Smiles, Disneyland, Amy

Elle smiles, laughs and talks away now. We are loving it. Especially Tanner. He can sit there and talk to Baby Elle forever, listening to her coos and responding with, "oh, is that right baby?" I love watching it.

Shad took Tuesday off and we headed to D land for the day. Elle was amazing. Tanner and Kate were definitely the harder ones. The kids have always wanted to "meet" Lightening McQueen and finally happened. Although, it frustrates Tanner that they can't talk to him. = )

And Amy is here!!!! We are sooo excited to have her out. Of course the kids are in love with is every child and person that meets her. She seems so much healthier now. Still really weak from the chemo, but healthier. The last time she visited was a year ago and it was the week before she found out she had cancer. She was so exhausted and nauseous that trip. It's night and day from what she is now. She gets to stay for 2 weeks!!! We might head over to the LA fabric/fashion district this weekend....still thinking on that one. The last time we were there together, was about 9 years ago!!! I think it's time we headed back.

Notes by a wedding cake maker

I have this little wedding cake business going. This is turning out to be the most busy wedding season I've had so far. And I'm going to be gone for several weeks right in the middle of it. There is a new grandbaby on the way and no wedding cake (or ten) will keep me from being there!

Here's some of what is on the board for the rest of the time:

One all strawberry shortcake wedding.

One all cheesecake wedding (four different kinds)

One all pie wedding (seven different kinds)

One cupcake wedding with a leopard print theme. Leopard print cupcake papers to match the bridesmaids shoes. I have to construct a cupcake display that is red and black with leopard print ribbon. Also, a cappuccino cheesecake with chocolate decorations to look like leopard print.

No. I am not making that up just to make this blog post more interesting.

One wedding cake dyed purple. That is- vanilla cake colored purple. That's thinking outside the box!

And just recently I got a request for a groom's cake in the shape of a Chinook Helicopter. That's on the side of a four tiered wedding cake.

I am only ONE person here. I don't have a staff like Ace of Cakes' Duff does.

It's going to be an interesting summer.

Somebody call Jay Leno

Yesterday I talked to my grandson on the phone. He will be five next week and I asked him what kind of birthday cake he wanted.

A solar system cake.

Really! What is a solar system?

The planets.

Do you know the planets?


And he proceeded to name all the planets.

Did I mention that this child is only four years old????

His mom is reading library books to him about the planets.

This kid has it going on. It is so fun to witness and he'll be a blast to teach.

Check him out here and tell me if you don't agree:

Quiz Show Boy

Dear TSA: Your mother is a whore

Dear TSA,

Listen, I know you are just doing your job, trying to keep us all safe while we fly the friendly skies ("friendly" being a relative term). I appreciate your efforts, I really do. But I have to tell you - you've gone overboard.

On Tuesday, April 27th, my daughter and I were scheduled to depart from Reagan National Airport. We had been on vacation and were returning home. First, we stood in line at security where a TSA employee spent ten solid minutes studying a passenger's passport before finally calling a supervisor. Then they both studied it for a while. I don't know what the problem was, but eventually they pulled the passenger aside and proceeded to screen others who were waiting in line.

After showing proof of ID and boarding passes, my daughter and I moved to the screening area. We dutifully took off our shoes and laid them in the plastic bins, and then I shoved our carry-ons and my purse onto the belt. Then we each passed through the metal detector. My daughter (age four) has flown many times and has given up on asking me why she has to take off her shoes, in as much as I've never been able to provide a satisfactory explanation. I had an even harder time understanding it when my daughter was four months old and I had to pry off her baby booties, per the TSA agent's request. The "request" consisted of the woman shouting: "Ma'am! Take off the baby's shoes!" When I told my dad about it he said, "Yeah, she definitely looks like a baby who wants to blow herself up for Allah."

