Wednesday, December 31, 2008

For Your New Year's Eve-rtainment

Top 10 words that sound funny with a Minnesota accent

Yes, my blog-darlings. I'm spending New Year's Eve doing what I do pretty much every days' Eve...surfing the 'net, watching mindless TV, reading a book and whatever else for the moment.

Mensa Boy is deadlining tonight. He said he was going to go to bed early tonight...10 o'clock...because he needs to go in tomorrow. But it's 8:40 already and he isn't even home yet, so I have no idea if he's going to make the 10 p.m. bedtime or not.

I'm actually quite good with this. We aren't into parties anyway.

Today I found out the results of my 2008 NY resolution. I resolved a year ago to not salt my food until I'd eaten half of it. If it still "needed" salt, I'd do it then. Unless it was something like fries. Fries have to be salted upfront. At the time I decided that, my blood pressure was 120/70. Good. Always had been. I just decided to go salt-less because my friend Sarah pretty much never salts her food and I wanted to be just like her! Actually, no. But it seemed like a good idea. So every time I went to the doctor, which is about 3 or 4 times each year, my bp got a little lower and a little lower. Today it was a whopping 96/68! HOLY BUCKETS! Oh. And I don't miss the salt at all, either.

For this next year I plan to stop chewing those hardened little edges of skin next to my fingernails. I don't do it a lot...I mean people don't have to worry about shaking my hand or anything...but I still do it and I have raggedy cuticles as a result. So I've decided, when I notice myself wanting to chew on those? I'm going to put cuticle cream on them. I've put little pots and tubes of cream around and we'll see how it goes. I'll probably develop this fetish for that stuff then! I'll be excusing myself from conversations to go hide in a corner somewhere so I can dip into the cuticle cream tin. I'll get all nervous when the cream starts to run low...wondering if I can make it til the next paycheck when I can afford to go buy more...maybe I should re-think this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pink Bush Rose

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
I took this with my faithful D40 on September 30 in my neighbor Mary's back yard. It was a horribly dark photo...severely underexposed and grainy (noisy) looking.

For the past few days my photographic mentor, Greg Schneider, has been helping me with some Photoshop techniques for another project I've been working on. The main thing he's taught me is how to select an area in a photo and highlight just that. Basically, draw a circle around that part and bring the lights up a bit. The hardest part has been learning how to use the selection tool to make the selection. After that? Piece of cake.

I don't know if this brings this photo into any sort of higher-quality range or not, but I like it, and I guess that's what really matters, isn't it? (Ah...just got an email back. He likes the photo but thinks the background is still too dark for his taste. I can tell he's going to do something else. And that's why he's the MENTOR and I'm the MENTEE!)

Today I went to the 5:45 a.m. Jazzercise class. It was odd getting out of class and having it still be dark out, but it was a great way to start the day. After that I ran home for a shower and some more desk work, and then up to have a massage and do some errands. A nap in the afternoon and starting in a new book followed that. So it's been a great day. But I'm a little tired. And the stiffness is starting to kick in. Time for a nice hot soak in Epsom Salts.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Epic Touchdown Celebrations

Two Tone Spritz

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
For all my whining about these stupid cookies, I did have this little accident with them that turned out somewhat pleasant. I had gotten through the green dough, which I used for the Christmas trees, and there is always some in the press that just doesn't come out. I colored the next batch red to do these whatever-they-are (poinsettias maybe?) when I got down to the last dozen or so of those, I got this result.

For the last few, I pulled the dough out of the press, made snakes and then shaped them into initials for Mensa Boy, Nate, Taylor and Erin.

So the annual Spritz ordeal is over. And the cookies taste okay, despite the fact that I had to flavor them with almond extract when I ran out of vanilla.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Instrument of Torture

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
I don't know why I do this every year. Actually, I do. My husband loves Spritz cookies. I call them "the damn spritz." I always remember that they are his favorite cookies. Then after I make them, swearing (internally) like a sailor, I find out his favorite cookie is Melting Moments. You'd think after 26 years...sheesh!
The Melting Moments are much easier to make, too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mystery Hill

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
My guys can never resist places like this. They are absolutely terrible about tourist traps. When they saw this place outside Boone, it immediately took them back to The Cosmos in the Black Hills. They just HAD to see it. I thought I had an "out."
"I'll just stay in the car with the dog," I volunteered.
A few minutes later they trooped out to announce that the dog was welcome too. Sheesh!

We did this on the 23rd and it was the only time my camera left its' bag the entire time. Nate's girlfriend Erin shot this for us.

This morning I got up bright and early and hit the 8:15 Jazzercise class in Fort Mill. It's wonderful to go there. The floor is so good on my knees and feet. After class we went to breakfast and then I stopped at another friend's house to chat for a few minutes. The rest of the day was spent hanging around and teaching Bear a new trick. I will not tell you about it until I have accomplished everything I want to do with it. So if it all doesn't work out, you may never know!

We had our Christmas dinner tonight. Roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and corn. Buddy Sarah kept talking about chicken tetrazzini while she was teaching this morning, so I think I'll make the turkey version on Sunday.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Recap

Merry Christmas to everyone!

We got back about an hour ago from Boone, NC, where we stayed in this fantastic cabin on the outskirts of town.

The cabin was well-appointed, complete with washer and dryer, dishwasher, gas fireplace and Christmas tree. Our little live pine that we bought to take with us was still pressed into service. We put it up on a table and strung it with little tiny lights and a put a few shiny bulbs on it.

Yes, there was a hot tub, but not on the porch. It was about 500 yards from our door in a gazebo. No, we did not use it. The weather was fairly atrocious most of the time we were there. Windy, rainy, very cold at night, very warm during the day. Today probably would have been the best day. The sun was out, it was dry and the temps were in the 40s and got up to the high 60s before we left. It's 70 here now.

We planned to do some hiking but the weather was not really in our favor. By the time we decided on a place to go on Tuesday, we were pretty much tired and cold. Yesterday it was just plain rainy and, while we had warm weather gear, we did not have wet gear. So we went to Mast General Store and then bummed around Boone and ate a Japanese Steak house for lunch.

We spent a lot of time at the cabin just chilling and watching movies. I worked a jigsaw puzzle, took naps and read my book. Yesterday we opened gifts. My biggest surprise was the Wii Fit, which I had asked for. But all the time I had it on my list I was concerned about the expense. Mensa Boy and bff Cassie solved that. She sold hers to him. So I got a nice Wii Fit without having to lay out the expense of a new one. And the surprise factor was that they'd even done that transaction. She'd told me she had sold it to a guy at work! (Her ability to lie right to my face is downright spooky.)

Everyone seems happy with their gifts. Taylor got an airsoft gun from us, which we didn't want to buy. But my principal friend told me to do it. "Just get over your anti-gun thing," she advised. And so as he runs around outside with Freddy shooting, Mensa Boy just keeps shaking his head and saying, "Our kid is playing outside. With guns." My don't we change through the years?

So that's my brief recap. I'll try to be more diligent about writing now that the holiday prep is over. I have until the 5th before I go back to school.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm loving it

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This new camera is turning me into a hero. (ok. In my mind)
This was my first shoot-out with it in a school gym. I love my D40? But this new camera is all over the low-light situations.

These are two students from Mensa Boy's youth group. Haley is in the foreground, David in the background.

It's been a busy week and now tomorrow I'm taking the day off. I'm going to do some baking in the morning and shopping in the afternoon. I hope I don't lose my will to shop. It's raining like mad now and cats & dogs are going to start overnight. The Columbia paper said, "just don't make any plans until Friday." hmmm...
And it's a HOT rain! It was in the 60s today. When the weather is like that you just feel like you're in a swamp.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Name this One. Huh?

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Here's another flower that needs some naming. I also shot this at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. I tell you, if it weren't so darn far away, I'd buy a membership to that place and go often just to shoot!

