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Archive for May, 2008

Graduate

Congratulations, Ali. πŸ˜€

graduation comic

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We awoke early, and I mean EARLY Friday morning and drove a scenic 6 hours to Lubbock to view apartments for Jenna and Jens. We were there by 11:30, and because she’d done her homework to pre-locate several options, we had a two-bedroom apartment chosen and reserved in time to briefly discuss scholarship options with an advisor, and then catch a one-hour 2:00 walking campus tour.

Freeway construction is in full swing there, so construction mess is everywhere, but a walking bridge from right next to the apartment across the freeway is slated to be finished by August, in time for fall classes. The campus is beautiful, full of Spanish Renaissance architecture, statuary, fountains, and lush, green courtyards (at least lush for now). After the walk, we were surprised to find we were all sunburned. As our guide had pointed out, Lubbock is located on a large, flat plateau at about 3,256 feet above sea level. It’s a dustier, more arid climate than we’re used to. We were also amused to learn that it was actually closer to Denver, Colorado there than to Houston, where Joel, Blake, and Zoe are moving.

Texas map

Having accomplished our task with time to spare, we headed back home, arriving by 9:30pm. We would have preferred a more leisurely trip, but with Tech graduation spanning several weeks, hotels were nowhere to be found. With Ali’s graduation and Joel’s family move approaching quickly, available time for us is pretty precious too.

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Although his performance has been somewhat improved since his last inspection and routine cleaning, Roomba still hasn’t been himself lately. Empathetic, I found him this morning in a lonely corner, repeatedly banging his head.

With screwdriver and seam ripper in hand, I performed a colonoscopy. Having only crude tools and no sedatives to offer, I wasn’t sure I was qualified; however, the procedure was successful. I found and removed the likely source of his abnormal behavior and weakness: a massive and very compact hairball hidden under his front wheel.

A warning to fellow Roomba enthusiasts: Front wheel hairballs must be treated immediately or they may cause Roomba to stop feeding and, ultimately, die. (It’s “hou’-zing,” darn it.)

He seemed his old self immediately afterwardsΒ β€” still minus his side brushes, of course. πŸ˜•

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They have no toleration for squealers. The victim’s shrill cries alerted me of the attack, but I was too late. Now, a plushie bovine carcass lies on my living room carpet, its cottony entrails strewn the width and breadth of the floor…

It didn’t have the guts to defend itself, and yet they still tried to pass it off as an “accident.”

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My mother received this rocker on her first birthday, April 4, 1933, from her grandparents, Addie and Dwight Main. The now brittle heirloom was brought out of storage for this Mother’s Day photo opportunity with our granddaughter Zoe.

Gram's Rocker

Family

Jenna was there, right? It’s hard to get us all in one place these days. Due to an extended trip to Germany, Jenna was not in the original photo taken last summer in my parent’s backyard β€” but with some not-quite-perfect photo manipulation, now she is! Unfortunately, Zoe decided to bury her face and take a nap. Anyway, I thought my parents would appreciate a complete group photo, any way they can get it.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to my mom, my mom-in-law, my daughter-in-law, all the other moms in my family, and to moms everywhere!

AND… thanks to Joel, I’m now queen of my own domain: fanflower.com. πŸ™‚

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Oh, Dear!

I went to bed after 5am. Why am I up at 9:15? Steve and Ali arose “early” for a Saturday to pick up Ali’s car, fresh from repairs, and the dogs and Butterball (one of our two cats) thought I should be awake as well. Sleepy and still ravenous after going to bed hungry, I intended to forage as soon as I took care of my morning pet routine. I appeared in the kitchen to find Roomba scurrying around the floor, Ali compassionately feeding him bits of muffin scraps, and Steve accusing her of spoiling him with treats. She said she felt badly that we only fed him lint and hair.

After they left, Roomba scooted into the utility room and abruptly stopped in protest. I would too! The litter box smell in there this morning is quite offensive! I cleaned his brushes and sent him on his merry way, only to watch in horror as he seizured and let out a pitiful cry. What could he have eaten now? After a thorough inspection I found nothing wrong except his usual, aggravating side-brush issue (all the little sweeper brushes broke off, one by one, and replacements have been back-ordered for weeks). Still, that has only ever affected his ability to thoroughly clean the baseboards.

Stumped, I let Roomba rest where he was and waited for Steve to make a diagnosis when he returned. They walked in, pleased with how the car turned out, and I pointed to poor Roomba, explaining his silence. When Steve pushed his start button, Roomba feigned complete wellness for a good three minutes β€” then seizures recurred, and his “speech” became slow and slurred.

A stroke! This will never do! We think he may have an electrical problem. The poor dear didn’t even celebrate when we put him back on his charger. This is a sad day, indeed.

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Night Owls

I’m up late working on a digital scrapbook project that’s bringing out my OCP(D?), as I keep finding things to fix that probably no one else would notice, but they must be fixed! At about 3:15am, Chief decided it was time for one more trip outside before we called it a night. Our owl was back, barking “hello,” and Chief woofed back a couple of times, alerting the neighborhood before I could get him back inside the house.

