Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fishing with Grandpa Ed

This is Grandpa Ed, fishing for catfish on the Snake River. He likes to fish. "Want to go catfishing tomorrow?" he boomed to loving husband, so off they went the next day with my dad, the lovely ladies and one fine young gent.

I was awed by my Grandpa Ed when I was little. He's very very tall and gruff and loud and kind to us girls all at the same time. When we were little we adored him and we were a little afraid of him at the same time. Now we just adore him. He's married to Grandma Ruby who is soft and sweet and very talented. Grandpa Ed hasn't been able to hear well for as long as I can remember. My lovely lady with autism absolutely adores him because he's not always trying to talk to her. She doesn't like to fish, but she likes to go along on the catfishing trips with Grandpa Ed. She had a conversation with him about dogs, one of her current obsessions. If you meet her, she'll ask you, "Do you like big dogs or little dogs?" then she'll inform you "I like little dogs because they're cute." Most of us humor her by agreeing that yes, indeed, little dogs are cute. Not Grandpa Ed. "I can't stand little dogs. Too yappy!" he told her. And that was that. She loved it.

"Likes" to fish is a gross understatement. "Lives" might be a more appropriate substitute. On their honeymoon, Grandpa Ed bought Grandma Ruby a bunch of peaches and went fishing with a friend, leaving her to can all of the peaches. Grandma always laughs a little when she tells the story. Grandpa doesn't like that story all too much. Maybe if he'd known he'd be hearing about it for the rest of his life he'd have stayed and helped can peaches.

Naturally when he heard we were all going fishing at the lake, he wanted to come along too. Four generations of fisherfolk at the lake. Loving husband is just an in-law, but he had to fill in for our generation, because my Busy Farm sis and I were too busy taking pictures. Plus we don't have our fishing licenses, and since my dad owns a sporting goods store it wouldn't be such good form for his daughters to be fishing without licenses. It's a good excuse, anyway, gets us off the hook. (Get it? Off the hook? Heh, heh. Humor me with a little courtesy laugh at least.)

Grandpa Ed is a great fisher-with-kids. Soon as he'd hooked a fish he'd pass the pole to one of the youngest generation so that they could catch a fish. "Got one!" he'd holler. "C'mon and get it, now." With the Poohsticks five and the Busy Farm eight, there were plenty of young ladies and gents ready to grab a pole. He'd help them get the fish off the hook, bait it up and toss it out again so that they could catch another. With all the kids fishing, and Grandpa Ed and Grandpa Dennis and loving husband baiting and casting, we caught 61 fish that afternoon. "If anyone asks," my dad reminds the kids,"You've only caught five fish." The next day a friendly lady asked the kids, "Did you catch any fish?" "I caught six!" pipes up one little gent. "I caught seven!" chirps a little lady. I think they just miscounted, myself.

Some day these kids are going to look back and remember fishing on this sunny day at the beautiful lake with their great-grandpa, Grandpa Ed. Life is good.

I'm Nice

Not only do I look nice (here), I am nice. In cyberspace, at least. Sara at The Learning Umbrella and Brit at We'd Rather Be Outside! both nominated me for this pretty Nice Matters Award. A lovely sentiment from two lovely women. Nina at Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea, one of the nicest mommies in blogworld, also gave me a nod. Check out their blogs, will ya? Not only are they nice, they do cool stuff with their kids.

Now the challenge. I'm supposed to nominate five nice people. I don't even know five nice people. Just kidding. I know waaaaaaay more than five nice people, and I love you all.


Well, that's as far as I've gotten. I'm stumped. It's not nice to leave anyone out, is it?

But then wouldn't be nice to take up ALL of the nice people, because then who would the rest of you nominate? I'll just choose 5 folks off the top of my head to put on the list. If you're not on it it's because I don't really like you all that much anyway. Er.....try again. If you're not on it, know that I still think you're cool and nice.

Julie R. at A Day in the Life. You're adorable. You always have something nice and supportive to say, and you leave the sweetest comments on my blog.

Alice at Elias in PA. Alice gardens, hikes, and is nice. She's one of those people who seems to be always cheerful and kind. (I know you're going to say "No I'm not!" but you are, at least in cyberspace. So there. No arguing.) Plus she has really cute kids.

Dawn at Follow Me. I love Dawn. I still have a beautiful card on the wall above my sewing table that Dawn sent me a long time ago when I was having a hard time. Dawn's kids like to fish and hike just like mine.

