Since I won’t be in the Omaha area forever, I realized recently that my time is running out for visiting the many attractions in the area.  Thanks to my boys’ field trips, Cub Scouting and birthday party invitations, they’ve already been to several area attractions.  But I’ve set a new goal for myself and the family: to visit every attraction on the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “Pin Map”.

You probably can’t see it that well, but just click on the “Pin Map” link above and you can see the original PDF.   It’s called the “Pin Map” because in front of each of these attractions is an enormous mock up of a blue-tipped pin.  I’ll get a picture of one as soon as I can…
So…my goal is to visit each of the 15 attractions on the “Pin Map” before I leave the area.  So far, I’ve covered 7 of the 15 attractions (numbers 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, and 13)…and we have this summer to make our way through the rest.  Maybe I’ll blog about these “pins” as we visit them…I hope to, but I won’t make any guarantees.
Today I’ll share with you my first visit to #8 on the list: Lauritzen Gardens.
Timmy’s preschool class took a trip here on Monday.  I can’t believe I’ve lived here nearly 2 years and hadn’t been here till this week!  I guess it goes with living in a house full of boys, right?
This is a beautiful place, full of pretty flowers (of course) but I also really enjoyed the gardens “repurposing” sconces, corbels and other ornamentals from throughout Omaha…the pieces were rescued and help decorate the gardens.  The kids really enjoyed the flowers but the weather wasn’t very good and the walking was pretty tough on that group of 4 and 5 year olds.
So here are some pictures of the lovely visit.  I won’t include everything, just some of the more summary-type pics.  I STILL can’t believe I left our camera sitting on the counter as we headed out the door…so these pictures are with my iPhone camera.

This piece was repurposed from a downtown Omaha building:

23. April 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So…over here on the left is a DVD box set that I bought for my boys this week.  38 episodes of Tom and Jerry!  It was $14.99 at our local Baker’s (read: Kroger) grocery store.

My boys LOVE Tom and Jerry!  I loved Tom and Jerry cartoons when I was little.  I fondly recall watching the shorts on Channel 27 back in the early 80s in Norfolk.

This particular box set is special because it has the short “Puss Gets the Boot”, which was the very first Tom and Jerry short…so old that Tom isn’t even called “Tom”.  He’s “Jasper” here.  In fact, “Puss Gets the Boot” is the very first time William Hanna and Joseph Barbera worked together in 1939.

I’m looking at the back of the box, which typically has the description of the DVD, playing time (320 minutes!), MPAA rating, etc.  There’s also this line:

“TOM AND JERRY SPOTLIGHT COLLECTION VOLUME 2 is Intended for the Adult Collector and May Not Be Suitable for Children.”

WHAT?  Are they serious?  Because of the violence?  The perceived racism of Mammy Two Shoes (a character inspired by Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy from Gone with the Wind)?  What’s it doing on Cartoon Network and Boomerang if children shouldn’t be watching it?

The beginning of the first DVD in this set has an introduction by Whoopi Goldberg, who discusses the racist themes and violence and emphasizes that while it’s funny to see the characters perform in such ways, it doesn’t mean such behavior is advocated.  At least Whoopi is supportive of allowing viewers to see the cartoons the way they were originally drawn…many of the Mammy Two Shoes episodes had her edited out and replaced by a seemingly white woman.

Anyway, I found that rather interesting, that disclaimer about Tom and Jerry not being for children.  My kids love it, and I don’t think they’re going to become criminals or juvenile delinquents because of what they watch on these DVDs.

18. April 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

So here we are at Costco, for our quarterly stock-up trip. We were almost out of the big ticket items that I usually stock in bulk: toilet tissue, coffee, dinner napkins, kitchen trashbags, bar soap, etc. As usual, we ended up with stuff we don’t need, like a case of Mexicoke. But I have to admit I did MUCH better than usual!

So I was walking down the snack aisle, issuing an endless stream of “No, Timmy!”s and “No, Jacob!”s at their endless stream of “Mother, can we have [insert crappy snack item here]?”. And we saw these chips. And dissolved into a flurry of giggles all at once!!! I think we all agreed: none of us want this!

