How we spent a sick day.

Not even asthma can stop Kerri from having fun. She made this camp "club" in the living room and we spent an entire afternoon at the club reading, playing and using our imagination.

And then we watched "SpongeBob".

Life with Kerri is fun in pajamas.

The Slippery Slope of Perfectionism

Many hours of work and thought culminated in a special wedding cake for a couple that loves being in the outdoors.  The wedding was small so the cake only had to serve thirty people. That was a limited canvas for me to work with.

The bride and groom skiers were carefully dressed according to the photographs sent to me by the bride.
They were outfitted with their skis and poles.

A lot of thought, discussion and debate was conducted before deciding what the names of the ski runs would be.
In the end, they were ready to head down the Wedded Bliss Trail. A sign cautioned them to watch for Unmarked Obstacles.

Of course I haven't heard from any of the wedding party how the cake was received, and because I am a self-flagellating spastic fool, I'll continue to second guess myself and lose sleep over this cake. I always do this with the ones that I spend the most blood, sweat and tears on. (Like...I already wish I had moved the Wedded Bliss Trail sign farther down the slope so that it could be seen better. Did any of the trees or skis or signs fall over after I left the room? Too many signs? Should I have went with True Love Trail instead?  Etc. etc. etc. And by the way, I did remake the heads of the figures because the first ones did not satisfy me.)

Sigh. I'll let it go when I start stressing over the next one.
(Just letting you know what it's like to carry the responsibility of being a wedding vendor and taking one shot to make this element of a bridal couple's day just what they wanted and paid for.)

The Best Laid Plans

In Memory of Jamie
The weekend didn't turn out exactly as expected, but a weekend's still better than, well, weekdays, so I'll take it.  I had planned to take the kid to an art festival on Saturday, but the weather was too iffy.  It was a lakefront affair and I knew the wind would make the festival seem significantly less festive.  So, I went with Plan B.  I had some free passes to a jumpity-jump place, so I called A's friend and as luck would have it, she was free.  So, I took both girls out to lunch and then to the inflatables place. I'm not used to having two six-year-olds in my back seat, that's for sure.  Also, who was it that coined that saying about "sugar and spice?"  Those two burped and farted their way all through lunch.

On Saturday evening, I drove to my friend Kathy's house.  Her Boxer died a few days ago.  I pulled Jamie out of a shelter in 2000. She was around two years of age then. Jamie was the unofficial canine matriarch of our rescue organization.  A few of us decided to have a little "night of remembrance." Kathy lives about 100 miles from me so I usually spend the night at her house when we have one of our get-togethers.  So, I packed my bag and headed down.  Kathy's friend Rita also joined us.  We went out to dinner and then headed to a bar.  I thought we were headed back to Kathy's house, but I thought wrong. I should point out that Kathy and Rita are a couple decades older than I am, but I can barely keep up with them.  The bar was having a karaoke contest.  Some of the singers were actually pretty good, although I have to say that there's really no excuse for country music, no matter how great the singer is. I had "Friends in Low Places" stuck in my head for two days after that. About halfway through, Rita went to the bathroom and came back with a new round of drinks and a round of shots. We'd also indulged at the restaurant before we got there. I wouldn't say I was plowed, but I was "happy." We spotted a chick who was wearing an ill-fitting strapless red top and I leaned over to Kathy and said, "I'd never wear that and really, I have spectacular cleavage."  Obviously this is not the sort of remark I'd normally slip into a conversation unless there was vodka involved, which there was.

I drove back home on Sunday afternoon.  Again, I had plans to take A to a festival (a different one) but the weather forecast leaned heavily towards rain (and the dark clouds seemed to back that up).  I asked the kid what she wanted to do and she, of course, started blathering on about Chuck E. Cheese.  I did have a bunch of coupons for free tokens, so I agreed. We ended up running into my brother-in-law and his family there, so the kid was able to play with her cousin. By the time we were ready to leave, A and I had over 700 tickets which, predictably, was still only enough to qualify us for a very narrow selection of absolute crap.  After that, we went to a garden store to buy annuals and then stopped at a park on the way home. The storm broke while we were at the park, so I was glad I hadn't attempted the festival. After the storm passed, I asked the kid if she wanted to help me plant some petunias by the mailbox.  "I guess I have time for that," she responded. Seriously?

On Monday morning, I headed to yoga.  It was nice to have the luxury of getting in a work-out in the morning. Generally, on weekday mornings, my boss kind of prefers that I come to work. After that, the kid and I met my sister-in-law and my niece for lunch at Panera Bread. We then took the girls to a jumpity-jump place (not the same one as on Saturday, though). A and her cousin only burst into tears half a dozen times, so we considered the outing a success.

