Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The night before Halloween

Tomorrow is one of the most anticipated days of the year at our house.  I'm really not that much of a Halloween person - no hanging of tormented demons in our front yard or anything, but we carve a few pumpkins, put a fake spider on the front porch and we're good to go.  It's the candy that we all get excited about.  Well, mostly the kids, but honestly I'm pretty excited for all those cute little chocolate bars that don't even count as carb servings because they're so small.  I also like hanging out with our Halloween friends - a family that always comes over for pizza and trick or treating, and then we don't see them until the next Halloween - and just the fun atmostphere of the neighbourhood. 

After much deliberating and mind-changing, I think the kids have their costumes ready.  Neve's going to be a bride, Spencer's an Egyptian, and Chloe will be Minnie Mouse by day and a witch by night.  Chloe's thrilled that after nine Halloween-free years of school, she can finally be all pagan and wear a costume to school this year.  I can only imagine some of the costumes high-schoolers will come up with.  Apparently the principal made an announcement today about appropriate costumes, saying, "for example, if you come dressed as a nurse, make sure you are dressed like a nurse you would see in a hospital."  You know he's making that announcement for a reason.

Anyway, all the costumes were fairly straightforward.  We had to borrow an Egyptian accessory from Shannon, but other than that, the costumes were assembled from things we had on hand.  Unlike Neve's friend who is dressing up as a crayon/cat.  I'll be taking pictures of that one.

I picked through all the pumpkin guts to salvage the seeds, picked off all the stringy bits, washed them, drained them, dried them, and roasted them.  And that's the easy part.  Those things are a bugger to eat.  Are you supposed to shell them, or do you eat the whole seed?  How do I not know this?

Here are our pumpkin works of art.  I thought the children would want to carve them, but they just wanted to choose what to carve them as and let me do all the work.  The one on the left is supposed to be a puking pumpkin.  We did the same idea a few years ago, and both Neve and Spencer wanted to relive the glory.  I showed them lots of cool ideas on the internet, but they insisted on this.  Chloe wanted the face on the right, and I did a slighly crooked K. 

This photo was taken shortly before ambulances and emergency vehicles descended on our street and our next door middle-aged neighbour was carried out on a stretcher.  I talked to his elderly parents briefly; they were not doing well and looked like they could use an ambulance ride themselves.  Hoping he's okay; we've had enough action on our street for a while.

Wishing you all a safe, fun, warm, happy Halloween!  Resulting in lots of little Wunderbars!

after school popcorn and TV

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What a crock of ...

It was a rainy, dreary day today, so I thought it would be a perfect day to make dinner in the slow cooker.  Slow cookers are so awesome … it’s hard to have a bad day when you know dinner is cooking itself.*  I don’t use my crock pot very often, but whenever I do, I tell myself I’m going to use it every day from then on.  And then six months go by.  My sister-in-law Sabrina has been using hers lately and has inspired me.  Then a friend of mine mentioned she makes pulled pork in hers and all she does is throw in a pork roast, cover it with root beer, and turn it on.  Cooking meat (other than fish) is one of my least favourite things, but pulled pork on a bun suddenly appealed to me, especially since there’s almost no raw meat-handling involved.  Root beer** seems strange, but my friend said you couldn’t even taste it. 

My slow cooker is quite small; I could use a bigger one but I got this one as a wedding gift from my Aunt Susie who has since passed away, so I can’t quite let it go.  I guess I could put it away and save it for when Chloe moves to a place of her own.  Because we all know how young people like to organize their week’s menu and plan their dinners well ahead of time.  Anyway, because of the doll-sized slow cooker, the roast wasn’t completely submerged in root beer, so I turned it halfway through the day but it was awkward to get a grip on the hunk of meat.  Eventually I got it lifted up to turn it and then it slipped out of the tongs and fell back in the pot and pork juice and root beer splashed everywhere – all over me and the counter and everything that was on the counter.  It was very unappetizing, and combined with the smell of pork permeating the house all day, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to eat it.  But it actually turned out pretty good.  I would’ve enjoyed it even more if I hadn’t had to do the draining and pulling-apart, but it was still tasty.  Dale wasn’t home for dinner but he ate when he got home later and he really liked it.  I think it will be a while before I do that again

*Except I remember in one of the Ramona the Pest books, Mrs. Quimby had prepared a meal in the slow cooker, but when they came home after a long, frustrating day of work and school looking forward to a delicious roast, she realized she had forgotten to plug it in.  So all the meat was ruined, which was a very big deal because I think Mr. Quimby had lost his job and was now working sporadically at the grocery store for little pay so money was very tight.  I always think of this story when I use my slow cooker and check several times to make sure it’s plugged in.  Thanks for that, Beverly Cleary.

