Sunday, January 30, 2011

Attack of the Air-Kraken Bento

The online community, Steampunk Empire, had a food challenge posted this week for the best steampunk food presentation.

Inspired by this picture


I made a bento for Blaze, with the theme of an airship under attack by air-kraken. He was very excited, because it had been a long time since I made him a fancy bento lunch.

The battle takes place in a blue sticky rice sky, as the molded, hardboiled egg moon begins to rise.


Luckily, a heroic zeppelin captain is on his way to save the day!


Incase this has sparked your interest in the illusive air-kraken, Air Kraken Day is March 17, the same day as St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Tonight I met an armadillo that has obviously become desensitized to humans.

I had heard rustling noises in the dry leaves next to one of the buildings between the laundry room and our apartment building. When I investigated, I discovered a rather large armadillo rooting around for food. I went home and grabbed the camera. The armadillo not only didn't care that I was there, it wasn't even bothered by flash photography. One of our neighbors and his two little boys came over to see what I had found, and we had a whole conversation about what armadillos eat and it's lack of fear, about three feet from the snuffling, rooting creature we were discussing. I know they have terrible eyesight, but I thought they had decent hearing, and that footsteps and voices would scare it away, but I squatted down on the ground and talked to it and it acted like I wasn't even there. When I was about four feet away, it even walked towards me.



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Senior Pictures

Ula didn't have a Senior year in high school. She was homeschooled and began taking college classes when she was 16. So, now that she is a college Senior, my mother decided it was about time she had some professional pictures taken. These beautiful pictures were taken at the end of the holiday break, shortly before Ula returned to the university for her final semester.



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Signs of Spring


I was so excited yesterday, to come around the corner of a building and find this beautiful flowering tree:


Part of me will always be a child of the North, who is amazed by the miracle of flowers in January.

It was a cool, but clear day today, so DH took a walk out to the gardens, the first time I've been out there in several months.

There are a few young lettuce plants and heartier winter greens growing in the ethno-ecology gardens, but no pretty flowers out there yet. Someone has made an instrument out of bamboo, though.


I took a couple small branches from the flowering tree home and put them in a vase. When Blaze saw them sitting in the middle of the table, he announced, "I need a tea party!" So, tonight, when he came in from playing, he was very excited to find this waiting for him, bruschetta, cheese fondue, and lemon tea.



The recipe for the bruschetta can be found HERE.



I was so happy when the speech therapist came out to the waiting room, after administering half of her latest assessment of Blaze, and told me that his vocabulary and understanding of single words was average for his age. Being told that your child is average may not seem like a big deal, but it is for us.

For years now, we have been told by various therapists, administering many tests, that Blaze is about two years behind developmentally, straight across the board. Since this amount of delay has seemed very consistent, my pat answer to this is that, "that's fine, because there will come an age, when a two years' difference no longer matters."

After his first grand mal seizure, around the time of his first birthday, the anti-seizure medication prescribed for Blaze was Phenobarbital, which he turned out to be allergic to. When I complained that he was developing large, red hives after each dose, I was told to give him Benadryl every time he took the Phenobarbital. Benadryl made him sleepy. Taking both drugs twice a day, meant he was sleeping his life away at a very important time developmentally. This only stopped when I asked the doctor to take him off Phenobarbital, stating that he had only had one seizure and, at that time, we didn't know if he would ever have another one, since the hospital had not uncovered a cause for that one. I was never told that there were alternative drugs, I was only told that I would have to sign a paper saying that I took full responsibility if another seizure occurred. It was 9 months later that he had another seizure, but that was 9 months that he was alert and learning new skills, like how to walk. During that time we also moved and found a new doctor, who was able to prescribe safer medicine to control the seizures.

Each seizure since then, has caused some minor setbacks, but the seizures have become less frequent as he's gotten older. He has now been over a year seizure free. He will always have to be medicated, because when he was 3 years old, an MRI revealed a permanent cleft ( a tiny, wiggly line, where nothing grew) near the speech center of his brain, on the left side.
For years, we said that he talked like Yoda. His syntax was all wrong for English. He had trouble with pronouns, as well. All pronouns were male until after kindergarten. He would also make up new ways of saying things, that would then become hard to break speech habits, like saying "us all" instead of "we". This took YEARS to fix. The only one of these deviations from normal speech that I thought was cute, was the summer ( when he was about 4) when everything he didn't like was described as being broken. I started writing down some of the funnier ones and ended up with a list that included, "broken breakfast" and "broken sister".

Blaze has overcome a lot of issues, both physical and speech related, over the years. I could never express the amount of gratitude I feel for the wonderful therapists who have helped him to walk and run like a "normal" child ( in nursery school, he used to come home crying because he couldn't run as fast as the other boys) and to express himself verbally in a way that other people can understand. He has such a creative imagination, I am so happy that he has the words and sentence structure needed to share those ideas with other people.

Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect. He still needs to work on his speech. For instance, Thursday, he told his therapist, "She don't have a son." He also sometime still says "no" when it should be "not", and leaves off the first sounds in many words. But, none of this takes away the achievement of going from 1 1/2 to 2 years behind in everything, to having an average vocabulary for a ten year old.

