Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Five Hour Baby Sweater

I've reached the age group where I'm being invited to baby showers for my contemporaries' children, rather than for my own gestating friends. It's a fun time of life. Much like our childless friends when we first started having our own families, my peers and I know EVERYTHING about raising children. Just ask us. So I decided to celebrate this milestone by knitting a Five-Hour Baby Sweater.

Full disclosure requires that I admit this was not a Five-Hour Baby Sweater, more like an Eight-and-a-Half-Hour Baby Sweater, but there was a lot of football on over the weekend, so it didn't matter so much. Full disclosure also requires that I admit I thought this baby was due before Christmas when it's actually due in mid-February, but look! How cute are these buttons?

And I ended up with this much extra yarn.

It's like serving a full meal and only having one carrot stick left over. Woo!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Week Had a Soundtrack

The Best Week of the Year (a natural extension of the Best Day of the Year) had its own soundtrack but because I'm not tech-savvy enough to embed a sound file in this blog, this will be an audience-participation entry. If you see a word or phrase in italics, please make that sound.

(Slam of car door) Boy#3! You're home! Three's easy to have around, although his definition of "around" is a little flexible. During the week he was "at home" he also was in Kansas City for two days at a basketball tournament, and in Texas for two days at a football game. He did leave a reminder of his presence, though...

(Achoo!) College kids drag home more germs than preschoolers, and I've lost my immunity. Thanks loads, Three. Hrmph. Hey! Here come Boy#1, Boy#2, and Boy#4!

(Doorbell) No, we don't make the Boys ring the doorbell at their own home, although there were days in the past when that sounded like a nifty idea. But I am not exaggerating when I say that within three minutes of the Boys coming in the back door, the Posse came in the front door. I'm not sure who was grinning wider, the Boy who had missed the Posse or the MomQueenBee who also had missed the Posse.

(Crowd noises) Nothing is more delicious than extended family on Thanksgiving. Even better than turkey, and dressing, and sweet potatoes. And pecan pie, if that's even possible.

(Sounds of running water) Wow. I'd forgotten how much hot water it takes to clean up six people, and how many times the dishwasher has to be run when everyone insists on eating three times a day. 

(Read the next in the voice of a three-year-old.) How does a seal speak French? Por favor. (Oh, I forgot to say also to read the French part in a seal voice. My bad. It was adorable.)

(Scuffling noises, general chaos) Two, stop poking Four. Four, would you leave him alone already? One! That's enough! Hey,Three, cut it out. I mean it. Stop it right now. If you're going to wrestle, take it outside. Cut that out!

(Read the following in a whiny voice.) What? You're leaving already? But you just got here! Well, take some bierocks. You look hungry.

Fade to quiet.

Friday, November 26, 2010


As I sit here with the Boys watching Airplane on AMC, it occurs to me that the leftovers may be the best part of Thanksgiving.

Oh, the day was wonderful, the best day of the year. There was enough food to feed the small army that our family has become.

And if dark, white,and smoked turkey, plus mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, and dressing, and two kinds of rolls, and famous green bean casserole (back off, haters, my kids love it) weren't enough, you could go back to and get cranberry sauce, relishes, and Watergate salad (not shown).

Save room for pumpkin and pecan pie--a dozen pies for 30 people, which is exactly the right proportion.

But not even the food was as delicious as being surrounded by the love and laughter of four generations. I'm not a good enough photographer to capture the sweetness of the moment when three-year-old Gracie stood on a chair to whisper "I'm going to be a big sister," and her cousin Lily followed with "And I'm going to be a big sister again, too!" Two new babies, expected in the spring, remind us that life goes on.

The after-dinner football game is now limited to the middle generation, the age group that doesn't have bad backs or knee replacements. Even this generation isn't immune to the soporific effects of chilly air and tryptophan.

We'll eat leftovers for the next two days and rehash conversations and impressions. This morning as we finish the second cup of coffee in front of the television we're remembering that, like family, Airplane ages well. 

Surely it's the best day of the year. And don't call me Shirley.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Day Before the Best Day of the Year

 Two days before Thanksgiving is cleaning day and the day before Thanksgiving is cooking day.

