Sunday, February 27, 2011

Crazy Hair Day

Friday was Crazy Hair Day at Crystal Spring. Maggie's original plan was to just wake up and not brush her hair. Perfect as she is generally rocking a somewhat Rastafarian look in the AM. But she forgot and came downstairs with perfectly coiffed hair, driving us to Plan B: many ponytails.

Now for E, on the other hand, every day is crazy hair day. So we went for the ironic - slicked down and respectable. You would not believe the amount of work it takes to tame the Eion lettuce. But after the application of ballet recital strength gel and spray, we had it contained.

He was less than happy about it. While all the teachers got the joke, he thought he was being left out. Certainly he seemed happier with his hairdo today when he told me that it was "blown by unseen winds." As I said, every day is crazy hair day for E.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


So this news article caught my attention yesterday. For those of you reaching for your mice, ready to bail, assuming I am about to derail and go on a political rant, put down that mouse. To your, and everyone else's surprise, this is about beauty pageants.

I read about how Miss San Antonio was dethroned yesterday and while the exact reason is somewhat in dispute, it appears that part of the powers that be's problem with the beauty queen is weight gain. Based on some height and weight reports I saw, it doesn't seem that she is destined for The Biggest Loser, but her contract had a clause about packing on pounds and the (alleged) 13 she's added were deemed too much.

My first reaction was that it seemed incredibly shallow to micromanage Miss San Antonio's weight to this degree, not to mention setting a bad example to the girls of Texas about what is important.

But.....I couldn't stop thinking about it. And it occurred to me that if one chooses to participate in institutions that are judging you almost solely on your appearance, you really shouldn't be surprised when you are evaluated on your appearance. Don't get me wrong. If you dig being up on stage in various types of outfits in an effort to be crowned the fairest of them all, go for it. Not my cup of tea - not to mention my pathological attachment to chocolate and diminutive stature kind of rule it out for me - but I wouldn't dream of stopping someone if it makes them happy.

That being said, if you put yourself in a situation where the plan is to judge your looks against those of others, when that exact thing happens, don't come crying to me. Or for that matter, waste taxpayer funded court room time with your silly lawsuits.

My advice to you, Miss (former) San Antonio: if you don't want to get bit, you really shouldn't play with snakes.


So Monday, Timmy was called unexpectedly into work (sick colleague) and I thus felt compelled to make my time that day useful. Seeing as the kids were off school, the useful activity was deemed house cleaning. As I was dusting and mopping, the girls came excitedly into the kitchen and asked "What can we do to help?" My suggestion that they clean their room was quickly dismissed but I figured, what the hell, if they want to clean, I'll give them something to clean. I handed them each a rag and asked that they clean the baseboards upstairs. In a turn of events anticipated by no one, they ran off happily to do said task.


And then came back for more - dusting, cleaning marks off the stair risers, windexing mirrors. It was baffling.

But lest we think they are getting too good to be true, there was dinner last night. As Tim was working, I could not, as I am wont to do, pawn off cooking responsibilities and was forced to whip up some burgers and home made fries. Maggie, a few bites in said, "Wow. Dinner is really good tonight." with the direct implication that this is a change of pace from the meals I normally prepare. Thanks Mags.

But given the choice, I will take any and all criticism of my cooking if it is accompanied by junior cleaners.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winning and Losing

This weekend was jam packed with swim meets and (two!) chili cookoffs. Friday was beautiful and I just didn't have the heart to send the girls to swim practice. While 70 degree weather doesn't necessarily sound like chili territory, it was perfect for climbing trees.

Friday night's cookoff was at Casa Fraught. I have a pretty fine recipe if I do say so myself, with a hat tip to Tom E. for sharing. The organization level was high with darling little clipboards for voting.

In an odd turn of events, the vast majority of the entries were vegetarian. I brought one of three meat chilies with the remaining six all being of the herbivore variety. This was good news for me.

And yeah! Hell in a Bucket won the (somewhat slim) field of "traditional" chili. [Though I did also take a wee bit of pride that even though I was not strictly competing with the non-meat chili since they had their own judging category, I received more points than any other entry. Don't worry, this moment of pride will bite me in the arse later in the story.] More importantly, it was a great, and filling, party. I love gatherings at Amy & Sean's because I always meet new, fun people.

The next morning, it was off to the pool for our home swim meet.

Maggie had a personal best for the 25 Free, shaving off another 2 seconds, for a time of 20.85.

