Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cheese Please

On Saturday, I visited my daughter to show a couple of friends and her how to make mozzarella cheese. I became curious about cheese making after reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and asked for a kit for Christmas. It was fun to do and quite tasty. I do it now with my fourth graders after our herbs are big enough to snip. We make the cheese, pizza sauce and the dough during our study of matter.
I was particularly excited this time because my brother-in-law brought me some raw milk from the country. I had never used raw milk before. It was awesome and worked so much better than pasteurized milk.

Handy Man said there was an article in today's paper about people getting sick from raw milk. Well, when you make the cheese, for a proper stretch it has to heat to 135 degrees, so it's fine. I've also drank milk from the same place, as has many in my family with no problems. First you heat it ninety degrees.
You stir in the rennet (an enzyme from the fourth stomach of a ruminating animal, yummy) and these lovely curds form.

You heat and squeeze, heat and squeeze until all the whey is out.
Then you stretch it until it's finished. Then you use the whey to make pizza dough. Rae-rae uses the whey to soak grains in to be better digested. I feed the leftovers to my chickie girls who think it's delightful!

Sweet, pretty girls.

Delicious pizza. The left is pepperoni with peppers and right is sundried tomatoes with goat cheese.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

To Zoo or Not to Zoo

For spring break this week I had Bean and Bugg on Monday and Friday. Ol' Mother Hubbard could only come on Monday, so we did candymaking that day. There's a new dinosaur exhibit at our zoo and since that is one of Bean's loves, I wanted to take him, but the weather, hmmm. At the beginning of the week it looked like Wednesday would be the best day and Friday was supposed to be high 50's and maybe some rain. I thought, well, high 50's, we'll take umbrellas and press on. The forecast changed every day until finally it would be cold and in the low 40's at noon. Dear me.
A friend went on the Wednesday and said it was the most packed she'd ever seen it. It was difficult to see anything or move around much. I deplore those conditions, and since the weather for Saturday was supposed to be delicious again, I hoped folks would opt to wait until Saturday. I told the mamas to dress the poopies in layers and off Uncle Jimi and I went with Bean, Bugg and Miss Raina in tow.
It was quite cool for the first couple of hours, but in our layers and in the sun we were comfy. Until dark, the sky remained a brilliant blue that warms the spirit regardless of the temperature. Nary a cloud appeared on the seen the live long day.
For the only time in my many, many trips to the zoo, we parked on the first row right near the entrance( I was really happy about that five hours later). No crowds. It turned out to be a most perfect day.
Whoa, he is way on up there!
We saw a lot of adorable animals, but these pictures are of my favorite monkeys. From here Miss Bugg required a potty break. On the way I nearly took a wrong turn and she got a peek at the meerkats. She inquired, "Are we going to see anymore of all the precious animals?" I assured her we'd see all that were to be seen.

I have always loved gorillas and I was so excited to see this little baby girl. At first Mama kept her back to us, then swooped right down to show her off. Here the baby's foot had just slipped through Mama's hand. Thanks mom, she's a beauty.
The dinosaurs were big and interesting, but didn't hold the interest of the live animals for my crew.

I took this picture of Bugg gazing out at the flamingos, because for a couple of years we had to steer clear of this area. She was terrified of them for some reason, and if you asked her about going to the zoo she'd simply reply, "No, no mingos."
Miss Raina loves the eagles because she's happy there's a place for them to live out their lives after being shot. Bean didn't know that story and asked how they keep them without the eagles soaring away. I read to him about their injuries. In a dispairing voice he said, "That is so sad." "I think I'm going to cry." It is sad. Why in the world would you want to shoot an eagle?

Many hours later and everyone is still smiling-good times. I was sure thankful to the Lord for such an extraordinary day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Easter Candy

I was faithful to the unpleasant task of cleaning, and spent all of Sunday trying to work off my fanny. I was unsuccessful at fanny offing, but made some head way here at home. I was ready to throw in the towel when Bean and Bugg arrived about 5. They were delighted with their Pap's work on the new swing set, and we played on it in the rain until we were all chilled to the bone. Pap's out there again this evening, installing another dolphin swing. It looks like I run a daycare.

