Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Week Down . . . .

The first week of school is over, and the only thing remarkable about it was how utterly unremarkable it was. Notwithstanding the fact that Connor attended full-day preschool, I was a teary, strung-out ball of stress his kindergarten year. Fast forward to first grade: I breezed into the school on parent/teacher night, waving and yelling shout-outs to the other returning parents and smiling sympathetically at the newbies, feeling more than a little bit foolish about the pity party I'd thrown for myself the year before.

Okay, now fast forward to fourth grade: did I breeze into parent/teacher night this year? Noooooooo, because that would have involved ATTENDING parent/teacher night, which DID. NOT. HAPPEN. Justification #1: I was still sort of hobbling after the ankle sprain incident, and I didn't particularly feel like navigating the overly crowded halls that seem to be the hallmark (small - and bad - pun intended) of parent/teacher night. Justification #2: Parnell was in Dallas for a seminar that morning and afternoon and wanted to throw in a business dinner on top of that, to make the trip to and from Big D more worthwhile. Thus, I would be navigating the overly crowded halls sans Daddy. Man-to-man defense is always preferable to a zone in my book, but particularly so when just coming off of the injured reserve list.

Justification #3: We had a pretty good idea of who Connor's teacher would be, but even if they pulled a switcharoo on us (which they did, but we were totally okay with it - in fact, we would have been great either way, which is a testament to our wonderful elementary school staff), after a year as PTA president and a follow-up year as carnival chair, there wasn't a teacher or room assignment that would have thrown us.

Justification #4: Word on the street was that the aforesaid PTA had experienced "a shake-up and a blow-up" (in other words, the first PTA meeting of the year took place on a day of the week with a "y" in it) and was looking to repopulate its board. Um, not just no, but HEEEEEEEEEELL no. I can only be president of one organization at a time and still, you know, like, work, and parent, and sleep and stuff. Plus, I actually LIKE being president of Junior Woman's Club. I would rate my PTA experience as being slightly worse than having a colonoscopy simultaneously with a root canal.

Still, I was slightly worried that Connor would have other ideas, so I waited until we were through the first course of dinner at my parents' house (that was justification #5: hadn't seen the parental units in eons, plus going to their house got me my man-to-man defense, plus a bench!) before saying, "Oh-by-the-way-tonight-is-parent-teacher-night-and-we're-missing-it." Horribly underhanded, I know, but I was 75-80% sure that he would respond as he did:

"Well, what would be the point of going to THAT? It's not like I need an orientation to anything, and I don't mind bringing my school supplies the first day. Plus, they might try to sucker you into being PTA president or room mom or something, and we DO NOT want that. Really, I don't think you should go anywhere near that building until the end of the first six weeks."

Have I mentioned how much I love my incredibly insightful, practical nine year-old? As an aside, I should point out that Connor has been very supportive of my JWC over-involvement - well, that is, once he got over his initial shock: "Um, when you say president, you're talking about being a DEPARTMENT president again, right? You're not actually talking about being president of the ENTIRE CLUB?" Funny, those were his dad's exact words when I told him. Connor was equally supportive of me when I was PTA prez, but he is genuinely concerned about me becoming overextended . . . because he worries that my overextension could compromise my ability to cater to his every whim. Didn't want you to think the kid is a saint - he IS incredibly insightful and practical, but he's still a nine year-old, so it really is all about him.

So Monday arrived, we were delighted to learn that Ms. Carsey, the fifth grade G/T teacher, had moved down to teach fourth grade - and I was over-the-moon delighted when Connor shared with me the terms of her "vegetable pass" program. If you bring vegetables in your lunch and actually eat them, or if you eat the vegetables on your cafeteria tray, and you end the day "between levels" on the conduct scale, she gives you the mulligan. Her theory is that a child who eats his vegetables deserves the benefit of the doubt. LOVE IT!!!!! Mr. "Talks Excessively" is already mulling over his vegetable lunchbox options, and I am optimistic that her philosophy evidences a general understanding on her part that (1) gifted kids don't mean to be challenging - it's really quite effortless and (2) kids, in general, are kids, you keep a sense of humor, and you don't sweat the small stuff.

Parker was rather disappointed to return to All Saints - several of his friends turned five over the summer and began kindergarten this year, and he naturally thought that he should be going with them. He's also been hearing for the last year that Ms. Sylvester, Connor's saintly kindergarten teacher, is prolonging her retirement until she can teach him, too. And, so, the daily questioning began: "Okay, I'm going to All Saints TODAY, but will I go to Connor's school TOMORROW?" We have attempted to explain the concept of a year multiple ways, but IT'S. NOT. SINKING. IN. Currently, he is telling everyone that "my birthday is right before Halloween [at least he's grasped that part!], and the next day I start kindergarten, because then I'll be five [ugh]."