Other than this victory, it was a rough weekend. Morrigan was in her usual DFL or second to DFL position. And she wasn't taking it well. Tears were free flowing and plentiful. In the end, after a last place finish in the 100 Free on Sunday, I just told Morrigan that, if she wanted, she could bail on the rest of her races. Mercifully, she did and spent the remainder of the meet reading. Don't get me wrong here - I couldn't care less about how she finishes. But I can't stand to see her miserable. It is looking more and more like this will be the end of her swimming career. I don't think I am even going to push Summer swimming.

Maggie swam fine. She added time in all but one race and seemed destined to finish in 10th place for all her races. By midway through Sunday, she was fading fast and clearly didn't feel well. I can speak for the whole family when I say we were glad for the whole thing to be done.

Saturday night, it was off to Angie & Eric's chili cookoff. I arrived with batch of the same (victorious) recipe from the night before. The field was larger and, with no veggie entries, infinitely more treacherous. At the last year's event, I placed 4th. I had made some adjustments and was feeling positive about rising to a top three finish. And I was running as much smack as I could. Smack that rang hollow when I didn't even make it into the top five. Strangely, the entry I liked the most (honestly, even more than my own) also didn't place.

Tim thought I took it a little too hard and has been forced to listen to my (repeated) over analysis of all the entries. But I think I have a plan for next year. Unfortunately, I can't start working on a new recipe just yet. After having 20 some different chilies this weekend, I need a break!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Valentine's Day, True Love and Shock and Awe

Ah this week saw the coming of the great Hallmark Holiday, Valentine's Day. We don't really celebrate it around here, especially this year since Timmy was working, but the chance of me skipping all three kids' parties was exactly zero. Maggie was the winner this go 'round and I spent some time with the second graders. They were a well behaved lot and happily played the game and made the craft another (much more creative) Mother had brought. The teacher asked if I wanted to read a Valentine's themed book but Maggie quickly took over.

All thoughts turned to love after pick up. As we were driving along, listening to some Bruno Mars song about how amazing his girl was, Morrigan asked, "Did anyone ever love you that much?"

Me: Daddy, of course!
Morrigan: But what about anyone else? Did you have lots of boys who loved you?
Me: Well, I met Daddy when I was 19, but there were some boys in high school who had crushes on me.
Morrigan: Well I like Quinton. And I mean like-like, not just like. I hope I have lots of boys who love me.

Nooooooo! It has to be too early for this.

So largely unrelated to love and Valentine's Day, I do have to say that I am utterly and completely shocked at how well the whole family has adjusted to the downgrade in tv. While they are still available for dvds and Netflix, no one is asking. As I sat reading the other night, I looked over to this:

It's so good! All fingers crossed that the underlings keep it up and don't rebel.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Garde Manger

Most upscale restaurants have a position called Garde Manger - which loosely translates to "keeper of the food" or "protector of the food." This person generally makes sure that there is as little waste as possible. For example, using meats that are nearing the end of their productive life to make a pate.

Around here, we have broadened the term and use it in many ways. As a verb, "I am going to garde manger this leftover chicken." As a noun, "We have lots of garde manger items we should use up." As an adjective, "This two week old meat is beyond garde manger. It needs to be tossed to the groundhog." You get the idea. We just mean use up our food and throw away as little as possible. Often our desire to minimize waste is much maligned by the children, especially when we are cleaning out the fridge before a trip. I found Maggie surveying its contents prior to our last trip to Florida mumbling, "There is nothing to eat in this house. I hate garde manger."

So yesterday Tim was at work and I was in the midst of several garde manger projects at once. Now, I should know better than to have three things going at the same time but I did anyway. First was the potato-broccoli-cheese soup made with leftover broccoli and chicken stock and some potatoes that were nearly beyond the pale. Cooking simultaneously, a pasta sauce with some sausage nearing its expiration date and canned tomatoes opened a few days back for pizza. And lastly, steaks on the grill for Tim's lunch the next day.

What better to do when you've got three things rolling? That's right. Call your mother in law to wish her safe travels the next day when they left for South Africa. The soup and sauce made it out alive but I forgot all about the meat. When I remembered, it was well beyond the McK preferred 122 degree internal temperature. I looked at the probe - it was a balmy 157 in there. Yikes.

I took it in and cut the steak open, hoping all the while that our trusty thermometer, which is always spot on, was today dead wrong and the meat would be perfectly done. Nope. I had cooked the hell out of the meat. But in the spirit of garde manger, I knew we would have to eat it in some capacity.

Right about then Morrigan came down and excitedly asked for steak. I had a choice to make here. If I told her it was overcooked, she would be against it from the start. So I thought maybe if I didn't mention it, she wouldn't notice.