** This is the second time in a month I’ve cooked with pop.  My friend Rachel recently served cupcakes that were made with only a box of cake mix and a can of diet 7-up.  They were so moist and delicious and of course she had them iced with fancy cream cheese icing and garnished with mint leaves and raspberries.  I’ve never found adding eggs, oil and water to a cake mix to be that onerous, but cracking open a can of pop is even easier.  So I tried making them myself, but they were a flop.  The bottoms were burnt and half the cupcake stuck to the paper wrapper and they tasted like pop.  I guess I won’t throw out all my spices and ingredients in favour of pop just yet.

If any of you are still reading after that very thorough description of our dinner, I will leave you with a picture of Spencer’s math textbook:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Grand Forks 2012

The longer I go without blogging, the harder it is to write something.  You’d think I’d have all kinds of interesting things to say by now, but no. I’ve definitely got the fall blahs – tired, unmotivated, bored, restless, and crabby all thrown together. Just put me in a blender and you’ll get a big grey milkshake. Except milkshakes are sweet and thick and delicious … this would be more like a thin, runny, bland protein shake. Oh well, I’ve been a protein shake before and slowly, without consciously noticing the change, I eventually turn into a milkshake again. I hope I haven’t offended anyone who likes protein shakes. Enough with the introspective self-evaluation – why didn't someone stop me before I wrote a whole paragraph.

We spent the weekend in Grand Forks with friends, as we’ve done every fall for many years.  We visited our good friend Target and did our part for the North Dakota economy.  Actually I don’t feel like we bought that much … I tried to limit my purchases to essentials.  Although “essential” means different things to different people and if you’re Neve, anything covered in sequins is essential.  I also bought some Christmas gifts, which I was feeling pretty smug about until I remembered that I still have hundreds left to buy.  My annual attempt at cutting back is going poorly.  Besides shopping, we hung out in the hotel courtyard and talked and laughed with the friends, the kids swam, played computer games, and watched TV.  The guys had a wild night at the casino on Friday.  Apparently what happens at the Grand Forks casino stays at the Grand Forks casino, but whatever it was, it caused those boys a lot of giggles the rest of the weekend.  On Saturday, all of the adults went out to The Toasted Frog for a nice early seniors’ dinner.  It all went by very fast, but it was a nice mini-holiday. 

Neve had a few friends over after school today and I was complimenting her later on how nicely she’d played with them, and then I said a few more nice things like what a sweet girl she was and how funny she was, etc.  After I was done, there was a pause and then she said, “Well.  That came out of nowhere."

I guess I should say nice things more often. At least I buy her sequinned clothes. (Thank GOODNESS there is no Justice store in Winnipeg.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The crazy girl on the left turned 16 today.  That would be my niece Tia.  They grow up so fast, time flies, it seems like just yesterday, blah blah blah, insert your nostalgic cliches here.  They're all true.  She's an amazing kid/teen/almost young adult - she's beautiful inside and out, smart, athletic, responsible, and kind.  She's the kind of kid that gives teenagers a good name.  Unlike her sister.  Haha just kidding, Bailey.  You're awesome too.

Carefully saving the numbers so they can be used again at 19, 61, and 91.

I've been obsessed with the Rubik's Cube the past few days.  I used to know how to solve it when I was younger, but my memory - like so many other things - has deteriorated with age.  I played with it for a long time this weekend until I was close to solving it, but then I got stuck.  I put it on my night table while I slept and tried to figure it out when I woke up during the night.  Dale was not pleased about waking up to the click click of the cube.  Eventually I asked my brother to help, but he was rusty as well so he found me a website that could help.  Before Spencer went to bed tonight, I told him I'd pay him $5 if I couldn't solve it by the time he woke up tomorrow.  Thankfully the online instructions were easy to follow and I FINALLY solved it.  I feel like it's sort of cheating and I'll have to practice a few times until I can do it all by myself, but I'm calling it a victory.  This is an awesome self-portrait; I took about 20 pictures and this was the best one.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Fall Update

I'm getting behind on here - it's either good or bad that I didn't take up the 31 Day Challenge, depending on how you look at it.  Just so I can unload a few things from my scattered head, I'll post them here.

