Monthly Archives: April 2012

Monday Musings

1.  I have one thing to say this morning and it is the following:  NO ONE IN MY FAMILY IS ALLOWED TO THROW UP TODAY.

In case the preceding sentence didn’t adequately capture what my weekend looked like, let me elaborate.  There was hurling.  And lots of it. It started Thursday night at bedtime when Travis got sick, conveniently after having ingested half a pizza, and just rolled on through the rest of the family with Craig and JJ bringing things to a close last night.

And yes, I’m spending the day Lysoling my house. 

And burning incense to appease the throw-up gods. 

2.  In other news, I did something new this past week and made my first vegetable tray that didn’t come from the deli.

Try not to get whiplash from that segue, please.

And since I had license to put whatever I wanted on it, I skipped the raw broccoli and raw celery because a) raw broccoli is only made palatable by adding mayo, sugar, bacon, raisins, and sunflowers and b) celery is evil.

3.  I did a little yard work yesterday and by yard work I mean I bought a bag of potting soil and planted herbs in their compostable pot and put in my herb garden for the summer.

I also swapped out the dead ferns on the front porch for some geraniums that will hopefully appreciate the sun a little more than their predecessors.

They look a little sad all by their lonesome so I think I’m going to add some ivy around to fill in the space but only after I put a little emotional distance between myself and the Home Depot nursery because I tend to get a little ambitious when I’m in there and overreach any ability to tend to my purchases so I need a few days to clear my head so that I can rationally walk in there and buy only one thing.

4. I made PW’s brisket last week and the boys rose up and called me blessed.

Not so pretty in its raw, marinating state, and not the smoky sweet taste that we get when Craig cooks it outside on the grill, but it was tasty and the leftovers were great on a sandwich.

5.  Nothing else comes to mind.

I think I’m still in shock from navigating the weekend minefield.

Have a nice barf-free day.


Five on Friday

1.  Our last day of vacation was spent walking acres and acres and acres of the Columbus Zoo.

Thank you, zoo people, for making it relatively flat and super easy to navigate pushing a wheelchair.

And thank you also for not charging me an admission fee because I was pushing a wheelchair. 

And to the ticket booth attendant, thank you for not calling security when I got a little teary when you told me that and then for your patience as I over-explained how that one little kindness just wrecked me because our little family includes one of the least of these and the act of generosity, seemingly trivial to you, meant that Grace whispered “I see you.”

I will not  bore you with the fuzzy faraway pictures of giraffes and elephants, but I will show you how I faced my fears in the den of lions.

Or lorakeets.

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

This picture falls into “The Things We Do For Our Kids” category because Mama really doesn’t do nature but Travis and Tommy wanted to see the birds up close (not J – his unfortunate 8 year-old encounter with a hungry lorakeet at the Oklahoma City Zoo has left him scarred for life) so I sprang/sprung for the nectar cup and summoned courage from the reserve vault and prayed that no one would make any sudden moves because I didn’t want to force Mama Bird having to explain to Timmy why Daddy didn’t fly home at the end of the day.

2.  Breaking my rule about not showing fuzzy animal pictures, we did get up close and personal with a kangaroo that had jumped the one-foot security fence that clearly failed at its job.

The roo’s name was Caroline and though it may look like she was chillin’ and at ease with everyone around her, I suspected her motives.

We moved on quickly.

3.   After visiting the zoo, we went out for Chinese food because that’s what one does when in Ohio, right? and we drove by this odd field of corn statues and I snapped a quick pic and texted it to my friend Tina who’s from the area and I said “What’s with the corn?” and she said, “That’s the Giant Field of Corn” which a) um, yes, and b) is listed in Roadside America (one of my favorite travel websites) as a neat place to see.

Here’s a better picture, borrowed from Roadside America and please don’t sue me since I just wrote glowing things about you.

So, hooray, for unintentionally stumbling across something fun.

4.  Finally it was time to come home, and except for the part where I got lost because I trusted my GPS more than my instinct, it was uneventful.  The kids were exhausted and either slept or ate some of the doughnuts I picked up at the last Tim Horton’s we’d see until who knows when, and I tooled down the highway with my travel companion that Tommy picked up at the zoo’s gift shop.

