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Because I have no interest in being in Jerusalem.  We’re in NJ for the seder.  This is the first one without Great Grandma, who seems to be fading fast.  It is, of course, sad in many ways, but really she’s been ready to go for years now.  In happier news, Grandma was moved to tears by Julianna’s first successful reading of the Four Questions in Hebrew with Ben providing translation.  Julianna also pointed out that there are actually FIVE questions, so I suspect we’ll have a new Haggadah soon.  But that goes without saying, since we’ve had a different one every year for some years running.  Back when I was just a Good Girlfriend and then an As Yet Childless Wife, the seder was the traditional one put out by Maxwell House and it went on for hours until you were so hungry you actually ate the parsley when it came around.  Once kids were old enough to participate a bit, we started messing around with different versions and shorted accounts and so forth (They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!) but they’re always…annoying.  Once we were subjected to “A Woman’s Seder.”  Oy. Just tell the damned story and pass the grub.  We can work for equality of pay later on.  We’ve had seders written for children, but all the adults get confused when things don’t come in the same order they’ve come in for the past 40-70 years.  And the songs have to be there.  No seder with out Dianu.   Funny aside–last night Ellen was kind of laughing that I was able to sing some of the Four Questions, even though I’m not Jewish and never went to Hebrew school…and then I realized, I’ve been to Passover seders more years than I haven’t.  Oh.

One thing that never changes?  The reading of the kippahs.  There’s a stash of yarmulkes in a drawer and inside each one is stamped the name and date of the wedding or bar/bat mitzvah that it came from.  It is written that each must be read aloud to the assemblage as it is passed around the table.  And then the reminiscences (lord, I had to look up how to spell that): “Who is this?”  “Oh!  I remember that party!” “Oy, that kid was a piece of work.”  It’s nice that at least some things remain the same.  Even if there is an orange on the seder plate.

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I planted a square foot garden last month, look how pretty it’s getting!

square foot garden

The idea is that you make containers and fill them with a specially blended growing mix so that you get almost no weeds  With the grid, you can have little spots for various foods and rotate them  as they finish up.  So when that broccoli in the front is ready, I can harvest it and then plant something else.  I have several squares for lettuce mix.  Since I like to eat it when it is little, I planted a row between my rows today and then put some seeds in among my seedling so that it keeps coming.  I’ll just keep planting that all summer and as late as it will grow.  I have snow peas and sugar snaps in the back (I need to get the trellis up tomorrow or they’ll start climbing that bush…) and when they are done, I’ll put in some small melons or cukes and let them climb the trellis.  It seems like a great system, and designed for my lazy gardening–burst of effort in the spring, when I still feel like it, coast through the rest.

Traditionally, I clear out my garden, have dad come till it, plant like a fiend.  Then July hits and I cannot go out there.  Too hot.  Too far.  This year, I have the bed pictured above, and I just finished a deeper one today. In in I can plant carrots, leeks, potatoes.  My plan was to make a couple more down in the old garden, but now I’m thinkig I may just strew flower seeds out there…Maybe flowers and tomatoes.  Or, maybe just flowers…

I heard a new calling today. Tour Guide for Children. I chaperoned Julianna’s class tour of downtown Frederick (we figured I couldn’t get TOO lost, given that I’d lived there for 10 years [and can I say that I just re-read that post I linked to there and nearly had a panic attack reading it. But I was so cool about it at the time. I was on GOOD meds]). The school is downtown, so we just herded the kids out and a few blocks over to the Historical Society. One of my charges kept walking on her knees b/c she wanted to “be a gnome.” But I was kind and firm about that. Get on yer damned feet, child, and take comfort in the fact that you’re naturally short. I also had to–several times–point out to her that even IF the candy wrapper she found on the ground contained candy, she would not be allowed to eat it. I know, it’s like I’m the cruel headmistress from some English boarding school.

We arrived at the Historical Society early, but they were able to start our tour early, probably to keep the kids from rioting. We started out a couple doors down at Winchester Hall. She proceeded to tell the kids about County Commissioners–how many we have, what they do–the kids were, of course, riveted. What kid doesn’t love county politics? Matters were not helped by the fact that our guide was 100 years old, so the kids were suspicious from the get go. Generally, a cool thing about old folks is the onion on their belt–which, for our non-Simpsons readers (freaks) is their long stories that don’t go anywhere. The beauty of them is that they’re usually funny, if unintentionally. This gal’s onion was dried and powdered.  “This building was erected in 1742.  It burned and was rebuilt in 1822 but the steeple was saved so it was still original. People like to say the church is from 1742, but it is not, it is just the steeple…” Skxxxxxxzzzzzz. Look, I’m a pretty big history geek and I don’t care when a building was built.  You can give me a rough estimate for context and I’m good.  “Late 18th C” is good enough for me.

