Monday, February 18, 2008

The Drought of North Carolina

Some of you may know that we are in the middle of a 2-year drought. In our county, the drought is at a serious level - D4: Exceptional Drought Conditions. Climate control says that this is the driest year in 113 years of recorded weather in North Carolina.

Falls Lake is the primary source of water for our county and covers over 12,000 acres of land. They're saying that if we don't get some relief before the summer months, the lake will run dry. Our county has about 80 days of water left - some counties have half that - many counties are completely out and getting water from areas nearby. Falls Lake is almost 8 feet below its normal level.

This weekend, we decided to drive up to the lake to see for ourselves. The sights were shocking. Gnarled roots of lakeside trees were dry and exposed. Buoys at the end of fishing docks were resting on the ground of the lake bed. Barren trees were toppled. While driving over one of the many bridges of Falls Lake, it was like looking at a landscape of mini islands everywhere - so much of the water had subsided.

As I was taking pictures, it felt strange walking on the floor of the lake. I found old stumps where I could imagine fish hiding from the shadows of overhead boats. I found crumpled and faded aluminum cans lodged in the sand. And thousands of beautiful river rocks like a blanket covering the shore.

We tried to explain the seriousness of a drought to my daughter. How in certain parts of the world, droughts have resulted in famine and starvation. It's really striking, when you think about it, how dependent we are on the resources of the earth and how suddenly they can disappear.

And so we've installed our low-flow shower heads and reduced our water consumption as much as possible. Instead of throwing out the stale water in the dog bowl, I pour it in the plants. We turn the water off when brushing our teeth and as much as possible while doing the dishes. My car hasn't been washed in months (although that's not really because of the water restrictions, it really is because I just never wash my car... much to my husbands chagrin - but now I have good reason!) and we don't water the plants outside.

But on those days when we do get a little rain, oh, it's such a relief. I feel like the earth is gulping it in, I can almost see the joy in the trees.

I know our lake will survive - I have hope and, now, a deep respect for the waters of the earth.

(See more photos from our trip at Sunniviews...)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Little Chef

This week my daughter was given a "Teach and Tell" assignment (instead of show and tell). She chose to teach her class how to make cornbread! The fascination with cornbread started about a week before when my husband brought home a cast-iron fajitas skillet. He was throwing together dinner and poured cornbread onto the skillet for a quick starch to accompany the meal.

Apparently this was quite appealing to my daughter who decided to make cornbread, all by herself, for breakfast the next morning. Since I wasn't in the kitchen the night before, I was a little surprised by the addition of sprinkling sugar on the skillet "just like Daddy did", but since Daddy had already left for work, I took her word for it and she continued.

Well, her little cornbread breakfast was quite tasty, so she decided this was going to be the subject for her "Teach and Tell" project. I don't think I can express how cute this whole process was but I will share that she typed up her own instructions and cooked it all by herself while I took pictures for the display part of her presentation. Here's the recipe:

How to make Cornbread

1.First heat up a pan.

2.Sprinkle sugar on pan.

3.Second put some Cornbread mix into a bowl.

4.Next add some Milk to the Cornbread and stir.

5.Then pour the Cornbread mix into the pan and let sit.

6.Last you flip the Cornbread and let sit again.

7.Finally you put the Cornbread on a pleat, and now you have a delicious treat!

So, there you go! Now you can make your own scrumptious cornbread. (Check out Sunniviews for more pictures!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentime's Day!

As my daughter would say, "Happy Valentime's Day, everybody!" She is busy working on valentines for all of her classmates. She only needs 23, but I notice that all the kid's valentines now come in packs of 32. Shew - it's hard to imagine a classroom with 32 kids in it!

I remember loving Valentine's Day when I was in grade school. Getting all those little cards filled with candy and well-wishes from friends. I used to savor every one of them. I specifically remember being surprised by the cards from the kids that I didn't get along with - trying to get the underlying meaning of the short sentences that said "Be Mine, Valentine" or "To A Sweet Girl" - wondering if they really meant it, or how odd that this person would send that Valentine, or maybe we could get along after all!

I can tell you that my daughter is not nearly as contemplative as I was. When she was in kindergarten, we made special homemade Valentines for all her friends (okay... truth be told, I did most of the work!) I was so excited to see what the other kids would give her that I couldn't wait for her to come home from school. She walked in the door and I looked through her bag expectantly. As it turns out, she ate all the candy and gave the Valentine's away to the kids on the bus. She is a tomboy through and through!

Besides that, my Valentines memories kind of fade into the background with birthdays and other holidays where you might get flowers and go out to dinner. To be quite honest, the only Valentines day that stands out in my mind was on a Saturday many years ago before my daughter came along. My husband and I decided to have a gourmet buffet with caviar, oysters, pate, chocolates and champagne - all the fun, extravagant stuff you can never justify buying all at once. Then we went to the video store and rented all three Godfather movies. Honestly, who watches Godfather movies on Valentines day!?! And three of them at that!?! I must say it certainly was memorable!

