Thursday Thoughts

Beesness is Fine
A followup on yesterday’s post…..Dave is still in the apiary business, despite his run-in with one of the bees. He’s apparently never had a reaction to a bee sting before like he did this time. Of course, I’m not sure he has ever been stung just below his eye. Anyway, he’s not giving up on his buzzing friends, so D’s Honey might still be in my future.

Victory is Mine, I think
And speaking of stinging insects, I mentioned also in yesterday’s post that every summer we battle what I guess are paper wasps. I didn’t go out and get my entomology degree last night, so I can’t guarantee what they are. All I know is that despite many efforts over the years, I’ve never found anything that even remotely works. Until now. I found at Home Depot these wasp traps…..

They are nothing more than green and yellow things you hang where your wasps are flying that are sticky as can be. Within a day, the traps are covered with wasps. Of course, the down side is that it captures any flying insect that comes to check it out. However, it must be boring to most insects because we have captured surprisingly few bugs other than wasps. A few flies (and who misses those?), and sadly, one lady bug……

I just put up a new one yesterday, so we will see how long it takes to fill it up. By the way, I am not in business with the company that manufactures these traps. I just am happy they work…..

 Climb Every Mountain
I was telling a friend recently how much Dagny likes to climb, and that she was, in fact, taking climbing classes…..

My friend cheerfully volunteered her husband to take Dagny climbing outdoors in Boulder. It’s a safe climb and she would have two people accompanying her, my friend said. While Dagny loves to climb, she has never climbed outdoors. But when I suggested it to Dagny, she was quickly – QUICKLY – all in. So tonight my friend and her husband (who was volunteered, but cheerfully agreed) are coming to meet Dagny and her family to make sure they all trust one another. It will also give Scott a chance to see if he thinks Dagny is really ready for the challenge. My friend mentioned going to watch Dagny, but I’m not certain I will have the nerve. We’ll see.

Indoor Camping
Our family room is still a mess, but Bill is making progress. He spends every day working in that room. Thus far he has the drywall up and now he is taping it and trying to decide whether or not to have someone come in and finish it with texture. Yesterday he spent the day cleaning our fireplace with some cleaning solution strong enough that it required him to wear gloves. He did this in preparation for the next action, which is painting our fireplace white. Every night he pulls chairs into the room so that we can watch television and relax a bit. And then he pulls them out again in preparation for the next day’s work. It’s a seemingly never ending project, but he is definitely making progress.

Ciao.

It’s Not My Beesness

I’ve been hoarding this particular blog story like a survivalist hoards bottled water and cases of beef jerkey. It’s just such a good story. I wanted the time to be right.

The time, my friends, is right. The story must be told. Here’s why…..

Dave fought the bees, and the bees won. This round, at least.

Here’s the thing. My stepson David and his brood have become apiarists. Beekeepers.

Their adventure with bees officially started in late April, though the plans have been in the works for considerably longer than that. And let me be clear. The adventure really is Dave’s and Dagny’s. After all of these years, Jll is not surprised by anything Dave does, so beekeeping didn’t raise an eyebrow. The rest of the kids are marginally interested, but have other things grabbing their attention far more than the bees that have taken residence in the southwest corner of their urban back yard…..

We all know the plight of bees in the world today. For a variety of reasons, including increased use of pesticides, loss of habitat, and disease, honeybees are disappearing. And if bees disappear, the planet loses more than simply honey. Bees pollinate trees and vines that grow almonds, pears, avocados, grapes. What? No wine?

Remember The Bee Movie? Jerry Seinfeld freaked us all out with his animated movie that demonstrated what would happen if there were no more bees. Shortly after that movie was released, Jen, BJ, and Maggie were all eating lunch al fresco, when a bee started buzzing by their table. Jen is allergic to bees, so without giving it a second thought, Maggie swatted the bee with her shoe when it landed on the table, swiftly bringing about its demise. BJ nearly had a heart attack. Do you understand what is happening to the bees?  he asked. Do you understand what would happen to Mom should the bee sting her? was Maggie’s reply.