First off are some pictures from last Sunday - not the Sunday we just had, but the one before that.  It was a beautiful fall day with the leaves about at their peak.  We drove north and had a picnic at Grand Beach, and then went a little further and played on the sand cliffs near Victoria Beach.  It was one of those good days where everyone was happy and it was just as magical as I'd hoped it would be.  It's a good thing we went when we did; crazy strong winds blew almost every single leaf off the trees a day or two later.

This Sunday, we went to the corn maze with my sister and her family.  It was a great evening for it and we all had a lot of fun.

This guy was wandering around the corn and tried to scare us.  Then he juggled a chain saw.

Spencer wasn't on the picture because he was too busy running around the corn field.  He found all seven "stations" where you can get a game card punched.  We've never, ever found all the stations before, so he was pretty excited even though it meant he had to run around the corn field alone the whole time while the rest of us kept an easier, funner pace.  But he got a free freezie for his accomplishment, so it was all good. 

Everyone came to our house after and we ate and played cards and stayed up late.  There's nothing better than the Sunday night of a long weekend. 

We had a turkey dinner with Dale's family on Friday night - his brother was out from Miami, which was really nice.  My family got together Monday, which was also my dad's 75th birthday.  He makes 75 look very good.  We had a loud, crazy family get-together; thankfully it was less crazy than the family gathering my neighbour had because the city's 24th homicide of the year ended up happening at her house down the block.  I know the family and they're very nice; the whole thing is very sad and tragic.

The last couple of weeks have been very busy at work; this week things are much more manageable and I'm feeling less stressed and lighter.  It should be a good week, especially since it's almost half over.

My dad made upgrades to the zipline so it's now a longer ride.

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

31 Days of Thinking About 31 Day Ideas

So there’s this popular blogger named The Nester who challenges her readers every year to do a month-long daily blog series.  I’ve encouraged my readers to do that in the past too – you may remember the New Things series or the occasional photo-a-day thing.  Or you might not.  When I invite people to join me, I’m lucky if Dan and Stephen take up the challenge.  When the Nester does it, she gets a few more.  Like over a thousand more, and increasing by the minute.  She calls it her 31 Days series and bloggers pick a topic and write about it each day.  For example, 31 Days of Encouragement or 31 Days of Family Recipes, etc.  Our very own Shannon is doing 31 Days Toward Becoming Pretty Organized.  Click here to see the whole list of 1,013 (and counting) series - there’s something for everyone and can get a little addicting.  Shannon is #73, or you can click here to go straight to her blog.

When Shannon told me about this a while ago, I played around with the idea of doing it too.  But most of the ideas I came up with were a little on the negative side, like 31 Days of Things I Hate or 31 Days of Saying No - or silly, like 31 Days of Going Barefoot or a photo series of 31 Days of People Who Try to Look Younger Than They Are But Actually Just Look Older.  Might be tough fitting that onto one of those tiny squares.  I did have a few more realistic ideas, but nothing became of them.  So I’ll just enjoy Shannon’s blog and re-read the haiku series that Stephen did last month.  He beat everyone to the punch and now he can sit back and enjoy October and crunch in the leaves and maybe create an elaborate cornucopia display or something.

Or maybe … decorating a mantel!  Look what I did all by myself!  Well, with Shannon’s advice.  It’s all about Shannon today (and a little bit of Steve).  Having no sense of decoration myself, I followed her instructions exactly – however when she said “place candles in odd numbered groupings” I wasn’t sure if the odd numbers were supposed to be the number of groupings or the number of candles in each grouping.  I aimed for both, so because of the number of candles I had to work with, it ends up looking a bit too even.  If I’d had more candles, I’d have done some groupings of five candles, etc.  I didn’t have cork coasters or a tin vase, but I improvised with brown paper and twine.  Based on my lack of skill and my resources, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  I’m not certain how long the leaves will remain on the branches, or how long until the leaves on the mantel dry out and crumple up, but we’ll enjoy it while we can.  Even the kids noticed it when they got home from school and were impressed.