Did we enter a single building?  No.  One of the churches has real Tiffany stained glass, it’s breathtaking.  Nary a mention.  Best moment: “This was an Anglican church which was the Church of England.  When the colonies broke with England, what do you think happened?” Boy in the class, “Soldiers marched into the church and killed everyone?”  Frederick, MD, son.  not Sierra Leone.  Did she tell the story about how Stonewall Jackson fell asleep in the Episcopal church and snored?  No.   That would have been interesting.  Mentions of Barbara Fritchie and her dubious connection to the Confederate march down Patrick Street?  Zero.  Discussions of Civil War Medicine advances (nice and gorey)? None.

I spent the whole time thinking of how to make it better.  It’s important to stew and plot the defeat of nice old ladies.  It keeps one young.  But really, all these kids now have the association local history=tedium.  And really, Frederick is cool and full of good stories.   I figure if nothing else, I can learn a tour to give to our school kids.  The kids at other schools can have the lame tour.

They’re down to seven girls.  Lauren is going home.  I’m calling it now, at under one minute in.  StaceyAnn is feeling her mediocrity.  She’s either going to be first called or the other one in the bottom two.  Ooo, and Fatima isn’t a citizen and can’t leave the country w/o a travel document.  Magic Tyra will pull it out of her butt.  Esp. now that she’s cried about it.  That was payment in full.

Paulina drops by.  She’s just in a black turtle neck with her hair pulled back in a pony tail.  Holy crap.  THAT is a supermodel.  She’s like 60 and still looks better than all the rest of the girls, stacked on a cracker.  She pretends to be Ms. DuBois and makes the girls introduce themselves.  Lauren blows it.  Then she pretends to be a VH1 type interviewer and asks them personal questions.  Whitney, who could got to MIT if this doesn’t work out, suspects that their challenge will involve interviews.

Lauren cuts her thumb, apparently badly, b/c it is required that at least one girl go to the hospital per episode.  Whitney is….gleeful about it.  It’s pretty creepy.  Lauren gets stitched up.

A big box full of lemons and limes–from 7up, of course–alerts the girls to the fact that they have a challenge at some party.  Some designer brings them dresses to wear.  Someone comes to do their hair.  They go to the party and have to run the red carpet gauntlet.  The photographers are smirking.  Dominique flubs the name of the designer’s name.  Lauren curses.  Ladies and gents, our bottom two!

Lauren chats up Rick Ocasik.  Nice try, but he has a real supermodel girlfriend.  We are shown how Whitney is just the belle of the ball.  The ball is entirely populated by past ANTM models and staff.  Anya is charming and poised.  Dom and Lauren get the predictable call out.  Stacey Ann thinks too much (gone!).  The winner is Anya.  In spit of the fact that everything they showed was her just droning on.  Her prize is another nude photo shoot, this time for 7-Up.  And they pay her 10K, which is sweet and much better than just getting leered at by Nigel.

Saleshia points out that Cover Girls vote.  When they can get away from the plant in Baltimore.

Fatima gets an appointment at the consulate to try to get her documents.  They say 9 am enough times that I figure she’s sleeping through it.  But, as it turns out, Tyra just tells them they have to pack or they’ll miss their flight.  But ladies, you have not had a shoot yet…  They stay up all night packing.  They head for the airport and get out of the cab at a small jet.  And yeah, they have to do a group shot about trying to catch a plane.  Fatima tells Jay that she has an appt. because she’s “a refugee.”  Jay’s annoyed that it hadn’t come up earlier and sends her off with the admonition to get back asap.

Whitney is nasty.  Lauren looks great.  Stacey Ann has never been colder and her eyes are very sensitive to wind.  She’s lame.  bottom two (I’m aware that I have far more than people than possible in the bottom two).  Whitney sucks also.  Anya is securing her 1st called position.

