Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving

Hi everyone! Hoping you had an excellent Thanksgiving. We had Tim's parents in for the week and had tons of fun. They came on Monday night so while the kids were at school on Tuesday, we went to the D Day Memorial in Bedford. We were the only people there for the first tour of the day so we received a private one.


It was as impressive as the last time we went. I can't wait to go in the spring when the 116 cherry trees are in bloom.

There was a forecast of snow on Wednesday, plus it was an early dismissal, meaning the kids would be doing nothing at school, so we kept them home. They were treated with big , fluffy flakes throughout the morning.




But from this, in a matter of hours, the roads were clear and the snow was melting. Talk about the perfect snowstorm! So we went to the Art museum and saw the current displays, which were, umm, interesting.


The next day and a half were a frenzy of cooking and eating and merriment. There really is little I love more than cooking while enjoying everyone's company.



Eion had his annual Thanksgiving hamburger while the rest of us enjoyed more traditional fare. Doug and Nancy flew home Friday and Tim was off to work Saturday, leaving the kids and me free to decorate for Christmas. It was a week that truly makes one thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ATL Weekend

My roommate and friend from college, Sara, is moving to England for a few years. So she decided to have a going away pub crawl/party and sent out invites, via facebook, to all of her southeasternly located friends. My darling husband agreed to watch over the wee ones and I was off for a weekend in Atlanta!

We went to a couple of fun microbrew pubs and sampled their wares.





The second location had cornhole and giant Jenga!


While Sara was the only person in our group I knew, she had, predictably, made friends with an fun, open group of people. I had no problem making friends. And better yet, none of these people knew my best stories. It was like open mic night.

And it is always wonderful to see an old friend and find out that even if you don't get together nearly often enough, it is just like old times.


And it was nice too that when I returned home, my kids, not at all accustomed to me leaving, were all super excited to see me. I felt loved in many states.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fluffers Meets the 3rd Grade

Eion was the student of the week for his class, an honor which includes the option of bringing in a pet on Friday. While there was universal disappointment that I had not brought a chicken, the guinea pig was well received. For her part, Fluffers dealt with the crush of admirers without any attempts to flee. One of the little girls said Fluffy was the best pet brought in yet, which made Eion a really happy guy!




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reality Check?

Morrigan, who desperately wants a dog, with the neighbor's dog Hannah.

Morrigan came home from school today and said the Goodwill had come that day and the 8th graders had a "reality check." What, you might ask, is that? The students had to talk about where they pictured themselves at 30. Our student, you'll be happy to know, plans to be a tax lawyer, married and with one child. We're good so far. It makes sense to think about where you are going, how to get there, and the impact of your decisions today have on that path. Though as an aside, I will say this point may have been lost on her peers as a boy, whose parents I know well, described himself as married to a stripper. Not sure what his job entailed.

From there, we go a bit sideways in my our-family-is-a-bunch-of-freaks mentality.

They played a game designed to touch on budgeting and to demonstrate the impact of bad choices. But the parameters were all out of whack. Among the things they were required to work into their budget were student loan debt, a car note, and a mortgage. I'll concede the last one. It is tough not to have a mortgage, especially at 30. My main objection, however, was the complete subservience to a culture of debt. The ingraining of the idea that indebtedness was ok, normal, and you should plan to have lots of it. The notion that student loans are inevitable. Never mentioning that one can pay cash for a car. (We did it this spring and let me tell you how much more you think about that purchase when you are writing a check as opposed to financing it.)

I asked Morrigan if she said anything. She tried to fight the good fight, letting the facilitators know she was planning to save up and pay cash for her car, get scholarships and work her way through school, but she was told that everyone had to have debt.

Nice message people.

Naturally, I was ramping up to call the school and register my complaints but I was quickly shot down by one 13 year old who deemed such actions "embarrassing." I may yet talk to the principal, mostly to advocate for presenting the other side, that one can save up for the things you want. That debt limits your options and freedom. All these kids have a chance to start out clean and not make the mistakes we all made. How many people do you think would have been better off since the market crashed in 2008 if they had been debt free with an emergency fund, rather that mortgaged up to their eyeballs and living beyond their means? 

