Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who the Hell Taught My Child How to Climb?

My son has started climbing.  On everything.  All the time.  I'm exhausted.  So far today I have pulled him down off the kitchen table, the kitchen chairs, the coffee table, the baseboard heat, the end tables between the couches, and the jungle gym...multiple times.  I thought learning to run was going to keep me busy, but I think I severely underestimated the work involved with getting your child not to climb on everything/anything.

As I told my mother in an email the other day, after he started this climbing "thing," I think my baby is now a little boy.  Ugh.

(unfortunately I did not get a picture of him standing on the table eating Kix this morning, I was too busy freaking out)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Making Cakes...

I volunteered to make cakes this weekend for the graduation party.  It was a joint party for my stepson Jake and my husband's cousin Emily, she and Jake being in the same graduating class from Massabesic.  I had specifications:  Jake wanted yellow cake (from a box) with chocolate frosting, and Emily wanted marble cake with chocolate frosting.

A few weeks ago I made a sample batch of chocolate frosting, it was light and fluffy, but still chocolatey and delicious.  Perfect.  Last week I made a sample of a marble cake.  It was excellent.  I can attest, I ate the whole cake myself.

I made a plan for the week to work around my schedule allowing me plenty of time to make the quadruple batch of frosting I needed, the two double batches of cake mix for each cake, and time to frost and decorate.  Not sure why I even bothered with the plan though.  As usual, that all went to Hell.

Thursday I made frosting.  The frosting is actually the filling my Grandmother-in-law uses in her AMAZING whoopie pies.  It is a very strange recipe that uses a milk and flour mixture to thicken some well mixed shortening and sugar.  With a splash of vanilla, this frosting is like eating a bowl of whipped cream.  To make it chocolate I sifted in some Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder.  It gives the frosting a strange textured appearance, but it is still smooth, creamy, and chocolatey.  Yum Yum.  So Wednesday, I made a quadruple batch of the stuff.  While mixing the shortening and sugar, I noticed a strange smell.  Like overheating mixer.  Only, the mixer was not overheating (thank you Kitchenaid).  When I tried the frosting, I thought it had the same taste.  I put the finished frosting in the fridge for tasting.  Strange...

Frosting requires A LOT of mixing

mmmm, like chocolate whipped cream!

Friday, I made cakes.  I went to grease the pans and was met with the same smell I encountered while mixing my frosting.  I reached the conclusion that something must be wrong with the shortening.  Not wanting to serve cake with possibly rancid frosting, I sent Jake to the store for another containing of shortening.  I made my cakes, without further event.  The yellow cake was a piece of cake (pun intended).  It baked up nice and gave me no problems coming out of the pan.  The marble cake I made from scratch, but still wasn't much of a problem.  It was a beautiful batter and the cake baked up so pretty, I didn't really want to frost it.  Jake came back with the new can of shortening, and, though it wasn't on my "Friday" list, I made another batch of frosting, and before I even had it half way together, I encountered the same problem.  The shortening smelled funny.  Another batch for the trash.

From Scratch!

Pretty Batter...

Even Prettier Cake!
I might add here, that Thursday night my delightful son decided that he didn't want to sleep.  At all.  So I spent Friday baking and then heading out to work that evening, on only two hours of sleep.  It was not an easy day. 

Saturday morning, I was up at eight with yet another tub of shortening.  This one organic, and smelling (delightfully) like shortening.  I made yet another quadruple batch of frosting and it was amazing.  Even my husband noticed the huge improvement in taste.  Relieved, I began to frost.  I should throw in a thanks to my friend Rhyne who taught me how to write on cakes.  While I'm not the expert she is, I have to say I can make a pretty nice looking cake thanks to her.

