Friday, March 31, 2006

Carnival? Try Three Ring Circus!

The past three days around here have been chaos. Carl took vacation from work to do some chores around the house and also to help the Atkins PTA get ready for their big fundraiser, the School Carnival. (He's the PTA treasurer.) Since Wednesday morning, we've:

1) Cleaned the shed
2) Prepped the mower for spring and stored the snowthrower
3) Gotten Big Red, our neurotic pickup truck, repaired
4) Bought a truckload of supplies for the Carnival food vendor-whatever
5) Run household errands
6) Gotten my new glasses (Whoo-Hoo!)
7) Picked up and delivered 41 Papa Murphy's pizzas, also for the food vendor-whatever

And by myself I've:

1) Hosted a soccer meeting (and pseudo-practice) during a Severe Thunderstorm Watch
2) Baked banana bread for us at home, AND
3) Baked and decorated two cakes for the Carnival

Baking cakes for Carnival is always a unique experience. I try to make a cake to match the Carnival theme, which this year is an Americana-Red-White-And-Blue theme, but I couldn't decide whether I wanted to make a Lemon Cake decorated like an American flag, or a creme filled chocolate eclair cake. And since I couldn't decide between the two, I ended up doing both. The Flag cake was easy: just bake the cake, pop it out of the pan and onto a board, and decorate with colored frostings. I've discovered a new friend, Wilton decorator icing in a can, which really sped up the decorating time since I didn't have to mix the colors myself. The Eclair cake was another matter. It baked up OK, but when I went to make the filling it came out this really strange, greyish-yellow color. It tasted fine, but it looked horrible. So I did what I usually do when I have a food-related panic: I called my Mom. She told me to add a little cocoa to the filling, just enough to make it a light chocolate color, and taste it, and then call her back. I did, and the filling came out perfect. My Mom always knows exactly what to do, luckily for me. Thanks, Mom!

In other news, our pickup truck is now repaired. It was really acting weird - besides the engine ping Carl's been fighting for the better part of a year, the electrical was going haywire. It turns out that our battery was only at 30% capacity, so replacing the battery solved the blinky-lights problem. And the ping was caused by the failure of an after-market mass airflow sensor that Carl had put on to replace the old, original mass airflow sensor that had died. Hopefully we won't have a ping anymore - we need the pickup to tow the camper, and I've made camping reservations in both South Dakota and Iowa for June and July. We're anticipating going on a real, two-week family vacation!

Talk about a three-ring circus...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why I Have A Headache

Every Thursday afternoon, Hannah's school sends out "Friday Notes", their weekly communication to parents. I didn't read it until yesterday afternoon, and was shocked when I read that AYSO soccer practices start next week. Whattaya mean practices start next week? I'm our team's assistant coach (in charge of organizing stuff) and no one TOLD me!! So I called up Matt, our coach. He wasn't home, so I talked to his wife Joy. She said he'd call me back.

He didn't.

So I called him again today. He told me that AYSO contacted him mid-week to say that practices can start as soon as Monday, and we needed to have a family meeting as soon as possible. Then he had to go because he was headed out the door. arg.

I panicked. Then I got out my AYSO folder and started making phone calls. Long story short, we're having our first meeting (and hopefully practice) Thursday at 4:30. With my luck, that will be the day it rains. But that's the reason I have a headache. Having to organize a team on short notice would, I think, give anyone a headache.

In other news: George Mason beat Wichita State to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Men's basketball tournament. They are this year's Cinderella team. However, I got to thinking about it, and here's the headline I would write if George Mason gets beat by UConn tomorrow:

George Mason Jarred by Stunning Loss
UConn Cans Ball Team's Hopes
Fate Hermetically Sealed


And a fond Rest In Peace to Buck Owens, who passed away today at the age of 76. He'll now be Pickin' and Grinnin' in his Eternal Hee-Haw show.

Whether that's heaven or hell is your decision.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Grey Friday Blatherskite

Carl and I went to the Atkins "Comprehensive Plan" meeting last night and really, there isn't much to tell. The turn-out was the most remarkable thing: they were expecting maybe 20 people, and they got 80, which is good. After a brief introduction and explanation of just what a comprehensive plan is, they split us into six groups and had each group answer the same questions: 1) what positive things about Atkins do we need to keep and 2) what concerns/challenges are there for the future. All the groups said basically the same thing: the people like the peaceful, friendly, quiet feel of the town; they're satisfied with the current city services provided; they like the low taxes; they're glad we're growing BUT - as the town grows how will we maintain and pay for increased city services needs (i.e. keep taxes low); how do we keep crime down; the town needs better public facilities; there needs to be more business growth (especially food) while maintaining the "charm" of our old downtown; etc. Each person got to "prioritize" the categories (this is hard to explain) so that each category ended up with a numeric "points" value, and now the city council and their consultant will look over the categories and start building a comprehensive plan. There will be more meetings as the comprehensive planning thing moves forward, and since the public is invited to be involved, either Carl or I will go to each and every meeting that we can. It should be fun.

