Friday, July 31, 2009

Frogs in the Pool (and a Crayfish)

Daughter Alice took some funny pictures of frogs in the pool yesterday and we always have plenty - especially after a rain. She posted the photos along with a poem I wrote a few years ago celebrating the froggy rescue efforts of two of her siblings.

We still get frogs in the pool, but sometimes other more exotic creatures as well. (And sometimes a drowned chipmunk or mouse, I'm sad to say.) This week a monster crayfish went for a swim. He was a happy snappy fella and we all kept our fingers away from his claws.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hospitality and Feeding the Multitudes

Today is about multiplication. The Gospel at Mass was the story of Jusus blessing five loaves and two fishes to feed a huge crowd. Larry and I may have to try that later. Alice and her family are returning from the beach this evening and we don't know whether they will be here for dinner. We aren't planning on them since it's about a seven hour drive and with little ones and multiple stops we figure they'll probably arrive around bedtime.

But if they turn up for supper the challenge will be to transform dinner for two into dinner for nine. Can it be done? I am the ultimate optimist. Besides, I have a bag of chicken dumplings in the freezer and that old kid crowd pleaser, mac and cheese. So if the multitudes arrive we'll practice multiplication of the loaves and fishes to feed the hungry crowd. My can-opener is always ready for extra company too. As my mom used to say, "Add another can of water to the soup." That's hospitality!

Enjoy your Sunday and don't forget to thank the Lord for all His blessings.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quote for the Day

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." The Dalai Lama

This quote made me laugh. My kids consider me the expert at opening the refrigerator, perusing its contents, and throwing dinner together from its miscellaneous contents in thirty minutes or less. Doesn't everybody do that?

The other night I made a great seafood bisque with a can of mushroom soup, several ounces of leftover grilled Tilapia cut into chunks, a dozen frozen cooked shrimp (all that was left in the bag) and two teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning. A little sherry would have made it perfect but I didn't have any. Next time maybe I'll try a little white wine and some chives from my garden.

I served the soup with a tossed salad and crackers. Yum! It looked a lot like the photo above, but was all eaten before I thought of taking a picture.

Black Bear Sighting!

Day before yesterday I was sitting at my computer which faces a window on the side of the house when who should lumber into my field of vision but a big black bear. Not an adolescent, mind you, but a full grown bear walking across our field and past our bonfire circle as if he owned the place. I ran to get the camera but when I got back he was already nosing into the lot next door which is covered with shrubs and tall grass so I missed him. I mostly got a side view of him walking. Black bears range in size from 200-600 pounds and I'd say this one was toward the heavier end.

It's been a year since we had the young bear in the tree down the street and this is my first sighting of a full grown black bear. What a thrill!

Have I mentioned how much I love living in the country? We are less than two miles from the George Washington National Forest which has a significant black bear population. I called the police department to report seeing the bear and they said it isn't unusual for them to migrate down from the mountain this time of year. In late summer and early fall they are packing on the pounds for their long winter's nap (although they aren't true hibernators). I wouldn't mind if this one migrates back across my yard on his way home.

For more on black bears go here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cake Decorating - for fun and more fun!

I'm not the greatest baker in the world, but I'm always pleased when the kids ask me to make a cake for a special occasion. Here are a few samples from special family events.

For Tara's surprise 3oth birthday party, I made a princess cake which, of course, included Tara's prince charming, her husband Lawrence trumpeting the event.

I also decorated some cupcakes which are much easier and quicker. I considered making different flowers but that would have required more colors which would mean more frosting bags and more tips and I have a limited supply.

One of my favorite cakes is a lamb cake for Easter. The children always enjoy eating a piece of that fluffy little lamb, the part with the most icing of course! And the chicks and jelly beans are also in demand.

Cupcake decorating is a fun activity for a gramma and her little flock. A project I plan to do with the young uns is an alligator. note the chocolate scales - are they peppermint pattie halves? Yum! Since we have an alligator cookie jar they can be friends. Or is it a crocodile? I never can remember which is which.

Do it Yourself Wedding Flowers: A Glorious Display that's Good for the Budget!

Larry and I recently attended the wedding of friend's son and one of the most enjoyable aspects was admiring the flower arrangements at the church and the reception, not to mention the glorious bouquets carried by the bride and her attendants. I would love to see the gardens tended by the bride's mom because most of the posies were home grown. One of my favorite flowers is hydrangea and they were there in brilliant profusion.