Da5id at Philosophical Musings. He's nice in real life. He's helpful and quiet and he does magic tricks for my kids, who love him. Plus I want to see if he'll put a pink flowery blog award on his blog. I'm betting not. Not because it's pink and flowery, I think he'd do pink and flowery, but a blog award for being nice....maybe not so much his thing. I dare you, David.

I'm out of time. My kids need to eat dinner, and since I'm such a nice mom I guess I'll go ahead and feed them tonight. If you have a blog and you're reading this, it's really you I was going to nominate in this fifth spot. You know who you are.

Sheesh, now I can't write nasty mean things about anyone or you'll all think to yourselves, "Gosh, she's not so nice after all." What to do, what to do?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fishin' with Grandpa

Pictures of last year's trip here. And pictures from the year before here.

The weather was perfect, the fishing was fine, the company was great.

And it's good to be back home. More to come, but first I have to get caught up on the laundry.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gone fishin'

The Organized Student

The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond, by Donna Goldberg with Jennifer Zwiebel.

I read the description of The Organized Student in the Chinaberry catalog and was instantly intrigued. Part of the review reads: "Each chapter has an assessment test with pointed questions that will help parents root out the problems unique to their child. It is definitely not a quick fix, and, as the author notes, 'learning to be organized is a process,' but this initial investment of time will bring a big payoff in the end." (The full Chinaberry review here.) The book was one of the three items on my Chinaberry wish list that made the cut, and it came in the mail a week later.

One of my biggest concerns about lovely lady's return to high school has been organization. My lovely creative out-of-the-box dreamer is not a linear thinker, and she struggles with organizing herself and her time, so a book promising an organizing system that will help students climb out of a mire of disorganization is worth a try. I started reading..."That's our kid!" I jokingly told loving husband. Under the loving guidance and organization of her elementary school teachers, lovely lady was able to rely on the teachers' systems to keep her on track; once she hit middle school she was expected to know how to manage all of her papers, planners, study time, expectations from different teachers, and she fell apart. In sixth grade, lovely lady would, under strict supervision by the homework police (me), slave over her homework, checked and double-checked by loving husband or myself...and still constantly bring home reports of missing work. Goldberg, a professional student organizational consultant, knows right where the missing work went: In the bottom of the backpack, the locker, under the bed, jammed in a desk drawer, used for scratch paper, recycled by mistake.

The book is simple, straighforward, quick to read and easy to use. Using Goldberg's techniques, parents help their high school and middle school students to identify problem areas and start from scratch to create systems that will keep them from losing important papers and forgetting study time. Goldberg discusses locker organization, backpacks, creating an effective study space at home, how to deal with the mountains of school papers, using planners, and teaching effective time management. It's definitely a step-by-step process, requiring dedicated time and energy, as well as some money for organizing tools like desk trays and locker shelves, but the pay-off will be worth it.

In addition to practical organizing tips, Goldberg offers tips and ideas for dealing with the disorganized students themselves. She's got a great deal of empathy for the students and the challenges they face, and emphasizes the importance of giving them a voice and allowing them to find their own solutions as much as possible so that they've got a greater investment in making their systems work.

Lovely lady and I have gotten a head start by organizing her desk, and we're looking forward to the next step: We're off to school today to pick up her papers, and to look at her locker so that she can decide how she'd like it organized and decorated.

Read an excerpt here, and more information about this book at

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

There Was a Child

THERE was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.


The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,

The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,

The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

~From "There was a Child went Forth," Walt Whitman.
Take ten minutes to read the full poem here. Time well spent for a bit of peace and beauty.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

County Fair

Corn dogs and ice cream and cotton candy. Monster trucks, pony rides, a clown show. A giant slide, the merry-go-round, tiny firetrucks, and spinning bears.

It's hot, dusty, noisy, crowded. We all had a ball.

Life is good.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blue, Blue, my world is blue....

...and red and white too.

Shameless bragging. If you can't stand that stuff, skip this post.

Lovely young artist, 14, entered three pieces of art in the Youth Art division at the Lane County Fair.

First place, Watercolor, ages 12-15. A nature-day watercolor painting of our favorite poohsticks bridge, the Amphitheater Bridge at Alton Baker Park. (A couple photos of her working on this painting in this post.)

First place, Acrylics and oils, ages 12-15. And a $25.oo Jorub Transport Award cash prize, first place in the Fine Art division. She decided she didn't like any of the paintings that she'd done well enough to enter them, so she sat down and painted this one in about an hour-and-a-half the day before we filled out the entry forms.