A spider. 

Eating a gas station gummy worm. 

You know, the usual.

5.  And by the time we got home and saw Craig, I was ready to scream “TAG, YOU’RE IT”  “WE MISSED YOU!”

Have a nice day.



In which we eat more things in Columbus

When I had requested suggestions for the things to see and do in Columbus, just about everyone said to go spend some time at COSI.  My friend Cheryl echoed the sentiment and agreed to join us for the morning and we arrived bright and shiny in the pouring rain at opening time with eight thousand of our closest friends who also decided it might be a good day for indoor activities.

We are wet and cold because our mother didn’t check the forecast.  Please send jackets and umbrellas.  And a new mom.

COSI is a huge place with tons of interactive and informative science-y stuff, an IMAX movie theater (I made them watch a tornado movie and scarred them for life), and lots of fun exhibits on technology and industry.  Did my kids care about that stuff?  No.  They played pinball and storekeeper in the 50s soda shop with children they’d never met before.

They also spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what this strange contraption was.

Children, this is called a KNOB.  It’s a prehistoric remote control that your mother used.

I was most fascinated by the life exhibit on the second floor.  The museum hides no secrets but it was neat to show the boys one particular showcase that had the stages of development for babies growing in the womb.  It was a little sobering to remember just how tiny they were when they were prematurely born but at the same time, encouraging to see how very far they’d come.

This is the size of a six month-old gestating baby, and roughly the size my boys were when they were born.  They weighed the same as a 2-pack of Twizzler’s. 

We hadn’t seen all there was to see by 1:00 but the boys were starving so we ducked out of the museum for a few hours to head over to North Market, an artsy, foodie sort of place that houses several different restaurants and I gave the kids their choice of food stall and they all chose the pasta place which shouldn’t have surprised me but it was all I could do not to roll my eyes because they have inherited their love of spaghetti and meatballs from their father and I do not understand it. 

And then I turned around and chose the Vietnamese version of spaghetti and meatballs and had the pho.

We really didn’t go to North Market for lunch, though.  We went for dessert.  Ohio is kinda’ known for Graeter’s ice cream which is just fine but isn’t Blue Bell but I had heard through the grapevine from my friends Tina and Melissa that Jeni’s ice cream was really the way to go and that I really needed to try the Salty Caramel version which I did and I now wish I hadn’t because I think about it obsessively a little too often and I might have to move to Ohio just so I can have it when I need want it.

I couldn’t eat just one flavor so I got a triple scoop of Salty Caramel, Cherry Lambic Sorbet (VERY funky and good), and Pistachio Honey. 

Oh. My. 

We went back to COSI after lunch and finished up a few things we’d missed in the morning and then went to the hotel to swim off some ice cream and energy before the dinner I’d planned at Der Dutchman, an Amish restaurant not too far from where we were staying.  I’ve really wanted to take the boys to see Amish country and communities so they could see the honorable beauty of a simple life but Amish people don’t blow up things so it’s not super high on their list.  Eating supper is, however, high on the list so this was a good way to combine the two. The restaurant was crowded and while we were waiting for our table we had the chance to observe some Mennonites in the crowd (Mennonites and Amish are kissing cousins – they share the same beliefs but differ on how best to live out those beliefs in how they interact with the outside world) and I had the opportunity to talk about how people of faith live out their convictions in different ways.

Der Dutchman is famous for its chicken and pies and so suprise, suprise, that’s what I ordered, and when I took a bite of the coconut cream pie, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven because my whole cooking career, I’ve had a vision in my head of what the perfect pie crust would taste like and it tastes just like what I had on my plate.

We were scheduled to leave the next day but we still hadn’t made it to the zoo so I placed a quick call to the ATM machine Craig and asked him if it would be okay if we stayed another day and he said “Have at it!” and so we went back to the hotel and extended our stay by a night and went to bed, ready for more adventure.

And I promise tomorrow will end all my vacation talk.

Have a nice day.


It’s Wednesday. I’m still talking about my vacation

We are big ketchup users in the household.  It’s on the table at lunch and dinner and would be at breakfast if I didn’t draw the line.