The two finished cakes made it to the party safe and sound where they received many flattering comments.  They looked nice, and tasted nice, and I really don't think you can ask for much more from a cake.  Can you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book List

A couple of years ago I made a list of books I wanted to borrow from the library.  I read a few of them, misplaced the list, accidentally racked up a large amount of overdue fines and put the library out of my mind for a while.  Recently, in a fit of spring cleaning, I found the list again.  Since my husband has been visiting the library frequently to check out books on cds to listen to on his drive to work, I harassed him into borrowing books for me.  Last week he brought me three books from the list.  Books that I don't even remember putting on there.

The first one I picked up was Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain.  It was a lovely murder mystery involving a nasty female serial killer, an emotionally scarred cop and the innocent bystander who "unexpectedly" becomes all too involved in the plot.  It was good.  Not excellent, but good.  I finished it rather quickly, assumed correctly that it was the first in a series about this cop and serial killer combo, and have yet to make up my mind as to whether I would read the second or third in the series.

Moving on, I picked up Falling Man by Don DeLillo.  I have read a few DeLillo novels, and they are by no means easy reads.  The first I read in college, White Noise, was really well done and an interesting read.  I also read Libra which was DeLillo's fictional account of the Kennedy assassination.  That too was interesting and quite good.  Falling Man, however, is just a bit too much for me right now.  DeLillo is a very modern writer, when I tried to describe to my husband why I struggled with the book, the only way I could put it was that he doesn't write to tell a story, he writes art with a story inside.  I'm sure the book is excellent, if you can get into it, but I just couldn't do it this week.  So I put it aside and moved on again.

And boy, was I glad I did.  The last library book I had Don pick up for me was Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.  It was EXCELLENT.  I don't know much about the history of Afghanistan, and while I know we've had troops over there since September 11th, I've never really "thought" about what life was like over there.  The book looks at the lives of two women who are old enough to be mother and daughter, but are married to the same man, and how the wars, the politics and the Taliban changed their lives.  It sounds a touch dry, but it was just so beautifully done, with amazing characters and storyline, that I couldn't put it down, and then, when I finished it, I went into a sulk because it was over.  I will have to add his other novel The Kite Runner to my list and hope that it is as well done.

Now the problem I have is that since Don went to the library for me the end of last week, and he hasn't finished his books on cds yet, I have to wait for him to make another trip to the a few weeks.  Ugh!  Now what am I going to read????

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For My Dad

My father is strange.  Seriously strange.  If you know him, you completely agree.  Some of my earliest memories of him are him running around singing "I am the Frito Bandito..."  So yeah, he's an odd duck.  I am really lucky to have him though, there aren't too many girls out there that can look back on their past with fond memories of their dad driving them home from Brownies meetings sharing potato sticks, beer and scratch tickets.  (It was's like a different universe)  And while I didn't see him as much after my sister and I moved off the island, Dad always remained the same funny, quirky, offbeat Dad we'd always known.

All these years later, and really, not much has changed.  I know Dad loved having my sister and I, and wouldn't have traded us for sons, but the prospect of having grandsons, that just put him over the edge.  He had my stepsons for practice, and thoroughly enjoyed taking them out four wheeling, sledding, lobstering, playing with fire crackers, and other "boyish" activities.  When I called to tell him I was having a boy, well, I could have told him he just won the lottery, and I don't think he could have been any happier.  "By God, that's great!  That's great!  By God, that's great!"  (I think he repeated that about 45 times)  When I hung up with him to call my stepmother and tell her the good news, he arrived at her house within 5 minutes because he simply could not contain his happiness.  She called me later, after he settled down and returned to work, to tell me he was positively giddy, and that she had barely convinced him not to rush out on the next boat to make a trip to toys-r-us for baseball bats, basketballs and four-wheelers.  Like I said, my dad is a nut.  And fortunately for me, and my sister, and my son, he's a great Dad (or Papa) and we love him very much.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Garden Update

I know it's only been a few weeks since I planted my garden, but I'm pretty convinced that I'm a master gardener already.  All my plants are growing and look very healthy!  My lettuces are ready to be eaten, my green beans are HUGE, and my tomato plants have nearly doubled in size.  Just what is so hard about gardening?