It's report card time at the school, which is always stressful in our office. For three days I live, eat and breathe report cards. Actually, maybe not EAT, although I'm sure some students wish I ate theirs instead of sending them in the mail home to their parents. Today I didn't actually eat anything...even skipped lunch. But no worries. I more than made up for it with one of those giant Greek salads from Showmars. With a chicken breast on top. And because I'm migraining this week, I also craved some starch so Mensa Boy picked up a load of fries for me. Needless to say, I could just about *POP!* right now.

So. Okay internet. Name this flower. There are no prizes, I'm sorry to say. Just a hearty thank you! And tomorrow being Friday, I'll tip a glass of wine to you cyber-style as well...*clink!*

append: Well internet? My buddy Eugene has correctly labeled this one the Golden Shrimp Plant. Here is a link to photos of it on Dave's Garden. Thanks Eugene! I'll go pour that glass of wine now!

No Photo and No Real Thoughts

This is a guilt entry. I haven't been writing as much as I used to and I'd like to get back to it. But you know? Sometimes you get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and then the next thing you know it's time to go to bed again.

But. The other day I decided to stop drinking wine on weeknights. I enjoy a glass of wine each day. Just one glass. And not a very large one. But it was making me tired. When I come home and sit down with a glass of wine and a little blue cheese and pretzel crackers, I wind down just a little too much. Then I have a hard time getting going again for the evening. I was ending up not really getting anything done 5 nights each week.

And really that was ok. I haven't been behind on anything. Everything still got done. But I want to a little productive in the evening.

And it's working pretty well. I spent Monday cleaning off my backup hard drive. All I have left on there are photos now. Everything else was burned to a DVD, which I'll put somewhere for safe-keeping. Now I need to begin the task of going through my photos and sifting out the good one. Those I'll keep on my computer and the rest I'll burn to DVDs and stash somewhere. Sort of a virtual closet-cleaning.

What are you cleaning out these days?

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Don't Know

I don't know what this plant is. I shot it at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden on Friday. It was in the orchid conservatory there. I wanted to go there specifically to play with my new camera. I didn't get really any GREAT SHOTS, but this flower did intrigue me and turned out reasonably well.

Today is a sad day for many of my friends. One of the ladies we used to jazzercise with found her teenaged daughter this morning. The daughter had committed suicide overnight in her room. Pray for Mary McClane and her family, will you? And give an extra hug to your kids.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Rolls that Took Over Thanksgiving

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
So yeah, I tend to make my rolls too small. They always taste good, but by the time you chew through the crust there's not much bread because they are just too small.

"I'll make a point to make these larger," I thought to myself.


Mensa Boy wants me to serve them anyway. "We can cut them in half," he said.

I told him we'd just go without. He feels that would be a travesty. "Sometimes you need rolls to push stuff onto your fork," he explained.

I'm not that busy this morning, so I've started another batch. And I'm eating one of these for breakfast.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Irrational Fear

Whenever I go on a really great shoot-out? I come home and refuse to upload the photos to my laptop until the next day. Unless I absolutely have to have the photos into the paper that same day, it's always overnight before I look at them.

I don't want to ruin the moment. The photos that I see in my LCS screen on my camera might look much better there than on my computer.

But I do have a feeling that this new camera may make it impossible for me to take TOTALLY SUCKY photos.

I'm just speculating.

I'll know more tomorrow.

Good night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our Very Own Beatniks

We had a fun day yesterday. Actually night last night.

The first thing that happened was mainly just fun for me. I called Mensa Boy and tried to get him to convince me not to buy a Nikon D90. I have half the money for it and I really really wanted it NOW. I'm struggling a lot with low-light photography, and feel the D90 will help me develop skills in that area.

Well. He didn't talk me down off that ledge. He basically climbed out there with me and encouraged me to jump off!

So I went after school and picked it up. After charging the battery I had 30 minutes to get some rudimentary skills before we headed out to the Crossroads Coffee House in Waxhaw. Some students in a Pre-AP English class were there reading their poetry and playing music. They have been studying Beat Generation poetry and went there to do a little of their own.

It was a blast! And I gave my new camera a pretty good workout at ISO 3200. The photos are still not that great, but they do seem better than I was getting with the D40 (which, incidentally, I am keeping for a secondary camera).

So here is a Photostory I put together of the kids last night night, put the song "I'm Not Cryin'" by Flight of the Conchords. I turned the photos black and white because it seemed fitting but also because it helps with the noise.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pearls Before Swine

New Skoda Fabia Advert - Full of lovely stuff

I saw this on Cake Wrecks, a blog I visit semi-regularly.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gwen Perry

Gwen Perry
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This is a neighbor of my friend Tambri. T and I went to her house last Saturday to visit and watch her make microwave peanut brittle.

Who knew? Probably everyone but me knows you can you make peanut brittle in a microwave. I was surprised by how easy it was. We had a great time visiting with Gwen. She swears she's not photogenic, but I think this portrait proves her wrong.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Vets Day Celebration

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
We had the most amazing Vets Day remembrance that I've been to so far in my life.
Yes, many schools are not in session on Veteran's Day, but we are. And I'm glad we are, because our choir, JROTC, FFA, and band make it a great celebration each year. I think without that, most people, myself included, would probably just take the day off and play.
This year our speaker was Ex-POW Quincy Collins. He was in prison during the Vietnam War for 7 years. He spent two of those years in the same cell as John McCain, but he really didn't mention that more than just a sentence in passing.
He told stories of wonderful heroism in prison, the most touching of which was the story of a fellow prisoner who was tortured for making an American flag out of and old t-shirt. In this photo, Collins is holding up a sheet of music he made on toilet paper. He told about his choir of men who sang in whispers.
Collins is a fascinating, engaging speaker and I've never heard our student body so quiet. I mean, those 600+ kids were still and silent the entire time he spoke. They generally are very well-behaved during assemblies, but this was the best I've ever seen.
And I'm glad I didn' t have to write the story on this one. My friend Chris McGinn was sent to write the story and I was the photographer. We sat next to each other during Collin's speech and we both just sat there mesmerized, barely remembering to shoot or write!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cleaning for the Cleaning Lady

I've never understood it. "Must clean up. The cleaning lady comes tomorrow."

Now I have one, and I do the same thing.

No. I don't CLEAN clean. But we do tidy up. We only do that so we'll know where everything is after she's left!

Don't get me wrong. She and her daughter do a fantastic job. They have made our lives so much easier, even on the weeks when they don't come. We just do a little vacuuming and bathroom cleaning every other weekend and we're done! We leave the dusting and the detail stuff to them.

But? They move stuff. Not far, mind you. Just around. On the same table most of the time. But when you are used to having the earbuds in the same place on the dresser, it can be a little frustrating groping around for them in the dark! Consequently, we've taken to short of shifting things a bit before they come. Most the time everything is fine.

I think Bear, though, should consider organizing his toys before they come. He leaves them scattered all over and so our ladies scoop them up and toss them in the wood box next to the fireplace before they vacuum. The wood box is just a little bit too high for Bear, so he ends up hanging his head over the edge and whining until someone can get his toys out for him. I know how he feels. When I'm groping for my earbuds at 5 freakin' o'clock in the morning, I feel like whining too!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Heart Attack-yak-yak

A poll manager had a heart attack yesterday. His wife was working the poll too. He wouldn't let her go to the hospital with him. One of the other election technicians took over his poll for a few hours and I covered the tech's precincts. My own are much smaller and a bit more self-sufficient. By the end of the night the wife said he was still in ER and waiting for a room. Apparently he has multiple health problems. She seemed pretty calm about the whole thing.

Considering the extremely high turnout, and how slow the machines were, and how complicated the ballots were (3 confusing amendments), we managed to get our very large precincts closed fairly quickly. I don't think we had any in Indian Land that stayed open more than an hour past closing time.

We had some good poll watchers this time, too. I have always thought that most of the poll watchers were kind of useless. They tend to sit in a chair and sort of glare or look grumpy at the workers...almost as if they don't trust us to do what's right. Then they will run out like a shot as soon as the doors are closed for the day, not sticking around to see us shut down the machines. Most of the time they are not there when we open in the morning either. It seems like they just like to periodically check the books and that's it.

