaken for a boy's Mum.  Yes, boys wear them too.

Now, hold on to your wallets - the price range of A Mum is anywhere from about $60 to a few hundred dollars.  One mom I know thought she could make A Mum for less....  not so, she actually wound up spending about $20 more on all the ribbons, etc. and didn't have much in the way of leftovers.  Crafty ladies and smart floral shops buy in bulk and crank 'em out during Mum season, but you have to reserve your order early.  Was homecoming this stressful back in the '80s?  I think not.

I know.  It's unbelieveable.  Don't believe me?  Just do a quick search on "Texas homecoming mums" and check out the photos.  I took the liberty of grabbing a few for you to look at - I'm not making this stuff up!  Enjoy!  Meanwhile, I will be selling a kidney to fund homecoming.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Party, party, party

Aidan started high school this year.  *GULP*  He decided to go our for the swim team.  They've been in the water two weeks, and already there have been three parties.  This is one social group!  Later this month, they'll go on a trip together, and next month, the boys will all go camping together.  I'm told this is a loosely disguized hazing trip, but hey, the noobs gotta pay their dues. 

Last week I received a call from a senior swimmer.  He was a charming mix of awkwardness and politeness.  "Um, is this Mrs. Glynn?  Can you talk somewhere where Aidan can't hear?"  Oh, gawd, what did he do?

"Well, um, next weekend, um, we are going to kidnap all the freshmen at like 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning.  Do you think you can, like, um, maybe leave a door unlocked?"

Visions of masked marauders entering my home, the dogs going berserk.  Hefty seniors dragging an underwear-clad Aidan from his bed with a pillowcase over his head, struggling and screaming.

"And, um, Mrs. Glynn?  Maybe if you could put together a bag with clothes and shoes for him?"  And his cell phone, money, and maybe a weapon.....

"OK, well, here's my phone number in case you need to call me."  And then the comforting phone call from his mother, 20 minutes later, to confirm our address.

Needless to say, sleep was not my friend at 5:30 this morning, so we got up to await the intruders.  Several cars pulled up to the curb and 3 figures hurried through the darkness to our door.  I let them in, they politely removed their shoes, quietly greeting me good morning.  They had masks for themselves, and a blind-fold for Aidan.  Given that two of them were girls, we relaxed a little.

I didn't follow upstairs, not wanting to appear to be the dreaded helicopter mommy.  But I'm pretty sure I qualify anyway, as I was snapping photos as they came down.  Only the fact that Aidan was blind-folded allowed me to do this.  For all he knows, it was other kids taking pictures.  I made sure to keep quiet, so he wouldn't even know I was witness to his abduction.

They kept him out about four hours.  Driving around getting other kids, going out to breakfast, and then team-building activities.

While Aidan already has a pretty nice group of well-rounded kids as friends, I'm glad he's got this new group too.  A mix of all ages, and kids that "get" the swimming thing.  Now, if we can just navigate homecoming, and the grades, it's going to be a good year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


It's been a while since we've gone camping.  Aidan goes pretty regularly with the Boy Scouts and Bridget has been bemoaning the fact that she never gets to go camping.

A few weeks ago, the Scouts were going to some place in Oklahoma called Beavers Bend.  Ray thought it would be a good idea if we piggy-backed on their trip.  The campgrounds don't take reservations, and by heading up mid-week, we'd be able to help the Scouts in securing some campsites.

The first chore of course was locating and dusting off all the old camping gear and inspecting it all to see what was still in good condition.  Apparently, somewhere along the line, we have divested ourselves of a stove, but other than that we were in pretty good shape.  Having a Very Large Car is a good thing, as we don't have to leave anything at home!

The drive up was interesting and pretty.  We went through lots of little towns, which is always intersting in Texas.  Small towns in Texas do City Hall really well...  beautiful and stately stone buildings, typically right on the town square.  Sadly, many of these towns and the surrounding Victorian-style homes were built with now-departed oil money, so what once may have been a charming and thriving town square, surrounded by lovely homes is now desolate and sad.  Shuttered businesses, peeling paint, yet the stone edifice of Town Hall still remains, seeming almost.... hopeful.

It's always fun to stop in some small town and try to find a cafe or diner where the "locals" go, and we had burgers on the way up in Paris, TX, and an amazing brunch on the way home in Mena, Arkansas.

Once we got to Hochatown, OK the quest for the Perfect Campsite began.  There are lots of sites right on Broken Bow lake, and then down below the dam plenty of river sites as well.  After inspecting everything, and evaluating tree cover, bathrooms, site sizes, etc. we selected a gorgeous site right on the river.

