Monday, May 30, 2005

Cowboy festival fun

Sorry for the blog lull. Our out-of-town guests left this week, I spent a couple of days catching up, AND the kids had extra activities in their last few days of school (final day is Tuesday after Memorial Day, I'll skip the irritatable retelling of the back-story about school board not scheduling snow days even though we have several snow closures or ice-storm closures each winter, arrgh).


Yesterday we headed to The City to the 15th Annual Chuck Wagon Gathering and Children's Cowboy Festival, at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. VERY FUN! After the entrance fee, the only additional fees were for a tasting bowl (for the chuckwagons' cooking, yum!) and if you wanted to buy a soda or a hot dog.

Everything was in a fairly small area, about the size of one or one-half city block, under mature trees. If we'd had last weekend's weather, it would've been a rather sizzling 99F with a slight breeze. But we had... 80F, partly sunny, and a good breeze. Bad for the cooks watching their fires and coals, great for us walking past the cooking fires.

There was plenty for the kids to do, from sit-down-and-color (a bandanna, or a cowboy-boot-shaped coloring shape) to crank-as-fast-as-you-can (to make your own twirling rope). Not to mention the wagon ride and the stagecoach ride. Or the blacksmiths who turned iron nails into rings for the kids' bandannas (or dinner napkins...).

Posted by Hello
The stagecoach with Son1 and Son2 arrives.

Posted by Hello
Cranking away at making his rope, Son2 makes that thing spin!

I loved the chuckwagons, their cooking setups, the food, and the cooking demonstrations. The music seemed pretty good, too. Great walking fiddler dressed in western top hat and tails.

There were so many people in western wear! Lots of cowboy hats, cowboy boots, fancy belts and buckles. I've since done some research and learned that the chuckwagons were all invited, including the grand prize winner of a chuckwagon contest in Fort Worth, Texas, and many of the chuckwagons were at least 100 years old. Wow. I want us to go again every year!

We went out again in the early evening, to a new Eucharist-and-grill-your-dinner outdoor service at our parish. The kids roasted marshmallows at the grill and it was a great end to a great day. The scent of mesquite smoke from the festival lingered on my skin all evening...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Summertime in the desert

Since here in central Oklahoma we've been knocking on the door of 100F for a week, Summertime (in the desert) is a GREAT blog entry over at Itinerary for: Marlette & Guisseppe! Compared to THAT kind of summer heat, we have it easy. Oklahomans still go to the store during the day, for instance...

Finished concrete floors

A commenter and fellow Oklahoman asked about our finished concrete floors. Our floors on the main level are finished concrete everywhere except the tiled entryways (front and back) and bathroom, and the carpeted bedrooms. So, hallway, dining area, kitchen, and living area are all finished concrete.

The previous owners pulled up the carpet and (a guess) linoleum in the kitchen to expose the foundation concrete. I did some online research and learned that the process is to lightly acid-wash the concrete, then stain it the color or combination of your choice, then seal it. The previous owners then had the concrete scored in a pattern of random rectangles and squares. The scoring is actually a straight-sided groove cut into the concrete about 1/4 inch deep (I'm guessing; I'm upstairs and not bothering to go look at it, LOL).

The combination of the scoring pattern and the stain color they chose gives the impression of a slate floor when you're NOT looking at it. When you're looking at it it's definitely not tile or stone, and if you've heard of finished concrete floors you'd probably figure it out quickly. We love it.

The finished concrete floor sealant lasts about 10 years before you need to do any special care kind of thing, and I forget what that is. So this is a very hard-wearing surface -- perfect for kids!! The diecast cars roll really fast on this floor, tops spin nicely, and dinner plates break really well... As far as breakage goes, it's a lot like a ceramic tile floor.

Another of my favorite things is that spills are no problem. Orange soda spill at a party? Wipe it up and swipe the floor with a wet rag; all done. Kids come in from the sprinkler or a ball game all wet, grimy, and/or muddy? Deal with it in the tile entry (simply for containment of mess) and march them to the bathroom. Floor wipes clean.

