Friday, June 23, 2017

Outside From Dawn Til Dusk

That's how my life is this time of year.  Which is why I haven't hardly blogged at all this month (or much in May either).  I love the longer days of sunlight, but they definitely prohibit me from blogging or reading or much of anything that is normally done inside a house and for leisure.

Truthfully, the housework doesn't much get done either.  Last summer DD2 told me I needed to hire a housekeeper in the summer because I have too much outdoor work to do to be able to keep up with the indoor chores too.  Looking around, she's right.  If the floor gets swept once a week, that's good enough (well, DH doesn't think so, but I don't see him getting out the broom either).  Laundry gets washed regularly, and dried on the line, but it doesn't often make it back into dresser drawers or in closets before getting worn again.  Mail is piling up on the counters rather than being sorted on a daily basis.  Let's not talk about the dishes that need hand washing (those items that either don't fit or I don't allow in the dishwasher because I don't want the dishwasher to shorten their lifespan); who wants to wash dishes at ten p.m. when finally coming in the house after working in the garden until dark.

So, don't come in my house in the summer.  Let's just sit and visit outside instead, where there is a nice breeze.  Speaking of which, since we don't have air conditioning in our house, a lot of cooking and eating is done outside (in the breeze) also.  I try not to use the oven much, switching over to the grill for our preferred method of cooking meat.  Plates, forks, and all other dinner time needs are brought down to the patio.  I keep napkins in a small basket on the dining room counter, and it's real handy to pop the salt and pepper shakers into the basket, along with whatever silverware is needed for the night's meal, and carry it all out to the table on our patio (located under the deck, where it's always cool and shady).  Plus, the basket helps keep the napkins from blowing away in the (often strong) breeze!

Or, we could sit on the front porch while we chit chat.  I recently purchased a small metal table and a Boston fern to put on the porch with my two old wooden chairs acquired from Goodwill ages ago.  It's really amazing how that little table and bushy plant create a cozy seating area.

But really, chances of finding me sitting down at all are slim.  It's more realistic to say "here, you sit on the rock wall and talk while I pull weeds in the garden".   That's where most of my day is spent this time of year.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Updates From Peru

This week is the fourth since DD2 arrived in Peru for her Study Abroad program.  Thanks to modern technology that cuts costs, I have been able to 'talk' with her via messaging several times a week for free.  Sure beats paying for international phone calls!

Having her in Peru has been a learning experience for me as well as for her.  She gets all the fun (and headaches) of dealing with a foreign culture, and I get to learn through the photos she sends and the little descriptive comments.  We've talked a lot about food, because I know she was really looking forward to tasting Peruvian cuisine.  She also hoped to be able to help with some of the food prep so that she might learn to make some of the dishes herself.  It doesn't sound like she's had much chance to be hands-on with the food other than by eating it.  But she does have a list of recipes she wants to bring home so she can at least attempt them here.

fresh vegetables galore

The pictures she sends me of the food make me wish that I could eat them!  Lots of fresh vegetables, which is something that I am starving for this time of year in Michigan.  Yes, 'fresh' veggies are available at the grocery store here, but they are not the same taste, texture, or quality as the same veggies picked ripe and in season from Michigan gardens and fields.  For instance, I haven't eaten a 'real' (ie not bought at the store) tomato in about eight months. Just about every meal she has had in Peru, no matter what time of the day, has included fresh tomato!  Many also feature peppers, most of which are varieties unavailable here (because they are native Peruvian kinds), all of which she says are 'tasty without being too hot'. Her favorites so far are aji amarillo and aji de gallina. We've discussed trying to get a hold of some seeds and seeing if they might grow here with help (season extenders such as row covers or cold frames). This had led to a little bit of research on what is and isn't allowed through customs as far as biological matter (such as plants and seeds) is concerned.  Also some looking through the online catalog of Seed Savers Exchange to see if I might simply be able to order seeds for her choice varieties through them.  Apparently there is a very refreshing drink made with purple (dried) corn that she wants me to grow the corn for.

In addition to tomatoes and peppers, she reports that potatoes are plentiful also.  Which makes sense, being as potatoes as we Americans know them, originated in Peru in the Andes Mountains.  They are one of the most important crops in Peru.

potatoes with pan fried (aji amarillo seasoned) chicken

While in Peru, she is taking two classes at the local college.  Most of the other students in her program are taking three, but she had all ready completed the level of language course that they are studying, so she just has two classes.  Both of which deal with history and culture and include a lot of excursions.  So far she has been to a remote village in the Andes, an archaeological site also in the Andes, a school/center for young girls who are at risk of being drafted into the drug and prostitution industries, and to the desert.

in the Andes

a glacial lake


oasis in Huacachina

She says that the excursions have been interesting, but that daily life has been the most educational. Learning her way around a major city, in a foreign country, in a different culture, has been full of stumbling blocks, but has also given her a huge sense of self and empowerment.  Traffic rules are different and looking both ways before crossing the street does not guarantee your safety.  Now she is sure to look all four ways, several times, before stepping into the street!

DD2 said she also learned, one day while ordering lunch at a street food vendor where the orders are taken not by number but by your name, that apparently her first name is hard to pronounce for most Peruvians.  She said it took about five minutes of hearing this progressively louder and more insistent voice calling out a strange word for her to realize that the word was, apparently, her name!  

In just a few more weeks, she will be back home in Michigan.  Time is going quickly, and in our most recent conversation, she said that she is not at all ready to leave Peru.  Of course, the excursion to Machu Picchu is yet to come; next week, I think.  Who would want to spend six weeks in Peru and come home without seeing that?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Big Horse News

I've been sitting on an announcement for a long time.  All year, in fact.  I was approached on January 2nd about the possibility of a new horse coming to the dressage barn.  A horse that is trained higher than any horse I've ever ridden.  A horse that, once moved to the barn, might possibly be in need of someone to ride it and keep it in shape.

I was immediately interested, but didn't want to get my hopes up too much.  For one thing, the barn didn't have any stalls available, so this new horse would have to wait until one or more horses left, making an open stall for him.  None of the other boarders had horses for sale, or plans to move during the winter.  A couple who are college students said they might be moving their horse(s) in the summer, depending on if they got internships or went home once the semester was over.

So I waited, keeping this possibly really cool opportunity a secret.  In a way, I was afraid to talk about it too much, like I might jinx it or something.  I mean, the horse would be coming from the west coast (yes, the west coast of the United States, not just the west side of Michigan), and maybe the owners would decide to find someone there to work this horse for them.  Or maybe they would just decide to sell it, and not worry about board, finding a rider, etc.

In early April, I was approached again, and asked if I was still interested. One of the college aged boarders was leaving for an internship in May and had put her horse up for sale. If her horse didn't sell before she needed to leave, she knew of someone who would let her keep it at their place out in the field with their horse. So there would be a stall open sometime in May.  The west coast horse (who by now DH was starting to refer to as The California Horse because he's the only person--outside of the dressage barn--who I talked [incessantly] to about me maybe being able to work it.) was definitely coming to Michigan. It was definitely coming in May.