Monday was the big candy making day. I got up early, had all the supplies ready. The kiddos dove right in and to be so small, gave it a lot of their attention.Now I know princess carriages are not really in keeping with the whole Easter theme, but this little missy is all ate up with everything princess and this ol' Gramerly is all ate up with making her smile- so a yellow and pink princess carriage it is.
Miss Linee didn't much care what she was painting, just wanted to paint.
Bean loves lambies, so his little lambs had green feet (spring grass stains you know).

Antebellie wanted lots of chocolate in whatever mold she was painting.
I felt the need to indulge O'Henry's love of tractors.
What to do when everyone is all done? Lick the paint brushes clean, then toss them.
Even pink pegasus' and fairy princesses eat paint.

How do we entertain Baby Boy, who is a bit young for painting? With baby toys and lots of adults to coo at his endless sweetness. He is so content to just sit and watch.
Well, you have to kiss those chubby cheeks sometimes.
And though he's the current caboose of this little Gramerly train, we tell him what a precious wonder he is, cuz he is.
What do you say about such a day. Lots of things would fit- tired, yep-messy, yep-mostly you just say- SWEET.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Little Bit of This and That

I haven't given a good report on Mom or Kaye in quite a while. Both are doing fairly well.
Last Sunday I was there when Kaye woke and she yelled to me. I went in and she was sitting on the side of the bed and asked for her walker. For a moment there I nearly panicked, because Pete wasn't there to assure me that was okay. Kaye was insistent, so I gave in and handed over the goods and held my breath. Up she went, and with the walker trotted herself out to her chair. I expressed my delight and kept a tight grip on my dismay. Next, she got up and with walker went to the bathroom, took cared of everything herself and back to the chair. Wow, wow!

Why the dismay you might ask. Well, feeling independent enough to sashay around on her own is what got us here. Just shy of one year now she thought she didn't need Pete to get out of the bathroom and that fall sent a whole crew of us on the scariest ride of our lives. It is absolutely terrifying to know someone can go through what she has and I never want to experience such a wild ride again. It does so much for her spirit, as you can imagine, to have even this little independence. For that I am grateful. It wears her out. In two hours she was back in bed and still asleep when it was time for me to go. Her vocabulary continues to increase. I can understand her fairly well when she is rested. It's harder when she's tired. They think she's gone as far as she will, so physical therapy has been discontinued. She has to get that new place put in her arm and the old port out of her chest.

Mom continues to have ups and downs. The last three conversations I've had with her, she hasn't coughed once. That is also miraculous to me because the last bout was so awful and lasted so long (five months) I feared she'd never get her lungs clear again. Now her stomach is, well, not working, so she is sick too much. G-Lou and the docs are ever working to get all of her working.

Speaking of working, I have more work to do around here than ten people could do. I slept in a bit this morning as cramming seventeen conferences into a full work week wore me out. I was more than ready for spring break. Buttercup came for a visit and she and I played between throwing loads of clothes in the washer and dryer. She wanted to swing, swing, swing, so I pushed, pushed, pushed for an hour. She likes me sing "How Much is that Doggie in the Window" and to growl at her-funny girl.
Then Handy Man and I went to the library and to the candy making store and K-Mart. We came home with a swing set that he is assembling as I write.