But, back to the present. My child and I passed through the metal detector at Reagan National Airport without incident and waited on the other side for our gear. I had a sinking feeling as I watched her Spongebob Squarepants duffel bag start to emerge from the x-ray machine only to have the TSA employee reverse the belt and suck it back in. Ugh. She did the same with my bag. Awesome.

A dour-faced TSA employee took me aside and told me that our bags would need additional screening. I slipped my shoes on and followed him to the other screening area. He pointed at my daughter's Spongebob bag. "Any sharp objects or weapons in here?" Seriously? I shook my head.

He dug through her bag and found her DVD player. "This has to be screened separately," he said. "You were supposed to take it out of the bag."

The signs posted in the security area explicitly state that laptops must be removed. Not DVD players. This is at least the sixth time we've flown with a DVD player in that bag. No one cared about it on the way out to DC, but now all of a sudden it's a threat to national security.

He took the DVD player back to the x-ray machine for screening. "Barbie and the Island Princesses" was inside the player - I certainly hope that didn't arouse any suspicion. When he returned, he began digging through my carry-on bag. Now, I think it would be worth mentioning that as this was transpiring, another passenger was being screened right next to us. The TSA agents found a knife in his backpack. I mean to tell you this thing was a full-on dagger in a leather sheath. THAT is why you are there, TSA. Clearly, this was a dangerous weapon that had no place on an airplane in flight. It was a no-brainer.The man said he had packed it for a motorcycle trip and reluctantly agreed to surrender it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Crabby pulled a small Smithsonian bag out of my carry-on. Inside that bag was a souvenir I had purchased for my daughter just an hour earlier at the Museum of Natural History. It was a plastic cup with blue liquid sealed in the bottom. Tiny plastic dinosaurs floated around in the liquid. He frowned. "You can't have this on the plane."

"But, I just bought it," I replied. "I am sure it's less than three ounces!"

He explained that since the cup was sealed and the liquid couldn't be poured out, I was prohibited from taking it on board. It seems to me that this is precisely why I SHOULD have been able to take it on board. I mean, what would I have used to smash the cup open? A claw hammer? I told him that I thought it was beyond ridiculous to take a child's souvenir away and asked how I could go about filing a complaint. He directed me to his supervisor, who came over and gave me the same schpiel.

"You can't have snow globes or anything with liquid inside it," he told me. The supervisor then offered that I could go back to the ticket counter and see if they would be willing to pull my suitcase and put the cup in there. And pass through security again?! I'd rather eat glass.

And so, I surrendered the dangerous weapon I had attempted to bring on board. Allow me to add that I am not a cantankerous flyer. I dutifully put my lotion and hairspray in a one-quart baggie. I generally do not ask the flight attendants for anything. I even make a half-assed attempt to pay attention to the safety demonstration. I just try to be as innocuous and inconspicuous as possible when I fly. But seriously, this liquid thing? It's crazy.

After passing through security (sans souvenir cup), we stopped at a souvenir stand just a few yards past the screening area. Would you like to guess what they sell there, TSA? Snow globes. And lots of them.

So, after surrendering the cup, I bought my daughter this:

Yes, it is full of liquid. And glitter.

You can suck it, TSA.


A disgruntled passenger

Let Them Eat Bread!

Yesterday we were out of bread. It was a problem because my bread comes in from a far away place. Because I'm picky about bread.

What? Me? Picky? I bet that surprises you! HAHahahaha!!ha! ha.ha.ho.ho.


Well. I am. We/I don't like the soft, squishy bread impersonators on the grocery store shelves. I grew up on hearty, grainy bread and homemade bread too. We're them kinda people. Health nuts. Granolas. Oregonians. So for the family I now get the health nut's delight Nature Bake but the only way I can afford it (it's around $5 a loaf in the stores) is to get it from their headquarters where they sell it frozen for $2 a loaf. Their headquarters is far away.

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar....
I so relate to that.

But my bread ship didn't come in this week so...

I decided to make bread.
Except for Katie's artisan sourdough bread, I haven't made old fashioned sandwich bread in a while.