But last night we had a poll watcher at the precinct that I was closing and she stayed right to the bitter end. She watched us close the polls and then noted the numbers on the tally tape. I commented to her that I was pleased she stayed. We chatted about the closing it all works and why we do the steps we do. If poll watchers are wanting to watch the process for irregularities, the time to watch is opening and closing. The sketchiest moments in the polls are when you are getting everything open and closed. That's where security breaches can occur. I've not seen it happen, but it can. Seals can be broken, data cards could be mis-handled... all manner of things.

I did run into one poll watcher that I wanted to shove. I was relieving someone at the book so he could take a lunch break. This watcher was sitting right at my elbow, noting each name I checked and marking them off on a list. She has the right to do that, but the manager of that precinct, in my opinion, should not have allowed her to sit right there. She should have just been allowed to periodically check the book against her list. She was sitting so close that every time she moved in her chair, it would vibrate mine. I felt like elbowing her in the chops. And if I were a voter, I would have objected to her checking my name.

So it's all over and for the first time we have an African-American President. I think this is going to be cool. I didn't vote for him, but I'll certainly be giving him the most benefit of the doubt. Frankly, I'm more concerned about Biden and Nancy Pelosi anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hatin' on Waitin'

"We need more voting machines!"
"Why doesn't this county buy more voting machines?"

That's what I've been hearing all day. I'm taking a brief break at home to check email, make coffee, and pop some bennies Tylenol.

It's been a pretty smooth day here today. It started out a little hectic with a machine that froze up for some reason. After I reset it with my handy dandy paperclip, it worked fine. Then we had a few minutes' trouble getting a zero tape to run. And of course there was that whole Daylight Savings Time thing that the Great State of South Carolina seemed to have forgotten about. Yup. We had to reset the clocks on most of the machines. But all the precincts opened on time and the lines that had started forming at 6 a.m. were slowly beginning to move.

We have one pollworker in my home precinct that must have been a traffic cop in a former life. She's a lovely southern woman with a commanding but pleasant personality. She can organize 200 people in a heartbeat and keep smiling the entire time. She is never out of sorts by complaining or rude people. Margaret Wilson is a real gem. I don't know how long she's been working the polls, but she always has the hardest job...getting people in line and staying in line, and keeping them as comfortable as possible.

I spent a few hours just going around to my precincts and then visiting a couple of extra ones. I stayed in my home precinct the longest, just chatting up voters (my neighbors) and my bff Rena, who happened to get a seat right next to my preacher and her husband. So we visited for a good long bit.

The wait has been about 2 1/2 hours. Not bad. I mean, think about it: This weekend some early voters in neighboring Mecklenburg County waited 4 hours to vote. Most people are pretty even-keeled about the wait.But we do get a lot of complaints about there not being enough machines. The fact of the matter is that the machines are expensive and it's not worth it to buy so many more for one day every four years. People need to learn to just slow down and calm down. The problem is that we are so used to be able to do everything quickly that we are spoiled.

Back to the polls! And then I'll come home to soak in the tub and watch the returns.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Saints

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Ok. I admit I had very low expectations for my shots at the annual All Saint Remembrance at our church. So that's why I didn't really spend the time on this that I should have. If I'd been thinking that this might actually turn out, I probably would have closed the aperture down just a little bit to bring more of the flowers into focus. I think the blurry ones in the front are a bit distracting.

I hate low-light photography.

But I also hate extreme bright light photography, like the shoot I did yesterday at close to high noon. I had a few of those turn out, too. It was the annual Boy Scout stew and yard sale. All I can say is Thank Goodness for Camera RAW processing!

So other than that, it's been a quiet weekend. Lots of lying around wasting time. A little paperwork, some phone calls, and lot of ignoring of robo-calls. I've cast my vote by absentee (I'm working the polls again on Tuesday), so for me the election day thrill of voting is already over.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

of Human Nature

Mine and my neighbors.

Neighbors: PEOPLE! C'MON ALREADY! It's WINDY out. And it's GARBAGE DAY! Secure those recyclables. Have a little common sense. I don't want your stinkin' empty chicken salad sandwich box blowing into my yard!

Me: Procrastinating on pumping gas into Mensa Boy's wear-ble car has proven to be a good thing. I've been riding around just above empty since Sunday and each time I drive past Exxon the gas price has dropped another 10 cents. We are at $2.25 right now. They're practically giving it away!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Holiday Soups

Fruit Soup
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Here is the text for my holiday soup story For Today's Woman magazine.

Whether you are throwing a party or going to one at someone else’s house, soup is a great menu item to consider for a crowd during the holidays. Soups can go together quickly and are fairly easy to keep warm or cold. The holidays are also a good time to roll out those soup recipes that are just too large or rich for a family weeknight meal. But more than that, soups are traditional fare for most holiday meals.
Margaret Wilson of Indian Land likes to serve oyster stew to her company, or take it to church dinners. “It’s easy to throw together,” she says. So easy, in fact, that she seemed a bit embarrassed to give out the recipe. “It goes together in just minutes,” she explains. Easy or not, the soup is much requested at Belair United Methodist Church.
My mother makes fruit soup at least once each holiday season. I remember having it when we went to my grandmother’s house in Iowa at New Year’s. Actually, we had oyster stew and fruit soup. When I mention fruit soup to my friends they say they have never heard of it, and they sound a bit dubious about what it might taste like. Fruit soup, or fruktsuppe in Norway, is usually served warm and is made from dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. It may have dairy such as cream or milk, or may even have alcohol such as brandy or champagne. In many other countries, the soup is usually served cold in the summer with fresh fruit that is in season. Either way it is served, it is usually sweet and so is considered to be more of a dessert than a main course. My mother likes to serve it with lefse, a Norwegian potato flatbread.
In some cultures, beet soup, or borscht, is considered a Christmas soup. The Polish call it barszcz and serve a strictly vegetarian version as the first course on Christmas Eve. Borscht is chock full of root vegetables and goes together quickly, but traditionally it is prepared several days in advance so that it has an opportunity to develop acidity.
Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration honoring African heritage, has several soups as part of its traditional fare. Peanut soup is common throughout Africa and has migrated to the U.S. as slaves in the South prepared it with local peanuts. The simplest recipe calls for two parts chicken stock, two parts shelled peanuts, and one part milk or cream. Another popular Kwanzaa soup is African Tomato Avocado Buttermilk Soup.
Hanukah also falls in December. Although it is a minor Jewish holiday, it still carries its’ traditional holiday fare, and the most easily-recognized food (besides potato latkes) has to be Chicken and Matzo Ball Soup. This Jewish staple is as revered for its healing powers as it is for its comforting taste and unique texture.
No matter the holiday you and your family observe, there is a soup recipe to help you celebrate. And most soups benefit from advance preparation, allowing the flavors to marry before serving to guests. Warm it up in a crockpot, add some crackers or lefse or cornbread and you’ll have a hearty meal to serve to your guests or to take to someone else’s party.

And my mom's fruit soup recipe, revised slightly:

Fruit Soup
By Mary Goetsch
2 Qts boiling water
1 C chopped prunes
1/2 C raisins
1 6-oz package dried mixed fruit, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a little grated peel
1/2 C sugar-(or to taste)
1/2 C tapioca*
Juice of 1 orange, plus a little grated peel
1 5-oz package dried apple rings, chopped
1 can good quality pie cherries packed in water
Cook all but the pie cherries at medium low heat until the tapioca is done and the fruit is tender. Stir in the pie cherries and heat through. If you like the way the soup looks, you are done. But if you’d prefer, you can add a couple of drops of red food color to make the soup look more appetizing.
Mary likes to serve it with lefse, which is a Norwegian potato flatbread, but it can be served alone. Serve in small ramekins or punch cups. It is very rich.
*You may use regular or pearl tapioca, but if you use pearl, be sure you soak it overnight before using

Actually, the only revision I made was to cut the sugar in half. I've always looked forward to the fruit soup and then when I get the first bite I remember it's awful sweetness. Well darn if she doesn't use and ENTIRE CUP OF SUGAR with all that FRUIT! So I cut the sugar to 1/2 a cup, and then I simmered the orange and lemon rinds in the soup while it was cooking. Now it's something I can see myself eating a lot more of. I'll maybe put some on ice cream, but I think I'll really stir some into my morning oatmeal. Toss in a few nuts and I think I'll have breakfast fit for a queen.