My philosophy is that every single thing that can be made ahead should be made ahead and require only final baking or dishing up on Thanksgiving day. That means on my list for today are mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and roll dough. (The rolls will be baked tomorrow morning.)

I decided to live-blog the kitchen activities because I am JUST THAT FASCINATING.

This year I'm trying a new recipe for sweet potatoes. It calls for baking the sweet potatoes, mashing them with all kinds of deliciousness including heavy cream and nutmeg and topping them with carmelized apples (above).

Wow, look how yummy! 

But whoops, look closer.


The recipe should have called for a protective layer of aluminum foil.

I guess the day before Thanksgiving is cleaning day, too. Please excuse me while I chisel out the floor of the oven.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


All I know about entertaining, and most of what I know about life, I learned from my mother.

She was a terrific cook and fearless organizer, famous in our family and small town for hosting dozens of guests at every holiday, or birthday, or random Tuesday night. She made it seem effortless.

Enjoy your guests, she taught her daughters. Don't sweat the small stuff. Attitude is important, and you determine your own. Soak stains in cold water. Don't worry about dirty dishes until everyone has left. Leave the relish tray on the table during the pie course.

A year ago, as we do every year, my extended family gathered at the QueenBee house. As we do every year, we ate ourselves into a stupor, laughed at jokes that weren't even remotely funny, and hugged every time we had a chance. As we do every year, after dinner we took pictures.

I don't normally post pictures on FaceBook, but I shared the one above of my parents and siblings. "Look!" my little sister commented on it. "You're surrounded by people who love you."

It was the last time we would be together. A month later, on Dec. 29, Mom fell and suffered a traumatic head injury. She died the next day. I can't even count the number of blessings that surrounded her passing, and I'm sure in the next few months I'll be writing more about those. God was in control, from beginning to end.

Still, I'm a little wobbly for this Thanksgiving. It's the first one that I can't ask Mom to stir the gravy, or if the potatoes are too salty.

She's in every corner of the day, and I miss her.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Only three days until Thanksgiving, my very favorite holiday. And who's coming to dinner? Twenty-nine of my favorite people.

As I pushed the cart around the grocery store this morning it felt as if the Boys were already home. I shared the aisles with retirees and stay-at-home moms, as I did when I, too, was a stay-at-home mom. I piled the frozen peas on top and tried to contain the overflow, as I did when I had four teenagers.

One elderly gent looked from the three cans and quart of milk in his cart to my nearly-unpushable load.  "Wow," he said in wonder. "Looks like you're going to have fun at your house."

Yup. We sure are.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Still My Prince

November 19, 1983
As the mother of Boys, my own children don't often ask me for relationship advice--I'm not really an expert in matters of the heart. One piece of wisdom, though, I stand by.

"Marriage is not all fireworks and roses, and there will be times when you look at the person you married and think 'Who is this person?'," I told a Boy once. "But if I'm in a crowded room, and your father walks in the door, my heart still jumps a little. Wait for the person who does that for you."

Happy anniversary, Husband.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Open Letter to Kate Middleton

Dear Kate Middleton,

As I was perusing the news coverage of your engagement to Prince William, I noticed that you were wearing the exact same shade of fingernail polish that I am wearing.

Not My Hand
I'm guessing this is not actually Maybelline "Blushing Bride" shade, which mine actually is, and I'm guessing that you didn't slop polish all over the side of your pinkie finger because you were doing your own manicure as you ate breakfast, but it did start me thinking how similar you and I obviously are, and Kate, I have a few pieces of advice for you.

You were 28 when you got engaged, so was I. And while my friends and family hadn't started calling me Waitie-Katie, it's probably only because my first name is not a convenient rhyme with anything that suggests delay. Or anything else, for that matter. Kate, pay no attention. The best things come to those who wait. Like being Queen of England! Woo! Or MomQueenBee! Woo!

You're marrying a man with no sisters, so did I.