O. M. G. What will they think of next???

17. April 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 11: Flowering Trees · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Today I went on a number of errands, including to our nearby model train store to pick up a boxcar Dave ordered, and to the local large children’s consignment sale that’s wrapping up this weekend. I decided to grab my camera and capture some of the pretty trees that are gracing eastern Nebraska right now. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice these last year — it could be that I was just coming home from my deployment at this time a year ago…and my mind was on other things, like looking at how much my little boys had grown instead of at the blooming trees.

Anyway, I’m definitely now noticing these pretty trees throughout Eastern Nebraska, and I spent several minutes this afternoon photographing assorted trees in our neighborhood, and then later today I was busy uploading the pictures and investigating what kinds of trees I photographed.  I’m no professional photographer, I just wanted to capture some memories of these pretty trees, we don’t plan to be in Nebraska forever.

Really…we won’t.  We really like it here, but I’m afraid we don’t LOVE it here.  We LOVE Pennsylvania…we LOVE North Carolina…we really really really LIKE Florida.  But that’s for another topic….

So first, we have a plum tree in my front yard. The one on the left.  Pretty, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s chosen to bloom BEFORE the tree to its right, which is an apple tree. They’d be so pretty together, wouldn’t they?  The apple tree is covered in buds right now, will probably bloom next week…

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees

After the tree in my own yard, I drove over to the next block, where there were some pretty trees that reminded me of my college days. In front of my dorm building were similar trees, that bloomed just as we were cramming for finals!  You can see the referenced tree behind these folks barbecuing in August 1991, but since this picture was taken in the summertime, it’s well beyond blooming.  Pardon the confused-looking tailgaters.

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees

I vaguely remembered that the tree in front of Irvin Hall was a member of the magnolia family (it was nice having a Forestry major for a roommate my Junior and Senior years). Upon further checking, I learned that I had captured two kinds of magnolia trees today…a Jane Magnolia (pink) and a Star Magnolia (lighter pink…almost white).

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees

Next on our little trip was to the neighborhood park, where we had a great variety of flowering trees — 3 kinds: redbud, some sort of apple or pear blossom tree, and a crabapple tree. I’m having a hard time telling pear from apple blossoms so I could be wrong here with the white flowers.

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees

Then I headed up the road towards my errands, and I knew there were some bright yellow shrubs that I wanted to photograph.  For some reason I was thinking they were goldenrod, which is Nebraska’s state flower.  I took these pictures all along thinking they were goldenrod, but I was wrong, they’re actually forsythia.  I remember seeing forsythia everywhere in Korea in the springtime…pretty.  Fascinating fact: forsythia can produce its own lactose.

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees

Before our errands, Timmy and I had lunch at Culver’s, which is a local fast-food/frozen custard chain. I caught some pictures in the parking lot of their pretty flowering tree: I think it’s an apple tree of some sort, but I could be wrong.

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees

Finally, I’ll post this picture nice and BIG so you can help me to identify it. I’ve no earthly clue:

From 2010 04 16 Nebraska Flowering Trees
07. April 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

On two recent blog posts here, there are comments written in Chinese characters.

This one:

And this one:

The first one went up on March 14th, and I get the comments sent to my e-mail account. So there’s all this Chinese in my inbox.

What do you THINK I’m going to do with it? Yep, sent the e-mail to the trash and didn’t think anything else of it.

Until it happened again 2 days ago. This time I said, “Let me throw this into Google Translator and see what I get.”

I put in the comment that I got in the Garden Season post and got this text in return:

“Simple act of spiritual joy to others, prayer is better than thousand bow”

Awww….how sweet. Next to the comment is a bunch of ellipsis with a link. Like a moron, I clicked the link.

Go ahead, click the link. I dare you! Get the kids out of the room first, please!

The second set of text? The one on the Big Top Cupcake post? Well, I’m not putting that translation here. You may go check it out yourself, just go from Chinese to English on the Google Translator.

I’d like to remove the comment, but not before my billions (cough!) of faithful readers get a chance to copy/paste it into the translator and get a smile. Once again, get the kids out of the room!

05. April 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Hooray! The weather has finally warmed up well here, and the birds have returned! The grass is returning to a lovely green color, and the kids would rather be outside playing then cooped up in the house.

With the warmer weather comes one of my favorite things, starting our family’s garden! It’s been very exciting to see what perennials are returning…about a month ago, the snow pack had melted (after about 90 days!) near my herb garden and it was great to see the parsley, chives, sage, oregano and thyme all returning for us. The hops are coming in with incredible enthusiasm, and just yesterday I saw the first peek of rhubarb!

