Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Good Word

Although I haven't been tagged, I'm picking up "The Bloody Good Words Meme: thirteen words (in no particular order) without which life would be ineffably dull" from Hedgewizard's Diary.

1. undulate - Mr. E introduced me to this word, early in our marriage. Although it means hilly or lumpy, I always associate it with him.
2. snuggleupagus - not to be confused with Snuffleufagus, the character from Sesame Street. A home-made word referring to someone you are snuggled up to.
3. acrimony - you can just feel the bitterness when you say it....
4. onomatopoeia - I learned this word when I was in third grade. Thus began my love of very long words, which led to my reading the chemicals listed on the sides of cereal boxes, which in turn led to my becoming a chemist.
5. dalliance - it even sounds flirty.
6. liberal - in the sense "tolerant of views differing from one's own; broad-minded; specifically, not orthodox or conventional"
7. plethora - from one of my favorite quotable movies "Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?"
8. mirth - what would life be like without it?
9. isthmus - again, I love the way my mouth feels when I say it.
10. lollygag - from another favorite quotable movie "You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you?"
11. caprice - a Jane word that I totally love.
12. effervesce - what's life without a little bubbly? Of course I prefer mine in the form of Coca-cola.
13. acquaintance - a totally underused word. How else can you describe someone you've met, but don't know very well? Or you don't care for the person enough to call them "friend"?

Friday, October 26, 2007

First Frost

We had our first frost last night. It's almost a celebration here. Something that I watch for. A signal of the end of the gardening year (except for all the overwintering veggies). It's time to run out with the pruners and clean the garden up for the winter. The trees that haven't turned and lost their leaves will start doing so now. Another couple of weeks and they will all be bare. Thing 2 looked out the window this morning and, with a smile on his face, exclaimed "Frost!" You'd have thought it had snowed.

There is something definite about first frost. Tender plants wither and turn to mush. The grass is all white. Tiny ice crystals in different forms beg to be investigated quick! before they've melted. The crunch, crunch of the grass under your feet. Those really cool tall crystals that lift up the dirt or mulch, ready to be picked up, measured, then smashed by small feet. The days are sunny and crisp. Real fall is here.

With last frost, you're never certain until it's a couple of weeks later, and then you can say "I guess last frost was last Thursday," or whatever. It's just not the same.

A few more frosts will need to happen before I dig up the horseradish. I'll probably pull the fall carrots this weekend. A little frost makes them oh-so sweet. It looks like we're in for a run of non-rainy weather, so it's a perfect time to get all those yard chores done.

Today we're out to a farm to pick our pumpkins. I'm planning on doing a cat for mine. If you want to try out your design before you slice, check out this nifty tool: Pumpkin Simulator

I'm hoping to also find some pie pumpkins to freeze. I found out last Sunday that I'm doing Thanksgiving dinner this year. The last time I did that, I'm suprised we didn't get sick - the turkey was totally undercooked.

We take turns being at my parents' place or Mr. E's parents'. It's the inlaws turn, but their oven is broken, and since they're living it up in Hawaii right now, they won't have a chance to get it fixed before turkey day. So, I'll do the honors. Thing 2 has asked for lots of stuffing, and cranberry fluff, a salad made with crushed cranberries, apples, grapes, nuts, and Cool-Whip. I have no excuse other than it's a tradition. {hanging my head in shame}

Mr. E doesn't like turkey, or pumpkin pie, or cranberries, for that matter. Thanksgiving is totally lost on him. Poor guy. I'm hoping to try a heritage turkey this year. I hear that people that don't like turkey, sometimes like heritage birds. The trick is finding one....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I just got the natural gas bill, and it said that this last month was on average 5 degrees colder than last year. I think the weather gods saw that and tried to make up for it all at once. In a bizarre change of weather, we suddenly have sun and VERY warm temps for this time of year. 78 degrees!

I went out to plant my garlic in a sweatshirt, but with all the digging and loosening of the soil, I turned into a puddle. So I changed into a 3/4 length sleeve knit shirt, and was working in the shade, and still was too hot. I finally had to dig out a t-shirt.

So with all the changing going on, and in and out of the house, I only got half the garlic planted. It's still 40 cloves, but I still need to plant the softneck garlic.

I love garlic. I grow Music, which is a potent, hardneck variety, and Inchelium Red, which is the softneck. I tried to plant them on tight spacings last year, but they didn't do so well. This year I dug in lots of compost, and planted 10 across my 4-foot bed, and made each row 9 inches apart. I'm going to mulch them with a lawn clipping/shredded leaf mix this year since we're supposed to have a cold winter. Hopefully that will also keep the weeds at bay, as well.