The thought of cold ketchup on hot eggs just makes me want to hurl.

Sorry, had to share.

I’m typically not super brand conscious about most things but ketchup falls into the “must buy specific brand” category and we are Heinz people.

Have been, always will.

And in case you need to know, the other two categories are ice cream and peanut butter and in those cases we are an exclusively Blue Bell and Jif family.

Because we see that blessed Heinz bottle a thousand times a week, I thought it would be fun for the boys to go learn a little bit about their favorite condiment and so we spent a morning at the Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

We also spent some time talking about how it wasn’t nice putting rabbit ears behind somebody when trying to take a picture.

The History Center houses several floor of exhibits about life in Western Pennsylvania and the immigration patterns that helped form the unique culture of Pittsburgh.  I would love to tell you all about all the things we saw that showcased Polish, German, and Italian contributions to the city but these were not all fascinating to twelve year-old boys and so we zipped right through those post-haste.  And as an aside, in my next life I’m going alone to visit every place I’ve ever taken them just so that I can stroll and meander and read every single caption under every single artifact because I am nerdy that way and they are not and it still stresses me out that there are exhibits at the Hoover Dam from two years ago that I didn’t get to properly see.

The real gem was the factory exhibit. There were examples of advertising through the years (some in black and white, some that I still remember from my childhood), a place to practice stuffing pickles into a jar like the Heinz factory girls did years ago, pictures and artifacts, and even a little kitchen where you could write down your favorite recipe and leave it on the fridge to share with others.

We spent several hours there and bought the requisite t-shirts that said “I put ketchup on my ketchup” in the gift shop and by this time it was after lunch and really time for us to get on the road.  We were running a half day behind schedule because we’d had so much fun the day before at the Science Museum so I was anxious to get started because I wanted to get to our hotel outside of Columbus before too late in the day because the last thing I ever want to do when traveling to an unknown city is to hit it at rush hour on a Friday (thank you, Atlanta, for teaching me that very painful and nerve-wracking lesson and also to always carry Xanax).

I didn’t pay attention to where our path would take us and as we were driving, I noticed that we’d crossed over into West Virginia for a brief time and saw a road sign that said “Wheeling 32” and had this grand moment of glee when I realized I might have the chance to drop in on Christen, a blog reader and friend that only lives in my computer and by chance I happened to have her phone number because I sent her a creepy email asking if she would mind letting me have her personal information just in case I needed bailing out of jail help while traveling through West Virginia and she had been gracious to provide it and it wasn’t at all awkward to call and leave a message on her answering machine saying, “Hi, this is that weird person you read about on the Internet and I wanted to know if you wanted to meet for lunch when I drive through your town in about twenty minutes.”

She rejected me.

Not really.

I just wanted her to gasp while she was reading that.

Unfortunately, she was in Pittsburgh while I was driving through Wheeling and we were ships that passed in the night but the trip was not for naught because I happened to CONVENIENTLY remember that she told me there was a Tim Horton’s in her town which may have been my motivation all along and so I thought it would be funny if I went to eat at HER Tim Horton’s and it could sorta’ be like we were there together except that we weren’t.

But the doughnuts took the sting away.

We got to Columbus just in time to check into the hotel and then run out to meet my sweet pal Cheryl who moved to Ohio last year from Raleigh and I have missed, missed, missed her because she was my lunch buddy and cooking friend and confidante and mentor all wrapped into one and we all had dinner at Wholly Joe’s which I don’t think it remotely an Ohio landmark because it serves Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches but we did manage to sneak over to Sugardaddy’s (which IS a Columbus mainstay) for dessert where I had the best blonde brownie I have ever had in my life.

And I am serious.

Then we went back to the hotel and she and I stayed up til way too late talking and catching up and the boys bounced off the walls because of the sugar high of eating doughnuts, more brownies and Cheryl’s cookies that she had brought us as a “Welcome to Ohio” gift.

My heart was happy when I went to bed that night.

And my belly was full.

And that’s about the part of the trip when the clothes started feeling a little snug.

More tomorrow..

Have a nice day.

Monday Musings

Since nothing happened this weekend other than watching the rain come down and mourning/panicking that my “skinny me” pants are starting to get a little snug, I’m moving on to Day 2 of our vacation.