I don’t dislike bees. I actively dislike wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets, all of which are aggressive and live in my backyard. I kill them every chance I get, despite Dagny’s horror each time she witnesses the murder. For heaven’s sake, I tell her. You guys are running around without shoes on! But bees don’t give me angst because they generally aren’t interested in stinging me. In fact, Alastair told me that despite the fact that he has a bee colony living in his back yard, he has only been stung once, and the bee that did the dirty deed was dead. It was simply lying on its back with its stinger in the air and Alastair stepped on it with the above-mentioned bare feet.

Dagny has been stung on at least one occasion, and the guilty bee was alive when it struck. I was with Dagny shortly after, and I will tell you that besides the pain from the sting, the fact that the bee bit the hands that feed it (it was actually her butt, and she doesn’t feed them) really hurt her feelings. Why, Nana, why?…..

 

To date, Dave’s and Dagny’s bees are increasing in number. Recently, they have been observed bearding, which is when they accumulate roughly in the shape of a beard for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s hot outside and they are trying to cool down the inside of the hive so that Her Majesty the Queen is comfortable; or 2) They are getting ready to swarm, meaning take off for another hive. Apparently Dave and Dagny’s bees were just hot because they’re still there……

The bees have also begun the process of filling in the honeycomb with wax, which, if I understand it, means they will begin producing honey soon.

It won’t be long now before we will be seeing our first batches of D’s Honey, so get your order in early.

Unless, of course, Dave dumps the whole hive in the river in disgust once he can again see out of his left eye.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.

I Smell a Rat

About a month ago, my stepdaughter Heather posted this on Facebook:

After finally convincing Micah that we aren’t going to buy him a sea turtle for his birthday because there are some animals you just can’t have as pets, he lobbied (or perhaps filibustered is a better word) until he fell asleep for a pet rat instead. I know exactly what it feels like to want a pet that much and would now like to publicly apologize to my mom for all of those conversations I subjected her to in my childhood.

Heather and Micah

Heather, who has an intense allergy to dogs and cats, has always owned dogs and cats. She does to this day. She just takes allergy medications. Whatevah. But according to her mother’s response on Heather’s Facebook post, one of her many pets included a hamster which got loose and ended up in the wall, requiring cutting a hole in said wall to rescue it. What we do for our kids.

Most of my grandkids are allergic to pets with fur. Petting dogs has sent both Kaiya and Mylee to the ER because of asthma. I might be wrong, but I think Addie, Alastair, and Maggie Faith are all allergic to fur. Maybe Dagny has escaped the curse. And I don’t think that Joseph or Micah have allergies. Apparently, at least, not to sea turtles.

I think that Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole have accepted the fact that there will be no pets in their immediate future, at least not pets with fur. The others, however, all consistently beg for pets. The McLains, for example, have gone through a variety of fish, from the simple goldfish to more complicated aquariums. I have been on call to feed these fish on a number of occasions when they have been out of town. There’s a lot of responsibility involved in this task, let me tell you. When you kill Nemo, there can be no puppy to make up for the loss.

But a while back, Addie began what Heather correctly referred to as lobbying for a guinea pig. Yes, I know that guinea pigs have fur, but that didn’t stop Addie from making her case. Endlessly. Her mother, I think, gave in pretty easily. Though she isn’t a fan of the rodent (and really, how can one be?), she was willing to give in as long as Addie bought it herself, and took full responsibility for its care. Her father took a bit more persuasion, I believe. Still, meet Biscuit….

I have been offered the opportunity to hold Biscuit with my own two hands, and have politely declined. I have, however, been willing to give him (her?) a little pat on its tiny, furry head. Though a guinea pig just isn’t that far removed from a rat, I must admit that Biscuit is pretty cute. The guinea pig also makes cute little guttural sounds (that may be simple precursors to chomping a finger).

I’m on call to feed Biscuit when Addie and her family are out of town in a week or so. Please, St. Francis, make me a channel of your peace, and let Biscuit live and not chomp.

In the meantime, Dagny has allegedly begun lobbying for a pet snake. Should that happen, rest assured my friends, I will not pet its tiny snaky head. I will not even feed the snake little crickets while the family travels. No sireebob. That job will be left to one of the other grandmothers.

Two more things: 1. Addie has already said she intends to purchase a friend for Biscuit, and it will be called Gravy; and 2. the jury is still out on whether or not Micah gets a pet rat. Now that Heather’s mom has reminded her about the need to cut the hamster out of the wall, a second thought might be given to rat ownership.