Now that I’m finally satisfied with my project, I’m too hungry to go to sleep. After careful rationing of my soft bread this week, I find it’s gone and I’m at a total loss.

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Barkalounger

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Merry Muffins with a Twist

Merry Muffins with a Twist

Mentioning buttermilk and cravings in yesterday’s post reminded me that recently I stumbled upon and have been enjoying an old recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. For years, we called her concoction Merry Muffins, but when I rediscovered the recipe a couple of months back, I was craving chocolate. Merry Muffins or chocolate? Why not have both?

The original recipe called for Raisin Bran, but I’m not a fan. I do like plain Post Bran Flakes though, which, by the way, are so extremely hard to find around here these days that I’ve had to resort to buying Kroger generic bran flakes. They’re not the same for regular cereal eating, but they’ll do, and I find other store-brand bran flakes taste like soggy cardboard β€” or at least what I’d imagine it to taste like. Why don’t stores here stock Post Bran Flakes anymore?! The original recipe also called for buttermilk, but since that’s not something I keep on hand, I began purchasing the powdered variety years ago. If I’m out of that, I’ll *sour regular milk with lemon juice as an “emergency” substitution (1 tablespoon lemon juice per cup of milk).

Julie Muffins

3 cups Bran Flakes (Raisin Bran, if you insist)
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. canola oil (if you use slightly less, or substitute part with applesauce, you probably won’t notice)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups flour (part whole wheat, if it eases your conscience)
2 eggs, beaten (or 1/2 cup egg whites or egg substitute)
2 cups water + 1/2 cup Saco Buttermilk Blend powder (or 2 cups buttermilk or *soured milk)
2-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
1/2 to 1 cup blueberries (and/or raspberries, if you like them)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or 24 halves, crumbled)

Combine cereal, sugar, flour, buttermilk powder, soda and salt. Add beaten eggs, oil, and water. Mix well. Pour in muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, filling each about 2/3 full. Now is the fun part. Before baking, top each muffin with the amounts and combination of your choice of berries, chocolate chips, and walnuts. We all like different blends of toppings. Banana slices and pecans would probably be good too, although I haven’t tried them. If you want a more even distribution rather than having them all on top, gently stir or pat the toppings into the batter in each tin. Bake for 15-20 min. in 400ΒΊ F. oven.

The batter makes about 2 dozen muffins and keeps up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container, so you can bake all at once or save part to bake fresh another day. You can store it with the fruit mixed in, but your batter will take on the color of the berries, which to me is not visually appealing and reminds me of my creativity backfiring when I was a pre-teen learning to bake. Mom will recall the time I wanted cake, but all we had was a box mix for maple cake. I thought the tan batter was awfully bland looking so I added the only food coloring we had β€” blue. After baking, the resulting color was disgustingly similar to that of bread mold! The cake tasted fine, as long as we ate it in the dark. πŸ˜›

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We’ve shopped for groceries primarily at Costco the last couple of years, buying in bulk, so I don’t venture into “regular” grocery stores unless I need less often used items that either they don’t provide or we don’t need in mass quantities. Actually, I don’t really care for shopping in general, and warehouse shopping in particular, so Steve, who likes shopping, takes care of our Costco purchases, with me accompanying him just occasionally. Jenna and Ali are out and about driving more frequently than I am, so they often stop by nearby grocery chains on their way home to pick up other needed items, leaving very few grocery shopping trips for me personally. Unfortunately, with both leaving home for college soon, the local grocery stores and I will have to get reacquainted.

Costco offers many fresh bakery items, and the bread addicts in our family particularly enjoy the artisan breads. In addition to that, we’re slowly being converted by our nutrition- and health-conscious children to many whole grain products. Traditional, soft, sandwich-bread varieties are seldom seen in our house these days, which presents a problem when one craves a Jif (reduced fat) Peanut Butter and blackberry jam sandwich. Peanut butter on hard bread just doesn’t cut it for me, and I don’t know if it’s seasonal, hormonal, or what, but all the females in my household, myself included, have experienced strong cravings for peanut butter the past couple of weeks.

On my way home from taking Steve to work yesterday, I stopped at Tom Thumb with intent to buy two things: Saco Buttermilk Blend for biscuit baking and Chocolate Ovaltine. When the first was nowhere to be found, I drove the few blocks to Kroger and bought the last two on the shelf. Is there a buttermilk shortage? Anyway, I decided that while there, I would look around for a few other things and that’s when a loaf of potato bread jumped into the cart, begging to come home with me β€” as did a beef roast, and several other unplanned purchases.

As soon as groceries were unloaded and put away, I satisfied my PBJ craving. This morning as I write this, I am consuming toasted, soft potato bread, lightly buttered and generously sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It is a scrumptious, rare treat these days and I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m already planning tomorrow’s delectable breakfast treat: buttered, potato bread toast sprinkled with Ovaltine. Don’t judge me.

Okay, maybe I’ll use Smart Balance Buttery Spread in place of the butter.

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