Of course I was still interested!  My one caveat was that I reserved my right to change my mind after seeing the horse in person.  If the horse wasn't going to be a good match for me personality-wise, I didn't want to be bound to having to ride it.  Although I was pretty darn sure I would ride just about anything, even if it's personality wasn't on my favorites list.  But, you see, I wasn't totally sure I'd want to take on a fire breathing dragon type of horse of the stature this California Horse was rumored to be.

The barn owner (aka my trainer) assured me that from what she'd been told, he was a mellow horse.  And from the one short video clip that she'd seen, I would have no trouble riding him.  I have the ability, she said.  Don't be afraid of his size.

Because his size is GIGANTIC!  Not very many horses grow this large.  He is one huge chunk of horse flesh.  18 hands.  That's how tall he is.  Now, with a hand being equal to 4 inches, 18 of them total 72 inches.  In other words, this horse's withers are six feet off the ground.  His back is taller than the majority of adult humans!

And I'm wanting to ride this?!?  Yes, yes I am. When it comes to horses I'm possibly certifiably insane.  Not only do I want to ride this, I know I can ride this.  Provided he's not a crazy demon horse from hell (they do exist, ask any long-time horse person). Either way, demon horse or not, he knows 3rd Level and I don't, so he's got stuff to teach me.  Plus, there's the fact that 3rd Level horses are beyond my budget to buy, and I can't make one of my own if I don't know how to do 3rd Level.  So this horse is an awesome learning opportunity and gateway for me.  Once I go through the gate, I will (ideally) have the skills to buy a cheaper untrained horse with talent and train it to 3rd Level. Then I can sell it for much more than I paid for it, buy another untrained horse with even more talent (and a higher price tag) and train that one. All hopefully while I've managed to find an FEI level schoolmaster to take lessons on. . . See where I'm going with this? Grand Prix is my bucket list.  Has been since I was 16 years old.  But it ain't cheap, and so far, nearly 30 years later, I'm still not rich.

I most definitely want to ride the gigantic California Horse.

So he was shipped from the west coast, and arrived in Michigan about two weeks ago.  Let me tell you, he's gorgeous.  Drop dead gorgeous.  For being so huge, he is amazingly well proportioned and almost compact in the body.  Plus, he's got a very handsome face.  And dapples.  Dapples!  Right at eye ball level!  I look at him and see dapples!  And then he looks at me and I see a face  to swoon over.

*sigh* Yes, I'm in love.

So big I can't get all of him in the picture!

What a cutie!

The first few days after his arrival, he was allowed to settle in, and get to know his new barn and meet the other horses across the fence.  His owner (a college student at the barn who also has a younger horse she is training, and not enough time to ride both of them 4 or more times a week) has ridden him about 3-4 times since then.

Last Thursday evening, I got a text asking if I was still interested in riding him (Oh heck yes!!) and if I would like to do that on Monday (Memorial Day).  Monday fit my schedule perfectly, so we made an appointment for late morning.

The plan was for the owner to get on him first, and show me what he could do.  Then my trainer would get on him, so she could feel how he went and test him out a little (to better enable her to teach me how to ride him to the utmost of his abilities).  Lastly, I would get on him and take a test ride. So that I could be 100% sure I wanted to commit to leasing him.

Leasing?  Yep.  Lease him.  Brand new territory for me.  Until this year I wouldn't have considered a lease.  I mean, you have to pay board, and sometimes all the other expenses too, for the horse, but you don't get to sell him when you're done.  So why lease rather than buy?  Because he's a blasted 3rd Level horse, that's why!  Because I have barely $1000 in my horse buying fund (and the sale of the Quarter Horse isn't going to triple that or anything due to his navicular limiting his career and his quirky nature making him unsuitable for beginners. . .), and there is no way in heck DH would spend the kind of coin that a 3rd Level horse cost!  See my line of thought above (8th paragraph from the top of the page), on how I could ever possibly afford to own upper level dressage horses.

Lease details are still in negotiation (since neither the owner nor I have ever leased before, we're trying to gather info on writing a lease contract that is best for both of us).  But I've ridden him twice now--used him for my regular weekly riding lesson last night--and I know without a doubt that I can ride this horse.  He is a gentle giant.  And as huge as his strides are, I don't feel like the corners of the arena are rushing at us.  He moves so deliberately, and picks his feet up so much, that it almost feels like we are moving in slow motion.  The suspension is like nothing I've ridden before, and I'm barely touching on what he's capable of.  This horse can take me far.  So I'm going to lease him, and put off buying myself a new horse for a while.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Why It's Dangerous For Me To Be Home Alone (for an extended period of time)

DH has been out of town for two days.  He went up north to help his mom with a project, and I (not having paid vacation days or anyone to do my work at this little place here in my absence) stayed home.  Alone.

That tends to be a bit dangerous.  Not because I am in any physical danger without DH.  Our neighborhood is so safe I've never been worried about being 'just a woman alone' no matter if its day or night.  This is a sleep-with-your-windows-open kind of place.  Anyone out wandering the neighborhood at night is either shining deer or hunting raccoons.

Me being home alone is dangerous because I have time to think!  No one else's schedule to work around, no one else dirtying the house or dishes (yay, less time spent cleaning!!), no one else interrupting my train of thought.

Of course, this also means there's no one around to split the heavy chores with, like getting the entire garden planted this week (since it stopped raining and the weather warmed up enough to safely put out delicate plants like tomatoes and peppers).  And that's where the dangerous part starts to happen.

Because, while I was digging shallow trenches to (finally) plant the potatoes in at 3" below the surface of the garden, I realized there has got to be a better way of doing this.  Back when the kids were younger and living at home, I had slave child laborers to assist in the planting.  I wasn't digging over 500 row feet of trench--and then putting the potatoes in every 12" and shoveling the dirt back over them--all by myself.  Surely there is a better way to do this next year, and avoid the aching back I am now experiencing (with still about 100' of potatoes to plant tomorrow).

Some of the ideas I came up with:

  • declare a garden planting weekend and require my kids to come home to help (surely I'm old enough for them to come help with big projects, right?  DH and his siblings were going back to their childhood home to help their mom with stuff as far back as when he and I were in our mid-20s).
  • get DH to do the trench digging.
  • rent or otherwise get a hold of a trencher when it's time to plant potatoes.  I'll be checking in to how much it costs to rent a Ditch Witch from the local rental place.  A couple hours with that baby and I could have trenches galore!
I'm betting that DH isn't going to go for any of those ideas.  But they're out there.  And now they are recorded, so I'll remember and come back to them.

