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We’re ramping up to Hallowe’en (oh yes, I’m going to be that punctuationally pendantic), most beloved of non-gift-giving holidays here.   Today was International Children’s Day at the school.  Back in the day, it was a multi-room feast of the foods of many nations.  Each kid learned about a country, dressed as a child from that country, and brought a traditional dish to share.  But someone snitched and brought the “health” dept down upon us.  So pre-packaged poison full of dyes and hydrogenated oils and HFCS is FINE, but a nice homemade treat is forbidden.  Our country is f*ked up, my friends.  And our health reflects it.  Mini-rant over.

Julianna was from Germany, Ben was from Serbia, and Lily was from Japan.  I’d say about 1/4 of the lower Elementary kids were from Japan or China.  Costumes:


Yes, Julianna is wearing the clothes I bought for ME when we lived in Germany.   I was a full grown lady.  I love events at the school that bring all the kids together b/c some of our 3 year olds look like they’re still steaming from the womb and some of the middle schoolers could get served at a bar. Ben, you’ll note, is just wearing the colors of the Serbian flag b/c he couldn’t be bothered to wear a costume.  That’s a Greek jersey.  I told him next year to just pick a country from his stash of soccer jerseys his grandparents have gotten him.  Lily is wearing the bathrobe that Julianna wore when SHE was representing Japan in first grade.  I’m pretty sure she was bigger.

Here’s Lily reading her report on Japan.  Did you know that in Japan, most of the people speak Japan?  It’s true.  Also, there are tiger sharks, which are scary.  Now you know.


See how bright and cozy that room is?   Her teachers (That’s Miss Amy in the cheongsam) are wonderful.  The Children’s Day celebration is always a parade around the school (I took my traditional photo of the back of my kids’ heads.  By the time my camera takes the picture, they’re gone) and then everyone meets in the sanctuary (school is in an old church) and each class comes forward and the kids say what country they are representing.  The Primary kids are so. flipping. cute.  They never remember what country they’re from.  And then they sing a song and you just die from cuteness.

Look, here’s Julianna reading HER report on Japan in 2003:


photo of a photo, sorry.  Gotta get that scanner…  Looks like the robe hits her about the same as it does Lily now.  But Julianna was in 1st grade.

Last weekend, we did our annual trip to the pumpkin patch with the Donalds.  You ride out to the corn maze on a tractor, walk through the maze an emerge into the pumpkin patch.  Traditionally, we pick our pumpkins according to our individual pumpkin needs and then head back to the Donalds for a shared meal and pumpkin carving.  But not this year.

We rode out to the maze, as usual:




When we got out, we were surprised to see how sparse and battered the maze was.  The Donalds had been there a couple of weeks ago and said it was thick and lush then, but we’d had some of our famous West Frederick winds the night before.  We figured we’d just see over the tops of the corn, no problem.  A cake walk through the corn.


And in we went!  I love to shuck and shell the dried field corn as I go and soon the kids were joining in, first just shelling for speed, eventually trying to make patterns on the cob.  They were properly horrified when I told them about the older uses for corn cobs in outhouses (they ARE pretty soft, though).  At one point, Lily saw what we were doing and said “Oh cool!  where’d you get the corn?”


Brooke and Lily

Brooke’s teenaged sister was HORRIFIED by Brooke’s fashion choices that day…


See?  It’s short and sparse.  And yet…we couldn’t seem to find our way out.  Sure we could have just cut through, but we were trying to do the maze.


Day 10. corn maze. Running out of water, but still have plenty of corn.

And then, we we finally gave up, like two hours later, and just walked through the last bit of corn to get to the patch…there were no pumpkins.  Well, not NO pumpkins, but those that remained were green and/or full of rot.  We were peeved.  So we agreed to go get our pumpkins elsewhere and meet back at the Donalds.  They were headed for the grocery.  Julianna insisted that we at least buy from another near-by patch.  We had a limited amount of cash, though, and ended up getting Steve’s pumpkin from the grocery.  Three stops we made before we all had pumpkins.  For petesake.  I picked up one that was covered in warty bumps, because how fun is that?

Turns out, not so much if you plan to carve the blasted thing.  It had a skin like iron.  I literally had to carve the thing with a dremel.  For real:


The other pumpkins were less hassle:




The finished products:


back row: Lily's, Jerry's, Blair's, Ben's, Brooke's, Mine. On table: Steve's, Molly's, Julianna's

Just realized that Bev doesn’t have a pumpkin.  And now I’m wondering if she EVER does a pumpkin or if she’s just Staff Mom, scampering around helping others and tidying…I’ll have a chat with her.  Three? Four years? and I’m just realizing this.  And I wonder where my kids’ utter obliviousness comes from…


I liked my little pumpkin guy, but later it occured to me that he looks like Meatwad from Aquateen Hunger Force.