First place. Masks, ages 12-15.

Her lovely young sister took second place.

The fine young gents entered their masks as well. (Read about our mask study and project here and here.) They received a red ribbon (four-year-old gent) and a white ribbon (six-year-old gent), but I didn't get pictures because the ladies and gents were all anxious to scoot out of the art hall to go on the carnival rides. I suspect that the gents were marked down a little because their masks were so elaborate-- the other competitors had randomly glued sequins and feathers on mask-shaped paper. If that's the case, it's fine. I'm not complaining. I absolutely believe that children's art should be created by the children and not by their parents. If I didn't know that my kids spent several days making their masks as a school project, I'd think they looked a little too good to be true too. But who knows? Admittedly I'm biased because I love what my kids made.

The most exciting part for all of the kids was getting to see their art displayed in public. For about ten minutes. Then they were over it and ready to go whirl their little brains out on the rides. Life is good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What's that bug?

It's time for a new round of What's That Bug? I'll take Pond Bugs for $100, please!

We believe that the large green bug in the lower left corner of the photo is a Giant Water Bug. It's about as big around as my thumbnail, and a little longer. He and his brown water bug friend, upper right (you see both water bug and his or her reflection), either a younger bug or a slightly different variety, were captured on a pond outing with friends. Also known as "toe-biters," these predaceous bugs have been fascinating to watch. Discovering their name has motivated me to buy four-year-old gent some closed-toe pond shoes. They're called toe-biters for a reason.

We went pond-dipping with friends from swim lessons. The oldest boy is fascinated by bugs and a couple years older than six-year-old gent, making him a delightful new friend. Their mom is relaxed, funny, likes being outdoors and doesn't mind bugs, making her a delightful new friend as well.

Did I call them "predaceous?" It's fascinating to watch. Between the two giant water bugs and our new water scorpion, pictured below, the surface of our pond jar was littered with floating backswimmer carcasses. You can see a teeny water bug, bottom right. He's in grave grave danger. He doesn't seem to realize that over by the sticks his buddies have been disappearing one by one.

It looks as though both giant water bugs and water scorpions feast on their prey in a way that's very similar to spiders, injecting them with paralyzing venom that turns the bug insides into a delicious bug-bug soup.


The water scorpion:
He's sticking his bottom up to the pond surface to get some air.

I'd give him a name, but he's as long as my finger and has really long poky-looking legs, and he kind of gives me the creeps.

Kind of makes me not want to go wading. Ever again.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Brambly Hedge

The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge, Jill Barklem.


The reason I wanted to go through the Great Read-Alouds list: To discover new treasures. The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge is an absolute treasure. Reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, this series is a delight to read aloud, with charming and detailed illustrations. The collection as a single volume was not in at my branch library, but three of these wonderful stories were available, so we checked them out to read and fell in love. The stories are quiet and sweet, with an old-fashioned charm. The mice drink blackberry tea and roast crabapples and dance on the ice. My fine young gents were captivated. Six-year-old gent enjoyed poring over the details of the illustrations, and kept these books on the shelf by his bed for quite some time before reluctantly surrendering them so that the rest of us could read them too.

Summer Story.
It's a lovely warm summer, and there's a wedding in the air. Brambly Hedge prepares for the festivities, and celebrates the wedding on a raft.

Autumn Story.
The town is preparing their stores for winter-- picking berries, harvesting grain. Young Primrose dreams her way through the cornfield, meets some new friends, gets lost and then found.

Winter Story.
The snow falls on Brambly Hedge, and the mice celebrate winter by creating an ice ballroom and holding a Snow Ball.

Spring Story.
This story was not on the shelf, but I suspect that if I forget to look for it on our next visit, I'll be reminded by the gents.I can't wait to read it.

Visit the world of Brambly Hedge here to learn more about Brambly Hedge, author Jill Barklem, and how it all began. There are even activities for children in Wilfred's Playroom, with coloring sheets, videos to view, a nature book, and more!

If you have a little girl (or boy!) who likes Brambly Hedge stories and enjoys paper dolls, Victorian Mouse Paper Dolls are lovely and sweet. With flower names like Hollyhock, Columbine, and Pansy, the mouse sisters go on wonderful outings and adventures with lovely outfits for each. They were a favorite with one of the lovely ladies. As a matter of fact, she's still got them as a keepsake in an envelope in her closet, too dear to give up.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tuesday Ten: Where is it?