From 2010 04 Garden
From 2010 04 Garden
From 2010 04 Garden

Chives, Parsley and Hops all returning!

So I have quite a challenge being such a gardening enthusiast having to move her family every 2-3 years: it seems that as soon as something gets well-established, it’s time to move on. In Florida and North Carolina, it was so difficult to say goodbye to gardens that were in their peak productivity in the month of July. Dave and I have made efforts in each-and-every home we’ve had to grow our own flowers and veggies. In fact, I even wrote a letter to Organic Gardening Magazine in 2006 about it after reading about Hanscom AFB’s successful community garden.

Here’s the article that spawned the letter.

It was like a breath of fresh air, since typically OG magazine leans towards more, shall we say, liberal topics. So I wrote a letter to the magazine expressing such (click on the image to zoom in):

Anyway, this past weekend we planted our lettuce and cabbage, and sweet onion sets are waiting to go into the ground. I have tomato plants ready for my upside-down planters, which I buy from this company here so I can just purchase the refill sets every year. They did a wonderful job last year…they took a hit during our 16-day vacation, so hopefully I’ll manage its care better this year.

It was fun hanging out at Lowe’s with Timmy last week to pick up some gardening supplies. I noticed that Ferry & Morse has quite the marketing campaign going…they’ve attached so many of the kids’ favorite characters to gardening:

From 2010 04 Garden
From 2010 04 Garden
From 2010 04 Garden
From 2010 04 Garden
From 2010 04 Garden

I get a bit camera happy when I see great-looking veggies and flowers, so I’m sure you’ll see more photos soon!

02. April 2010 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I’m currently boiling eggs. I thought this would be a simple undertaking, getting the eggs in the fridge before dinnertime, so we can dye them after dinner tonight. It’s an Easter tradition…I did it every year as a kid, my boys have a good time with it and I look forward to seeing what creations we come up with this evening!

The sad thing, though, is that I’m the only one in the family who likes hard cooked eggs. This year I’m boiling 18 eggs and I’m thinking all along, “What the @#$%^ am I going to do with 18 hard-cooked eggs?” More precisely:

“What the @#$%^ am I going to do with 18 hard-cooked eggs before they go bad????” I can only tolerate but so much egg salad, and I don’t think my cholesterol count is going to appreciate me trying to eat 18 eggs in less than a week!

A bunch of us neighborhood stay-at-home Moms get together once a month for breakfast…it’s crossed my mind to just put a dozen of them in an Easter basket and present it for this week’s breakfast…except that they’d be rather old eggs by then.

This year, I decided I want to boil these eggs perfectly! This is the recipe I’ve elected to use this time around, and I think we have a winner! I’ve both overcooked and undercooked eggs. Most recently, I attempted Julia Child’s “Perfect Egg” recipe. Instead of sending you to a link, I’m going to put it right here, so everyone can see how complicated this is:

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Recipe By : Julia Child, “The Way to Cook”
Serving Size : 1 Preparation Time :0:40
Categories : Cheese/Eggs Family Recipes

For 1-4 Eggs:
1 to 4 Eggs
2 quarts water — * see note

For 12 Eggs:
12 Eggs
3 1/2 quarts water — * see note

For 24 Eggs:
24 Eggs
6 quarts water — * see note

Special Equipment: High (not wide) Saucepan with cover, Bowl w/ice cubes & water (large enough to completely cover eggs)

*note: water should cover the eggs by 1 inch, so use a tall pan, and limit
cooking to 2 dozen eggs at a time.

1. Lay the eggs in the pan and add the amount of cold water specified. Set
over high heat and bring just to the boil; remove from heat, cover the pan,
and let sit exactly 17 minutes.

2. When the time is up, transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and
water. Chill for 2 minutes while bringing the cooking water to the boil
again. (This 2 minute chilling shrinks the body of the egg from the shell.)

3. Transfer the eggs (6 at a time only) to the boiling water, bring to the
boil again, and let boil for 10 seconds – this expands the shell from the
egg. Remove eggs, and place back into the ice water.

Chilling the eggs promptly after each step prevents that dark line from
forming, and if time allows, leave the eggs in the ice water after the last
step for 15 to 20 minutes. Chilled eggs are easier to peel, as well.

The peeled eggs will keep perfectly in the refrigerator, submerged in water
in an uncovered container, for 2 to 3 days.