Other dangerous thoughts I've had the past two days:
  • We've lived in this house nearly 14 years and DH still hasn't finished putting up the trim work.  Even though he cut all the wood (oak!!) for the window trim nearly 10 years ago. . .  Obviously we need to schedule staining and installing the trim work this summer and Just Get It Done.
  • I still want a hanging porch swing for the wraparound portion of our front porch (porch swing being one of the reasons I insisted on having a covered wraparound porch when we built the house at this little place here).  We have a wedding anniversary coming up.  A porch swing would make a great anniversary present.
  • I really, really hate the piece of old vinyl flooring DH put at the landing of the basement stairs/in front of the cellar door eons ago.  A largish rug or mat would look much nicer there and make me happier (instead of seeing that curling-edged asymmetrical flooring scrap every time I step off the basement stairs or go in or out of the cellar).
  • If DH doesn't realize that he's gained enough weight that a decent portion of his shirts make him look like a stuffed sausage and that he shouldn't wear them to work anymore, I'll just remove those shirts from his closet and his clothing options will be things that fit better and therefore make him look a little less slobby.  (This is a good thing for his career, right?)
  • Does DH (or, to be honest, I) need 15 shirt options that are low-end and kind of cheaply made (and not that great fitting)?  Wouldn't 5-7 high quality shirts be a better investment?  It's not like doing laundry more than once a week is a change in our lifestyle; the washer is right there in the basement and I regularly wash clothes twice a week anyway.  It's just that I don't iron nearly as often, which is how he ended up with so darn many shirts in the first place.
  • If he's going to continue to work 50-60 hours a week, I really need to hire someone to help keep up with the outdoor work.  Or, conversely, I need to quit my job so that I have 15-20 more hours a week in the summer/growing season to keep up with weeding, watering, mowing, weed whipping. . .  The problem with that is my job pays the horse expenses, and I'm not ready to give up horses; plus just because he's working more hours doesn't mean he gets more pay.  Being salaried, he hasn't gotten paid overtime in nearly two decades.  Supposedly he's allowed to take paid personal days to equal his hours over 40, but it never quite works out like that.  If his programs were slow enough he could take time off regularly, he wouldn't be putting in 10-12 (or more!)  hour days to begin with.
  • On a similar note, if he's too busy to have time to finish some of the indoor stuff we've had on hold for years, I'd like to hire someone to get those projects done. It really wears on me to live in/deal with a house that is still in flux.  I've had plans and even materials for window treatments (roman shades, curtains, etc) since as long ago as 2003, but have been waiting for the trim work to be put on so I had actual and precise window dimensions to work with when creating the window treatments. Not to mention how difficult it is to have the home function optimally while still in development as it were.  The study, for instance, was to have floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves on one entire wall.  That's whole lot of vertical storage space that three random sized bookshelves crammed into the room (along with the file cabinet and DH's late father's humongous steel desk) just doesn't equal.
  • My barn was built 10 years ago.  At least, the shell was.  Then the recession started to impact the auto industry, and we decided to hold off on finishing it so that I could use it for horse boarding.  In the ensuing 10 years, DH has gotten less interested in me having a horse business at home, and rather likes having my barn to store a bunch of crap in.  (Ok, not crap, but stuff that really is totally unrelated to horses.  Like tree stands when it's not hunting season.  And the tractor, implements, and log splitter.)  I'm getting tired of working at other people's barns and would just like to be able to open my own, even if it's not quite as impressive as what DH and I had envisioned 10 years ago.  Water, electricity, and stalls would be nice.  Doesn't have to have a cement aisle way, matted floors in the stalls, and heated tack room with a tack cleaning area and a couch/couple of chairs to sit on).  Electric fence will do, I guess I can get along without the 5 foot high no-climb mesh fencing.
  • I'm getting grumpy in my old age and less willing to wait for stuff than I was 10 years ago!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Test Riding

Last week, when it was time for my weekly riding lesson, I was having one of those days when you just don't feel enthusiastic about anything.  I was tired, and I had a lot on my mind.  To be honest, I thought about canceling my lesson.  But that would be rather rude, and flaky, and I knew deep down that a lesson was really the best thing I could do for myself that day.  A lesson would take my mind temporarily off all that was weighing on it, give me some exercise, and most likely improve my mood.

I did, however, warn my trainer that I was feeling rather uncoordinated and blah that day.  She kindly asked if I would like to skip my lesson.  I relayed to her that although I didn't think I was going to be a particularly good rider that evening, I did still want my lesson.

Like a good teacher, she didn't want to over face me, yet she didn't let me slack at all. She suggested we 'do something different' that lesson.  I thought that 'something different' might be just the perfect thing that night.

What we did was hard.  And fun.  Challenging, yet enjoyable.  I rode really hard.  I sweated, a lot.  And I laughed a lot.  I felt totally uncoordinated most of the time, but there were some fleeting moments of "Wow, I did that really well!"

So what was it that we did different for that lesson?  We took most everything I've been learning and working on with T during my weekly lesson for the past four months, and we tested it.  My trainer got out her book of current USDF tests, and she had me ride the first three: Intro A, Intro B, and Intro C.  First she read the test through, we discussed it, and then she was my reader while I rode the test.

That was the hard part--the riding of the test.  Even though we've worked on and are competent in each part of the test individually, riding them one movement after the other, at the correct spot in the arena, with the correct timing was really challenging.  It's been literally 25 years since I've actually ridden a dressage test.

I made lots of timing mistakes.  We overshot the halt by a step or two every single time. The halts were square, but not in the right spot.  Who would have thought coming to a stop could be so hard?

I wasn't the only one who made a mistake.  In the midst of Intro C, my trainer looked up from her test booklet to watch me do the required movement at B.  Then, when she looked back down, she looked at the wrong test.  Since I had only heard the test read once, and haven't actually seen it with my own eyes, I did exactly what she read.  It was only several movements later when I said "Um, didn't we just do this?  What happened to the 20m canter circle at A?"  She quickly improvised a couple of movements to get me back to A at the trot, and we carried on with Intro C from there, both of us laughing.

Rather than being a stressful experience, (like showing can be), riding the tests was fun. It was a good change of pace, and at the same time it showed us both where I need to do more work. For instance, stringing together several movements in a row, and also being more aware of where I am in the arena spatially so I am prepared to change movements at exactly the right spot.  It also showed us that we've maybe been doing all our canter on 20m circles after a session of trotting, because in every test, as soon as I hit a 20m circle at the trot, T tried to jump up into third gear (the canter) without me telling him to.

It was a great lesson.  I sure felt enthusiastic about life by the time I got off the horse, hosed him down, and put him away.

This week, for my lesson, we didn't ride any tests.  Typically you don't ride the test when doing your at home training, just when you are prepping to show.  Instead, we worked on transition after transition after transition, changing at particular spots in the arena, and lots of 20m circles where T was not allowed to canter.  Instead, we did canter out of corners and out of 10m circles when returning to the long wall.  I think we had the best canter so far; he was obedient yet forward, and really listening for my aids.

DH calls dressage "riding in circles" and doesn't see the appeal.  He thinks it would be boring.  I can attest that it is not boring in the least.  Especially when you are doing 20m circles in which you trot the first 1/4, walk the second 1/4, turn down the center line, halt and salute at X, trot from center line back to the arc of the circle, change rein, walk a 1/4, trot a 1/4, etc.  That's not a whole lot of steps in any one gait, and you have to constantly be adjusting and getting ready for the next thing, be it a transition or a turn.  In addition to changing gaits, keeping the bend, and making tight turns, contact with the bit needs to be maintained, and so does the rhythm of each gait.

