Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cookie Failure

I've been looking at this recipe for almost a year now, waiting for the annual neighborhood cookie fest to try them out. "Why," you ask, "why didn't you test the recipe?" Well, because that would be like cheating somehow. And way too much work. I'm not going to test a recipe when making them just in the nick of time for the party is much more exciting. Anyway, things started out simple enough. Chocolate sugar cookies rolled out and 1 1/2" coins stamped out. I don't have a biscuit cutter, but the martini shaker top worked great. Bake the rounds and let them cool. The sandwich part of the cookie is next. Caramel, yummmm. Sugar, heavy cream, a little vanilla, a little corn syrup. Instructions said to cook this until the candy thermometer reached 250. My first hint of impending doom should have been reading that my thermometer calls this 'hard crack.' I cooked and cooked, then I added the butter per the instructions and let the whole mess cool for a bit. By the time I sat down to cut the rounds of caramel to be sandwiched between the chocolate cookies, the caramel wouldn't even peel off the waxed paper. I managed to make little caramel balls by rolling a piece between my palms, then squooshing that between the chocolate cookies. They looked pretty good, but it was slow going. Then Nora came over with a sample plate of what she'd made and I offered her one of the caramel cookies. It took her nearly five minutes to finally chew the damn thing into submission. When she could speak again, we agreed it was a good thing she didn't have any fillings because they would have been pulled out. Part of me wondered if I could cook the caramel less, but then I just wadded up the recipe and chucked it.

I just piled the chocolate coins in the middle of a ring of pecan bars (my second offering that turned out great) and headed over for John's killer eggnog.

So now I have this disk of caramel. Do you think I could melt it on the stove, add peanuts, and call it peanut brittle? I think I'll give it a try, but I think I'd need to cook it a bit more for the crunchy sort of brittle. The recipes I saw for brittle also included baking soda, so I'd have to add that too.

Nora made Earl Gray tea cookes, some chocolate wafers that had a gingery flavor, and my favorites were a savory kinda cheezy spicy salty wafer. I'll have to get that recipe from her.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Celebration - a tribute

I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which are two happy, healthy kids. I've posted more about the younger son (recently here), but number one son's birthday is today, and it's a milestone celebration worthy of a little tribute.

I've never been a scrapbooker. I've saved everything, always meaning to get around to it. I've got dozens of scrapbooks, sadly empty, gathering dust in a box near all the boxes of photos and elementary school art. Imagine how thrilled I was, in the first box I opened, to find Z's very first photo.

Every mother always, rightfully, believes their babies are the most beautiful. I'm no different. He always was a pretty baby.

And every child has their awkward years. Z had an unnatural attachment to these suspenders. I couldn't give them away when he outgrew them. They are in his treasure box in the attic as we speak.

After the suspenders came the cowboy years. This was Halloween, but it felt like cheating because he would put this outfit on any given day, six-shooters and all.

Then came the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle days. I bought this sweater three times so that he always had one that fit him. This black and white photo doesn't quite do justice to the chicken pox blisters all over his face. He couldn't go to school, so he was my assistant on a photo shoot downtown. Clearly he was feeling better.

And then we were six. That's baby Mosby. You can tell by Z's face how thrilled he is with this particular birthday present. Neither of them stayed that little for very long.

The baseball years were fun. T was so proud of his big brother! Z told me once, sometime around when this picture was taken, that he was going to play professional baseball and make FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

Jump ahead a couple of years. He's entering the awkward teenage years here, but Ingrid didn't have to ask him twice to dance. Can you blame him? He has always had good taste in women.

Look back again for a moment to a three-year old Z on training wheels. I was so glad to find this particular shot too, considering the cyclist he has grown up to be. Those first few miles on the bike path must have been formative. . .

. . . since this is where that led to in about 10 years.

There were good days and bad. This one was particularly bad, but he had a good story to tell.

He moved on to the mohawk days of his life. When he was teased about his choice of coif, he would reply, "These are my wild hair days!" So true.

You're a big goof-ball, beautiful boy, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Can't wait for you to get home for the holidays. I miss you, you big lug. Happy 21st birthday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

College Spirit

Meet Bosco, my college boy's pup. He's modeling the CSU cycling team's new jersey. I'm sure he's happy for the cover up-- it looks cold. And this dog does like to get under the covers.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Ideas

I'm casting about for some Thanksgiving recipe ideas.