The water temperature was cool and lovely!  Being so near the water made the heat almost a non-issue (except at night when I was trying to sleep - then I missed the air conditioning!).  The river was wide, deep, and while there wasn't a strong current, it moved swiftly enough to keep it clear, clean and fresh.
Directly across from our campsite were some great slate rock formations.  Great for climbing on and.... jumping off!

Aidan did quite a bit of fishing and we had delicious fresh trout for dinner.  As part of his fishing merit badge, he was required to cook it.  Since we had plenty, he cooked two and delivered them to his Scoutmaster's site.  His preparation method couldn't be simpler or more delicious.....  wrap two trout in a foil pouch with salt, pepper, and about a half a stick of buttah.  Set them on a rock in the coals of a very hot fire, and in about 12 minutes the packet puffs up and the fish are done.  Delish!

One afternoon, Bridget and I went to the local stables and had a nice trail ride.  It was through a densely wooded area and we saw lots of deer.  And we were highly entertained by the very vocal woman behind me who hadn't been on a horse in over 50 years and used humor to disguise her nervousness.

We spent one morning on Broken Bow lake.  We hit the Redneck Yacht Club and rented a boat and spent a couple of hours tourturing each other on wakeboards and tubes.

In typical "Boy" fashion, Aidan wanted to catch a squirrel.  Using the tried and true "box, stick, and string" method, he created a trail of Cheerios and had several squirrels come investigate.

He was rewarded a couple of times by catching either one slow and stupid squirrel, or a couple of different ones.

There were a couple of places nearby to rent kayaks and canoes, and we did that a couple of times.  It's such a relaxing way to see the river!

The Boy Scouts also had kayaks and canoes, and after they had done the serious work of specific merit badge skills, they entertained us by playing games like "How Many Boys Can You Fit In A 2-Man Kayak" and other silly activities.

I think my camp cooking skills have grown a little rusty, but the family was forgiving.  Bridget invented The Perfect S'more by substituting soft chocolate chip cookies for graham crackers!

On the way home, we took a couple of hours to head in to southwest Arkansas and check out the Ouachita region.  Simply gorgeous, with peaks and valleys, beautiful forests, etc.  We'll definitely be back!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer in a Spoon

I first tasted this recipe at a neighbor's party.  I knew it was a winner when I saw my husband, who does not care for watermelon, gobbling it up and going for seconds.

I've made it several times since, always tweaking the recipe a bit, and every pot luck I bring it to gets the same response - people gobble it up and go back for more.  It's a large recipe, but it all gets eaten, every time!

It is so fresh, and refreshing!  A little bit of crunch, a tiny bit of heat, slightly tarty background, and sweetness up front.

It takes time to make it - there is lots of slicing and dicing!  A good opportunity to practice your knife skills, or teach them to any young cook's helpers hanging around.

Watermelon Gazpacho

1/2 watermelon with about 6 cups cranberry juice

Small dice:
1/2 water melon
8 stalks celery
2 english cucumbers (peel & seed them)
1 each: red, orange and yellow bell peppers

1 jalepeno
1 cup basil and mint (proprotion to your taste)
1 small red onion

Combine all intredients, salt to taste, chill and serve.

Try to get cranberry juice, not cranberry juce "cocktail" which is mostly grape juice
De-seed the jalepenos if you don't like the heat
Make it several hours in advance, so it gets a good chill, and the flavors meld

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chickens, chickens, chickens

All is well with the chickens.  They are growing, healthy, and I expect eggs in another month or so.

The Polish chicken has grown wattles, an attitude, and a crow.  Yes, he's a rooster.  What're the odds.  Well, 50/50, if you want to know.  We always said we wouldn't keep a rooster, so Aidan insists he wants to kill it and eat it.  He just wants to wait a few more months until he's fully grown.  Bridget and Ray want to keep him, thinking the coop is far enough away from the neighbors that the noise won't bother them.  I'm still undecided.  I don't want him terrorizing the girls, or being aggressive towards humans.  We shall see.  He is the most interesting bird in the flock, and it would be a shame to see him go.

The Ameraucanas are growing nicely and have these fluffy grey feathers on their cheeks that make me smile.  Bossy is still very bossy, and we named the other one Mrs. Flores after a favorite teacher at the middle school.  This is the 2nd Mrs. Flores chicken in our neighborhood, and you have to say the name in the high, Spanish-accented voice that the actual Mrs. Flores speaks with.  She seems confused as to why anyone would name their chicken after her.  She should be flattered.