We had originally planned to go to Pittsburgh for three reasons.  One, JJ had read about and researched the Carnegie Science Museum and had been asking to go for over a year.  Two, Pennsylvania is a big state and though we had seen the eastern half last year, we wanted to see if the western half was different.  Third, we watch inordinate amounts of Food Network and had heard so much about Primanti Brothers and their weird concoctions with fries and slaw IN THE SANDWICH that we felt we needed to make a pilgrimage to eat there.

I had originally planned on spending the morning looking at science-y stuff and the afternoon at the Heinz History Center but after spending over an hour at just the first exhibit on the first of four floors at the Science Museum, I realized we needed to change plans.

What was that first exhibit?  A whole bunch of stuff about surgery. Someone was very happy to see it.

The kids played with interactive exhibits about gamma rays, tried to dislodge pretend food stuck in pretend throats, and blasted tumors with laser beams.

They played at the water tables. petted a hissing cockroach (no pictures – I was across the room pretending they weren’t my children), attended a cooking demonstration where they learned the science behind flambeed/flambed/can’t get spellcheck to recognize this word/flaming bananas and used magnifying glasses to peer inside tanks of coral.

And they pretended to be gored by a triceratops.

We spent a lot of time in the model train room (they had a little Thomas train that would occasionally come ’round the bend that delighted T to no end) and played basketball against a robot, trying to beat its accuracy.

We lost.


And we waved our arms and shouted “Warning, Will Robinson” to anyone who would hear.

Well, I did anyway.

The kids just looked at me like I had three heads.

After spending all day playing (and I didn’t even talk about the submarine, the air cannons, rock climbing, and trampolines), we took our starving selves to Primanti Brothers for dinner.

And were not disappointed with the deliciousness and the largeness of the sandwiches at all.

And it was worth the trip.

And the snug pants.

Have a nice day.

Five on Friday: The Vacation Edition

So, we’ve been on vacation and traipsing across America for a few days.  We’ve also been back for a few days but THIS WEEK, people, THIS WEEK has been a little crazy.  And yet we’ve somehow navigated it and have started back to school and as much as I love vacation time, I like the routine of the school schedule because Mama does enjoy her a little quiet space during the day when the house is picked up for more than 10 minutes.

Just keeping it real.

So, it’s Friday, and as I am wont to do in this corner of the Interwebs, it’s time for the Five and this week’s edition is 5 pictures from Day 1 of our little jaunt through West Virginia to Pennsylvania and Ohio.  The entire trip was way fun except for the part where I got lost in West Virginia for an hour on the way back and had a little nervous moment that I would never find civilization again.

They don’t call it Wild, Wonderful West Virginia for nothin’.

Fortunately, I had doughnuts in the car which soothed my jangled spirit because I never travel unprepared for emotional calamity.

Day 1:  We saw some pretty and some not-so-pretty sights on our travel day to Pittsburgh.  We drove around Pilot Mountain which I hear is a fun place to go climb but nature isn’t always accessible to wheelchairs nevermind that we aren’t outdoorsy people so we probably wouldn’t haven’t visited it anyway and I pointed it out to the kiddos and said something about it being a NC landmark and they nodded in the same fashion that they always do when I tell them things are important/historic/cool/interesting which is somewhere along the lines of rolling their eyes and saying “Yeah, we know, Mom.”

I think my over-enthusiasm for every little thing we see while on these trips has permanently labeled me as the girl who cried “Wolf!”.

We were making great time until we came around a bend and had to brake quickly for stopped traffic.  Turns out there was an accident on a one-lane bridge that had backed up cars for a mile or so and in the backup, a second accident had occurred.  The second accident was a bit more worrisome than the first because it involved an overturned gasoline truck that was leaking gas all over the highway and as it turns out, we were the lucky ones who ended up right next to the overturned truck.

It had all the makings of an action movie.  All we needed was Bruce Willis and a runaway baby carriage.

It was a tense few moments while I prayed that we could move forward an inch or two and we managed to creep up about eight car lengths and clear the accident site just as every EMS vehicle in the county showed up and shut down the road.