Flowers are one of the big items in the wedding budget, often running a thousand dollars or more. I suspect that this clever and green-thumbed mom saved a bundle by doing these and I'll bet the arranging was a fun joint activity for all the ladies the day before the wedding. You can see for yourself the beautiful results! Even the cake was a flower-bedecked wonder!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Walking for Fun and Fitness

I'm reading an interesting book on walking that I picked up at the Green Valley Book Fair for a measly $4.00. (What a bargain!) It's called Walk Away the Pounds by Leslie Sansone who developed a walking system that requires no special equipment except a good pair of walking shoes and can be done outside or in your own living room. When the weather is fine outside walking is the best as far as I'm concerned. I walk with my head in the clouds literally -- they are so beautiful. Today I saw three goldfinch on the telephone wire and a small plane flying below big puffy cumulus clouds.

But when it rains or is bitter cold and windy I have an alternative now. Leslie's system is based on a method of walking in place that you can do in your own living room while you watch a movie or the morning news. It includes some variations like side stepping and a kick step. You can use one of Leslie's DVDs or you can do it on your own at your own pace. Leslie offers different levels of walking workouts that include a six-mile an hour clip -- Yikes! I don't think that's for me, but that's the beauty of it. Whatever your pace, walking works.

I've done aerobics and one of the discouraging things was feeling like a total klutz trying to follow the moves, but with this walking system, everything is so fundamental. The basic step is walking in place. Hey, who doesn't know how to walk? You've been doing it since you took your first steps.

Leslie encourages people to "Make walking your sport for life." Try it online. Visit Leslie's site and click on the five minute workout on the right. You'll see how easy it is. In fact, it's so easy, a caveman can do it.

Since I did the 100 miles in 100 days I've been committed to keeping it up, and this makes it really possible because when bad weather comes I can still walk. Yippee! Thanks, Leslie, for a great system that anyone can do no matter their level of fitness or athletic ability. I don't plan to purchase the exercise videos because I'd rather walk and listen to the radio or watch an episode of one of my favorite series, like All Creatures Great and Small. But I'm just loving my walking, and reading Leslie's book gives me more motivation to keep it up!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Watch your step and your spelling!

If you're a parent you know your children never let you get away with anything. A few months ago I wrote a MySpace post saying I was going on a "damn walk." I actually meant I was going on a "dam" walk, as in down to the Burnside Dam. My oldest promptly wrote back that she was going on a "damn run." Now several months later I'm still getting ribbed -- and I'm still also going on my dam walks because I love the view of the dam and the Shenandoah River.

Have you ever heard of the famous "seven bends" of the river? They're famous around here and are a real curiosity of nature. Come visit Woodstock and climb the tower at the top of the Massanutten Mountain for a great view. You can see our house from the tower in the late fall and winter when the leaves are off the trees. It's a mandatory stop for visitors to Camp Kreitzer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Girls

We're getting to the point at our house where there are so many birthdays we are generally celebrating several together. Alice and Tara straddle two months but are only about ten days apart so we had a shared celebration for them with some birthday crowns out of the dressup box. This party was also kind of a diversion to keep Tara from suspecting that Alice had planned a surprise party for her BIG 30 with a fairy tale theme. Check it out. Alice is our social director because she always has great ideas for celebrations whether it's relay games on fourth of July, an obstacle course for a family field day, or a great birthday party theme. We think she should write a book: "Let's Party!"

At the end of July we'll have two birthday boys -- one who will be 37 and the other five...or is it six? Oh dear...this gramma has trouble keeping up with the ages of all 18 grandchildren. They keep changing! Anyway, we'll be looking forward to that party too. Somehow I don't think a fairy tale theme is in the works -- maybe a soccer party.

Actually, I don't only goof up my grandkids' ages. One year (I think when I hit 38) I thought I was a year older than I was. My sister said, "You can't be that old because your only a year and a half older than I am and I'm only going to be 37." Now, how many women add a year to their lives? That gave me a good laugh and the best birthday present of all. It also reminded everybody that I always was absent-minded and should have been a professor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lilies for Lunch?

Now that I know day lilies are edible, all I needed to try making stuffed lilies for lunch was some willing guinea pigs. I have to say the kids were good sports about trying lilies stuffed with tuna salad. I started out with the main ingredients:

The lunch tray actually looked pretty attractive, especially with the green grapes.

Rachel doesn't look to eager for the experiment but she ate the whole thing.

Grace decided lilies were good not just for lunch but frequent outside snacks. I had a hard time protecting my lily garden from total decimation and finally had to put strict limits on lily picking.

Madeleine gave a definite thumbs up. Now we're wondering how frozen lilies stuffed with ice cream would be. As good as ice cream sandwiches?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Feet!

