Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Like Something The Cat Threw Up

You know that we do Muffin Fridays right? There's no better way to get geared up for the weekend than by having cake for breakfast on Friday mornings. And while I try to eat healthy, I do realize that muffins are basically just cake. Delicious cake, but cake nonetheless. Even when garnished with blueberries, it's still cake. So I do make an effort to make them a little healthier.

When you're talking chocolate chocolate-chip muffins, that can be hard to do, but a couple of weeks ago I made them with some zucchini thrown in. The kids didn't even notice that they were different - they were moist and chocolatey-licious, just the way we like them. Success!

And most recently we had carrot muffins. You know, carrot cake in muffin form, complete with cream cheese frosting. Well, these have the advantage of starting out with carrots in them. That makes them a little healthier right there. And to improve it even more, I took my standard recipe and made the following changes.
  • Replaced 1/2 of the butter with applesauce. (because you can do that without affecting a recipe, or so it's said).
  • Added 1/4 cup ground flax seed (for the omega 3 fatty acids, or something like that)
  • Dumped in 1/4 cup pureed green beans (just for the heck of it)
  • Replaced 1/2 of the white flour with 100% whole wheat flour (for the whole grain goodness and fiber and stuff)
The batter looked like something the cat had thrown up. It was greenish/brownish with lots of orange lumps. Very gross. I thought doodlebug was going to hurl when he peeked into the bowl. He ran off making some awful sounds.

So, I put the lumpy, disgusting, barf-colored batter into the muffin tins and cooked it up. I slathered the resulting muffins in cream cheese frosting (no, I didn't try to make that healthier - I don't think it's possible. Oh, I know - low fat cream cheese and such, but I didn't bother. I don't use that much frosting anyway.)

Disgusting, right? No! Not at all! These came out super moist and delicious! The boys, of course, wouldn't touch them. Doodlebug because he never eats muffins and he saw the batter. Snickers because he knew they had carrots in them. But Sweet Pea, Hubster and I loved them!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Stop Taking Pictures of the Fungus and Let's Go!

  The family went on a nice hike recently. It involved 120 stone steps, followed by a 1 mile uphill climb, followed by 50 more stone steps and culminated in a nice view of a rather small, yet tall waterfall. We took this trail because it looked on the map that it was the only path to the waterfall. But of course, as these things go, once we were looking down on the waterfall from way up high we could see the people below, on the nice flat path, gazing up at the waterfall.  Stupid map!

Then, having seen what the waterfall looked like from the top, we decided to also see what it looked like from the bottom. We went back down the 50 stone steps, back down the 1 mile hill and back down 120 stone steps. Then we took the other trail. It involved a nice flat path, then finally we could walk on the mostly dry, stone riverbed.

The dry part was nice. The wet part, well, it went like this:

Mommy: Oh, This is slippery.
Snickers: Ew! This is slimy!
Sweet Pea: Yuck! It's all slimy and slippery!
Mommy: Whoa! $#%$!@! Holy crap! I'm gonna kill myself on this.
Doodlebug: Whoa!
Sweet Pea: Look at the tiny fish! Whoa! Whoooaaaa!

And after several more treacherous minutes of slipping and sliding we decided to stay out of the water. It was only a matter of time before someone broke a bone or worse.

But overall it was fun. We got some exercise and there was almost no complaining.

One of the best quotes from the trip occurred when I stopped to take a picture. I squatted down and started snapping pictures of a rather large mushroom from a fairy point of view. Snickers yelled out "Mom! Stop taking pictures of the fungus and let's go!"

Well, I never! I happily continued snapping pictures. Then once I got sick of hearing Doodlebug ask "Can I step on it? Can I? Can I step on it yet? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I step on it?" I stood up. And as mushroom pieces rained around me from a nicely aimed kick we ran off down the hill after the others.

(And yes, I did feel bad about murdering such a nice big mushroom, but there were plenty of others nearby and this one had lived a long life. It provided several seconds of joy for Doodlebug and isn't that what it's all about?)


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Scientifically Calibrated Measuring Devices vs. Winging It

  Snickers has been helping us out in the kitchen lately. He likes being the apprentice chef and so far he's made pancakes, cookies, baked ziti and homemade pizza with only a little help from us. The other day, as he was making pizza with the hubby I pointed out how much he was learning by working with both me and his dad.

While working with his dad he learns how to very carefully measure every single teeny tiny little crumb and flake and drop of every single ingredient using scientifically calibrated measuring devices. He learns the importance of pre-heating the oven and setting timers, of very very very carefully cutting a stick of butter along the pre-measured line in the wrapper so not a single smidgen of butter fat escapes or makes it into the recipe when it shouldn't. He learns how to measure liquids in fractions of ounces and dry ingredients in fractions of grams.

And when working with his mom he learns how to wing it. How to estimate and get close enough. How to get messy and experiment and try new ingredients, new substitutions and just play with it and have fun.