This is a very grainy picture of some of the emergency vehicles that showed up. I would have taken a picture of the gas truck as we sat six inches from it but I was petrified that clicking my camera button would set off an explosion so we just all sat tight and didn’t move a muscle and hoped that someone in another car didn’t need a cigarette break.

After an hour of sitting in park in 35 degree, snowflaky weather while we were all wearing shorts because someone didn’t look at the weather forecast, we were able to get moving again and we made our first touristy stop at the New River Gorge Bridge which is the longest arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and also is conveniently located next to a State Park rest area with clean bathrooms.

I’m realizing we looked a little like street urchins in this photograph but did I mention that it was cold?  And shorts?  Fortunately we had a few jackets in the car from the last time it was chilly (sorry, T, you lost out because you had on long sleeves) and we managed to stay outside for about half an hour before racing back to the car.

We hit several traffic delays along the way and by the time we reached our hotel in Pittsburgh, it was late and we were starving.  Like, chew our arms off starving.  We asked the front desk for a casual, local dinner recommendation and he sent us to Mario’s, a family Italian restaurant in a nondescript strip mall and his idea of casual and my idea of casual were two different things because a) we were the only ones there in shorts and b) my kids were the only ones there under 40 but we were too hungry to be mortified and figured they’d never see us again so we stayed and ended up having a delicious dinner that made me wish for an Italian grandmother.

Eggplant parm.  It’s the only thing I can order and eat without having the kids steal food from my plate.

We got back to our hotel around 10:00 and everyone was too tired to even try to jump on the bed and we settled in and passed out in about fifteen seconds.

And I was grateful to be alive.

Coming up….Day 2.

Have a nice day.



Take me home, country roads

Headed home today. Pictures and narrative to follow but it’s safe to say we’ve had a great time and the diet starts Tuesday.

As does the letter-writing campaign to get Tim Hortons in Raleigh.

Have a nice day.

Cue Willie

I’m on the road again. Keep me company and tell me your best and/or worst vacation moment.

My best? Tying on lengths of rope and adding to the Largest Ball of Twine in teeny tiny Cawker City, Kansas.

My worst? Catching ejecting vomit from one of my very sick kids with my hands while standing on the side of the interstate in Knoxville, Tennessee, while rush hour traffic whizzed six inches from my backside.

Fun times.

Here’s hoping today has more of the former and less of the latter.

Have a nice day.

Monday Musings

I am bleary eyed as I type this morning.  I sat staring at the computer screen for four hours last night sifting through 1940 census data just so I could find the screen capture that had my parents’ or my in-laws’ names.  I called my mom and dad last week to see if they could give me a general idea of where they were at the time so that I could narrow my search and laughed at the difference between them as they relayed their information.

My mom came back with something along the lines of  “We lived in Wichita Falls on  4th Street.   The house was white with black shutters and we had a pot of red geraniums that sat to the right of the front door.  Our neighbors were named Smith and they had four kids named George, Fred, Opal, and Edna and a black dog named Sally who had a litter of puppies in 1942.”

My dad?  “I dunno.  We lived somewhere in Texas.”

I may be *slightly* exaggerating for dramatic effect.   

I love you, Daddy.  

Looking through 100+ pages of Montague County census data revealed nothing so I switched to Craig’s side of the family and because they lived in a small, rural community (and he had boatloads of family history to work with), I was able to quickly find his dad’s record and I’m hoping later today to find his mom’s.

Because I clearly have time to do all of this and don’t at all want to do the laundry that’s piling up around our ears.

Other than staring at the computer, we did a little traveling as well over the weekend.  We left Thursday evening to go to the mountains and spend a few days with Craig’s parents.  My mother-in-law cooked an Easter dinner of ham, smoked turkey, fried okra, squash, yeast rolls, and Jello salad and not only was it fantastic and beautiful and delicious, it got me out of cooking it myself.  There was something for all of us while we were there.  The kids went swimming at the rec center, the menfolk spent time watching the Masters and the womenfolk went shopping for Easter clothes and candy for the boys and managed to sneak in a girl’s lunch at a sandwich shop in town.