So apparently when I cooked the eggs using Julia’s method, I messed something up, because I ended up with very difficult-to-peel eggs whose yolks were still liquid in the very center. Grosser than gross! I had only boiled 3 eggs to make a recipe of egg salad for a couple sandwiches, so at least it wasn’t a huge loss.

But Emeril’s recipe was spot-on! One of the eggs had a big crack when it was all done today, and when I peeled it, it was the most perfect yellow, with a shell that slipped right off…almost in one piece!

Anyway, enjoy a few pictures of our egg dyeing experience tonight.

From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs

The eggs on the left, missing the Eggland’s Best “EB” stamp , are the hard-cooked ones. The stamp came off in the boiling water.

From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs

These eggs came from the organic pork farm right up the street from us. We buy our pork products from their little shop, which is only open on weekends. Last weekend, they offered a free dozen of eggs to folks who were buying their Easter hams. So these were free eggs 🙂

From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs
From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs
From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs
From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs
From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs

This is one of the railroads Dave features on his model railroad.

From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs

This is another railroad Dave features.

From 2010 04 02 Dyeing Easter Eggs
01. April 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

***A note about this picture. I just stole the picture because I think it’s funny. I checked out that website listed at the bottom and found that lawsuit they’re proposing a bit far-fetched. Just my opinion.

Dave was diagnosed this week with lactose intolerance. Without getting too much into the healthcare debate, this diagnosis was a long time coming…Dave’s been going through multiple referrals, tests and consultations since January. While his gall bladder surgery last September solved many of his problems, this issue emerged slowly this past winter, perhaps masked for some time by the other problems the gall bladder was causing.

This means looking at our family menu in a whole new light! Not only do we need to cut dairy foods from Dave’s diet, but we also need to be aware of the many sources of hidden lactose: baked goods made with milk, hot dogs that contain sodium lactase, cold cuts, cereal containing whey, etc. Oreo cookies, for example. I found this nice list as a starting point.

First off, we are switching our household’s milk. At first I was just switching our skim milk, from Land O’ Lakes to Lactaid Brand Fat Free Milk. Dave enjoys cereal in skim milk, and we each drink 8 oz. of skim milk with dinner every night. He also uses skim milk to cream his coffee in the morning. So the skim would definitely have to switch. The Lactaid milk is your standard skim milk, but with the lactase enzyme added, which breaks the lactose sugar down into two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. It tastes sweeter than we’re accustomed to, but definitely not bad at all.

I then realized that I should switch the 2% milk to Lactaid too. I prefer to cook with 2%, and my still-growing-like-weeds sons drink 6 oz. or so with breakfast and dinner every day. If I also switch the 2% milk, I can continue to use it to make pancakes, breads and mashed potatoes without problems for Dave. It’s going to cost more, about double actually, but that’s okay. I predict an extra $15-20 per month. One less trip out to eat.

Secondly, family meals now needs to have less dairy in its preparation. Probably a good call anyway, right? No more pizzas, lasagnas, enchiladas, pasta bakes, macaroni & cheese, and veggies with cheese sauce. I also need to keep tabs on butter used for things like mashed potatoes and pastries. We’ll be having more Asian stir fries, and traditional grilled meats, with a steamed vegetable and starch offering.

And finally, our ability to eat out at restaurants will take a big hit. This is definitely a good thing! I’ll get on these lazy streaks and want to just drop everything and go to a restaurant once or twice per week. BAD MAJOR MOM! I just did it on Sunday, I couldn’t get Outback Steakhouse off the brain, I hadn’t been in a very long time, and I convinced Dave that we should go. Mistake. It was expensive, and despite Dave’s best efforts, we think some lactose sneaked into dinner somehow — perhaps the bread? Or the Caesar salad dressing, even though it should be dairy free!

While at first I viewed this as an inconvenience, I had to stop for a second and think about my poor Dave. He has to watch his dairy intake with EVERYTHING now! Talk about inconvenient! He’s been advised to cut ALL lactose from his diet for the next several months in an attempt to heal his GI system, which has been very very stressed lately from all this.

I see a trip to our local-but-not-really-local Whole Foods Market to stock up on some lactose-free dairy products and dairy alternatives, such as Tofutti ice cream, and perhaps some soy cheeses. I’m hoping I can find other Lactaid products at Whole Foods, too, such as their evaporated milk.