This cake has the whole meal on one plate. From the originator: "Whether this Thanksgiving centerpiece incites horror, amazement, or confusion when it’s served, it’s certain to evoke some kind of outburst. Warning: This dish is not recommended for people who require an inch of space between food groups." Recipe here.

Thanks to blogger pal Toad, we can also have dessert in like fashion.

Directly from Toad's post: "To stay in the true spirit of the feast offer to bring Cherpumple, the turducken of desserts. Cherumple is a 3 layer cake (yellow, spice, white) with a pie baked in each layer (cherry, pumpkin, apple). Recipes are plentiful, look around, I won't help." Toad also offers other insightful comments, as usual.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Made Me Laugh

This made me laugh. ADG, I thought of you in particular.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Halloween Post

The Burger King and his queen. This was fun, even as I realized the bright-eyed boy is now about two inches taller than me. Maybe you can tell by the mask in his left hand, he was the Burger King king. Best friend #1 was Ronald McDonald, and #2 best friend was Col. Sanders. They are too funny. My dad came for lunch on Sunday to see Troy dressed in his costume, so of course we had to go to the nearest Burger King (not nearby, by the way) to get lunch. You would have thought a gen-u-wine celebrity had landed in the restaurant. The little kids were clapping their hands together and pointing, "There's the KING!!" The manager and all the counter ladies came around front with their cameras to have their pictures taken with "the King." And to top it all off, they only charged me half for all but Troy's meal, and let Troy have whatever he wanted from the menu for free. McDonalds and KFC were not nearly so gracious later in the evening when their mascots visited.

Here are all four, I mean, three, amigos.
A good time was had by all, and there's enough candy in the house to take us through to Easter.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last of the Tomatoes

As opposed to The Last of the Mohicans. My tomatoes look like shit. I had to take the whole shebang down. In this photo you can see my basil peeking through, and one last pink holdout of of fruit.

So in the aftermath of taking down the four plants I had inside of a two foot radius, I had more ripening tomatoes than I could see from a foot away, and LOTS of greenies. More than I got a picture of. I guess it's time for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Yummm!

In other cooking news, tonight's menu is bean and chicken sausage stew. Chicken sausage (duh), cannellini beans, tomatoes, and kale. yummm.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Fresh Eyes

I mentioned in my last post that I broke my glasses. It was time for a check up anyway, so the bright-eyed boy and I headed off to the optometrist last week. Troy was along for the ride so we could hunt down some Halloween costume elements. He thought it was quite amusing to watch me jump when they blasted my eyes with the evil eye-blaster machine, and was quite good-natured about helping me pick out new frames.

Me: How about these?

Him: They really accentuate the bags under your eyes.

Me: hmmmmf.

I also let the good doctor talk me into trying monovision. Seems I'm not ready for reading glasses yet, but I do now have to take my glasses off whenever I'm reading or using the computer. He gave me a lens for my right eye to over-correct my distance vision. I don't have anything in my left eye, presumably so it can cover the close up work. We tried this a couple of years ago, but I had to admit that I didn't give the experiment the full two week trial he prescribed. I'm determined to stick it out the full two weeks this time, but I have to admit, I'm not convinced this is for me. I feel like I'm not seeing distance OR close up very well, especially on the computer, and especially-especially numbers. Made balancing the check book in Quicken yesterday very tedious. Not that I love doing that particular chore in any circumstance, but having to squint and move closer to the screen, then farther, then back again, got very tiring.

The new frames will be in this week. I'll take Troy in for his check up Thursday, pick up my new frames, and I think I'll tell the good doctor that my brain isn't adjusting to this like he said it would. Maybe it's just me, but what's the point of going to the trouble of using contact lenses if I'm going to need reading glasses when I use them?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Double Vision

I broke my glasses at the Renaissance Festival a couple of weeks ago. grrrr. I knew going in to the Fair (even if Russ didn't) that I was going to buy a dress. I wasn't sure if it was going to be a wench-y sort of dress or what, but my friend Lucy had talked me into it. We looked at the wenchier varieties, but I wasn't satisfied. A little too, I don't know, Stevie Nicks, for my taste.