Music keeps forever in my garage, and I braid the softneck, which lasts until spring hanging in my kitchen. I haven't purchased garlic in at least five years.

Thanks to those who have posted comments! I'm not ignoring you. Things have been a little hectic lately.

My friends and I have been trying to solve the Emerald City Search. We're not having much luck with it. Every place we've checked out has yielded nothing. Waaaaayyyyy too much time spent puzzling it out. I finally had to give it a break yesterday as the laundry was piled high, the house a disaster, and bread needed to be made. After a marathon day, I felt I could take it a little easy today, but tomorrow will be another busy one.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tears in my eyes

I always wonders if the lectures ever get through to my kids. I think something made it through.

Thing 2 informed me that a group of kids from his class are forming a "Green Club", with the goals of getting the school to recycle more and planting trees and flowers. They're kind of all over the place right now, with ideas of veggie beds, worm bins, and all sorts of things.

I praised him for wanting to enact positive change for his school, and printed out some information from different green school campaigns. I advised him to take some simple steps at first, and build from there. I don't want them to get frustrated dealing with the bureaucracy of the school system. He also brought a catalogue of drought-resistant plants to school.

Backpack stuffed, ideas bursting from his head, I sent my little environmental advocate off to school.

Now if I could just get him to turn off the lights when he leaves the room....

Thursday, October 18, 2007


We are expecting our first windstorm of the season today. Depending on how close the low comes to us, we could have wind gusts of 50mph. Right now it is calm. A time to get all the laundry done, and pick up anything outside that will fly away.

I love windstorms. Granted, I live in a relatively treeless area, so power outages are generally short lived, and I have never experienced a tree going through my house. Our big windstorm last year left us without power for 10 hours or so. It went out just after the boys went to bed, and was on by the time they got up. My parent's house was out for 10 days.

I enjoy the feeling of hunkering down, not being able to watch the TV, or mess about on the computer. A fire burns in the wood stove. Thing 2 makes a "nest" of blankets and pillows, laying on the floor in front of the stove, book in hand. Candles are burning, and I heat water for tea or hot chocolate on the wood stove. We play games while there's light enough to see, and tell stories when there isn't. Mr. E has a few ongoing stories that the boys love. It used to be Captain Smile and Mr. Hurt, or Agent Cobra and Agent Viper. Mostly they love Willard stories - an obese seagull that floats off the ferry dock next to the McDonald's in Seattle, that often gets mistaken for a buoy.

I alway feel like I have to get prepared whenever there's an "event" like this, whether wind or snow. It never fails that when I am prepared, nothing happens, and when I'm not - well, that's when we get 10" of snow*. There's enough in the freezer and the pantry that we could last for a month if we had to, but it always seems like I'm that one magic ingredient short for this or that. Ah, well. One of these days I need to learn how to cook by putting together the things I have instead of going strictly by a recipe.

So, off to get "prepared" and ensure that this isn't anything more than a light blow.

*Ok, I can drive in the snow, sort of. I live in a really hilly area (100-250ft elevation per mile driven) with no guardrails, pathetic plowing, and a bunch of nuts in their SUVs driving over the speed limit, not caring which lane they're in.

Later -

Looks like we had a 40mph gust. Not bad for the first storm of the season. Lost power for about 3 hours this afternoon. Got it back just in time to make dinner. All's well, but the backyard looks a mess.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World Food Day

I missed the Blog for the Environment Day. I was busy catching up with the house after taking a relaxing weekend at a friend-of-a-friend's cabin on an island out in Puget Sound. But more on that later.

Last night I caught the tail end of a Nova program on epigenetics. I was amazed at the ability of the environment to affect not just my own life, but the lives of my grandchildren, even if they have not been exposed to the same environment.

That's not very clear. Let me put it this way. Researchers found out that males exposed to famine during late childhood, had a four times greater chance of having grandchildren with diabetes.

In other words, choices that we make with regards to health habits (smoking, drugs), pesticides that we are exposed to, famine or too much food, has an effect not only on our own bodies, but of our children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, even if they have not been exposed to the same drugs, pesticides, or food allotments. That cigarette is not only hurting you, but it's hurting your yet unborn children's children, as is that Big Mac! Talk about a legacy.

Pesticides are one of the things that alters the epigenome. I have a degree in chemistry, and the more I look at all the stuff that they're dumping on the food I eat, the more questions I am asking myself. Do I really want to trust that this food has been sprayed with chemicals deemed "safe" by the EPA/FDA? Shouldn't I trust that my government will not allow something that is bad for me on my food?