I pulled out my trusty old recipe and scrounged together some flour and got to it.

Have I told you that my favorite possession in the whole wide world is my Kitchenaid professional oven? If my house was on fire, this is the object you would see me trying to drag out of the house. Okay, maybe not, but I would want to.

Mr. Dirtywrench says we paid more for it than we ever paid for a family car. That's only because we don't pay much for family cars. This was a floor model and I got a screaming deal on it too. It was soooooo worth it! I love everything about it. I love that it has a proofing setting for raising bread dough. I don't have to hover bowls around the woodstove any more.

Oops. Shoulda used a bigger bowl.

I'm not sure why but this bread rose perfectly and didn't fall. I used a combination of bread flour, whole wheat flour and all purpose flour- because that is what I had.

And on the convection setting of my most favorite possession in the whole wide world, the bread baked up golden.

It's funny but this bread turned out soft and squishy and fluffy and light. Not hearty and grainy like I prefer at all. Probably because I didn't put anything hearty and grainy in it. And it still called like a siren to me all day. Buttered.....toasted.....honey.....jam......buttered.....
Help! I'm eschewing grains these days. I'm really not eating bread. It's just for the family. I confess I ate more bread yesterday than I ate all last month.

Here's my recipe:

Old Fashioned Sandwich Bread

Dissolve together and proof for five minutes:
3 packages of instant yeast (or six teaspoons)
One cup warm (110 degrees) water
1 Tablespoon sugar

Mix together in a large bowl mix with a whisk or beater:
1 cup white flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
and the yeast mixture

Place bowl in a warm place for fifteen minutes.

3 cups warm milk
5 Tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons salt
5 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 Tablespoons oil

Beat together then gradually add in 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 1/2 of white flour to the dough. Using a dough hook in a mixer or kneading by hand add in up to two more cups of white flour until the dough is elastic and smooth, about ten minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl to rise until double in a warm place one to two hours.

Cut the dough into four equal parts and shape into loaves. Place into greased bread pans and let rise until doubled one hour or so. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped lightly.

Glorious Appearance

It's finally the time of year when there are reasons to take the camera into the garden.

Seemingly overnight the ground reawakened and the colors of spring appeared.

I walk around checking on the progress of old favorites and new acquisitions. I have a number of peonies that I planted over the last few years that haven't produced flowers yet. I am anxiously checking them for the appearance of buds.

My shade garden is finally looking more filled in. I always remember the saying that applies to new plantings of perennials- the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap!

There aren't many flowers that are truly blue in color. Pulmonaria is not only blue but pink and purple on the same plant too.

I love the fragrance of hyacinths but haven't been very successful in growing them. I have a number that are quite spindly. This one is in Grandma's Garden, an area where I planted the contents of the bulb planters we were given at Grandma's funeral a few years ago. I can't bring myself to clip these and bring them inside though I would enjoy their fragrance in the house.

It's hard to pick a favorite spring flower but I've been nurturing this helebores for about three years now and it finally has more than two or three flowers. It is known as a Lenten Rose because it blooms so early, even the end of winter, around the holy season of Lent and the flowers last a long time.

I've come to know the cycles in my garden and the oh-too-quick succession of flowers. Lilacs are next! Always in time for Mother's Day here.

What's blooming in your garden?

The Weekend Report

The Good. The Bad.
...and the Ugly.

The weekend started out with a baking session- apple pie for a bride to taste and carrot cake for a birthday order.
The Good: the pie came out well.
The Bad: the cake...not so well.
The Really Bad: because I had to dash out to meet the bride and her family I missed seeing my sister's little sugar muffin who came a-visiting. Rats.

The Pie Tasting
The Good: The meeting with the bride went well. They are having seven pies for their wedding.
The Not So Good: They ordered seven different pies- chocolate cream, banana cream, coconut custard (not cream! Anyone have a recipe for this?), berry, peach, rhubarb and....pumpkin!