The traveling isn’t over just yet – I’m headed out later on this week to cross another state off the list.  We’ve never been to Ohio so we’re headed that way to do some exploring but not before making a stop in Pittsburgh to see the Carnegie Museums and have lunch at Primanti Brothers. Then I think we’re going to Columbus to visit the Zoo and I need to spend a little time on Google this afternoon to see what else might be fun to visit.  If anyone has been to Ohio and knows what might be fun to visit, I’d love to hear recommendations.

Yes, Lucy, I’m talking to you.

Gotta’ run – work and census data awaits.  I hope your Easter was blessed.

Have a nice day.


Monday Musings

We are starting Week 2 of our track out much like we started Week 1 — in our pajamas at 9:00 and an open calendar before us.  I’m enjoying the quiet pace.

We kicked off the weekend by attending the annual book sale put on by our public library.  I’d been meaning to go every year since we moved here because it seemed to be a pretty big deal but hadn’t made it for one reason or another.  This year I made a special effort to make it because a) my smartypants friend Heather was going and she knows fun when she sees it, and b) we’d had a bit much of togetherness in the house and the boys needed to see the outside world.

I spent the better part of two hours browsing the cooking and craft/hobby aisles and came out with a boatload of cookbooks to go with the bajillion I already have but at $4 a hardback and $2 for paperbacks, you can’t blame a girl for loading up.  The kids got in on the action picking up comic books, novels, and a couple of Japanese-English dictionaries.

JJ, you never disappoint.

And frequently amuse.

We took our haul home, settled the kids in with pizza, the remote, and several episodes of Phineas and Ferb on the DVR and Craig took me out for dinner to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary.  He let me pick the place and I chose Machu Picchu, a new Peruvian place that recently opened in a nearby strip mall which also conveniently houses my local Jo-Ann Fabric store because I was hoping to sweet-talk him into stopping in for a quick perusal through the patterns when we were done.

The restaurant was small and unpretentious but the food was delicious and artfully presented.  We had the green tamale for an appetizer (I feel the same way about tamales as I do creme brûlée – if it’s on the menu, it’s on my plate) and for the entrée I had the lomo saltado and Craig had the chicken skewers with chimichurri sauce.  I think we’ll go back again, though, because everyone else was ordering fish and by the time I saw the 4th plate go by, I was panicking that I’d ordered the wrong thing.

We went home shortly after dinner and piled on the couch and watched TV with the kids for a little while and sent them to bed and within minutes heard the unmistakable sound of retching in the upstairs bathroom.

Turns out Tommy brought home something more than just a Captain Underpants book from the library sale.  Apparently they also threw in the Hurling Every Twenty Minutes virus for free.  What a delightful anniversary gift it was.

By Saturday, the throwing up had stopped but he had a raging fever and since it was clear we weren’t going anywhere for a while, we settled on the couch with our new reading material and within twenty minutes I became irrationally obsessed with the Thai cookbook I’d purchased.


“Don’t they make the paste for that stuff in a little jar at Kroger?  Just use that.” said my husband, ever so logically.

“It’s not the same! Does the grandmother living in the rice paddy go to Kroger?  NO! She makes it from scratch! And so shall I!” I said in an understated sort of way.

So off we went to the sketchy Asian market that doesn’t have a health rating prominently posted anywhere and bought ingredients on sight alone because there wasn’t a whole lot of English spoken in the place and my pantomime skills just aren’t what they used to be.

And you can only imagine the smile on Craig’s face when the store owner (who did speak English) asked me why I was buying all of that stuff and I proudly said  “I’m making green curry from scratch” and she LAUGHED OUT LOUD and said, “Why don’t you just buy the jar of green curry paste from the grocery store?  That’s what we all do.”



And then I went home, UNDETERRED, and spent the afternoon making homemade spring rolls…

grinding spices (after sending Craig to two stores to find dried Keffir lime leaves and whole cumin seeds because the ones I bought had been mislabeled and turned out to be fennel)….

and simmering a green chicken curry that would I hope would make a Thai grandmother weep (for joy! for joy!).

And it only took four hours and $38 and I could have had it in 20 minutes and for $3.59 from the little green jar at Kroger.

Have a nice day.