Not My Brothers-in-Law
Kate, you should be aware that this lack of feminine influence during the formative growing-up years means William will need to be coached that if you are admiring a certain library table in an antique shop, and return to the table six times and say, "This would look really, really nice behind our couch," and you make puppy-dog eyes, and glance meaningfully at the table, and nevertheless everyone gets back in the car sans library table, there will be precious little conversation for the next 100 miles. The proper response to the second statement obviously is, "It sure would! Let's buy it!" Hrmph.

You're moving into a beautiful and historic old house, so did I.

Not My House

Just be aware, Kate, that in a few years you might be having the entire family over for Thanksgiving, and due to lots of scheduling conflicts, the renovation of the back stoop that your Prince intended to have finished by September might still be, well, unfinished.

My House

That's okay. When your relatives show up, the most important thing isn't how the house looks or whether every detail is perfect, the most important thing is that you're together, and the most important part of the "together" is you and your Prince.

Best wishes, Kate!

From the Other Princess, MomQueenBee

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Laziest Post Ever

I admit it. I'm easily entertained. Today I thought I'd pass along a few of the links that have impressed me recently.

I've been inspired:

I found this one especially fascinating, even though I'm not a cat person.

This one I found appalling, but kind of understandable. Are those emotions incompatible?

Finally, because it's cold and rainy and I'm sleepy, a return to the ever-popular playing with food. Enjoy!

And now I want a cappuccino.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Grand and Glorious Day

When the phone rang at 7:17 this morning, I knew who it was.

My parents have a tradition of calling their children on their birth minute to sing "Happy Birthday," and every year I'm grateful that Mom labored through the night so that could my greetings could be delivered at a civilized time of the day. (If I'm not mistaken, one of my uncles gets his call at 4:35 a.m.)

Today Dad was on the road at 7:17 a.m. and pulled to the side of the interstate to call me on his cell phone. He was the first to sing his greetings but he was not the first to wish me a happy birthday--Boy#3 had that distinction, with a text message that jolted me out of sleep at 12:03 a.m.

It has struck me over the years how much less importance I put on birthdays as I age. As a child, I counted down for weeks as mid-November approached. I pored over toy catalogs, knowing I had two chances in the year (birthdays and Christmas) to legitimately ask for something I coveted.

I believed that the birthday was the harbinger of the year to come: If it was a happy day with plenty of adulation and specialness, it would be a happy year. If the day fell short of my expectations, a miserable 365 days would follow. And because it's impossible to live up to expectations of perfection, I began to dread birthdays.

It wasn't until the past decade or so that I realized I have liked every single year better than the year before.With that realization, I began to like birthdays more as well.

Today Husband sent me flowers at work and they are my favorite fall delights. He and Mother-in-Law took me to lunch, and hometown peeps, do not let Cuppa Jo's escape your attention. It was one of the best  sandwiches of my life.

Then my fabulous co-workers sang to me over chocolate-pecan pie and we remarked on how there is no appropriate place to look when you are the target of the "Happy Birthday" song, and we talked and ate and laughed until we cried.

I've spoken to all of the Boys except Two, who years ago staked his place as the last of the greeters. My sisters called with singing, and a friend sent me an e-card that depicted the two of us as Lucy and Ethel and was spot on.

Facebook friends bombarded me with good wishes."It is a beautiful day for your birthday," one wrote. "God chose to have the sun shine on you today."

Even for someone of unreasonable expectations of perfection, this has been a perfect day.

It's going to be a great year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Question For My Gardening Council

Okay, experts on flora and fauna out there, I'm looking at you. (Or really, just the flora experts. I have nothing to ask concerning fauna.) My question for you is this:

What the heck is up with my overachieving rescue plant?

I love the concept of rescue plants. These are the potted plants left over after Mother's Day or Secretary's Day, or any other day appropriate for giving a potted plant to someone you know will have to water it for the rest off the year and feel guilty when it dies. You'll find rescue plants wilting in a wheelbarrow outside of the grocery store and marked down to $2 from $19.99.

They're kind of like rescue puppies, without the nasty stains on the couch.

Anyway, I love rescue plants. I plunk down my two bucks, take it home, dig a haphazard hole in the flower bed, shove the plant in there and forget about it.

Man, these plants are GRATEFUL. They gulp in those soil-borne nutrients and sunshine and explode in flowery kisses. Except for the ones that die, but hey, they were three-quarters dead already so you don't have to spend much time feeling bad about them.