For those who've missed playing the Tuesday Ten lately, the real theme (thanks to Jammin' Josie) was supposed to be something else that I can't remember. I can barely remember what day it is lately, much less come up with a theme for a list of ten things, so there you have it. Instead, I think I'll try to help my board friend, Lisa.

Ten Places Lisa Might Find Her Daughter's Missing Gameboy

1. Between the seats of the car. My daughter's father just found her cell phone between his seat cushions. It's been missing for two years, and he looked between the seats twice. Hidden things like to play with our heads.

2. It's too late to look in the trash, but one of my fears is that whatever it is that I'm missing has fallen into the trash can and carried off by the trash guy. I know, that's helpful, eh?

3. The junk drawer. I'm pretty sure that lost things just know to head to the junk drawer.

4. In a boot. The chances of it falling into a boot are pretty slim, but a boot would make a dandy hiding place, wouldn't it? And I'm sure you've looked everywhere else.

5. The refrigerator. I absent-mindedly put things in the fridge all the time, like the phone or the cat.

Just kidding about the cat.

6. Behind and under. Aren't you surprised, once you finally move the bookcase or the dresser or the entertainment center, what's fallen back there? It's a treasure trove of lost things.

When I was a kid, my mom used to complain about how no one ever looked Under Things. You could hear the capital letters, Under Things, as though Under Things was a separate place.

7. Coat pockets, backpacks, purses, shopping bags. Anything that might have been used around the time the Gameboy disappeared.

8. The back yard.

9. Wait until you move. Someday, far in the future, you can call your daughter and tell her, "I finally found your Gameboy. It fell into this weird crevice in the closet wall." Her children will be delighted to see a antique toy.

10. Just stop looking. The Gameboy knows you're looking. Once you stop, it'll get bored with Hide-and-Seek and show up.

See, now that's helpful, isn't it?

Good luck, I hope you find it!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pond In a Jar

We've got a mini pond in our living room. All it takes is large clean glass jar, some pond water and bottom scoopings, and some pond critters. We've got tiny pond snails, water boatmen, a water scorpion, a snail leech, and a minnow.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

How to Make Excellent Chicken Soup....

...Or, Know Where Your Food Comes From

For a fresh chicken

1. Get up at 5 a.m. Or 5:15. Or hit the snooze until 5:30, which leaves no time for a shower. It's okay not to take a shower. You'll see why in a minute.

2. Drive around looking for coffee. Can you believe it? I couldn't find a single coffee place open at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. All of the coffee drinkers must be lazy slug-a-beds on Saturday mornings. I wouldn't know, since I'm usually asleep at this hour. Finally I happened upon Cal's Donuts, which doesn't officially open until 7 a.m., but the OPEN sign was lit and the coffee was ready. I got two donuts by mistake-- I meant to say a coffee and a buttermilk donut. My mouth said "Two coffees. No, two donuts. I only need one coffee." Rather than fuddle the old guy any more by changing my mind again, I just paid for the extra donut. Clearly I needed the coffee. Maybe I should have gotten two coffees after all.

3. Drive to the farm and spend the next six hours or so up to your elbows in chicken guts. This is why not to bother with the shower. You're just going to get bloody (and worse) anyway, so why waste your time? A helpful hint: Eat your donut as you drive. Even for the non-squeamish the sight of an upside-down chicken dripping blood into a tub can put you off your tasty donut.

Last week, in a rare moment of kindness, I offered to help my sister butcher her chickens. It's a hard job and no one else in her family will actually gut the chickens. I'm not squeamish and I like my sister, so along with her husband and the oldest kids (I guess they all like her too), I helped butcher chickens this morning. They cut off the heads and feet, and, eviscerated them. "Eviscerated" sounds so much better than "pulled the guts out," don't you think?

It takes a lot of work to get chickens from this:

To this:

To this:
(Don't worry, even though that's Hattie-the-chicken's photo above, and though I've often threatened to make Ethel-and-dumplings for dinner, my own feathered friends are safe and sound. For now.)

4. Come home with chickens that look a heck of a lot more like something you'd find wrapped in plastic at the grocery store than they did just a few hours ago when they were clucking around, or when you were trimming off the scent gland or chopping off the feet or eviscerating them.

5. Pop a chicken in the pot. Wash it and put it in a large pot, toss your favorite broth fixin's in with the chicken, and turn up the heat. Less than six hours from clucking and squawking to the pot. It doesn't get much fresher than this.

