Friday, July 31, 2009

My Stack is Intact

Some updates to the post from the other day:

Nephew is home, after a few hiccups. Let's just put it this way-if you select a date, then select a flight on Jet Blue, when they bring you to the screen to select a seat DOUBLE CHECK IT IS STILL THE SAME DATE! Somehow, M was booked on an August 4th flight, which we did not notice until we got to the counter to check him in.

The rest of fun is just beginning. However, Ed and I have agreed (after he's had a few unpleasant encounters with his Mom) that I will stay away from his family. I think it's best. They don't want to hear what I hae to say, and I grow frustrated with their tendency to stick their heads in the sand instead of dealing with a situation.

At least we discussed that there will be ground rules. A set day for grocery shopping-miss it, and the groceries will have to wait until the next week. Doctor's appointments also will have one day where he'll take them around. I will support him in whatever way he needs, but I will not interact with them.

As for my blog, it's my blog. It is probably most of the problem. Mainly because Jane lurks and never comments. If I don't use her name in something, she is annoyed. If I talk about her, she's annoyed. The answer? Jane, stop reading my blog!

More than that, I can't tell you...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hope You're Not Hungry

A couple of months ago, I bought a couple of those TGI Fridays Skillet Meals to keep in the freezer for nights when I was too lazy to cook from scratch wanted to enjoy a restaurant meal without killing the wallet. Well, the wallet's dead, so I pulled the two things out tonight.

When they were purchased, I was enticed by the dishes and didn't pay attention to how much the bags weighed. I pulled on out of the freezer and realized it probably wouldn't be able to feed a family of four (FTR, Cajun Alfredo Chicken and Shrimp). Thus, I also grabbed the second package and figured we could each battle it out over which we wanted. (Southwest Chicken and Vegetables with Black Beans and Rice)

The saucepans were prepped, the meat packets dumped into the pan. Hmmm. That's probably about the same meat as one serving in this house (about a chicken breast's worth, maybe 3 oz). I look at the serving size information and it is revealed that each package contains "about 2.5 servings". Guess it's a good thing I made two, huh?

As I'm cooking, the boys remind me that they'd asked for the spinach tortellini. Okay, I'll start that when I'm done with the dueling saucepans. These meals come with sauce in one pouch, meat in a second, then veggies and finally, the Southwest Chicken had black beans and rice.

Once everything was in the saucepans, I had to wonder who determines the portion sizes. Most of the time, I don't eat a full portion. If we're at a restaurant, there's usually a take home bag in my future. It's looking like maybe I should be glad the kids wanted something else.

Then I dished it up.

This is supposed to be 'about 2.5 servings' of the Southwest Chicken. (Fork included in picture to show you size of serving.)

The verdict?

Flavor is a solid 9, but the portion size rules out me purchasing them again. If I really was going to get 2.5 portions out of it, the value would win me over. Instead, it's only a buck off of what they'd charge me at our local TGI Fridays-and I'd get MORE there.

Oh well. Guess it's a good thing I cook most nights and don't resort to these things. Otherwise, we'd go hungry.

Bill Shatner, Poet

Conan, Bill Shatner, Twitter and Sarah Palin-nothing more needs to be said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm Going to Blow My Stack

The drama never ends.

When last I spoke of them, my sister in law was sent home from the hospital with instructions to follow up with five or six doctors. I was ticked because I wasn't asked if I would take her to said appointments, it was assumed. There was a blog entry.

She read the blog post, as she does all of them. If I write about her, she vents her spleen at Ed and tells him to "control his wife." His response? Fat chance of that happening.

So, after I wrote the post linked above on May 23rd, I called the next day to ask what time she need to be at the doctor's office to have a stent put in. "You don't need to take me, I'll take myself." Um, no, with a surgical procedure, they don't let patients drive home. For one factor, anesthesia is still in the system. For another, she's on blood thinners-a vein puncture doesn't close up quickly. She could bleed out if she hit the brakes too hard.

I mention this and she says "I'll wait until they let me leave." Sorry, with a vein puncture, that's not going to happen. The whole exchange was rather pissy. Each time I brought up a valid reason for why her plan would not work, she refused to listen. I bowed out. I told Ed I was washing my hands of it.

It was clear she'd read the blog and rather than talk to ME, she was going to breathe fire on Ed when she next spoke to him. Only problem was, after an eight day hospital stay and two weeks at home, he wasn't talking to her, either. He'd come to realize that the ONLY time he hears from his mother or sister is when they need him to do something. He was done with them, too.

There's more to the story than that, but it's a reasonable summary.

So, neither one of us was calling them. I think Ed wanted to see how long it would take before they picked up the phone. Tick tock, tick tock.

No calls until I got a voice mail on July 4th, six weeks after we'd last spoken. I was at a parade with the boys and got a breezy, phony-cheerful message "Hi, it's me. Miss you and the boys. Happy 4th of July. I need you to call me when you get a chance."

