Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reader's Digest Condensed Version

In case you haven't gotten to Bowie to see Wonka yet, this is what you missed:

That's from the matinee show, the evening performance was even better.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Kevin got a hold of my phone camera again

He took about 80 pictures this morning with my phone and these are some of the more interesting images I found when I got my phone back.

I think he needs his own camera!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Passing of Time

A couple weeks ago my Kodak digital point & shoot camera died. I can't stand to be without a easy camera to use. I like having my big Nikon DSLR, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't fit in my purse or back pocket.

So I bought a Nikon S560. It's a middle-of-the-line 10 megapixel camera (but I never set it that high. I figure: A. I hardly ever need to make any prints that big; and 2. I can get twice as many pictures on a memory card in the 5 megapixel mode). It's got a lot of cool features I haven't learned how to do yet, but the thing I don't like about the Nikon P&S cameras is there is no auto-rotate feature when you take verticals like the Kodaks did. Blah. You have to turn the camera side ways to look at the portraits. Blah!

I've written this before: I like time-lapse photography, have ever since those films in science class back in elementary school. Last night I found out this new camera has a time-lapse movie mode. Way cool! This what it captured this morning from my office window. Until the battery died, that is. I will definitely have to play with this feature more.

This little movie was done by taking a picture every 30 seconds.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let There Be Light

I'm tired.

Last week I was asked if I'd run a spotlight for the Willy Wonka production. So I said I would. This week is tech week, the last week before opening where all the lighting, set, and prop issues are worked out. I've been attending mandatory rehearsals instead of relaxing at home watching the Bachelorette or some other silly summer TV show. Did I miss Better Off Ted last night or is that on tonight? Better check the DVR.

The balcony where the spotlights are is about two feet deep and maybe seven feet long and is accessible only by a rickety ladder. There are three lights and three of us operators crammed up there in the tiny space. Since the ladder will be removed during the performances, we're kinda stuck up there for the duration. Don't forget the hot air spewing out when the bulbs are on.

Despite the conditions, I'm having fun.

Last night we got headsets from the sound guy so we can talk with the director and other techies. I feel like Han Solo in Star Wars where he is in the Falcon shooting at Imperial fighters, except I'm shooting actors instead.

Performances will be at 2:00 and 8:00 on Saturday, and 2:00 on Sunday this weekend, and 8:00 on Friday, and 2:00 on Saturday and Sunday next weekend. My darling Fern will be starring in the role of Mrs. Bucket in the Saturday shows this weekend and I'm not sure which ones next weekend. 3120 Belair Dr, Bowie, MD, 20715.

Hope to see you there, you can wave to me in the balcony.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Just in...

I'm back from taking my kids to the doctor for their 13,900- and 16,700-mile check-ups. The verdict: they are skinny. She's in the 49th percentile for weight, he's in the 7th. For height, she's in the 67th percentile at 5'4", he's in 85th at 6 feet.

You can now return to your regularly scheduled blog reading.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Kevin's Favorite Place

Three of us made it back from Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg on Friday.

Instead of boring you with the details, you'll have to vote in the poll over there about our adventure.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Report on the New Washer

The new washer was delivered Saturday morning and the first load I ran was a load of towels. When the cycle was done, I was genuinely surprised with how "dry" the towels were when they came out. The front-load washers really do spin out a lot more water than top-load units.

The cycles on the front-load machines take a lot longer than in the top-loaders but for some reason the next several loads were taking 10 to 30 minutes longer than the initial time displayed on the front panel. These subsequent loads were also not as dry as the first one. I was confused and concerned. I had to use the 'drain and spin' feature to get the clothes dry enough to put in the dryer.

Finally, after several loads, I read the troubleshooting part of the manual and found out if the drain hose is pushed too far down the drain, it'll cause a vacuum and the washer will think it can't drain the water properly, thus not spinning fast enough. Sure enough, the installer guy installed the hose securely by pushing it down the drain much too far.

Fixed! I pulled it out a bit and every load after that has spun out sufficiently.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In the long run, folks are gonna suffer

I am sad for my daughter and her friends.
I'm sad for all the kids going to schools in districts where they've eliminated Home Economics because of budget constraints.

Getting back to natural is a big new craze in the food industry. A lot of people have books out now about how bad things are, how the hormones injected into cattle are making kids hit puberty at younger ages, how folks are consuming 300 to 500 more calories per day than they were in the 1950's because of the way foods are processed, how convenience foods are the death of us all.

I'm not disputing any of these things. I haven't read the books, I don't have the facts. I just hear things.