It was becoming clear to me that I was really hoping for the impossible allot this afternoon. My kids love meat bordering on downright rare. Mooing if possible. They always have. Morrigan used to sit on Tim's lap and eat half his steak and she was so darn cute that we just let her and made a snack for ourselves later.

So I didn't mention the slightly over-roasted nature of the beef. Fooling, as it turns out, exactly no one. Morrigan tok one bite and asked "Why is this meat so hard?" Maggie came over to investigate and pointing at the plate asked, "Eww - what is that?" Perhaps I will need to be just a little less aggressive in my garde manger endeavours.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


[Please note before we get started here that E woke up with this hair. And yes, he is getting his annual birthday picture taken today. Excellent.]

Eion has a poem each week to memorize and then recite in front of the class. This activity is generally the bane of our existence and much maligned by all. But seeing as we cannot escape the assignment, we have developed a system for memorization. I read off a line and E parrots it back to me. Repeat as necessary until he has it down. This week was a bit of a challenge.

The poem was:

George Washington was the first President.
Abe Lincoln freed the slaves.
Pocahontas was a brave Indian girl.
Betsy Ross our flag she made.

And our work session went as follows:

Me: George Washington was the first President.
E: Yeah!
Me: No Eion, this is your poem. You need to repeat it. George Washington was the first President.
E: Yeah!
Me: No E - repeat after me: George Washington was the first President.
E: George Washington was the first President.
Me: Good! Now the next line: Abe Lincoln freed the slaves.
E: Yeah, he did!

I am not expecting a stellar score this week.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pause. Unplug.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't watch much tv. Granted, I love me a good zombie show and certainly have seen every single Star Trek and Stargate episode (including all the cheesy spin offs.) But as the years go by, I find myself watching fewer and fewer shows.

A month or so back, I found myself couch ridden with a nasty, lingering cold. As I had a DVR jam-packed with Jetsons and Flintstones episodes, I was forced out into the realm of live tv. And what I found was it sucked. The channels were littered with the vapid (Real Housewives of Anywhere, this means you), the alarming (all those house hunting shows where people are encouraged to get in over their heads in debt), and the morally bankrupt (16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and their ilk.) I ended up watching a fifteen year old movie instead.

When the next cable bill came, it was just downright irritating that we were paying about $110 per month for the privilege of having a program guide filled with things we wouldn't ever watch.

So we did something a little radical. We got rid of cable. All of it.

Now if you dig those shows, don't take offense. We're free market capitalists around here. I would never attempt to stop Cox Cable from airing these programs, I just won't pay for them. Of course, we can still stream Netflix and have DVD players - we're not going completely Luddite on you. And they can have my internet access when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. But I'm feeling pretty done with tv.

We'll see how it works out. Maybe we'll come crawling back to Hollywood, begging forgiveness for our insolence. But somehow I doubt it. Especially since as I drove away from Cox, with a big old smile on my face, having dropped off our DVRs and remotes, I felt fantastic.

Little Fluffy Clouds - I Mean Pink Peanuts

So the coffee table we bought at an art show in Key West arrived today. A man from California named David Levy hand made it. The table is three pieces and can be configured in several different ways:

[This isn't its final destination so I know it looks a little funny in the corner there.]

I LOVE this table and was shocked when Tim agreed to my impulsive purchase. We didn't expect to get it for six to eight weeks, making its arrival this afternoon a welcome surprise.

Do you think the kids cared about the table? Well, sort of. They were enthralled by the packing materials.

They spent the entire afternoon playing, swimming, and doing their homework in a sea of pink landfill fodder. They also lined their bedroom floor with bubble wrap and used the flat plastic sheets as scarves.

Making my house a complete train wreck. But darned if they didn't have just enough fun to make it completely worthwhile.

And if you need a big bag of Styrofoam peanuts before next garbage day, just let me know.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Daughter, The Bookie

I was surprised to hear Sunday that Morrigan had made a Superbowl bet. She bet her friend "Timmy" a dollar that the Packers would win. Seeing as she was victorious, I asked her this morning if she had collected.

Morrigan: He forgot the dollar yesterday. He has to bring it today or he will owe me two dollars.
Me: So you're a bookie now?
Morrigan: We're nine and that's how nine year olds do it. We shook on it.

Can popping kneecaps be far behind?

