Sunday, June 28, 2009

David's graduation

The venue. The graduation was at the War Memorial, where we also have hockey games and ice-shows. There was no ice on the floor yesterday, though. It was really hard to get a good picture in such a big building. I had to use a slow shutter speed to take one without flash, and the kids were constantly moving, so there was no way to avoid a blur. DJ is the tall one in the last row of the front section.

DJ with his newly acquired diploma in front of the fountains at the Everson.

The sibs. Two down, two to go...

DJ with his grandparents (Shawn's mom and dad).

DJ with a couple of his friends. Happy graduates, happy graduation!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is it?

While tidying the basement, I found this on the floor (see above).

"What is it?" you may ask. "What is it for?"

I have no idea. But I have a pretty good idea where it came from... or, maybe I should say I have a pretty good idea who made it.

Can you guess?

Monday, June 22, 2009

This morning

Before I write about this morning, I have to back up a bit.

Just as we were entering the weekend, Shannon noticed a mysterious rash on her body. It was in a patch on the front of her torso, and over the weekend, it spread into patches that go around the right side of her, onto her back. Naturally, I was concerned.

On Saturday, we had graduation parties all day. Graduation parties. Which signal, you know, the end of the school year. With graduation cakes and graduation cards and the whole drill.

Shannon has been done with school since about May 5. David finished on June 12, and Laura had her last test this past Thursday (June 18). It is hard for me to keep in mind that Jonathan still has school... especially when we celebrated with graduates all weekend.

However, to my credit, I did ask Jonathan, on Sunday, what he has coming down the pipe, which final exams are still ahead of him, what his schedule looks like this coming week. He responded, "I don't know. I'm not worried about it."

I did not say what I was thinking: "You may not be worried, but I am."

Shannon's rash got worse and worse. I determined to get up and shower early this morning and then, in a readied state, call the doctor promptly at 8:30 when they open, to try to get the earliest possible appointment.

That is exactly what I did.

I got out of the shower and was trying to hurry and get dressed and complete my morning "toilette" when the phone rang. It was 8:20. Who calls at 8:20? I looked at caller ID and it was the middle school. My heart sank. I had forgotten that Jon even had school today.

But wait. It gets better.

I picked up the phone, expecting to get the crabby attendance secretary, but it was not the crabby attendance secretary. It was Jonathan's guidance counselor. "Jonathan is marked as absent today," she said, "And I was just wondering, because that is pretty serious. They are giving the French Proficiency Exam this morning and it started five minutes ago."

I did not even know if he was up. I raced to his room and saw his duvet sprawled empty across his bed. What did that mean? He has an alarm clock, and theoretically he is supposed to get himself up and to school, but he never does. The difference this morning was that usually at least I know that he is missing the bus, as I sit with my tea in the kitchen, praying that he will respond to his clock. But not today. Not on the day he was missing his French Proficiency Exam, the one that goes on his permanent transcript record and eventually will be seen by every college he applies to. No, on this day, I had no idea where he was.

With the guidance counselor still on the phone, I raced through the house looking for him, trying to determine whether he had already left on foot or what. And how, how do you explain that to a guidance counselor? "I'm sorry," I said, "I just got out of the shower and I'm not quite sure where he is." (read: "I am a loser of a mother; I had no idea that he had the French Proficiency Exam this morning, and, in fact, I totally forgot he had school today at all. Would you like to send the police after me?")

I found him in the mud room putting on his shoes.

In my bare feet (fortunately, I was wearing capris and a decent top), I raced to the van, urging him to hurry along with me for a ride to school.

On the way to school, I did not cry. I did not scream. I did not even emote. However, I did try somewhat to impress upon him the gravity of the situation, while trying not to upset him to the point where he would actually do worse on the test (if that were possible?--this child will not stress about academics). He listened disinterestedly to me for a bit, then said, "Mom, chill. It's not like they aren't going to give me thirty minutes more than I actually need for this test, anyway."

Where did this child even come from?

Shannon has shingles, by the way. Shannon always gets upstaged by the younger ones.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Catching up

Some things you know, but you just don't catalogue them efficiently. At least, I do (and don't).

One of those is our wedding anniversary, June 27, which is incredibly close to the fourth of July, but I never seem to remember that. The fireworks catch me off guard every time.

Another one is David's birthday, May 22, and Memorial Day. I never realize that these two go together, either. Maybe next year I will.

When I get hit with a double whammy that I wasn't expecting (even though I should have been), it takes me awhile to get it together and do something about it. Hence, I am posting about David's birthday and Memorial Day nearly a month late. But they do say, "Better late than never." Don't they?

David is big on healthy eating. Not that this is particularly healthy, but, I guess, compared to chocolate mousse or creme brulee, it gets a few points. Some people call it fruit pizza, but we call it Fruit Tart, just because it sounds nicer. (For a bigger, more mouth-watering view, click on the picture...)

If you want to know how to make it...

1. The Crust

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract (don't skip this)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 cups flour

Soften butter. Beat all together in a large mixing bowl with an electric beater (do the first five ingredients first, then sift together the dry ingredients and beat in). Spread in a 14 in pizza pan with high sides. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden brown in spots. Cool before proceding.

2. The delicious layer

Soften 6-8 oz. cream cheese.
Beat with 2-3 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate.
When smooth, stir in about 1 cup of Fluff (marshmallow creme).
Spread on the cookie crust.

3. The fruit

Wash and cut up a bunch of your favorite fruit. Arrange beautifully on the tart (or "pizza"). I am allergic to kiwi, or I would use it, because it adds a nice color contrast to most fruits. For this pizza, I first laid down a layer of bananas and mandarin oranges. Then I heaped on fresh strawberries, because they are delicious and they happened to be on sale that week. I garnished with fresh raspberries and blackberries.