6. Take a quick shower. Don't look in the mirror, and try not to think about what might be on your face. But wash your hair twice just in case. By the time you're done with your shower the pot should be boiling and you're well on the way to Delicious Chicken Soup.

Delicious Chicken Soup

For the broth, you need....

A whole fresh chicken (A grocery store chicken will do if you're sqeamish or don't know a chicken farmer)
Optional: Apples, white wine, peppercorns, whole cloves

Pop a whole chicken in a large pot, including the neck. I cut up the chicken, just so that it will fit, but it's not necessary. Throw in some carrots, a quartered onion or two (peel and all), celery stalks (the ends or those pale center pieces will do just fine), a bay leaf, a couple apples (also quartered) and about half a cup of white wine if you've got some handy. Add a little salt if desired. Put a few whole cloves, whole peppercorns, and a sprinkle of oregano and basil into a tea ball and drop that in too. Add water until everything in the pot is just covered. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat to bring it down to a nice simmer.

After about 30-40 minutes of simmering, remove the chicken from the pot. Leave the neck in and leave the pot simmering on the stove. Let the chicken cool until you can handle it and pull the meat off the bones. (I'm always in a hurry, so I use tongs to pull off the meat while it's still hot.) Chop the cooked meat and save it in the fridge, then toss the bones back in the pot. Let the pot simmer on the stove for another hour or two, until you've got time to put a strainer or sieve on a large bowl and strain the veggies and such out of the broth.

Allow the broth to cool for about 20 minutes, then use a paper towel or a fat skimmer to get the grease off the top. If you don't need the broth right away, cover the bowl of broth and put it in the fridge until tomorrow-- you can easily skim the hardened fat right off the top. If you want clearer reduced chicken broth, strain the broth a few times through several layers of cheesecloth and boil it until it's reduced. I don't bother because the unfancy way looks kind of murky, but it only takes ten minutes to prepare, ten minutes to pull the meat off the bones, and a few miscellaneous minutes to strain it, then I put the broth in the fridge and clean up. It takes some cooking time, but for most of that time the broth is just simmering away while I do laundry or chat on the phone or watch mindless television.

(If the broth recipe seems familiar, it's because it's the one I use when I make Delicious Chicken Pie.)

From broth to soup....You need:

Chicken broth (Homemade or ~gasp!~ from the store)
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1-2 onions, chopped
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
Noodles (uncooked) or cooked rice
Diced cooked chicken
Parsley, chopped (optional)

Place your broth in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, potatoes, celery and bay leaf. (You may have to adjust the amounts of vegetables according to the amount of chicken broth you're using.) Simmer until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. If you're using noodles, bring it to a boil, add the noodles and cook until tender. Add the chopped chicken and simmer until the chicken is heated through. If you're using rice (we usually have leftover rice in the fridge), add the rice and chicken at the same time and simmer until heated. Add the parsley if you like parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a green salad and homemade buttermilk biscuits.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Young Readers Choice Award Winner

Part two of my library flyer reading challenge: The Pacific Northwest Library Association's Young Reader's Choice Award 2007 nominees in the junior (4th-6th grade) category, listed here. According to the The Young Reader's Choice Award website, book nominations are taken only from children, teachers, parents and librarians in the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Nominated titles are those published 3 years prior to the award year. Books are judged on popularity with readers, and only 4th to 12th graders residing in the Pacific Northwest are eligible to vote.

I appreciate that the books must have been published three years prior to the year of nomination for two reasons: First because it gives many children a chance to read and fall in love with the books; second for the more practical reason that if they're not brand new it's much easier to find the books on the shelf. I've read two titles on the list: Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy(Jenny Nimmo) and Peter and the Starcatchers(Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson), which I read aloud last fall (short review in this post).

Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliet.
Chasing Vermeer begins in fairly typical children's lit fashion when two kids, Calder and Petra, who don't quite fit in with the crowd, form a friendship. Suddenly they're swept up in a series of coincidences and a mystery that they must solve in order to help their favorite teacher. The story is entertaining and well-written, but what really makes this book is that it's also intelligent and thought-provoking. It encourages the reader to think about such issues as the nature of art, really looking at things versus seeing, fate and coincidence, and different ways of viewing and learning about the world. There's a secret code to decipher, information about the life and paintings of Johannes Vermeer, and a puzzle hidden in the pictures. Chasing Vermeer is a fun and smart adventure of a book.