For me, the challenge, both mentally and physically, is what makes riding in circles so fun.  Test riding, falls into the same category.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May Is When Things Change

I was downloading pictures from my phone, most of which are of K3 and Toad from recent Fridays, and I was struck by the clothing changes from one week to the next.  It kind of points out how May weather in Michigan can vary widely from week to week (or even day to day).  Today, for instance, it is very sunny, a tad humid, rained overnight but is all dry by noon, and the temperature is already near 80 degrees Fahrenheit shortly after lunch. It's a rather warm day for May; very summer-like.

This is part of a warm spell that moved in late last week.  Pictures from this past weekend show the grandkids in shirt sleeves.  Pictures from the week before show clouds and winter coats (albeit unzipped) because the high temperature was in the low 50s and the wind was chilly.

Despite the coolness, clouds, and coats, K3 and Toad had fun climbing on and jumping off the pile of straw bales near the garden, and picking enough dandelions to fill the pockets of my chore jacket.

This past weekend, the temps were around 70 degrees, and they enjoyed exploring the mostly dried up mud spots in the field, finding animal tracks (deer, raccoon, turkey), and even finding a whole bunch of tadpoles.  They had never seen tadpoles before, and we spent some time trying to catch them while I explained that they were baby frogs and toads even though right now they kind of look like fish.  We did manage to catch a few in our cupped hands, but the water ran out our fingers, so we quickly put the infant amphibians back before they dried out.  Hopefully we'll get enough rain to keep those the mud spots wet this week, and when the grandkids come back to visit this Friday we can check to see if the tadpoles have grown legs yet.

This weekend also found us saying goodbye to DD2 for the next six weeks as she began her Peru adventure.  I have to admit, it was kind of strange seeing my youngest child standing in line at the airport, waiting to go through security.  She's never flown alone before, in fact, she was only ten years old the last time she was on an airplane.

But she's not so very young anymore.  In fact, she's nearly the same age I was when DH and I moved away together and I suddenly had my own home to care for.  Time flies.

While she is gone, there will be much here for me to do.  It's time to get the garden planted in earnest.  And grandkids to spend time with on Fridays.  And, possibly, a new horse to get to know.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Peru Socks Are Finished!

I have finished the surprise gift socks for DD2 to take with her on her study abroad trip to Peru.  And I hate to say it, but they are ugly buggers.  I hope she likes them better than I do.  Not that the yarn itself isn't attractive, but I think the combo of this yarn and the pattern (Tendril Die Socke) just doesn't work.  The bottoms of the feet, where everything is stockinette looks more appealing than the legs or the tops of the feet, which are done in the spiraling rib pattern.

Oh well.  What they lack in aesthetic value, they will make up for in comfort while she is hiking Machu Picchu and other sites that she plans to go to on days when she isn't in class.

Her info packet about the host family she will live with during the six weeks of her trip arrived yesterday. Reading about them and their neighborhood has really heightened her excitement about going.  It is nearly time to pack; all too soon DH and I will be driving her to the airport and seeing her off on this great international adventure.  (An adventure in which she will complete her minor in International Spanish, leaving her two full years of college to concentrate solely on classes in her major.)

Those of you who are so inclined to pray, this mama would really appreciate your prayers for her safety while she is out of the U.S.  Not that there is any great unrest where she is heading, it's just that, well, she's 19 and obviously a young American female, if you get my drift. At least I talked DH out of booking her on the cheaper flight to Peru, which would have had her doing a long layover in Bogota.  (After I explained to him *where* Bogota is, he understood why I vehemently said "NO!" to sending her on that flight.)  Sometimes, being a big burly guy (and former football player), he just doesn't think about personal safety issues the same way a woman does.  ;0)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Clutter Has Eaten My Brain

(and because it's great and very relevant theme music for this post, I provide this link for your listening pleasure.  "And the worms ate into his brain.")

DD2 has come home from college.  Her dorm room is now spread between the basement, the upstairs hallway (hopefully cleaned up by this weekend), and the bedroom both daughters shared while growing up.  The same bedroom where K3 and Toad now sleep when they spend Friday nights with us, since it is the only room with two beds.

Meanwhile, DD1's lease on her apartment where she's lived for the past two school years is up.  She is staying in Grand Rapids this summer to work,  and also take a couple final classes so she will be qualified to do her student teaching this Fall and graduate in December.  She found a sub-lease for May through the beginning of August, and rather than move her belongings twice in four months she decided to live rather minimalist over the summer, and brought most of her apartment home to me and DH. (She will most likely be living at this little place here while doing her student teaching as it is unpaid as well as more than full time work, and she will not have any income to pay a lease with, let alone buy groceries or put gas into her car to get to school/teaching and back daily).  Her love seat takes up most of the area in my living room where the toy box and buckets of Duplos for the grandkids to play with have been located since last fall.  The rest of the contents of her former apartment are in the basement (with DD2's stuff) and in their former bedroom (with DD2's stuff, and where the grandkids bunk on Fridays).

I've been trying to reorganize the necessities (a large portion of the grandkid entertainment items have moved into the dining room) so that we can all operate somewhat enjoyably on a day to day basis with all this stuff packed into my house.  But I don't think I can make it work.  Everywhere I look is stuff!  Stuff and stuff and stuff and stuff. . . Even in a tidy arrangement, it's just too much in this living space.  Everywhere I look, everywhere I turn, there's more stuff!  I can't even enjoy my own stuff (books, sewing, knitting, the computer)! My ability to operate, to think clearly, to remain sane, has gone out the window. I have no brain cells left to function.

The clutter has eaten my brain.  (Envision me singing that line like Pink Floyd.  Because yes, that's exactly what it sounded like when I said it out loud).

Friday, May 5, 2017

Informal Learning

Life teaches us a lot.  More than we are aware we are even learning.  This becomes evident to me again and again while interacting with K3 and Toad, and seeing the knowledge they pick up without even trying.

Last weekend, when they were here, we planted those oak saplings that DH had brought home.  K3 and Toad helped us, somewhat, until they got tired of helping to unwrap wet newspaper from the carefully bound roots and gently putting dirt around those tender roots once I had put the trees into their respective holes.  DH and I continued to plant trees, and the kids just ran around near us, where ever on the property we were at that moment.  From time to time they would call out to us to see something they had found, such as a deer track in the mud.

What amazed me wasn't that K3, at about to turn 5 years old (her birthday was Sunday), could recognized the footprint of a deer, but that once she had located it, she could tell what direction the deer was traveling in.  She knew the toe from the heel, and with that knowledge, was able to find several more prints in series, ranging as far as twenty feet from the print she had first seen.  When she lost the trail in the (rapidly growing) grass of the hayfield, she pointed across the field at the same angle that the subsequent tracks had been from the initial one and told me "It went that way."

