Friday, May 30, 2008

Bliss!

Today I did something I haven't done in years. I sat on the couch in the midafternoon and watched a video. The kids both passed out at naptime--they had been playing with friends all morning and were both tired out. I should have probably used that time for accomplishing something productive. Instead, I watched Northanger Abbey and enjoyed every relaxing minute of it. The break did wonders for my sinus headache and my mood!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CRAP!

OK, I know I am not supposed to use that word, but as my children are unable to read, and not allowed on the computer alone, I think I am safe.

So, I put the kids down for their nap after a busy, fun-filled morning of playing at the park and doing Meals on Wheels. My friend, Amy, is having us over to her new house this afternoon and I wanted to bring her something. As I, of course, didn't think of it until naptime, I have nothing to give her. I had planned on planting some clippings of my ivy to have on hand in case I needed a little something to give a friend, but never did get around to it. So, instead I am making some Outrageous Chocolate Cookies a la Martha Stewart, pictured below (which, by the way, are just as delicious as they look and very chocolatey).



While the first sheet of cookies were baking, I poked my head in Charlotte's room to see if she had yet again taken off her pants and diaper. Lately, she has taken to doing so at naptime (actually, truth be told, she rarely misses an opportunity to disrobe). For some reason, she rarely is able to fall asleep with a naked bottom, so I have to check and rediaper. Unfortunately, this time, she took off her diaper after depositing a little surprise for me, which of course she had all over her bed and her body. Not exactly the sight one wants to see when making double chocolate cookies.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

adventures in gardening

I have been a very industrious and hard-working housewife today. This morning I dug up a garden plot roughly 42.5 square feet and now my shoulders are aching. Originally, we had planned on putting our garden in a plot near the house, but changed our minds when we determined that the only place our yard gets sufficient sunlight is in the back. This meant that I needed to dig up all the grass and groundcover, then turn over the soil before planting. I then bordered the garden plot with landscaping logs. Between all the digging and then the distribution of several pounds of used coffee grounds (thanks to Starbucks....they will give you their used grounds to use in your garden. All you have to do is ask for them.) and at least 100 pounds of topsoil, I am beat and dirty and reeking of dirt and coffee--an interesting combination.

I then planted all the vegetable and herb plants that Bil bought yesterday and discovered that due to a miscommunication, we are the proud gardeners of 11 (yes, eleven!) cucumber plants. I have no idea how we will possibly consume that many cucumbers. If you have any great cuke recipes, please pass them on. Maybe I will have to seriously consider canning pickles this year. I have only tried canning once, and it was just for a small batch of raspberry jam years ago.

I also planted tomatoes, yellow squash, basil, cilantro, bell and jalapeno peppers, rosemary, and onions. I am not sure if we overdid it. We have only ever attempted a garden twice before: once in Chicago in containers (which was a quite unsuccessful endeavor. The few veggies we produced were eaten by squirrels. We awoke many a morning that summer to the half eaten carcasses of eggplant and tomatoes strewn throughout the yard. Bil has never forgiven those squirrels and continues to hold a grudge to this day that, sad to say, has colored his opinion of all squirrels worldwide) and once here in Effingham. I have high hopes this year that we will have an abundant harvest and that I will use it all so cleverly: spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, salsa, bruschetta, etc. I have images of me in a kitchen in a cute apron (which I don't even own. Will have to purchase. ) making all kinds of delicacies, but the reality is I will probably be sweating my tail off with splatters of sauce all over me and my walls. We shall see.

Yesterday, I also planted some flowers and did a bit of landscaping. I planted a rose bush, several hostas that my mom brought me this weekend and a clematis bush. It was really fun to see at least one small plot of land look nice! We have so much landscaping to do that it gets overwhelming, but now I can look at the section in front of our back gate and smile. I think I am going to really like gardening!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

simple pleasures

Yesterday after school, I took the kids to the park. The weather was spectacular: sunny, breezy, in the 70s. Ahhh, spring. The kids were in Heaven and I really enjoyed watching them frolicking in the sun with their friends. Birds kept landing in the baseball field and Danny took to running after them. He laughed delightedly each time they scattered and flew away. I couldn't resist joining in the laughter.


