31 October 2006

Halloween 2006

Halloween at our house is heralded by the arrival of a box from Momo containing the costumes she's made for the boys. There's always great anticipation - the boys choose who they'd like to be and send Momo pictures (when she doesn't know the character) but they don't see their costumes until just before the day. Of course, they try them on as soon as the box is opened:

Lars is Boots the Monkey and Ross is Yoda:

Costume wearings will continue until it gets hot next summer and will resume in cold weather for as long as they can squeeze into the outfits! Here they are opening another exciting package - this one containing gifts from Japan:

Here's Yoda as part of the school parade:

And a wave from Boots:

Finally, the business end of the holiday...ready to trick-or-treat! Blue (from Blue's Clues) and a growly tiger cub came over but I sadly forgot to take any pictures. Heather put up a few pictures of the girls in their costumes on her blog, though, if you're in the mood for some more cuteness.

Happy Halloween!

29 October 2006

Nutshell: This Weekend

  • Boys' skating clinic (blocks! goals!)
  • Long phone talk with Mom. She's having her entire house renovated - lucky! Aside from horrible construction clean-up, she'll get to enjoy a totally new kitchen, fresh paint (new colors!) in all the rooms, and new flooring throughout her house.
  • Scrubbed & primed "The Lab" (1/4 of the basement the kids play in). I can't take any credit for having done this - it's all Chris.
  • Epic battle between Jedi Yoda and Darth Boots (Boots, the monkey from Dora weilding a Darth Maul double ended red light sabre)
  • Target/HD run for supplies
  • Book Group! Bibliofilly invited me to join her reading circle and I went to my first meeting this weekend. I wasn't sure quite what to expect but enjoyed what actually was and am looking forward to the next one. The book we discussed this time was "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.
  • Pancakes for breakfast (our standard Sunday fare)
  • More painting (Chris & Lars)
  • Scorekeeping & Penalty Box Door at UWHL game (Karen & Ross)
  • Game 2 for Mama, at home w/Family Cheering Section (we won!)
  • Wegmans run
  • Subs for dinner
  • DH & Hot Brick Toddys after the kids were asleep
How was your weekend?

26 October 2006

"Not their best..."

TV Commentator: "The Sabres really didn't play their best game tonight."

He's right, they didn't really look their best tonight. Then again, they were mixing up the lines all night. They're in a very good position within the league right now (they haven't lost yet), so why not test a few new strategies? Get some guys who don't ordinarily play together out there. You know, in case of injury later on, at least it won't be the first time they'll have seen each other in a game situation. Final score? Sabres 3, Islanders 0. I'm ok with "not their best" play!

25 October 2006

And The Answer Is...

Credit card fraud. The very generous travel gift certificates (although maybe not so generous when you consider that I'm meant to pay for them myself) that arrived yesterday were only the tip of it - nearly $2400 was spent over the last week, in travel expenses and software purchases and what appears to have been a fast-cash loan payback. Thankfully, American Express is great - we called them as soon as we realized and they're taking care of everything.

So, how do I feel in the wake of having my account number heisted? Oddly, I don't really feel violated, which is how I always thought I would feel; I'm more annoyed that Chris and I have to spend our time dealing with it. Calling AmEx was fast and painless. Calling the credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert was also pretty quick. The annoying part will be going around updating all the accounts (cable, phones, subscriptions, utilities, EZPass, Starbucks, etc...) that automatically charge to my AmEx each month. I won't get the new card for a few days and we're due for all the month-end billings, which means a slew of calls I'll have to make twice - one now to stop the automatic billing and another after the card gets here to start it up again. Big fun...NOT. I'm also annoyed that the perpetrator had the audacity to charge travel with a company that doesn't service any of the airports I live near. With three major airports to choose from, I think it was a pretty inconsiderate thing to do.

24 October 2006

Curiouser and Curiouser...

Top ten guesses at the origin of the mystery package:

10. A happy client
9. A happy coworker
8. Someone hijacked my ID
7. A secret admirer
6. An ex-boyfriend
5. My mother (swears it wasn't her)
4. I won a prize (not sure, but I think I'd have to have entered a contest)
3. A shipping error
2. Random gift from philanthropic millionaire
1. ???

What's your guess?