There's that word again, need. In Janespeak, it translated into "I'm going to sucker you into doing something for me, but I won't leave it in a message-I'll make you call me back so you can't get out of it." Nope, I wasn't buying it. Considering how many times I've left messages in the past year that would be ignored for weeks, ignoring ONE message wasn't that bad.

Then a week ago, Ed's mom calls him. "Are you mad at me?" He explains that no, he's not mad at HER. During the conversation, he once again tells his mom that the infections that he got were a direct result of visiting Jane in the hospital. She acted as if this was new information, when I'd told her at least twice, my sister in law several times and Ed had stated it, too. She refuses to believe it.

It ends up that Jane is in the hospital. Again. According to Mom, she's been there four weeks. Jane's doctor called mom to say that things don't look good: renal failure, congestive heart failure, still with the stupid infections that Ed had (and didn't get from her, remember?) and leg pain. The doctor says there's possible dialysis in her future. Not a surprise, the Vancomycin that she's on is murder on a healthy body. She's on a morphine drip for the pain.

Some of what his mom said didn't make sense, so I called sister in law to see what she knew. Actually, Jane's been in three weeks (hmm, since around July 4th). She asked the doctor to call mom and give her a scenario worse than it is, so that mom won't expect her to come home from the hospital and do everything. Supposedly, things aren't as bad as the doctor told mom. The truth? I suspect that what the doctor told mom is the truth, but Jane chooses to live in a fantasy land about the status of her health.

In the meantime, our nephew has been living with Mom and Jane for the past year. At first, the plan was for him to get a job and move out on his own in a few months. Instead, over time, he's turned into mom's slave, unable to leave the house to socialize with friends or even to go run errands. Nephew does not drive, and has had some unrealistic expectations placed upon him (like doing a weekly grocery shopping, then bringing it all home on a bicycle.)

Remember, they weren't calling us-and nephew's suggestions to do so were blown off. In his Asperger's logical mind, mom was watching our garage door, therefore, she wanted to know what we were up to. He was thinking she should pick up the phone, instead of expecting us to have ESP and know that she needed help.

After three weeks in the hospital, Jane got transferred to the same rehabilitation center she was in back in January (if you're keeping tally, I think it's now 72 days in the hospital so far this year, and it was 78 total last year). She needed items that were too large to transport on the bicycle. Sorry, in 100 degree heat, expectingy an asthmatic is ride his bike three miles to the nursing home is too much. He refused, but asked a friend to come over and help out and was told his friend could not come to the house.

I spoke to sister in law again yesterday and was updated. After hearing all of it, I called Ed and insisted he go over there after work to find out what the hell was going on and see what we should do. He spoke to nephew for a while and said he'd take him to nursing home and store today. As he put it, there was detente-but if mom pulled another one of her verbal tirades, nephew was going home.

When I got over there this afternoon, she'd just finished being nasty to him. Apparently, she was annoyed that 'everyone runs to help YOU and ignores me'. Um, we're not psychic, nor are we setting foot in a hospital when both of us have open wounds of some sort on our bodies. We said we'd bring him, but neither of us is going inside (me because I don't think Jane wants to talk to me, Ed because of the infection risk)

This was the final straw. On the way to run his errands, nephew told me what had happened. The plane ticket is purchased, while he is packing to go home tomorrow as I write this.

My kids stayed with mom while I ran nephew around in the car. The plan was to take the boys along, I don't think my mother in law is capable of watching Game Teen. They wanted to stay, she insisted she was up for it. However, she and Game Teen disagreed on something and she told him to LEAVE! The house is locked up, so she instead made him sit on the front porch for a while.

When we returned, I was asked how Jane was. I was honest, telling her I didn't go into the nursing home. I got the wrath of Mom, mad that I didn't see her. My response was "I don't think she wants to see me, to be honest-her last phone conversation with me was quite clear on that front."

The nasty retort? "Sue, it goes both ways, you know."


I bit my tongue.

I've been called the know it all bitch, all for taking an interest in health treatments, for suggesting they put their house in a living trust four years ago, and basically, for trying to be helpful. Now that I've backed off, because they don't like what I have to say, I'm called out for NOT doing anything.

It does go both ways, but you can't have it both ways.

Something has to give. It won't be me and I don't think it should be Ed.

Without nephew there, neither Jane nor mom is capable of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, yard work or pool maintenance. How can one expect to live independently if they can do nothing without assistance?

I'm the evil person who has said for a long time that they should be in assisted living. Sister in law has been on that bandwagon since nephew explained the situation he moved into a year ago. Ed doesn't want to come across as an ogre for bringing it up again.

Hell, if he does, they will think that it was my idea, anyway.

Not my battle to have, yet, it's not a battle Ed wants.

It is going to lay unresolved until there is no other option.

I hate this.

**Note** I may take this down. It's pretty harsh, but it is my opinion. I respect Ed's point of view and if he doesn't want it to stay up, it won't.


So, I'm about to put stuff up on Craig's List to pay the rent.

I've applied for numerous jobs, have had no calls except for last week's interview (that won't notify me until September for an October start.) I'm getting the 'thanks, but no thanks emails', if anything.