Not bad.  Actually, quite impressive tracking skills for a child her age.  Perhaps when deer hunting season comes this fall, I'll take her out to help track when we have a harvested deer to recover.  She's all ready good at following footprints and still young enough not to be disgusted by a blood trail.  Plus, her eyes are much closer to the ground than mine, and maybe my back won't get so sore bending over to find that next little spot of blood in the leaves or grass when the trail grows thin.

Toad had his own knowledge to share.  When we would get to a new location for our saplings, he would make sure to take the hammer off the trailer we were using to transport the trees, stakes, and shovel needed for planting.  He would hand DH the hammer as soon as the first tree had been planted, telling DH "Now you pound it" and gesturing to the stake that awaited being driven in to mark the hard to see tree.

On Saturday, once all the trees had been planted, and it was nearly time for DS1 to come pick up Toad and K3, DH took the blades off of the lawn mower so he could sharpen them up for this season's grass cutting.  The grandkids paid no attention, until DH put the first edge of the first blade against his grinder and sparks flew.

Then they were totally enthralled in what he was doing.  So much so that they set up chairs so that we could sit and watch.  At a safe distance, of course, as they were rather concerned about how hot the 'fire' was that was shooting out of Papa's bench grinder.

Since they were so interested, DH showed them the 'dirty, dull' blades from the mower and let them touch the chipped and rounded edge of one.  Then he sharpened a spot on it and showed them how clean, smooth and shiny it was. He tilted it so they could see it was no longer rounded, but angular. He told them it was now sharp 'like a knife' and they decided it was best not to touch the shiny part.  They were mainly interested in the sparks, really, and without realizing it or intending to, they learned how dull metal can be put against stone and made clean and sharp.

Monday, May 1, 2017

90 Trees. . . and Poison Ivy

This past week, DH and I added 90 new trees to our property. Yes, ninety.  Nine, zero.  Ten times nine.  That's a lot of little seedling/sapling trees to plant by hand. And, since we wanted them not as nursery trees, but as specimen trees in the yard, screen trees along the road and the south property line, deer cover behind the marsh, mast trees to draw deer in the future, shade trees near the lawn, and a visual boundary line between future horse pasture and future hay field, that meant we were all over the entire property (several times, actually) planting certain trees here and other trees there and also keeping in mind mature size (and nutrient needs) of those trees as well as not blocking off the sites of future structures (such as hay barn, riding arena, DH's storage barn/wood shop/butcher shop/brew haus).

It started back in early April, when we heard that (through K3's preschool) the local garden club was offering white pine and/or Norway spruce seedlings for fifty cents each in observance of Earth Day.  You had to order and pay by April 12th, and the trees would be delivered on April 24th.  DH and I had been discussing for a while now our desire to acquire more conifers.  So, at 50 cents each, we couldn't resist ordering 25 of each variety.

I picked them up at the delivery site on the afternoon of April 24th.  We planted half of them that night.  The next night, both DH and I had obligations away from home, so the remaining 25 had to wait until April 26th to be planted.  On the 27th (Thursday), I noticed an extremely itchy spot on my left ankle that looked suspiciously like poison ivy.

Also on the 27th, DH commented that he would be bringing home an oak sapling the next day.  His employer had purchased a sapling for each employee at that location (in observance of Earth Day, I guess); so we would have another tree to plant on Friday the 28th.

On Friday I decided that the itchy spot on my ankle was definitely poison ivy.  It was blistered up and driving me mad.  I doused in it cortisone cream and stuck a band-aid over it in attempt to ease the itch, keep my fingers off of it, and hopefully prevent it's spread.  I'm not sure exactly where I contacted the poison ivy vine, as I'm typically really careful to not touch it.  The only thing I can think of is perhaps I brushed against a root or dormant vine without realizing it when planting some of the spruce near the ditch.  Many years ago, when we were cleaning out vines and scrubby stuff from the road frontage of our property I'd gotten a raging case of poison ivy.  So, even though we've been very proactive at eradicating poison ivy from this little place here, perhaps I'd brushed up against some down by the road.

Friday afternoon, DH texted that he had gotten 'his' oak sapling, plus "a few" more.  Because of course not every employee owned their own home or had space to plant an oak tree.  He'd been given his at the appointed pick-up time, and told if he was interested in more, to go to a particular conference room in the mid-afternoon to see if there were any left unclaimed.  When he went to see if he might be able to bring home a couple more, and answered the question "Do you have room to plant a few?" with "I own 40 acres", he was given an entire sack of 50 red oak saplings!

Between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, we planted 40 of those 50.  At which point we offered the remaining 10 to a couple of DH's friends.  I'm really glad they took those last ten, because believe it or not, I was tired of planting trees.  And I had more poison ivy blisters popping out on my right hand and arm.

So, now we have 90 young trees to keep watered, weeded, and protected from the browsing teeth of the local deer population.  And I'm trying desperately to stop these itchy spots from weeping and spreading even further.  I don't want to end up having to go to the doctor for a cortisone shot like the last time I had poison ivy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happenings Lately

On Palm Sunday, Honorary Son proposed to DD1!  I had to keep it a secret nearly a week, until they were able to spread their good news to all the close relatives they felt needed to be told in person (versus see it on Facebook or hear it second or third hand).  As of yet, no date has been set for the upcoming nuptials, they are trying to work around the college schedules of the (intended) maid of honor and best man.  Well, and DD1's last semester of school too, which will be spent student teaching she has not heard where yet. So, the wedding could possibly be this December, or not until next May or later.

The ring belonged to my Grandmother (who passed away in December 2012).  One of her last requests was that her wedding ring go not to one of her daughters-in-law (she had only sons, no daughters of her own), not to one of her granddaughters, but to DD1 who was her first great-granddaughter (of three).

A new pancake shaping skill:  a footprint!  The toes need a little more finesse, but not bad for a first try.

Pussy willows and forsythia made an Easter centerpiece.

Since both DH and DS2 had a four day weekend, they decided to make a batch of bratwurst, jerky, and smoked snack sticks.  One little glitch--the casings they were sold to make the snack sticks with were too small for our stuffing tube--they were breakfast link size--and a last minute substitution had to be made with what other casings we had on hand.  So our snack sticks look more like kielbasa. . . DH says they are "snack logs".

Suddenly the grass is growing like crazy, the lawns and hay fields are all green, and quite a few of the trees are starting to leaf out.

The rhubarb has jumped into gear too.  If it keeps growing at this rate, I'll be able to make a pie with it next week.  I've never had fresh rhubarb for pie in April before.

Most of my daffodils are in bloom, as are the forsythia.

The hyacinths are at their peak, and the wasps have woken up from their winter's nap.  They are loving the fragrant waxy blooms.

Tulips are blooming on the south side of the house (as are the dandelions!)  The tulips in my other flower beds are nearly ready to open as well.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Chive & Garlic Corn

This is one of the recipes I tried in March that both DH and I loved.  It's so good, a nice change from 'plain' frozen corn.  (If I can't can my own, I don't usually eat canned corn, but prefer to buy frozen corn). The recipe comes from Taste of Home's 2008 Quick Cooking Annual Recipes cookbook.  It calls for the frozen corn to be thawed before using, so I just dumped mine in a pan, added a little water, and heated it until the water began to steam.  Then I drained out the water, and continued as the recipe directs.