So, tomorrow will be trick-or-treating.  Lily still hasn’t settled on a costume but she’ll just be pulling from the dress-up bin.  Third children do not get new, elaborate costumes made by mom.

Oh yeah, a couple of years ago, Steve took some cool photos of the kids standing on some hay, shot from below.  He wanted to update them a bit.





I had another ANTM dream last night.  For years now–13 cycles, which is like 5 Tyra years?–I’ve been having dreams in which I’m a contestant on America’s Next Top Model (for the record?  The final three are Laura, Nicole, and Erin.  Erin will probably win b/c Laura has that accent and Nicole sounds stoned.  But Laura should totally win even though Nicole is the prettiest and best model.  Erin is weird looking and I just don’t get it).  When the dreams started, it was far fetched and fun.  I’ve aged like 10 years in those 5 and now it just feels mean.  In the dreams, I’m usually around 30, but know that I’m older.  I’m usually pretty sure I’m about to be eliminated, but I have hung on far longer than I’d have expected.  Last night, I was on my way to a go-see (if you don’t know what that is, I’m just sad for you) and realize that I don’t have good undies.  I could only find Granny Pants, all the way to my waist, which I NEVER wear.  And then, in the limo on the way to the go-see, I realized I hadn’t shaved.   What if they want me to model a swimsuit?  It would not be pretty.   And then I woke up and thought “Really brain?  Really?  That’s our big hurdle to being a swimsuit model, a want of Nair?  Really?”  Stupid brain.  Also, I had had trouble running in my stilletos and wondered if I could get away with a lower wedge.  A problem I face so often.

In actuality, this is what is on my feet:


Oh yes, they ARE that awesome.  Especially if I’m also wearing my kelly green cords embroidered with hot pink chickens.  These used to be plain brown Birkis, but I seldom wore them (because brown? snore).  Now they get a lot of wear, as long as it isn’t raining.  I used acrylics and then used an acrylic spray, but I’m not sure how well they’d hold up to getting very wet.  Not to mention that that tends to make Birks go stinky.

In health news, I was supposed to have my kidney stones blasted tomorrow but postponed.  I realized I really had no idea what was going on or why or if it was necessary or if I could wait it out or what.  So I want to chat with the doc first.  My friend Janet said “So why don’t you cancel for now?” and it had seriously never even dawned on me that that was an option.  I have such a need to be The Good Patient that I seldom question.  Away from the doctors or if it’s someone else’s doc?  I’m all “Screw those guys, you’re the customer, you have the power!” But in front of them, I’m all “Yes Docktah!” It took forever to work up the nerve to call and then I really needed a nap.  Pathetic,  that’s what I am. It’s likely that I’ll still get the procedure, but I want a better feel for what is going on with this treatment.  Are more stones forming?  Are some gone?  Might they all go on their own?  No clue.

Halloween is a week and a bit away.  Julianna, previously planning to be a fairy, has decided to be Sgt. Pepper.  I got her a green collarless jacket with a matching tank top at Goodwill.  I used the arm area of the tank to make a Nehru-ish band jacket-y collar on the jacket and the remaining fabric from the tank (only the top 1/3 of it was the green, the rest was unusable, lame navy) to make those hairbrush looking epaulets.  She has spent the last two afternoons glueing trim and sewing buttons and going to town on the thing.  It’s looking pretty awesome, I must say.  Ben wants to be Tom Baker as Dr. Who.  We have a coat for it, I just need to find a super long stripey scarf.  Target has some, but I’m hoping to get it cheaper.  Lily has not settled, and has bounced from zombie to vampire and back again.  I think she needs to roll with the Early 70s vibe of her siblings (yes, I know Pepper came out in 67.  But Baker wasn’t Doctor until 74).  Richard Nixon was a suggestion.  I think an awesome one.  Maybe Goldie Hawn on Laugh-in?  I’ll send her out in a bikini and body paint.  Your suggestions welcome…

I’m just in from a weekend away with Bev and Lara.  Nice.  I get to worrying about my health and the flu and the killer bees and bigfoot and pretty soon I’m just a mess.  When Steve is away, I don’t see grown-ups all day and I spend too much time inside my own head.  Never a good place to hang out, let me tell you.  So this weekend, we went to Lara’s cabin near Berekley Springs, WV.  We’ve been taking scrapbooking weekends for years now, but this time we were all shattered enough that we mostly read books, worked puzzles, and napped.  I slept until 10 am on Sat. and 9:30 on Sun.  It was lovely.