Later, after our friends left, Charlotte, Danny and I took a little walk to the other side of the park, where they discovered some caterpillars. As I am sure I have mentioned before, Danny absolutely adores The Very Hungry Caterpillar and can animatedly recite the entire book. He wanted to hold the caterpillar so I picked it up and put it in his hand, all the while admonishing him to be careful and gentle. He giggled as it walked all over his hands and exclaimed, "Momma, it tickles!" Then, Charlotte insisted on being included. I was a bit nervous, because being younger, she is not always the most gentle little girl. I managed to get the caterpillar in her hand, which she then almost dropped, but instead she closed her pudgy hand. When she opened her hand, there was some brown liquid there and I was sure she had killed the hapless caterpillar, that she had its blood on her hands. Luckily, it was fine; I returned it to the ground and it slunk off none the worse for wear (I hope!) So, I can only assume that brown liquid it left on Charlotte's hand was some sort of caterpillar excrement. Ahhh, spring!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New favorite dessert

For Mother's Day, Bil offered to make me dinner. He had me sit down and pick my menu, which was somewhat difficult to do. I don't know about you, but it is really hard for me to pick one or two favorite foods, and it is even MORE difficult to pick a favorite dessert. We finally decided that Bil would make Char Siu Baau, which are barbecued pork filled steamed rolls that I used to eat a lot in Hong Kong. As luck would have it May's issue of Cooking Light had a column on steaming and a recipe for Char Siu Baau. They were scrumptious. We also had a Thai cucumber salad, and for dessert...... Pavlova!

Have you ever had Pavlova? It is divine, and so especially perfect for summer. It is a meringue crust filled with whipped cream and seasonal fruit. This is not typically the kind of dessert I crave. Normally, I am all about chocolate and caramel and gooey treats. But there is just something about the Pavlova that I cannot get enough of. Part of it is the multiple textures: the crispy outside of the crust and the marshmallowy center, the creamy whipped cream (no Cool Whip, please!) and then the chewy fruits. Whatever it is, if you get a chance to have some Pavlova, don't miss it. Here is a link to the recipe I used. There is also a lot of really interesting information about handling egg whites. I like this recipe best because it makes individual Pavolovas. I like this because once you put your cream and toppings on the meringue, you really should eat the cake immediately. If you let it sit for a day or more, the crust starts to disintegrate and melt, making a gooey mess. With the individual crusts, you can top it right before eating.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

expelled!


Bil decided to take me on a date for Mother's Day weekend and so we went to the movies. I had hoped to see some fluffy romantic comedy, since I was tired and in the mood for mindless entertainment. Unfortunately, there was nothing playing like that which sounded good. (For some reason Bil just didn't want to see "Made of Honor" and I wasn't too sure about it myself.) The only movie playing around here that sounded interesting was Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." This is a documentary about Intelligent Design and its place in the world of science.

Aside from the fact that this was not a mindless romance, I was hesitant to see it for other reasons. I had heard if you are a Christian, you need to see this movie, and to be honest, whenever I hear things like that around here, I get nervous. I have had so many terribly made movies recommended to me because they are "Christian" movies, and don't even get me started on the poorly written Christian romance novels one friend unloads on me by the boxful. Sorry for the snobbery....