Chive 'n' Garlic Corn

1 package (16 oz) frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced chives (mine were cut fresh from my chives planting, and 'minced' by snipping with my herb shears)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (I used 2 cloves, and put them through my garlic press)
1/8 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

In a large skillet, saute corn and onion in butter for 5-7 minutes or until tender.  Stir in the chives, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Yield: 4 servings.

Quick to make, and what a nice way to dress up a commonly used vegetable.  I made a big batch of this and took it as my dish to pass to the church potluck on Palm Sunday.  It disappeared really fast.  By the time I got through the line, the dish was nearly empty, and DH didn't get any at all!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Childrens Suspenders

I don't know why, but it seems that even though K3 and Toad really have two different body types--she's built like a stick and he's more stocky, like their father--neither one of them seems to be able to keep their pants from falling down.  Doesn't seem to matter the size; some are inches too short, some are the right length, some are long, and all look like they fit in the waist.  Doesn't seem to matter whether they are denim jeans, jeans with elastic waist bands, jeans with 'adjustable' waistbands, or stretchy leggings or sweatpants. Those kids just can't keep their pants up.  Seems like every ten minutes or so they are hiking up their britches again so that they don't get tripped up by the low riding pants (or because they're resembling plumbers and some elder has told them to 'fix your pants').

And it's not just those two whose pants are constantly sliding down.  I've heard the same complaint from a few other mothers and grandmothers about their own youngsters these days.

Which makes me wonder why it is just about impossible to find child-sized suspenders in the store.  DS2 was a skinny child (his uncle nicknamed him "Stick Boy"), and from the time he was old enough to walk until he was in second or third grade, he wore suspenders to keep his pants up. He had a few pair; suspenders weren't trendy, but they weren't all that hard to find back then. Now, however, suspenders seem to be non-existent unless you want to buy them online and pay a small fortune for dressy ones from a bridal/tuxedo store or dance costume company.  Dressy ones not needed, just nice durable every day suspenders to keep pants in the proper place.

So, I decided that this grandma was just going to have to make some suspenders if K3 and Toad were going to have any luck keeping their pants up.

After finding all the necessary parts--patterned elastic, adjusters, and clips (all of which I had to get online because apparently none of the craft stores near me carry any suspender making ingredients)--it didn't take me long at all to whip up some really cute suspenders.

Seriously, not long at all.  Maybe 30 minutes, tops, to  make two sets.

I made Toad's slightly shorter than K3's, but both are adjustable and should last several years before they are outgrown.  Maybe by then the manufacturers of little kids' pants will make a product that stays in place while being worn.

K3's are a really cute light green with multi-colored polka dots.

Toad's are red with black paw prints.  He's a fan of Paw Patrol, so I have the feeling he's going to call these his "Paw 'Trol" suspenders.

I mostly followed this tutorial for making them, substituting in the triangle adjusters in the back instead of sewing the elastics together where they cross.  I figure they will fit more comfortably, longer, if they are adjustable that way and not having a 'rigid' triangle that gets lower on the back as the kid grows.

These two pair will go in their Easter baskets.  I think I'll make a few more pair to keep here in my stash of Emergency Grandkid Clothing for when they come visiting and their suspenders get left at home (which, given the disorganization of both their parents, is bound to happen.  That's the reason I started my stash of grandkid accessories in the first place.)  Plus, there's bound to be more grandkids in future years who need suspenders.  Heck, if low-rise jeans for women don't go out of fashion soon, I might make myself some suspenders.  Whatever happened to pants that sit at your waist like nature intended?

Friday, April 7, 2017

April Goals

April has lived up to it's reputation (April showers. . .) so far.  I think we've had rain at least half the day 4 days of the six April has given at this point.  At least the weekend was beautiful (and full of outdoor work), and this coming weekend looks promising as well.

With the wet weather, I've had lots of indoor time for thinking and planning.  Some of which has resulted in my list of goals for the month.
  1. ride 12 times (barring any more lost shoes or lame horses)
  2. lose 2 pounds
  3. lose 1" of waist
  4. walk 1/2 hr 3-4x week (wonder if walking in the woods with the grandkids on Saturday mornings counts?  I haven't so far because it's been a less than vigorous pace, but then again it is usually an hour or more, so maybe could count as 1 half-hour vigorous walk session?)
  5. try 4 new recipes
  6. do 1 jigsaw puzzle
  7. read 2 books -- 1 non- & 1 fiction
  8. 1 hr declutter/organizing per week
  9. reduce anxiety
  10. finish Peru socks & K3 sweater
  11. plant peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots & potatoes in garden
  12. put the Quarter Horse up for sale
All of these goals are totally obtainable.  Not one of them is out of the question. (Well, maybe #11 is, since it is more dependent on the weather than the rest of them.  I can't plant seeds into cold,waterlogged soil. . . )

Number 9 seems a little nebulous, but if I said that it could also be listed as "be kinder to myself" or "take a nap when I need to" or "just because I did it when I was 20, 30, 40 doesn't mean I have to do it now at 45" or "just say 'not my issue'" maybe that gives you an idea of what the objective is with this one.  I, more often than not, find myself feeling over faced, exhausted, or with people trying to put more responsibility on my shoulders than necessary. 

DH and I have had a few conversations lately on where the line is between helping and enabling.  Which is sort of ironic since some of the things he would prefer me to be responsible for (versus him being responsible) could fall on the enabling side. I understand that he's kind of overwhelmed at work, but does that mean it's okay to expect me to pick up more of the tasks at home if doing so is overwhelming me? Does he really require 2-3 hours "relaxing" on the couch in front of the TV with the computer on his lap everyday after work?  Or could he, perhaps, do a few chores instead?

I won't even get into the whole when/if/how long each week we should have the grandkids over. . . that is definitely a balancing act between 'for the good of the child' and 'enabling a parent to not change their ways'.  That topic, though, is probably the biggest source of my anxiety this year.  And the impetus for the helping vs enabling conversations between DH & I. There are so many other things I'd rather spend my time with him doing than rehashing the 'what to do about the kids' topic every few days.

Another source of my anxiety is that the population of this little place here will be changing again at the end of April.  And it will be in flux for no one really knows how many months after that.  DD2 will be coming home from college when the semester ends, but then leaving for her study abroad trip a couple of weeks later.  She'll be gone for six weeks, then home for about a month before leaving to go back to college.  Right about the time DD2 heads back to the U.P., DD1 very likely will be moving home again in order to do her student teaching.  Apparently, even though student teaching is an unpaid semester of full time work, those education students doing the teaching are not allowed to work elsewhere (the premise being they are teaching all day, plus doing lesson planning and grading papers in the evenings and on weekends and so have no time for outside employment). As such, with no income, DD1 has requested to move back home for her final semester of college and has asked to be assigned to a school within a reasonable commute of this little place here.  We aren't really expecting her to move out immediately after her graduation in December, so I have no idea, once April ends, when DH & I will return to empty nest status.  There is a strong possibility that there will be a wedding for DD1 and Honorary Son before the nest is emptied again.