Meanwhile, I continue to hope for an opportunity to move into the country. To that end, I attended a Benton County Board of Supervisors meeting to give them (in a nice way) a piece of my mind concerning their Comprehensive Plan. The county has a Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board, and this board is trying to figure out how to handle housing growth in the county. The Board is split into two factions: people that want to allow housing growth in rural areas (within rules and reason) and people who want to preserve all rural land at all cost, meaning no more new housing anywhere unless it's attached to an existing town. So I went to the Supervisors and told them that I was worried about this, and apparently I'm not the only one. The most sympathetic Supervisor told me lots of people shared my concerns. So at least I was able to vent at them a little.

After the Supervisors meeting I went to see the land agent I've been working with. I asked him to expand the area into which we were willing to move, and in talking with him I found out that he's on the P&Z Board. He's of the mind that people should be allowed to have "hobby farms" and that it's not fair to prevent single families from owning small tracts of land, especially land that's never been or can't be farmed (like pasture and woods and CRP). I don't know if his faction will win the debate, but I hope they do.

And now, some lighter news - when Hannah came home from school yesterday, I asked her how her day was and she said that she made everyone laugh in gym class. (Oh, boy.) When I said "How?" she said that, during a game of matball (the object of the game is for your team to pass a ball past your opponents and then throw the ball against the mat on the wall they're guarding) she tried to pass the ball over a girl to one of her team-mates, and she threw the ball so high that it accidentally went through a basketball hoop. Apparently, the teacher gave her "points" for this! Maybe it was a "you had to be there" moment, but she was pretty happy about it.

Today, after running all my errands in Vinton, I went to Target and got stuff for the girls' Easter baskets. They have a "one dollar" area, and they had a bunch of neat little Easter things, like plush bunny pens and little purses and stuff, so I picked up a few things. But they also had little craft-kit thingys for a buck each, and I kinda went overboard buying the girls stuff. I didn't realize how much stuff I had until I got to the checkout, so on the way home I'm thinking "What am I going to do with all this?" As I thought more I realized that some of the things would be great for using while camping, so when I got home I sorted through everything and set aside some stuff to save for summer - you know, on rainy days when there's nothing to do but sit inside the camper and stare out the window, this stuff will come in handy.

I forgot to mention earlier that, during last night's meeting, the people who mentioned the need for more (and better) restaurants were all guys. Why does this not surprise me?

Have a nice weekend!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Grey Monday Blatherskite

It's the first day of Spring, but it really doesn't feel like it. It's cloudy, windy, grey and cold, and the worst part is that the winter storm bringing us this dismal scene is dumping all of its snow to the south and west, so East Central Iowa gets left out of the fun. (again) It's supposed to get sunny again by Wednesday, and then slowly get warm by the weekend, but we'll see. Saturday is still a long way off.

In basketball news, of the 15 teams I've been following in the NCAA basketball tournament, only three are left: Texas, Bradley and Gonzaga. The Big Ten Conference, which was ranked Number One by the RPI computer (whatever in the heck that is) acted more like Number Two, getting completely flushed out of the tournament by the end of the second round. Texas is really beginning to pique my curiousity - has there ever been a year when a college was National Champion in both football and basketball? That may happen this year if Texas can hold out. They may have to play Number One Ranked Overall Duke, and I don't know if anyone can beat Duke this year. Oh, well. First Texas has to beat West Virginia and Kevin Pittsnogle. I said this last year, and I'll say it again: with a name like Pittsnogle, the guy should be doing deodorant commercials. His name sounds like an underarm ailment.

Meanwhile, in other news: our family went and looked at another farm house this weekend. It was a so-so house; the inside was nicely decorated and updated, but the basement showed serious signs of deterioration. So we're still looking. For grins and giggles, I went over to the Ralston addition (Ridgeview Estates) and checked into their lots. The Restrictive Covenant was enough to make you want to scream. No modular homes; all the windows had to be Anderson 400 series; the only fencing allowed is black chain link; there must be brick siding on the exterior half way up, starting at ground level; if you move in there you're a member of the Neighborhood Association whether you like it or not; and et cetera. A cookie-cutter neighborhood, just like in Cedar Rapids. No individuality, no neighborhood character, just vinyl-siding-developer-manufactured "charm". (insert gag and puke sound here) No, thanks. And people wonder why I want to move out into the country and away from town.