Surprise!

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Dylan Thomas

Those “decade” birthdays can be enough to kill a guy. I remember when I turned 30; I was in the midst of a divorce and had a fever of 103 because of strep throat. Had anyone even come close to making a “you’re over the hill” remark, I believe I would have killed them.

I was a bit worried about my 60th, because, well, SIXTY. But as it was, I was rewarded for my longevity with a wonderful party in which professional chefs taught my grands and me to make pasta. And I’m a long way – ages, really – before I have to face my 70th.

But my sister Jen is looking right into the eyes of her 60th. She will celebrate that big event on September 14, when her birthday actually falls. However, a couple of months ago, her daughter Maggie had a brainstorm. Really. The light bulb went on over her head like in a cartoon. Why wait until September to celebrate? A landmark birthday like that should be celebrated early and often. She began planning a surprise birthday party for her mother during the time that she and her family would be visiting from AZ.

The key word in this whole scenario is “surprise.” You see, Jen is just short of being psychic. Let’s just call her intuitive. Extremely intuitive. I don’t think she has been surprised about anything in 40 years. For this reason, we were all sneaky to the point of being paranoid with the planning of this event. Not a word to Austin and Lilly. No text messages, lest Jen accidentally spies one.

Perhaps it was the fact that it was July 8 and not September 14, because why would anyone be thinking surprise birthday party in the middle of summer when you’re birthday’s not until – as Nat King Cole would say — the autumn leaves drift by the window?

Using a complicated plan that involved Maggie’s husband Mark claiming a friend of his was in town and this alleged friend wanted to meet Mark’s wife and children, they were able to get Jen to come along by promising dinner at a favorite restaurant across the street from the actual party site following this introductory meeting. The plan was full of holes, and yet, it worked. The look on Jen’s face when she walked into the restaurant only to see friends and family pop out with masks made out of a frighteningly surreal Jen-Baby Heads was priceless……

It took Jen only a few moments to get a handle on what was happening to her. As for her family, Mark and BJ were relieved to be free from their responsibilities, Maggie was just short of throwing up from nervousness, Austin was mortified (as only a 6-year-old boy can be) to have everyone staring at him, and Lilly, well, she was just happy to have a reason to party…..

Our stepmother Shirley was one of those present for Jen’s surprise party.

The party was held at Los Tarascos Restaurant in downtown Fort Collins, where the staff couldn’t have been nicer. They didn’t even tear up that much when glitter was sprinkled onto the bar. Really, their sobs were barely audible. Following a delicious taco bar, it was time for cake. Or, cakes, really. A lemon raspberry bundt cake and a double chocolate bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. As we were putting out the cakes, Maggie said to me, “Mom says she doesn’t want anyone to sing happy birthday. What do you think?”

Here’s what I thought, and Lilly too…..

As poet Dylan Thomas suggests, we won’t let Jen go gentle into that good night. It’s only July. We still have a few more months of celebrating her 60th!

Saturday Smile: Could I Have a Side of No Doze With That?

The other night, Bill and I were tired. We were so tired that not only did I not want to cook, we didn’t particularly want to go our for dinner. Still, we were hungry. I tried to order dinner from our neighborhood pizza/gyros place, but something was awry and I couldn’t get my order to go through on their web site and their phone kept going to voice mail.

Well, as my grandmother would have said, you always have to eat a little something.

So I told Bill he needn’t go change into non-house-remodeling clothes and we would simply suck it up and go to the pizza place in person. It’s only about a 5 minute drive, for heaven’s sake.

We sat down looking dazed and exhausted. So exhausted, in fact, that when the server came to take our order, Bill said, “I’d like the chicken fettucini, and add chicken.” The three of us got a good yuck about that. Then it was my turn. I kid you not. I said, “I’d like the gyros salad, and add gyros.” And I wasn’t even kidding.

She didn’t even ask us if we would like a glass of wine.

Bill and I had a good laugh, both secretly hoping we weren’t losing our minds and yearning for our beds.

But, no matter, because it tasted good…..

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The School of Essential Ingredients

Erica Bauermeister’s novel,The School of Essential Ingredients, SHOULD have been a book that I really enjoyed. It is all about food and cooking and how the two can shape your life, and that is something I believe and about which I enjoy reading. And in fact, the story started out grabbing my attention.