I DID IT! I joined a wellness program last March: 100 miles in 100 days. I logged out on June 30th at about 115 miles. Sometimes I walked by myself; sometimes with Larry. A few times I walked-ran. More than a few I hiked with Larry. On my most ambitious day (while we were camping at Blackwater Falls) I logged over 7 miles. And the benefit is feeling better and stronger and able to keep going even on days that follow short-changed nights of sleep. My goal now is to keep up the mile a day average and keep walking. I'm having fewer problems with my joints as well. Wish I could say I'd dropped some weight, but that seems to be a hopeless struggle. Ah well, one can't ask for everything. But I definitely recommend a regular regimen of walking. And if you can throw in a little hiking to some beautiful vistas - well that's just the reward at the end of the trail.

4th of July: a race to the finish

If you want to see how we spent fourth of July, visit Frodo 7 to see some Kreitzer family traditions.

I wasn't there for the Winchester fun run this year which takes place bright and early in the morning. Instead, I attended a funeral for the son (age 18) of some friends. Alexander died from injuries in an ATV accident. For him the race has been run and he's crossed the finish line. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the comfort of his family.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Camping with Grandkids: How to have a ball!

We were camping the past three days with three of our grandchildren, ages 9, 7, and 4. My husband mentioned it to another mature (that's a polite way of saying old) camper at the rest room who said, "Why would you want to do that?" Wow! there's a man who doesn't enjoy his grandkids. Maybe he doesn't know the tricks of the trade. We had a fabulous three days, but we planned it. Here's our recipe for a happy camping trip with grandkids.

1) Choose the right place.
Larry and I love campgrounds that are heavy on hiking trails, waterfalls, and great views; and we don't much care what else they have. Those aren't the places we choose when we camp with the kids. We pick a campground with lots of things the kids can do independently. For this trip we chose a KOA close to home that offers: free miniature golf, ping-pong, pool, a fishing pond, a washer toss game, a well-equipped playground, horseshoes, and a swimming pool. It's only a little over 30 minutes from home and nestles in at the base of the Massanutten Mountain. We could have travelled 100 miles to get something similar, but we'd have to deal with "When are we going to be there? How much longer? I have to go to the bathroom...." (Well, you know the drill.)

2) Give the kids guidelines, but also a little freedom.
Midweek camping is great because campgrounds generally have plenty of empty sites and very little traffic. We let the children know we needed to know where they were at all times and they needed to stay together. We could take care of setting up camp and breaking down while they went exploring and enjoyed the fun stuff to do. We did a lot of things together, but they had the freedom to run around a little by themselves.

3) Include some off-site activities.

We had planned to go to the Luray caverns, but the younger two were having such a good time they didn't want to leave. We decided to do something closer to the campground and visited the Storybook Trail on the Massanutten Mountain. It has lots of rock formations that are fun to climb and be king (or queen) of the mountain.
It's only 1/4 mile long and ends at an observation deck with a beautiful view of the Luray Valley. And there's a great custard stand on the way home. The outing was only about an hour and half -- just long enough with the reward of ice cream at the end -- perfect!

The 9-year-old and I also took a "girls' outing" to the Green Valley Book Fair near Bridgewater, about 30 minutes from our campground. We spent a happy 45 minutes browsing all the books and choosing some special treasures to take home. The boys, who didn't want to go, spent the afternoon with Larry playing more mini-golf and everything else at least once.

4) Do some chores together.
Nobody gets a free ride when we go camping. The kids helped set the table and clear up and we all went wood-gathering together. That was so successful we had a great fire even in a sprinkling rain. Most of the wood was so dry it lit easily and got good and hot for cooking hot dogs and s'mores.

5) Say prayers and have as much fun as you can.
We believe "the family that prays together stays together." We said a morning prayer offering our day to God and a decade of the rosary around the campfire at night ending with bedtime prayers. We believe prayer helps us stay safe and agreeable. Since three can be a difficult number (especially with siblings) we had a motto for the outing. The kids were the three musketeers. Whenever there was a squabble beginning we reminded them of the campout motto: "All for one and one for all." That usually nipped arguments in the bud and kept everybody smiling.

We didn't see much wildlife on this trip so we took advantage of a photo op with the bears decorating the front of the campground office.

After we got home Larry commented that he never spent as much time with his grandparents as we just did. Me too. I only had one set of grandparents who lived far away and I could probably count the number of times I saw them (after we moved away from Cleveland when I was nine) on both hands. We don't want the same thing to happen with our grandkids because they are some of our favorite people on the planet. We love camping and kids so combining the two is definitely a win-win situation. Can't wait for the next fun adventure!