What troubles me is there seems to be no education for today's youth in the home sciences. I've complained before that at my daughter's school, she got one quarter, every-other day of health education. She received no real substantial nutritional information, nothing that'll stick with her. The nutrition lesson may have been: here's a food pyramid. I am constantly reminding her she needs protein and vegetables to go with those [fill in a starchy food/snacks here].

I don't know how long it's been since they've quit teaching home-ec in school, but I suspect those girls are now raising kids of their own. Or trying to. Do they know how to cook? Did their moms teach them? Are their kids overweight because they eat a lot of fast food? Would the obesity rates in kids coincide with the removal of home-ec in our schools? I'm sure there is going to be a long-term connection.

What's going to happen when there are several generations of people who grow up without a home-ec education? Will they even put kitchens in houses in the future? OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. I'm giving the school systems some of the blame for not providing the basic knowledge of good nutrition, cooking and self-sufficient survival to our youth.

Even if the food industry is revitalized, I still fear for the future, fresh, hormone-free food will be abundant, but no one will be able to prepare it.


The incident that spurred this rant was an attempted pineapple upside-down cake. Fern and her friend wanted to make a cake over the weekend. They found a recipe in one of those church collection cookbooks, recipes from little old church ladies who assume you know what they mean so the directions are a bit abbreviated.

They went something like this:
Melt the butter and the brown sugar in the skillet. Arrange the pineapple rings in the skillet. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks and slowly add the sugar, then the pineapple juice. Add the flour mixture. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Pour batter over pineapple slices and bake.... It made sense to me. However,

I got called into the kitchen when the girls were complaining the batter was too runny and they didn't know what to do. They also thought they had to transfer it all to a cake pan. It was a mess.

I got the sugar/butter stuff back in the skillet and remelted it and added the pineapple slices back in. I remade the batter from scratch since I couldn't use what the girls had done. I called them back when I got to the part about folding the beaten whites into the batter. Fern's friend was amazed at the sight, she'd never seen, or heard of beaten egg whites. How long did that take? Only about a minute. Wow

I demonstrated the art of "folding" and had her try too. I reviewed the recipe and explained the steps. The cake turned out well despite its shaky start. I think the girls just read the ingredient list and dumped them in a bowl. I learned to cook basic family meals from my mother, but I learned skills at school. Does anyone else notice this gaping whole? I'll teach what I can to my own children, if they are willing to learn. (Learning from one's parent versus an outside teacher is a whole other blog topic...)

Here is a similar recipe I found on the web with better instructions.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 20-ounce can of pineapple slices, drained, reserving 5 tablespoons juice
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and pecans; stir well to thoroughly combine, then turn off the heat -- don't cook it. Arrange 8 pineapple slices in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture (your 9-inch skillet should accommodate 8 slices without overlapping). Set the skillet aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at medium speed until they are thick and lemon colored. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture, and stir in the reserved pineapple juice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour or spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices.

Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet for 30 minutes; then invert it onto a serving plate. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I made this for a block exchange at my quilt guild.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Going for Gold

It seems they, the big bad big brother "they," boogered up our computers so we can't upload images from cameras any more.

I can't post pictures from the Maryland State Special Olympic Games while here at work. You'll just have to close your eyes and imagine it. Hey!! [tap-tap-tap] not now! open your eyes, finish reading first. sheesh. I'll try to publish photos between kid events later.


Friday after school Kevin and I went up to Towson for the Games. Somebody at school put him on the bus when they weren't supposed to, so I had to meet the bus at the community center and ultimately, we were 45 minutes late. [image of angry mom, arms crossed, tapping foot]

We moved into our dorm room and joined the team for dinner. It was raining so the opening ceremonies were held inside. They didn't do the parade of nations counties so no hankies were needed. All the contingents were seated in large sections of the floor and spectators were in the stands. Since I had a chaperon credential I stayed with Kevin and the team the whole time. [panorama image of the Towson Center from the floor, people, athletes, coaches, police officers everywhere with Kimmy Misner and Joe Flacco on the dias]

The program lasted over two hours. I wanted to go to bed. There were hundreds and hundreds of athletes and coaches trying to get back to the dorms on the buses so Kevin and I walked. I told our coaches my plans. One was worried, it's night, it's far, do you know the way... I said, I have a map and a degree in geography, I'll be fine. The other coach laughed. Kevin and I made it back probably a full 10 minutes before the others and that's only because Kevin walks slower than I do.