So, yeah, I feel that it's important for me to get a grip on my anxiety level before this month is over.  Coping mechanisms will be needed in the future for sure.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Tea Is Pink

. . . And it smells delicious.  Fruity.  It has dried apple pieces in it, as well as dried citrus, pieces of beet, and flower petals.  Rose, hibiscus, and orange blossom.  Rose hips too.

I have to confess, I've never liked tea.  I've tried it many ways through the years--hot, cold, iced, sweet--and my reaction has always been the same.  BLECH!!  I've been known to call it "hay water" because that's my take on it--it tastes like a hay chaff infused horse water bucket (ask me how I know these things. . . LOL).

But then, DD2, who absolutely loves tea, recently introduced me to a whole new tea world.  Unfortunately it's pricey, but, mmm, I can stand to drink this stuff!  She'd been given some Teavana tea by a good (and generous) friend.  And because it contained absolutely no 'tea'; as in black tea or green tea, she thought I might actually like it.

She was right.  Darn it.  So, not only am I 
  • a picky eater (have been all my life; probably the only kid in the world who hated fish sticks, hot dogs, and fast food burgers) who has a palate for 'real' food, 
  • a picky beer drinker who can't stand any of the popular commercial beers (anything in a can,  bottle or keg with a TV advertisement basically) even if it's given to me for free; who likes dark, thick, microbrews (the higher the gravity the better; Imperial Stouts are the bomb!)
I'm a picky tea drinker.

Apparently the only tea I like is not your standard comes-in-a-tea-bag-in-a-box-at-the-grocery-store kind of tea.  Nope.  Me, I like the expensive 'loose' herbal kind of tea with no tea leaves at all.  In fact, it doesn't have leaves of any sort.  I've tried a couple different flavors now, and I like the fruit and flowers (and cocoa nibs!) teas. Sorry mint and red raspberry leaf, you, too, taste like hay water.  

Guess I'm going to have to learn to grow and blend my own fruity/floral teas now.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Falling Short Again

These were my official March goals:

  1. Ride at least 12 times (preferably three rides a week).
  2. Walk 1/2 hour 3-4x a week (actually, this was a directive from my Dr. in late February and is in effect until mid-April) plus workout at least once a week.
  3. Lose 2 pounds (a February do-over).
  4. Lose at least 1" from my waist (also February do-over).
  5. Try one new recipe a week (need to eat more meat and veggies and less starch/pasta/potato/rice).
  6. Do one jigsaw puzzle.
  7. Read one novel and one horse related non-fiction from my book collection.
  8. Spend at least 1 hour a week on decluttering/organizing.
  9. Put the Quarter Horse up for sale (need to get current nice photos and a video of him being ridden would be helpful to speed up the sale).
  10. Knit a sweater for Toad (to be an Easter gift) and at least start a sweater for K3 (hopefully also for Easter, although her end of April birthday will be a backup date).
  11. Start my tomato, pepper, broccoli and cabbage seeds.

Now that March has come to an end I see that, like February, I fell a bit short of accomplishing those goals. Honestly, March was a struggle, and so far April has been fairly anxious too.  Not to blame the days I spend with Toad and K3, but a whole bunch of my (previous project/relaxation) time has gone there.  In addition to the hours they are actually here each week--typically close to 24 continuous-- at least another hour or two weekly is spent in discussion with DH that relates to them (or, rather, the parenting they are getting or not getting at home).  It's a tough time.  That's a topic for another post, one of these days, when I feel like I have an answer.  Or, at least, can write about it objectively and not sound like I am bashing anyone. Like I said, it's a tough time.

To update where I am with the goals I set for March is the topic of this particular post, so let's get on with it.

Goal #1, well, I came pretty close.  I had 9 or 10 rides out of the 12 I had set as target.  Could have made all twelve except that the Quarter Horse again lost a shoe, which resulted in three lost days that could have been (and two of them had been reserved as) riding time.  Darn all this rain and mud we've had and continue to have!!

Goal #2.  Nope, nope, big NOPE.  I have failed so bad at this.  My only hope is that the exhaustion and strong heart-pounding I feel after slogging through ankle deep mud to feed a few of the horses (who live in round the clock turnout) at the eventing barn has made up for some of those walks that didn't happen.  Honestly, just getting the morning feed done at the eventing barn and then 6-10 stalls (depending on the day) cleaned at the dressage barn have been leaving me pretty much wiped out on physical activity for the remainder of the day Monday through Friday.  And I can't wait to go back to my Dr. later this month and ask him WHY?!? I am feeling worse in terms of energy level even though I am taking both the D3 and Iron supplements he put me on back in mid-February.  Six weeks should be at least starting to make a difference, shouldn't they?  If those 'lacks' are the real problems (which I'm skeptical they are; I asked for a referral to an endocrinologist and this was the answer I was given).

Goals 3 & 4:  Depends on how you look at it.  On my official weigh and measure day (March 31st) I was up 2.5 pounds from the beginning of the month, and down slightly in measurement of various body parts (ribcage, waist, hips, thigh, upper arm. . .) and I was also on my period.  Normally I wouldn't jump on the scale again until the end of April, but that 2.5 pounds really bugged me, so on April 2nd (the end of my period) I reweighed myself and found that I weighed 3.5 pounds less than I had on the 31st, which meant a loss of one pound in the month of March--and a pretty clear indication of how menstruation can affect your weight/shape.  I didn't remeasure, so not sure what the real loss in inches for the month was.

Goal #5, met.  YAY, I got one!  New recipes were an Amish style chicken and noodles dish, a doctored up corn--who would have thought corn with onion, garlic and chives would be delicious?!? (it was awesome, definitely a keeper recipe and one I will put on the blog), a seasoned green bean recipe, and a dinner (pork chops) recipe I can't remember at the moment.

Goal #6 also met.  Doing a jigsaw puzzle has been a nice mental break. Plus, the drawers of puzzles I have in an old dresser are slowly getting emptied.

Goal #7, sort of.  I did read the novel; enjoyed it immensely.  The non-fiction book got set aside and I will have to decide if I want to keep and finish it, keep it for reference (using the index when seeking the info within) without finishing, or just get rid of it.

Goal #8 I didn't keep close track of the time, but I think I managed to pull this one off.  At least, the "Goodwill Box" in the basement has gotten a little fuller (and should be taken in for donation in April) as well as several non-usable items being disposed of.

Goal #9 has not officially happened.  I guess I did some 'research' on best place/way to market him but I haven't pulled the plug and put up a listing yet.  Partly due to that lost shoe (and resultant lameness) in the latter part of March.

Goal #10 Got this one done!  With the exception of the buttons, Toad's sweater is finished.  K3's is started.  One adjustment to the goal has been made: they will not be Easter gifts (due to how many things seem to get lost and never used at their home) but will stay at this little place here for use when the grandkids need a sweater or jacket here (weather appropriate clothing, or the lack of, is an ongoing issue when they come to visit).