Saturday night, we went to Panorama at the Peak restaurant.  On a previous trip to the cabin, Steve had declared it the perfect zombie attack defense point, as it has an amazing view of the surrounding valley.  You could totally see them coming.  And eat local foods.  They said their menu was about 90% local at this time of year, which is nice, but it was pretty pricey for what it was.  If I pay $18 for an entree, I want some foam or peas made to look like cotton candy or cotton candy made to look like peas.  We knew we were in trouble when we walked in and they said “Do you have reservations?”  Now, you have to know that this place looks like a roadhouse and while Berkely Springs has fancy-schmancy spas, it also has a lot of jus’ fo’ks.  It just doesn’t feel like a 20 dollar entree kind of place.  Sure, the ‘possum is local!  Just picked up out front!  The ambience is hunting-lodge cozy, but again, not “riding jodhpurs hunting lodge” but “second week of deer camp lodge.”  The food was good.  But not THAT good (I’m sure my vast NYC and SF readership is all “dude, that’s McDonald’s prices”) but not here.  And sure as shootin’ not in the WV panhandle.  I’d try it once more.  But that’s all they get from me.

I spent much of my time putting all the “leftover” photos into those albums that just have sleeves you slide photos into.  I had pictures that hadn’t made the Fancy Scrapbook cut and plenty that I haven’t gotten to yet (I’m many, many years behind).  Mostly, I spent my time saying “Oh my god, look how YOUNG I look!”  Even as recently as 4 or 5 years ago, I look 10 years younger.  When I went to my 20 year college reunion this summer, I was struck by how much older I appeared than my friends.  Granted, they all had no or only one child, but still.  I have to try to comfort myself that we’ll all look old at the nursing home.

Also?  My kids were insanely cute toddlers.  Just nuts.  Which is how they survived, I suppose.

We were on our way to school on Friday morning. We pulled onto the ramp onto I-70 and a guy was there hitchhiking. As we drove past him, he gave me kind of a goofy smile, almost a “yeah, I can’t believe I’m hitchhiking either” look and I waved. As you do. Then Lily piped up “Hey, was that Mr. Jerry?” I didn’t *think so, but I looked in the rearview mirror…same size and build as Jerry…and wearing an orange baseball cap! Jerry, Bev’s husband, started wearing an orange baseball cap on their cross-country drive so that the family could spot him in a crowd. Not a lot of orange baseball caps. And now here was one on the side of the road. I swerved over to the emergency turn-around spot to head back and go on that ramp again. All the while Julianna is saying “Mr. Jerry has a cell phone! It’s not him!” and Lily is asserting that she was pretty sure it was. As we went past the hitchhiker a second time, and it was not at all Mr. Jerry, the goofy smile seemed slightly lobotomized. Julianna said “I TOLD you it wasn’t him! Why would he be heading toward Frederick? He’d be at work by now. He has a cell phone.” And I said yes, but if it WAS Jerry, and enough had gone wrong that he was hitchhiking on an on-ramp in the middle of the morning and I’d waved as I passed? I’d have needed to go back. That would be a man in NEED of a ride. ‘course, the Not-Jerry guy might well have really needed a ride, too. But he was clearly nuts. So he can just wait for his own neighbor.

I’m at my parents’ house.  Julianna was excited to go up into the attic and get out my old Beatles records.  They’ve been in the attic since the house was built, 15 or so years ago, so I had no hopes that they’d be functional.  She was just happy to get the albums to hang on her wall (records! how quaint!).  I finally found my record stash (really? Four albums by the Stranglers?  Am I British?) and she was over the moon to see how many I had.  And then my folks’ record player worked.  And then?  And then?  Almost all of the albums are fine.  She is about to blow apart with happiness in there, listening to records.  I think one of the Ringo Starr solo albums is warped, but, um, it’s hard to tell…

Okay, it’s been nearly a month.  Blame Facebook.  All those little updates make me feel like I’ve already reported on everything.  I’ll just throw some photos and information at you rather than trying to craft a coherent narrative.  You know, the usual.

Booth at the Middletown Heritage Days–total bust.  I sold two bags.  Granted, the weather went crappy after the first few hours, but people weren’t buying anything but sno cones and kettle korn.  There was a booth across from me that sold adorable origami earrings for 7 bucks each and they weren’t moving, either.  One needs misspelled junk food in order to make money at that thing apparently.  I just put everything up on my etsy shop and sold more in 6 hours than I did at the show.  I can sell even more if you go buy…

The fair was…unfair.  How I love fair food.  How loaded it is with gluten.  Couldn’t eat a damned thing.  Grr.  But still we went, the usual family trip on carload night, the individual mom-and-kid trips each afternoon, and then the 4-H scavenger hunt on Friday.  Our schools get the day off to go to the fair and usually we avoid that day as it’s sure to be mobbed.  The 4-H activity was in the morning, though, so we donned our green shirts and headed out.  I teamed up with Rose, who had her nice camera along, so there are actually photos, and I’m even in some of them:

FrederickFair2009 (33)

There was a combine set up with a slide in it.  This was easily as fun as the rides that took tickets:

I think perhaps they’ve oversold the fun of being chewed up and spit out by a combine harvester.  At least Mad Men viewers now know to watch out for John Deere…

One of the things they had to do/find on the hunt was to card wool:

They had to find an antique tractor, so that lead to playing on the tractors for at least as long as it takes for me to think “Enough already!  There is no key!  You cannot actually go anywhere!  A fie on your childish imagination!”