He's got the best of both worlds.

A recent conversation:

Hubby: Now son, this says we need 11 and 3/4 ounces. So we need to get out this overly precise measuring device and I carefully pour in the liquid, a drop at a time. As it gets close to the line, stop and wait 3.16 minutes for the liquid to settle so you can see if it's level with this line. Then - ZZZZzzzzzzz - oh, sorry I dozed off while waiting for the liquid to settle.

Me: Or you can just use a cup and a half and take out a tiny bit.

Snickers looked interested in this tidbit. Hubby looked annoyed.


Friday, August 12, 2011

That's One Strange Fish!!

  I haven't bored you given you an update on my fish lately and I know that all of you out there in internet land are waiting with baited breath for my next exciting post about my uber-exciting, rousing, party-in-the-water, awesome aquarium.

So, for your boredom reading pleasure I will update you. We currently have:

3 feeder guppies: Guppy One, Guppy Two and Guppy Three. They are interchangeable. We're just too lazy to name them anything more original despite the face that we can tell them apart. [Shrug] They're guppies. They just aren't that exciting.

A beta: Skye Masterfish is very pretty - light blue with some deeper blue and red on his fins. He is named in honor of a character from 'Guys and Dolls' which Sweet Pea had the lead in this past school year.

A loach: I don't remember what his name is. We only see him on occasion when he decides to come out from under the rocks - usually at night. He's very fun to watch. We usually just call him 'the loach'. His real name might be Cord. Or maybe Wiggly? Or possibly Fuzzy.

A mystery snail: Snailerbiggius is quite large, hence the name. He's not as exciting as Mr. Sinister and Frisky, but he's a fine snail anyway.

A little tiny frog: I don't remember what his name is either. Kermit? No. Um, drawing a blank here. He's another one that tends to lurk in the dark corners so we don't see much of him.

And, last but not least, is Whiskers, our little albino catfish. He is the cutest little fish. He zips back and forth across the tank and looks so darn happy. He will zoom up to the top for a sip of air and drag his little dorsal fin across the top. We can almost hear him saying "I'm a shark! I'm a shark!" He also likes to annoy play with the snail and the other fish. He will zoom up to them, goose them, and race off across the tank, his little fins wiggling in laughter.

You may have noticed that the title of this post is 'That's One Strange Fish'. That's because when Whiskers isn't being fun, he's a little weird. (I can relate). He likes to play dead. On multiple occasions I have found him floating at the top of the tank, dead to the world. Then I poke him and he skitters off, laughing in little fishy bubbles. And just the other day I found him laying on his back (yes, his back) at the bottom of the tank, in a corner. Now, that's one dead fish I thought. But no, we got out the poking stick and sure enough, after one poke he wiggled. I gave him a second poke for good measure just to make sure it wasn't just death throes and he swam off, slightly sideways, but alive.

He also has equilibrium issues. At these times when he's acting strangely (and maybe he just has a tummy ache, or a gill ache or a fin ache or something) he tends to swim sideways, or even upside down. I tell you, it's not natural. If his head starts to spin in circles he's going down the toilet!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good Times

  The 80's were awesome! I had a lot of fun in the 80's and the music was also awesome! Even Snickers appreciates much of the music from the 80's on the rare occasions we subject him to it. He's especially fond of Ah Hah's 'Take On Me' and Twisted Sister's 'I Wanna Rock' and 'We're Not Gonna Take it'. He's also a big fan of the 'Sweet Victory' song on Spongebob which is very reminiscent of an 80's tune.

Switching topics here, when the kids were young they used to watch Veggie Tales, a cartoon where cute vegetables attempt to teach kids morals through the retelling of various bible stories and fun silly antics. We aren't very religious (to put it mildly) but we always enjoyed the Veggie Tales. (with the exception of the episode with the pie throwing which some people found terrifying - but that's a story for another day). We even have the Veggie Tales Christmas CD which is a lot of fun and which until very recently we listened to every year to get geared up for the holidays.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

When I saw the CD "Bob and Larry Sing the 80's" at the library, I had to get it. I brought it home and proudly held it up for the kids to see. They all looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They are so too old for Veggie Tales now, Mom! Come on! Well, Mom isn't too old for Veggie Tales so we all got to listen to it in the car on our vacation. It certainly wasn't the best selection of 80's tunes, but it was fun to listen to our favorite vegetables singing songs from that wonderful era of yore. It brought back a lot of memories both from the 80's and from our Veggie Tale years.

Good times. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Pack of Starving Wild Dogs

  So, the other day I was rollerblading at the parkway. I sometimes stop after work if the weather is right. It's a nice 4 mile skate and if it's not too windy or too buggy, it's a lot of fun. At one point I skated past a flock of geese off the side of the path. They watched me skate past.