My phone rings. I don't recognize the area code as being A. friend or family or B. local, so I let it ring through to voice mail.

It's some company looking for money. Do I have a clue? No. Why?

I think the person is reading a phonetic guide on what to say on these phone calls.

No wonder I can't find a job, my mastery of English is too expensive for them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yet Again, Scouting Comes Through

After last week's events with Game Teen, some changes needed to happen for him to attend future overnights. Namely, Ed or I have to be on those camping trips to take over if Game Teen melts down.

In a sense, I love the idea, because the end of camping with Cub Scouts is drawing near. At the same time, Chef Jr isn't a Boy Scout yet. I wouldn't be able to bring him. Thankfully, our friend Maureen offered to take Chef. I suspect he and Coaster Kid will enjoy weekends hanging out without Game Teen.

When I left the camp last Wednesday, the leaders had asked for resources and tools to better work with my son. I have a couple of books that I was going to lend out, but I got a phone call yesterday that once again showed why moving with this new troop was the right idea.

Some of our leaders are involved in both Chef's Pack and Game Teen's Troop, and the pack had an activity this weekend. We didn't attend, as Chef had been to the site twice last year. However, there was a disability expo going on-and CARD was present.

For those unfamiliar, CARD is the Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities, a resource network throughout Florida. People can call them to find doctors, social skills therapies, borrow books from their lending library and a host of other things to help learn about the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

While there, one of the leaders struck up a conversation with the woman manning the booth, explaining what had transpired with Game Teen. The woman backed up each situation with "oh, Aspie's need a warning when an activities end" or ""He was probably overwhelmed with the noise" and "they don't accept no very well." All stuff we've said, but not repeated over and over.

Then, the cool part-the woman offered to come speak to the troop. She could speak to the boys to educate them about Asperger's in general and then the leaders separately to give good strategies on working with Game Teen and preventing meltdowns.

It warmed my heart that not only was this leader looking out for Game Teen, but that I was called to ask my opinion. Would I like this presented to the Troop? Heck YEAH! It made more sense to have one presenter, then for leaders to get information from five different sources.

As I said elsewhere yesterday, 40 miles one way? It's a trip I will gladly make each week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Next Food Network Star-Week 8

And Then There Were Three (or "Suzanne gets a birthday present from the Food Network")

This week, the show opens with the final three still in Miami, where they meet up with Emeril at his Miami Beach restaurant. Their challenge is a big one: after viewing an advance screening of "Julie and Julia",

Jeffrey, Debbie and Melissa will prepare a three course meal for twenty superstars of the culinary world, putting their "passion for food on a plate". Each is supposed to use the movie as an inspiration for what their menu will be and then will present a live cooking demonstration of one of those courses.

As we watch them head off to market, the voiceovers and interviews feature each finalist speaking about their similarities with Julia. They each came up with a different perspective from the movie.

Sooo, if you've got $1,000. and are feeding people like Rick Bayless, John Besh, Mosaharu Morimoto, Marcus Samuelsson, Emeril LaGasse, and others, what would YOU make to represent yourself and how you relate to Julia Child?

Debbie once again comes up with her Seoul to Soul concept with a spiced shrimp on a cold corn salad appetizer (corn is Korean?), Braised Korean short ribs and a pear egg roll in a spicy caramel sauce.

decides to do a ratatouille with a potato tart, brick chicken with Orzo and a cheese course with salad and a apricot pastry for dessert.
Jeffrey opts to pan sear some sea scallops with an ancho sauce, a seafood risotto and chocolate mousse with a homemade biscotti for the third course.

Cut to Jeffrey at the checkout, where he's spent about 316 bucks. If that were me, I'd be going back and buying two dozen lobsters and then adding lobster to the risotto. As it is, both Ed and I are wondering why in the world the guy would choose to make a dish that requires constant stirring when he's got other things to do?

When they get back to the kitchen, they discover they've got sous chefs: former finalists Michael, Katie and Jamika who are paired with Debbie, Jeffrey and Melissa, respectively.

Now, the promos leading into this week showed someone getting blasted for raw dough and Samuelsson stating "this dish is an insult to Italy", so I'd assumed that Melissa, with two pastries and Jeffrey, with the risotto, would be the ones under fire. It seemed that Melissa was going to have issues, as she thought the dough wasn't done on her potato tart. Meanwhile, Michael was concerned that Debbie's short ribs were going to be tough, but she assured him that "Korean's like them tougher than Americans". (Drink!)

Presentation time and Melissa goes first-and hits it out of the ballpark. Her presentation is about how Julia said to be fearless, about her mother teaching her to cook, then her mother's suicide and how she found her way through her cooking. The audience was brought to tears. Francois Payard loves her goat cheese and apricot pouchette.

While they dined on the first course, Melissa told how her French mother in law gave her the tools for the perfect ratatouille, while they raved about both items on the plate. Next, she deomnstrated how to make brick chicken-a few of the chefs received dry servings, but most liked the flavor. Finally, the third course came out, and she explained that in her house, cheese and salad are dessert. Once again, her pouchette has earned her raves and one chef asking for a plate of them. She charms the chefs present with the statement "Julia is right, I should not be afraid."