As the holiday weekend winds down, I'm busy re-typing stuff that I would have if only I had backed it up. The kid is in the other room and has set up a "Hello Kitty" store.  She is charging me to buy my own stuff from her.  She also instructed me that I'm supposed to walk up and wait for her to ask, "How may I help you?" and I am required to say, "Yes, please, I'd like some juice." And then she will hand me my Sobe Lifewater drink that I just bought at the grocery store on Friday. Isn't there something in the Declaration of Independence or maybe the Constitution about "you don't have to pay for your shit twice?"  Maybe I'm confusing it with the whole "no taxation without representation" deal. Anyway, bottoms up, I guess!  I raise a toast to Miss Jamie, one of the best dogs ever.

Banana Kabobs.

As promised, here are yesterday's banana-on-a-stick pictures:

Bananas on a stick are much more fun.

And now Kerri will eat anything on a stick.

The ex decided to make his own banana kabob.

And although he lost half his banana when it broke off the stick, he seemed rather pleased with the concept.

Milk and cookies are always a hit with these two kids.

But dunking cookies in milk is even better.

And by this time the silliness reached whole new levels.

Because playing with your cookies makes eating them much more fun!

Don't you agree?

Busy weekend.

Friday I picked Kerri up at the school bus stop and she was losing her voice. Her cold seems to be getting worse, so we decided to take her to the doctor on Saturday morning. We cancelled her Kung Fu class for the rest of the week, and settled in for what we thought would be a quiet afternoon at home.

Then there was a knock on the door. And her ex boyfriend came over to play. For two and a half hours, there was ruckus and laughter, playing and music making, followed by a break for a snack. And after cookies and milk, the two youngsters decided to take bananas and make kabobs. I will post pictures tomorrow!

For dinner, we headed out to an Italian restaurant that was noisy and crowded, but had good food. Kerri loves their child friendly menus and fancy straws. By the time we got home, it was late and Kerri was not feeling any better, so she slept with me - so I could keep an eye on her breathing (inhaler at the ready).

This morning we all went to the doctor: Kerri for her asthma, which has gotten worse this week; Daddy for a follow-up; and Mommy because my ear is ringing and I am getting dizzy.

After dropping off prescriptions, we rushed to the toy store to buy a birthday gift, picked up some fast food for a quick lunch, and then headed to a birthday party at one of those fun gym places. Kerri had a blast, and you would think the party craziness would tire her out, but alas, no.

So off we went to the movie rental place, and then Mommy shopped for a cell phone. And decided to sleep on it. Then we went to our favorite Thai restaurant for a delicious dinner. Kerri loved the Satay, which she called "chicken kabobs". She will now eat anything on a stick - so tomorrow I am skewering some vegetables for the barbecue.

And now we are trying to tuck Kerri into bed, but she is refusing to go to sleep. I am off to try to convince a little one to sleep in her bed tonight. And tomorrow I will post those banana kabob pictures!

Life with Kerri is fun!

Spring Formal Dance

She's a senior. It's her last official dance as a high school (homeschool) student.

That calls for a new pair of shoes and a fancy pedicure, doncha think?

Why do I agree to do these things?

This week I've been wearing my sculptor's hat. Fondant is a difficult medium, needless to say. It's not as forgiving as good old earthen clay. I've chewed down fingernails, pulled out my hair and lost a bit of sleep in the process.

We'll see if anything good comes from it this weekend.

Time to start baking the cake!

Kerri's first science test.

Yesterday Kerri brought home the results from her first science test. As we walked home from the bus stop, and before I had a chance to look at it, a very worried Kerri said: "I only got a 3-. An A or A- would be better, right?", and added: "Because I did not get an A." Our neighbor whispered in my ear that a 3- is a C-.

Unsure of how Kerri scored, I replied: "An A or A- would be excellent Kerri, but as long as you did your very best, I am not concerned that you did not get an A. I am very proud of you for studying so hard and doing your best." And then I silently prayed that she at least had a passing score. We had been studying for this test for weeks.

Once we got home, Kerri looked upset as I pulled her test out of her backpack. And then I saw the score: she got a B+! I told Kerri she did great, and that I was very pleased with her test results. And all the worry and concern just melted off Kerri's face, and she smiled. Finally.

I was very impressed with her test. It was not multiple choice. Kerri had to answer questions and write complete sentences. Some answers took more than one sentence. Kerri could not even read or write 5 months ago! So that B+ was an A++++ in my eyes.

I hope one day Kerri will not worry so much about disappointing me. I am so very proud of her. She has accomplished so much, and keeps amazing me with her positive attitude and perseverance. At 6, she already has tackled several medical challenges, developmental issues, losses, and even bullying. And no matter how great the challenge, greater is Kerri's strength and will. I know she can do anything she sets her mind to.

