Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whew! (In more ways than one)

It's official - the Kay Snow Awards winners were announced via email and I did NOT win. I am so relieved to know, even though I was pretty certain I didn't have a chance. I kind of hate what I submitted - I deserved not to win! It was too dark, coming from a sad and scary place and time for me. I'm also relieved that I do not have to attend the awards ceremony, taking place two days after our 21 wedding anniversary in August. However, I just found out who the guest speaker at the awards is going to be and it's a Portland author I am interested in meeting. She used to write a weekly column in the Sunday Oregonian and I always wanted her job. Every time I read her column, I thought I could at least write the kind of stuff she wrote about - usually short essays about her daily life or past. The stuff I write about. Now, she no longer has that column but is concentrating on her third book. Her first book was a best seller and her second is doing very well. Sigh. While I am thrilled for her and her success, I really don't want her life, I just want my own life as an author. Preferably one who can make a little $$. Know what I mean? (Yes, Todd, I know, I know.)

"Whew" also refers to how stinkin' hot is was here today! Man! We actually went out and bought an air conditioner for our bedroom and another fan for the living room. We had every window and ceiling fan in the house going. We were all miserable. Even going in and out of stores was rough, being blasted by heat again and again. We are not used to this. It gets like this, though rarely, where it will be cool and in the low 70's forever and then, wham! The temps shoot up 15-20 degrees in one morning and everyone wilts. It was interesting to see how people around here dress for heat they are not prepared for. Lots of white, white limbs and an interesting array of summer clothes. One woman looked like a street walker (she might have been, I didn't ask.) I was pretty certain I saw a teenage boy in a skirt. And then, at the grocery store, I was walking past a display of signs, the one I focused on said, "Dog On Premises". Then I turned my head and there was a dog, right there at my feet in the store! This is not a common sight at Fred Meyer. The lady walking behind him said he couldn't take the heat in her car. I asked if the store allowed it and she said they would tolerate it for a few minutes. So, off goes this dog wandering the aisles, no leash. Hmmm. I think the heat makes people a little nuts - at least here on the OR coast.

So, now, we have the equivalent of a hotel room-like atmosphere in my own private bedroom. I get to freeze just like I do in Portland. Why is my side of the bed always nearest the air conditioner?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fraise Fatigue

I have had this title in my head for a week now. Our two strawberry pots on our deck have been flourishing, rewarding us with ripe strawberries not once but twice a day. My daughter likes to go out in the morning, basket in hand, and pick the best ones. Later, before dinner, she heads out, usually with Chad, and finds more that have ripened in the heat. Yes, we are actually having a summer now, after a cold and foggy June. What a great feeling to wear summer clothes around the house and be too warm. Evenings, when we walk, I still wear a sweatshirt but I don't have to wear my winter parka anymore. It was getting embarrassing in June, the sun shining but there I was, freezing in my parka during our after-dinner walks. Anyway, I digress ...

The strawberries, yes (fraise, in French). Having strawberries means you have to prepare them because you do, after all, have to eat them. Every day, I have been preparing strawberries. At first, we bought those sponge cake cups at the store to eat them on. But they have changed the sponge cakes - they are now Twinkies without the cream (Hostess is the only brand that makes these cakes, at least here in our stores.) Ugh. We are not a Hostess family. So I made our favorite pound cake, a recipe from my first Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that a kind boss of mine gave me back when I turned 21. He liked to cook and was always telling me recipes that I would scribble down on scratch paper. I still have some of those scraps in my recipe box. Anyway, the pound cake lasted 3 days, slicing it thin and only having it after dinner (it's pretty rich). No whipped cream, just cake, strawberries and, for some of our family, milk poured in around the cake in a bowl. Delicious. But now the cake is gone. And there are still strawberries ripening daily. The boys and I like to eat them plain, on their own. But my husband will only eat them cut up, smashed with sugar and on top of something cake-like. So now, I have to make something else. Shortcake seems the likely suspect but I've not had very good luck with shortcake. Decisions, decisions.

Don't get me wrong. I am thankful we have been blessed with strawberries. Growing up in California, it wasn't summer if there weren't strawberries bought at one of the many local farms around our town. As I got older, I saw a lot of those farms get plowed under and turned into buildings and parking lots. But there was always a place to buy strawberries. When we moved here to Oregon, we discovered Oregon berries, available for a very short time. They are smaller but really good. I like them better than the huge berries you buy shipped up here from CA. It's just that I have never, ever prepared so many strawberries in one summer in my life.

I think it was the way our summer of berries began that led to my early fatigue. The day before the 4th of July, Todd spotted big, beautiful strawberries at the grocery store and couldn't resist. We here on the coast don't often get terrific berries at the stores, I don't know what happens to them between their place of origin and here but this was a rare find. He bought 6 quarts (I think that was the size) and announced we were going to make jam. He filled the sink with water and berries and I stood there for 2 hours, rinsing, hulling and slicing strawberries. He and the kids did the jam part. I was exhausted. I never wanted to see another berry again after that. And then our plants on the deck began to ripen. And ripen. And ripen.

So, that's my story. I love how much fun Carmen is having, being the official strawberry picker. I took her photo with her basket. Funny thing is, she won't eat them. She tried one and it was too "stingy". Go figure. She likes the cake, but without strawberries. I guess you could say she has fear of fraise.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeing (Simply) Red, Leo and Thunder

The Coincidence Queen strikes again (I'm sorry, I can't help myself.)