Next, Debbie is up. She presents her Chili rubbed barbequued shrimp over cold corn salad. The feedback was that the course was more Southwest than Asian. Then, the ribs were deemed tough, with Alex Guarnascelli commenting that "We wanted to see you bleed your culture". The Asian pear egg rolls got mixed reviews, with several stating the egg rolls were raw. Aha! That's the raw comment from the promo!

Finally, Jeffrey comes in and flawlessly executes how to pan seared wild seas scallops with green chile chutney. Tyler Florence tells Jeffrey that there is not one thing he could have done better. Jeffrey beams-and then the seafood risotto is served. The faces tell the whole story. This dish fell flat, and Jeffrey is questioned about his budget, where he admits he only spent $317.14. I honestly thought Jeffrey was out after this faux pas. However, the man kept plugging away and served his third course to positive response.

The trio makes it back to their suite, where it seems clear that Melissa is going to move forward, but Jeffrey probably won't. Bummer, especially if it means Debbie the Deceiver might have a shot at a show and he won't.

Judgement time. Bob, Bobby and Susie tell Melissa that she blew away all the chefs, that the best pastry chef in the world was gushing about her dessert and the only real complaint they had was that she hid her part of the dish under the salad and cheeses.

Debbie and Jeffrey weren't as lucky, and each had issues that the judges addressed from the feedback given by twenty of the world's professionals. Wait a minute, maybe Debbie isn't guaranteed a slot in the final!

We see a little bit of the deliberations, and the only thing Bob says about Debbie is "she's camera ready." Um, that is not a good sign for 'I'm Korean' and probably means the end of the line for the drinking games. Food Network will no longer contribute the America's Monday morning hangovers.

And the verdict is that Ding Dong, the Liar is Gone! (Or Donna's version "Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye", which Chef Jr sang )

Thank you, Food Network. How was I to know you were saving the dismissal of Debbie to use as a birthday present? I'll take it. Especially since either Jeffrey or Melissa will have a show I'll enjoy watching.

One more week to find out who will be the Next Food Network STar!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Thanks to Facebook once again.

My first career choice was radio broadcasting. Little did I know that most disc jockeys make no money, so my tenure in the commercial side of that field was very short (six years unpaid vs. one year paid). However, I am now in contact with probably two dozen of those colleagues from that era that still work in the business.

What happens when your status updates are peppered with those whose lives revolve around music? You get a lot of links to videos from days gone by, of songs you loved back then. At the very least, it means the iPod gets some long forgotten gems added to the rotation.

Such is the case when one of the guys that overlapped a year at the college radio station posts his picks. Dan posted a link to a classic that never fails to get me singing along. It is just!

This is one of those songs that refuses to let you stay in a bad mood. Ever. Yes, I know it comes from the musical "Hair", but this version is the one I love the best.

Thank you, Dan. Thank you, Oliver. Forty years later, your song still makes me happy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Start Spreadin' the News...

I'll be there next year!

Last year, I wished I could go. This year, I got halfway to it. That means, next year is the year for BlogHer, right? The lovely ladies at BlogHer announced next years destination for the ultimate convention of women bloggers:


While it doesn't help me on the quest to see new places, it does have to potential of knocking a few things off my 'To Do' list, like checking out seeing family and friends and checking out some great restaurants I've been dying to try.

Then, factor in the blog friends that haven't attended, either. Grandy over at Functional Schmunctional is on board and Patricia of Notes from the Bunker (one of my first/favorite Twitter friends-@Astrogirl426) is also going.

Somehow, I think the East Coast locale will get a few other friends from around the blogosphere to attend. Perhaps that is what the ladies at BlogHer have in mind, to get more of us to be there.

At least we've got 54 weeks to get things together for August 5-7, 2010.

What about you, blog friends? Does the locale make this a possibility for you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Rollercoaster Week

This certainly has been a roller coaster week.

*Sent a kid to camp. Picked the kid up from camp three days later.
*Drove to Port St. Lucie for an interview. Two and a half hours each way. Won't know if I got a job until September.
*Have a stupid, bruised RSD foot again. Apparently, if that foot walks on gravel, it turns purple.
*Got a HUGE gift card from a major retailer to shop and vlog and HAVE A CONTEST.

Oh wait, did I tell you that it's to do a room makeover? For a kid? The one who got sent home from camp? I'm sitting here with said gift card and perusing their web site without said child seeing what's going on. I think we need a few day's distance between what happened at camp and a shopping trip to redo his room.

Other crap is going on, which I wrote a blog post about, but I'm not quite ready to publish. It can be summed up in stating that people who frustrated us in may still frustrate us. It's not my conversation to have.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yes, I Was Planning to Go to BlogHer

This was the year I would be going, remember?

The conference ticket was purchased. The airline ticket, too. I had a couple of stumbling blocks, though. Namely, how was I going to pay for a hotel room and who would watch the kids.

