31. August 2011 · Comments Off on Wordless Wednesday — EWWWW! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

You usually see these things curled up about 1/2″ down in your lawn.  Not crawling across your street in 90F temperatures!  Kudos to my iPhone camera for getting some nice (or not so nice?) closeups!

29. August 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
Over the course of the day, the stamen will produce their bright yellow pollen, such as what’s seen here.  It’s all very fast…this flower was wilted by sunset.

As promised two posts ago, here’s a nice pretty post for you.  This is our Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) plant that grows in front of Jacob’s bedroom window in the front of our house.  I was pleased to see these flowers this summer, since the week we moved into the house in late November 2010, we had a hard freeze that essentially killed off the 5′ tall plant for the season.  But in April it came back!

Unfortunately, when the hibiscus plant has to start from scratch, it’s tough to get the profuse flowers that I was accustomed to in Hawaii (where my Dad was stationed then when I was ages 3-6) and Melbourne, FL (when we were stationed at Patrick AFB).  These flower bring back so many memories of living in Hawaii where our house (we lived in military housing) had a tall hedge-like row of hibiscus along one of the outside walls.

I’ve been seeing the occasional flower this summer…hibiscus flowers only last one day so it’s been tricky getting outside at the right time to photograph it.  It needed to be before lunchtime, and most of this summer I simply wasn’t thinking about heading out to photograph the front yard until it was too late in the day.

Once school started, and the kids were playing in the front yard while waiting for their respective buses, I had a chance on the first day of school to get these shots of a fresh bloom!

The flowers are about 5-6″ across.

26. August 2011 · Comments Off on Overnight Crock Pot Steel-Cut Oats · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

I’m doing this for a contest at the Crock Pot Recipe Exchange blog.  It’s simple, but it’s sorta difficult to remember to set up breakfast the evening before.

“Real” oatmeal is heaven if you prepare it correctly.  If you’re unfamiliar with the different “cuts” of oatmeal, here’s a nice primer for you.  My kids are partial to the Quaker instant packets, but to make a real bowl of oats, with real maple syrup and brown sugar…well, it’s so good for you!  Being the impatient, hungry family we are, it’s tough having the hubby and kids wait 30-40 minutes for a pot of steel cut oats to cook on a Sunday morning.  Especially now that we go to a church that’s 30 minutes away, and starts at 9:15am!

If you can remember to do it ahead of time, I recommend using your Crock Pot to cook your steel-cut oats to perfection.  Individual Crock Pots, locations, elevations and brands of oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill) will result in variations on the cooking times, but this has worked well enough for me.  When I made it exactly as in the recipe linked below, it dried out…I think it cooked for too long.  You could rehydrate it and salvage most of it, but it wasn’t the same as fresh-out-of-the-crock perfection.

Overnight Crock Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal, adapted from Alton Brown’s Recipe

1 1/2 c. steel cut oats
5 c. water
1-2 c. dried fruit, such as raisins or cranberries, as desired

Cook in your Crock Pot on low for 6 hours.  You can set this right when you go to bed, and it should still be warm by morning.  My own Crock Pot has a “Keep Warm” function that it defaults to after the active cooking time is complete.  At least, that’s the case in my house where we get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Enjoy some REAL oatmeal this weekend!

26. August 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

This is a representative forecast, click here for the latest!

Our thoughts and prayers are with those preparing for the onset of Hurricane Irene.  My family experienced the crazy 2004 Hurricane Season on the East Coast of Florida.  We packed both cars, both kids, our dog, and our most valuable belongings and tearfully evacuated our house in Melbourne, Florida for Hurricane Frances just before Labor Day.  Our house did relatively well in 2004, we are very grateful for that.

When an order is given to evacuate, it’s done with a LOT of thought and consideration to the financial impacts on everyone they’re moving.  One of the things emergency managers are considering is how easily rescues can be made afterwards.

I’m not giving you a special forecast….refer to the National Hurricane Center or your favorite weather forecast outlet for your forecast.