Meanwhile, Fatima gets her documents and heads for the shoot.  It’s 1pm.  They’ve been at it since 7 ish.  Lord that must be a tedious job.  They’ve had to look like they are attractively trying to catch a plane for 5 hours.  7, by the time they wrap.  Not so glamorous now, is it?  Katarzyna looks awesome, but she is apparently dead to the show.  Panel is right there, waiting for them.  Fatima isn’t back yet.  When she arrives, Tyra tells her that girls that miss a photo shoot usually go home.  Well, I don’t think it’s going to happen today.  I’ll be surprised if she’s even in the bottom two.

They swoon for Lauren’s shot and tell her how awesome she was at the party. So I was wrong.  Not bottom two.  They love Dom.  For whatever reason. Stacey Ann gets slammed, so she’s at the bottom.  Whitney is pageanty.  Because she’s from the south.  She’s not real, either.  Anya is beloved by all.  For whatever reason.  Fatima doesn’t have a photo.

So. 7 girls, only 6 move on and go to Rome.  First called, Anya of course.  Then Lauren, then Dom the tranny, then Katarzyna, then Whitney.  StaceyAnn and Fatima in the bottom.  Which was not what I guessed, so either the CW is getting better about not telegraphing the end in the first minute, or I’m just not paying attention.  So in the end, Stacy Ann goes home, which is not a surprise by this point.  How much does it suck to get cut right before you get the trip?   A lot is my guess.

Nice, Tyra totally makes the girls think they’ll get a private jet and then sends them off to fly coach.  hee.  So, to come–commercials in a language they don’t speak!  This time, Italian.

Steve flew to California today and had to sit next to this guy.  He was even wearing the purple suit covered in question marks.  “I had absolutely nothing to say to him,” said Steve.  No?  Not “dude.  Seriously.  What the hell?”  or “So…Batman still up in your face?”  Or I know! “If there’s so much money just laying around for the taking, why are you flying coach?”

We need a new segment.  So, with a reverential nod to “Steve, don’t eat it!” I bring you:

Hey, kids!  Try this!

When I shop at the Asian Market, I am always just bowled over by the amount of weird crap they sell.  Weird crap that, presumably, someone eats.  They are packed to the rafters with products from Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, India…So with such a wide clientele to please, they must be choosing what to buy, not just saying “eh, fill up a shipping carton with what you have,” so these must be things that they assume are desired.  Apparently squid, in its many forms, is a hotly desired product.  Pressed, chipped, dried, frozen, pickled…Short of “dipped in chocolate on a stick” I’ve not seen a way it isn’t prepared.  Alas, my vegetarian children are not willing to be subjected to squid, but they ARE almost always willing to try new things that might be sweet.  So today, while buying fresh tofu and frozen dumplings, I got some snacks.

First up:

toasted wheat cake

“Toasted Wheat Cake” also “with purple yam and crispy young rice”  Yet they are wrapped like bon-bons.  How can we resist?  This snack from the Philippines is stamped “Export Quality”–so at least there’s quality control.  We unwrap one.  It’s really pale and looks like pressed whole wheat flour:

naked wheat cake

Tentative tasting…and YUM!  The texture is just divine, it crumbles to powder and then melts in your mouth.  The flavor is also great and kind of familiar.  I look at the ingredients: Wheat Flour, skim milk, cane sugar, purple yam powder, pounded young rice, and butter.  Oh, it’s shortbread.  Well there you go.  It is met with “Can I have another!” from all three kids.  Sorry children, we have science to do.

Next up, Barquiron!

barquiron

…with cashew nuts!  Also wrapped like candy.  Also an Export Quality product of the Phillipines (which, I’ve decided, we should pronounce phil-IP-pin-nees.  While I”m getting things pronounced).  Unwrapping these gets a lot of squeals as they are  very crumbly when broken. When whole, they seem to be a cookie with something powdery (and not unlike the wheat cake) inside.

barquiron

Taste?  Good.  Almost very good, but so close on the heels of those yummy shortbread things that it doesn’t quite measure up.  But tasty and of an interesting texture, which is always good for a bonus point.  All three agree that the wheat cakes are better, though.

And finally, remaining in the Phillipines, but straying from the comfort of Export Quality food, We get:

cracker nuts

Regardless of how they turn out, I think “cracker nuts” needs to enter conversation.  “Dude, she went totally cracker nuts on me!”  I was hoping for Adobo flavor, but I was denied.  These are nuts in a thin crispy shell.  Kind of….crackery.  There’s a slightly spicy powder on them, but nothing smoky.

last known photo of cracker nuts

sorry it looks a bit “last known photo.”  Ben loved them.  I kind of like them but think the aftertaste is pretty nasty.  The girls were unimpressed.  They are all looking forward to finishing dinner to score another wheat cake.