The hotel room was pricey, but I had a potential sponsor. Then, Game Teen's scout camp coincided with the BlogHer dates. It was a sign, I was sure of it. There are precious few people on this planet who can handle Game Teen for more than a few hours, so the possibility of only asking someone to watch Chef and getting a yes was much better.

Something held me back, though. After the initial email exchanges with the sponsor, I backed off. Two weeks ago, I found a happy taker for the conference ticket and I changed the plane ticket to a voucher to be used between now and March.

Between yesterday and today, it became clear why I shouldn't be going to BlogHer. It can be explained by this: GameTeen is asleep in his own bed tonight.

He was as disruptive at camp as he is at home. Maybe even more so, as he had new people to push buttons, test boundaries and pull all his crap upon. While they've been patient and successful with him for the short camping trips and hikes, he proved to be too much for them in a camp setting.

Tuesday morning, as I grabbed a breakfast in the extra time before my interview, I got a phone call from one of the leaders. He explained that they'd had some major meltdowns, but everything was cool. Could I possibly stop by the camp to sit down with the leaders and Game Teen, so that we all could discuss what would happen?

I'd passed by the camp just over an hour earlier and agreed to visit on my return home. By the time I arrived, Game Teen had been a model camper for the rest of the morning, because they admitted that they probably pushed him to do too much. S stated "the average kid does better when they're kept busy, Game Teen does worse."

The leaders decided to cut his schedule. They felt they had things well in hand. An invitation was extended for me to share lunch with the troop and I enjoyed not only the food (honestly, really good stuff), but the entertainment provided by the camp staff. Game Teen seemed to enjoy as well. Probably the most touching part is that several of the boys came over to say hello to me-we've got good kids, for sure.

What I didn't think about, and later came to pass, is that Game Teen tends to act WORSE when Mom or Dad pay a visit to school. While I will never be sure, because he won't fess up, it may be a case of "well, I'll get to go home and play games if I act so bad they want to kick me out, and it's already close to that point because he/she is here now."

That's what he did.

S believes that part of the problem was the noise and activity in the dining hall was too much for Game Teen. That may be a contributor, but it's not the only thing. Half the time, we're flying blind with the kid-he can't articulate what he's feeling or what makes him do what he does. That's probably the suckiest part of Asperger's, that he hits a breaking point and even he is not sure what triggered it or how to express what happened.

Alas, after his episode yesterday, S called me. My phone was on vibrate from attending the interview (I never turn my ringer off for exactly that reason. I forget to turn it back). So, I didn't get the messages about the situation until Wednesday afternoon.

I called S as soon as I got the message and we talked about the problems and that I should come get Game Teen. The offer was made to come ASAP, but S said we should come as planned for Family Night, spend a little time, then take Game Teen home. It was presented in a very calm way, and I felt that the three leaders were doing everything they could for my son-but they've got 19 other boys to supervise. No question that I had to collect my son.

An hour later, I got another phone call. This one from someone else from the troop who was not at the camp.

"Um, I don't know how to say it...I don't really know you all that well...but in the past, kids who have been to camp the first time are homesick. If parents see you taking him home, well, we're afraid that they'll take their sons home, too.

It would be best if you get there early and get him and his stuff out before other parents arrive, so that they don't get the idea to take the homesick boys home."

Never mind that I'd already told this person that I'd spoken with S and I offered to collect him earlier, and S stated this was not what the leaders wanted-they wanted us to be there for family night.

What the heck was going on and was there something that I wasn't being told?

I hung up from that call, and felt about 2 inches tall. It's bad enough that my child can't handle being at camp. It sucks that we shelled out three hundred dollars (that we really didn't have-then OR now) to send him off, only for him to have to come home half way through.

The worst part was that I felt as if my child is an embarrassment to the caller and the troop, that we were discouraged from participating in the Family night activities, then leave-because it might mean more boys would leave.

The hour in the car driving to camp was spent fighting back tears and trying to keep the anxiety attack from getting worse. As parents, Ed and I deal with the stares, the snide comments about the kid who is a brat, the family members who don't understand nor care to, and the school staffers who don't believe us about how bad things really can be with him.

When Chef and I arrived at the camp, Game Teen was very happy to see us, but I was all business. "Where's your stuff?" It was all in his hootch, with a few things on a cot outside. The caller said that his stuff would be packed and ready to go when I mentioned that I had to get his stuff together, that one of the leaders would be informed to pack his bag.

One of the other parents and S came up to us and greeted me. I can't remember exactly how it came about, but I said we weren't sticking around, that I needed to get Game Teen's stuff together and out right away. S told me to stay-whereupon I lost it.

I started crying and blubbering about the phone call I'd had, that I wanted to be gone, how I know this child is a burden, he will always be one, but to be told by someone to HIDE the fact that Game Teen couldn't hack camp for the sake of preventing parents from leaving with their homesick kids was humiliating.

(BTW, if my son told me he was homesick after I'd shelled out that kind of money for camp, the answer would be 'suck it up-I never went away to camp!')