Average is wonderful!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lacey Valentine

Blaze has asked that the tinsel tree I made him for Christmas, be left up in his room year-round and be decorated for other holidays, so we have begun making Valentine ornaments.

This simple heart shaped ornament, made by weaving a red pipestem cleaner in and out through a piece of cotton lace, is our first Valentine's Day decoration.



When enough lace had been woven onto the pipestem cleaner to make it look ruffled, twist the ends of the pipestem cleaner together so that the ends no longer show. Then bend into a heart shape.


Arrange the lace to cover the entire heart and add a decorative ribbon or string for hanging.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Painting Pottery

Just before Christmas, some wonderful friends from school ( a mother and daughter) took Blaze and I to Do Art, which is a do-it-yourselve pottery painting shop. This was the first time Blaze and I had ever been there and I'm very glad we went with people who knew what they were doing.
There were so many different pieces of pottery to choose from, that it took awhile for Blaze to choose what he wanted to paint, but he finally chose a tea cup and saucer, while I picked a coffee mug.


The beautiful, peace and Beatles inspired mug that my friend worked on while her daughter went for the darker, goth skull:



Blaze painted a picture of our teenage friend and himself playing on swings, since it is something they both enjoy doing at school.


My cup was not quite as creative. I had been admiring the way a speckled cup looked that they were using for washing dirty paint brushes, and decided to try my hand at that.



It was such a nice surprise to walk into the school office today and find a gift bag with our finished cups waiting in my mailbox.
Thank you so much, V. and R.!!!



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Principal's Pirates

My boss brought her set of pirate bendy dolls to school this week. I made these for her 3 or 4 years ago, but I never took any pictures of them. So, today's recess was an opportunity for a photo shoot.





Clicking on the label "Bendy Dolls" under this post or on the sidebar, will take you to many other bendy doll related posts, including patterns and instructions for making them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." - Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are not doing a full day of school work today, since it is a holiday, but I am sneaking a little education in. We will be reading the following book:


The Waldorf Teacher's Newsletter has a very moving article today about Robert F. Kennedy's reaction to the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., that I highly recommend:

Martin Luther King Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Potato-Parsnip Chowder


My mother made this for lunch on Christmas Day and everybody loved it so much that Ula and I both asked for the recipe. The easy solution we came up with, was that I would copy the recipe and post it here, so that Ula, and anyone else who wanted to, could use it.

Potato-Parsnip Chowder

2 Cups peeled, diced Yukon gold potatoes

2 Cups peeled, diced, parsnips

1 Cup finely chopped onions

2 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2Tablespoons flour

1 Cup milk

1 1/2 Cups vegetable broth

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Optional: Crumbled bacon and/or chopped green onions as garnish

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

2. Coat a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place potatoes, parsnips, and onions on the baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir often.

3. In a large sauce pan, combine butter and flour over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Continue stirring while adding the milk. Reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Add broth and vegetables. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dill. Cook 1 more minute.

Serves 4

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Replacement Camera is Here!

I'm so impressed with Amazon right now! DH asked them for a replacement for the malfunctioning camera only three days ago and a few minutes ago a new camera arrived.

I can take non-shadowy pictures again!

This was my test picture, the self portrait that DH painted many years ago:


Just Playing With Pictures

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Worst Luck With Cameras

I have the worst luck with cameras. The new camera I received as an early Christmas gift from DH, began working badly before we ever got back from our holiday trip.

This arch of black at the top of the picture is what it's been doing to all my pictures.


I've just been cropping all the pictures, so they look better before I post them here.

The camera was purchased through Amazon and it turns out they have a very easy return system, so we are sending the camera back for a replacement.

Back to the old Fuji with no LCD screen for a little while. Every time I think I'm going to retire the Fuji, it ends up being the only working camera in the house.

A History Lesson That Started 3 Million Years Ago


At the school, in the class referred to as thematics (history/science), the older elementary children are learning about the development of early man. The younger children are learning about prehistoric animals. Blaze goes with the younger kids to thematics about three times a week, while I help out with the older kids. I don't get to go into his class to see what he is doing during that time, but Blaze told me that yesterday they colored a picture of a Woolly Mammoth, except that he called it a "mountain-that-walks", because that's what the boy in our bedtime reading had called them.

It's much easier for our lessons at home to parallel the ones at school, so our bedtime reading this week has been Boy of the Painted Cave, by Justin Denzel.


Blaze has really been enjoying the story. It is about a boy, who has a strong desire to draw, even though his clan has strict rules about who may draw and he does not qualify. Blaze has pointed out to me, during our reading, that he also likes to draw. The boy is also treated badly because he has a crippled right foot, another reason why I think Blaze relates to him ( we have just been told this week that Blaze may, again, need to wear a brace [AFO] on this right foot).