I used to drink diet soda with Nutrasweet (aspartame) every day. I don't think I drank a lot of it. Maybe a two or three cans a day. One day, back in 1990, I started getting horrible headaches. It felt as though someone was jabbing a knitting needle in between the lobes of my brain. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and this left me in tears in the middle of work. After a couple of months of this, I started breaking out in hives on my neck. Finally, a co-worker showed me an article that attributed my headaches to Nutrasweet. Other people had reported having the same reaction to it. This was sold to the public as being "safe". It was fast-tracked throught the FDA as a replacement for saccharin.

From Wikipedia:
"After initial rejection by the FDA due to studies linking it to brain cancer, FDA commissioner Arthur Hayes approved aspartame for human consumption in 1981. In 1983, Hayes quit the FDA under allegiations of accepting corporate gifts and joined Searle's public-relations firm as senior medical advisor."

Searle is the company that manufactured Nutrasweet before it was bought out by Monsanto. Awfully fishy, don't you think?

Am I going to trust our government agencies to decide what is safe in or on my food anymore? No way. And that not only goes for pesticides, but the chemicals that go in my food, GMOs, and how animals that I eat are treated.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

No more strawberries

Well, I have called a moratorium on purchasing conventionally grown strawberries. If you haven't heard, the FDA is allowing the use of Methyl Iodide on plants. Mmmm. Tasty. Just what you want to feed to your kids.

How many field workers do you suppose will be sickened by this stuff? Read the recommended protective gear on the Methyl Iodide link. Supplied air, full-facepiece respirator? How many field workers have you seen wearing one of those? How many strawberry farmers do you suppose have one (or will get one?) They'll just load it into their tractor sprayers, set off, and heaven help them when the wind is behind them.

It's getting insane what they put on or in food these days. It's getting to the point where I don't want to buy anything from the store!

Take bread, for example. How long does store-bought bread last for you before it goes all moldy? Maybe a week? Even with all the anti-fungal chemicals and preservatives. I've had my homemade bread last for two (before we ate it all) without going moldy. I realize that a bakery has prime conditions for mold, but my insides don't need fungicide, thank you. Maybe they should do something about their operating conditions, instead. I can't think that the working conditions are that healthy if they allow that much mold in their bakeries.

Have I said that making bread is easy? Let me tell you again. Once you get the hang of it, it's easier than pie. You get a light upper-body workout, and can take your agressions out on the dough rather than... well, whatever you take your agression out on. Your house smells wonderful, and nothing beats the taste of fresh-baked bread. I'm tweaking my recipes, and will put them online in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gender Bonding

Ugh. Mr. E SO owes me. Two soccer games in rain and wind, and 50-degree weather. Brrrrr. Mr. E gets back today from his guys' weekend at the ocean.

Most husbands around here take a week or a long weekend and go fishing or hunting with their buddies. Ever since they were old enough to drive, Mr. E and friends go for a long weekend and play games. I'm not talking Monopoly, here, or even poker. These are brainy strategy games they don't carry at Target or Toys R Us. Like Torres, Ticket to Ride, and Puerto Rico.

It started as a weekend getaway at a friend's parents' vacation house, moved to another, then out to a rented house at Ocean Shores, then to Moclips, and now to a friend's house near Ocean Shores. They used to eat Cheetos and Squirt, and breakfast was Cap'n Crunch cereal. Sometime in their mid-thirties, they came home feeling so sick, they decided they couldn't do that anymore, and have since substituted real food, except for the Squirt. No heavy drinking (no drinking at all until quite recently). No chasing girls. It was in our "marriage contract" that he would go on this outing with his friends once a year. I suppose I'd rather he did that than some other "entertainments" men find to do.

When they moved the weekend to the ocean, they started building sand castles. Nothing artistic. Put together a civil engineer, a contractor, and hand shovels to four other guys, and they build a fortress. Their goal: to keep the tide back for as long as possible. They start early, because it has to be finished before high tide. Sometimes they're so successful, parts of the fort are still around the next day, but they don't like that. Someone might damage their car driving around on the beach at night.

It's my turn for a girls' weekend next!

Friday, October 5, 2007

New Look

Okay, so I hated that old skin. This is much better. Nice and green, and my eyes don't pop out from the pink and orange clashing. I'm sure you're thankful, too.

Got quite a bit done 'round the homestead today. Fixed the light sensor on the lamppost so that it actually turns off during the day. This turned out to be much more work than originally planned.