Apparently, the caller was not speaking on behalf of the leaders. Instead, the events of a couple of other scouting transition camp outs had the caller worried about a repeat situation with the first time campers here. There's a big difference between 9 and 10 year olds camping without their parents and 11-18 year olds being away from home for the first time.

The whole situation sucked. Thankfully, the parent that I spoke with along with S is a leader of Chef's pack, so I got some reassurances from someone I felt could be honest with me. We decided to stick around for dinner and the canoe fights later.

Yes, it bums me out that he didn't make it through the whole week. It also bites that for now, he needs Mom or Dad to attend any overnights (kind of tricky when Chef isn't going to be a Boy Scout for another seven months). But the upshot of the trip is that the people who were there AT the camp with him would do anything within their power to keep him there.

Of that I have no doubt.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's For Dinner Lunch Wednesday

Dinner tonight will either be uninspiring Dominoes Pizza (blech!) or Chef and I will grab a meal afterward. We are visiting Game Teen at camp for Family night. There's another post ahead about that, but Game Teen politely asked if we'd come tonight.

To continue my trend of torturing you with descriptions and pictures of meals, today's lunch is presented for your enjoyment.

Crab cakes are yummy. A lot of work, but the fact that there are always leftovers makes it worth the effort. Today is no different. Chef's requested crab cakes were made last night, along with his Caribou Coffee cake with Buttercream frosting. (That's not a pretty sight, but it is VERY tasty)

I especially like the steam rising from the hash browns. The cole slaw was a perfect copy of the version we enjoyed at Skyland last week. I am happy about that, for Ed and I now have a cole slaw we can agree on (he likes sweet, I like mustard).

Now that I've got a bowl of remoulade in the fridge, I'm wondering how it will taste with fried chicken...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On The Road to Yeehaw Junction

To get on the Florida Turnpike headed south.

I drove the long trip for an interview. The job would be local.

Of course, no road trip is incomplete without an issue. 45 miles into the trip, I passed the camp that Game Teen is attending. Then, I got to my destination with 45 minutes to spare-and a message from a Scoutmaster that they were 'having issues'.

Thankfully, upon my return to Yeehaw Junction and points west

it was determined that to get the most out of Game Teen, less is more. Assistant Scoutmaster realized that keeping him busy, busy, busy was a recipe for trouble. So, we had a little meeting that was very low key, I enjoyed a yummy lunch with the boys and they all proved that they know how to be very polite-even when their Moms aren't around to make sure that they are!

Game Teen requested that Chef and I attend family night tomorrow. After today's 300 mile round trip, the 100 miles there and back will seem like a breeze!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Behold the Double Digit Dude

Chef Jr turned ten today. He's probably enjoying an extended birthday this week, since his brother isn't here to nag him.

Today, he got a few action figures, dinner at a favorite Sushi buffet and then a viewing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Oh, and the owner of the restaurant gave him a ball cap with the restaurant's name on it. Cool!

Tomorrow, he gets the requested crab cakes and Coffee cake. No, not coffee cake as you know it-coffee flavored cake. With butter cream frosting. He asked for both items, then said he'd prefer to go out tonight.

I like how this picture shows off our blue-hazel eyes. Our eyes change color depending on what we're wearing, but we have the exact same color eyes. Mine look green in this and his look blue...

I've got an early appointment tomorrow, but once I get home, we'll be making those items together.

Next Food Network Star-Week Seven

There was no recap last week, as we were on the road to Virginia while the show was airing. I got to see 45 minutes of it last night, but there's no sense in recapping right before another episode airs. Alas, Michael was eliminated when Debbie once again lied about how much work she did.

This week, as last week, the finalists are at the Eden Roc in Miami. After a dismal team effort preparing appetizers last week, Jeffrey, Jamika, Debbie and Melissa are tasked with a live cooking demonstration-with a twist. Each contestant is sabotaged in some way, to see how they handle the realities of show biz.

To me, this would have been a better challenge if each was presented with the same snafus. Instead, it seemed like Debbie had it easy, as the problems she faced were not of the host's doing. She was missing utensils and her fish was substituted with chicken. She easily handled the missing forks and menu change.

Melissa encountered a host who kept calling her Debbie Lee (that would make me mad), a cameraman who wanted to get up close and personal. The host decided that Melissa's tapenade needed hot sauce-a LOT of hot sauce. She grew flustered and harried and this manifested in talking veryfast.

Jeffrey encountered equipment errors such as a microphone not working, a boom mike that was hitting him in the head, but he remained the unruffled, zen master Jeffrey.

Jamika's irritation with the missing or inaccurate cues from the crew was very apparent. The girl was T I C K E D! and she couldn't hide it. Not a good quality for a show host.

The four are given feedback and Debbie is deemed the winner for her ability to not show the slighted sign that there were issues. Melissa takes the feedback to heart and has a game plan for the next challenge. Then, they are told their next challenge will be the next day.

What they encounter the next morning is four cook stations on the pool patio with wood fired grills. Then, the finalists are introduced to the Executive Chef for Red Lobster, who tells them that the winner of today's challenge will have their recipe featured on Red Lobster menus across the country.