First, update on Chile-gate. A message from Mom’s Chilean friend:

“Hi Susan, we are ok, actually we are in Chile right now !! we traveled on
Wed and arrived yesterday here very tired it was a long trip i had forgotten
how long it was… my parents and all my family are very exited and happy
with us here…
The correct pronunciation would be more like… Chelay, i know lot of people
call it chili, or chilee, but actually, the sond of the I is the american e
and the sound of the E is the same sound of the e in the word elephant…”

So, if I’m interpreting correctly, it’s chellay….but I’m not sure what “l is the american e” could possibly mean. That’s like “orange is the new black.” Thus, henceforth, it shall be known as South Peru.

–“Organic bananas” sounds like a back-up band. “Herman Menderchuck and the Organic Bananas: Live at the Fillmore”

–When you show up at the 4-H center in linen and chunky jewelry, people look at you askance. Even if you’re hauling a sewing machine. Who knew the 4-H crowd would be so stringent in a “no linen before Memorial Day” rule?

–While the Muppet Movie is just as awesome as ever, maybe even more, Ms. Piggy is still unbearable. Such a gross misstep from the Henson/Oz team. I think Frank Oz probably blackmailed Jim Henson into letting him do Ms. Piggy. I will accept no other theories. Also, it is amusing to see the “celebrity” cameos throughout and note that the kids only knew Steve Martin. Who’s a big shot now, Elliot Gould?

–My fattest pair of fat pants are now too big. Woo!

–I am reading (still. The book is a billion pages long) Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell which is set in the early 1800s. I’m afraid is it making me a bit bitter that I do not have a household staff. How lovely to have someone anticipate that you might be hungry and offer a snack. To wake ahead of you and stoke the fire and make coffee…It would be like having an overindulgent mom. I’d promise to treat them respectfully. Really. I’d never beat them and I’d let them have an extra hour with their own families at Christmastide.

First, a bit of business: I had a lovely and hilarious post about last week’s ANTM and WordPress ate it.  I seemed to have been publishing at the exact moment that they were upgrading b/c my post vanished and when I logged in again, everything on the control panel looked different.  And I don’t like the new set up.  Hmpf.

Second, for the title of the post, I owe gratitude to Brawndo. And also to my sad competitive nature.  I was never any good at any sports and thus quickly stopped participating in them (b/c how fun is it to suck at something?  not).  This leaves me competing at utterly stupid things like bulletin boards.  I must create the best board in the school.  The teachers, when they walk past, must know that they have been soundly defeated.  They must know that I am the coolest parent in the school and they must beg the principal to put my kids in their classes.  It helps that putting up bulletin boards and doing art projects gives me excuses to go into the educational supply store.  I long to fully equip an elementary classroom with cool supplies.  But no children may mess them up.  Shoo, messy children.  Where was I?  Oh yes…I win!  For this month’s art class, I introduced the kids to Keith Haring (funny story: Lily’s teacher looked up Haring on the internet to see how to spell his name.  The site she went to had an advisory about mature content.  She was relating the tale of our class and her search to the principal who exclaimed, “She didn’t show explicit material to the kids, did she?”  Nice.  yeah, if I don’t show the kids a poster of two cartoon men jacking one another off, who will?).  I had them pose in front of an overhead projector and another mom and I traced them.  Then we each took home a pile and gave them a thicker outline and cut them out.  Then I arranged them on the wall!  Behold:

Haring-style mural

kids haring project

I love it.  I’m hoping that a photographer at the school can take a photo of it more straight-on so that we can blow it up and sell it at the silent auction.  The kids, of course, have much to say about it, they were far more engaged by the end-product of this project than any of the others we’ve done.  Which is nice, of course, but the important thing?  I win.

Tonight was a Chilean feast, featuring an argument with my 8 year old about the proper pronunciation of Chile. “Chil-lay” says I, and not even with a thick Jimmy Smits on SNL accent. “Mom. It’s Chilly,” he informs me. No, I tell him, it is Chil-lay and if you go to that country I assure you they are not calling the place “chilly” (in fact, they may be calling it El chupacabre for all I know, and I don’t call Germany “Deutschland” so who knows why I’ve taken this stand, but still). He informed me, complete with eyeroll, that his teachers call it Chilly and that is correct. Grr. I am the Mother. I know all! When those teachers feed you and step on your damned legos trying to come read to you at night, THEN they can determine how we shall pronounce the names of South American countries!