But my favorite thing about Valentine's day when I was growing up was coming down for breakfast and being surprised by a little treat before school. Usually those candy hearts with "UR GRT" and "TOO SWEET". My mom always had a little something special for us on Valentine's Day morning. So, I pass on the tradition and have a floppy Valentine's Day dog waiting on the kitchen counter for the sleepy eyes of an eight-year-old girl tomorrow morning.

So I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day - filled with lots of fun surprises, no matter how small. (And hopefully not too many Godfather movies!)

Also - recognize this string of little cutout people on my picture above? They were from the cardboard Christmas tree I created for our cube decoration contest at work this past year! (See Deck the Halls...) I needed something for the Valentine's Day e-cards of our website at work and thought these would work well. With my new camera, I did a whole "studio" setup outside while the sun set so that the golden hearts would sparkle in the light. Not sure if you can really see tell, but it sure was fun!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Concept of Art

The other morning, my daughter announced that the Kid's Worldbook (an encyclopedia for kids) has the most inappropriate thing in it. She proceeded to tell us that they were in class doing research (3rd grade, mind you) and she had the Kid's Worldbook on D's. And, right there in the book, was David! Naked! "You could see his ding-a-ling!!", she exclaimed.

My husband and I supressed a laugh and asked her if she told her teacher. Yes, she said. I asked what her teacher said. "She said she'd get me a new book."

I can just imagine being a 3rd grade teacher and having to endure the constant questions from kids, especially at this age when they're trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong. In fact, just a week before, we had some long discussions about bad words. She was trying to figure out the meaning of the B word (that rhymes with witch) and the A word (that rhymes with class.) We started by trying to explain the dual meaning of both these words - a female dog and a donkey. How, in certain context, you can use them both and be perfectly fine but that most of the time, they are used in the foul sense, hence, bad words.

This all went right over her head. (Am I surprised?... ah, no.) I went to school to have lunch with her a few days later. She stopped abruptly in the middle of the lunchroom and said "Mommy, I just can't get those words out of my head" Which ones, sweetie, I said (having forgotten all about the bad word discussion.) "B*** (that rhymes with witch) and A***(that rhymes with class.)" But she actually said them... Loudly.

Oh my - you know that feeling when you're whole body kind of freezes up and your lungs squeeze right out of your chest? I was feeling just that way when I kneeled down eye-level with my sweet 8 year old and told her she absolutely may not say those words and there are thousands of words she can fill her head with instead like rainbow, macaroni, sneaker, silly, sunset to name a few. Luckily she took the bait of this game and we spent the entire lunch time thinking up all the nice words that we can fill our heads with instead of... those.

In fact, the reason she is using the "ding-a-ling" word is because she was previously using the B word that rhymes with walls. I know this is not really the foulest of the foul words but certainly not appropriate. One time when she was about 4, she fell while riding her bike, apparently hurting her crotch area. She came down the street crying her eyes out and saying she hurt her B*** that rhymes with walls. We explained that she's a girl and doesn't have any of those... ah, you know.

But this age is truly so sweet. This weekend she was trying to understand the dual meaning of the word gay - which a friend of hers said when they were playing Barbies. "And I was so surprised, Mommy, because right away I thought of a woman and a woman in love but then I realized that she was talking about the happy gay... and today I am very, very gay because it's like spring outside and I can wear shorts!" The other day she was talking about a picture that had the "Grape Ball of China!" Hilarious!

So, did we ever have the talk about appropriate and inappropriate art? Nah. We were rushing out the door at the time. I'll leave that discussion up to my sister, the New York artist, who has probably had many, many discussions with her artist friends about this very subject!

UPDATE: I've had a lot of people ask, so I thought I'd let you know that the psychotic, prehistoric squirrel in front of David is none other than "Scrat" from the animated movie, Ice Age. (This scene is from Ice Age 2.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Scrumptious Soup

As many of you know, I'm not much of a cook. My husband, who is a chef, does most of the cooking at our house. I have offered, believe me. But he's got some kind of territorial issues with the kitchen and even when I try to cook, he hovers so incessantly that eventually, in his frustration, he takes over and does it himself. (You may remember my post from last year "Making Deviled Eggs", which is a classic example of the scenarios we've had in the kitchen.)

Despite this possessiveness, he makes some fantastic dishes and has lots of great ideas. I've been trying to talk him into keeping his own blog but he hates to write and doesn't like to type much either. So, I told him that I would take pictures of his lovely creations and post them myself. And since I know there are so many fabulous cooks out there, I thought you guys might enjoy this one!