Life with Kerri is a perfect 10.


Tornadoes criss-crossed parts of the country yesterday, leaving massive destruction in their wake. My friend Susie lost virtually everything. She lives in a suburb of Oklahoma City.  My sister (and her family) and my mom live about an hour from the city. Fortunately, they are all fine.

I met Susie through Babycenter years ago. We both have May 2005 kiddos.  We also have adoption in common, as her little "la princesa" (her second child) was adopted from Guatemala. Whenever I visit my family in Oklahoma, I also visit Susie and her clan.  In November, we all went to the science museum together. Susie not only brought snacks for her kids, she brought snacks for my daughter and my sister's offspring as well. That's just the kind of person she is.

I was shaken earlier today to learn that Susie and Mark have lost their home, Mark's truck, and, I would imagine, all sense of safety and peace.  In her typical "glass is half full" style, Susie sent me a text earlier today telling me not to worry.  They are just so relieved that they and their children made it out in time. I feel so far away and helpless. They are getting lots of help from their church and do have temporary lodging.

These images of their home have stuck with me all day. I've decided to stop bitching about my crashed hard drive now.

Not Obsessive. Passionate!

Welcome to another session of the Jane Eyre Book Club and Society of Passionate Charlotte Bronte Fans.

Here are some fascinating, scintillating facts I'm learning from reading Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte. I find them so intriguing that I simply must share. You just might find them slightly interesting too. And if not...well, pardon me. But it's my blog and this is what I'm writing about today.

As I mentioned in my other post, the Lowood School in the book Jane Eyre was the thinly disguised boarding school that Charlotte Bronte and her sisters attended, called Cowan Bridge. What I just learned though is that the angelic character in Jane Eyre, Helen Burns, a patient, pious girl who was persecuted cruelly by a teacher at the school and who later died of an illness there during an epidemic, was faithfully and lovingly written by Charlotte based on her own sister Maria and her experiences there! Her sister also was treated cruelly by a teacher (on whom she modeled nasty Miss Scatcherd in Jane Eyre) and Maria suffered with tuberculosis and died too. The kind teacher in Jane Eyre, Miss Temple, was also a real person as well as the pompous headmaster.

The most touching scene in the book, to me, is when Helen Burns lies in her deathbed and has a conversation with Jane who has sneaked up to see her before she dies. Helen faces death with a mature confidence and faith, while Jane, childlike, asks "Where is God? How can we get to Him? Will we know the way?" To know that Charlotte Bronte was thinking of her own sister's death when she wrote this makes it even more moving.

When the book was published by the anonymous author Currer Bell, the former students of Cowan Bridge recognized the school, the teachers and Maria Bronte. Gaskell says, Not a word of that part of Jane Eyre but is a literal repetition of scenes between the pupil and the teacher. Those who had been pupils at the same time knew who must have written the book from the force with which Helen Burns' sufferings are described. They had, before that, recognized the description of the sweet dignity and benevolence of Miss Temple as only a just tribute to the merits of one whom all that knew her appear to hold in honour; but when Miss Scatcherd was held up to opprobrium they also recognized the writer of Jane Eyre an unconsciously avenging sister of the sufferer.

I can only imagine the talk and the scandal that must have ensued when this book was published. Jane Eyre had scenes written as a picture of living people, but disguised as fiction, and pretty much exposing the abuses of a public institution and its employees. To their credit, in later years Cowan Bridge school made vast improvements and when Elizabeth Gaskell visited it while researching the biography, she found it well-kept and the children healthy and bright. (Charlotte Bronte also reflected this in Jane Eyre when the Lowood school conditions were shown to improve after the epidemic and when Jane became a teacher there herself.) There were many who came to the defense of Cowan Bridge school and its headmaster which gives light also to the perspective of the school that Charlotte Bronte had as an author. She wrote from her childhood memories which were formed with a child's perspective, not knowing the full scope of the actions and motivations of the adults in her world.

That is all. Book Club....dismissed.

That crashing noise you heard . . .

. . . was my hard drive. It died on Saturday. Or was taken in the Rapture. It's hard to say. All I know is that the computer worked when I left the house Saturday morning but that it was proudly sporting the blue screen of death when I got home in the afternoon. In between, my other half had attempted to do some of his geek stuff (I think he is logging all of his comic books or something) and apparently that was the straw that broke the hard drive's back. In all honesty, though, the computer had been acting squirrely for a while and the writing was on the wall, so to speak. It was over six years old.

Now, you may be thinking, "Hey, Claudia, don't you do computer stuff for a living? You probably had everything backed up, right?"  Well, I do but I didn't. I had some stuff backed up, but not everything. It's one of those things where you always think, "As soon as I get some time . . . " I'm mostly worried about the files for the rescue. I brought my computer to work and handed it over to a technician. I happen to know that he has a penchant for Gardetto's so I have offered to buy him FULL-SIZED bags if he can retrieve any of my data. I think you'll agree that's a pretty sweet deal.