Also, I was afraid it would not be a reasonable, rational depiction of Creationism. A friend of mine recently overheard a mom at a science museum, who said that she wanted to know where the dinosaurs were so she and her kids could avoid them. They didn't believe in dinosaurs because they believed in Creationism, so she didn't even want to expose her kids to them. I was worried this movie would be something like that comment. I mean, I totally believe in Creationism, but I do not think the existence of God in any way negates the existence of dinosaurs and other scientific discoveries that have been made about the earth millions of years ago. Also, I really have a problem with only giving kids (or adults, for that matter) one side of the story. I think people need to be able to question, even *gasp* their religious beliefs. After all, my dad always said, "If you never question your religion, you must not be thinking about it very much."
Well, my fears proved to be unfounded. We went to see the movie and it was AMAZING!!!! I completely recommend and even urge you to go see this movie. It was so well-done, very provocative and interesting and even had a rocking soundtrack, complete with John Lennon, Johnny Cash covering Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," and the Killers, among others.

Ben Stein interviews many, many well-known scientists, mathemeticians, biologists and philosophers. His point is not to necessarily prove that there is a God. Instead, he takes issue with the fact that many scientists are losing tenure and/or being blacklisted merely because they imply that Intelligent Design should be researched as a viable alternative to Darwinism. Apparently, in the scientific community, even mentioning ID is tantamount to career suicide. An editor of the Smithsonian science magazine (can't remember the name of it) was fired for printing an article that debunked parts of Darwinism and said that ID might be right. It was flabbergasting how overarching this prejudice is. Stein's point (and that of many scientists) is that we should be able to look at both sides of the argument, and scientists shouldn't be punished for pursuing a line of reasoning that is not very popular. After all, most of the major scientists in history presented very unpopular ideas, which turned out to be true.

The really interesting part, in my opinion, is when Stein interviewed staunch Darwinist scientists and asked them how did life start on this planet, if not by intelligent design. None of them could answer definitively. There are many theories, most of which sound like they were headlines culled from The National Enquirer. One such theory is that aliens from another planet seeded life on this planet and then those cells evolved into all the life forms now present. How can that theory be any less crazy than Intelligent Design?

Well, I have rambled enough for now. Please consider seeing this movie. Even if you think Darwin was 100% correct in all his theories, I think this movie is important to see, because it portrays the lack of intellectual freedom afforded to those academics who question some of its theories. It definitely provides much fodder for discussion. Let me know when you see it. I would love to talk to you about it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

transgender children

I just read a fascinating article on npr.org about two boys who feel that they are really girls and what their parents have done about it. Here is the link:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90247842

These two boys have two different therapists who have widely different approaches to gender identity disorder. Both boys are only 6, but have displayed leanings toward all things feminine. They want to wear girls' clothes, play with girls' toys, etc. It makes me wonder, though: can 6-year-olds really understand gender and identity? That is the question that experts are asking.

One boy's therapist has the parents basically ban all girl toys and even the playing with female friends from their son's life. This seems really extreme. The boy has difficulty with these new rules even up to 10 months after their institution. I cannot imagine forcing my child to play with different friends and toys and banning all the things he likes. Of course, I also cannot imagine having a child who has gender identity disorder.

The other therapist has the family embrace the son and basically treat him as a daughter. The boy goes to kindergarten as a girl; they alter his name and allow him to wear girls' clothes and even refer to him as a "she." This also seems like an extreme approach.

What do you think about all of this? I don't pretend to be an expert on gender issues, especially transgenderism (is that a word) but I do find it interesting. Mostly, though, I feel sad for kids who have to struggle with these types of issues. As if being a kid isn't tough enough.

my inadvertent bird haven


I was reading the newspaper over breakfast this morning and discovered that my yard is perfect for birds. It is covered in weeds, not at all manicured and there are many, many rogue, dead leaves that have escaped my manic raking. According to this article, experts (bird experts, I presume) are urging homeowners not to try to pattern their lawns after golf courses. Extremely manicured lawns, especially those whose well-groomed looks can be attributed to the use of chemicals, are not very good for birdies, who apparently love weeds and leaves. How comforting to know that my ratty old backyard and lawn are helping out some animals. Now I can feel smug and self-righteous when I see beautifully, green and weed-free lawns, where before I only felt shame and envy......