Each is expected to pick a fish and either shellfish or a crustacean to be grilled. Debbie gets to choose first and goes for Tilapia. As expected, each goes for their comfort zone, with Debbie and her passel of "I'm Korean" sauces and spices, Melissa for a simple but effective citrus marinade, Jamika for Pinapple to make a jerk inspired meal and Jeffrey with a bunch of chiles.

The clock stops and the contestants get turned upside down. Instead of the flavor profiles they are familiar with, they are swapped.
Jeffrey's chiles are taken away and he's given asian ingredients because as Bobby says "Cooking without Borders" needs to be more than South of the Border.
Jamika's given Celeriac to replace her pineapple.
Melissais given Habeneros to replace her oranges and limes.
Debbieloses the Asian ingredients and is handed Olives, Capers and Anchovies.

They all deal with this setback, some better than others. Melissa has a sense of humor about it all, but scares Bobby and Ted with the quantity of peppers she is grilling for her marinade. Jeffrey tries to work his artistic vision with the new ingredients, Debbie appears to accept her ingredients, opting to cut the saltiness of the three with a ton of honey. Meanwhile, Jamika is pissed and it shows. She has no clue what she will do with the Celeriac, only bringing it together in the last few minutes.

We see the judge's feedback to the dishes. It seems Melissa's got a good handle on the heat, as all the judges love the flavors she brought to the dish, Jamika expertly handled the Celeriac, but her attitude is all the judges could talk about. Jeffrey is complemented for making a broth that is expertly seasoned and a perfect complement to the fish.

Debbie is told that by using the honey, she muddied the Mediterranean flavors she was supposed to work with. Then, she is asked where the capers are. This is where she yet again shows her sneaky ways:
"They're in the dressing"
"Oh, I didn't have capers"
"I forgot to put them in"
"It was an oversight"
Yeah, right. Once again, she blatantly lied and then backpedaled when called out. You would think that for a group that made speeches the first week about honesty that they would not tolerate this.

You'd be wrong.

Chef Jr called it as soon as we broke for commercial-"Mom, Jamika's going home." Even he knew that food trumped all else, and even if we wouldn't watch a sneaky conniving host if Debbie won, Food Network wanted her culinary vision.

Elimination time. Jeffrey is told that his dish won the challenge and can now be found on the Red Lobster menu. (I'm tempted to go try the Barramundi now-that did sound really good). He is allowed to leave the room. Meanwhile, I feel that Melissa also should have left the room, because she took their advice and was fantastic in the Red Lobster challenge.

Each of the remaining ladies is asked why they should remain, then is ushered out. Commerical break and when they come back in, Jamika is told she will not be going on. Debbie, for the second week in a row, shows astonishment on her face. Yeah, toots, you should. Seventy percent of the voters on the Food Network website want you GONE.

Of the final three, I'd be happy watching either Jeffrey or Melissa. If Debbie wins, I will skip it. It is getting old hearing the "I'm Korean" as an explanation of why she uses the spices and sauces, rather than tell me what they do and why you would want to use them.

Taste isn't the only thing that makes a Food Network show. The host has to be likeable and trustworthy. Other shows on the network get a pass because the hosts are not likeable, like the Neely's and Sandra Lee. However, I don't know that they've had one that isn't trustworthy.

Let's hope that Debbie Lee isn't the first.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Game Teen Blazes a New Trail

He is off doing something that neither Mom nor Dad has ever done.

Game Teen is spending six days at sleep away camp with his Boy Scout troop. We honestly never thought we'd see the day when not one, but both his old and new troop encouraged us to send him with them.

I mean, seriously? This is a child who melts down here, there and everywhere. They have experienced some of his bad, but not the worst of Game Teen-and still they want him to go. His leaders are my heroes for taking him on. (It is highly likely that I will need to bring them hard liquor when Game Teen returns Saturday!)

For a Boy Scout, attending camp is the quickest way to complete a bunch of merit badges towards Eagle Scout. Each boy chose five activities that fulfill the requirements. Game Teen made some good choices and is excited to know his sash will soon have more badges to keep that First Aid one company!

It'll be nice to have respite from the daily drill sergeant duties. I am slightly worried that I'll get a call to collect him before the week is through. Cross your fingers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Trip By The Numbers

We arrived home just before 5am this morning. The drive home took far longer than the trip up did! For the most part, it was an uneventful drive-and one that Ed did the lion's share (thanks, Honey!).

So, the numbers of the title?
2174 miles traveled. So what if 66 miles of it was to go back home to get Chef's Nintendo DS?
The first departureThe second departure
the final number

458 pictures taken
7 tanks of gas

6 states visited (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland)
4.8 miles hiked to get to a waterfall that we could not cool off in!