Lillian is a successful chef and restaurant owner, who once a month closes her restaurant and teaches cooking classes. The classes, however, are not just about food and the preparation of meals. She believes (as do I) that good food and friends and family gathered around the table are essential ingredients for a happy life. So her classes were as much about enjoying life and friends and family as they were about preparing food.

So about the first third of the book, as Bauermeister introduced us to the characters, I was all in. I liked the variety of people and life backgrounds and reasons for taking a cooking class. But unfortunately, it didn’t take long before the characters all started seeming exactly the same. They even talked the same.

I am more than willing to suspend reality when reading a novel. But the class consisted of eight people, all of whom it seemed had lives that were coming apart at the seams. But after a class or two, and upon learning the proper way to prepare a roast turkey, their lives changed. No matter their background, suddenly they develop a suburb nose for good wine. They can differentiate between different herbs and spices in a dish simply by a single taste.  All this in a couple of classes.

Bauermeister’s writing is flowery and reminded me of drinking a wine that is just a little too sweet for the meal being eaten. Her characters ended up being boring and annoying, at least to this reader. By the end, I wanted one of them to take a taste of something and not like it. It didn’t happen.

I don’t think I will attempt another of the author’s food books. I’m not that hungry.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Scream for Ice Cream
If you read yesterday’s post, you will have learned that I’m the sort of cook/baker who uses salt instead of sugar or forgets to add the chocolate chips to chocolate chip cookies. Well, maybe not quite as bad as that, but I am forgetful. However, one of my favorite activities with the grandkids is making homemade ice cream. To that end, I own not one, but two, ice cream makers. One has a single one-and-a-half quart canister and the other has two one-quart canisters. The other day, Maggie Faith and I decided to make three flavors — one chocolate, one vanilla with caramel, and one birthday cake batter flavored. The latter was Maggie Faith’s idea. Knowing my family well, I elected to use the larger ice cream maker for the chocolate, and then made vanilla and cake batter in the two smaller canisters. The chocolate ice cream froze just as it was supposed to; however, neither ice cream in the double canister maker froze. I was puzzled, because it seemed to be running just fine. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the reason the ice creams weren’t freezing is because there were no paddles churning the ice creams. Since then, I have searched my house from top to bottom to no avail. Both paddles are missing in action. Still, Maggie was able to enjoy the fruits of the chocolate ice cream labor…..

Explosions in the Sky
Like nearly every other American, we celebrated Independence Day with great vigor. On Independence Day Eve (also known unceremoniously as July 3), we met Allen and Emma at Civic Center Park between the City and County Building and the State Capitol to picnic and watch fireworks. Bill and I took Dagny and Maggie Faith along with us to enjoy the evening. We nibbled on fruit and cheese and meat and cookies while listening to a welcome from our Governor, who frankly sounded as though he might have been enjoying some of the beverages from his own brew pub, particularly when he told us all to “enjoy the explosions in the sky.” Whatever. He has a right to have fun too. Maggie was very patriotic….

Grand Finale
For the July 4th holiday, Bill and I did as we always do, which is celebrate with Jen and her crew. Maggie and Mark and the kids always visit from AZ during this period of time, and BJ always joins us as well. Here were two of my contributions to the meal….

We end our day of celebration at the Fort Collins city fireworks. The firework show is always impressive, but I will tell you that this year the City Officials out-officialed themselves. The show was stupendous, and it ended with what I believe was the most magnificent grand finale I have ever seen.

Time to Duck?
Bill and I always spend the night of July 4 in Fort Collins, since the fireworks show gets over late. This year, we stayed at the La Quinta Inn. We checked in early, and then spent the rest of the day at Jen’s and at fireworks. We told everyone just how nice we thought the hotel seemed. The staff was friendly and the hotel was clean and bright. When we awoke this morning, Bill opened the curtains and found this…..

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen. Our hotel window had what appeared to be a hole from a gunshot. I spent considerable time trying to think of alternative possibilities — a hailstone gone awry, a very strong person tossing a stone at the second story window. At the end of the day, however, gunshot seems to be the only logical solution. Sigh.

Ciao.