He's been exploring recipes with a cast-iron Dutch Oven
. Apparently, the Dutch Oven is known for it's long, slow, even cooking which makes the soup so flavorful. Interestingly enough, this type of cooking pot dates back to the 1600's where it was discovered in Holland. The term "Dutch Oven" has endured for over 300 years! Believe it or not, there is a Dutch Oven Society! (Click here for recipes, events and photos.) It's really like a crock pot... pioneer-style!

My husband's first fabulous creation was a Chicken & Root Vegetable Soup. Oh, my - it was delicious! Here's how:

Ingredients: Carrots, Celery, Onions, Parsnips,
Sherry, Potatoes, Chicken, Chicken Broth, Bay Leaves & Pepper, Plum Tomatoes

Sweat (saute) the carrots, celery, onions, parsnips.
Deglaze with sherry.
Add potatoes and chicken.
Fill with chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
Add a ham bone (special secret!)
Season with 4 bay leaves, dash of pepper.
Put the lid on and slide in an oven at 300 degrees for one hour.
Just before serving, add sliced plum tomatoes.

Yea, soup!!

It was fun to take photos of this process as it developed and I realized that I may have a new career on my hands! (See more of these photos on Sunniviews...) As we chatted while the soup boiled, I realized that my husband and I, as most couples, have the most delightful balance. He cooks and I photograph & write (oh - and clean up... I'm not entirely useless!)

Quite a lovely arrangement, if I do say so myself!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Juicy Journals

I have always loved writing... anything and everything. Stories, poems, the boring chronicles of my teenage angst - whatever comes into my fevered little brain. I just love writing stuff down on paper. Sometimes special paper, sometimes special pens, sometimes special books. I find it so therapeutic in so many ways. The more I write, the better I feel - I have more clarity, my memory improves, I can relax. My favorite thing to do is sit at Barnes & Noble in the cafe, drinking coffee and writing.

I've been journaling on and off for about 20 years but it didn't hit me until yesterday that I've been writing for this long. I was in the attic trying to organize a few things and I came across a paper grocery bag filled to the brim with journals. I pulled them out just to take a quick peek. Oh my, how lovely the memories. I found pictures of me and my high school friends being crazy on a night out many years ago, a story of the day that my baby girl first started dancing in my arms - a sweet little wiggly-twisty dance, the details of a date with a boyfriend who would later become my husband, the fun memories of a visit with my sister on my birthday.

I've always thought that (god forbid) if we ever had a fire, after I made sure my family and pets were safely out of the house, I would grab two things: my journals and our photo albums. How? Not sure exactly - chuck them out the window before the fire could get to them? I think I remember being very anxious about this when I was really young (6th grade?) and they talked about escape routes in your home in the event of a fire. I remember putting all my special things - including letters from my summer camp friends, pictures and journals - into a bag that I set beside my bedroom door just in case.

Sometimes I wonder if I don't love looking back on the memories of all this writing just as much a doing it. Some of my journals are very visual, lots of photographs and very colorful - more like a scrapbook. Some of them are all writing and include poems and stories. Some are a combination, like the ones when my daughter was very little and her baby face was just too sweet to not include. Then there are some that were just an outlet, full of frustration and longing.

I have to stop for a moment and think practically about all this stuff - honestly, if I live to be 100, I'll have a ton of stuff to chuck out a window if there is ever a fire. Perhaps I'll have to organize them by priority. Best memories first - teenage angst last!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Tappy Feet

This past week, my daughter's clogging class hosted a "parent viewing" night where we are invited into the classroom to take pictures or videos. The woman who owns the dance studio just moved to a larger location, which is really nice - there are more classrooms and they all have viewing windows. It's fun to watch all the classes as they're happening, but there is just something about being inside the room that makes it so much more impressive. Especially with clogging!

I never knew that much about clogging before we signed my daughter up for her class. Originally, I was looking for either Irish Dance or Tap but both classes were full. Clogging is very similar to both of these styles, but the neat thing about clogging are the jingle taps attached to the bottom of the shoes. Because of the extra metal plates, the sounds is much louder with a little extra vibration to it.

Interestingly enough, clogging originated in the Appalachian Mountains and was performed to traditional country and bluegrass songs. (It's the official dance of the state of North Carolina!) My daughter's class is not traditional and they dance to all types of music. Their recital song is Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) by Michael Jackson and they usually warm up to the songs from the High School Musical soundtrack!

I love watching these little kids pounding out the clogging steps. It sounds so powerful when they're all on the same rhythm - it really is incredible and they are so, so cute!

Here is a little clip of what we got to see... Enjoy! And if you're interested in learning more about clogging, I found a great website that has lots of resources and fun facts. See Double Toe Times.