In the meantime, we sucked it up and bought a new computer. It was definitely not in the budget and our Best Buy card took a hit, but it had to be done. We got a laptop this time around.  We have wireless internet set up in our house so we figured it would be nice not to be tethered to the desk and whatnot. Now I'm just waiting to hear if I can get access to any of my old stuff.  If I can't, I'll weep silently and then start recreating the files I use for adoption packets and such. The hardest part will be recreating financial records.  I backed up Microsoft Money (which has the rescue's finances and our personal stuff) a couple months ago, so I'll probably have to re-enter all of those transactions.  But again, I'll live.

Speaking of the Rapture, P and I went out that night to celebrate our anniversary. We've been married 14 years, together 19 years. The kid kept telling me that I had to wear high heels on the date. I told her that her dad doesn't take me anywhere that nice.  I did wear wedge heels and she seemed mildly disappointed.  We started out by heading to a hotel bar (which sounds like a lame idea except that it is a trendy sort of joint with hip mixed drinks).  We had a couple beverages and ate some hummus. Then we headed to a used book/coffee shop to hear a bluegrass band play. For whatever reason, I have no love for country music but adore bluegrass. Love me some fiddle! After that, we went to a brewpub and split some soggy nachos. Finally, we met up with some friends at a different bar. We felt pretty adventurous, hitting four different establishments and all.  We would've stayed out later except that we were paying a babysitter and were running out of cash.

So, that is all the news from here. As soon as I stop freaking out over my data issues, I'll try to post something more coherent.

Pictures from Monday.

Kerri, Catherine and Nana strike a pose!

Hubby worked on his grilling technique before the rain set in.

Nana was acting manager. I love her necklace.

Kerri and Catherine turned the camera on me!

And it only took 60 snapshots to get a picture where Catherine's eyes were actually OPEN.

We spent a lovely day eating way too much, laughing lots, watching a movie, playing Rock Band and spending awesome quality time together.

Life with Kerri is special.

France, Italy, Spain, Oregon

If it weren't for that mountain, I would have thought I'd traveled to a far-away country known for its unique dining experiences.

But here at home, we enjoyed a world class meal in a world class setting.
The location was stunning- on top of a hill with a 360 degree view of the valley.

A hill formed from volcanic action in ancient times, it was a rocky place that had been sculpted into terraces, stepping stone pathways and water features.

One of the rocky terraces was the setting for a spectacular Indian-themed dinner prepared by two young local chefs. We enjoyed our evening with our gourmand friends as well as with the other specially invited guests of the chefs.

The location, besides being beautiful, was a small farm on which the entree for the dinner was raised. We took a tour before the meal began.

On the east side of the hill there was a pasture for a herd of heritage breed pigs that are being raised on hazelnuts, chestnuts and acorns. This type of feed program is a time-honored way of raising pigs, famously done in Spain where the cured hams are considered among the best in the world.

On the west side of the hill, a pit had been dug. The day before, two of the young hogs were butchered and barbequed in the fire pit. The pigs were stuffed with a fresh coconut preparation, rubbed with the Indian spice masala and wrapped in banana leaves. The hot coals from the fire were buried with the pigs under the red dirt and left to slowly cook over night and all the next day.

Our chefs were just removing the pit-barbequed pork when we arrived.

The process was exciting for us to watch but most certainly more exciting for them to perform.

The roasted meat was brought to the staging area and unwrapped.

The chefs decided that despite the 20+ hours in the fire pit, the meat would still need to be finished in a smoker grill.

We watched as the whole roasted pig was expertly carved into tenderloins and roasts for the grill.

Accompanying the roasted pork was fresh naan, an Indian bread flavored with herbs.

Chef Nathan rolled the dough out flat and then grilled the naan on an open fire just before serving.

Before too long, the perfectly smoked and roasted pork arrived and was carved for the anxious dinner guests.

The Indian-themed menu included a spicy tomato chutney as well as a mango chutney,

and a deliciously hot spring curry with asparagus and freshly picked morel mushrooms.

To refresh our palettes after the heat of the spicy dishes, fresh herbs including miner's lettuce and cilantro were also served.

The pork tenderloin was perfectly cooked with a luscious smokiness and melting texture that could only be found in a young, well-raised hog. The side dishes were spicy- but not too much- flavorful and completely delicious. Dessert was fresh tropical fruit and a honey-laced Indian cheese. Just the right finish.

The setting and the company made this unique meal all the more memorable.

This was truly a world-class experience here in our little hometown Oregon valley.