Connor resumes his tennis schedule in a week or so, and Parker will be making his debut as a four-year old "Tiny Tennis Star" this fall. Big brother also will be a Webelo 1 in Cub Scouts and a Junior Worship Leader at church (translation: choir-for-kids-who-are-too-old-to-think-that-"choir"-sounds-anything-less-than-dorky-but-are-too-young-not-to-be-impressed-by-titles-with-"leader"-in-them). He is toying with the idea of being a church acolyte as well, which makes me cringe, because I have heard the stories of how his father almost burned down Aledo United Methodist Church with the candle lighter.

I owe Parker "mommy and me" cooking classes at Young Chef's Academy, having made the suggestion that we sign up in May and then promptly run out of summer. Maybe we'll learn some lunchbox-appropriate vegetable preparation methods?

It's a Salad, It's a Burger . . . And It's Way More Weather Appropriate Than Chili!

I'm starting to get antsy for "real fall" (well, as real as fall gets in Texas). I ordered a bunch of oilcloth in Halloween and Thanksgiving patterns, as well as some chalkcloth and I am waiting patiently for it to arrive so I can begin hacking it to pieces (plans include tablecloths, tablerunners, placemats and bunting flags - to hang on the mantel and peg racks in the dining room). The parentals came over for dinner tonight (more on that later), and Mom brought me the latest Country Living magazine, which really got me thinking Halloween. I also recently picked up some good ideas from a blog called Over the Tipsy Top, including this adorable pumpkin centerpiece (coming soon to a table near you):

In addition to giving me an excuse to decorate everything that doesn't move (well, okay, I decorate some things that move, too), I love the fall because it's when I start cooking again. I USED to cook in the summer, pre-Ridglea membership, but now the lure of the pool is simply too strong, and we end up eating poolside the vast majority of the time. Although I certainly have enjoyed this year's sabbatical from the kitchen, I'm ready to get back into the fall groove - particularly when the weather gets a little cooler, and I can justify busting out the casserole and chili recipes. But we're not there yet, temperature-wise . . . so I was faced with a bit of a dilemma when trying to figure out what to serve the extended family for an impromptu dinner at our house. Everything that initially came to mind was "too fall"; then I started considering main dish salad options, but those seemed "too summer" to me. And so I arrived at the perfect compromise - the Bobby Flay "Chicken Cobb Burger." My parents and grandmother are big Cobb salad people, so I thought that this one might be in their wheelhouse.

I ended up using turkey instead of chicken (since ground turkey was readily available, and I didn't want to get out the meat grinder). Also, the initial plan was to make homemade sweet potato fries to go with the burgers - I had some sweet potato fries at Jake's Hamburgers not too long ago, and they were delish and reminded me how much I love them - but Super Target had unseasoned sweet potato fries in the frozen foods section that were crinkle-cut, just like Jake's, and after weighing the odds of me actually getting around to crinkle-cutting my own fries, I opted for the frozen, and incredibly cute (did I mention that they were crinkle-cut?), version. I seasoned them with a mixture of equal parts cinnamon-sugar (made with brown sugar instead of granulated) and Serendipity seasoned salt (but any variation of garlic salt would work). Sprayed on some olive oil spray, tossed them in the seasoning and baked them according to package directions. Thumbs up on those all around, so if you see McCain's sweet potato fries at your local grocery store, pick up a bag. (Glad to know that he's moved on after his loss to Barack Obama - oh, yeah, probably not the same McCain!)

Here's the recipe for the burgers. Mom chose to add a little mayonnaise to hers, but I thought that they were great as-is; the Cobb salad dressing adds just enough moisture without being too heavy.

I hope to resume posting recipes on a more regular basis - planning to experiment with a couple of Puerto Rican recipes that I tracked down after watching "Guy's Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives," and we are in the process of perfecting our queso recipe for Jimmy and Christa's queso cookoff extravaganza Labor Day Weekend!



For the burgers:

8 (1/2- thick) strips bacon
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken, 90 percent lean
2 tablespoons canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 burger buns, split
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 8 slices

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely shredded romaine lettuce


For the burgers:

Heat the grill to medium.