The older elementary students at school have been gradually watching the 4-part BBC series Walking With Cavemen. I wanted to see it ahead of their lessons, so I would know what to expect, so Blaze and I watched that over the weekend. YouTube has the full episodes. They cannot be embedded onto a blog,because there is an advisory for brief nudity (Australopithecus did not wear clothes), but they can be found here:

This site has a timeline of early human development for children, as well as links to other activities:

We did do some reading about prehistoric man before the Christmas break, so I don't want to spend too much time on this now. I would really like to get on to early civilizations.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Books from Austin

DH returned from the archeology conference in Austin, Texas, with presents for Blaze and I, from what he described as "a really cool bookstore".

For me:


If you would like to know more about Boilerplate, everything you could ever want to know, can be found here:

For Blaze:


It's really a beautiful vintage copy of Tanglewood Tales.

DH also came home with a book for himself, but he didn't have to buy his book, he won it. By coming in second in the student writing competition, he won a signed copy of a book he had been wanting, but couldn't afford ( it's normally around $90).


The book about Moundville is special to DH for another reason, other than being his prize. He worked on the Moundville site back in the 1990's.

Although it is hard to tell, the guy in the white T-shirt, in this picture from the book, is DH.



Tea for Children

Come along inside... We'll see if tea and
buns can make the world a better place.
~The Wind in the Willow~

I have had tea on my mind for the past few days (you might have noticed), so I introduced Blaze to a tea drink developed especially for children, cambric tea. Cambric tea is mentioned several times in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is tea which has been sweetened with sugar and very diluted with milk. The name cambric comes from a thin, white, cotton cloth, the name implying that the tea is thin and white.


Cambric Tea

2 Cup water

2 tea bags of black tea (we used "Constant Comment" from Bigelow)

2 cups milk

2 Tablespoons sugar

Bring water to a boil and pour into a tea pot. Place tea bags in pot for 3-4 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar until it is dissolved. Add milk. The milk may be heated first, so that it doesn't cool off the tea, but do not boil it.

From Mother Goose:

This next song is not child related, but it is for my child. Blaze just discovered Frank Sinatra and decided he really likes his music, because it makes him feel like tap dancing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More Recipes from Yesterday's Little Tea Party


Cream Puffs

1/4 Cup butter

1/2 Cup water

1/2 Cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat butter and water in a small sauce pan, until it comes to a full boil. Stir in flour. Stir rapidly until the flour forms a ball. Remove from heat. Break both eggs into the pan and quickly stir into the flour mixture until it forms a smooth dough. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop 9, evenly divided blobs of dough onto the paper. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Cut the tops off of the cream puffs and pull out any soft bits of dough. Fill the bottom half of each puff with whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries. Replace tops and enjoy.

This same dough can be used for making eclairs.


Rumaki was a party food that my mother made when I was a child. I believe it was a very stylish thing to have at your cocktail party in the late 60's and early 70's.



1 pound of bacon with the strips cut in half

1 pound of chicken livers, also cut in half

1 can of whole water chestnuts, drained and cut in half

1/3 soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Wrap a water chestnut half with chicken liver. wrap that tightly with bacon and secure with a toothpick. It will stay together better if you are careful to make sure the toothpick goes through the water chestnut. Repeat until all the bacon is gone. Mix soy sauce and ginger together and marinate the rumaki in the soy sauce mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.

This recipe will make 2 batches, since the rumaki should be spaced out on a baking tray so it doesn't touch. Bake each batch about 25 minutes.

A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy National Hot Tea Month

Just yesterday, I discovered that January is National Hot Tea Month in the United States. Any excuse for a celebration will do (DH is away in Austin at an archeology conference, and I decided that Blaze and I should have some fun, too ).

Last night, Blaze used some of the wax left over from the ice candles we made last month to make a candle out of a thrift store teacup.



We are already thinking ahead to Valentine's Day, because the teacup candle is going to be his Valentine gift for Nika, but today the candle was the centerpiece for our tea party.


Our Tea Party Menu

Regular deviled eggs

Deviled eggs with smoked salmon

Watercress sandwiches


Baby carrots

Cream puffs with sliced strawberries

Sweetened green tea with lemon


I have read in a couple different places recently, that deviled eggs are back in style, so here is my very easy recipe:


Deviled Eggs

7 hard boiled eggs

3 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons of prepared yellow mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

a dash of freshly ground black pepper

paprika for dusting

Remove the shell from hard boiled eggs and slice the eggs in-half lengthwise. Remove the yolks into a small mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper to the yolks. Mash and stir the york mixture with a fork until smooth ( I found the immersion blender attachment for our hand-mixer does this really well, too). One pair of egg halve is really there just so there is a generous amount of yolk filling. At this point you may eat those two yourself, feed them to a child or pet who is whining about being hungry, or save them for another recipe. There is enough filling for 12 egg halves, which can be filled using a pastry bag or a teaspoon. For classic deviled eggs, sprinkle each egg with paprika after it is filled.

I filled half of the eggs in the classic style and then for the other half I added some chopped chives to the filling, placed a small amount of filling in each half egg, added a small piece of smoked salmon, and more filling on top. Then I garnish them with chives.

Serving the deviled eggs on a bed of lettuce not only makes a pretty presentation, it keeps them from slipping around on the plate.

A little tea time reading from an 1881 copy of St. Nicholas Magazine:






I'm not sure, but tea may be the beverage with the most songs written about it:

Crafty Crow