Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Photos

As promised, here are the rest of the photos:

B dressed as Jasmine from the Deltora books:

Girl costumed as Jasmine from the Deltora books by Emily Rodda

B with her pumpkin:

Girl with jack-o-lantern

M with his pumpkin:

Boy with jack-o-lantern

Internet Wedding

I just spent my lunch hour watching a online friend's wedding--streamed live for those of us that don't live nearby. Very cool! It did feel rather sacrilegious, though, to be eating my lunch during a wedding :-)

Congratulations to MA, Dan and Matthew!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Night Before Halloween

Costumes are done, jack-o-lanterns are carved, pumpkin seeds are roasted.

M's costume:porta-potty Halloween costume

(Check back tomorrow for B's costume and their jack-o-lanterns)

Battening Down the Hatches

It's supposed to rain most of this weekend (actually, it's already started). I think we're ready for a storm. DH brought in Otto last night (I still have to set up the heat lamp/thermostat/timer combo for the winter). This afternoon, after picking up B from school and rushing to the grocery store, I raked the front yard (again!), and got the leaves into the green bin while they were still mostly dry. I also cleaned out the grate over the storm drain in the driveway (completely clogged with leaves and dirt), and our sump pump is in good working order.

On the way to the grocery store, B asked me if I liked rain. She loves rain, and getting wet, but I had to answer that I both liked it and disliked it. We need the rain, and everything looks so clean after a good storm, but I don't like gray skies or mud. Especially gray skies--I find it really hard to get out of bed on overcast days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Is Almost Here...

...and neither of my kids' costumes are done yet. B's is going to be pretty easy. She is dressing as an obscure character (Jasmine from the Deltora books) who wears gray pants, a gray tunic, has wild hair, and carries a bird on her shoulder. I bought her a long gray T-shirt and pants, and a fake bird that I need to sew onto the shoulder of the T-shirt.

I spent this evening working on M's costume. He decided to be a Porta Potty this year! I bought a large box last weekend, and some poster paint. Tonight I cut out a door, then we painted the box together. I just finished taping on a roof (another white box). I'm a little worried, though: the forecast for Friday says it's going to rain. I covered the roof with a white trash bag, which I hope will be enough to keep the rain off his head. I'm envisioning blue paint running everywhere, though, and I'm not sure what to do about that. Any suggestions? (Other than buying more expensive paint that won't run.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Detour, Detour

It never fails--if I'm running late, the world seems to conspire to make me even later! Mondays are very tightly scheduled, with just enough time to squeeze a quick errand in (usually picking up some produce at Berkeley Bowl), but I didn't end up having time to shop today.

On the way to M's fencing class, we got stuck behind a sloooooow car for ages (two-lane road, no passing allowed, speed limit 50 mph). Once we reached the next town, the road opens up a bit (two lanes in each direction), so I thought we were set, until we reached the scene of a major accident that completely blocked the road. They waved us off to the north, and I assumed I could just follow the other cars to get back on the road. (I was driving the Saturn today, and we keep the Thomas Guide map in the other car.) But no, the traffic started peeling off in all directions, and I ended up spending 10 minutes wandering through El Sobrante before finally giving up and backtracking to the (closed) main road. This time, as I crossed the road, I did the sensible thing and rolled down my window to ask the flagger how to get back onto the road. Fortunately, the southern detour was quite obvious (a zillion cars on a narrow street), and we made it to fencing class only 10 minutes late.

This was 10 minutes of the 20 minutes allotted for the Berkeley Bowl stop, so I decided to go ahead and get gas at Costco (just down the road from the fencing school), and proceed straight to B's ballet class. When we arrived at the ballet school, we parked on the east side, as usual. The school is in the middle of a block, accessed by a path running east-west across the block. We got to the sidewalk to find our second detour of the day: the path is closed for construction, so we had to walk around the block and in through the basement. We'll find out now if DH checks his voice mail, because I left him a heads-up message so he'd know where to park when he picks her up.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Have I mentioned here how much I hate the trees in our front yard? There are two liquidambar trees, and the leaf season has begun. I can live with the leaves (although I just spent an hour raking leaves as they were falling), but it's those stupid brown balls they drop the rest of the year that I detest. Last spring, we sent both M & B out every weekend with a bucket, and every weekend they were able to fill a bucket each with those spiky balls.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Corn Maze

Yesterday we went to Cool Patch Pumpkins, home to the largest corn maze in the world. We met some friends and their daughter there. The kids wanted to go off on their own, so after paying the entrance fees and getting maps, we set them loose.