Place the strips of bacon on the grill (lay them across the grate so they don't fall through) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Increase the heat of the grill to high.

Form the meat into 4 (8-ounce) burgers, brush with the oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the burgers until golden brown on both sides and cooked completely through, about 5 minutes per side. Top the burgers with the blue cheese, close the cover, and continue cooking until the cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute longer.

Place the burgers on the bottom half of each bun and top with a slice of tomato, 2 slices of avocado, 2 slices of bacon and some of the dressed romaine. Cover each burger with the bun tops and serve.

For the vinaigrette:

Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to meld.

Just before assembling the burgers, place the romaine in a medium bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School

What better way to celebrate the last weekend before school than with a giant gummi bear?

I found this confectionary-treat-on-steroids at World Market. Connor volunteered to perform the autopsy - only it was too tough to cut with a knife (butter or steak). We finally resorted to kitchen shears . . . .

The boys fought over who got to eat the face. It got ugly from there, the highlight (?) being when Parker called "butt." Here is Parker enjoying his gummi bear cutlet:

YUMMMMMMMMM. (Actually - editorial comment from Mom - yuck. Sticky goo everywhere.) I managed to get one good shot of the fourth-grader on the first day of school, after luring him to the table with chocolate chip waffles . . . .

They look more like brothers in these pictures than usual. Also got some good shots of PJ and his Batman backpack:

Happy back-to-school, everyone!

New Hair for PJ

The boys got new haircuts for back to school, and in recognition of PJ's newly minted status as a "Pre-K 4" boy, we said adios to the chili bowl 'do. He likes his new look, as do Mom and Dad. Connor was not quite as enthused about his cut, whereas Mom was turning backflips - finally, someone figured out how to cover the cowlick on his forehead! Apparently, Connor was himself quite fond of the cowlick, which looks like his head sprung a leak - a lock of hair grows straight up and then curves in the opposite direction of the rest of his hair.

Here are before-and-after photos from "haircut day":

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Saga of the Hostess Gifts

So I sprained my ankle in an incident that did not in any way involve the installation of Christmas lights, and now I own a pair of flats. I owned flats once before - in high school. They were red, and they went with a very specific red belt, which went with a very specific blouse/skirt ensemble. I found them at Sears after much searching for the just-right shade of red, and I remember feeling very, very deceitful every time I wore them and passed them off as something-not-from-Sears. I should mention that I went to a very snotty public high school, where girls were known to send their clothing to resale after one wearing. MUCH pressure to be posh, 24/7, and it took me many years to achieve some semblance of shopping normality.

I also had a pair of Cole-Haan driving moccasins in the mid-'90's. Do those count as flats? I actually don't know the answer to this question, since I. Don't. Wear. Flats. Ever. On account of how, in my mind, I am 5'7", and to achieve my "mental height" it's necessary for me to wear four inch heels - to work, to the pool, in the shower. Okay, not in the shower.

Notwithstanding my Napoleonic issues, I loved those moccasins - wore them until they literally fell apart. But I digress.

I finally broke down and bought some flats, because, while I'm off of crutches, the rational part of my brain recognizes that I still need some rehab time. (The part of me that enjoys being 5'7" is loudly protesting that my ankles don't know from flats, and I would be MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE wearing what my ankles actually know. And there may be some truth in that - but I digress again.) I wore the flats to work today, along with jeans and a cute top, and the upgrade from "frumpy girl with crutches and tennis shoes" to "stylish-if-you-squint, ALBEIT ENTIRELY TOO SHORT, girl, wearing flats and limping" inspired me to do some lunchtime shopping. Texas' back-to-school tax-free long weekend started today, and also I needed to buy hostess gifts, because five very sweet friends are throwing a slumber party in my honor tomorrow night. I won't divulge the overall concept of the hostess swag bags, because some of the recipients will read this before then, but I really wanted to include bags of "Frozen Rose" in them. (For those who are unfamiliar, Frozen Rose is a frozen wine beverage that is available in Texas and Oklahoma, and it's basically awesome. Gives the margarita a run for its money.) Frozen wine in a bag seemed slightly seedy - like something you would drink at a grown-up slumber party - and, also, the packaging is "adolescent girl purple." Win.