Studiously checking off the items we found:

And yes, Shepherd Football does sound like it might be one of the lamer Monty Python bits

And yes, "Shepherd Football" does sound like it might be one of the lamer Monty Python bits

The final item on the list was “Eat something you’ve never eaten before.”  We are dedicated eaters, but vegetarian, so that almost threw us, but the kids are nothing if not resourceful.  Julianna had never had a fried pickle (now whole and on a stick instead of previous years’ fried pickle chips.  A mistake, I think), Ben gave fried Oreos a whirl, Lily went for the new-this-year fried…wait for it…macaroni and cheese.

I just had some lemonade.  Sigh.  Not deep fried.  Sigh.

I did a bit of canning, although not as much as I’d have liked.  I made grape jam for the first time and it was YUM.  I’d only ever had grape jelly and I like the wee skin bits that are in jam.  I love concord grapes, they taste purple.  I ended up with 12 jars of grape jam to add to the peach and the strawberry I already had.  So when the zombie apocalypse comes, we’ll have jam to eat.  Or the zombies will have a lovely homemade condiment for our brains.  I also made the best spaghetti sauce ever, but it only came to 6 jars.  A lot of work for 6 meals.  I slow roasted all the tomatoes and cooked down the juices and broiled the vegetables…and oh it was a lot of steps over many days, but it is goooood.  No pickles this year, we still have some from last year.  Same with green beans.  I do have some dried beans from my garden, but again, not as much as I’d have thought.  But look at my pretty wee shelf in my dungeon:


Oh, salsa, I also made salsa.  So you see above, from the left, watermelon pickles, tomatoes, green beans, peach-blueberry chutney (I have a lot of this.  it is good, but seriously, how much chutney do a bunch of white folk go through?),  peach jam, grape jam, spaghetti sauce, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and salsa.  Strawberry jam is in the freezer so we’ll eat that first when the zombies come.

Yesterday, we went on a 4-H cider pressing adventure.  We rode out to pick apples on the tractor.  The farm, Distillery Lane Ciderworks, specializes in apples no one else is growing.  We picked Bramley’s Seedlings which were as big as a baby’s head.  Check it out:


I just made a huge apple pie today and it took only 3 apples.  Haven’t tasted it yet, but the farmer assured us that this is England’s #1 pie apple.  and I was all “ooo, I’ll use THAT” until just now when I thought “I have no idea what England likes in an apple pie.  Apple Pie is an American thing.  Screw those limey bastards and their enormous flippin’ apples!”  Of course *I’ll* be eating a gluten free apple crisp while everyone else digs into that flakey crust.  Pity me.

Anyway.  We picked the baby head apples and some other kinds (one with pink flesh, which is weird) and then he drove us over so that we could toss fallen apples to the cattle.  Dude had it figured out, I must say.  Get people to pay YOU to come pick your apples and feed your cows.  He drove us back to the cider press room and while he was setting it up, the kids all ran around, wrestling, tossing apples for the dogs and generally behaving in that Idyllic Childhood way that makes you want to dip the whole moment in amber.


To go into the cider room, we had to wear something on our heads.  As far as I can tell, it’s some sort of quasi-religious respect thing, b/c people were allowed to just put up the hood of a sweatshirt or wear a baseball cap, or, if you had no hood or cap, you got a little paper “Do you want fries with that?” circa 1970 hat from a box labled “Classy Caps.” I cannot imagine that any of these methods are keeping hair out of the cider.  So I have to assume it’s so as not to offend the gods.


And he mushed them all and made them into cider which he then graciously offered to us at SEVEN FREAKING DOLLARS A GALLON.  To paraphrase Vincent Vega, it’s a good glass of cider, but it ain’t worth no 7 dollars.  Let us not forget, also, that we picked the damned things ourselves!  And sorted them!  Such a racket.  I’m trying to figure out how I can charge school kids to come clean my house or tend my garden.

let me know if you get a plan…

Edited to Add: had the apple crisp, which I made with the English pie apples.  It was…weird.  The apples tasted wrong.  So, lesson learned.  Don’t use Jimmy Dean sausage in Toad in the Hole.  Don’t use English pie apples.


October 2009
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