The rescue plant shown above was one of the grateful ones, an overachiever all summer, but now that fall is here it's gone crazy. "Thank you, oh, thank you for rescuing me from the wheelbarrow outside Dillons!" it whispers every time I leave the house. My question for you, my gardening council, is this:

What the heck?

Do you see what I'm talking about? Look closely at the photo. Still don't see what I'm talking about? Well, maybe you'll see from this view that more completely reveals how truly horrible my flower beds are right now.

No, not the geranium, I know what's up with that. What puzzles me is that all three colors of daisy are coming out of one root. I repeat: What the heck?

I am no gardening genius, although you might not believe me looking at the shot above. (Ha! I jest!)

But aren't all the flowers on a single pot ordinarily the same color?

Obviously my rescue plant is a mutt.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pray and Act

Dad and Uncle Bill ca. 1945
My women's group continues its way through our study on Trusting God, and I have to say, I was glad to get to last night's chapter.

For the first several chapters, Jerry Bridges built his case that God is in control of the world. He is sovereign in nature and nations, actions and outcomes, Bridges says, and we should trust that everything He does is for His glory or for the good of His people. I believe this, truly, but I was glad to come to the last night's chapter on "Trust and Responsibility." Its thesis was the essence of my faith experience:

We can trust God's sovereign power, but as Christians He calls us to pray and to act.

That has been running through my mind today as I've thought about veterans. War is a terrible last resort in any political situation. I think of my father and his brothers, though, and how these boys, most of them younger than my Boys, were willing to pray and to act. They did it not knowing that six decades after they went off to war we would be calling them the Greatest Generation. They didn't expect parades when they returned home--returning home, they knew, was its own best reward.

Dad never talked about his war experience while he was raising his own kids. We've heard pieces of his experience in the past couple of years, and the Honor Flight he took in June loosened some of the memories.

He finally told us just a few weeks ago  how he rode the bus to Kansas from Pensacola, Florida, after the war. He was a 19-year old veteran who had left for the war at age 17 before he was shaving regularly, but he sacrificed time for economy; he could get the veteran rate on a bus ticket so he took the Trailways home. The final leg from Kansas City was by train, and after he got off and hugged his parents he shouldered his duffel bag to return to the edge of town, back to the dairy farm where he grew up. Then he helped with evening milking, and went on with his life.

His story isn't unique and had a happier ending than many: 16 million Americans fought in World War II, and upwards of half a million of these died. God is in control, but sacrifice often accompanies the prayers and action that are part of His will.

Today I'm thankful for my father and for all the veterans gave up the ends of their childhoods so that their children could live in freedom. They answered their nation's call, and trusted God.

Pray and act, and be thankful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"It's Just the Drugs, Dear"

A few weeks ago I was snapping pictures of beautiful leaves in our neighborhood. Every window in our house looks out onto a maple that has waited all summer for this moment.

"Tah-dah! Here I am! Admire me!"

So I do admire them. I love the trees in our yard, and in our neighbor's yard. Except I noticed something as I snapped this shot of Mary's maple through the sunroom window. (Ignore the dirty window, please. Thank you.)

Do you see anything interesting about this? No? Well, I'll give you a hint. Beyond the gorgeous little tree is a set of windows without shades. They are not in a house, they are in the neighborhood dentist's office.

And as I looked closer, I noticed that I could see the patient having her teeth cleaned. That wouldn't be such a big deal except that if I could see her clearly, well, you see the corresponding vice-versa.

What you don't see (because I forgot to take a picture of it) is that directly behind me is the doorway to the downstairs bathroom. That's the shower we run to in our skivvies when someone is already in the upstairs shower and we don't want to wait.

That means these drugged-up dental cases have been watching the MomQueenBees dashing for the shower half-naked for who-knows-how long.

As if a trip to the dentist weren't punishing enough.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Please Excuse Any Typos

I am not myself right now. I've just had my vision checked, and my eyes dilated for the first time IN MY LIFE, and instead of being myself I am this person:

Hello! It's good to see you! Would you please turn off the lights?