I didn't sleep well, too cold. I don't mind a cool room, but I counter that with a heavy blanket, except I didn't have a heavy blanket.

Kevin and I got up to join the team for breakfast. After breakfast it was on to the pool. There is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait time with this sort of event. The swimmers generally just stay in the team circle until it's time to be staged. This was our first time at States so I had to learn the routines and keep track of The Boy. He was swimming in event #62 25M Free. Although the listings all said 25M Free, I think the pool was only 25 yards long. Oh well. Anyway, right before he was to be staged, Kevin decided to explore. He wanted to watch the races. We finally found him.

I was impressed with the way the events were run. The small qualifier meets we'd been to before were not near this organized. The swimmers were called up to pre-staging by event numbers. They sat in rows by their lane number. As the front row was escorted into staging, the other groups moved up a row of chairs. [image of Kevin waiting with his fellow swimmers]

Eventually, each heat group was taken into the next room, row by row, then to the pool deck. There were places for five heats on the deck. I stayed with Kevin the whole time from pre-staging until his group was escorted onto the deck, then I went to sit in the stands to watch. [image of Kevin ready to swim or maybe an image of his heat in queue on the deck]

He swam well, really used his arms. The qualifying times of his competitors were all within 4 seconds, I thought he might have a chance to win. I reminded him the whole time waiting in staging, long arms, reach... Sometimes he gets lazy and doggy-paddles. Coming down the stretch I guessed Kevin was going to finish 5th or 6th, it was a tight race. He got to the end and forgot to touch the wall and when he did, it was a 7th place finish. [image of a line of eight wet towel-draped swimmers on the medal stands, Kevin on the far right, receiving ribbons and medals for their accomplishments]

Kevin didn't have anymore events for the day so I took him down to the Baltimore Zoo. I invited Dan to drive up to join us and he did. [arty image of elephant trunk and underwater image of swimming polar bear]

Something triggered in Kevin's brain and he didn't want to go back to Towson after the zoo. We tried to distract him with a trip to the mall where we bought some shorts for him and two cool deck chairs. He still didn't want to go anywhere but home.

So Dan took him home.

I drove back to Towson and cleared out the room and drove back to Bowie. I was heart broken, sad because Kevin loves to swim but he didn't want to swim any more.

Saturday night at home was fine, I don't remember much. Kevin was fine unless he was asked about swimming, NO Swimming!. I did ask him if he wanted Five Guys for lunch tomorrow.

I couldn't do laundry since the washer was dead. The new one is being delivered Saturday. The first load will be towels. I think I can last that long with what we have now. I'm trying not to need to go to the laundromat. We have a busy week, there's no room in the schedule for a trip there.


I woke up at 5:30 ahead of my alarm. Dan, Kevin and I were in the car back to Towson by 6:15. At that point all Kevin knew was if he wanted Five Guys for lunch, he had to get in the car. At some point in the ride Dan asked me what Kevin had that day, and all I said was "50 Free and 25 Back." Kevin went ballistic again: "NO Swimming!" but I kept driving.

When we got to the university we found the team in the dining hall for breakfast. Did I mention how bad the food was? Horrible. Catered by the same company for years. They oughtta be fired. We ate on the way up. The coaches were so glad to see Kevin'd come back. Kevin's mood was better when he saw them, too.

The 50 Freestyle was the second race of the day after #144, the 1500 Free. Kevin's event heat was #163 so we waited in staging for a long time. I kept coaching him over and over: long arms, touch the wall, swim back. He's forgotten to turn and swim back right away in qualifiers before.

I joined Dan in the stands when Kevin's group was escorted to the pool deck. He'd been watching the women's heats of the 50 free. They run the heats slowest to fastest putting swimmers in groups so they have no more than a 15% difference in qualifying times. I had just missed the fastest woman's heat. Dan told me the woman who won finished in 27-point-something seconds, impressive. I looked up on Towson's Pool Record board, the record for the 50 free was 22-point-something seconds. Kinda makes the the SO win even more impressive.

Kevin swam brilliantly, touched the wall and remembered to come back. His qualifying time was 1:40, he finished in 1:11 winning first by 17 seconds. He even would have won the next heat with that time. [image of the field with Kevin in a big lead] [movie of the medal ceremony with Kevin, blue towel wrapped around his legs, in the center on the top step fidgeting until his name is called]

We got a short break before we were back in staging again for the 25 back. This time I coached him "head back long arms." This time the race was tight, maybe he was second, maybe he was third, couldn't tell. This time he turned over too much to touch the wall at the end. "Shoulder past vertical" was the DQ explanation. Didn't matter much. Kevin stood on the medal stands just like before with a big smile on his face. To him, life is good, gold or not, and better with a Five Guys burger for lunch.