The Opening Day of Little League Baseball

The Good: Peter didn't hide under his bed and Samuel got to pitch.

The Bad: It rained.

Weekend Project
The Good: fifteen years after the pantry closet was built, it is getting a real floor.

The Bad: Mr. D. is short one two-foot piece to finish. Ya mean we have to buy another 2o square foot box to finish?

The Weekend Chores

The Good: lush grass meant lots of clippings to mulch the strawberry bed.

The Bad: the strawberry bed is only half done.
Boys! Mow again!

The Good: I planted a Japanese Maple and got flower beds weeded.
The Bad: I'm tenth....done. And then I'll have to start over.

Final Performance of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

The Good: Alyssa had a great time playing Marcie and we had a great time seeing the show.

The Bad: Peter forgot to get Snoopy's autograph.

Now for the Ugly:

(Seth, I know you are waiting for this new facebook picture...)

twist on the pattern

As mentioned before, I bought a pattern from MADE and absolutely LOVE it. Kate also has a dress I bought from babygap last month that is similar to the MADE pattern, but has an added drop waist. So I combined the two and here are the results. I'm in love (with the dress and the girl). I made it a couple of days ago and had her try it on before I hemmed it. She loved it so much that she wore it day and night for 48 hours before I pried it off her and finished it (after I washed it of course). = ) Thank you Dana!!! You have no idea how many fights this little girl and I get in over "comfy" clothes!

**the fabric is Amy Butler which I bought here

The Vacation Rolls On

The kid and I are having a great time. We celebrated her birthday (10 days early) on Friday night. The Spongebob Squarepants decor and cake just added that certain je ne sais quois to the festivities. Our family is somewhat spread out across the country, so it was fun to be able to celebrate her birthday with everyone (grandparents, great-grandmother, cousins, and aunt). She got two Zhu-Zhu pets from my parents, a Belle doll with sparkling horse, a Spongebob coloring book, $10, a Spongebob purse, and, because my sister apparently hates me and has always hated me: some Moon Sand (the messiest toy of all time; I know moms who burst into tears if you utter "moon" and "sand" in the same sentence). A and my nephew keep asking to play with the Moon Sand, and I just keep pretending I didn't hear them.

On Saturday afternoon, we took the three kids to see "Oceans" at the movie theater. It was pretty good, but probably no more remarkable than the BBC Planet Earth series. I got a little nervous about some of the "big thing eats smaller thing" sequences, but they did a nice job of minimizing the carnage. My daughter did have a look of mild horror as she watched birds swooping down and plucking newly-hatched sea turtles from the sand as they attempted to make their ill-fated journey to the sea. I did what any mom would do: I handed her a bag of M&M's to distract her.

I left my kid with my sister Saturday night and headed out with an old friend. On these shorter visits it is challenging to try to catch up with everyone I knew over the course of 25 years (prior to moving out of state), but I always try to see a friend or two when I'm in town. We went out to dinner and then hit a local Irish pub for some adult beverages. While I was gone, my sister treated her niece to a "spa night" and pained her fingernails and toenails. My nephew is lamenting the fact that he didn't get his nails painted, but that is a story for another day.

My sister had to attend a funeral today, so I took her kids plus my kid to a high school production of Alice in Wonderland. Her kids made it through, mine did not. A just does not have that kind of attention span (over 2 1/2 hours). They didn't allow food or drinks in the theater, so I could not even ply her with M&M's. She and I sat in the lobby while my niece and nephew watched the rest of the performance.

In other news, A has injured herself every day since we left home. She's going through band-aids like water. Somehow, she tore her fingernail right down to the nail bed (blood was involved, much to her delight). She will gladly (yet innocently) show anyone who asks the question, "Which finger did you hurt?"

No You're Homonyms

Quiz: Which sentence uses the homonym incorrectly? (No cheating now!)

A) Getting fired from his job severely jolted his complacency.

B) They surrounded themselves with a bunch of complaisant assistants.