 The Cuckoo Marans are enromous.

Lacey (on the left) is getting her lovely adult feathers from the chest working backwards.  Queenie continues to be a rather scrawney but dominant chicken.  She is one of my favorites.

Like the finches, these birds are better than TV and it's fun to sit and watch them.  Especially at bed time.  They will form a line and head up the ramp to the hen house.  Whoever is at the front of the line gets in first, and then settles down in the doorway, facing out.  The next chicken or two join them, until the doorway is completely blocked, with 4 or 5 chickens still waiting out on the ramp.  Impatient chickens at the back of the line try to walk over the top of the chickens in front of them.  Impatient chickens at the front of the line go into the coop and push out the ones already in there, usually having a disastrous domino effect on those still lined up on the ramp.

Much pushing and shoving continues until all the chickens are eventually in the henhouse, but it's comedy all the way.  Cocktail hour at our house is often spent sitting out at the chicken coop being entertained.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Swim Across America

Aidan recently had the opportunity to participate in a charity fundraiser by swimming.

There is a national organization that raises money for the fight against cancer, and it is called Swim Across America.  They hold open water swims in many locations and this was their first time in the Dallas area.

Aidan has always wanted to try open water swimming, and this was the perfect opportunity.  Not only would he get to do it with a bunch of his swimming friends, in a highly organized and safe environment, but he would be required to raise money in order to participate.  This would be Aidan's first time raising money for an organization he wasn't directly a member of.

As part of the kick-off ceremony, they let any of the participants come up on stage and talk about "why I swim."  While this could have been sappy or gut-wrenching, it was largely inspirational, hopeful and informative.  I really hope that Aidan paid enough attention to understand what his fundraising efforts did.

When you arrived, the swimmers were directed to a table where there were rocks and pens.  You could write why you were swimming on the rock.  Aidan swam for my dad, who survived a nasty form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Before the race began, they gathered all the swimmers on the docks and they all threw their rocks into the water.

Then, it was into the water!  Aidan is somewhere in this photo below, I think he's towards the front, on top.

A mile swim took Aidan about 20 or 30 minutes, I don't really know exactly.  He said it was hard to see anything, and he got kicked a couple of times until he was able to distance himself from other swimmers.

He exited the water 5th, right behind two team-mates, a collegiate swimmer and a former Olympian.  He was proud of his effort.

Happy swimmers after a great swim.  It was a lovely venue, a well-run event, and for a good cause.  Hopefully we'll be there again next year!

Monday, June 13, 2011

It isn't just chickens anymore!

Well, if I am the Crazy Chicken Lady of our neighborhood, my husband has become the Crazy Bird Man.

He's always wanted to keep birds, and so when he built me the coop for The Girls, he designed it like an aviary and used very fine mesh to enclose the whole thing.  We can stand up inside, and there is plenty of room for my seven hens and his six finches.

Yes,finches!  Three pairs (we hope to breed them - BABIES!), each of a different variety.  Gouldians (the really colorful ones), Stars (speckly with bright heads), and Owls (black, white & gray with owlish faces).

Just like with the chickens, there is Drama.  These guys are better than TV.  Turns out, Owl Finches are known escape artists, and within a few days, the female went missing.  While Ray spent time trying to find and repair any possible openings she could have used, the remaining male Owl began to set up housekeeping with the male Star.  Leaving the poor female Star alone in the corner drinking cosmopolitans and reading magazines about How to Keep Your Man.

Once Ray was sure the enclosure was secure, he went back to the breeder and got another Owl female.  She got used to the aviary right away, figured out who Her Man was, and went to work on wooing him.  The male Star became jealous and worried he would lose his drinking buddy, so he started pulling out her tail feathers.  He probably figured she wouldn't be attractive at last call if she had no tail feathers, and he could be assured of going home to the man cave with his buddy the male Owl.

Meanwhile, the male Star continues to be the most aggressive nest builder in the bunch, and his construction helper is the male Owl, not the female Star.  This is definitely a Man Cave they are working on and not a Nursery.

So, we will probably have to capture the Star pair, and isolate them from the rest of the charm (yes, that IS what a group of finches is called, isn't that charming?) so that the Stars can spend some quality time alone together, and the two boys can forget all about their college dorm years, beer pong, and whatever else has been going on in that man cave.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Produce productivity

Things have been just bustin' out all over at Mansion Farms, where I have a share and get to pick up freshly harvested veggies every week.