The doctor says that in three to six hours I will look much less as if I had ingested something illegal. Until then, I think I'll take a nap and dream of my stylin' new glasses.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scientific Method: The Fruit Fly

I'm not ashamed to say it: The QueenBee household has been fighting a plague. For some reason (I suspect it's because we're just so darned sweet) for the last two weeks we've entered the kitchen at some risk, with a swarm of fruit flies rising around us like the Third Plague of Egypt.

For those not familiar with fruit flies (and where do you live, the North Pole?) here is what one looks like:
Yikes! Well, they're don't look this scary-looking in the wild, where they're a sixteenth of an inch long.

Anyway, In the interest of ridding our kitchen of these pests (and because I love you, my readers) I decided to try an experiment. I would see if the Internet knows whereof it speaks when it speaks of fruit fly eradication.

I had a couple of basic ground rule--I wasn't going to spray anything around that might poison Husband, and the eradication elements had to be in the house because my ability to plan ahead is pretty much zero. Thus I googled "how to get rid of fruit flies" and a list of methods came up that involved a few simple household ingredients.

Here's the recipe: Put a half cup of balsamic vinegar in a shallow bowl, add a squirt of dishwashing detergent, and let the vinegar do its job. Apparently fruit flies cannot resist a really well-appointed vinegar spa, buzz around, and eventually fly into the liquid and drown.

Well, that seemed simple enough. Too simple, in fact. So in the interest of complicating my life, I decided to see if the Internet REALLY meant balsamic vinegar or if just any old vinegar would do. Thereupon our experiment commenced.

I pulled out balsamic vinegar, which is a rather evil-looking potion. In order to see if the fruitflies were influenced by smell or by sight, I also got out a lovely rose-colored red wine vinegar.

Here comes our third character, dishwashing detergent:

Two bowls of vinegar, two squirts of foam, and our traps were ready for the unsuspecting varmints to experiment, and DROWN! Mwahahahaha.

While I was searching for eradication methods I came across this site and because I'm all about the humane when it comes to household pests (yeah, right) I decided to throw the touchy-feely method into the mix. A lovely vase, with pink ribbon, and a funnel of (recycled) paper completed this trap.

The theory here is that fruit flies, with their itty-bitty brains, follow the lovely banana smell through a tiny hole in the paper funnel then can't find their way back out. I set up the trap following humane catch-and-release rules.

And now we wait. (Imagine a clock with its hands spinning around, falling back one hour for daylight savings time, then spinning forward again.)

Today I checked the results.

Fruit flies apparently are teetotalers. The red wine vinegar attracted a grand total of five participants.

It was a bit more complicated to measure the effectiveness of the balsamic vinegar, with it being the approximate color and viscosity of motor oil, but science must prevail. A rusty tea strainer and a rinse later, I counted 21 victims.

But imagine my surprise when I looked through the wall of the humane trap. These fruit flies are much dumber than their close-up (above) would indicate. HUNDREDS of flies were swarming around the overripe banana.

(Obviously, my point-and-shoot is inadequate for science. You'll have to take my word for it.)

So I took the trap outside and humanely released them, and they gathered to plot their re-entry into the house.

And thus concludes my research on eradication of fruit flies. Science. It's always surprising.

You're welcome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What I Found in the Front Yard

Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite season of the year.

Winter is icy, summer is sweaty, spring is fickle and prone to severe weather watches. But fall? Fall reminds us how much God loved us when He created seasons.

For years I was slightly sad that the trees in our front yard don't turn color at the same time. What a glorious burst of color it would be if all of them were in sync, I thought.

As I get older, though, I appreciate the stately sequence.

The maple tree on the north turns brilliant golden first, 
just as the maple on the south is beginning to catch fire.
The oak in the middle holds onto its brown leaves all winter, only dropping enough to keep our decoy duck warm.

Meanwhile, the flowers are savorng the last moments of sunlight. My volunteer marigolds relish the season,
and the rescued daisy frantically tries for one last bloom.

It's time to pull out the warm slippers and chenille bathrobe and throw open the windows for one final goldenrod-laden gulp of fresh air before the furnace kicks on.