And many many thanks to neighbor Mary for help with the food styling. She really likes that and is creative that way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the Charlotte Observer

Not voting? Better than voting without a clue

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Today we salute the 40 percent of the citizenry who are true patriots. They don't vote.

Yes, I'm serious.

We are taught since childhood that we should show up and cast ballots as a sacred rite of citizenship. We are taught wrong.

Look, some people shouldn't drive. Some people shouldn't sing. Some people shouldn't handle firearms.

Some people shouldn't vote.

We don't need to make them feel bad by trumpeting this “To the polls, ye sons and daughters of freedom!” nonsense. They're doing the right thing.

They don't know, they don't care and they don't vote. Leave them alone.

Do not unleash your campaign's Annoy-a-tron to call them at dinner and nag them to vote (for you, of course). They are gentle apathetics and have the right to watch “Wheel of Fortune” undisturbed.

See, in the mechanics of democracy, some assembly is required. You need to actually educate yourself on the candidates before entering the poll.

There are those among us who just don't get that. They pull back the curtains snorting fire to elect the next president and suddenly discover a dozen races they weren't expecting. It's like achieving parenthood, then finding out about diapers.

Hereabouts we elect insurance commissioners, state auditors and soil-and-water conservation district supervisors. No, I don't know what they do either, but plenty of people who are eager to do their civic duty just pick willy-nilly when confronted by such races, like a student who didn't bother to read the last chapter of the book before the exam.

This just doesn't serve the cause.

You may be the best soil-and-water candidate in decades, but if your name is Adolf Citibank Hussein, you're going to drive off the dedicated clueless who will vote instead for Joe T. Plumber, who favors erosion and drought.

So here's the deal: If you want to vote, have at it.

Before doing so, take a little time to study the races. You already know what you're doing in McCain vs. Obama and probably have figured out your pick in She Exports Jobs to China vs. She Won't Take A Stand.

But in the other races, nose around a little. Figure out if the candidates for school board, courts and commissions are in tune with you.

Google “League of Women Voters Mecklenburg,” for example, and read the candidate surveys. Check out the voter guide in the newspaper or online. Peruse the Observer's endorsements (and if you don't like the paper's elite liberal media pinko commie moron bias, vote against every single one – at least you'd have a system).

And if you don't have a pick in a race, skip it. No charge. Feel no guilt. I will absolutely applaud you. Leave the decision to those in the know. Stand up against VWI – Voting While Ignorant.

Democracy is a wonderful thing. So is a chainsaw. In both cases, you must be careful where you aim.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Herding Cats

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Taking a page from my Mother's book, I bought this wine simply because I liked the name. And it was cheap. And I like the picture.

And it's not bad.

Kind of dry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Remain Calm: ADMENDMENT!

You know what I'm starting to get nervous about?


That's right. My son wants a pumpkin pie. He's here for the weekend. I've gone to three grocery stores and the gas station. NO PUMPKIN ANYWHERE!

What's up with that?

Remain Calm

As I open my mail this morning, and I see that our net worth has dropped precipitously, the only thing I can think is "Be calm. Wary, but calm." There is nothing we can do. We have to just ride out this economic thing and hope for the best. Last week Warren Buffet said, "Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful." That's what I'm hoping my investment companies are all doing. I trust them. I pretty much have to.

I had breakfast yesterday with some posse members and, as usual, we lent a little time to the economy and money in general. One friend said, "I thought about hooking (to raise extra cash), but that wouldn't really work." My other friend said, "There's all that talking..." I chimed in by saying that I understand many hookers have rules. Maybe you could have "no talking" rule. As we all laughed, I got to thinking, "Well, it's dark humor, but it's better than crying."

My friends and I can all thank our lucky stars that we are 20 years from retirement. The ones that I am concerned about are our nation's retirees and those folks that are near retirement. But somehow it all ends up working out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Long Long Day

Our school is up for our SACS visit soon. SACS is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. They are an accreditation entity, and being accredited by them means that our school is recognized by colleges and universities worldwide as offering quality education.

Of course that is the extremely simplistic explanation. For a very very complicated process. We have to gather mountains of data for the group that comes to visit us, package it all up in a specific way, and ship it off before their visit.

This means a lot of digging for historical information and then digesting it and spitting it back out with summary explanations. As a data collector and writer, I've been involved with parts of the process as I help our administrators located what they need and now today we spent quite a bit of the day editing. We need to get the final product to a printer tomorrow.

You can about imagine the stress level at the school this week. I'll be glad when the paperwork is over and all we can do is move on with daily life and just wait for the people to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Napster Nap

My Napster quit working for a few days, and my player had to be reformatted. I don't get too excited about that kind of thing anymore. Just wait a day or so until I have time to download everything again. It's actually a nice excuse to break out of ruts and start fresh. I've been adding some televisions soundtracks like "Sex & City," "Grey's Anatomy," "House," etc. A while ago I stumbled upon mention of a group called Eddie from Ohio that I really like. And did you know that Chris Sligh, of American Idol fame, has a great Christian album out? It's very very nice.

I play music quite a lot at work. I do it for a few different reasons. First, it helps to add a little background noise for when the counselors are meeting with people in their offices. I really don't think people should have to worry about their conversations being overheard when they are meeting with their counselor. Secondly, I think it makes the atmosphere more inviting to the kids and parents. I play a very eclectic mix of music, from Classical to Celtic to Christian to Pop. The rock goes everywhere from folk to a new cd I found called Head, which seems to be what we used to call Acid Rock when I was in high school. I guess it's called heavy metal now. But back in the day we called it acid rock because it was generally felt that you needed to drop acid to really appreciate it. The guy's name is Brian Welch. Can't understand a word the dude is saying. It's just a lot of screaming. But I enjoy the reactions I get from students when they come into the office and hear what I'm playing. And the adults seem to enjoy hearing anything from Three Dog Night to CCR to Sara McLaughlin to Sarah Groves. The third reason I play music is to keep myself from going out of my mind.

Tomorrow will be a busy day at school, as we are testing some them the PSAT or ASVAB... the seniors are having college & career day (I have to take credit for the fact that Erskine is coming), and the freshmen are going to the Renaissance Festival.

Monday, October 13, 2008


It's good.

When I was younger, actually not much younger, maybe even up to only about 3 years ago, I hated quiet. I could hear the faint ringing in my ears when everything was turned off and no one was talking. That little bit of ringing would drive me crazy. I've had it for as long as I can remember. To deal with it I always had something on. A radio, television, or music.

And I always needed to be thinking about or doing at least two things at once. Reading while watching TV. Listening to the radio while reading. That kind of thing.

Now I find I like quiet. And when I do have something on, that's all I do.

Today was a very quiet day at work. There was no school and the teachers had a professional development day off-site. So it was just the skeleton crew of office staff and maintenance in the school today. We got so much done we were giddy at the end of the day. In fact, we all said we wished we had another one tomorrow. But I'm sure after a few days we'd wish for more commotion.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Don't sleep so close to the bedside table. Banging into it with your forehead in the middle of the night isn't pleasant.
And it leaves marks.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Me and the Coop at the Festival

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Here is this year's festival photo of me and my buddy Adam clowning around at the library festival. He stayed dry this year! (last year's entry) I am supposed to be giving him a back massage in this photo. If you think it looks like I'm doing something else, then you can just keep those thoughts to yourself!

This year I did not work at the event or on it at all. I did the Komen Race in the morning, stopped home to charge up (read: nap), and then went to the festival for a bit in the afternoon. It looked like everyone was having a great time, and I think they may have made around $9 or $10k.

But let me move back to the Komen Race for the rest of this entry. And the internet. And how great both are.