My own silver lining was when Morrigan told me, "Don't worry Mom, I know you don't have to borrow money." Guess if I can't indoctrinate the world, I'll just start here at home.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Release The Hounds

Earlier in the week, the forecast for today was cold with the chance of rain. Seeing as Eion's Boy Scout pack was planning to meet outside, I preemptively offered our basement as an alternate location.

They had a speaker come and talk to the boys about the process of writing an article. He did a mock interview with Eion about urban chicken farming. These pictures do not accurately convey the level of chaos that he had to endure as the guest.



After discussing the chickens, mainly a recounting by Eion of the many deaths involved, the boys headed out to see them in person. This part of the meeting was not enjoyed by the chickens.



We herded them all back in to finish up but eventually had to give up on any semblance of order. I told them to go to E's room, arm themselves, and head into the street for battle. Not surprisingly, this portion of the event was quite well received. Maggie cracked me up when, having seen the melee from her room, she grabbed a weapon and got into the mix.



I will say that if it keeps me from being in the park on a cold day, I'll have them over any day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Can She Do It?

As always, I am moderately, read: completely, obsessed with completing my Christmas shopping prior to Thanksgiving. There is little I hate more than stores in December. Though it is somewhat ironic that the majority of my shopping is online, so remind me why I care?

Anyway, I realized that we are only a few weeks away from Christmas card sending as well. Partially for their convenience and mostly for my own, I opted to make a collage card with pictures from the year. You'll all get to see it after I send it out, but for now, just know it includes this picture:

Ho ho ho! I mean mwaw ha ha!

I Have to Think This Only Happens to Us


So Tim and I are walking on the Greenway when we approached an area where we've recently heard, but not seen, a rooster. To our surprise, he was out and about today. He is quite pretty, so I snapped a picture and we headed on our way. 

He started walking after us, which was cute. Then he started running after us in a very attacky way. We did not have to run away but did have to turn and challenge the bird. Really, it has to be only us who end up in these situations!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Portrait of a Young Girl Skulking at Cotillion


Maggie has pretty much had it with Cotillion. In some ways, I am with her. She wants to learn to ballroom dance and was irked when they had to dance the Cuban Shuffle instead. But for the moment, she is still attending. Attending in anger at least for today.

I made the mistake of telling her she had to curl her hair and helping her do just that. As we can see, it turned out lovely. Her hair is just to the point it needs some styling. But not in her eyes. The ten minutes of curling led to at least three crying outbursts and sullen attitude in general. You're welcome Maggie.

Friday, November 7, 2014

It Was a Pretty Good Day

We haven't gone all political in a while so let's have at because, let's face it, it's been a pretty good week for conservatives! Not to mention, I have to be happy now before the Republicans go in and cave like they always do.

We were out most of Tuesday evening and hadn't looked in on the election results after the polls closed. When we arrived home, we turned on the election coverage and, to my delight, the screen was awash in red. One after another the Republican victories piled up. No one, anywhere, thought the Senate would go +8 to the right. (With the possibility of +9 once the run off in Louisiana is over.)

So what were the best victories? Well, these are the ones I like most.

Scott Walker


Walker won re-election as Wisconsin's governor by about 5 points. I love him because he, unlike so many Republicans, went into office and did what he said he was going to do. He created a surplus in his state by tackling government employee unions. Even when facing a recall election, he never backed down. Every conservative should be modeling Walker.

Tim Scott


Tim Scott is the first black Senator elected in the South since reconstruction (in either party.) Do you know who supported him? Those racist Tea Party types. Those racist Republicans elected him by a 15.5 point margin. 

Mia Love


Another darling of the Tea Party, Mia Love will be the first black Republican congresswoman. And the first Mormon. She won her seat handily in Utah.

Cory Gardner


I loved that Cory Gardner won because the main tactic used by his opponent was the ridiculous War On Women. Gardner, in his campaign, called for birth control to be made available over the counter. Yet his opponent ran ads saying Gardner wanted to ban birth control. It was delightful that such blatant fear mongering didn't work.

Elise Stefanik


Elise is from New York and is notable because she is the youngest woman ever elected to the House. And she won by more than 20 points!

Joni Ernst


In another first, Joni is the first female Senator from Iowa. I loved that she refused to sit down with newspaper editorial boards, telling them simply, you're not going to support me, why should I waste my time with you? Another tactic more conservatives should take.