I have purchased the stuff at Central Market before, but I was trying to avoid that place (specifically, its nightmarish parking lot) because of my status as "temporarily handicapped person without handicapped tag." I recalled reading that Centennial Liquor also is a Frozen Rose distributor, so I headed down Camp Bowie way and was just about to pull into my local Majestic Liquor store when it occurred to me that the Majestic Liquor is, in fact, A MAJESTIC LIQUOR AND NOT A CENTENNIAL LIQUOR. (Let's refer to this as "Blonde Moment #1.") At this point, I'm at the intersection of Camp Bowie and Hulen, and I'm just a short jog through my neighborhood to Central Market, so I head south . . . and discover the cluster-you-know-what that is the Central Market Hatch Green Chile Fest. Query: Why do so many people feel compelled to stand next to an outdoor chile roaster at lunchtime in 107-degree heat (and after a morning rainshower, so it's a REALLY MUGGY 107-degree heat?). (Answer: The chiles are really, REALLY good.)

After several loops around the parking lot, I realize that this isn't going to work - we're talking Bataan Death March distances between the available remote parking spaces and the front door - so, cursing my ankle, I drive to the World Market in the same shopping center and begin the search for a reasonable substitute for Frozen Rose. After much indecision, I make a selection - then undecide again, call my spouse and tell him that I'm contemplating asking him to make a Central Market run for me, and then talk myself out of the asking while it's taking place. I finally check out - helpful World Market employee puts my bottle-type purchases in a big wine box along with the bottles of Liberty School cabernet that I picked up for myself. ($9.99 a bottle! Ridglea charges me $6 a glass.) I push the cart to my car, and simultaneously discover a couple of things:

1) The Chapel Hill parking lot is, in fact, constructed on a hill. (Blonde Moment #2.)

2) The wine box is (ironically enough, since it was a Cupcake Chardonnay box - maybe it was scratch-and-sniff?) a very powerful bee attractant.

I try orienting the cart several different ways, all of which involve it rolling downhill the minute I let go. I try positioning it so that the back door stops its movement, but that effectively blocks access to the back seat of the car. (Disclaimer: My trunk is always full - of sporting equipment, party centerpieces, outgrown kids' clothes destined for friends with younger children and/or Goodwill, you name it - so the cabin of the car is my de facto trunk. And, no, it never occurred to me that I could open the front door and use IT to block the cart. Blonde Moment #3.) While I am attempting to maneuver the cart, Aggressive Bee is crawling all over (and inside of) the wine box. He stops under one of the top flaps. I consider smashing it down on top of him and determine that the statistical probability of killing him is 99% - but the real-world "Kathryn probability" of bungling and getting stung is also 99%. In the process of trying to shoo the bee away, I let go of the cart, and it begins rolling towards the passenger door of a nearby (brand new) pickup truck. Simultaneously, I lose my grip on the (rather noxious) pomegranate/green tea concoction I am drinking, and the (fortunately plastic) bottle starts rolling downhill at a 90-degree angle to the cart. I run off after the cart, retrieve it, and then like one of Pavlov's freakin' dogs head in the other direction to retrieve the beverage THAT I DON'T EVEN LIKE. And then I remember that I have a sprained ankle, after a delay not unlike the one the networks wish they had during the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" incident.

In severe pain, I heave the box into the back seat, and at this point I have lost sight of Aggressive Bee (but, given his earlier interest in the interior of the box, odds are pretty good that he's stowed away), so I leave the door to the car open while I PUSH THE CART BACK TO THE WORLD MARKET INSTEAD OF ABANDONING IT ON A NEARBY MEDIAN. (Never made it past Brownies, so what is this Girl Scout-esque thing that I have about following the rules to the letter even when I clearly have a hall - or handicapped - pass?) On the way back to the car, now limping heavily (and quite obviously), a car almost runs me down, and the driver exhibits extreme annoyance that I am taking so long to cross the lane of traffic - and then he pulls into a handicapped space. Grr.

Now I REALLY have no idea where the bee is, so I roll all of the windows down and cruise out of the parking lot, hoopty ride-style, bound for home where I can drop the box off with my spouse who, thankfully, is self-employed and happens to be at the home place. In retrospect, rolling down the windows was Blonde Moment #4, because I live mere blocks from Chapel Hill, and my route to the house consisted of a short jog on the access road followed by a five-block jaunt through my 'hood. At no time did I reach a cruising speed that would create the wind-tunnel effect necessary to suck a stinging insect out of the car.

So, Ashley, Cathy, Melissa, Robyn and Sarah - you were supposed to get Frozen Rose. You ain't getting Frozen Rose. You're getting (in my mind) a pretty pathetic substitute, plus some tchotckes, but hopefully this amusing anecdote amps the gift attempt to eleven!