I didn't even really want to try anything on in the first shop. Then, across the compound, I saw a shop with more what I was looking for. The first dress I tried on wasn't right, but then I found one I loved. You really do need somebody to help dress you. I didn't get a good picture of the laced up back, but it does bring Mamie in Gone with the Wind to mind

The wonderful lady who helped me was very informative. Anybody who saw you in this get up (back in the day, that is) knew you were somebody with some money because you have to have at least one ladies maid to help lace you in. She was very business-like in her instructions. Sheer underdress goes on first, tucked into the lacy petticoat. Silk overdress goes on top. Silk underdress sleeves get pulled out. Then I have to cross my arms and "grab the girls" (her exact instructions) and lift while she was pulling on the laces in the back. It was so tight. I'm not hugely endowed, but what I have was (almost) all out there. I kept tugging the underdress up. Bff Lucy says it takes some getting used to. Yeah. Anyway, here's the dress. I think you can click on it to get a closer view. What fun. I immediately had to get a tankard of beer.

Anyway, after getting all laced up, I had to gather up my purse, jeans, t-shirt, etc. Nice lady was going to hold onto my street clothes for me, but I couldn't find my glasses. When I finally got to the bottom of the pile of petticoats, underdresses, and skirts, there they were, crushed under my heel in the little dressing room. Oh well. Wouldn't have looked right anyway.

I had to stop back by the shop to change back into a pumpkin before the drive home. When Nice Lady unlaced me, I let out a huge sigh of relief. She laughed, and said, "In this business, we call that a bodice-gasm." Perfectly appropriate.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Headed West

I'm off to Colorado today to visit the college boy for the long weekend. Weather is supposed to be grand, though Zack warned me that it could be 80 degrees then it could snow. Doesn't appear to be any snow in the forecast, thank goodness. Got a direct flight, for which I'm grateful, but I wonder how much it is to upgrade to first class? Man, I am so spoiled.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Carnage Was Terrible

Bees were busy girls this afternoon, but that didn't turn me away from my task. My last post described my travails trying to melt ten tons of sugar into 8 cups of water. We did manage to pour a lot of syrup into the feeders (the top section, just under the roof, with no handles), but now, two weeks later, there's so much sugar left crystallized that the boards that are supposed to float are cemented into the bottoms. These are the feeder boxes. I thought I would move them to the curb for easier hosing, but there were so many bees I left them about 10 yards from the hives and still a safe distance from the sidewalk.
I removed the slatted boards that normally float on top of the liquid sugar. This is what was underneath. Veritable glaciers of sugar. I'm a good cook, but I sure messed this one up for these bees. I felt terrible having to hose in some water to loosen the sugar-pack. We lost a few, maybe not as many as in the sinking of the Titanic, but still.

I was by myself, which may have been foolhardy. I smoked them, I talked to them, I cajoled them. Then when I thought I had one INSIDE my veil I started to panic. Then when I realized it REALLY WAS inside my veil, I ran away. Like that helped-- it was INSIDE the veil. Anyway, a moment later the veil was off, but not before I got it on the jaw. Somehow that seemed to calm me. The worst was over. I suited up again and headed back to finish the job. Used the hive tool to scrape the sugar out, dumped it (and the carnage) to the curb, and put everything back together again. Got another girl between my shoe and sock so there's a glancing sting to my right foot, but so far no serious implications from either site. Maybe the wine is helping. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I thought I might need tequila, but the wine is working juuust fine.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welfare Bees

In bee news, my hive partners and I took the hive apart down to the bottom super (of four) last weekend to see how set they are for the coming change of season. There's a LOT of bees, which is good, and we spotted the queen in tan hive, but neither blue nor tan hive had much if any brood. The brood the queen lays now will be the workers that take the hives through the winter.

Then on Sunday there was a tremendous amount of activity outside of blue hive. I've never seen them cloud in front of the hive that way. The next day there were so few hanging around the hive entrance I wondered (via email) to my hive partners if they might not have swarmed. This was alarming, as we hadn't had a confirmed sighting of a new queen or that one had been laid. Then over the next couple of days the hive looked completely normal. I guess I was just hysterical.

In any case, it is my turn to feed them. If we feed them they'll be working less outside the hive and will hopefully turn their energies toward making more bees.