I am learning a lot about locavorism.  What I am learning is that you have to put what is on hand to use now, or find a way to preserve it for later.  This week's haul included broccoli, radishes, beets, and lots of onions.

The broccoli was steamed and enjoyed with dinner.  That is a no-brainer.

However, owing to a busy week last week, I still hadn't done anything with last week's radishes, beets and onions and I had a lot on hand.

I spent about three or four hours on my feet in the kitchen, but this is what I accomplished:
  • Topped all the beets - the freshest I washed and dried, to be sauteed later in the week
  • The beets all got cleaned and roasted for an hour, then peeled
  • Some of the beets went into a light vinaigrette, to be enjoyed with lunches this week
  • Some of the beets were saved to be re-warmed for dinners
  • The last of the beets, I pickled with a few of the red onions
  • Some of the radishes were cleaned and saved to be eaten raw in salads
  • Some of the radishes were cleaned and saved to be roasted - yummy, if you've never tried it
  • Some of the radishes were pickled with garlic and fennel.  The jury is still out on this
  • The onions were chopped and sauteed in butter and sherry
  • Once the onions were cooled, they were spread onto pastry and two rustic tarts were made and frozen for later
Gorgeous and delicious onions!

Radishes ready for pickling

 Golden and regular beets - ready for pickling

Left:  pickled beets and red onions, right: pickled radishes

Two frozen onion tarts, ready for impromptu cocktail gatherings!

It seems like a lot of work, but I think it's worth it.  I'm learning more and more about food.  I believe our bodies were meant to eat things in cycles.  I believe in supporting small farmers.  I believe in not eating food that has traveled thousands of miles.

But I have to be a realist - for now, I don't live this creed every day of the week.  I hope to gradually get to the point where more and more of my food is grown by myself, or those that I know personally.  But for now, I do the best I can.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chicken Chronicles

Yes, it's been a while and I know y'all have been just craving another post about my chickens.

Lots has happened with the chickens, but we all sort of got side tracked.  We lost a dear friend suddenly a few weeks ago, and it's kind of hard to want to write about any thing trivial.  Jim was an awesome man, and he and his family were among those that encouraged us to get chickens, and they have about the cutest chicken coop you've ever seen.

We decided our last two nameless birds would both be named to honor Jim in some way.  So, the Cuckoo Marans are now named Tweetie Pie and Ginkball.  Not exactly a timeless memorial, but it does make me smile and that is important.

So.  The girls have grown up a lot.  We finished the coop and moved them in.  One got injured (long story), and I was afraid we'd have to break out the axe again, but she seems to be improving steadily.

This is how the coop looks as you approach it from the woods.  It's far enough from the house that you can't see it from the house or the yard, so it's kind of nice to walk down the path and see it there under the clubhouse like that.

This is the back of the coop - those cupboard doors open into the back of the laying boxes so I can sneakily gather the eggs.

Here is the front of the hen house, with the ramp and the door. 

We physically placed the hens in at dusk and closed the door the first couple of nights, but they've got the routine down and  now we don't do anything.  Except for those few days when I had to go out after dark and lift Bossy up into the hen house because her injury prevented her from going up the ramp.  The night I went out and found her in the house with the rest of the girls gave me such a feeling of relief - I knew she was on the mend!

Happy chickens, with lots of room to roam now.

 This is Ginkball, heading up the roost.  She and her sister Cuckoo Maran (Tweetie Pie) are the largest in the flock right now.

These are Lacy and Big Bird (Aidan's chicken).  Loving the "top hat" that is growing on Big Bird.  S/he is a gorgeous chicken, and the only "unsexed" one we have.  We are anxiously awaiting further growth and hoping that it is not a rooster!

This one is Queenie.  Developing into a very pretty chicken, but she isn't growing as fast as the rest.  I am assuming it is a trait of her breed, as she definitely is one of the more dominant hens in the flock and gets her fair share of the food.

Several of the girls enjoying their outdoor roost.  There are also roosts in the henhouse.

I can't tell you how much we are all enjoying the chickens.  I love seeing a note from Bridget posted on the back door, "Gone to visit the chickens" and we as a family often wander out there together to see what they are up to.  I've been known to head out with food for them and just sit and relax for a half an hour, watching their antics.

Anxiously awaiting the eggs......

Stay tuned...  we have new residents moving into the coop with The Girls!