23 October 2006

Curb Appeal

Once upon a time, there was a house. It had been a very nice house for many, many years...and then some people moved in. These people had an uncle who fancied himself a contractor. The uncle also fancied drink, apparently a lot of it. Either that or he'd never heard of a level and also never completed a punch list. I prefer to believe in the beer, myself...there are too many bad contractors in the world as it is. The drunk uncle was enlisted to make several changes to the very nice house, including putting on a whole second floor, but that's another story and I shall not digress. Pictured here, you can see the unusual entry installed by DU:

It looks quaint, right? The potted plants helped a lot. Now, notice how, when you mount the stairs, you can stare straight in to the dining room. If the family is sitting down to a meal, you can even talk to them - right through the window - without ever approaching the door! If you're a delivery guy, you might be annoyed that you have to lug the heavy box a few extra feet to the actual door, rather than just shoving it through what really could be a handy service window.

Not so quaint anymore, eh? Here's something really unquaint - a jackhammer! Cover your ears and squeal - the horrible cement block porch approach is being busted into dust!

After the jackhammering (which was reportedly a little fun, at least at first), there were 48 cubic feet of clay to be moved. Lars actually helped with this, in the mornings before he went to school. The clay got dragged down the hill and dumped in the thach of poison ivy (and who knows what else) near the storm creek.

Alec & Co. came over to help build new stairs.

Every home improvement project deserves a new tool. The new tool for this project was a Shingle Ripper. You can use a shingle ripper to remove bad shingles from the bottom, without ripping off the entire wall and starting over.

Finally, a shot of the almost finished new entrance! We still need to get the handrail on (in the picture, the lower newel post is too tall) but you can get the idea. Gone are our days of chatting with delivery people while we eat! We even installed a doorbell, in recognition of the fact that those delivery folks who did manage to make it all the way to our door proved incapable of using the brass door knocker my mom gave us as a housewarming present. Chris thought a doorbell would be a more effective solution than a, "Bell Out of Order, Please Knock" sign.

Finally, because it is my mission as his wife to annoy Chris, I had him make a matching bench. Sweet, isn't it? As you can see in this picture, it actually has a use - we needed something to act as a doorstop for the basement entry and I thought a plain old post would look silly. Even though there was an awful lot of grumbling, I think Chris likes the result, too.

Come over! Use our new entry! As a bonus, you can see (or sit on) our lovely new wicker porch furniture...the new stairs take you right to it!

22 October 2006

And the Role of Coach Goes To...

The kids' hockey coach is out for a few weeks due to shoulder surgery, so they're having guest coaches. This week, they were coached by Brian Mullen, retired New York Ranger. Someone was SO excited that I'm fairly sure Mr. Mullen didn't even notice the Sabres' shirt...

20 October 2006


Goaltending experiment X-53:

19 October 2006

Dragon Slayer

Behold the Valiant Hero, wielding his Sword of Resilience (rubbery thing from the Canadian Dollar Store), wearing Earmuffs of Perseverance (+2 Concentration, aka 'I really didn't hear you, Mama') and using a Shield of Thrift (found behind the shed)!

18 October 2006

My Little Guy

Following a call from the Kindergarten class mom, I'm adding juice boxes to the grocery list when Lars appears beside me. "We need applesauce and new goldfish. I don't like the pretzel ones and neither does my little guy."

"Your little guy?"

"The one what lives in my stomach, who doesn't like pretzels."

Ahhh, the little stomach guy! I'm amused and a little bit mortified about that guy. He was a spontaneous creation many years ago, when Ross first became aware of dessert but hadn't yet grasped the "after dinner" part. Aware that we had ice cream waiting in the freezer, Ross asked for some in the middle of a meal. When we said he could have dessert after he finished more of his dinner, tribal instinct forced him to cry out, "But I need to save room for dessert!" All parents are programmed to reply that there is always room for dessert, a statement which is invariably countered with a request for proof. In a burst of inspiration, I told Ross that there's always room because there's a special place for dessert, behind a little door at the top of the stomach. When he asked how the door got opened, I told him he had to eat his dinner to make a pile of food for the little man in his stomach to climb up so he could reach and open the dessert door. Much to my surprise, Ross accepted this explanation. He ate his dinner, then enjoyed his dessert and life went on with dessert firmly in its' after dinner position. A couple of years later, when Lars was first interested in a mid-meal dessert, I was amused to hear Ross solemnly explain about the dessert door. Since then, the dessert door and the little guy who manages it have quietly been keeping all our stomachs in order. Once, when we thought to have a "dessert first" night, Ross laid down on the floor...so his little guy could walk over to the door without the pile of food. Lars' little guy doesn't like every food (see his comment on pretzels, above) - convenient for Lars, who is pickier than the rest of us. I doubt either of the kids believes in Santa Claus, but boy are they down for the Dessert Door Man.