C) After winning eight games in a row, it was natural for us to grow complaisant.

D) The voters are too complacent to try to change the government.

Until today I did not realize that complacent has a homonym. I've taught the lists in this vocabulary book that includes these words and sentences at least four times now. Maybe more.

I'm kinda slow.

That's what keeps homeschooling interesting-- I learn stuff. I think I'm supposed to be teaching stuff but really I'm learning stuff. Everyday. Stuff I probably should have known before.

So without looking at a dictionary or some other vocabulary help, can you choose the sentence with the word used incorrectly?

If you can, do you know if there is some word trick for remembering which spelling goes with which definition?

It would really help me a lot.


P.S. After some contemplation, I am thinking that since complacent is used most commonly, most people know what it means and complaisant is not often used. I think that is why I didn't know the word complaisant existed nor did I understand its use and definition. Or maybe it is used more than I thought and I make the mistake of assigning it the definition of complacent.

No Car for You!

The kid and I arrived in the nation's capital as scheduled Wednesday night. It was fairly late by the time we boarded a shuttle and arrived at the rental car facility (although I should note that we were there at the time I had listed on the reservation). Our reservation was with Thrifty. I guess Dollar and Thrifty are the same company, because one lone employee was covering both rental counters. There was one guy ahead of me, so I waited in line while A ran laps around our luggage cart.

Off to my left, I noticed a man all in black. He had also been on the shuttle bus with us. He was speaking loudly on his cell phone. "Yeah, is this Thrifty? I'm at your rental counter and the man won't rent me a car. I gave him my reservation and he will not rent to me. So now I'm in DC with no car." He then repeated the same thing a few more times, pacing as he talked. I don't know what transpired before I got there, but I started to get a bit nervous that maybe Thrifty was out of cars or something.

Finally, it was my turn at the rental counter. I handed over my driver's license and credit card, and the Thrifty man asked me the usual litany of questions about insurance and gasoline. He looked up at me and said, "The man over there? He threw his driver's license at me and that's why he's not getting a car." I responded with a low, "Ohhhh." The Thrifty employee, a foreign-born man of color, seemed pretty pleasant to me, so I couldn't help but wish I had seen the exchange myself. He raised his arm and demonstrated how the man in black had tossed his driver's license across the desk. "No car for him," he said again. Suddenly, I realized I had the Soup Nazi of rental cars on my hands.

It was 11 p.m. and I had a nearly-delirious child on my hands. I needed a car and didn't want to leave anything to chance. I decided to pour it on pretty thick. Seriously, I made Pollyanna look like a boorish ass. "Wow, you didn't deserve that," I said. "Is this place open all night? Do you have to work really late?" I frowned a bit to show just how sympathetic I was.

"We are, but I'm leaving in two hours."

"Well, that's good. It must be hard to have to work so late," I responded.

A few minutes later, I had the keys to a wee Nissan in my hands. The man in black by then had approached Budget's counter. My guess is that he handed over his driver's license with all due respect.


Our house is a little country cottage. When we first bought it I would have categorized it (and I did) as a shack. It had low, six foot ceilings in places, floors that were caving in and it smelled like a bar (spilled drinks and second hand smoke). Yeah, it was great. I cried for months after we bought it.

But then it was transformed when Mr. Dirtywrench came up with a brilliant plan to tear down two thirds of it and rebuild around that part we were tearing down while we were living in it with five kids. It was a shack within a house for awhile. It's a curious story that I may tell you about sometime.

But it's been sixteen years and we're starting over at the beginning doing some freshening up and finishing parts that were never finished (can we say pantry closet floor?). Mostly this is my project. Mr. D. would rather not. He is attacking that closet for me though.

One of the things that was bugging me was how cluttered our bedroom had become with furniture. I was feeling smothered by dressers. I hatched a plan to consolidate the furniture, reorganize and lighten up.