4 cousins who had a lot of fun playing Pokemon
4 adults who enjoyed beer or mojitos on the deck after the kids went to sleep
Undeterminate stalactites,stalagmites, soda straws and draped formations seen at Luray Caverns

3 gorgeous sunsets seen from various overlooks along the Skyline Drive

2 Black Bears sighted

1 stowaway Virginia state bird

8 people already trying to figure out what next year's vacation will be!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Some Things Never Change

We spent an afternoon and evening in our old town last night. Sixteen years in Maryland made it resoundingly 'home' for me. Ed, not so much.

It felt strange to see all that had changed, but in the end, the important things didn't. The friendships we carved out in the planned community we liken to Stepford are still the same.

Our first stop in Frederick was for lunch at our favorite restaurant when we lived there. We worried that it wasn't as good as remembered, the place that would be the first choice to dine out when the town was our home.

No fretting necessary, it was just as delicious as always. Chef and I decided to split a Rasta Pasta entree (of which he easily consumed 2/3), Ed got the Ragin Cajun. They have this delicious Cheesy Beer-Potato soup, and just as would happen five years ago, Chef came over and wormed his way into getting some of that and Dad's lunch. If given the chance, he probably would have done it more.

At the meal's end, we wondered who would be home at 3pm on a weekday. Ed read my mind-we headed over to visit the boy's former day care provider, Alicia.

The day care was identical to when Game Teen and Chef attended and she still has the most adorable kids in her care. Somehow, nearly three hours flew by as we caught up with her. Game Teen remembered attending, as he had just turned four when they started going to her (Chef as only 10 months old). Then it was time to head over to our old block to meet up with friends Karen and Patrick.

We had made the decision to move to Florida and already had the wheels in motion before they arrived on our street. Had they been there a year sooner, I don't think we would have done so. Our kids enjoyed playing together and the adults would talk and laugh for hours. Last night was the same.

As soon as I knew we'd be seeing them, the wine rack was consulted, and bottles were dusted off, for these fine people are responsible for sending us on the road to red wines. Pizza and wine and good conversation ensued.

Karen wanted us to see the downtown improvements. When Ed and I lived there, the Carroll Creek project was just a boring concrete waterway. Now, it's a beautiful area to stroll on a nice summer's night.Capping off the evening was a stop at a great little ice cream shop. It was under different ownership, but they kept the place the same with all of the charm it had before.

Now we are in a hotel room, on our way back to Florida. I wish there was a way to just stay here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

All Good Things Must Come to an End

But we've got plenty of pictures to remind us of the fun.

Look! Long Island in the clouds!

Goofing off for the camera.

Another gorgeous sunset.

Once I'm down off the mountain with a speedier connection, I'll go through and pick some more pictures to show. Probably a few from the 3 mile hike that turned into a 5 mile hike-all the kids fared better than most of the adults. It tuckered us out so much, we were in bed very early for us.

Tonight's plans include our old stomping grounds in Maryland, then seeing how far south we can drive before getting a hotel room.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No One Has Sung 'The Bear Went Over The Mountain' Yet

You really don't want to hear Giggles singing it, anyway.

When we road tripped as kids, she would sing it over and over and over and over-well, you get the idea. She decided it was time to give our kids the chance to do the same. Thankfully, no one is singing it!

Some sights from our time together:
Dream Lake at Luray Caverns

I took pictures over the back of my seat while we were driving into Luray, and got a bunch of Chef like this:
Sunset the other night

After the sun had set, heading back to Skyland

We've become serious wimps in five years. The mountain gets down to the high 50's/low 60's in the evenings. Guess who forgot their jackets in the dryer in Florida? This is cold to us, folks!

Road Food

When I was a kid, my Dad gave me a great book. Well, actually, he gave me a lot of great books. The one I'm speaking of is Jane and Michael Stern's "Amazing America". In it, listed state by state, were some cool places to visit that were a little less well known.

I've long since lost my copy, but on several of our trips, Dad, Giggles and I marked of pages of the book as we visited. The most memorable of these was a place in Cookeville, Tennessee, that was the ultimate in old swimming holes.

There's another book from the couple that I have been meaning to pick up, "Road Food". For some trips, the meals are just as memorable as the things we did.

One of those places lies along I-81 in Virginia. The ten foot, fiberglass man with a pot on his head probably indicated kitsch to those passing by. To us, it beckoned a visit.

The warm apple fritters placed on the table when the waitress greeted us said we'd made the right choice. The drinks served in mason jars, too. The home style cooking cemented this place's legendary status in our minds. Every trip after that one chance stop that brought us in that area had a meal planned at Johnny Appleseed's.

When I lived two hours away, a few times, the ex and I happened down the road to see the fiberglass dude.

The apple fritters made me do it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Was Looking for a Nugget of Joy

But I found something even better!

When we moved from the mountains of western Maryland into the DC 'burbs, we got some real TV. Like Food Network and TBS. With a newborn Game Teen and evening work schedules, we gravitated towards Space Ghost.

I thought I'd bring you one of Zorak's nugget of joy this morning, but this is too good not to share, from when most people had no clue who the Space Ghost Coast to Coast guest even was.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where There Are Limes

There soon will be Mojitos!

The traveling Mojito Muddler and the aforementioned limes:

I hope that's enough!