  • Please heed local emergency management authorities.  FEMA, state, and local emergency management agencies have learned many lessons from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina: they’re more prepared than ever to respond, decide and inform.
  • Have a disaster preparedness kit handy (flashlights, matches, water, battery radio, clothes in plastic bags) if you choose to stay.  Ready.gov, the Department of Homeland Security’s public website, has this handy tri-fold pamphlet that covers basic needs handily.
  • Fill your cars with gas.  Local gas stations remained empty or near empty after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne for several days.
  • Be prepared to lose perishables in your fridge and not have perishables at your local grocery store for several days.  The good news is that many homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies will cover replacement of spoiled perishable foods, perhaps without a deductible.  Check your policy for this.
  • Do you have pets?  Get to know if local shelters take pets or not.  Prepare ahead of time for your pet’s care in case of an evacuation or prolonged power outages if you don’t evacuate.  Do you have 2+ weeks of pet food?  Consider it.

25. August 2011 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 17: Narceus Americanus · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Ready to be grossed out?

This morning I went to the backyard to cover our grill (I forgot to cover it last night) and when I picked up the cover, this thing fell out and started walking across our patio:

At about 4″ long, you can’t just ignore this thing!

Okay, are you done screaming and climbing up to the highest point in the room?

These things are all over our backyard here.  Meet the Narceus americanus, or the North American millepede.  This thing is BIG!  And he’s FAST.  And after I finished doing the heebie-jeebie dance about it, I ran inside to get my camera.  It was a race to get some pictures before he made it to the grass and burrowed into the soil.

Don’t touch this millipede, it will exude some sort of irritant as a defensive mechanism.

Enjoy some more pictures!  I promise something MUCH happier and prettier tomorrow!

I took this picture for a size comparison.
25. August 2011 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 16: Follow That Bird! Help Me Identify a Bird…. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

That beautiful garden from last March-May?  All but dead.  The insane heat, plus the lack of rain earlier this summer made it tough to maintain after our vacation.  Between the tomato hornworms, blossom end rot and other crap, I just said “forget it”.  It was too hot to even stand outside to prune.  No fun!

My herbs are surviving, which can be expected since they typically survive on less water than fruit-producing plants.  I let my basil go to seed — I tried to keep the seed stems picked off, but couldn’t keep up — and lately it’s been a popular hangout for my backyard birds.  More popular than the two bird feeder areas I have on a different part of the yard.

This has been fun because the garden containers are right outside our back door and the kids can watch the birds while they’re eating breakfast in the morning.  We’ve been seeing finches, sparrows and cardinals hanging out at my basil, and even the occasional bluebird who is after the bugs that hover around my herb flowers.

This photo was taken through my screen porch, there’s a house finch among the basil.

Latecomers hang out on my cucumber trellis to wait for their turn.
Much less traffic at the bird feeders.

This morning I had my usual assortment, but then this HUGE bird was trying to get in on the action.  (“Huge” is relative — I have a blue jay that hangs out in the front yard, but this is the biggest bird I’d seen in the back).  I haven’t researched what kind of bird he is, but I’ll post the pictures here and see if you can help me out.

My hypothesis: a northern mockingbird fledgling.

Add caption

24. August 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

I had some ground pork in the freezer.  I had picked it up to make some meat loaf, but then I found The Country Cook’s recipe which ended up not needing the pork after all (Tangent: want to make a small meatloaf with just 1 pound of ground meat?  Brandie’s recipe is very very nice!)

Anyhoo, here I was with a pound of ground pork.  What to do…what to do…

After having dinner at a local Chinese restaurant last week, I had an idea.  I’d attempt homemade won ton soup!

So here we go!  I didn’t document this as well as I would have liked — this is a messy (but FUN) recipe and when Jacob got into helping me, it got more messy!

I used a combination of two recipes here, since one had ingredients I had on hand, and the other provided some better cooking information.

Start this recipe either the night prior or first thing in the morning before serving.  You want 6-48 hours of time for the ground meat mixture’s flavors to combine.

Chop up a green onion…or two.  No one’s counting.

The recipe called for a cup of finely shredded Napa cabbage.  Sadly, our local Publix was all out, so I got all lazy and picked up this bag of cole slaw mix.

Ran my knife across it a couple times…

Toss everything into a large bowl.

For my finely shredded carrot, I used my Microplane and 3 baby carrots.  Use the Microplane for the ginger too.

Add some sesame oil and soy sauce….

Mix it all together…use your hands, it’ll work better that way!
Cover the mixture with some plastic wrap (tuck the wrap right down on top of the mixture) and chill for 6 hours or overnight.  The first recipe I liked says 30 minutes, but I vote for 6+ hours, per the 2nd recipe.