Goal #11  This one also got accomplished as intended!  There are dozens of little green sprouts soaking up the sun in front of the sliding glass door in my living room.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Knitting on a Thursday

Well, this seems weird, posting a knitting update on a Thursday instead of the Wednesday Yarn Along that I've participated in for quite a few years.  I have to confess to being anal retentive and a creature of habit; it's going to take me a while to adjust to not having the Yarn Along anymore.

I have Toad's sweater finished (including the blocking) with the exception of the buttonbands and the sewing on of the buttons themselves.  This pattern (Little Shore cardigan) calls for blocking once the body and sleeves are finished, and only after that do you knit the neckband and the buttonbands on the front.

I plan to knit the two buttonbands tonight; I think I can get them both done in one evening.  I have to confess that I don't have the buttons for this yet.  There might be enough of the right size and whimsy in my button stash all ready, or I might have to do a little shopping; I'm not sure at this point.  No big rush on getting those buttons on as I plan to knit K3 a sweater too before giving this to Toad.

Originally my plan was to knit each of them a sweater for Easter, but then (after discussing the idea with DH), I decided that I didn't want to give the sweaters as gifts.  Mainly because most of the things we have bought/made for those kids are never seen again once they get to DS1 and K2's house.  A total lack of organization on the part of the parents and a ton of gifts from the other grandmother are the main reasons things seem to get lost in that house.  Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I believe that having a place for everything and everything in it's place makes daily life much easier, plus you can 'inventory' the kids' clothes at a glance and know what fits and what has been outgrown (and make sure things get worn before they get outgrown. . .)

Instead of gifting the sweaters, I've decided that, like the aprons I made the kids earlier this month, the sweaters shall stay here at my house, to be used when the kids are here.  Because the more often we have them over, the more obvious it is that lack of extra clothing or weather appropriate clothing isn't an oversight in the hectic moments of getting two children out the door to go anywhere, it's just the way it is in that home.  *sigh*  So DH and I have come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to have a stash of 'extra' clothes, hats, mittens, etc here for the kids.  That way, no matter what their parents send with them for their weekly overnight visit, the kids will have weather appropriate attire to wear outside to play.  A sweater makes a nice substitute for a jacket in the spring and fall, and on cooler summer nights.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Close Call With (Ninja) Turtle Pancakes

So, this having the grandkids overnight on Fridays is starting to get routine.  They arrive, they want to play with puzzles, K3 wants to listen to music and dance, they plan to make pancakes with me for breakfast on Saturday. . .

The pancake making might be getting a little out of hand, though.  I have made 'regular' pancakes, Mickey Mouse head pancakes, snowman pancakes.  I'm keeping the bunny shaped pancakes a secret until closer to Easter, and haven't even done any of the additional ingredient pancakes yet, like chocolate chip pancakes (where the chocolate chips form a smiley face), or blueberry pancakes (or even strawberry  pancakes, if the strawberries are cut fairly small). My pancake repertoire is probably unusually large, as I like to cook, and I was pretty young when my kids were little, (not to mention most of the time I didn't work outside of school hours) so it was fun to get creative with breakfast.

This past Friday night, as the grandkids were going to bed, Toad requested ninja turtle pancakes.  He is in a (Teenage Mutant) Ninja Turtle phase right now.  Somewhere, in the recesses of my memory, I vaguely remember making turtle shaped pancakes when DS1 and DS2 were little. Twenty years ago? I told Toad I wasn't sure if I could make ninja turtles, but I would give it a shot.

I was awakened (for the second time, since I'd gotten up with DH at 4:15 a.m. to make sure he got off to the airport on time for a work trip) just after dawn on Saturday by a little voice coming from the hallway:

"Grandma, it's morning!  We have to make ninja turtle pancakes!"

So, still in our jammies, Toad, K3 and I went downstairs to the kitchen, donned our aprons, heated up the griddle, and mixed up pancake batter.  I again told Toad that I wasn't sure I could make the pancakes look like ninjas (I was sure I couldn't, short of a mold that would define their eye-masks, etc), but that I would make him some turtle pancakes.

Taking a large spoon and a small one (teaspoon), I poured a spoonful of batter onto the griddle with the larger spoon.  With the small spoon, to this I added a small circle of batter for a head, and on the opposite end, just a little triangle of batter for a tail.  Then came four small dribbles of batter for the legs, two on each side of the 'shell' body.

At which point Toad informed me that it didn't look like a ninja turtle.  I apologized, telling him it was the best turtle I could make. He acquiesced that it did look like a turtle, but it wasn't a ninja turtle and he didn't like it.  So I started making Mickey Mouse heads with the remaining batter, since K3 had requested Mickey Mouse pancakes.

When the turtle had cooked through on the bottom and was ready to be flipped, it suddenly became an acceptable turtle to Toad, and he asked that I make a second one just like it.  Since grandmas are suckers for doing things to make their grandkids smile, I painstakingly created another turtle with the last of the pancake batter.

Life looked great.  Toad had his turtle pancakes, K3 had her Mickey Mouse pancakes, we all sat down to the table and said grace.  That's when things began to descend into chaos.

I went to butter Toad's pancakes, and he immediately protested.  He did not want butter on his turtles.  Okay, I put the butter on K3's Mickey head instead (thank goodness she was being easy and not as opinionated as her brother that morning).

Then I started cutting up Toad's pancakes into bite sized pieces. The kid went ballistic. You'd think I was torturing him.  Killed his dog (had he a dog) or something.  He howled.  He nearly jumped out of his chair.  He had actual tears popping out of his eyes.

"NO, Grandma!  Don't cut my turtles!"

Oh shit. Here are these decapitated turtle pancakes with amputated appendages and there is this two year old grandchild having a nuclear meltdown at the breakfast table.  Think fast, Grandma, or your morning is going to suck.  And Grandpa is blissfully unaware, on his airplane ride to Phoenix.  No one can help me now. . .

Toad insisted I fix his pancakes.  He wanted them uncut.  I'm not about to reheat the griddle, mix a new batch of batter, and hold off breakfast while I fashion and cook two new, whole, turtle pancakes.  Think, think, think, think.  How to remedy this?

In a flash of brilliance (and a ton of desperation), I dropped the knife and used my fingers to line the cut up pieces back into recognizable turtles. As I'm putting legs back to bodies and heads back where they belong, I cheerfully say "Look!  It's like a turtle puzzle!"  Because Toad absolutely loves puzzles right now.  And he's really good at putting puzzles together, too (almost better than his sister who is nearly 5 years old).

He stopped his brokenhearted wailing, and looked from me to his plate.  I finished reassembling his pancakes.

"See?  Now you have puzzle pancakes that are turtles! And when you eat the pieces, you'll have a turtle puzzle in your belly!"  I told him with a big reassuring grin.

His look of skepticism changed to one of delight.  He even smiled as he requested syrup for his turtles.  Then he ate every single bite of his pancakes.

Phew.  Crisis averted.  Grandma lives to enjoy another day.