The four adults carefully read the map,

Cool Patch Pumpkins Corn Maze

and followed the most efficient path through the maze (which meant bypassing Starbucks Station).

Cool Patch Pumpkins Corn Maze

The kids, on the other hand, went for the most direct route through the maze, which involved a lot of extra paths (previously trampled by other maze-goers), and at one point climbing through the corn. They went straight through the middle of the maze to Starbucks Station, then out through the exit.

We also bought pumpkins while we were there:

girl with pumpkinboy with pumpkin

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baking Is Finished

Current mental soundtrack: "Angels on the Head of a Pin" from Angels Are Everywhere, by Daniel Pinkham

As promised, photos of the cake balls:

cake balls

And for the cake contest, B decorated this castle:

haunted castle cake

My entry for the cake contest:

octopus cake

It's the first time I've tried using fondant to cover a cake. The cake and starfish came out pretty well, but I think my octopus sculpture leaves something to be desired. He looks rather deflated.

Baking Progress Report 2

Cake balls are finished (I'll post a photo tomorrow). They didn't turn out quite as pretty as I would have liked, but overall they look okay. (Especialy considering I'd never done candy coatings before.) B's cake is baked, and she started decorating while I was at rehearsal tonight. My cake is now defrosting on the counter, and we will decorate together after school tomorrow.

Off to bed!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Baking Progress Report

Between picking up B from school and taking her to ballet class today, I baked and crumbled the cake for the cake balls, and mixed with the buttercream frosting I made on Sunday. (Sorry, no time for photos!). B and I stopped at Spun Sugar on the way to ballet class, and picked up some additional supplies (2 more pounds of fondant, and another pound of candy melts). After dinner, from 6:30-7:00, I shaped the balls, and put them away in the freezer before leaving for sectional rehearsal.

I'm going to try covering my cake with fondant, which I haven't done before, so I had to buy some additional equipment this week. I saw a 20-inch fondant roller at Michael's on Saturday, but since I'm too cheap to pay $21.99 for a plastic cylinder, I made my own; I stopped at Ace Hardware on the way to lunch today, and bought a 24-inch piece of PVC pipe for $3.29.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Busy Weekend (And Busy Week Ahead)

Busy weekend here, but I guess that's not news to anyone :-)

Next year, if I happen to mention here that I did something silly like order 37 bulbs (each of which needs to be planted 8 inches deep), will someone please bring me back to reality? The first dozen are in, but that still leaves a bag of 25 to go.

Today, we took F to San Francisco, along with DH's postdoc & wife. We mostly did the same walking tour as last time (minus the cable-car ride), but today was a much more exciting day in San Francisco.

First was the Italian American Heritage parade. We got to see floats and bands and all kinds of Italian-American dignitaries in fancy cars. And, let's not forget the Norcal Waste Systems Precision Drill Team--garbage men with cans on wheels, doing precision drills. And the Ferrari show in Washington Square. The kids received not only candy thrown from the floats, but also bread thrown from the Boudin Bakery wagon (a hunk of baguette in a paper bag).

Second, this is Fleet Week in San Francisco, so we skipped the touristy shops on Pier 39, and crowded onto the wooden pier to watch the air show. The Canadian Snowbirds performed while we were still eating lunch, but we saw the USAF F-16, a red biplane, and the Blue Angels.

This is going to be a crazier week than usual. B and I are both preparing cakes for the cake contest at her school's fall festival, plus I am trying out cake balls for the boutique at the festival. Which means that by Friday at 3:30 pm, the kitchen here has to produce two decorated cakes and dozens of cake balls. Of course, this is the week I have activities on my two normally free evenings: a sectional on Tuesday, and the middle school Science Night on Thursday, so it looks like I'll be working late into the night. I drew up a schedule, and completed the first two tasks tonight: bake and freeze my cake layers, and mix up the buttercream icing (which keeps well in the fridge).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Clueless in Berkeley

DH and I went out to lunch today with our friend F (the one with celiac disease). We went to a place that we've been to many times before. F ordered chicken fajitas, with corn tortillas. DH emphasized to the waitress that F was allergic to wheat, and she wrote it down on the order form.