The food was less obstreperous (I feel like I’ve just used that word recently in a post…did I ? It’s a good word, but mustn’t over use. Esp when mis-using), I made Empanandas from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook. And the salsa and Mushroom Stuffed Eggs from the same book. All were super yummy. Pretty far off my current course of eating, but I tried to show restraint. Steve declared the salsa the Best Ever, so that was a hit. All hail Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes!

In other news…I’m currently listening to Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I’m enjoying it well enough, but it was praised to the heavens when it came out. I’m not loving it and I wonder if it’s partly due to the fact that I’m listening. I think I’ll go get the book tomorrow and see if that enhances my enjoyment. It’s a great conceit with really interesting characters. It’s set in England in the early 1800s, and the basic notion is that in the Renaissance or there abouts, magic was real. It disappeared, for reasons not yet revealed to me, and has begun to re-emerge. It’s gothic and funny and mysterious. When I listen while driving (for example the nearly 3 hours I spent driving to get a guinea pig to and from the vet to have a cyst removed. A wee little growth that was causing no harm. Oy.), I can pay full attention, but when I try to listen while I do things in the house, I lose part of it. I can listen to podcasts of The Bugle or Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me with no trouble, but I think I need to hold weightier books in my hand. I just got some P.G. Wodehouse to load onto the ol’ ipod, that’s light enough to listen to.

Lord, I feel like Andy Rooney is blogging for me lately.

I wore my Dickinson sweatshirt while I was working car line yesterday. I got several “Oh did you go there? My husband/brother/niece goes/went there.” Never anyone I overlapped with. Today, a woman I’m friendly with came up and said, “I saw you in that Dickinson sweatshirt, did you go there?” I said yes. “When did you graduate?” 89. “OMG! Me too!” I told her that she’s always looked kinda vaguely familiar to me, but I’ve re-encountered so many people from Julianna’s baby years ad then there are just some people who look like lots of people. “What was your major?” Psych and American Studies. “I was Psych!” I kind of apologetically told her that I was a drama person, not “greek” and thus didn’t know everyone. “I was a Delta Nu.” Okay, the one sorority I actually knew a lot of people in. “I used to hang out at Phi Ep” The one fraternity I actually went into. Her kids were there, I wanted to say, “Did you loan me a lighter?” or “Did I barf on you?” We determined that our areas of focus in psych didn’t overlap, so while we may have had intro classes together, we likely didn’t after that. She was probably one of the people in the Abnormal Psych class that thought we must be having a test on the rare days that I showed up…What was I thinking scheduling an 8 am class? I mean, really. I asked Stacey (a Delta Nu) if she remembered her, and she said she thinks she had “big brown hair.” I wanted to look her up, but my yearbook is in hiding, apparently. Steve’s yearbook photo is on the 1988 Alumni Reunion page though…Find him? Hint: he’s not the small, stuffed one, but you’re close.

Dinner was a tasty stew from Belize and a nasty soup from Columbia.

Tonight we dined in Brazil. This stew was quite delicioso. We also had cheese potatoes from my Global Vegetarian book. They were a very big hit. I, of course, only had a taste or two. Gotta tell you, finding vegetarian chow in South and Central America is a challege. Sure you have beans and rice and quesadillas, but there’s only so much of that one can take. If nothing else all this global eating is telling where it would be good to travel as a vegetarian. Africa, Middle East, India–no problem! Eastern Europe, South America? Not so much.

Catching up a bit…Ben is sporting that one front tooth gone, one coming in look that I love:

Ben's teeth

and yes, he is still wearing the piece of yarn and beads he got at Field Day last June. See his fabulous haircut? I took the kids to The Temple for a trim over Spring Break. Ben’s bangs are a bit shorter. Lily is unchanged. But Julianna went shorter and layered. Then the stylist straightened it, which was weird:

Julianna's hair

She didn’t wash it for 3 days, knowing it would spring back up. She has come to terms with it now, thank goodness, b/c it looked a bit weird, honestly.

And, um…I’m UTTERLY uninspired. Go read Stuff White People Like.

a

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