In yesterday's entry I mentioned that I had not quite reached my goal of $610. I mentioned (I think, but I'm too lazy to go back and look) that I would probably write a check for the difference. I figured I'd wait until the next payday to do that.

So I was pretty surprised to get this message in my email inbox last night:

Hi Karen,
I have been following your blog for a few years now--totally enjoy your stories and pictures--keep them coming! I have commented to you via your blog address as well as your previous personal email address I am "Tom from California" as a tag.
I wrote to you before, regarding my wife and I retiring to Cary, N.C. You recommended Asheville--a very good suggestion I might say. My wife (Lynn) and I did plan on pursuing, but after she retired in August of 2007, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and she wants to stay close to home for our girls.
At any rate, I enjoyed your blog of today talking about your "Race". Can my wife and I send the additional $64 for you to meet your "goal"? If so, how do I process the gift (check, credit card, or???). If it is too late we will contribute next year.
Thanks Karen. Your family and community stories are a great day-to-day read for me and Lynn. Nothing but good things for you and your family.
"Tom from California".

I mean wow! Isn't that neat?

So Tom! I thanked you in my response last night, but here's another, more public thank you. And a big shout-out to Lynn. We're pulling for her. And post a comment every once in a while. Let us know how you all are doing!

So I've reached $610. Even in today's economy, people find a way to support the causes near to their hearts. Love to you all!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Absolutely Crazy Inspirational

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
It's always controlled, friendly, noisy mayhem at the Komen Race and this year was no exception.
Buddy Rena and I showed up at about 7:40 and took a quick turn through the booths before entering the crowd starting the 5k non-competitive walk/run. We never did find our friend Sarah and the Jazzercisers from Fort Mill, but did see other Jazzers we recognized.
Here I am with Leslie and Shae from church. Leslie is in the pink survivor's shirt on the left. They both are also in our jazzercises classes here in Indian Land. Every year they come with their own group and every year at some point. right before the race starts, we turn around and there they are right in front of us! I'm always amazed by that. 15,000 people pack downtown Charlotte and somehow we always manage to find these two before the race without even looking for them.
Four things take me by surprise every year when I do this. One is what I just mentioned: running into people you know. The other is the enormity of the crowd, as pictured above. The third is the incredible noise. I don't record it. I should. And then post it on here. At the starting line there were all these drums. Some very good drumline. I never did actually see them. Maybe they weren't even there! Maybe it was piped in noise. But it seemed live. And the fourth is sights like this:
Thanks so much to everyone who donated to the Komen Race. I did not make my goal of $610 this year. The final total was $546. But hey, that's $546 closer to a cure, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Dollar Here, A Dollar There.

I'm pleased to report that I've gathered $446 so far for the Komen foundation. My goal is $610, so I've been nagging some folks to pony up a couple of bucks for the cause.I've lost a couple of traditional contributors, but have also gained ones that surprised me. This morning a woman at work handed me checks from her Sunday School class! That was pretty cool. I've gotten contributions for as little as $10 and some for $50. It's a great cause and the only begging I do from my friends all year.

The race is Saturday. Bffs Rena and Sarah and I will walk that morning and then probably have our traditional post-race breakfast. We'll miss Cassie, who has to work that day (last day to register to vote) and Tambri (going to DC with her sister), but we'll soldier on.

Then I have to shower and get over to the Fall into Fun Festival to benefit the library! So it'll be an all-around fund raising day, for sure. I'll be carrying my camera around a lot that day.

Buddies Sarah and Jenny have both turned me on to a fun website called Stickk. It's an online site where you can make commitments to reach certain goals and then track your progress online. Sarah and Jenny are both committed to weight loss. I put a commitment to doing yoga every day. AND a one-hour practice on the weekend. That last bit is the hard part for me. Once I start laying around, it's hard for me to get a move on. The site itself is pretty funny, as it has some fun reward methods. You can commit a certain amount of money to go to a favorite charity if you meet your goal, or you could have it go to an "anti-charity" if you don't. Say for instance that you are a against the NRA and everything it stands for. You can designate the NRA as the recipient of your "stake" if you don't make your commitment. I didn't put up a stake. But if I do reach my goal, I think I might reward myself with a membership to the Yoga Club on Gaiam. Coast over to the site and poke around. It's pretty cool.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shooting a Bit Better

Well, I've had better luck with my shooting this weekend. Friday I went to the Presbyterian Church to shoot their Friday night movie night, but it was a nasty, rainy day so there were not many folks there. I did get a chance to sit down with a friend a visit for a bit, and I shot a few photos, which I played with in Photoshop for a while.

Last night I went to the Church of God and shot their concert, which was put on by this local group called The Christianaires. They are out of Fort Mill, so they didn't have to travel far. I have to say they were darn good. Sort of a country, mountain sounding kind of group. Great Gospel music. There were times when their drummer got a little off, but for the most part they were very enjoyable. I had to tap my feet most of the time.

I also just about embarrassed myself. Actually, I was embarrassed, but not as badly as I could have been. At one point I backed up to a door and was about to lean on it when it opened behind me! I had to do some fancy footwork to keep from ending up sprawled on my back in the fellowship hall! One lady heard the thump and looked back at me and smiled, but I don't think most of the people knew what happened.

I'm teaching myself how to work with camera RAW photos and so far it hasn't been too difficult. Kind of fun, actually.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pretty Bottle, Not so Great Wine

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
I really found this bottle attractive. There is a Sun Garden Riesling that I like very much, but their Pinot Noir is rather thin and acidic. I guess that proves the adage that a vintner doesn't always have greatness in every variety.

I shot this bottle to send to my friend Lis. She belongs to a little social chat group called the Blue Bottle Club. I sent her the photo and asked if maybe they should consider changing the name to the Red Bottle Club just because this bottle was so pretty.

It's been a bear of a day, topped with the stress of not having gas in the car. There is no gas to be found here in Indian Land (although I've heard you can wait in line to get premium), and of course my car was on fumes. They had gas in Lancaster today but I wasn't there with my car. So when I got back, I invited one of the admin assistants to use my car to run her errand down there and fill mine up. It worked well for both of us that way, although I didn't expect her to drive all the way to Heath Springs, which is about 40 miles one way! Ah well! I've got enough to gas to last me more than a week, so that's just fine. Hopefully this crisis will be over by the time I need it again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Got Skills. Sometimes.

I haven't posted in a while because I kept thinking "I should take some interesting photo to put on there so I can write something."

But I haven't taken any interesting photos. In fact, I took 286 Very Bad Photos last Saturday night.

This has thrown me into a photography funk. A funk in which I had convinced myself that I pretty much should not waste time taking photos. A funk in which I have not even wanted to look at good photos because they just remind me how bad mine are. It's kind of like reading the Dayton's ad when you have no money. (Dayton's is the CORRECT NAME for Marshall Fields) Why drool over stuff you can't have?

Then last night I went out to a guy's website to see some of his photos that he's taken lately. I had seen some of his work last spring. I worked alongside him shooting an event then, and was impressed with his results. So I've always thought of him as a great photographer. Greater than me. Until last night. I cruised through his site last night and saw a lot of bad photos. Photos I'd NEVER allow the internet to see. Some where the composition was okay, the lighting was okay, but he'd not even corrected the red eye.

And I found myself thinking, "I'm better than that."

So I guess we all have times like that. Sometimes we look brilliant and other times we look so bad that someone should take away our equipment and lock us up, never to see the light of day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Foreclosures, Rant #2

You know...if you can stand another comment about the foreclosure thing...there's another aspect of this whole mess that few people (if any) think about: The children.

That's right. Today the children were brought to my attention twice. The first time was earlier today when the question was asked, "if a student's family is evicted from their home, then they will be essentially homeless. What will that do to their status in school? Especially if they are seniors and close to graduating?" I'm confident that school systems will come up with ways to allow kids to continue their schooling.

And the other is...tonight on the evening news they were talking to a mom whose little boy was running around. She said, "he doesn't want to lose the house."

I mean people! Keep those big bad problems away from from the ears of young children!

On an unrelated note: has anyone seen any of the reruns of the old Star Trek: The Next Generation series? I'm monitoring what must be one of the first seasons right now and I'm taken aback by how the acting was! Especially Counselor Troi! What a scream!