After chilling the mixture to let the flavors combine, it’s time to prepare an assembly line for the wontons.  If you’re going to cook the dumplings immediately, get a pot with 6-8 c. of chicken broth heating to a simmer (homemade is best!).  You’ll turn it up to a gentle boil just before popping the dumplings in, but I took a while assembling the noodles, and to have the broth boiling all that time would have evaporated everything away, tee hee.

Here’s my bouillon-cube chicken broth simmering.  I didn’t have any of the good stuff on hand, although I need to cook up a batch soon!

You should be able to pick up refrigerated won ton wrappers at any grocery store.  I got these from my local military commissary.

Jacob made most of the wontons, which was a great help.  I wish I had done this a little more neatly, but you need a bowl with water (or egg white, but water works for us), the wonton wrappers, the meat and a place to put the finished wontons.  I put the finished wontons on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and a damp towel on top.  (PSST: Like my new Penn State Scentsy warmer in the upper right?)
Here’s a wonton.

With a moistened finger, damped TWO adjacent edges.

Scoop out one teaspoon of the meat mixture.

Put that teaspoon on the center of the wonton, perhaps slightly off center.

Fold over the wonton and press the edges down.

You can have a little fun from here, folding them into assorted other shapes.  

I tried to keep them separated, but somehow that didn’t happen.

Time to turn up the heat on the broth to boiling.  Drop in 8-10 of the wontons at a time into the water and bring it back to a boil.  Gently boil for 7 minutes, and then remove to serving bowls…2-3 at a time with some broth.  Garnish with some chopped green onion.

Don’t crowd the pot, the wontons will stick to each other, and the bottom of the pot.

Unlike our local Chinese restaurant, I must have loaded the bowl with 5 wontons per person for dinner Saturday night.

I had a LOT of extra ground pork mixture, which I stir fried and added to the soup when I served it to the family.

This was somewhat labor-intensive, but not difficult.  Jacob had a good time helping me out, and all 4 of us agreed that this homemade soup was just as good as what we enjoy in restaurants.

23. August 2011 · Comments Off on First Day of School 2011! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,


Today was the first day of school in our boys’ public school system.  Unlike our experience in Nebraska, where the boys walked to school and the parents were requested to spend the first hour of the first day of school with the kids…here the parents met with the teachers last week and the kids were encouraged to take the buses and get dropped off.

Dave and I didn’t have much to document this morning, since it was just them getting on the bus, but here are the pictures we did receive.  Enjoy!

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19. August 2011 · Comments Off on Road Trip III 2011: Atlanta Braves Baseball! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

WARNING: This is a LONG post.  I debated dividing it into two parts, but couldn’t find an easy dividing point.  So instead I put in some headers to try to break up the story a bit.  

It was our entire motivation for our trip to Atlanta last weekend: we had Braves tickets!

During Jacob’s baseball season, we promised to take him to a professional baseball game in the area.  We didn’t realize it would be over an hour away (Mobile, Alabama has a AA team).  Dave suggested looking into Braves tickets, and we could take a long weekend in Atlanta for sightseeing.

I got a great deal on StubHub.com on a set of four tickets to the August 14th Braves-Cubs game right behind home plate.  Someone was probably breaking up a set of multi-game tickets, and I scored some great seats for about $20 each.  It turned out to be near Dave’s birthday, so we considered the trip a birthday gift for Dave.

Even better?  I found us a hotel room right across the street from Turner Field!  Whoo hoo!

Military Ticket Promotion

I had made these arrangements back in May, so the excitement for all my boys was pretty built-up by the time we actually made the drive.  They were so happy to see Turner Field and were incredibly excited about seeing Sunday’s game…

…so excited, in fact, that on Saturday morning Jacob and I walked over to the box office first thing and bought tickets to see the Saturday night game.  We took advantage of the Braves’ military promotion — Active duty military can get buy-one-get-one-free Upper Box seats.  (So can students and AAA members).  And they waived the $3 surcharge for same-day purchase!  Our original tickets were to the Sunday afternoon game.

The Bullpen

Happy Dave.  Sandwiches and beer at The Bullpen.  $3.50 bottles here vs. $7.00 bottles at the ballpark!  Dave opted for a solid red Braves hat.  

After Friday night at The Varsity, then Saturday morning and afternoon at Stone Mountain, we had dinner Saturday evening at The Bullpen, a burger/beer joint between our hotel and Turner Field.  We took a risk heading over there — after all, what restaurant next to the ballpark was going to have seating 90 minutes before gametime?  We thought The Bullpen would be waitress-served meals, and were expecting the worst in terms of a wait for a table.