Cluckingham was quite smelly, so I shovelled out another wheelbarrow of coop flooring and dumped it on the new garden on the hill. I cleaned and bleached all the food and water containers and set them out to dry in the lovely sunshine.
Still no sign of any lettuce, peas or chard peeking up out of the little garden spot. I'm anxious to see it growing.
It supposed to rain tomorrow and I hope it does. It is very difficult for me to be inside when it is lovely outside. I need to be inside all the live long day. I'm messy and actually I like messy. I'm comfortable surrounded by all by books and doodahs and Gramerlings. However the messiness has now exceeded even my level of comfort, which means it's scarier then you even want to know.
So, tomorrow it begins- Spring Cleaning, and I HATE IT! But I will be brave and press on!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday of Rest

Buttercup was an early morning visitor today. She was hungry for eggs, bacon and oranges (hmm, seems I'm repeating myself). She busied herself with first one thing and then another, but not much time would pass before again questioning her Bap about the shhhhickeees. We kept assuring her that we would be going out soon to see them.

After bundling her up, we headed that way about 10:30 and she got to visit them and gather the eggs. Then it was time to "wing, wing."

I told Handy Man something was going to have to be done soon about the swing situation. Bean is still folding himself up to fit in that dolphin swing. We have way too many swingers, with another on the way. I've been busy looking online at the choices. Three big playgrounds are easily accessible to us just up the hill at the school. They have no swings. I only want swings. They aren't cheap.

Handy Man installed another bed for me today. I have a bed of tulips and wild things that I like a lot. You can only put tulips in a bed in my yard. Anywhere else and voles will devour them. The ones in the bed I like, really need separating, but where to put them?

Now I have a spot. The tripod Valentine gift will go in the center of the bed. It will first grow Bean, Bugg, and Buttercup peas, and then egg gourds.

After seeing a small clear plastic box with 4 tiny heads of unusal lettuce for $4.97 at the Kroger, I spent that on several packs of lettuce seeds. The bed I posted about earlier is now full.

I shoveled a big wheelbarrow full of coop flooring out today. It's really quite amazing, just brown crumbling dirt. Some went with the lettuce, quite a bit in the new bed, and a bit in the flower bed in front of the porch. I'm anxious to see if it seems to make much difference.
I can't wait for fresh salads. Yummmm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Practically Perfect

Well, the rain didn't come as expected today. My school children were glad. They had recess outside and then we went out for what I refer to as "Movement Time" or "Get Your Wiggles Out." The afternoon temperature, breeze and sunshine were delightful.

Usually I end my school day with a mile long walk with a precious friend. We are lucky to find a safe harbor with each other. For twenty minutes we can throw out each thing from our workday that made us cry, or cringe, or snort and spit. Out it goes, and is gone, and our spirits are comforted, renewed.

Today my walk was calling me. It wasn't a fun afternoon. In spite of my hearfelt desire to do good things, keep everyone informed, offer the best of myself each day, some parents can't be impressed, even with your most stellar efforts, can't be appeased regardless. It's hurtful. But alas, a faculty meeting was calling that didn't end until 5:35. Handy Man Pappy had to pick up Bugg and Bean.

When I arrived home, they were already in the creek.

Bugg and I had a tea party. She drew water from the magical fairy fountain, that later became the angel fountain. Such variety like mandarin orange with mango, strawberry and grape, lemon, blueberry and watermelon were politely sipped by the creekside. Her hair is likely at it deepest red for the year. The sun will slowly turn it back to strawberry blond.
Clearly, we weren't the first creek visitors of the day.

Bean made stone soup, which led to a discussion of that story. Our soup contained not only stones, but brick, crystals, sticks, moss and the most special ingredient of all, wrecked car.

The moss led to a discussion of vascular and non-vascular plants.
No stone soup is complete without a many legged critter to add some protein.

Bean had to skip a few rocks before calling it a day. One of them skipped about six times.

We stayed until the last of the day's sun slipped behind the hill. My brave creekers travelled back home through a very dark tunnel. Coming out on the other side brought a confrontation with the swing. Each sweet child got ten pushes each before the lingering twilight deepened.

They had been too busy playing to have a snack, so they both ate all of their green beans, and one and a half oranges. Bugg ate two eggs she cracked and cooked. Bean ate three with two slices of bread and three pieces of bacon.
And just before packing them up to send home with 1st LT., I read my favorite Cinderella type story, Smokey Mountain Rose.
After lots of hugs and kisses, they said goodnight. I realized that big ol' bad day had retreated in the fun, learning, love and sweetness of my little gramerlings. I am blessed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Could It Be?