I know, I know, it will get harder when the bugs discover my plants, and the heat gets to be too much, or the summer ends up a rainy disaster and all my plants rot (let's hope not).  But, for now, I'll just continue to believe that I am truly a master gardener.

Some lovely looking lettuces and my cucumbers

My GIANT green beans!

This is the second garden, the peas are in the front here with herbs to the right

Here is my cherry tomato and the little tiny cantaloupe!

Just call me Farmer Kyla....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I am a touch self conscious.  I've never been a fan of having pictures done, I'm not usually happy with the way I look in them.  There have only been a few times where I've been happy with pictures.  My senior prom was one time, and my wedding (though even those I wouldn't say are super wonderful photos) another.  But somehow, last Thursday, the stars aligned, and I managed to have a good hair day, have on a pretty dress and had arranged to have pictures done of Ben.  I met Molly (who is the younger sister of my high school boyfriend, and whom I hadn't seen in ages) at the beach in Portland where she agreed to take a few photos of Ben for her portfolio.  And since I really don't have many pictures of Ben and I together (mommy tends to be behind the camera, not in front of it) I welcomed the opportunity to get a few shots in of Ben and I together.

The pictures she took were amazing.  She got several of Ben by himself, catching him playing, climbing and grinning.  The pictures of Ben and I together though, are something that I'm going to cherish forever.  She managed to capture us both looking happy and natural, not posing and phony.  They are awesome.  They came out better than I ever could have possibly imagined. 

So, thank you Molly, these mean the world to me.  I wish you the best of luck with your portfolio and your future career making other people feel as happy as I do.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Long Day!

Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind.  My morning started out quite nicely as I discovered that a former teacher of mine, whose blog I have been following and taking inspiration from, praised me quite highly as a writer.  (Views From the Dock)  I was completely flabbergasted and flattered to read that, and more than a little teary.  Needless to say, my morning started out well.

Ben quite quickly put an end to that.  Of all the mornings to decide that he didn't want to nap, that he needed to be held, and that he didn't want a bath, yesterday HAD to be that morning.  So while I packed up all the gear we would need for a day and an evening in Portland, I had a whiney, fussy, one year old clinging to me.  Unpleasant.

We did eventually make it out of the house, though we were late, and Ben was not happy about the heat of the car.  Our first stop was the beach/park on Portland's East End for some pictures with Molly.  Now, I haven't seen Molly in quite a few years, and I can distinctly remember the first time we sat down together, when she was about eleven, and she went on and on about how AMAZING  Harry Potter was.  (She was right by the way.)  Anyway, she has now grown up into a lovely young lady who is about as sweet as can be, and was willing to take some pictures of me and Mr. Grumpy.  Fortunately the beach and the park calmed down Ben and we both had fun.  I think she was able to get some really nice shots.

With the pictures done, Ben and I ran a few more errands in the sweltering heat before meeting my husband and getting ready for graduation.  Graduation.  What a big moment that is!  It was a long ceremony, (I think eight million students graduated, ugh) but the speeches were sweet from the students and staff, and at the end the graduates had some fun and got to throw around some confetti and beach balls while hollering and dancing to their class song (Phil Collins?  Really guys?).  I can safely say Don and I were both dry eyed during the event, though Jake's mother and grandmother were having a much harder time.  I know for me, it was an exciting event and I was just so happy to see Jake reach the first of many, many, major milestones that we all have ahead of us.  I didn't think it would affect him quite so much, but I have to say I was touched to see Jake and his best friend with tears in their eyes as they hugged each other and their families.  It was really a nice ending to a very long day.

Jake & Nick

Jake & Marcus

And of course, poor Marcus was quite the trooper as he celebrated his 16th birthday in the sticky Civic Center listening to speeches and watching his brother get smothered with attention.  He is, fortunately, a gracious brother and didn't seem to mind Jake stealing his important day.

Happy Birthday Marcus!