We were greeted with a pleasant surprise: cheap food, REALLY cheap beer and plenty of outdoor seating.  Sure, it was hot, but at least we had seating.


Another nice perk — free parking since we were staying at a hotel nearby.  We found out that the local businesses near Turner Field (including our hotel) sold extra parking spaces for $20 per game!  So over the weekend we saved $40 in parking charges, and we had a VERY short walk to the field, just diagonally across an intersection from the gates behind home plate….although the main entrance was behind the outfield.

The Saturday Night Game!

It’s a sight to see — that look on a kid’s face when he see something he’s been excited for for so long.  I remember that look when my boys met Mickey Mouse.  We saw it again when the boys saw the bright green field and the HUGE video screen when we got to our seats.  For the Saturday game, we sat near the very top row, but it was essentially behind home plate.  It was hot, but at least we had a good enough view to command the boys’ attention for most of the game.  The Braves lost the Saturday night game.

These giant baseballs were all over the place — the boys wanted to find them all, but we didn’t do that.  The boys got Braves hats off a street vendor for $5 each.  They are definitely $5 hat quality, but the boys didn’t care and were incredibly excited!
I’m very proud of this picture.  This is the 1991 Braves in the upper part of the picture.  They had a 20th Anniversary reunion event just before the game.  This team started the 14-years-in-a-row of pennant winning.  Five of the players simultaneously threw ceremonial first pitches and I caught 4 of the 5 balls mid-pitch!  From the top row, too!  (the 2nd pitcher from the right hadn’t let go of the ball yet).  Hooray for our Canon camera!

The view from the top.  Not bad.  The giant TV screen (“Braves Vision”) helped us see anything we needed to see in more detail.

You can see how high up we were.
Two of Atlanta’s biggest sponsors, literally: Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A.  Each of those things are 40-feet high.

The Chick-fil-A cow does the tomahawk chop with his (her?) right arm when the (FSU Band) music played!

The boys all brought in their gloves, but we were sitting a bit high to catch a foul ball.

Plenty of gimmicks to keep us entertained.  When the Braves strike out a batter, the Gas South sign launches two small fireworks and flames fly out of the flames on the sign.  Then, if you squint, you can see the letter “K”s underneath the words “Bring the Heat”.  One “K” per strikeout.

And if there’s a home run, the 40-foot Coca Cola bottle launches a WHOLE BUNCH of fireworks!  This was during the one-and-only home run from both games: Dan Uggla in the 4th inning.  Dave took the boys to get snacks.  I saw it, they missed it.

A word about this 40-foot Coke bottle.  The area that’s usually a label is actually an LCD sign that is constantly changing.  Here you can see the tomahawks that were moving around the right.  Timmy was a bit freaked out by every single digital sign in the ballpark showing tomahawks during the tomahawk chop music.  He learned the cheer pretty early on!

The Sunday Afternoon Game: Foul Ball Drama

The Sunday game gave us a MUCH better view!  Unfortunately, the seats remained in the sun the entire time.  After 3 hours in the sun, during about the 7th inning, we moved to shady seats two rows up.

Those original seats were in the very front row of the upper deck, behind home plate.  About halfway up in the stands…definitely foul ball range!  A most-awesome view!

Statistically speaking, what are the chances of a foul ball landing in one of our original — by then, vacated — seats???  I don’t know, but that’s what happened.  A man from the group right next to the empty seats ran over to the seat and plucked up the ball, full of happiness and celebration.  I tried, but didn’t make it…

Meanwhile, my boys were in tears…Timmy ran back over to the original seats and sat with his glove at the ready for about 10 minutes.  Jacob was pretty upset for the rest of the game.  Dave — whose original seat the ball landed in — explained that he wasn’t really paying attention at the time the foul ball came in and assured the boys he might have gotten hit on the head.

So to accompany that look of delight when the boys saw their first major league ball field, was the anguish of missing a foul ball that we SHOULD have caught!  Oh well…life goes on…

Nice foam tomahawks, right?  This was before the foul ball — and the emotion that went with it.  It fell right into the seat Dave was sitting in here…except we had moved from those seats when the ball came in.

This was our view from our seats.  So much nicer than the night before!  But quite sunny…

I thought the sun would head behind the awning…instead it PARALLELED the front edge of the awning.  So hot…so frustrating.