Monday, September 15, 2008


Call me stupid, but I don't get the whole foreclosure thing. I don't mean how people lose their homes to their lenders because they can't make the payments. That's basic.

What I don't get is why banks will go to the expense of kicking a body out of the house and then be saddled with an empty property that is the target for vandalism and squatters and all that. I mean, are they getting such a great tax break for losing on their investment that it's worth having a home sit there empty, with grass growing as high as an elephant's eye (we have two in our neighborhood that finally got mowed by the homeowner's association)? And in the meantime, there's a family somewhere that's lost their home. Sheesh, let them live in there for $5 a month as long as they mow the grass!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Susan G Komen Race for the Cure

It's that time of year again! For the past few years I have participated with fellow Jazzercisers in the Komen Charlotte race. Each year I've raised a little more money and last year it was more than $600! I'm asking for your help again. The race is October 4.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation provides funding for breast cancer research and education, screening, and treatment programs. The Komen Charlotte unit specifically helps those underserved women in the Charlotte area.

Keeping ahead of the game is no small expense. As a person who has severely fibrocystic breast tissue, my own physician visits and diagnostic tests to ensure that I don't have any cancer cells, run into the thousands of dollars each year. Literally. I just pulled the bills from 2007 and found they totalled $3,754.30! What did that all entail? Well, I had a lump that was hurting me last January. It turned out, as it usually does, to be a cyst that had just gotten exceptionally large. Because it was miserably uncomfortable, I had it aspirated. More than $1,500 to be sure it was indeed a cyst and not a mass (something you have to do each time, even though you are certain of its' nature), and then to have the surgeon pull out the fluid.

Then I visited the Blumenthal Cancer Center, on a referral from my general practitioner. Because I do have such cystic tissue, breast exams are complicated and not terribly helpful. By becoming a regular (every 6 months) patient at Blumenthal, I am now hooked up with a surgeon that specializes in breast tissue. He does an exam and checks out anything suspicious with his handy-dandy ultrasound machine right there. This keeps me from getting on a roller coaster ride of appointments and wait times if there is anything he wants to look into further. Physician visit with ultrasound? More than $350. (Although not all visits need ultrasound. My fall visit was just a little over $250.)

And then there are the mammograms. The regular ones? They don't cut it with my dense tissue. I have to have the magical digital ones. Several hundred bucks. I'm supposed to have one of those every 6 months too, but right now I'm running a couple of months behind.

And there is the breast MRI I will now have every 2 years. $1700+.

So, that was my bill last year. My own share was about $500 because that's my deductible. I am very fortunate to have very good insurance. And access to some of the best physicians and technology available. I feel quite confident that, in the event I were to be found to have cancer, my survival chances would be very high.

But not everyone is so lucky. One in every eight women in our country will be stricken with breast cancer in their lifetime, and many do not have insurance, or they have insurance that may not cover everything they need to get the best care. The Komen Foundation is there to help.

And as a side note: Another reason why I like this charity above others: They are consistently rated among the best charities in terms of efficiency. They do not waste a bunch of their fundraising dollars on expenses and salaries.

So there you have it. If you could consider donating to Komen Charlotte, please click here or the logo above and it will take you to my fundraising page. If you'd rather not do it via the internet, send me an email and I'll give you my home address.

Thank you!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

MUbamboo Towels

MUbamboo Towels
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
These are my latest favorite thing in my kitchen. I stumbled upon them at Kitchen Window in Minneapolis this summer. I was just wandering through the store when I reached out to touch these towels that were arranged in a wooden salad bowl. Immediately I was struck by how soft they were. I mean, they were so soft you could barely feel them! I could see from the tag that they were made of 80% bamboo fiber. Mensa Boy talks about hemp and bamboo quite often, so I decided to give them a whirl. I bought myself a dishrag and kitchen towel, and then another set for my friend Julie.

Once I got back home and started using them, I was impressed by how they just refuse to smell! I mean, even if SOMEONE (who shall remain nameless) insists on leaving the rag bunched up on the sink, they don't get that sour smell. The rag is very absorbent and thin enough that it wrings out well. The towel, while soft, is still quite absorbent.

So I decided I needed more. That was no easy task, I tell you. I searched Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma, Macy's, and on and on. Could not find them. I started Googling and found MU towels at Bed Bath & Beyond online. I ordered 7 different sets in different colors.

They were not the right ones. The ones that came were very thick and made of a polyester microfiber. I've seen more and more of these microfiber towels and rags and have been pretty sure that I wouldn't like them. And I did not like these. I only opened the red set and I'll be returning all the others. The fabric is very thick and doesn't wring out well. They are absorbent, that's for sure, but then it's like you can't get the liquid back out well enough to feel like you can use it more. It's kind of like how you think it would be to use velour.

So I went back to the drawing board...the internet drawing board...and found them at an online store called Linens Are Us. And they were cheaper than the wrong ones. I bought several sets of matching towels and cloths for $11.99 per set. Shipping was reasonable, too.

Bamboo fiber is supposed to have natural anti-bacterial qualities, which is why these don't seem to smell. And when I launder them, they come out of the dryer with a very faint bamboo smell (you might not notice it if you use scented detergent or softener).

So there you have it. An entire entry on the mundane subject of kitchen towels and dishcloths! And I tell you...I think I'm going to do more searching around for bamboo stuff.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Glowing Ceiling Fan

Glowing Ceiling Fan
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Just playing around this weekend. Some of it was some real hard playing. We had the joint birthday bash here Friday night with the posse. Much wine, way too much food and a lot of very loud laughter. Mensa Boy and Taylor grilled for us and we all had side dishes and appetizers we brought. After they got done cooking they went and hid. I don't blame them!

Saturday was more relaxing. Tambri and Chris and I did our toes at T's house after a hard jazz workout and then hearty breakfast made by T's hubby Mike. Saturday night he grilled for us and Mensa Boy.

So today I just hung out. I still have some laundry in both the washer and the dryer, so I need to get that switched around. There's not a lot of incentive when it's all towels and sheets, but it still must be done.

Oh yeah, so the ceiling fan. I'm doing a mini-lesson on shutter speed for the photography class this coming week so I shot our ceiling fan at various shutter speeds. After I got the photos prepped I thought I'd play with this one for a minute. I used the "stylize" feature in Photoshop Elements.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Aperture Seminar

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
The last couple of days have been a blur as I've done lesson plans and taken a lot of (mostly bad) photos for our school photography class. I volunteered to come in for each of 3 days to talk about the elements of exposure: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed.
Yesterday was ISO and I think I bored even myself. I did show them some dramatic changes in photos when you keep all else constant but change the ISO. The problem is, all of them have point and shoot cameras, which pretty much take all the guesswork out of ISO. I took our two P&S cameras and did a series with each, adjusting the ISO over and over. Each time the camera "fixed my idiocy" by compensating and turning out a properly exposed photo.
And now I fly back to work.
Have a great day!

Monday, September 01, 2008

this n that

Friday was my birthday and it passed fairly uneventfully. My friends each called and sang happy birthday to me over the phone, some of which I captured on voicemail, others were in person. I had warm blueberry muffins delivered to my office along with some gifts and also I opened two gifts that were mailed from family in Minnesota. It was a nice day. Friday night we had BBQ ribs from the local joint and watched the first "Lord of the Rings" movie...most of it. Those are all too long for me, so we finished watching it Saturday night and then last night started in on "The Two Towers." We don't own the third one, but I think Mensa Boy may have remedied that online today through Amazon.

Saturday was the usual Jazzercise session and then several loads of laundry and some errands to run. Sunday church and then buddy Tambri and I got together and chatted and hung out for several hours, visiting with long-distance buddy Chris over the phone for about an hour. T's husband Mike made us a shrimp stirfry for supper, since my fellows were back at church for the Sunday night singfest.