Lunch took forever to arrive--it's never been this slow before at the particular restaurant, even when we've arrived with large groups of people. A different waiter put the food on the table, and left before we noticed that they had included flour tortillas, not corn, with F's order. It took another ten minutes to get the attention of our waitress, and the following conversation ensued:

F: I ordered corn tortillas, and these are flour.
Waitress: I made sure to tell the kitchen that you're allergic to wheat.
(pause) Is flour made from wheat?
DH & F: Yes!
Waitress: I'm sorry, I think that's the only kind we have. Would you like some bread instead?

This Election Is Going To The Dogs

Have you seen the September 25th issue of Nature? The cover article is about the presidential candidates and their stances on science and technology:

Obama and McCain on Nature cover

Now, if you happen take a break from reading, and set the journal down flat on your desk, here's what you'll see:

Obama and McCain on Nature cover with dog ad

Rather interesting ad placement, isn't it?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sump Pump

I'm working at home today, while the plumber replaces our outdoor sump pump. He finally finished about 15 minutes ago, after a trip to the hardware store to buy a pipe fitting. (Actually, it was three hardware stores, because the first two didn't have the piece he needed.) And the job took longer than expected, because for some reason our sump doesn't have a standard electrical outlet for the pump, so he had to do a wiring job.

We noticed last spring that our sump pump wasn't working, so I bailed out the hole and discovered that the circuit breaker tripped every time I lifted the float up. Since summer is dry here, I procrastinated calling a plumber until last month. It's always something with older houses--we also had to redo the front sprinkler system this summer. I wonder what's next...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

All is Quiet

On a normal Tuesday, I would be rushing home from work right now to start the afternoon chauffeur schedule. Instead, I'm still sitting here in the office, working away. (Okay, typing a blog entry, but this won't take too long.) B is away on an overnight field trip, so I don't have to pick her up at 2:50. On Tuesdays, the other mom drives the middle-school carpool, so M will be deposited on our doorstep around 3:45. (I hope he hasn't lost his house key yet!) And, since B is gone, there's no rushing to get dinner on the table by 4:30, since she won't be going to ballet class today.

Somehow, when planning this week's meals on Sunday, my brain registered the fact that our friend with celiac disease will be here, but did not make the connection that B would not be here to go to ballet class. (Normally, on ballet days, we are using the crock pot so that we can eat at 4:30). So, we are having a gluten-free crock pot meal today. I bought some wheat-free soy sauce, and am making those Korean-style ribs that everyone enjoyed last week:

I used the marinade recipe I found at, and modified it slightly for the crock pot (instead of the grill):

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed (I used a garlic press)
6 large green onions, chopped roughly
3 pounds short ribs

Combine all ingredients and marinate overnight (I just do it in the crockpot, and if some of the ribs aren't quite covered, I turn them over in the morning before starting the crockpot). Cook in crockpot on low for 8 hours. Serve with steamed rice.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lost & Found

Things found this weekend, while cleaning B's room (guest coming tomorrow who will be sleeping there) and looking for stuff in the garage (B is going on an overnight camping trip with her class):

  • My copy of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door, which B and I were looking for a couple of months ago,
  • A stuffed animal named "Patrick," whom M has been looking for,
  • Much dirty laundry, some of it already outgrown (apparently B has been using the cram-it-all-into-the-closet method when asked by DH to clean her room),
  • The utensils for B's Playmobil kitchen, which I have been searching for for six years! We bought her the dollhouse when she was 3, so I didn't put the small pieces out, just the large furniture. We moved to San Diego in 2002, and when she was old enough for the utensils, I couldn't find them anywhere! Those Playmobil boxes finally turned up today, wrapped in a Target bag, in an unlabeled box containing a magazine rack. DH is trying to claim it wasn't his fault, but I know that if _I_ had, for some unknown reason, decided that a magazine rack and dollhouse furnishings belonged together, I would have put a LABEL on the box!

B and I also took the opportunity to go through the dresser to remove outgrown clothes, and the bookshelf to remove outgrown books. Now, her dresser drawers close, her closet opens, her stuffed-animal basket is no longer overflowing, and her bookshelf has room for the books she actually reads. My living room is still a disaster area (guess where all those books are currently stacked?), and I still haven't finished strapping the bookcases (yes, all the tools are lined up in front of the living room fireplace, along with the ladder), but at least one room looks better!