17 October 2006

Sabres 9, Philly 1

Obviously, the real logo is a very, very good thing for the Buffalo Sabres!

The Sabres also slaughtered the Rangers three nights ago, a fact over which Ross is a little upset. Lars is being very supportive. Mama and Daddy are trying not to gloat. I think we can probably learn a lot from Lars.

Afternoon View

Here's the afternoon view from my den:

The kids are playing Pokemon, a game that was interesting to them before but which has gained extreme attention owing to gifts of Japanese Pokemon cards and paraphanalia from Grandmoo and a few wonderful Japanese friends.

In case you are not up on current kid culture, according to Ross, Japan is a sacred Pokemon place because Japan is where Pokemon were first discovered and trained to help all people. This, coupled with his actual love of sushi, place Japan quite high on his list of places he'd like to visit. I hope that he won't be too disappointed if he doesn't see any live Pokemon when we go!

16 October 2006

Where the Wild Things Are, episode 231

If the lovely spring bloom on the azaleas this year wasn't confirmation enough that vigorously trimming them last year was a good move, the deer have come to feast on the luscious new growth. Never mind that these azaleas grow as a border to the back deck, a few feet from the house. Never mind that I can hear the deer munching through the window of my den. These deer are in utopia! Lush greenery and woodland on all sides with houses just close enough together to prevent hunting. Here's one having her lunch:

She got that look on her face after I started talking to her out the window. Not that I expect she understands what I say, but her look pretty clearly says, "Do you think she's talking to me?"

Here's the response from her friend, "I didn't know she'd be home! You're hidden pretty well, but I'm caught out without cover behind the little house!"

15 October 2006

Household S'mores

A week or so ago, Fraukow called to say she'd discoverd that S'mores can be made in your toaster oven! We got the message late at night, after a particularly exhausting week so the good news was a nice perk up. Sadly, while we did have some mini-marshmallows (you never know when you might need to make cocoa), we didn't have any graham crackers or Hershey bars in our larder. It was depressing...until I remembered the emergency box of Chips Ahoy cookies I'd picked up! Chris took our improvised materials and set to work:

The results were wonderful - a perfect late night, pick-me-up snack. I also learned that Chips Ahoy cookies are really good toasted, marshmallows aside. Just one more reason to love the toaster oven!

Not From Hockey

What happens when a nearly 40-pound boy leans on a table leaf that has been secured in the "up" position by his five-year-old brother? If you said, "Blood comes out," you win! He was unhappy at first but when he calmed down and noticed the marked resemblance he bore to a real hockey player, he was much happier.

What happens when Mama moves things around in a room and then, later, crashes through on her way to the bathroom without turning on a light? If you said, "Blood comes out," you missed this time. She does get some impressive heat in the hand she mashed onto the rocker and a nice lump on one knee, which Ross treated with the Boo-Boo Fish (thanks, Wisa!) and a bag of frozen peas (not pictured).

It's too bad we're all so well padded while playing hockey. If we could attain respectable bruises at the rink, we wouldn't need to get creative with tables and bags of donation clothes!

P.S. Wings D won our first game of the season! I didn't score but got one assist so was not entirely decorative.

14 October 2006

Relative Value

Ross brought his Own Money to the arena today, so he could buy something from the vending machine after hockey practice. For 65 cents, he got a 5-stick pack of gum...unreal! I used to think five cents per stick was a lot. Ross was really proud of his purchase, though, so I kept my mouth shut about it and let him enjoy sharing his Own Gum with his brother and friends.

On the way home, we passed a garage sale with a few pieces of wicker porch furniture out. I've been wanting some nicer porch chairs (we've mainly got dollar store plastic now), so I decided to stop. I've been looking at stores and catalogs but wicker is SO expensive and I don't think I'd like the fake wicker (which isn't really that much less). The hosts of the sale turned out to be moving and were in, "Please take it! We don't want to
move it!" mode - lucky me!! $20 got the whole set:

I guess I can excuse the really expensive gum if that karmic 40 cents pushed the furniture our way!

12 October 2006

More Word Wackiness

Cursoes = cursive "O"s

Trap Mouse: popular assembly game (kids love anything with 47 pieces)

Fruit Juicy: the yellow gum in the snack machine

Cat's Curdle: string game played on your hands

been havin: state of good grace as, "I deserve another cookie! I've been havin!"