This morning the posse went to our 8 a.m. Jazz class at our new location, The GYM, in Fort Mill. It was very full and fun, though a little hot. We'll have to get a handle on the AC in there. Tambri and I did some shopping at our local mall for a while this afternoon. I had her pick out the mortar and pestle she wanted for her birthday, but in the meantime I found out about something else she really wants. So I'm going to give this to Cassie to present to her at our joint party on Friday and I'll give her the other item. Now I just have to haul my keester back up there to get it. I hate going up there.

So it's been a nice weekend with activity and nothing-ness, some napping, some good food, and some movies. What more could I ask for?

Well, Nate called Friday to wish me happy birthday and in the conversation sounded like he's got some buddies to hang out with now. He went to visit his girlfriend this weekend and then she called to wish me happy birthday yesterday too. AND today he said he enjoyed his first day of classes and he might add the college symphonia to his schedule, which will give him a chance to play his trombone and get another credit. He says he'd be at that class every night at 6, so I see it as a great social opportunity for him too. So everything seems to be coming together there.

And now it's 8:30 on Monday night. Time to veg out for a bit. Perhaps more Hobbits?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Personal Chef

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Tonight: burgers, beans, corn.

We are all swimming around here. It's been raining off and on since last night, which makes it all a little sleepy around here. When we aren't huddled in the hallway at school during a tornado warning, anyway. The kids handled all that pretty well, although we had a couple of adults stressing about it. By the end of the day I was pretty tired of hearing the weather radio go off, that's for sure. And rushing around while others were huddled in front of the radar pictures on their computers.

I picked up the last weekly share at the farm today and also got 5 chickens. I hate to say it, but I think I'll probably drop my share next year. Since he doesn't do the fall harvest anymore, it's gotten to be just too expensive for the amount of food we get. And I am one of the ones that drives out to the farm to pick it up, so I've got gas expenses and time on top of all that. I'll hate to let it go, but it's just not cost-effective anymore. I'm hoping he'll still leave me on the chicken and turkey list.

Nate seems to be settling a little. He did get a bee in his bonnet yesterday about his car license tabs. His voicemail to me went something like this: "I need my license tabs renewed so I don't get my car towed away." I replied, "They aren't due until September." I did go ahead and renew his along with ours and we got a notice from the state already saying we are getting entirely new plates sometime in the next 30 days.

Today it was textbooks. He said he didn't have money in his account at school for texts. We had gotten notice that a couple of places had put in extra money for books, but I guess those just go right on the bottom line, so when we borrowed the rest of the tuition, room & board money, I guess that meant we were taking into account the money for books. So I had to transfer $650 to his checking account this afternoon so he could buy books.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zucchini Slices

Zucchini Slices
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
A couple of weeks ago, when I had a bounty of zucchini in my crisper drawer needing to be used before they went south on me, I started playing with them.

I had purchased a cut-resistant glove to wear when I'm using my mandoline slicer, and it's been so much fun now to slice away without that bulky guard, that I've been slicing and dicing like mad every chance I get.

And so I eyed the zucchini.

I sliced these very thinly and then we used them in place of spaghetti noodles with our sauce. I didn't cook them at all, just put them in down on the plate and poured the hot sauce on top. It was wonderful! The zucchini "noodles" offered a nice crunch to the spaghetti. As I ate along, some the noodles softened a bit from the heat of the sauce and that was just fine.

I'll do this again and again, I think. Although I'll probably put one of the julienne blades on next time. That will make the "noodles" a little less cumbersome on the fork.

Yesterday we took Nate to Due West, SC and dropped him off at Erskine. When the freshmen arrive, all their stuff is unloaded for them and brought to their rooms. That's the last time that happens. Everything went very quickly. The only large item Nate has is the TV, and he just had a couple of very large suitcases and a backpack. All his stuff got into the dorm in about 5 minutes. Then Mensa Boy and I essentially unpacked him while he talked to girlfriend Erin on the phone. She was coming up from Columbus, GA to see him and got lost in the country.

It took MB and I all of about 12 minutes to get everything unpacked and put away. Just in time for his roommate Matthew to show up. Boxes and boxes, furniture and computers, the microwave and took several minutes for everything to arrive, and they piled it all up in front of Nate's wardrobe. So we were glad we had it all done. Nate's bed had not been lofted, so a work order will have to go in on Monday to have that done. This will necessitate just a little more moving around of the desk, dresser and bookcase, but beyond that, they are all settled. (Yes, I know you may be asking why we did his unpacking for him. Because we know him. He would not do it. He would leave everything exactly where it was dropped and just live out of the piles. And we needed our suitcases back.)

Erin finally arrived and so the four of us (Taylor stayed home) jumped in the car to go out to lunch and shopping for some final essentials (read: food) for Nate. We were gone another couple of hours doing that. By the time we got back, it was time for family and friends to leave and Nate had to go to the opening of orientation.

So. He's gone. Not totally though. He called last night at 11:15 asking us to find the piece of paper that has his Erskine email password. After MB looked around for it a bit, I remembered that Nate has it in his accordion filer in his dorm room. Yep. There it was and so MB came back to bed. I hope Nate stops calling in the middle of the night.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Freshman Orientation

Freshman Orientation
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Our class of 2012 came for orientation on Wednesday. Yesterday was their first actual day of school. I spent the first 45 minutes on Wednesday shooting them and then last night put together a little movie with MS Movie Maker. I don't know how to host that here, but if/when I figure that out, I'll get it up.
I have lunch with Nate yesterday and then he came home and packed and worked on an online alcohol course he had to do for school. Today they (Mensa Boy is off today to help him) will pack my car, take both cars for oil changes, and all that.
Off to school!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Are YOU on the list?

Senator Obama says he'll be announcing his Vice Presidential running mate via text message.
Are you on the list?

Today Taylor starts back to school. I admit that, in my flurry to get kids registered at the high school, I really hadn't thought too much about him starting. I have intentionally NOT shopped for his school supplies, just getting him some paper and writing implements. There is usually a list as long as my arm of supplies and then he ends up not using them all. Last night he said, "What time does the bus come?" Hmmm...hadn't really thought about that one too much. I told him to shoot for 7:45 and the driver would tell him more in a few days. We are happy to have our favorite driver this year again. We didn't have him last year as his route got too large and he was moved to the other side of the neighborhood.

So Taylor will be getting himself up and out to the bus on time. This scares me a bit because he has never been good at getting up. I told him last night that he gets three times to miss the bus and then he has to come to work with me for the rest of that semester. That would mean he'd have to get up at 6 instead of 7 and come to work with me at 7. There would be nothing for him to do for 90 minutes while he waits for school to start. Hopefully that will be enough incentive to keep him on track with getting up.

We aren't leaving him out there to sink or swim, though. Mensa Boy will try to get him up before he leaves the house and then will call him 10 minutes later. I'll call or text him when it's time to get out the door. So really? He should be able to do this.

It's time. Time to get greet the kids coming back to school! Big Day! I LOVE THIS!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cups of Derision

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
It hasn't stopped them from actually using them, but my guys are not too thrilled about these $1.49 Hannah Montana drinking glasses I picked up at the food kitty the other day. The photo doesn't look that great because these are the snazzy kinds of cups that change when you wiggle them around.

I See How it Is

This morning I left our bathroom to begin my day, going down to put my waffles in the toaster oven. (Lifestream Pomegran Plus waffles, I might add, which I top with natural peanut butter and dried cherries)

So back to my anecdote: I found my little vitamin tube on the counter. Each morning I fill a little metal tube with my daily vitamins and I carry it around with me until such time as I have enough food in my stomach to keep the fish oil from coming back on me...usually after lunch. The tube was still empty from yesterday, so I scooped it up and went back upstairs to fill it.

As I entered the bathroom, I noticed that Mensa Boy, in the 2.5 minutes I was gone, had spread all his stuff all the way across the bathroom counter, some of it right on the edge of my sink.

"Oh. I see how it is," I said.

"What?" he asked innocently.

"If I die prematurely you are just going to take over completely. You'll spread all the way across the bed the first night, too," I accused.

"No. I'll take all my stuff, put it over there, and leave it out!" he said.