Also, and quite wonderfully, the concrete is cool to bare feet, a gift in the blazing Oklahoma summer. In winter we wear socks and slippers. Oh! The floor is quite slippery in socks. That can be fun, or dangerous. So I encourage slippers, and if they want to play, they can still slide around in their socks...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hot, hot, hot!

Well, at least Oklahoma-in-May hot. Say, 99F yesterday, I think. A lovely 82F at 9:30 am this morning became a spicy 97F now, at 4 pm. Gee, last week we were enjoying highs in the mid 80s, lows in the low 60s -- gorgeous late spring weather. This week is the flip side, I suppose!

We had three-plus hours of baseball last night: Son1 had a regular game (7 pm, low hot sun and a slight breeze; lots of sports drink for the kids) and a rain-makeup game (8 pm, sun had just set), and Son2 had a rain-makeup game (9 pm, in full darkness so under the lights). We enjoyed it all, and then went home and everyone crashed. We got up at 9:30 today!!! much refreshed. No practices today, hurrah, so we're hanging out all day with our guests. Just the thing for all of us.

We have out-of-town guests, so for their sakes the air conditioning at home is set a bit cool. Normally we keep the a/c set pretty high to save money and energy, so I'd be at my loft office on the computer *sweating* lightly, or waiting until evening, and when downstairs, I'd especially enjoy the cool of the finished concrete floors on my bare feet. In cooler temps I can knit more easily: the yarn doesn't stick to my fingers like it did last night at the earlier games...

Yesterday and today I made a tray of nibbles for mid-afternoon snack. Yesterday my focus was salt, fruit, and liquids 'cause Son1 had had an all-day outdoor field trip at the zoo (99F!). So, watermelon chunks, orange slices, some mixed nuts, tortilla chips, and potato chips, a special treat. Today my focus was a good mini meal: watermelon chunks, orange slices, mixed nuts, bite-size pieces of crispy granola bars, and carrot sticks and radish slices. Son1 and Son2 ignored the orange slices and radishes, but gobbled the other up, yay. I had some of everything :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Baseball meal ideas, Chinese chicken salad

Tonight after the baseball games we had an old warm-weather favorite: Chinese chicken salad. Everything was more or less in the fridge awaiting our return from tonight's baseball games, and we put it together at the table for dinner.

Salad greens -- today we had great stuff, romaine, red leaf lettuce, and oakleaf lettuce (local, fresh, bought-with-roots this morning at the farmers market), washed thoroughly and spun dry. Torn into pieces just before dinner.

Cooked chicken breast -- thawed and gently cooked in the microwave, then put in the fridge doused with plenty of asian dressing. Sliced just before dinner.

Asian dressing, from a little recipe booklet -- vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar (I never have rice wine vinegar), soy sauce, honey, dark sesame oil, dry mustard, and ginger. YUM!

A dish of peanuts and a dish of cashews.

Put it all together at the table and eat! A delicious, light meal that even our kids love. We usually have shredded carrots in the salad, sometimes snow peas and radishes, whatever I find. I just didn't have much salad stuff today.

The asian dressing is out-of-this-world yummy on hot rice, by the way. Hmmm, gotta remember that, too.

ANOTHER idea: granola bars, the really crisp and crunchy, oat-y ones. Turns out my boys love them! That might work really well, with sides of yogurt or string cheese, and fruit.

I'm feeling somewhat better about this on-the-go meal thing!

A few updates

Ball glove: we're shopping for a baseball glove for me! I requested it for Mother's Day, so that's my gift from the boys. Yay! A friend tossed me an orange I wanted to slice up, and I caught it without thinking twice. Double yay!

Baseball dinners: I'm moving to our summer meal setup for the after-baseball dinners at home. Pasta salad in the fridge. Roasted, grilled, or poached chicken in the fridge to slice and have on/with a green salad with lots of veggies, all prepped and ready in the fridge.

As for dinners at the ball fields, I'm still studying that! The kids like string cheese and one kid likes peanut butter rollups (with tortillas). I think deli sandwiches (meaning -- roast beef, turkey, ham from the deli counter) would work great. And maybe a piece of fruit (apple, banana, peach, nectarine). Hmm.