I got 3 qts of water and six bags of sugar into my crab pot just fine. Then I thought it was a brilliant idea to use the giant aluminum pot that was in the garden next to the bucket in which we collect any comb we scrape when we're in the hives. I got the water and five of the six bags of sugar I had left into the pot and started cooking before I realized that the bottom wasn't sound and it was leaking all over the stove. I managed to get everything transferred to two other pots with Russ's help (and only a little spilled onto Russ's shoes). BUT, after hours of slow cooking, a lot of the sugar had not melted. I think the 2:1 might be too much octane. I cooked them more this morning and more of the sugar melted. We'll see if it's crystallized again this afternoon. And that was without that sixth bag of sugar. Lucky welfare bees! Will it hurt them if what we feed them is a bit crystallized? I doubt it. Reminds me of an elementary school experiment where we melted sugar until the water was so saturated it crystallized onto a string we left in the mixture over night.

I'm so glad it's cooler. We'll suit up and go back in this afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed for more bee babies!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Uncertain Age

Anybody who knows me knows something about the journey I've taken over the last four years to lose a great deal of weight and to keep it off. I couldn't be more pleased with my results. I know, however, that I'm not 20 any more, but I don't think I'm an ancient yet. Why, you might ask, do I make this declaration? A little girl at the pool, maybe seven or eight, upon seeing me slide into the deep end of the pool, into what is supposed to be an area for adults, I might add, says to her companion, "There's an old lady getting into the pool!"

I guess that's me. Little git.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Simon Bolivar

Bright-eyed boy had one last project to cap off this interminable school year. The point of the project was to write a biography. He could choose from a list, but any other name he recognized was taken. In any case, he found Simon Bolivar interesting. He also discovered that they share a birthday, which really sparked his enthusiasm.

His report is in the form of diary entries and letters he wrote home to his mother and father. To get the best grade, students were to dress up as their subject. This is all well and good, but of course this particular requirement wasn't brought to my attention until a day or so before show time. Only one trip to the fabric store later, and we had what we needed. A sports jacket that was almost too small, a packet of gold buttons, and my favorite touch, the epaulets from the curtain trim department. He wore a pair of my cropped white jeans tucked into his dad's Frye boots.

Here's Senor Bolivar:
And here's his doppelganger:

Troy drew the line when I offered to draw on a little mustache. He does make me laugh. Oh, and he got an A on the report.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Walk in the Woods

R and T decided that Conan the Barbarian was what our viewing pleasure was this evening. I enjoy the series, but having seen this film at least 160 times, I opted for the late dog walk. Also got to visit the back door neighbors with the new baby. Baby was sleeping so I didn't stay long. The walk through the woods was more memorable. Another neighbor's grandson, whom we've babysat in his babyhood, was visiting from California. This babe is now 21, just today. He flew east from LA with his 2-year old pit bull, Domino, and his girlfriend. G-friend was friendly, indicating an interest in a martini that proved her taste to be more apple-tini than gin related, but still. Anyway, sitting on the patio, come to find out, she's never seen fireflies. She's never seen them before. I remembered this tonight, as the boys were enjoying Conan and I was enjoying a rain-cooled walk in the woods with Miss Molly. The fireflies were everywhere, and I decided I don't think I could live anywhere without fireflies.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The First Sting

Very interesting article here about evidence of ancient beehives found in Israel (thanks Woo!).

In other hive news,
I got my first sting Tuesday afternoon. They have been very active lately, and we've added a 3rd box to the busier hive, and will soon to the other one. We have to smoke them very carefully and work fast. My bee suit has a loop that hooks over my middle finger to hold the sleeve down. I'd forgotten to loop it, so my sleeve rode up and my glove rode down, exposing my wrist and that's where she got me. No big reaction. I never thought I was allergic, but I remember the last time I got stung (years and years ago) I had a big swelling. This just feels bruised, still, two days later. And my eyes have been really irritated and scratchy, but that could just be the outrageous pollen counts around here. Again, not allergic, but the amount of particulate matter in the air is irritating.

