Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Flea Circus

We retired to our home after road tripping for much of June and July.  A scourge awaited us.

Walking into our century-old home resulted in one's ankles being immediately bespeckled with fleas.  In the time it took one boy to walk from the front door to the back, 20 fleas had made their home on each of his ankles.  While we have mostly hardwood floors, there are two bedrooms that still have old carpet (that needs to be pulled up) and a few scattered throw rugs.

That's where those f*ers breed.

And lay their eggs.  And hatch.  And feast on our dog.  And breed.  And...you get the idea.

Leave our dog alone, fleas!  

We've been victims of this vicious cycle all summer.  When I complained to the vet, I was told, "It's just a bad year for fleas."  

This, despite the fact that Yellow Dog has been given flea treatment since she was a wee pup.  Religiously.  Every month.  And we've treated the outside of the house.  And set off bug bombs underneath the house.

We had to step up our game.

So we set off bombs in the house.  This meant being banished for 4 hours, turning off the electricity to eliminate any air intake with filters, and busying ourselves with doing yard work and hanging out with our awesome neighbors until we could return to our abode.

Then, at about 10:00 p.m.,  the real work began:  washing every sheet, towel and article of clothing that had been exposed.  Vacuuming every inch of rug and carpet.  Mopping.  Wiping down counters, washing dishes and appliances that might have been exposed to the toxins we hoped would kill the nasties but not hurt us or dim our sons' chances for fathering offspring in the future.  It was a lot of work.

The next day, Aquaman treated the yard with more toxic stuff.  We couldn't walk on it or let Yellow Dog outside until it had all been watered in and allowed to dry.  We treated Yellow Dog with a Capstar.  I don't know what this little pill has in it, but the fleas drop dead in 4 hours.  Then we bathed her.  And vacuumed some more.  And washed her dog bed.

Then we waited to see if more fleas showed up.

So far, it's an all clear.

When the temperatures are in the triple digits, the fleas evidently step up their activity, but we rein in ours. Because 106 degrees isn't good for much but napping, reading, eating cold things and complaining about the heat. I've done my best to accomplish all of the above in the past week.

It didn't take long to figure out that when we turned off the electricity, our gas oven had decided that was just too much for it and gave up the fight altogether.

After Aquaman peered around, he declared that we needed a new igniter and promptly ordered it online. While we waited for this to arrive, I planned dinners with the slow cooker which is just a brilliant idea in the summer - even if your oven's not broken. The oven heats up the kitchen so much, that we also had installing a ceiling fan on our list of to do's that we decided to make a to done.

So now air flow in the kitchen is much improved. The oven part arrived in the mail and Aquaman installed it promptly.

The igniter that burned out.

The new igniter installed.

Then we did one of the only things that it's not too hot to do: make ice cream. Our favorite recipe is for Raspberry ice cream from the Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. It is divine. I believe it is the most heavenly ice cream on earth. It was especially good when we lived in Alaska and made it with our own raspberries fresh picked from our patch in the back yard. But it is still acceptable made with raspberries bought from a Super Target in Texas.

We make it with our Donvier ice cream maker -you freeze the aluminum canister ahead of time and you only turn the paddle a few times over a 20 minute period - no ice or salt required.  Then we throw it back in the freezer for 30 minutes or so.  It produces a kind of soft serve style ice cream.  

This is what our ice cream maker looks like.  They call this the "vintage" model now.  Wow.  

The ice cream maker was given to us as a wedding present by our dear friends who were finishing up vet school while we were finishing up graduate school and the pottery bowl I'm holding was given to us as a wedding gift from Aquaman's stepsister.  So it's kind of like people we love help us every time we make ice cream.  And that is a very cool thing.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Texas Travels

We've been on the road for almost two weeks.  It just kind of happened.  We were only going for a weekend visit to see Aquaman's folks and next thing we knew, we'd been gone for eleven days.  Eleven days of fun and sun, food and drink, and friends and relatives can really take it out of you.  Here are some highlights:

We began our days of leisure at T-Bone Tom's Steakhouse Restaurant in Kemah.  We'd been here once several years ago, but that was before we'd seen it highlighted on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives - one of our favorite shows on Food Network.  Now that we knew what Guy Fieri recommended, we confidently ordered the armadillo eggs.  In fact, this is all Thing 1 ordered.  These are little gut bombs of pulled pork stuffed jalapenos rolled in breading and deep fried.  My, my.

Oh. My. Lanta.  As in Mylanta.  Better yet, just pass the Tums.

We also ordered the appetizer sampler, a chicken fried steak sandwich and some barbecued brisket.  It was all good, but perhaps the best was their cream gravy.  Never had any richer or creamier.  I highly recommend it.  We couldn't finish everything, of course, and ended up carrying around the leftovers the rest of the afternoon as we went to a few stores and an afternoon showing of The Amazing Spider-Man.  I did not think The Amazing Spider-Man was amazing.  I thought it was cheesy and campy.  But what do I know?  The boys and Aquaman loved it.

The boys got some quality time with the grandparents while Aquaman and I had a few nights to ourselves in Galveston.  Aquaman got to go spearfishing while I got some work done on my laptop.  The fruits of his labor (and speargun) were red snapper, ling and sheepshead that we distributed among friends and family over the next few days.

Our travels next took us to San Marcos to visit my best friend from college who was also the Maid of Honor at our wedding and who, with her husband, serves as godparents to Thing 1 and Thing 2.  She has her own little family now - a little boy and little girl who are cutie-patooties.  Here are all of our children playing together:

 Thing 2, reclining in a chair entirely too small for him.  