First off, the blasted screws were stuck. This led to an emergency trip to the hardware store and the library. Once you're out, you're out, right? And once you're at the store looking for WD-40, you remember all the other stuff you need to get, like fertilizer for the lawn.

Being that it's a gorgemous day (yes, you read that right), we walked to the library, which took a little extra time, but I saved in gas, right? The library was a really quick trip. Thing 1 and Thing 2 had their shiny new library cards in hand, and were dying to use them.

Back home and I sprayed the heck out of the screws. After a time pulling out the squash vines and weeding a bit, I went back to try the screws again. Didn't budge. After 30 minutes of prying, banging, and cussing, I managed to get the screws loose and the top off. But then I couldn't get the blasted twisty-thingies off the wires. Thankfully Thing 2 was there to help out, running back and forth to the garage for wire cutters, new twisty-thingies, and his brother. They took turns holding the lamp while I rewired the thing. Ta-Da! It worked (Thank the stars)! So now I won't be wasting electricity during the day anymore.

How much could one lamp use? Let's see: Average 12 hours (that it has been on when it shouldn't) x 60 watts x 365 days = 262.8 kW. Yikes! I need to get a CFL bulb in there soon.

After that wonderful sense of accomplishment in the field of wiring, I headed back to the field of - well, the field. Ripped out all of the tomatoes, unmangled*, stacked and stored the cages, pulled up all 400 feet of soaker hoses and stored them, and pulled more weeds. Thing 1 pulled up all 8 1/2 lbs of carrots for me, which I washed and stored.

All that fresh air and exercise wiped me out, so we went out to eat. I'm off to bed soon, with Henry David (Thoreau, dear. The book, not the dead guy. That would be really gross, whilst somehow keeping with the Halloween spirit. I'll pass.).

*Mr. E ran over my tomato cages with the lawn mower, claiming that there wasn't enough room between veg beds. Which is all very suspicious, since we measured that very carefully when we put them in, giving him two extra inches just to be sure.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Is there anybody out there?

Just curious. Anybody out there actually reading my trials as a stay-at-home mom?

A trying day today. The boys were sent to the principal for fighting. Grrr. They never hit each other at home. It's been so long, I can't remember the last time it happened. I don't understand the agression that comes out at school, especially Thing 1.

I'm tired of lecturing them. My heart breaks. I've always taught them that brothers have a special bond that's there for life, and to never raise their hand against the other. I thought the lesson worked. Til today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Winding Down

I took the opportunity to take a few photos while it wasn't raining. We have four sugar maples which are simply gorgeous this time of year. They always turn one at a time, from north to south. I can't wait for the day we finally get to tap them for homemade maple syrup. It's a couple years off yet, at least.

I think I know where they came up with the idea of Shrek's ears. I have no idea what these are called, but they look cute on my bird feeder roof.

Monday I pulled out the rest of the tomatoes off the vines and started pulling them out of the ground. I found many more acorn squash that were hiding amongst the vines which are succombing to our fall weather. It was a challenge, dashing out between downpours. I'm afraid I've left a mess which will have to wait until tomorrow or, more likely, Friday. It's supposed to be nice then, and I have a laundry list of things to get accomplished. Like weeding the spinach, planting the garlic, cleaning up the veg beds, seeding cover crop, and fixing the lamppost.

I'm laughing now at my post less than a month ago, where I thought I'd only get 125lbs of produce from the garden. Now I'm thinking I'll get something like 175lbs.

I made a dent yesterday in the tomatoes that were all over my kitchen. I made four pints of pizza sauce. We'll see how they turn out. They tasted awfully lemony, and a little thin. I dumped in twice the amount of oregano and four times the garlic powder called for, and it still wasn't enough.

It's hard for me to judge what things will taste like after they've been canned and mellowing for a few weeks. The strawberry jam I made in June tasted way too sweet right away, but has since gotten better. I'm assuming that the salsa I made will be the same way.

Note to self on the strawberry jam: Make at least two batches, as Thing 1 really loves it for breakfast!

Also note to self: Be very careful when carrying gravy to the table! I made the second-biggest mess of my life the other day. I was getting dinner on the table, and was taking the cream gravy, putting a spoon in it as I went. I was right next to the table, when the gravy dish dropped right out of my hand! WHAM! it hit the floor, right side up and EXPLODED! Gravy flew everywhere! On the table leg, gobs on the braided rug, all over my cloth-cushioned chair, 12 feet down the hall, and almost to the ceiling up the wall 10 feet away. Somehow it managed to miss the clock on the wall, and another chair in the corner. Wow. It was impressive. If I wasn't in such a dither trying to get it all cleaned up before it stained, I would've taken a picture.