Books: I enjoyed the first Artemis Fowl book and gave it my approval for Son1 to read. Now he's read the first three. I don't think he knows the fourth just came out...

Son1 read Stone Fox yesterday, this week's book for his class reading group, and wanted to talk about it afterward. Turns out he gets teary-eyed when he thinks about the ending (sad, he says). We talked about it a bit, and I'm going to read the book today if I can. On the way to school this morning he was still talking about this book, saying it was a really good book!

At the library this week I picked up a three-books-in-one illustrated volume of Pippi Longstocking books, read the beginning of the first book to Son2 and enjoyed it, and then discovered Son1 well into the first book last night in his reading time. It has a great layout and great illustrations. Fun!

Son1 is reading a bit of Oklahoma historical fiction, based on a true story. I stumbled across a glowing mention of this book, looked it up on Amazon, and found it in the library catalog. Stop the Train! is set in the Oklahoma panhandle during the landrun for that area. Yay -- regional history!

Son1 hasn't realized that I borrowed the last Redwall book from the library. It's on his library-book shelf, waiting...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Flourless Chocolate Cake, mmmm gooood

The flourless chocolate cake I made a couple of weeks ago was this recipe:

One-bowl Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze in the recipe section of the Whole Foods Market site.

Being frugal, I made it with what was in my cupboard: Hershey's cocoa, regular sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and what I don't have an allergic reaction to -- light corn syrup rather than honey. And what I bought at the store: Baker's bittersweet baking chocolate. So I basically undid their organic re-do of the recipe, lol!

This recipe was very easy and decadently delicious: a sliver of this cake was enough. I wonder what it would be like with higher quality chocolate and cocoa.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sabbath time

After church this morning I thought about how nice the time before church had been, and chalked it up to our return to the "no TV before church" rule for Sunday mornings. Then I made connections with the ideas of Sabbath time and Sundays and lovely weather and summer-long school breaks that have been floating around for me lately. I might say our no-TV Sunday morning is a little bit of Sabbath time for us, when we enjoy un-programmed time and each other.

When the kids don't have TV as an option (that they WILL take) on Sunday mornings, they hear me when I talk to them. We have conversations. They play with toys and with each other in the couple of hours before it's time to get ready. They are cheerful and mostly willing to help me get things together for church (I lead a Sunday school class, we bring religious books for them for the service, I sometimes have a meeting after the service). We enjoy each other in this fleeting couple of hours, and it's lovely!

I'm still thinking about Sabbath time. The idea of setting aside a span of time for recreation, restoration, relaxation, enjoyment... and of appreciation of God's gifts to us. I think this Sabbath idea is or can be part of Sundays, wonderful weather of every sort, and the deliciously open spaces (to kids!) of summer-long school breaks.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Baseball: the new routine

New routine? No, I don't have a routine, but I am in desperate NEED of a new routine now that baseball/T-ball season has started. I need help getting us through our pre-game and pre-practice afternoons and then to the games and practices with everything we need, on time, and with SOMETHING we can eat at the games as dinner. We usually get home after Son2's bedtime, and we need to get both boys to bed ASAP rather than doing dinner then. So far I have no routine, the after-school at-home time is too short, I'm beyond frazzled, we're not eating well, we end up some sort of dinner when we get home (or buy overpriced hotdogs at the ball fields), and the kids are not getting enough sleep. SIGH.

(This missing routine is my only complaint, I think. I really enjoy being outdoors in the late spring evenings, windblown under the big Oklahoma sky, watching our boys and their teams play ball, and joining the throngs of families rooting for so many teams each night. I am very very thankful that both boys' teams are on a Mon-Wed game rotation, and that the games are at the same ball fields.)

I've done a couple things already: a list of what the boys -- not me, the boys -- need to get/do before we leave (uniform, shoes, socks, water/drink, cap, sunglasses, mitt, ball); my own list (sunblock, bug spray, whatever food, water, knitting LOL); and a determination that we WILL get the boys to bed as close to their respective bedtimes as humanly possible when we get home. I'm also trying to plan the night before or in the morning, but I'm still working on that.