Ed Gillespie


Well, this one actually, as of today, was a loss. But an interesting loss. A few months back, I actually had to google who the Republican senatorial candidate was in Virginia. And I live here! I think Virginia, having gone for Obama in the last two elections, was written off. No one was even watching this race or thought Ed had a chance. But it turned out to be a nail biter, infinitely closer than anyone predicted. In the silver lining category, his narrow defeat by Mark Warner greatly diminishes Warner's chances as a VP nomination in 2016. Which we like, because we're never forgiving him for that Obamacare vote.

So what do I want these winners, and their many cohorts, to do in Washington? My short list includes:

1) Reforming the tax code and greatly decreasing the IRS' power. They were weaponized against conservatives in the past 6 years. I want them de-fanged so they can't use their power to punish people for their political views, in either party.

2) Can we do something about the NSA spying please? This should be a bi-partisan issue. When the Patriot Act was passed, all sorts of liberals complained that it would be used unfairly against Americans. I, along with many others, thought that would never happen. Well you were right! So can we work together to un-do this awful thing?

3) Decrease the size of government. I know, makes me laugh too. It won't happen under either party, but a girl can dream.

4) Decrease regulations. The EPA and its ilk are an absolute menace. They need to be scaled back.

5) Repeal Obamacare. This legislation is highly unpopular and destructive. I don't know about you, but our premiums have only gone up since its passage, and at a faster rate. It promised a $2,500 per family cost savings. Clearly it failed.

6) Stop bombing ISIS. Seeing as Tim and I are the only two people in the country of this opinion, this is highly unlikely.

Now steering the ship back to reality and out of Katie's Conservative Fantasyland, what realistically might happen is gridlock, which is ok too since when they are "getting things done," it is not the kind of things I want done.

Now back to your regular Big Top programming.

PS Good job Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC. One more step in ending the failed War on Drugs!

Meet the Newest Members of Ramshackle Chicken Coops of America!


With the Peeps under threat, we had to build a run. Looking at all sorts of thrown together coops and runs online, we thought, surely we can do that. And if by that you mean construct an equally ramshackle set up of our own, we totally could.


I am eternally grateful that all of this is safely contained in a backyard no one can see. It is an eyesore, but the girls are safe!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New South Roanoke Circle Article!


Hole In The Wall Lunch Bunch (aka HITWLB, The World’s Worst Acronym)

Back in the day, before we had an acronym, it all started something like this.

Amy: Are you playing tennis today? Because we are planning to go to lunch on Melrose.
Me: No need to drive out, I am headed back to The Bubble after.
Amy: No Katie, we’re going someplace specific, El Charley’s.
Me: ????

My confusion was not without merit. While I had passed our intended location many times, it did not appear to be a venue that served lunch. But desiring companionship over staying in my comfort zone, I arrived in the Jeep, top down, dressed in pink tennis gear and pigtails. I was also early. After surveying the scene, I determined this HAD to be the wrong place and waited in the parking lot.

But finally, it was just too hot to stay outside, and I made my way in. The gentleman behind the counter looked at me quizzically, as though he wasn’t sure I was in the right place either. There were only two small tables, no readily apparent place to order, and wares for sale all over that did not indicate food service, like candles and baptismal suits. But when I mentioned I was there to dine, he waved me over to a table to wait for the rest of the crew. I clandestinely sent picture texts appealing for a change of venue.

My concerns were quickly dismissed once flanked by my lunch companions and we settled in for what turned out to be some excellent Mexican food. My taco fillings were pretty standard, chicken or the like, but Fiona, ever the culinary adventurer, braved the beef tongue. What was lacking in fancy was more than compensated for in delicious.

Emboldened by having found a diamond in the rough, we were off on luncheon adventures in establishments of all types, sampling a wide variety of ethnic cuisines all over Roanoke. And not only did we get to try new foods, we’ve learned all sorts of life lessons.

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover (Or a restaurant by its strip mall.)
Tim joined us the day we went to Wonju Korean Restaurant (5524 Williamson.) As we turned into the dated strip mall, he wondered aloud if we were in the right place. But sure enough, tucked back by the beer brewing store and the hookah bar is a place that makes awesome Dolsot Bibimbap (bunch of stuff in a sizzling stone pot topped with an egg.) Their kimchi is spicy and delicious too.  It also had lots of seating, something I didn’t fully appreciate as…

Chairs Are More Optional Than You Think.
Call me spoiled, but when someone suggests a restaurant for lunch, verifying they have seating never comes to mind. Never used to anyway. After enjoying a variety of parking lots, parks, and the occasional homeless guest, we started calling in advance, a mostly successful tactic. In the case of Cliff’s Jammerican (1025 Orange,) the definition of having tables and chairs was exactly one of each. And the table had a tv on it. Luckily, the jerk chicken and oxtail more than made up for the lack of seating. And if you are so inclined, there is a laundry mat next door. Go multi-tasking!