It's fall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Division of Labor

After nearly 27 years of marriage (buy your anniversary cards now!) Husband and I have come to a tacit agreement on the division of labor in the QueenBee household.

He worries about politics, I worry about the Olympics.

I know. It doesn't quite seem fair that he only has the weight of the nation on his shoulders, while my burden is the ENTIRE WORLD, but it works for us. This way, when election day rolls around, he and Boy#1 can discuss the minutia of each vote's meaning, and whether the right-leaning Thisocrat is more dangerous than the left-leaning Thatican. Or vice versa, I'm never sure which it should be. I can spend the same evening knitting and watching "Chopped" on the Food Network.

I only know that this morning my house has bluebirds singing in wreaths around the chimney, like those old-timey cartoons. If Husband whistled while he shaved (and if he shaved), today's song choice would be "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

I, on the other hand, am wondering if Michael Phelps will be back in shape by 2012.

We're a pretty good team.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hipppety Hop to Halloween

I love Halloween.

I'm sorry, friends and family I love and whose views I respect, but Halloween has never been about the spooky or demonic for me. This is the holiday for dress-up and candy, and last night the pirates and dragons who rang the doorbell were as fun-sized as the KitKats and Butterfingers they scored from me.

I've talked here about my ineptitude with craft projects. The exception to this rule, the one arts arena in which I was truly ept, was Halloween costumes. In my revisionist version of this history, I am the Michaelangelo of masks.

The Boys began planning their Halloween costumes in the summer and by early October they had usually decided on their characters. At that point I began haunting the local thrift shop. To this day I'm amazed at what could be found among the musty-smelling sweaters and outmoded bluejeans.

Add some fluorescent stars and a pointed hat to a 50-cent purple graduation gown, and we have Dumbledore. (Husband reminds me that Boy#4 wasn't so happy with this fabulous costume after one of his friends quite mistakenly guessed he was a princess.)

Or recycle an old trenchcoat. Button all the way up, add a fedora and a notebook, and voila! Boy#1 is a private detective. Boy#2's best might have been the year he directed the construction of his robot, complete with dryer-duct arms and a body of spray-painted cardboard taken from an apple box.

The most expensive costume we ever had was the year Boy#4 had broken his femur and sported a hip spica cast.  Husband chuckled as he taped on orange poster board and converted our beautiful 18-month-old into a slow moving vehicle sign.

Of all the costumes we had, though, the most memorable and enduring was the bunny. When Boy#1 was a toddler and I still had plenty of ambition, I decided to sew him a costume. I scoured Wal-Mart's sewing aisle for the perfect size 2 pattern, counted out my pennies for the gray and pink fleece, and drove home happily.

I should admit at this point that I am a terrible seamstress. My mother, who sewed with creativity and joy, somehow could not impart her skills to me and I sew with bungling and curses.

Almost immediately I knew I was over my head. To my horror, the bunny pattern included (and I am not exaggerating) 48 separate pieces. There were feet and mitts, and the headpiece alone had ears, ear linings, cheeks, back of head, et cetera, ad nauseum. All of these pieces were no match against the disorganizational power of two-year-old One, a curious whirlwind of a child, so the sewing had to be done during his oh-so-brief naps and after he went to bed.

I persevered, though, cutting and stitching and ripping out and restitching. Finally the soft little outfit was complete. It was perfect except for one tiny detail: Apparently the creators of this pattern were envisioning two-year-old bunnies on steroids. It was HUUUUUGE. I wasn't going to let One know this, though. Even at that age he was a snappy dresser and refused to go out in less-than-stylin' duds.

"Oh, you look so cute!" I cooed through gritted teeth as I yanked the elastic wrists and ankles up to knees and elbows. "See? This way your legs and arms will stay cool but you'll still look like a rabbit."

Somehow, we got through that session of trick-or-treating, and after spending as much time and emotional capital on this costume as I did, I was by-golly going to get my investment back. Over the years we have pictures of Boys#2, #3, and #4 wearing the bunny:

What we don't have (or at least I couldn't find this morning) is a picture of Boy#1, the original bunny. Not a problem. This is close enough:
Happy Halloween, all!