Is spring finally here?
Rae-rae and Michael came over for dinner on Sunday afternoon, and we talked much about all we hoped to plant in our gardens this year.
Later Buttercup came for a visit. She was ready for some outside fun and wanted to swing right away.
My big pooch is growing up. Arwen was so good with Buttercup. As soon as she'd start to get a little distance from me, Arwen would get on the other side of her and herd her back without any pawing or jumping.
Buttercup has quite a vocabulary for one so wee- just seventeen months. She noticed I wouldn't let Arwen bound off without calling her back. On a long walk up the hill, as long as Buttercup was near me, Arwen would traipse off to investigate something. Buttercup would throw both little arms out ( in the "hold me" pose) and yell, "Doggie, come uh me, no, no." She knows Arwen isn't to wander off and Arwen knows Buttercup isn't, so it works very well.

Ahhh, at last.

Look at my lovely little spot, tilled by my Handy Man. It is full of swiss chard, lettuce and arugula ( umm, and chickie girl poop). So exciting.

I threw a black raspberry near the garden a few years back. I also have a few strawberries. I've never paid it much mind, as I primarily wanted a few of this and that for the kids to experience plucking and eating. The patch grows ever bigger and this year I thought it might be a good idea to find out what you are actually supposed to do with them. So, following directions, I removed all the dead and well over half of the living brambles.
In the coop, I recycle cardboard by placing it in a couple of areas where the chickie girls make the most deposits, then I pitch it in a compost pile. This weekend, after attacking the raspberry brambles, I put the cardboard, deposit side down around the canes. Now I'll cover the tops with some additional compost. I'll let you know the difference in the yield this year.
The girls are loving being outside. This is a favorite spot. I had to cover the roots of Handy Man's blue hydrangea with that chunk of wood, as I feared they were going to dig it right on out of there.
To me, there just isn't anything more amazing then the ability to turn bugs and grass into eggs. Production is picking up with a dozen eggs yesterday and thirteen today. Oh, last night, just before closing them up, Handy Man found another one of those rubbery eggs. So, the weird eggs continue.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oh the Wonder of Wednesday

No new pictures today, just journaling about.... you'll never guess, I bet..... the gramerlings!

I'm doing a study with my fourth grade students on Cinderella stories from around the world and I had to go pick up 20 or so at the library last evening. While I was there, I wandered over to the children's books on war. I found three books about the Hunley- the first sub to destroy an enemy ship ever, used in the Civil War. I knew Bean would be elated. Sure enough, we had to read all three books to him. I wasn't through the last one before he needed to go find his own sub and the poor Hustonia that was destroyed by the Hunley. He is the great pretender. Of course, he also had to draw a picture of the whole drama.

He told me he is to bring his favorite book to school on Friday and dress as his favorite character. He is going as Huck Finn. He commented that he'd have to tell his teacher not to read it, cause it was a little long- perhaps so.

On Saturday, I fixed lunch for Rae-rae, Michael and Bean and Bugg. We had fajitas, and as in every meal for them, green beans and fruit. As soon as Bugg saw her plate she yelled, "Gramerly, you forgot something" I asked what I had forgotten and she exclaimed, "Where are the eggs?" All three of them usually eat at least one every meal they are here. I told her if she wsn't full from what was on her plate, I'd be most happy to cook her up an egg.

She wants to play princess much of the time. Tonight we ended up going upstairs where the dollhouse lives, full of princesses and babies. A little girl's delight. We couldn't go to the ball however, because there was a pirate there.

Bean, like us, celebrated Dr. Suess birthday at school this week, so wanted to have a party for his pet leopard beanie baby. We blew up balloons, then science took over as we rubbed them in our hair and stuck them to everything.

They both played so nicely and it was a fun time.