Last night, I was listening to a local radio station that plays 80's music from 6 pm-midnight on Saturday. I love 80's music so I was listening with my oldest son. Lately, he's been asking me who the singers are whenever I listen to the radio. Anyway, on this Saturday 80's program, they feature something called Back-To-Back, where they play 3 songs in a row and the listener is to try and guess the name of the song and the singer/group. The songs are often something that wasn't played a lot so this can be a challenge. And they don't tell you the answers until all 3 songs have been played. Song #1: I couldn't think of the singer's name but I knew the song. Song #2: I guessed the group Simply Red but didn't know the title. Song #3 was unremarkable and I didn't have a clue. Then they gave the answers. Song #1 was a surprise (it was U2). Song #2 was a group I had never heard of. Song #3 - you guessed it - the group Simply Red. Is that weird or what? I guessed the name of the group during the 2nd song and it turned out to be the group for the 3rd song! Weird. So today, I turned on the radio (to a different local station) and it was just finishing up a song. The very next song was Simply Red (I Keep Holding On)! I shouted to my son, "Hey, Chad, this is Simply Red, you know, the group from last night!" He just rolled his eyes and shook his head. He's used to his eccentric mother getting excited about obscure things.

On to more important things. Like fish. Todd was not content with just Chad's fish in Todd's new tank. He bought a few more. One, a butterfly fish, he allowed me to help with naming: I said "Flutter" so he changed it to "Flutterbudget" after the nickname Pa gave to Laura Ingalls when she was a tyke. Alec, for reasons unknown I think even to himself, decided he just had to have a lionhead goldfish. Named Leo. (A $7 goldfish - yikes!) He put it in with his female betta. Within a few hours, she nipped a hole in the new guy's tail. Out she went, banished to her former and much smaller home. Leo 1, betta 0. (Her name escapes me at the moment - we are so overrun with fish there's NO WAY I can remember who is who.) Leo appears to have a grin when you look at him just right - I think he's feeling smug 'cause he's got the place to himself now.

Ever heard of MaryJanesFarm magazine? It's really cool. It's for chic farmgirls, in the city or country. Or for those of us who aspire to be farmgirl-like but don't have a clue and hate to get our nails dirty. I just subscribed mainly because of an amazing biscuit recipe in it. My husband declared they were the best biscuits I had ever made. If you knew my miserable history with biscuit making (no Bisquick here folks), you'd understand just how awesome it felt to hear him make that statement. Let me know if you are interested - there's nothing in it for me, I'm just excited about it and want to spread the joy.

I must go - my oldest son is asleep on the couch because Alec's new pump in Leo's tank is too loud for Chad to sleep in the same room with. But we can't let Chad continue to sleep in the livingroom. Maybe we could set him up with a sleeping bag in the dining room. Or pitch a tent on the deck - oh, wait, it's raining. We had a remarkable day of thunder and lightning today. It went from about 4:00 a.m. until nearly lunchtime, I think. Just yesterday, we went for a walk in the warmth of the sun and stopped to talk to the owner of a beautiful hidden garden in our neighborhood. We both agreed that July is the time of year when you could almost count on sunny weather here. Apparently, we were wrong.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Because We Don't Have Enough Fish Tanks

My husband has been eyeing a rather large fish tank at our local pet store for the past month or so. I was not convinced that we needed more fish in our home at this time. But then there was Father's Day and I said he could get the tank as his gift. The next time we went to the pet store, that particular tank was gone. Ever so accommodating, the store had other tanks to choose from. We decided to wait.

Late last night, I heard a noise down the hall so I went to investigate. As usual, Todd was working, which is the only time I hear strange noises. My oldest son was still awake because of the activity going on across the street. It seems that some older teens decided to pour some gasoline in the middle of the street and set in on fire. My son watched it all from his window (he has the top bunk). They were leaving by the time I looked out. We live in a quiet neighborhood, things like this don't usually happen. Calling the police would have been pointless because we think one of the kids was a neighbor's son and his father IS a cop. So we let it lie. The kids left and all was quiet. Then my son pointed his flashlight at his fish tank and said it was leaking. Sure enough, it was. Water was seeping slowly out from the bottom. Great. Why do these things happen at 11:30 pm, while Todd is away?! I put a towel around it and said we'd deal with it tomorrow. Just as I was closing Chad's door, I heard the front door open (always a startling sound late at night). ICU was closed (meaning no patients) and Todd had spent 5 hours working in the ER, then he was sent home to be on-call. By now, I was wide awake and figured it was useless to try to sleep. But I did, after everyone else went to sleep.

Next day, we decided now was a good time to get Todd's new fish tank. We have to put Chad's fish somewhere while Todd repairs Chad's tank. So, of course, it made sense to buy a 26 gal. tank to put in the living room (um, o.k.) It's big. Chad's enormous plecostomus(?) (a ground feeding fish) is dwarfed by the size of this tank. Tonight will be the first time I will sleep (alone) with this new noise (the filter, pump, etc.) just down the hall in the living room. I don't know if it will lull me to sleep or not - I hope so. When Chad's tank is repaired, we'll have to buy new fish for the new tank. I just hope I don't have nightmares about Chad's huge pleco jumping out of the tank and swishing down the hall - that thing scares me. A blog friend had fish jump out of her tank once, huge fish. (If you read this, you'll know who you are.)

The good news is that I refuse to accept responsibility for any maintenance of any of the fish tanks. All I do is feed Carmen's guppies. All the cleaning, etc., is left up to the guys. Chad and/or Todd maintain Carmen's tank. So, I suppose, if all I have to put up with is a little water noise, it's not so bad. Sounds kind of like a fountain in a pond. I can hear it from in here (where the computer is) but the house and neighborhood are pretty quiet right now. The tank looks nice in the living room, I must admit.

But where will it end? How much is enough when it comes to fish? Carmen has been talking about wanting a betta. Alec, who has a betta, wants to get a tank like Chad's. But first, Alec wants to build his own jelly fish tank. Todd is contemplating breeding his male and female bettas. Me? I just want a quiet life ...