Monday, August 10, 2009

News Feed: Major Purchase by Nine Year Old Imminent

Gas for trip to and from Guitar Center: $5. Transparent red Ibanez electric bass with Tone Blaster amp: $289. "Headphones for silent practice" printed on the side of the box: priceless.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

I'm finally posting photos of our "rebooted" living and dining room. The good camera's LCD screen is on the fritz (which, I suppose, means it technically isn't the good camera anymore), and I lost the telescoping thingy that attaches to the other camera and reduces the glare from the flash. (No, I'm not a professional photographer; I just play one on TV.) Thus, these are not ideal, and the Mink (dark brown) paint throws a certain glare, courtesy of the oh-so-overpowering flash, but I guess that they give you the general idea. The shots of pale blue walls (three-quarter strength Palladian Blue) mixed in with the Mink are shots of the dining room; the tan walls (Greenbrier Beige) are the attached living room. Rug under the dining room table is new, as is the dark-stained sideboard on the Mink "feature wall." My very creative hubby had the idea of mounting an existing tramp art mirror over the sideboard. It looks like one unified piece, in part because of the medallion details on the mirror that match details on the sideboard. (Of course, I managed to take a picture of the sideboard and the mirror, but not the two together!)

Since I couldn't find a suitable (oversized) plate rack on which to display framed photos, I used various items to create a similar effect. The carved picture rail shelving in both rooms I distressed myself, while the white architectural feature on the blue wall came suitably "shabby chic." We removed the legs from an antique wooden tray to house another photo, and the box above it is an old pipe rack. I'd like to tell you that the wooden chair shelf on the dining room wall was my creation, but I bought it as-is at Chiffoniers in Fort Worth. The flaming tin heart was my addition, though . . . .

I bought the peg shelving that is on the feature wall primarily for the color (sort of beige, but with a little purple showing through, to coordinate with the Mink, which has a dark purple cast to it in some light). After we mounted photos over it, it occurred to me that I could hang some smaller photos from the pegs. One thing led to another, and I have begun festooning the pegs seasonally. (Unsurprising - stand still long enough, and I may decorate you.) "Seasonal" is a flexible concept with me these days. I am SO past Halloween/Christmas/Easter! Currently, we are decorated for "summer," with swim team ribbons and grosgrain nautical flags hung from the pegs, along with a sailor-striped tee with skull and crossbones applique that I stole from PJ's closet. Since Connor has been to (approximately) six thousand, seven hundred ninety four camps this summer (at last count - he has two more weeks before school starts, so the total can and will increase), I have had a steady supply of God's eyes and other camp crafts to work into the summer theme.

I found some great vintage-looking felt "Back to School" mini pennants that will be going up at the end of next week. Come October 1st, the Halloween decorations will come down from the attic, and I am most anxious to experiment with various display schemes for my collection of papier mache candy containers and other vintage and folk art items. With two new display shelves at my disposal, I may even be able to justify some new purchases. (That groan you just heard came from my husband.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Greggie and Douggie and Some of the Other Hitler Youth

So, if Der Fuhrer ever returns to power, we now know who will be donning a brown shirt along with the other brothers of Omega House . . . .

My dear husband recently came to the realization that regular bedtimes (and actual bedtime routines) are good things, allowing spouses to actually spend time together in the evenings. (Yes, our oldest is about to turn ten; Dad can be a little slow on the uptake.) Usually, I'm the only one policing this sort of thing, whereas "Mister Path of Least Resistance" is okay with the kids falling asleep sprawled in front of the television, laptops still on laps, etc. You see, it takes a lot less effort to get a child to go to sleep that way. Specifically, ZERO effort. Hence the appeal -until summer hits, the alarm clock takes a three-month vacay (well, for the kids; for mom, not so much), the daylight lingers, and the kids are wired and asking what comes on after "The Batman" at 10:30.

So Dad's in the car with both boys, and he announces that, with school just around the corner, it's time to start observing a regular bedtime, etc. The older one (AKA "The Vulcan") begins spouting details of various AMA studies, the gist being that if you wake up spontaneously without an alarm clock and do not feel tired, you are getting enough sleep. (Okay, I've read the studies, and that IS the benchmark for whether a child is getting enough sleep - but totally beside the point, because we're talking about Mom and Dad's sleep opportunities here! I can attest, though - the kid is up at 6:30, if not before, EVERY morning, fully wound and usually wanting to engage me in conversation . . . notwithstanding the fact that I am in bed, face buried in the pillow. He generally is a perceptive kid, but these context clues are ones he tends - well, chooses - to ignore.)

