Friday, August 29, 2008

See the Summer Storm

Last night about midnight we had a bit of a storm.

See the water.

See the ice.
(click to enlarge)

See the paint balls...umm, I mean hail.

See the pretty pool the next day. Don't you want to swim in it?

See the neighbor's yard.

See another neighbor's yard.

And another.

And another.

Big storm.
Scary storm.
Windy storm.
Summer storm.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade Root Beer, Anyone?

Brian has been begging me all summer to make a batch of root beer. I've been putting him off all summer, promising we would make some before Geoff went back to college. Well, Geoff left Tuesday morning, so Monday was officially Radcliffe Root Beer Day.

Since I didn't want to deal with sterilizing bottles I don't have and finding caps for said bottles, I opted for the cheater method of making root beer.

First we start with water.

Then we add some good old-fashioned goodness . . . I mean sugar.

And some of that new-fangled organic sugar--it has a little molasses flavor to it.

Then we pour in some anise seed and some sassafras bark. Did you know sassafras costs $60 a pound? Wish I had me a sassafras tree in the back yard. I could probably put a kid through college if I did. Another little side note about the sass: it causes cancer in lab rats when they force feed the poor little guys with ungodly amounts of it. But I figure I'm safe because I can't afford to consume massive amounts of the stuff--too expensive.

So into the pot it all goes, to simmer for a while. Unfortunately, I could not find wintergreen leaves anywhere, dried or fresh, which happens to be a pretty important ingredient in root beer. After trying 3 different stores I gave up; I couldn't even find wintergreen extract.

After about 30 minutes, we strain all the seeds and sticks and leaves out of it and add a little vanilla. Looks yummy, doesn't it?

Now, for the cheater part of it. We're not going to mess with yeast and natural carbonation. Nope, we're going to buy our bubbles. Notice our new root beer pump dispenser with its cool new label. We mix the bubbly and the root beer syrup about half and half.

Looks like murky iced tea to me. Ian won't touch the stuff. Colin made a face and proclaimed it gross, although I noticed he choked some down the next day when we ran out of everything else to drink. Brian claimed it was excellent, but his palate isn't exactly refined, if you know what I mean. It had a rather pronounced licorice flavor with a scent of root beer, although Brian says he has tasted some designer root beers that taste just like this. Maybe his palate is more sophisticated than I thought. Maybe he has a future in distillery and boutique soft drinks. Anyone with cool highlights like his (all natural, by the way, we can't even get him to brush his hair, much less color it or otherwise take care of it) ought to be able to have any crazy career he wants.

The rest of us preferred the cream soda: bubbly mixed with brown sugar syrup and a splash of half and half. Geoff said it tasted like a cookie soda. I thought it tasted suspiciously like pancake syrup with fizz, especially since the sugar syrup was basically the same as the syrup I make for pancakes, just in different proportions.
Next time, I think we'll try ginger ale. Maybe we'll grow some wintergreen so we can try a different flavor of root beer. But don't tell Brian, because then he'll keep bugging me until we actually do it, and I have no intentions of making soda until . . . until . . . Geoff comes home. Yeah, that'll put him off for a while.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Amy's House

Amy has just moved into her own place down by the university. She's rooming with 4 other girls that I'll introduce to you in another post (just as soon as I meet them). So, Amy, why don't you show us around the place?

Amy: Okay, here is my new red door. But don't take a picture because my outfit clashes with it.

Amy: This is the front yard.
Mom: What's with the oleanders?
Amy: Don't know, but we're not supposed to mess with them.
Mom: Well, I guess you won't have to mow.

Mom: Nice driveway. What's with all the cigarette butts?
Amy: Probably from the last tenants. I don't know.

Amy: Isn't this great? It comes with a fridge!
Mom: Wow, it kind of dominates the kitchen.

Amy: And it comes with the TV and all this furniture.

Mom: Seriously small bathroom for 5 girls!
Amy: There's a second bathroom in Rebecca's room. She's gonna share.

Amy: And here's the backyard!
Mom: Wow! It's a lot bigger than I expected. I guess you can have a barbecue or something.
Amy: Yeah, we want to put in a dance floor.
(Did I mention she's going to ASU?)

Mom: Is this your laundry room?! Seriously?! What if it rains?
Amy: Mom, this is the desert. We get like 8 inches a year.

So there you have it, Amy's new place. Four bedrooms, two baths, laundry al fresco, proposed dance floor, and four great friends ready for adventure . . . everything a college girl needs!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why the Flippin' Fuss

It has recently come to my attention that grown women should not obsess over silly dolls, as in, "Mom, still with the Mary Poppins thing?!" As always, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation, and as always, I feel compelled to share.

It all began in 1965.
Christmas vacation.
On this road.

On this stretch near Madera, California.

In a car just like the one you see before you (Chevrolet Corvair, for the automobile illiterate among us).
We were headed north, toward Grandma and Grandpa's house, when suddenly, tragically, we blew a tire...
and, as consumer advocate Ralph Nader so aptly pointed out, the flippin' car, as it was prone to do, flipped.