And yes, The Redhead is wearing a Krispy Kreme hat because what self-respecting person would pass by a Krispy Kreme restaurant with the HOT DONUTS neon sign on and not go in?  Even if you did just eat too many buffalo wings next door...

The boys worked off their donuts at the river the next morning.

My goal was to get myself to The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University to see the exhibit on Rick Riordan before it closed July 15th.  Mission accomplished.

A fellow Texan, Riordan was a teacher who slowly but surely went from unknown to known writer.  He is most often recognized for the Percy Jackson series, but was quite an accomplished mystery writer before that.  I adored reading The Lightning Thief (the first book in the series) aloud to my seventh grade students.  Riordan donated all of his personal papers to the Wittliff.  The exhibit included original manuscripts, personal photos (I'd like to point out that while Riordan is a graduate of UT-Austin, the exhibit included a baby picture of him in a Texas Aggies onesie.  WHOOP!) and his first rejection letter, received when he was 12 years old.  

This place was made for writers.  I enjoyed it immensely and hope to get back again to other exhibits.

Despite being caught in a major thunderstorm, we made the drive to Lake Brownwood where we met up with my cousins, aunt and uncle on my dad's side.  There ensued lots of swimming, fishing, good eating, good conversation, and excellent napping interspersed with birthday celebrations and a baby shower thrown in for good measure.  Amazingly, all of our children get along.  There's just something about cousins...

Thing 1 and Thing 2 fish while Yellow Dog supervises.

 Everybody in!  Yellow Dog turned out to be a great swimmer.  

I think The Redhead may have gotten a few more freckles during our time at the lake...

Thing 1 shows extraordinary patience while fishing.  Only while fishing...

 Fish On!

And now that we're back?  Exhaustion.  Complete and total exhaustion.  


Sunday, July 1, 2012

One on one

The party is about to be over.  Real life will intrude once again.  There will be pounding footsteps on the hardwood floor in the hall, fights over whose turn it is on the xBox, and 25 cups with varying amounts of abandoned liquid in a rainbow of colors all over the house.  And pee on the toilet seat.  I forgot the pee.

Why this reprieve, you ask?

The twins have been at an all day and all night sleepover extravaganza.  It started yesterday morning and it ends in an hour.  *tear*

Redhead and I have been on our own here at the house.  Just me and my first born.  And yes, I love all my children.  But there's something about my first born.

We get each other.  We leave each other alone.  We still feel camaraderie when one of us is on the computer in one room and the other is watching TV in another.  We give each other space.

And we both love Food Network.  And Saturday Night Live.

So we started our 24 hour deferment from the rest of the family by cooking.  I got all the ingredients to make Pastor Ryan's Chicken Tikka Masala from The Pioneer Woman's blog.  This stuff is heavenly.  I started cooking around lunchtime, but the Redhead and I aren't picky about exactly when we eat.

I've only made this one other time, and I think I went overboard on the optional spices.  So this time I reined myself in.  It was perfect.  I had to stop myself, lest I end up eating Tums for dessert.  Killer heartburn is my reward for indulgence.

This was bliss.  We ate and watched Chopped.  It's one of our favorites.  Then we watched Pioneer Woman.  Then Undercover Boss - cause we got tired of just watching food.  Then we just lounged around in our separate spaces -- him in the living room, me in my room.  Yellow Dog meandered between the two of us all day.  The whole, quiet day.  No yelling.  No fights.  No requests to intervene.  No messes in the kitchen.  No whining to go anywhere or do anything because "It's so boring!"  

Along about 9:00, after we'd had our second round of Chicken Tikka Masala, Redhead and I decided we had a hankering for something sweet.  Only we had to scrounge around for it.  We had vanilla ice cream in the freezer.  And some whipped cream.  Not enough.  "Hot fudge sundaes sure would be good," the Redhead observed.  I pulled out my well-loved Ben & Jerry's Cookbook.  

And turned to the appropriate page.  

This involved lots of chocolate and butter and sugar and cream.  Amen.  We pulled out the double-boiler (which I only have thanks to Aquaman) and got busy.  We had all the ingredients.  Only I didn't read all the way through and fully understand that the sugar had to cook for a while.  First 20 minutes with just the butter and chocolate.  Then for an hour once you add the cream.  An hour?  Jeez.  We could've gone to the Dairy Queen drive-thru and been back home in 20 minutes.  But we were committed at this point.  

So we babysat that hot fudge.  We stirred.  Let it simmer.  Stirred.  Let it simmer.  

 All this stirring is making me smirk.  

Even Yellow Dog was tired of all that stirring.  

But finally, at 10:30 at night, we had our hot fudge sundaes.  

We ate them while watching Saturday Night Live.  Pretty perfect evening, if you ask us.  

But now the party's over.  It's time to go and pick up Thing 1 and Thing 2 and hear all about how much fun they had while we were stuck at home.  Doing nothing.  Poor us.

"I'm going to go and get your brothers," I tell the Redhead on my way out the door.  

"Do you have to?" he asks, only half joking.  And I can't say that I don't agree, knowing that we'll be back to doors slamming and fighting and the thunder of feet up and down the hall.  

I must make it clear that I love all of my children.  Every inch of them.  But if you have more than two of these things, you are beyond man-on-man defense.  You are outnumbered.  They form a herd.  A smelly, kicking, screaming, farting, complaining, sneezing, biting, scratching herd.  So do yourself a favor and separate one from the group.  Cull one little calf from the herd.  It is delightful.  They are wonderful creatures, one on one.  It restores your faith in humanity.  Or at least in the belief that you're doing an okay job at this parenting thing and that you just might be raising children that you want to hang out with some day.  

If there's hot fudge involved, anyway.