In the midst of the spirited debate, little brother (AKA "Rolf" - you may know him as Liesl's love interest from "The Sound of Music") pipes up with the following:

"Dad, thank you for caring enough about me to put me on a schedule."

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA? Rewind. As an only child, I have to ask: is brown-nosing a nature thing or a nurture thing with younger sibs? Either way, our little guy has got the concept DOWN PAT. Here are some of his other greatest hits:

"Mom, I would love to go to the mall with you while you try on shoes and bras."

"Mom, I am really glad that the kids' buffet only has shrimp tonight." [Note to Ridglea Country Club: SERIOUSLY? It's called a chicken nugget. You buy them in bags, shaped like dinosaurs.]

When I brought up the bedtime conversation with him and asked why he thanked his dad, he just shrugged. Then I asked him, "Parker, do you enjoy getting your brother in trouble?" And the shrug became a smirk . . . .

Eddie Haskell, party of one.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jen's Party

So I've been working with my friend Jen for several weeks, lending "event planning/general fluffing" services in the days leading up to her parents' fiftieth anniversary party. We had grand plans for elaborate outdoor tents and an overall "poolside, Newport Beach" vibe. And then the rains returned to Tarrant County . . . and hovered. Party started at 7 pm tonight, and as of 4 pm we were still checking the weather radar trying to decide whether to set up outside. Ultimately, given wet grass and mugginess issues, we opted to set up the dining spaces indoors with the hope that cocktail hour before and dessert after could be held al fresco. The last-minute decision meant making some big (and quick!) changes to the house: basically, we relocated half of the living room into a sunroom, threw the other half of the living room into the garage, and pretty much upended the apple cart. Sometimes good things come out of upended apple carts - Jen loved the new look of the sunroon, and at press time the furniture very well may stay where it is, and new furniture may get purchased for the living room. All's well that ends well. Pictures in the slide show below are horrid - the good camera is being returned for warranty service, and the Sony DSC and its strobe-light-from-Hades flash hate me (yeah, yeah, I lost the little telescoping thingy that minimizes the light; I'm sure it's around here somewhere). Plus my batteries ran out at the last minute, and I had to whip out the camera phone. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade; when life hands me washed-out photos, I experiment with Picasa filters, so forgive the God-awful arthouse quality of these! There was a professional photog in the house, and when I get some good pictures I will add them to this Blog, for those who have been listening to me drone endlessly about fans and candle lanterns.

Jen's Party

Coolest Neighbors Ever

Okay, Debi and Ronnie, our neighbors to the south, give them a run for their money, but no can deny that our "northern neighbors," the Flynns, are mighty cool. We watched their cats while they were out of town (the kids nominally were charged with this task), and when the Flynns returned, they left a sweet card on our doorstop, attached to this adorable cookie bouquet, with appropriate payment for both boys - cash for Connor and a stuffed Spider Man for superhero-obsessed Park.

Here is a shot of PJ eating a pretty darned good replica of the Flynns' cat, Keira. I should mention that everyone on our street has a black and white cat, most from the same source - a very fertile Myrtle who lives on the other side of the middle school. Some neighborhoods have a "Welcome Wagon" program; we requisition you a cat. Keira's littermate, Leni, lives on the other side of us. We, of course, have Max, who looked a little shaggier and bigger than his predecessors when he showed up in the yard one day, and, Maine Coon lovers that we are, we snatched him up in hopes that our suspicions were correct and he was cut from a different feline cloth. We were not disappointed - he is all Coon cat and twice as big as the other black and white kitties on the street (well, only half again as big if you take all of the fur out of the equation). No idea where he came from, but most assuredly it was divine providence that brought him - the third in a line of black and white Maine Coons in the Durham-McGlinchey family line - to our doorstep.

We consider ourselves lucky to live in a real, old school neighborhood - a front porch community, not a backyard-centric suburb - where the felines share bloodlines, people throw dog birthday parties and take turns leaving "Secret Santa" and "Undercover Easter Bunny" gifts on the front stoop for the kids, screen doors are left open when the weather permits, and you can walk into pretty much anyone's carriage house (no one has a functional garage around here) and borrow their rototiller/extension ladder/folding tables and chairs without asking. (We kind of operate like a commune - why buy a fertilizer spreader when you know that the McGlincheys have one? Buy something else and add it to the communal pile.) Our neighbors are like family, and we love our occasionally wacky but incredibly loving and loveable family.