Now I desperately need to figure out some meals that can be eaten at games and after practices. Often the boys' games are not at the same time, so each boy has time to eat something before or after his own game. Dear husband and I should eat at the games as well, rather than at home, very late, when trying to get the boys washed up and to bed. My first thought: sandwiches. Maybe cold cuts, and whatever else the kids might eat (hmm). And for post-practice dinners, pasta salads, and anything else that we can serve from the fridge!

Time to get some recipes and plans laid down, and supplies laid in. Good thing we're in our late-week lull; I have some prep time before next week's whirlwind: Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday = practice-practice-games-games. And of course family arrive for a visit next Wednesday afternoon. Baseball will apparently be the theme of these grandparents' visit this year, LOL!

May flowers

This is what my front garden bed looked like in eary April. The marigolds I bought looked great then, but as of today they are dying due to moles digging up the garden bed. ARRGH!
Posted by Hello

The coreopsis in my front garden bed are now blooming! The pansies are still going, too, and the yellow-flowering daylilies on the far side have promise for later. You can't see the I-forget-what-perennial in three places in the middle; this summer it ought to make nice arching branches of daisy-like yellow flowers as it used to do in the back yard. What I need now is some good scarlets and wine reds, and some deep orange reds (the fried marigolds were providing that, but alas). As planned, it would look great against our light gray brick house. Hmmm. Anyway, I enjoy the coreopsis!
Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Still knitting sock-the-first for Son2

I'm sort of stuck on the gusset of sock-the-first for Son2 (my first sock using sock/finger weight yarn). I've gotten used to the navy blue yarn and the thin yarn now. But... last week I decided I needed to rip back to the beginning of the gusset so I could "disappear" my many mistakes with the decreases. I was carefully knitting along this week, and then I realized I must've had a brain freeze every time I got to the right-side gusset -- I'd done no decreases in about 6 rows. Well, there might be one really nice, nearly invisible decrease, but this doesn't match my beautiful left-side gusset at all. I thought about trying to drop down those stitches and do the decreases with a crochet hook, but that would be crazy.

So today I'm going to rip it back again and put stitch markers in. What I should've done the second time! (Never mind the first time, LOL!) One good thing: this doesn't really bug me too much. I know it won't take long to redo these 8-10 rows. The only glitch is that I'd rather use my slightly smaller aluminum needles to pick up the stitches of this acrylic yarn, but my only smaller set is occupied with the start of my lacy sock. The slipperiness of the metal is so helpful for slipping into the loose stitches -- maybe I'll try the next size of those needles. Dunno.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.

UPDATE: I ripped back, then picked up one needle's worth of stitches at a time on my spare metal needle, slipped them onto my bamboo needle, and repeated for the other three bamboo needles' stitches. Yay -- and we're off!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Book choices & reading aloud

Son1 wanted me to buy a bunch of books at his school's book fair this week. He wrote down all of the names and prices, and was sure the (school) library didn't have them. I think he even asked the school librarian.

My rules are (1) up to $4.99 (book fair 2x/year) or 2.99 (every other book club order); (2) don't buy what we can borrow from the library; (3) I don't buy books that fast reader Son1 will finish before dinner that day; (4) unless it's a classic; (5) unless the child really, really wants it, in which case I might suspend the other rules, but probably Rule 1 still holds.

For Son2, I bought Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, which we already knew we loved. It is hilarious and we've now read aloud numerous times with the whole family saying, "No!" to the pigeon. So funny how the pigeon says, "No fair!" just like Son2 is no longer allowed to. Slightly against my better judgment, for Son1 I agreed to buy The Supernaturalists based on the back cover notes. He loved it (finished it by dinner the next day), and I did a little research on his wish list.

The Artemis Fowl books are available at the public library, so I reserved the first one and will pre-read it before putting it in his book stack. He can buy the latest Bionicle novel on his own dime anytime. I will NOT spend $16.99 on a slipcased 4-pack of Bionicle novels, and especially when he already owns two of them! For that price I could have bought a new set of the Narnia books, also in a slipcase, through the Scholastic book club! Another of the wish-list books (Children of the Lamp) has mixed reviews at Amazon, and the books that are recommended as a better alternative (the Bartimaeus Trilogy) appear to bring in issues and themes I'd like to wait on.