03 October 2006

Recipe Gone Wrong...Disaster or Divine?

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a recipe card for a new kind of cookie, a maple-flavored sandwich sort of deal. The ingredients are all things I always have on hand and the instructions are simple enough, even though I hate chilling dough and using cookie cutters. I'm much too impatient! Still, I'll try anything with maple syrup in it once...

So, whip butter with 10x sugar. Easy. Yummy! Add a bit of salt and a bunch of maple syrup. REALLY YUMMY! Finish with some flour (otherwise, it's just crazy-good maple butter frosting). Roll into a ball, chill. *sigh* If I must...

Then the filling. Melt brown sugar with condensed milk until soft. Soft? Thankfully, a temperature is given, so I hooked on my thermometer and stirred madly to avoid scorching the sugar. At 240°, I cut the heat and added butter and maple syrup. First taste? Grainy. Very sweet. Not enough maple. Hrm.

[Read bedtime stories to kids, then scare wits out of Ross by hanging out on the stairs a minute until he tried to sneak into my room to watch TV]

Roll chilled dough out, use cookie cutter to make 2" circles. Riiiiiiight. Dough isn't very doughy. I look at the recipe again. "1-1/4 cups butter (2 sticks)" What? Which is it? Shame on me for ignoring the '2 sticks' bit...the extra 1/4 cup might have something to do with the toothpasty consistency. Still, with help from Chris, we get about six circles and six plops (I got frustrated with the circle thing) onto a greased cookie sheet and into the oven. Ten minutes later, it turns out my plops were equal to his circles - everything on the sheet has spread into a thin sheet of liquidy maple butter goo, burned at the edges. I consider the recipe again. Definitely too much butter. Next time, I'll go with just the two sticks and maybe a bit more flour so it gets more like shortbread. But hey - no eggs! The non-doughy dough hasn't got anything vile if eaten raw in it! And it is AWFULLY good off a spoon...why cook it? I have the rest (ok, the last little bit we figured we'd puke if we ate tonight) saved...we'll devour it bit by bit tomorrow, when we think the other isn't looking. :P


Clicking this link will not help your productivity one bit. As evidence, I haven't posted in a few days because I have spent every spare moment at my computer attempting to better my best, which is currently 123 ft. [all the hamsters erupt in cheers!].

01 October 2006

While I Was Out

While I was away last week for work, the boys did not (thank goodness) redecorate any rooms in the house. Instead, they conspired to capture bits of their week for me, which I found as a batch of surprise photos on the camera. I enjoyed glimpses of their week, so thought I would post them here for you to see, too.

There are a few hours in the morning between the school bus for older kids and the one for the afternoon kindergarteners. Lars likes to spend time playing on his computer:

Or building new tracks and lining up the trains...

Ross likes to climb trees. Luckily, he's built like a bird so the trees (and the rhododendron he uses as his helicopter and the pine shrub he calls his carriage) don't mind him much. He can go very high!

At some point, Ross took the camera up with him and captured his view from above:

Chris spent the weekend doing unplanned things, like fixing the dishwasher that decided to try a water-free wash approach. While possibly environmentally conscious, it did not turn out to be very aesthetic. The baked on gunk was surely germ free but not appetizing to serve on and the plastic utensils (used in lunchboxes) did not appreciate the new method at all. The photo is also a nice capture of the ultimate flexibility of our kitchen. Oh, that cabinet is in your way? Here, let's just pull it away from the wall so you can get back there!

Chris also scored a nice porch rocker from the people who are moving out across the street!
Finally, we come to Jimmy B, our new pet cricket. Jimmy was found at the school bus stop, in a cricket egg, with his brother, an ant. Jimmy was lovingly transported to school, where officials ensconced Jimmy and his egg in a Ziploc bag for safe keeping. Jimmy's brother, the ant, had disappeared along the way. Here's Jimmy, having made it home and been set up in one of the old spider boxes:

Here are two views of Jimmy's egg, which was open like this when Jimmy and his brother the ant were found inside:

By the time I got home, two days after Jimmy took up residence here, Jimmy had turned invisible (or he's really good at hiding). We still have his habitat set up but he's not visibly in residence. It is unclear if someone forgot to latch the top of the habitat or if Jimmy has simply teleported to freedom. Either way, I hope he had the sense to clear the premises because the exterminators were here at the start of last week, treating the interior (basement) for - you guessed it - crickets.


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