The Running of the Bases

When Jacob and I went to the box office to get the Saturday night game tickets, we learned of this “Running of the Bases” activity the Braves hosted on after their Sunday home games.  The kids line up after the game to go down to the field and they get one pass around the field.  After yet another loss against the Cubs, not to mention the Foul Ball drama, we weren’t sure the kids were going to handle the LONG line to run the bases.  The kids didn’t know what to expect, so it was clear Dave and I were more excited about this than the kids.

But they stuck it out, with the help of some other kids in the line who had done the activity before and assured the boys that the experience was really cool.  I knew Jacob would appreciate learning how much longer the baselines are on a Major League diamond compared to what he runs in Little League.

After about a 30 minute wait (relatively not long at all), we saw the beautiful field up close!  The kids were put in a line and the whole experience — as cool as it is — is very very fast.  They are sending kids out about every 2 seconds.  I didn’t get good pictures of the running itself, but here’s a video of the boys that gives you an idea.

Yes, Timmy’s wearing a Pirates shirt.  Those two shirts came from Old Navy.

Jacob took this picture…I like it 🙂

The kids in the line leading up to home plate.  Say nothing about the boys being in Crocs (J’s wearing yellow, T’s wearing red).  I didn’t think about how much better this experience would have been if they were wearing sneakers.

The boys received free t-shirts when they finished.  The Braves logo is on the front, this beat any $20 t-shirt at the souvenirs stands!

The Braves Kids Club: A Nice Gift Idea

Photo courtesy of Field Trips With Sue.

The boys kept seeing ads for this Braves Kids Club on the video screens and on posters throughout Turner Field.  This evening I finally remembered to look up the website and see what this Kids Club involved.

Seems like a pretty cool deal.  I was reminded of the old Lego Brickmaster Club from about 2007 or so, when $40 would get you 6+ great little kits, plus coupons, and the magazine.  For $20 you get 2 Braves ticket vouchers AND 2 Gwinnett Braves (their AAA affiliate) vouchers.  Plus a ball cap, Chick Fil A coupons, a certificate, VIP access to the Kids Running of the Bases, among other things.

Since a Kids Club membership is valid for a single baseball season, we convinced the boys that this wouldn’t be a good idea this late in the season.  I put a reminder in iCal to look at the Kids Club membership thing again in mid-November for the 2012 season.

This Atlanta blogger shows how the Kids’ Club items are nicely packaged up for the holidays.

19. August 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

Wow, I’d been scarce from these for a while – the last one I did was #46.  Oops.  Well our lives are settling back to normal and I hope to become a regular here again.  These ones should be simple this week 🙂

1.  My spouse and I rarely agree on how much money we should spend on model railroading, but always agree on our furniture purchases.  Sounds strange, I know, but we won’t go forward on a furniture/interior decorating purchase without buy-in from the both of us.  This is probably why we were married 10 years before getting a dining room set.  We simply couldn’t agree.

2.  If I could use one word to sum up the way I feel right now, it would be overwhelmed.  If you are asking how I feel THIS MINUTE, that’s it.  I was at J’s school for 2:45 hours earlier this afternoon filling out dozens of forms, keeping all the ducks in a row with what to expect for his new class (i.e., which days are gym days, which days are aren’t, which bus to ride, which road to use when dropping J off at the school on days he doesn’t ride the bus, and the homework plans.)

3. One of the things my spouse does that grosses me out is pop gum.  Not smacking, not blowing bubbles, but making those really loud popping noises.  One of the women on murdrers’ row in the Broadway play Chicago killed her husband over his popping of gum (no, I don’t plan to do that).  From the song “Cell Block Tango”:

[LIZ (Spoken)]
You know how people
have these little habits
That get you down. Like Bernie.
Bernie like to chew gum.
No, not chew. POP.
So I came home this one day
And I am really irritated, and I’m
looking for a bit of sympathy
and there’s Bernie layin’
on the couch, drinkin’ a beer
and chewin’. No, not chewin’.
Poppin’. So, I said to him,
I said, “you pop that
gum one more time…”
and he did.
So I took the shotgun off the wall
and I fired two warning shots…
…into his head.

4. My readers may think I’m crazy for doing this, but I really love to vacuum.  Think really hard, have you ever seen me write a blog about, Tweet or post on Facebook any complaints about vacuuming?  Laundry, yes.  Dishes, most certainly!  But I find a certain calming effect when vacuuming.

5. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn?.

I think my creativity meter is pegged (see #2 above)…I can’t wait to see what other spouses write tomorrow.