Next, I started reading The Supernaturalists. Eh. Okay book, a bit dark, not well written but not gag-me awful, but I definitely want to ground him again in some great classic and new fiction. I reserved Black Ships Before Troy and Chasing Vermeer at the library, and picked them up today along with Artemis Fowl. I'm also waiting on a Lloyd Alexander book -- not from the Prydain Chronicles 'cause I want to wait on that until he really gets into reading non-Redwall, non-Harry Potter books. If A.F. meets my pre-read test, he'll have several good and different books. Of course, in July the Harry Potter vortex will suck him in and he'll reread all of his Harry Potter books yet again because of the debut of the newest book.

Ultimately, I see no reason to buy any book we can borrow from the library, unless it's a classic or... well, see my book fair/book club rules above!

In my research I found an interesting list of recommended family read-alouds, though the Waldorf aspects of the rest of the site are not my thing at all. I had been thinking that I want to start reading aloud to the boys again. I think some of the books Son1 dismisses are books he AND Son2 might really enjoy hearing -- and I think we need reading aloud back in our family life. A good plan for recentering in the lulls in our end-of-school busy weeks, and then into summer.

UPDATE: My Artemis Fowl impressions are in a comment.

Good day, sunshine!

This morning I woke pretty easily and realized -- it's sunny! Well, that early-morning bright sky thing was happening, but a clear sky and daylight meant -- sunshine today!!! I've gotten reasonable sleep most nights, been uncomfortably busy most days, eaten kind of well, and was soooo bone tired all week. Today -- I realize it was cloudy and gloomy all week. I wonder if I would've felt a little better if I'd simply sat outside and caught some solar goodness through the clouds. Ooops! 'Cause today I'm not feeling energetic, but I AM cheerful.

Good day, sunshine!

Random oddment

Yesterday, as we headed home after a playgroup date, Son2 was playing in the back seat of the car by zooming Son1's bookmark and saying in his best superhero-announcer voice, "I am the amazing bookmark! I will destroy the evil guys!" (zoom, zoom, zoomedy zoom) Hehehe -- what fun!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Chased to bed by a TV show

I'm bone tired, so this is not all about the TV show. But I'm heading to bed at the time I SHOULD (!) because dear husband is watching a fictional something on public television about the horrible time of genocide in Rwanda. Tonight I just cannot even listen (from my office loft) to this tragedy, this horror, the evil things human beings can do.

I looked it up:
Sometimes in April -- Haunting account of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, focusing on a Hutu soldier (Idris Elba), married to a Tutsi, and a U.S. diplomat (Debra Winger) trying to get the West to intervene.
Sounds very good, but... well, tonight I'm off to bed. May the souls of the departed, O Lord, rest in peace. May truth and justice spread across that and all lands. May we as individuals and as nations see clearly what we should do -- and do it when it needs to be done.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Moments of clarity

I am so tired. Deadlines met, a bit of a bank account crisis/mystery solved, kid wrangling and shlepping done, meeting attended, too little sleep, and... I am going to take a long hot shower and enjoy some coffee before another bustling, hectic day.

In the midst, though, for some reason I am really noticing my sons. Son1 and I were talking about a book, Stop the Train, that we just borrowed from the library. The book is a based-on-true story about Oklahoma land-run settlers who depend on train service for their new town, but the train owner refuses to stop at their location so they attempt to make the train stop. His thinking process about how to stop a train with greased tracks was soooo similar to mine. Weird and fun. And he is such a wonderful big boy.

Son2 was telling me about something (lost already in my blurry mind this a.m.) and I simply enjoyed looking at his face, seeing his eyes and how he warmed up to telling me this tale. Love, love, love this boy.

Dear husband made his family recipe snickerdoodle cookies last night (after the kids were in bed) so Son2 could take some as his class snack today. The boys love it when Daddy does this!! Maybe even better than Mommy making cookies for them, I think. Such a special treat, and oh, did it smell wonderful last night! Such a good dad.