As in flipped over.

As in flipped over the median.

As in flipped over the median into oncoming traffic.

In those last fleeting moments when the car was upside down on the wrong side of the road, just before the 18-wheeler slammed into us ejecting me from the vehicle, I neglected to say goodbye. Mary was gone.
Tragically, woefully gone.
Mary, I hardly knew ye.

And so, the Mary Poppins thing. I just want to hold her little plastic hand, gaze into her saucy eyes, and take one more peek inside that magic carpet bag . . . .

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Grandma

My dad and I have been sorting through old photos lately, trying to identify people, talking about families, and generally reminiscing. This is my wonderful grandma Beulah Talbert. There are many things to love about Grandma, but my favorite is that she prayed for me, my brothers, my parents, and later my husband and kids every single day. What a legacy!

Here she is with my Grandpa Mack. She told me once that he started smoking when he was 9 years old!

Grandma was not really that much shorter than me; I'm standing on a step in front of our old house on Olive Street in Santa Ana, CA. She always loved to "have her picture made" with grandkids and great grandkids.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

When It Rains . . .

No pictures of the actual event, I was too busy making a run for it. When I dropped Tait off at football, I took a look at the sky and, being the astute weather observer that I am, realized it was not a matter of if but when. The when occured right in the middle of 8th grade science at back-to-school night--YES! Rescued from the 8th grade! I had to run across campus, barefooted, because those cute little Ann Taylor sandals I picked up in Idyllwild get super slippery when they're wet (I discovered that little perk during a downpour at DisneyWorld). Then, I slogged across town to pick up the Tater Tot who was getting pummeled by paint ball sized hail. All the while I'm picturing how I'm going to look on TV sitting on top of my car when they put me on the news as part of the Stupid Motorist Law. Well, it woulda made a nice youtube addition to the blog, but no thanks!

Here is Ann Taylor hangin' out with Michael Vick (we got a good deal on the cleats after Michael's unfortunate incident with the law)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

JoBros Album Release

Betcha didn't realize the significance of August 12. That's ok, it's probably because you're a reasonable adult with no teeny bopper daughters. Hey wait a minute! I'm a reasonable adult with no teeny bopper daughters. Oh right, they're not boppers, but they are slightly obsessed.

Here you have an extremely rare photo. It's probably worth money even. It's so rare I consider it on the scale of miracle. Miracle, I tell you! My girls in matching outfits, appearing to enjoy each other's company. Yes, I realize this is a Jonas Brothers party and they are wearing Hannah Montana shirts, but a $3 shirt at Wal-Mart is a deal too good to pass up, especially when it brings on the miracle you see before you....

Here's the JoBro poster Amy made...

And now she's working on the JoBro t-shirts...

After which, they decorated a JoBro cake...

and celebrated with other slightly obsessed friends.

Would you please come to my house and end my pain?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to School

Don't we look excited?
Where are you? It's time for your yearly obligatory back-to-school pic. Your last one, in fact.
Oh right, you're already at school, being tortured in zero hour....
Meanwhile, Brian gets home tortured, umm....I mean, home SCHOOLED.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pony Penning Day

When Annika found out we were going to be on the East coast in July, she talked us into attending Pony Penning Day. At first, the other kids thought we were going to Pony Petting Day, so they weren't overly excited. But the actual event was very cool, and we thoroughly enjoyed it along with 50,000 other tourists. (I'm not kidding; there were probably more.)
So, a little background . . . .
Pony Penning Day is held every year on the last Wednesday in July on Chincoteague Island, VA, with this year marking its 83rd annual celebration. The ponies are rounded up earlier in the week on nearby Assateague Island where they roam free. On Wednesday, they are herded across the channel, swimming about 4 1/2 minutes, and then are placed in pens on Chincoteague. The following day some of the ponies are auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting the volunteer fire department who owns and manages the herd. Since Assateague Island can only support about 150 ponies, the auction serves the dual purpose of protecting the environment and funding the fire department.
How in the world did we find out about this event? Thank Marguerite Henry who wrote Misty of Chincoteague in 1947. This just happens to be Annika's favorite book!
Here's what they don't tell you in the book: You've gotta get up dang early to get a good spot to view the swim!This shot was taken with a telephoto lens, from the closest spot we could find. We left our hotel at 5:30 am. Apparently, you have to arrive at about 3:30 am to be decently close to the action, or you have to hire a boat. If you look closely you can see the heads of the ponies in a line in front of the boats.
Once the ponies reach land, they take a 45 minute breather, then are herded by Salt Water Cowboys down the streets of Chincoteague to the pens at the fairground.

These ponies are now safe in the pens.

This guy was very protective of his mares.
When they wandered a little too close to us (on the other side of the fence, of course) he came charging up and gave us the evil eye. I have to say it was more than a little intimidating!

This little guy was all tuckered out!

I couldn't help but note the similarity . . . .