On the return trip, they were waiting, watching. I got flustered by all those staring beady little eyes. I hit a rock! I lost my balance! I went flying! Right into the middle of the entire flock! It was terrifying - they were all over me - flapping their wings, pecking and biting and honking. I thought I was a goner.

Wait. No, not really. Sorry to scare you. But as I skated past them, that's what went through my mind. What if I were to trip right there and fall into the flock of them. That's what they were waiting for. Would they part like the red sea and make way for my falling body? Sidestep skittishly out of the way? Would they step in after the fact to see if I was OK? Or would they descend on me like a pack of starving wild dogs and peck me until I was bloody. Slam me with their powerful wings and honk at me continuously until I begged their forgiveness? I haven't had any serious run-ins with geese, but I'm guessing it's the latter.

I skate on the far side of the path now - very carefully. I don't want my imagination to prove me right.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Reading a Story to the Neighbors

  We read to the kids most nights before bed. Sometimes I read to them. Sometimes the hubster does. For the past several months it's been the hubby. And when the weather is warm we will read out on the back deck before bed. The hubster has a nice loud voice so the neighbors all around get to hear the story too. I'm sure they love it.

As some background, when we read, we insist that everyone stays in the same room so they can hear the story. As frequently happens, one of us (usually, Doodlebug, SweetPea or I) get in trouble for talking or fooling around during the story. Occasionally someone gets upset and stomps off in anger (usually Doodlebug or SweetPea), but they aren't allowed to go far. If we had to stop everytime someone got angry and stomped off we would never read more than a paragraph a night. So we insist that everyone stay in the same room and listen - ie don't spoil it for everyone else. Usually it's only a matter of seconds, minutes at most, before the anger/grumpiness is forgotten and they are totally engrossed in the story again.

So, the other night we were out on the deck, in our plastic deck chairs, listening to the melodious sound of the hubster's voice echo around the deck. Something got Doodlebug upset (I can't remember what any more) and he stomped off in anger. The Hubinator told him to get back to his chair and listen to the story. So, crying and moaning, he walked to his chair, picked it up, carried it off several yards and sat down.

Everyone began to laugh. And Doodlebug cried, then laughed, then cried, then laughed. I have never actually seen anyone cry and laugh at the same time. You've seen those comedy/tragedy theater masks - one happy, one sad? Well, that was him, both at once. Tears streaming down his cheeks and his mouth and eyes alternating from sadness to laughter. It was very funny.

And as is usually the case, within a few minutes it was all forgotten and we were all engrossed in the story again. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You! (U!)

  Hey, remember this old post here, the one where we scared the Hubinator out of wearing his 'Ask me about my book' shirt? He hasn't worn that thing in quite a while now! Poor man.

Well, he has a new shirt. It has a big U on the front. (some logo or other). We've taken to pointing at him and saying in a loud, angry voice, "You!".

He always looks surprised and somewhat concerned. Until we laugh and  point to his shirt. Poor man!

I guess I still have that obnoxious bone I had when I was younger. I'm afraid the kids may have inherited it as well.


Monday, August 1, 2011

An Ode to My Muffin (or Exuberant Obnoxiousness)

  On a recent Friday morning at the breakfast table I was extolling the virtues of blueberry muffins in a loud, somewhat off-key singing voice. I'm weird like that. Afterall it was Muffin Day! We all look forward to a nice healthy breakfast of sweet cake-like baked goods on Fridays and what better way to celebrate than by singing:

 "Happy Muffin Day!

Oh Oh
            Muffin Day!"
The (rolling) eyes of my family were all on me and there were many smirks of the 'isn't-she-cute!?', 'isn't-she-weird!?!', and 'what-the-hell!?!?' variety. They are used to (or as used to as they can be) my breaking out in off-key singing and strange dancing over baked goods, a song on the radio, a jingle on a tv commercial, the cat, a sunny morning, a rainy morning or anything at all. They are even used to my occasional rant at the oft-wrong weather man.

But as I finished my ode to my muffin I felt a twinge of sorrow (not regret really, but more like pity) for my sister. After all, she had to live with me for many years as we were growing up. And she had to deal with my many weirdnesses. And I have to say that she didn't deal with them well in the mornings. There was no time that I annoyed her more, than first thing in the morning. I recall many mornings where I was exuberant to the point of obnoxious and it didn't end well. I don't know if she just wasn't a morning person and couldn't handle my exuberant obnoxiousness so early in the morning, or if it was just that I was so over-the-top obnoxious that there was no way a sane person could handle it. I'm guessing it was the latter and that I was extra obnoxious because it was having an effect. Aren't teenagers wonderful?

But I like to think that I've tempered down somewhat and that I'm not quite as obnoxious as I was when I was a teen, but it could just be that my family is extra tolerant. But on this particular morning, as I took a big bite of my muffin I felt happy. It's good to be accepted tolerated despite my oddities and occasional obnoxious ways.