Trust Your Waiter/Waitress.
Sometimes you are presented with a menu containing a dazzling array of dishes with names that mean nothing to you and descriptions that inspire caution. Let go, put yourself in their hands, and order the waitress’ favorite item. I ate some really good pad thai at City Corner 2 (3005 Plantation) but had to watch with envy as Fiona, smart enough to be brave, had the far superior, and recommended by the staff, short ribs.

That Last Piece Of Advice Is Not Absolute.
CafĂ© Vina (2942 Hershberger,) has some of the best spring rolls in town but when Noelle tried to determine the difference between the regular and red pork, she was  told that the red pork is red, which, in the end was not super helpful. Trying a completely different tactic, she asked what was the best item on the menu and was informed “all good.” Bringing us to our next topic…

Be Prepared For Some Language Issues.
Ann, the sole vegetarian of the group, found out on more than one occasion that when you are told, “Yes, we can make a vegetarian burrito” the more accurate translation is “We will make a burrito with vegetables. It will also contain pork.” [Locations redacted.]

Become A Regular.
One of the absolute jems we’ve found is Viet Sub (1403 Williamson.) It is a spartan, but spotless, Vietnamese sandwich shop that serves the best bahn mi in town (and great pho and iced coffee.) A sweet couple owns the place and if you’re luck, you get a glimpse of their baby, who hangs in the back with dad, the chef. Most of the orders are take out, so they don’t mind us staying way too long and sometimes laughing way too loud. [We offered to have the owners in the picture with us, but they declined, much to our disappointment!]

Looking back on that first outing, mostly my own apprehension, the whole situation seems laughable. Most of these places are owned and run by recent immigrants on a tight start up budget. And that sometimes means you will be in cinder block building or the back of a convenience store or next to an unlikely neighbor. But having found great people and food in all those places, we can’t wait to see the next hole in the wall. It has become almost a competition among the Lunch Bunch to find the most out of the way and unexpected locations before the rest of Roanoke discovers they are there.


Despite the occasional fail, including the place that turned out to be a Kung Fu studio, not a restaurant, it has been a blast. Get out and live your own Roanoke version of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. You’ll never settle for a gourmet hamburger again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Devil's Marbleyard

The kids did not have school for election day, the weather was forecast to be beautiful, and Tim was off work. Sounded like the perfect day for a hike. I have wanted to go to Devil's Marbleyard for years. Suggested it to Tim and decided last night to go.

Then the kids got wind of it and the fussing started. Last night it was "No! I have too much homework!" Too bad people. We are going. The hike was not far away, wouldn't take long, and the kids were full of shit anyway.

Then we got to this morning. Maggie had an early check up appointment, then we were leaving. Both girls mysteriously discovered they had left their sneakers at school. No shoes, no hike, right? Not a chance ladies. I can fix this. Tim took Maggie to her appointment and Morrigan and I set off to Dick's Sporting Goods. $260 later, we had a few new pairs of smartwool socks and hiking boots. Take that children.


We drove about 45 minutes to Natural Bridge and set off on the trail.


True to the forecast, it was about as pretty as it could get. The trail was not especially hard but was rather rocky. As we were hiking to a bunch of large boulders, this shouldn't have been a surprise.


Along the way, Morrigan decided she was done and she was going to wait for us on the trail. Ok then.


When you reach the destination, it is a slope full of gigantic granite boulders with a spectacular view. 



Rather than take the path back down, we opted to scramble down the boulders. Eion, who rallied from insisting he would perish from thirst earlier, was the best at it, beating us all down the mountain.





Maggie and I were slower, but everyone made it down intact!


After that, it was the promised kitchy diner lunch! I had instructed the kids that they needed to follow the rules of eating at such an establishment - order fried food.




In spite of earlier protests, walk outs, and general complaining, the day ended with all smiles, just like I knew it would!