Monday, August 18, 2008

School's Starting

Bus Stop
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Did I post this photo somewhere already? Maybe it was on my old blog. (Which reminds me that I need to continue moving those old entries over to this one. Maybe in my spare time...ha! Well, actually I do have spare time, I just like to spend it sleeping.)

School will start on Thursday. Apparently right in time for a big ole tropical storm to come through and dump feet and feet of water on us. Funny. We keep hearing dire warnings of flooding, scattered through with happy sounds about our drought ending, but when you go to the 5-day forcast on Google, it just says 40% chance of rain. Go figure.

Well, as you can imagine, things are quite hot at school these days. I don't mean temperature-wise. Our air conditioning works extremely (probably too) well, thank you. What I'm saying is that our schools are hotbeds of activity as we get our usual influx of new students, along with the crowds of kids wanting to change their schedules. Some of the schedule-changers will outright admit they want to change so they can be in some other teacher's class, or be with their friends. But many will dance around the issue, inventing all sorts of reasons why they need to change. We are getting quite adept at sniffing out the imposters and sending them packing.

And speaking of packing...the manchild here has done none of it so far. Neither has he read the required reading ("Peace Like a River" by Lief Enger) or done the required 3-hour online alcohol class. Last weekend I was prepared to go head-to-head with him about the packing issue when my good friend and Principal told me to just let it go and let him deal with it. "Just say 'I hate it for you,' when he whines about having to do it all the night before," she wisely said. And so I let go and we had a nice weekend.

Friday night Mensa Boy, Nate and I sat around in the living room playing with our webcams, setting up Skype so we can all call each other. And then of course we had to test everything several times while Taylor cooked us supper. Feedback noises are kind of cool on computers.

Saturday night Nate and I went shopping at Target. I bought him 3 more pair of shorts and a few incidentals. And I had a chance to talk to him about what was stressing him. And I was surprised to learn that he's totally stressed about stuff I hadn't thought of, and not at all concerned about stuff I'm concerned about. So there. My "mom bubble" was expanded a bit.

Sunday buddy Tambri and I did our toes and watched a movie. This is the second time we've spent Sunday afternoon doing our toes and visiting. It's very relaxing and we might keep it up even after sandal season is over. Maybe we'll move to funkier colors then.

And now it's 9:35 and I need to go to bed. As a T likes to say, "Last night I slept as well as bacon cooking in a frypan...flip...flip...flip."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Backyard Butterfly

Backyard Butterfly
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
It's late. And the end of a very busy weekend. To be honest I'd blog a lot more if I could do it at work. It doesn't take but a minute to write an entry but the school filters to do not allow access to either Flickr or blogspot.

I shot this with my 55-200 zoom on a tripod this afternoon. Shutter priority, of course. Butterflies move pretty fast.

We visited Erskine College all day yesterday. We left very early and got home about mid-evening. I'll write about that later.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Late Bloomers

Crape Myrtle Aug08
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
I'm a late bloomer myself, so I don't hold anything against my Crape Myrtle tree for choosing to bloom almost a month later than the neighbor's. Sometimes I wish it were a more exciting color than white, but we should strive to accept some things and people for the way they are, shouldn't we?

I've been shooting this tree for a couple of days, hoping to get a photo for a special project I'm working on. I like this one, but am not convinced that it's the one I want. We'll see.

It's been a bit hectic here, as you can imagine. Nate leaves for Erskine on August 23, so we are busy getting him to doctor appointments and shopping for dorm supplies. It's tax-free weekend here, but I'm not really mustering up the courage to go out and battle the crowds in the 90+ heat to save 7.5%. I might go to Wal-Mart today. Yup. Wal-Mart. On a Sunday afternoon. But I need his bedding and there is a pretty nice store here in Tega Cay. We'll see.

Taylor and I spent a few hours cooking yesterday for a story I wrote this morning on tailgating food. We did a cranberry walnut coleslaw recipe that I got from buddy Rena and a marinated shrimp recipe I got from buddy Sarah. We also made another batch of peach lemonade because Mensa Boy didn't get any of it last time. This was the second food story I've done in a week. The other was my annual treatise to the South Carolina peach. That one should be in next week's paper, so I'll post some photos and recipes next week.

It's been great having Taylor with me in the kitchen. Periodically I have to tell him I don't want help, though. Cooking is, after all, my hobby. So sometimes I like to just put on some tunes (typically Norah Jones), pour a glass of wine and just cook. But he does have a knack for it. Especially grilling. He pulled off some wonderful butterfly chops last week that absolutely were fantastic. They were done perfectly, very moist and yet cooked through. It took me a long time to perfect pork chops on the grill without drying them out. He's also become a bit of a grilled corn aficianado, although our attempt to cook cobs on the cast iron grill pan on top of the stove was not so great. We had copious amounts of smoke alternating with very slow cooking as we turned the heat up and down to find the right method. He finally decided he'd rather do that outside from now on, too.

I started back to work on Thursday. I was surprised to roll up to the building only to find everyone else already there. Apparently we were still on the 4-day workweek, so I had to work 10 hours that day! Since I didn't show up until 7, I was stuck there until 5:30 or 6. More like 6:15, since I kind of dithered around at lunch. But, it did mean I had Friday off, so that was cool. And this next week will be the last 4-day work week. So one more Friday off!

That's it. It's Sunday afternoon, which means NAPTIME!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Bat Tower

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This is the AT&T building in downtown Nashville. Buddy Chris says they refer to it as the bat tower. I can see why.

And many thanks to the anonymous reader that identified the red sculpture. It is called "Ghost Ballet," and was done by artist Alice Aycock. Anonymous put a link to a Nashville photo blog that tells about it and has a photo from an entirely different perspective. Take a look.

Here is Aycock's official website. Definitely worth a look.

Yesterday's quest for a new comforter for our bedroom was fruitless, but I may go back today and pick up one I saw in Macy's. I kept getting stymied by the browns because I keep thinking the walls in our bedroom have a sort of rosie-ness to the brown color. But really I won't know how it works out until I bite the bullet and buy one. The thing is, I DESPISE doing returns so I'm trying very hard to get as close to what I want as possible.

Today will be doctor appointments all around and a lot of extra errands. Yuck. But then they will be out of the way!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Broccoli Pesto Lunch

Broccoli Pesto Lunch
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
One of my favorite tomato-season lunches is pasta tossed with pesto and tomatoes. You may recall that in this post I mentioned Broccoli Pesto & Fusilli Pasta, a recipe I found on one of my favorite food sites, 101 Cookbooks. At the time I said I didn't even shoot that supper because their photos are so much better than mine anyway.

But when I took the leftover pesto, tossed it with the leftover fusilli, threw in the rest of the chard and tossed in a yellow heirloom tomato, I pretty much couldn't resist shooting my lunch.

I've done a bit more food photography these last couple of days as I've worked on my annual peach story for the paper. I made a peach lemonade and then some peach pasta, which we put on top of some excellent butterflied pork chops that Taylor grilled up for us. I will post those after the story is written. Which I really should do today.

This is my last week of summer. And not even a full week. I start back Thursday. I'm sad to see the summer end, as I've really enjoyed just relaxing and not working...either physically or mentally. There is a lot to be said for having a job that stays at the job and doesn't follow you around in your head like writing does.

I will spend the next three days doing those summer things that should be done before school lets out. A couple of doctor appointments and then I need to get eye exams done for the guys too. But I will also start the "dorm shopping" this week. This will probably take up quite a bit of time in the next few weeks. That list is rather long. Nate received his roommate info and room assignment in the mail Saturday, so we should contact his new roommate to see what he has so we can coordinate stuff like televisions and microwaves and refrigerators. Also lofts. Erskine has loft kits we can buy for $50 and Nate wants to do that. If Matthew does too, then it will be easier to figure out the dorm room. We'll see the room a week from Saturday during orientation and we can map it out and plan it then. But tax-free weekend is this weekend, so we should do some buying now.

And that's it for today. I'll need to start figuring out how to balance the blogging with work and jazzercise and home care. Blogging kind of went by the wayside there for a while.