Monday, June 08, 2009

The Bad News

The new washer won't get delivered until Saturday.

Oh, darn, I can't do laundry this week at all.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Good News

Well, the good news is: I got a load of underwear done before the washer died.


Friday, June 05, 2009

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. I think.

I'm trying to remember what I've forgotten.

I'm picking Kevin up after school today to take him to Towson for the Maryland state Special Olympic summer games. He will be swimming in three events. The athletes get to stay in the dorms on campus, but since this is the first year Kevin will be going to states, the coaches wanted me to stay with him. So, I'm going too.

I was pretty sure I'd packed all I need and all Kevin needs. Then, on the way to work this morning I remembered I didn't put his iPod in the car. Charger, yes; iPod, no.

What else have I forgotten?

I should probably pack tissues, I know the opening ceremony will make my eyes get damp.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wheel Results

Last night was my last ceramics class of the session. I have clay left over so I really want to take another series, but I have to see how the summer plays out to see if it'll fit into the schedule.

To help pay for the glaze and gas to fire the pieces, the arts center charges 2¢ per cubic inch for your high-fired glazed pieces. Fair enough. For bowls and all things round, you have to resurrect your memory of the formula for volume of a cylinder: πr²h

These are seven of the nine pieces I picked up. One bowl is in the dishwasher and the other item is a pinch pot Kevin made and I forgot to collect it for the picture. The total for the nine was about 500 inches³ for $10. I only had a $20 and eight $1s. The guy at the desk took the $8. He didn't ask for it, but I'll have to remember to give them $2 next time I'm in.

Overall I had a good time in class. I've taken the stance to try to be patient and just enjoy, not to worry about not being able to create every piece perfectly.

Centering the clay is the hardest part, it takes firm hands and leverage. I think one of problems I've been having was I was trying to center hunks of clay which were too large for me to handle before my skills were ready. I was able to work with smaller hunks towards the end, but that doesn't help create larger pieces.

The other step I had trouble with was pulling up the sides without pulling the piece out of balance. I would try to pull too much too quickly and the thin area wouldn't be able to support the thick walls above. I was able to create a decent cylinder last night that was about 7" high after more practice. I hope it will be a nice mug when it's done. Even though the class series is over I'll be able to go back in and finish the pieces later.

Another thing that is hard to get used to is how much the clay shrinks in the firings. That 7" mug will end up between 4 and 5" high, the cups in the picture above started out over 4" tall and now they are pretty small for tea or coffee.

When I brought home the box of pieces from the last firing, Dan wondered about where it all would go, our cabinets are full enough. I bet my mom would love to have some of my pieces. Anyone else?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mobile Fraternity

I was first introduced to the mobile fraternity when I was in college. A friend of the husband-to-be of a friend drove a Saab. The weekend of the wedding I had flown in and didn't have a car so I rode with other folks in the bridal party to all the events. Whenever I rode with Brian, I noticed he'd blink his lights at other Saabs. It was just something Saab drivers did.

Years later Dan, the kids and I were vacationing in Michigan's UP. Many roads up there are two lanes and we often fell in line behind motorcycles. Mile after mile we noticed the bikers in front of us would wave at passing bikes, falling into two clubs: the two-finger down-low wave club or the open-hand mid-high-five club. However they waved at each other, they always waved.

How many blue Toyota Priuses do you see in a day or silver mini-vans? There are lots, hardly stand-outs on the roads. Now I drive a unique car, an orange Honda Fit. There are not many out there. Honda changed the color of the orange they use for Fits from a pinky-mangoey orange to a bronzey-pumpkiny orange on their '09 models, making the cars in my color a finite group. In Bowie I've only seen two other cars like mine, we're easy to spot and we wave at each other.

Last week I was driving home on Route 50 and noticed I was following me. There was another orange Fit in my mirror. It didn't have a front tag so I knew it wasn't one of my local friends (Maryland has front and back tags). I was about to exit so it easily caught up and as it passed me, I could see these folks from North Carolina were also happy to meet another driver in the club as we exchanged waves.

Saturday I went to the Arts Center to work in the ceramics studio. I pulled in to the parking lot, and what to my wandering eyes should appear: another member of the club! Turns out, my fellow club member was also in the ceramics studio and I got to meet her.

Do you belong to a club where you don't personally know the other members?