Speaking of "the town" our little city-in-the-making is having a Meeting to update their "Comprehensive Plan". Carl is planning on going: they're going to be discussing "housing, parks and recreation, infrastructure, economic development and future land use". If Atkins is going to go urban, we need to know so we can get out as soon as possible. The last thing I want is to be trapped in a Cedar Rapids-esque town with Cedar Rapids-esque taxes. Now, I know, as far as cities go Cedar Rapids isn't that bad. People from New York or Los Angeles would barely consider Cedar Rapids a city. But for a rural-raised girl like me, I really need the comfort and quiet that a rural setting has. I need to have space to breathe, to plant a garden, to scream at the TV when the Hawkeyes lose a basketball game that they darn well should have won and not have to worry about what the neighbors think. I know this all sounds rather petty, but hey, it's my blog, and when I need to vent this is where I go. I'm sorry I was so depressing. I promise to write a cheerful blog next time.

Maybe. ;)

Friday, March 17, 2006


Those of you who are following the NCAA Tournament know what I'm screaming about. Iowa, 3rd seeded in their bracket, LOST to 14 seeded Northwestern State by one freakin' lousy point. I was stunned. I was screaming. I was incensed!! Stupid murzen-furzen-bricken-bracken Hawkeyes anyway. It's just like the year Iowa State (a 2 seed) lost to Hampton in the first round. I'm still angry, and the games' been over for two hours. Stupid Hawkeyes. This is what I, an Iowa State grad, get for trying to root for my school's arch rival. See if I ever try and back you again, you idiots.

One point. One stinking lousy point.

Time to get out my Illini sweatshirt!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why Those Teams?

I think it's time to explain why I follow certain teams at tournament time. The Big Ten and Big 12 teams are easy to explain - I've lived in the Midwest all my life and these are the teams I know. As for my "teams of interest", the reasons I follow them are various:

Northern Iowa - they're from Iowa! That's why I follow them. Go Panthers!

Bradley and Southern Illinois - they're in the Missouri Valley Conference with Northern Iowa, and each school is located near one of my siblings. Bradley is in Peoria, IL near my older-older brother Bob, and SIU is in Carbondale, IL, just down the interstate from my sister Kathy.

Arizona - their coach is the great, talented Lute Olsen, a man I've watched coach for years. He was, at one time, coach of the University of Iowa basketball team, and the only coach to take the Hawkeyes to the Final Four. I've always felt that the Athletic Director who fired him (can't remember the AD's name) gave Olsen the shaft. I also think that, for an older gentleman, Lute Olsen is hot. Not quite as handsome as my husband, but definitely quite good looking.

Gonzaga - I can't help it, I just like the name, and also the fact that they've risen from being a Cinderella team to being a basketball powerhouse. Gonzaga - the name just rolls off the tongue.

Iowa's Boys' High School Tournament is also going on this week. Our school, Benton Community, didn't go, which is just as well because the dreaded Tournament Snowstorm is approaching (we get a snow or ice storm every year during either the girls' or boys' tournament) and I'd rather not be on the interstate headed for Des Moines right now. What I need to do is go help Boo-Boo with her homework. But before I go, I must say...

Go Hawks!

(I hope my relatives appreciate how hard it is for an ISU grad to say that!!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It Happens Every Year

What happens every year, right around this time of year? If you said "The NCAA Men's Baskeball Tournament" you would be right. But that's not the thing I'm blogging about. Something else happens every year, right around this time - and that thing is the Bode Family Stomach Flu Epidemic. Last year, we had it in mid-February. This year, it started with Mary. She had diarrhea Sunday night, and yesterday she was home sick with a low grade fever. She still had her fever this morning, and Hannah had diarrhea, so I kept both girls home from school. That was a good thing, because by mid-afternoon Hannah had started barfing. It will take a couple days for both girls to get over this, which means by the weekend either Carl or I will be sick. That just figures, because I had plans for Saturday night. I bought tickets to a hockey game (one of the last of the season) and we were going to go out to eat afterwards. My Mom, bless her heart, has already agreed to come and stay with the girls, so it was all set. Mom was even going to bring her cat (something the girls were looking forward to) so I'll just have to pray that Carl and I can avoid this bug, at least until Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Tournament games start Thursday afternoon. This year's List of Teams I Want to Watch is as follows:

Big Ten - Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State
Big 12 - Texas A & M, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma
Teams of Interest - Southern Illinois, Bradley, Gonzaga, Arizona, and of course Northern Iowa

I was rather surprised at the teams that were missing, like Cincinnati and Louisville, which are old perennial powerhouse teams. So I printed out the NIT brackets and AHA! there they are! I don't know that I'll be able to watch the NIT tournament since I don't have cable, but I'll be curious to know the outcome. Of course, the frustration of the year is that Iowa State isn't getting any post season play.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blatheskite on the Edge of Winter

It's 66 degrees right now, and the "official" start of Spring is a week from Monday. It's rather windy, and partly cloudy, but it's a nice day. I have three neighbor girls out in my backyard now playing with Lou and Boo. It reminds me of a poem my older-older brother Bob wrote (this is the only part I remember)

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz
I wonder where my daughter is
She's outside playing on the swing
I'll bet she's glad that God made Spring
And so's her Mom; because for weeks
She's had to listen to cries and shrieks
Like, "Let's go play" but Mom says "Nay,
We've had three feet of snow today."

The girls are thrilled to be outside. This morning they helped me pick up gravel out of the front yard (thrown there by my snowthrower). We also picked up the dog's old, gross, moldy toys out of the back yard, so now both yards are nice and clean and I owe each girl five bucks.

Carl and I debated about whether we should take the snowthrower attachment off the tractor. I really want to because that will bring us even closer to Spring. Yet I hesitate because by the middle of next week the weather will have cooled significantly and it may snow. So we're going to wait until the end of March, when Carl plans to take a couple days off. I want to rent a thatcherizer attachment and an aerator for the tractor and give the yard a real good cleaning. We've lived here 9.5 years and the yard's never had a good cleaning. Once I get the yard cleaned I plan to lay down a bunch of new seed, and a couple weeks after that I'll fertilize. I hate using chemical fertilizers, but oh, well. The "thatch as natural fertilizer" method isn't working, so I'm going to try a new approach.

Yesterday I took Judah for a walk on the rail trails, and I noticed some of the trees are starting to bud. The silver maple trees had tightly curled leaves at the tips of their branches, and I noticed other trees whose twig tips were turning from grey to white. Here at home my lilac bushes are just starting to bud, and I have tiny little iris leaves poking up. Spring is trying to make its presence felt. It's now 67 degrees.

Spring on the edge of winter. Iowa is waking up from it's long slumber and getting ready for planting season. Soon I'll have to hitch up the rototiller and plow my garden. And my family members will appreciate the irony of this year's newest garden addition.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's Been A Long Day

Not an exciting day, mind you, just long. And boring. BOOOOOORING!! I mean, I got my chores done (laundry and dishes) but other than getting my package from the FedEx guy, the day has been as dull as the cloudy, grey sky. Blech!

I wasn't too happy with the content of my package, either. I just found out that Delta Ceramcoat is discontinuing some of my favorite paint colors, so I got online to Viking Woodcrafts and ordered a bunch of stuff I'd been wanting, and included an order for several bottles of the discontinued colors, hoping they'd still have some in stock. No such luck. They had 1 bottle of Salem Blue and 1 bottle of Normandy Rose, but that was it. They were out of Bonnie Blue. They also didn't have the painting pens I wanted, so I didn't get them, either. ARG.

So I spent the morning online searching for the stuff I wanted. I found Salem Blue paint and the paint pens at Hofcraft, and I found the Bonnie Blue paint at Woodcraft Supplies, or so their websites said. Hopefully they haven't sold out of those colors yet. I use those two shades of blue in particular in alot of Bauernmalerei projects. For those of you who don't know what Bauernmalerei is, it looks like this:

The jar on the left has a tulip on it, and the jar on the right has a carnation on it. Both of these flowers are painted in Bonnie Blue. Salem Blue is a color I frequently use for backgrounds. Hopefully, by the time my new orders come in, I'll have enough Salem Blue and Bonnie Blue to last a couple of years. I also have my Mom (thanks, Mom!) out checking the stores in her area, and if she finds those paints she promised to get me a few bottles. With luck, I should be able to keep on painting Bauernmalerei without interruption.

Now if I could only get my stuff to sell...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cooked Blatherskite

It's been my intention, for several years, to go through my recipe box (such as it is) and put my recipes on word documents to make them more readable. The cards in my handwriting are pretty much illegible because they're in my handwriting, and the ones in Carl's handwriting are pretty much illegible because they were written by an engineer and some of the instructions are unfathomable. For instance, here's an instruction from a cookie recipe - Roll into ball; dip fork in water to flatten. My first reaction was, why would I want to flatten a fork? Aren't they more useful with a slight curve to them? Then I figured out that he meant to dip the fork in water before pressing down on the COOKIE thus to make the cookie flat. And that example was one of the easier ones to figure out.