4. The finish

Buy a carton of pre-made glaze for strawberry pie (at Wegman's, you find this in the produce section, right next to the berries). Pour it over all the fruit. It is delicious. I know it isn't particularly healthy, but it is worth it. I also have a recipe for making a glaze, but you have to boil it to thicken with cornstarch and then pour it hot over the fruit and chill it forever while praying it will actually set up in the end. It is tasty, but time consuming and unpredictable. I go with the store-bought strawberry glaze now. It works every time. I think you could also try using a can of lemon pie filling.

A happy birthday boy. Augh. He is EIGHTEEN.

The Memorial Day Story

Jonathan is in mandatory marching band (this is middle school). They march in the Memorial Day parade. All our kids have done this. It was our last year of it this year.

Shawn and I set out for the parade, late as always. About halfway there, we realized we had forgotten the camera. I figured that if we went home to get it, we would miss the parade entirely. So I called Shannon (mind you, the older kids were all sleeping in). She said she would bring us the camera. To make a long story short, with all the hitches and roadblocks that had been set up to accomodate the parade, it took her so long to get to us, all I got was a shot of the back of Jon's band marching off into the distance...

Oh well. She did her best. And it proved that I had been right not to decide to try to go home and get it myself... that would have been disastrous. At least I saw Jon marching and playing, even if I didn't get a photo of him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

So sad

Maybe it's because it was raining when I got up this morning. Or maybe I am just depressed and crazy. Maybe it's because today is David's last, very last day as a student in the Liverpool Central School District.

I feel overwhelmingly sad. Gut-wrenching, eye-wringing, hold-in-your-sobs-while-your-body-shakes sad.

It isn't like David's even going away next year. He's going to save money by living at home and commuting. So what is the matter with me???

Tough day.

Here is David coming up out of the water on the beach at Port Aransas, Texas last summer.

This is David's sensitive side, decorating an Easter egg.

Well, here's a familiar shot.

DJ doing what he does best... how long do you think he'll keep it up? Which will win? Music or medicine? I guess we'll see over the next few years.

David is one classy guy. Dashing, too.

You never know what's coming.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chives and honey

These are chives. Lovely things, chives. They come back every year, with absolutely no attention from me.

Chives are edible. When your thirteen-year-old is out playing with friends, he can pull up a few chives and gnaw on them throughout the afternoon. It makes his breath smell like onions, though. You can eat the stem, or the root (which is like a tiny onion). You can even eat the flowers. They are quite striking in a salad!

Chives are pretty and pungent. And I do mean pungent. You would not want to put them in a nosegay... they lack the delicate perfume of roses, lilacs or lilies-of-the-valley.

So... I am really wondering what this bee's honey is going to taste like. Yuck!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Radish greens

I am growing radishes in my garden. They are fun to grow, because they come up early and grow fast.

Contrary to the way my father taught me to plant them (one seed at a time about 1/4 inch apart up the row), I planted them the way our neighbor, Mr. Johnson, always used to tell me I should do it while he watched me obeying my father. He told me to rip open the packet and just pour the seeds out the corner, up the row.

When you do it Mr. Johnson's way, you get a very thick upcropping of radishes, which you then have to thin. The reason I did it his way is because we have discovered that early radish greens are really quite delicious... delicately pungent.

So we thinned the radishes, saving the little greens we pulled up and rinsing them carefully so we could eat them. Yum, yum!

The only problem is, they turn your tongue green...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sweetened condensed milk

I have a recipe for chocolate frosting. It calls for something like 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk.

Sweetened condensed milk is...

(1) rather expensive
(2) totally delicious

This being the case, I did not think it was prudent to use just a portion of a can of sweetened condensed milk and risk wasting the rest. So every time I tried making this frosting, I tried to figure out just exactly how much sweetened condensed milk there really is in a can, and then do the math, extrapolating by ratios, to figure out what the proper proportions would be to make the whole can into frosting.

It never came out quite right.

Mind you, it is made of sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and a small bit of butter. There is a limit to how wrong such a combination can be. (Just pointing that out.) Every time I made it, it was absolutely delicious, but it was not always quite the right consistency for frosting.

The last time I made it, I didn't measure much of anything, and it came out fantastic, delicious, superb, and mouthwatering as well.

What I did:

I opened the can of sweetened condensed milk and poured some into a saucepan. It was most of the can, but I did not hold it upside down to drain it, nor did I scrape the sides in any way. Being thick, quite a bit clung to the sides, and this I scraped into a storage container; I would guess I got about 1/3 cup or so out of the can to keep. Maybe 1/2 cup? I don't know. I was being a free spirit.

I placed the sweetened condensed milk in the pan over low heat. While it was heating, I looked for chocolate chips, found them, and measured out approximately 2 cups. By the time I was done doing this, the milk was beginning to bubble a bit. I quicky added the chocolate chips and approximately two tablespoons of butter. It all melted together pretty much instantly, so I removed it from the heat and stirred briskly until it appeared to be a good consistency for spreading on the cake I had.

After spreading and cooling the frosting, I wound up with an AWESOME cake that was truly sublime, a rare treat for the tongue.

But... what to do with the leftover sweetened condensed milk???

DO NOT WORRY! I figured this out!

...You put it in your coffee. Not all of it, about 1-2 tablespoons per cup, depending on how sweet and creamy you like your coffee. Yes, that is what you do, and for a lot less than Starbucks, you get a drink that tastes better than anything they have to offer. This is not a lie. This is the truth. It is also good in English breakfast tea. I know, because I tried it.