Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh Well

Now I know what a lift system is. It's designed to lift sewage from the basement level of our house up to the street level sewer pipes. You probably guessed that the learning process stinks, literally. And it's the learning process that's at the core of the problem we encountered last week. I gave Ben a lesson on how to clean a bathroom by demonstrating on the upstairs bathroom and then telling him to apply the lesson downstairs. I don't travel up and downstairs for anything less than a tornado warning, so cleaning anything downstairs is not on my priority list. He cheerfully did as I asked him and finished just before Rachel and Kevin came to visit last weekend. And all was well for a few hours.
Kevin reported that his sleep was interupted by the sound of an alarm on the the lift system He turned off the alarm and the system and went back to sleep. All was well until the next morning when the toilet backed up into the shower. Ugh! Then the drain in the John Deere room backed up. Then I found a wonderful person who came and removed a "swifter" which had entered the lift system via the john. Well, anyway the wonderful person cleaned up the mess and all is working and now we all know that you cannot put anything but toilet paper into a john which depends on a lift system to evacuate whatever is deposited in it. End of lesson. Ben now knows how to clean a bathroom, how to dispose of used cleaning materials, and how a lift system works.

On Friday, I sent Ben to the store to buy some liquid detergent designed for front loading HE washing machines. When we got home, and before anyone used the detergent, I realized it was not designated HE. From prior personal experience, I understand why this is not good. Suds billowing out of the machine and engulfing the laundry room are very difficult to clean up. So, we returned to the store where Ben returned the detergent and got the right kind. He now understands why the container must say HE and he also understands the return/refund process at the store.

Friday evening, we had tickets to see Spamalot. This was a big deal, the kids saw Lion King on Broadway, but we have not seen a professional musical production since. We bought and watched the DVD of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to prepare us for the parody on that parody. Just after we pulled into the perfect parking place, Logan realized he was sick and was not going to be able to go into the theater. So, we went home.

The glorious upshot of all these events which might have stressed me out, frustrated me, or even ticked me off thirty years ago, was that none of it mattered. Logan is feeling better, no one else got sick (yet), and we all learned a bit. Parenting is so much easier the second time around.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Fling

A big, bad thunderstorm has been raging all afternoon and promises to hang around for a couple more days. One flash of blue/white cloud-to-ground lightning lit up and shook the house and us with its simultaneous thunder clap. It must have struck very near, but we see no evidence. The river is out of its banks, so we have to use the "go around" route, and my sump pump has quit working. I don't know much about sump pumps, but I expect to know a whole bunch more tomorrow. So far today the tornado warnings have all been to the south of us. We did spend half an hour or so hunkered down the other day during the same storm that moved eastward and hit the St. Louis airport.
I think it's time for a new camera. I've dropped the old one so many times that the chipped plastic door to the battery compartment won't stay closed and I'm getting unpredictable results on the photos. This one is the sharpest of three Kevin took of us this morning, too bad we all have goofy expressions on our faces. The boys looked wonderful in their new suits and got loads of compliments from folks at church. And no, the red and blue ties have no political significance.
We celebrated several birthdays today at Julia's Easter bash -- mine, Sadie's and Nick's. Here Sadie stands next to her look alike paternal grandmother, Sandy Cyr. Julia made a fabulous dinner with a juicy tender fruit-smoothered ham and a yummy carrot souffle -- and a bunch of other really good stuff.
Nick turned sixteen today.

Alicia and Jimmie joined us for lunch. Their twins are due in July. It's a difficult pregnancy for Alicia and I'm sure July seems a long time away. She showed us some astounding ultrasounds showing amazing detail of the babies.
Lars' year as an exchange student from Bremen, Germany is drawing to a close. He has only one more week of classes and will graduate in early May. His folks will come from Germany to attend the ceremony. In this picture, he and Ben are holding the crepe paper wrapped "carrots" that Julia stuffed with little toys, trinkets, or candy. She really worked hard on this party -- it was fabulous!I got lots of wonderful birthday attention, lunches, gifts, cards, phone calls, etc. Kevin and Rachel got me an EZ-Find! The buttons attached to my cell phone and my Kindle respond to a signal transmitted by this device:
Now, the challenge is to be able to located the transmitter when I can't find my phone, Kindle, keys, purse, remote, etc.!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It Used To Be

  • . . . that when I wanted something for future reference, I needed it on paper. Now, I need it on my computer. I scan in pieces of paper, because I know I will lose them some time down the road.
  • . . . the best coffee was made in a percolator and was purchased ground and in a can (Yuban, if you were really fancy -- remember the whoosh of the can opening and the wonderful smell?).
  • . . . possible to buy abalone in fish markets or at restaurants.
  • . . . possible to see the Milky Way on clear nights.
  • . . . that I dialed a phone and typed on a typewriter. (Does any one else know what a comptometer is?)
  • . . . required to license your bicycle.
  • . . . that I could binge on Mother's Iced Raisin Cookies.
  • . . . that making your own clothes was cheaper than buying them. (Patterns now cost $15!).
  • . . .that March 15 was tax deadline day.
  • . . .that making a long distance call was a big deal, only for very important stuff.
  • . . .that we got our shoes resoled. And we polished them.
  • . . . that only old people thought of things like this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Springtime in the Ozarks

Earlier this year and much improved over last year's single blossom, the dogwood burst into bloom yesterday. Record-breaking temperatures over the weekend must have played a part . The tree could use a bit of shaping, but I didn't want to clip a single bud, because last year's poor showing left me feeling a bit deprived. I don't suffer deprivation gracefully.
And the robins are at work on the front lawn which has just had its second mowing of the season. These signs of new life and hope propel me through these early April weeks which are so hard for me. I try to tell myself it's just another day, but my heart doesn't listen. I found myself in tears a good part of the day, the tenth anniversary of Robin's death. I didn't even mention the significance of the day to the boys and no one in my circle mentioned it. Perhaps it is blending into the fabric of the lives of most people. For me, every moment, every breath is loaded with symbolism, memory, pain. The rain was the angels' tears. The thunder evoked the terrible storm on the night of her death. Each breath I took reminded me that she no longer breathed. Her smile, her mind, her coloring, and so many other gifts are stamped on the boys and I see her reflection in every gesture.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hillbilly Cookin' -- NOT

This is what I made for dinner a couple of nights ago:
2 cups pork loin cut into 1" cubes
4 cups swiss chard
2 good-sized Yukon Gold potatoes sliced
1/2 sliced onion

Using very large skillet, saute pork in EVOO until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
Fry the potatoes and onions until cooked through. I brown them on high heat, cover and reduce heat until cooked through. Stir raw swiss chard into the potatoes, cover and let wilt. Add pork back to the mixture, season to taste and serve.

I could have made the same dish using hog jowls, turnips, turnip greens, and onions and it would be perfect hillbilly fare and taste the same as the dish I prepared -- maybe a little better because hog jowls are really just another form of bacon.

Then it occurred to me that there are "uptown" versions of lots of hillbilly food. Take sausage, biscuits, and red eye gravy for instance. How much different and how much the same would it be if I used prosciutto, hollandaise sauce, and a baguette? In fact, add an egg and it is eggs benedict!

Or okra. In the south, this nasty vegetable is either served as a slimy mess, or breaded in cornmeal and fried. But, it is really good if you sprinkle it with garlic and rosemary infused olive oil and grill it, taking care not to pierce the pods. Add salt and pepper -- delicious!

I think this is a cookbook waiting to be written. I wouldn't mind a bit if you steal the idea from me, I'd even help you with it, if you like. I'm not going to get around to it.