Anyway. Now that Carl is working feverishly (sorta) in the basement trying to get it finished, I've gotten on an anti-packrat crusade. I've gone through my craft stuff once and filled a couple boxes with things I want to get rid of, and I plan to go through my stuff a couple more times to throw out yet more stuff. I have a small pile of items I no longer need (like clothes Boo-Boo's outgrown) in a corner of my dining room, and I plan to dispose of them all at this year's City Wide Garage Sale. I've been going through cabinets, looking for things I no longer need and adding them to the Garage Sale pile. The other day I went through the Recipe Book cabinet and tossed out a few never-used books. I also had a couple of folders with loose-leaf recipes in them, so I went through those, tossed out the ones I didn't want, and put the rest in plastic sleeves in a three-ring binder. And I figured since I'd started, I'd go ahead with my recipe cards project.

So I've been sitting at my computer for the past two days deciphering and typing out recipes from the recipe card file. I've discovered recipes that Carl had at school that I've never used (tuna burgers? YUCK!) and I've discovered recipes that I'd used in the past but forgotten I'd had. I got very misty when I found the card for Applesauce Cake. This was one of my Dad's favorite recipes. I used to make those all the time when I lived at home, and I haven't made one in years. I have no clue why. Maybe because with kids it's just easier to pull out a cake mix or buy packaged cookies than it is to make something from scratch. That, and I really don't enjoy cooking. But putting my recipes on word documents (thus inscribing them forever on the computer's hard drive) is reminding me of meals, cakes and cookies that I haven't had in ages and am now very hungry for. And yet, I hate to cook. What to do, oh, what to do.

Um, Mom? Are you busy?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Stringed Blatherskite

This afternoon I turned the TV on early so that I wouldn't miss the beginning of the five o'clock news. This means that I caught the last 15 minutes or so of Oprah, a show I watch very infrequently because I usually have better things to do (like watching oatmeal coagulate). As you've probably guessed, I'm not a fan of Oprah because I think her show is mostly brainless drivel. For example, today's show was some sort of Oscar preview. I can't really describe it because I had the sound muted and I wasn't paying much attention, but I did notice at one point Oprah was talking to Reese Witherspoon about playing the part of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line. Walk The Line is a movie I will never go and see, nor will I buy it on DVD because I don't want the images of Joaquin Phoenix ruining the iconic image I've had of Johnny Cash since childhood. Johnny Cash was one of my Dad's musical heroes, along with Hank Williams Sr. and Ernest Tubb. And I just love June Carter. When I was a teenager my Dad used to watch reruns of a country TV show on Iowa public television, and I'd watch with him; not because I liked country music (I like it more now than I did then) but because a young June Carter was on there and I just loved her. She had a great voice, and she was FUNNY! She'd come out and wisecrack with Roy Acuff, and I always almost died laughing. She was the best part of the show, for me.

So anyway, Oprah was talking to Reese and at one point they showed a clip of Reese as June Carter playing an autoharp. I would dearly love to find out what kind of 'harp she was playing, because I intend to buy a new 'harp sometime this summer. If I knew what June/Reese was playing, I might go and look for that particular model (or its 2006 equivalent). I only hope I can afford it. Of course, it was June's mother Maybelle Carter who got June started on the 'harp, since Mother Maybelle was a premier 'harp player and country singer. I wonder what it was like growing up as a member of the Carter family. Talk about having a genetic predisposition to music! Wow! I mean, I grew up in a family with a genetic predisposition to music, but nothing like that. I only wish my genetic links to music were stronger. I envy those members of my family who can play the guitar. (Don't worry, family members - I may envy you but my love for you is stronger!) That's a talent I'll never have because of my minor "learning disability". I have something called a "method processing disorder", which really isn't a disability but it prevents me from playing complicated instruments like guitar and piano. I can't coordinate my fingers to find and hold down multiple strings at the same time, and I can only read notes one at a time, not several at a time as required when playing piano. (My "disability" also interferes with schoolwork, but that's another story.) That's why I love playing autoharp. I only have to hold down one button to get a chord as I strum, and the chord keys are laid out in a pattern that makes playing three-chord songs (i.e. most country songs) easy. I imagine the only instrument I'll ever play is the autoharp. I wish I could play guitar, but oh well. It's one of those things I've learned to live with. (Insert smiley face here!)

Oh, and by the way...I can paint, too. Sort of. :-)