I'll get some pictures up here soon. I'm as busy as the bees, between end-of-school stuff at work, end-of-school stuff for the bright-eyed boy, the end of an UNDEFEATED soccer season (!) for him. . . it's always something. Troy is so full of himself, as he should be right now. He's not obnoxious (or not much-- ha!), but he's getting so tall, and his boy body is turning into a young man's, and he is inordinately pleased with himself. He's taller than me now, which he points out at every opportunity. He still wants to give me a hug now and then, for which I'm grateful, but he can't hug me without picking me up off my feet, just because he can. He laments that his cracking voice is hugely irritating, but I think this pleases him too. He's a funny boy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bee Tracking

I promise to muse on non-bee things too, but I'm consumed at the moment. My friend Doug, a couple of blocks away from my house, said he saw honeybees for the first time on his Hawthorne tree. I mentioned this to our bee mentor, Frank, and he replied, "you can carefully dab a bit of Whiteout on the thorax of one of those bees while she is sipping nectar there and time her round trips. If she returns in a couple of minutes, on average, she’s yours. You can also watch for her on the landing board [of the hive]."

How cool is that?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bee Installation and Inspection

Hey Frank! Thanks for this photo! Beautiful!
Frame making was a bit tedious, but the company was good. This is Jan, doing her part, so we can install the foundation in the frames. The frames are the part of the hive that hang down that the bees actually build the comb onto. Foundation is a sheet of wax stamped in a honeycomb pattern that we install in slots in the frame. It was kind of fragile, but smelled really good.
This is Nora sliding the foundation into the slots.
The framemakers and bee keepers, yours truly on the left.
Now we're ready to pick up our queens! This was a chilly Saturday morning about three weeks ago. Each box holds a queen and about a thousand of her new best friends and minions.
The queen is segregated into her own little chamber, sealed in with a candy plug. The plug is meant to be breached, but in the meantime, the drones and workers have a chance to get to know her and each other.
Nora escorts our two boxes to the truck. They are surprisingly heavy.
We got the bees home and they stayed in their boxes in Jan's basement for a few days for further bonding. This is Jan on Installation Day. We've got the hives open and several frames removed so we can dump the boxes rather unceremoniously into the hive. The queen box is rubberbanded to one of the frames. The bees will eat through the candy plug and the queen will be free to move about the hive and hopefully get busy with Queen Bee business.
John, on the left, is very worried about a possible allergy to bee stings. Epi-pens have been installed in prominent locations. He didn't seem too worried here.
The boxes are opened. Frank (in all white) is a patient teacher.
That's me, pretty in pink, getting ready to load this box into the hive.
One down, one to go.
The bees look like they're finding their way around just fine.
Here's John again, clearly not worried about standing too close and unprotected.
The Feeding Box goes back on top. The frame boxes you see on the ground will go back into Jan's garage until the bees have filled up the first box, maybe in a month or so.
We put the boxes on the ground in front of the hives so that the last bees that didnt' get shaken out can make their way out and into the hive.
Thanks Frank! Now we can take off the gear and watch the bees settle in.
So far so good. Home sweet home.
Next up, our second inspection in which see if the queens are making brood (laying eggs), the workers are making honey, and that all's well in Dinwiddie St. bee world. My friend two streets over says he's seeing honeybees in his Hawthorne tree, which he's never seen before. It will be interesting to see if we can track reports of increased flowering and fruiting in the 'hood. Stop back by for further progress reports!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dressed to the Nines

Reference after reference failed to turn up a definitive origin for the expression "dressed to the nines," although they all seem to agree on its meaning. Describing someone as being "dressed to the nines" implies the donning of expensive clothing, jewelry and other fashionable accessories, most likely for a formal dance or theatrical performance.

Bright-eyed boy professed nonchalance at the whole production of dressing for the Cotillion Black and White Ball, but I think he got into the spirit of the event.

Dad had to help with the studs. . .

And the cummerbund. Troy thought the waistcoats look cool, especially some of the more colorful varieties, but our vendor didn't carry his size, so cummerbund it was.

Then the tie.

Joe Cool channeling James Bond doing a Fonzie move. Heyyyy. . .

And it's off to the dances. The boys had the option of a suit and tie or a tux. Renting the fancy duds was cheaper than buying a suit he's going to grow out of by next week. The girls had a little more leeway, though the theme being black and white narrowed the choices a bit. All the girls had their white gloves on and dance cards on a string around their wrists.

Troy was a sport about all the pictures, but then he started dodging me like I was paparazzi.

I did get one more good shot before he dodged me entirely. Too bad nobody got a picture of me all dressed up for the ball. Moms got a dance with their sons, and dads with their daughters. No glass slippers though.