Monday, February 7, 2011

It Was a Swim Meet Weekend And You Know Exactly How It Worked Out

For a weekend that had nothing scheduled a week ago, this one turned out much busier than anticipated. Friday night, the Taubman Art Museum had a lecture by and book signing with Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller's Wife) which intrigued me enough to re-up our membership in order to attend. I loved the book but had never really looked into the author, well, at all. Had no idea she was an artist as well. While I think I prefer her writing, it was an interesting venture out. And I was able to feed my signed, first edition, first printing fetish.

My date Ann (not surprising anyone, Tim didn't really want to go), had to back out due to widespread family illness, so I was going it alone. I figured, it was Roanoke, I would HAVE to know someone there. Color me downright shocked and alarmed that I didn't recognize a soul! But then the world was right again and I found four people I knew. Whew.

Saturday and Sunday mornings were chock full of swim meet. And this swim meet followed the all too familiar pattern of all our swim meets. Maggie dropped time in five out of six events. By and large, she came in 4th or 5th, seemingly her favorite place to be, but also (for the first time) placed 1st in the 25 backstroke. And she dropped a whopping 13 seconds on her 25 butterfly.

Her sister, on the other hand, was exactly where she always seems to be, DFL. In almost everything with the occasional beatdown on one person. It breaks my heart when she rushes excitedly to the score sheets only to walk away with her eyes shining with tears after discovering she came in last again.

As one who did not (and does not) excel at sports, I can totally understand from where she is coming. So I hugged her close and comforted her while also gently delivering the facts. There is a certain amount of skill some people may have, but many of the girls beating her practice two hours a day, five days a week as opposed to the hour and fifteen minutes twice a week on our schedule. I can't say that I even really want the girls working that hard at this young age - I'd rather have a little more moderation.

So there is a change coming for our household. When Summer is over, we're going to let Morrigan quit. It will be a challenge to keep her active since her preferred place is on the sofa with a book, but I can't see making her continue.

Now Maggie is a tough one. I think when she complains and talks of quitting, it is mainly to parrot her sister. Not to mention after this week's success, she is all fired up to continue. And I know that a part of me, ok a BIG part of me, really wants her to succeed as I am living athletic accomplishments vicariously through my seven year old. No matter how much I want her to continue and would hate to see her quit something she is good at, when Summer ends, it will be up to Maggie. Though in her case, I may make a persuasive argument in favor of swimming.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Key West

I've been MIA in the most lovely way. It was time for Ann's fortieth birthday trip and it was off to Key West. It was a surprisingly easy flight from our little Roanoke airport - we left at 7:30am and by 12:30, we were enjoying our first of many, many beers! Amy and Sean, who weren't able to make it, had surprised us by having our room fridge stocked with beer. We stayed at The Eden House, a cute Inn that I would highly recommend. After regrouping at the hotel, it was off to explore.

Bars, that is. We had dinner at Cafe del Sol - NOT recommended, marginal food, incredibly rude wait staff- and then we were back out on Duval St. where we decided we would take in some local culture, a drag show. I was a little surprised they lip synced rather than singing and Tim was quick to remind me we weren't in South Beach.

While the more prudent members of our party headed home, some of us stayed out. But only one of us was talked into riding the bull....

The next morning, Tim and I set off to explore the island, not just the bars, and started at Blue Heaven restaurant for breakfast. It was outstanding and not to be missed. I had the lobster Bearnaise which was to die for. We ended up eating dinner there and one more breakfast. It was that good.

As we walked around, I discovered the feral chickens, for which Key West is famous. They are hilarious, just roaming around the entire island. Apparently the natives tire of their crowing but appreciate their tendency to eat scorpions and cockroaches.

After an afternoon rest, we were out to dinner and Duval St., though Tim & I were home (relatively) early that night.

We also made sure to take in all the (non beverage related) sights:

The Hemingway House, complete with all 40+ (some of whom have six toes) cats.

The southernmost point in America.

The Key West Cemetery where you can only be buried if you were born in Key West. Had some fun last words grave markers:

The butterfly conservatory:

And the Mel Fisher museum. We also made it to Sunset Pier where every night turns into a bazaar/freak show, complete with beautiful sunsets,

and trained cats.

We spent our last night eating the delicious local seafood and playing shuffleboard.

One other restaurant that you have to go to if you are in Key West is El Siboney. They had the best Cuban food I have ever eaten. It might qualify as somewhat of a dive, but it was awesome. OK, two other restaurants because you also have to eat a nutella crepe at La Creperie.

And while we hated for the trip to be done, it was time to go home. Probably just in time too so I can work off all the beer and great food! Can't wait for next year's trip - Hans & I get to chose the destination!