This is one corner of the room last winter.
There were two more dressers in the room too. I really wanted a chair that would provide our quiet place for reading and laptop internet surfing. Our little country cottage, when occupied by the family has no quiet places. I was determined to create one.

First I changed the color of the room. It was agony picking the paint. The minty green that it was when I intended it to be sagey green, taught me a lesson- take the time to sample paint, ponder, cogitate, and discuss before making the final selection. In the end we painted the room Benjamin Moore's Tranquility. We love it. Please note I said We. That is monumental. Mr. Dirtywrench and I both love the color. I'm pretty sure that is a first. The color is a grayish, blueish, greenish spa color that is soothing and changes tones in the changing light. Really interesting.

Next I searched high and low for a piece of furniture that could take the place of three dressers. I needed storage space that was efficient and that didn't take up all the floor space in the room. After checking nearly every furniture store in the city, I landed at Ikea and found the perfect piece. Ikea is all about efficient use of space and has become my new favorite store. Mr. D. has decided he despises Ikea and he has never even been there! So now we have something new to disagree about.

Though it may not look like it, this wardrobe as enough storage space to empty three dressers and all the overflow contents of the closet. It was exactly what I had in mind.

Once we had settled in to our new arrangement, and I had saved a bit more money I was ready to create a quiet, comfortable reading space.

After scoping eight furniture stores I found this chair waiting for me. It was just the right size and the perfect color to complement Tranquility. It is very comfortable and I talked the salesman down $100 off the price!

So the room has been lightened up from this.... this. And I love it! (Mr. D. likes it too.)
Did I done good?


Is three a hard age for girls? Please tell me that the screaming ends at some point. I had to capture some of her sweet moments, because often.....they are non-existent.

is it weird to call your son beautiful?

because I think he is.

Stuff I didn't know

Last night I had a dream that the kid and I were at a U2 concert. After the show was over, Bono personally invited my daughter back stage to meet the band. Not me, my four-year-old child. My conscious brain has already absorbed the fact that A is cooler than I am, but now my sub-conscious mind is aware of it as well. Awesome.

In other news, dandelion season is here again. The kid has actually asked me to stop in the middle of a busy road so that she could pick dandelions growing on the median (don't worry, I didn't go for it). I know a day will come when she'll realize that dandelions are essentially a weed and stop bringing them into the house in mass quantities every Spring. Sure, it's very sweet that she keeps picking them for me, but I don't want to be too sentimental about it here. She brings them in with virtually no stem but expects me to put them in water and cherish them for all time. When I do put them in water, they die quickly and I can tell from her disapproving look that she believes I must have done something to hasten their demise. She leaves clumps of them on the end table and then the puppy chews them up. Never has such a lowly flower found so many ways to be irritating. Perhaps dandelions have the perfect marketing agent: small children the world over.

While it's true that my daughter is unaware that dandelions are weeds, she is pretty confident about the rest of her knowledge. The other day we had this exchange:

Her: Mama, do you know what bowling balls are made out of?
Me: No, I sure don't. (No lie - I actually have no earthly idea)
Her (lifting her chin and taking on an air of smugness): Bowling balls are made out of coconuts.
Me: Actually, I don't think -
Her (cutting me off): Yes, that's what they are made of, alright. Coconuts.
Me: Okay, thanks for letting me know.

Man, I am just getting dumber by the minute. I'll be a complete imbecile by the time she's a teenager, no doubt.

dresses for kate

Have any of you ever checked out DANA at MADE? She's pretty much, awesome. Her blog is beautiful, full of incredible tutorials and great pictures. I check MADE everyday. I sort of feel like I'm her friend, even though we don't really know each other. = ) Anyhow, she came out with a new pattern for a little girls dress. I made a couple of them. Here they are....

What I love about this pattern?? No buttons, no zippers, and a dress/skirt....all requirements for Kate (she's a very particular little girl). It taught me how to do faux smocking. Technically it's called "shirring". Where you sew with elastic thread to get the look and feel shown below. Perfect for little girls.