After one last stop for some not-so-fast fastfood, we were all home and in bed having survived the heat, the fussy baby, the ceremony and everything else.  I congratulated my husband on raising an adult and went to sleep grateful that we still have two more to go...

The MacDougall Family

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Graduation Time!

It has already been a busy week, and we haven't even gotten to Graduation yet!

Monday we decided to take the family out for a quick dinner to celebrate Jacob's graduation later this week.  We gave him his gift (a very nice laptop!) chatted and ate, and then I drove him home while Don drove Marcus and Ben home.  So Jake and I chatted a little about his plans for the summer (which apparently include some serious bed/couch hopping between here, his mother's and his friends' houses) and then I listened to him chat on his cellphone to his other graduating friends.  Making plans to just hang out and enjoy the freedom that comes with graduation and parents finally allowing some breathing room.  And I can remember feeling exactly what he is feeling ten years ago, when I graduated high school.

Then I have to pause, and repress to the urge to vomit.  How the HECK did I graduate TEN years ago????  It seems absolutely impossible that it was ten years ago that I graduated high school and started working at the cookie shop.  Yikes!  I really think it sounds a bit worse than it is though.  For the longest time, I would swear that I hadn't changed since high school.  My attitude was the same, my personality was the same, even my looks were the same.  And some of that is still true, but recently I've come to the conclusion that I have changed.  I've grown up.  A lot.  I don't think it was college, or marriage, or step-children, or even motherhood that made me grow up.  (Although I'm sure they did play a small part)  Honestly, I think it was three and a half years of pain and disappointment.  It sounds dramatic, I'm sure, but really, going through that, and then coming out the other side finally getting what I'd struggled so hard for, it's really a life changing experience.  I know just what I can handle, how much I can endure, and that I can survive.  And I can look back on that and see just how much I've changed.

So that's how I grew up.  I just hope the next ten years have something a little easier in store...

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Was I Thinking?

Well, I did something stupid.  I wasn't going to do it, I knew better than to even let myself think it, but, in a moment of weakness I decided to re-read Outlander.  Oh how I love that book.  I think this is now the fourth time I've read it and just like the other times, it completely consumed me.  I couldn't focus on anything, I stayed up until 2 am reading, I even dreamed about Jamie and Claire.  And this is the FOURTH time I've read it.  And I SWORE when I picked it up I would just read the FIRST book.  Then about 10 pages into it I decided I would let myself just read the first two books.  Well, I started book two last night.  And I'm promising myself now not to go any further than book three.

I think I have a problem....

Ummm, so now that I've forced myself to post this...I think I'm going to go read.  I'll post again when I'm done with book three...assuming I have the self control to keep from moving on to book four...


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Did It!!

Well, I did it.  I finally planted vegetable gardens.  This is a really big deal for me.  I've wanted a vegetable garden for years, since we were still living in Limerick.  Every spring I would start planning and talking and trying to convince my husband that "this" was the year.  And every year May would turn to June, and then July, and a garden wouldn't be built and I would have to abandon the plan.

Not this year.  I was determined to have a garden.  My husband didn't see how we'd get all the materials to fit in the car, where was all the dirt coming from, etc, etc...  But, thanks to my book, I convinced him we could fit 4 foot lengths of wood in the car and we'd buy all the dirt in bags, and, sure enough, we got all the materials here without incident.

So Monday, the day scheduled for yard work, I started.  I originally thought building the raised bed gardens would be my husband's job, but since he was busy with another project I decided to start on my own, and, to my surprise, it wasn't that hard to do.  I built two (slightly crooked) boxes all by myself with the help of a drill.  (I'm pretty proud of myself!)  Don did help me mix the dirt and fill the boxes (and I have to say, the dirt we made is really excellent!).  I finished by building the grids to mark the box into one foot squares and then planting the seeds and seedlings in the squares.  I finally did it!  I built them, I filled them, I planted them, and with a little luck, I will finally have veggies this summer!