Friday, October 30, 2009

FriFrag: Pumpkins and Candy and Flu, Oh My!

I'm feeling a bit frustrated with blogging lately. My comment counts have been pretty low, and I just have to remind myself that I'm really writing this blog for myself, as a journal, not as a popularity contest. And I haven't been reading--or commenting--very much on others' blogs, so who am I to whine?

Still, I'm not nearly as eager to hit the keyboard these last few Fridays. Most weeks it's because I'm feeling tired, and I've learned that that erases all my creativity. That doesn't explain today; this has actually been a relatively easy week--though one of my co-workers came down with...duhduhduh!..THE FLU! Ahhh!!

As it turns out, though, she only had a fever for a couple of days. Not to detract from her miserableness, but at least it didn't keep her plastered to her pillow for a week. On the other hand, she did have Tamiflu at hand. I'd like to get the flu shot, but the last time I went to the pharmacy, they were only giving it to kids. Perhaps I should go back and try again! And walk on my knees...


Our office does nothing--nothing!--to mark special events, be they holidays or birthdays. (Well, okay, they are giving a going-away/shower "party" for another co-worker, but that's unusual.) So as Halloween approached, I thought, the hell with it, I'm gonna bring in a treat for everyone. And what to bring? The answer was simple:

Duhn-duhn-duhn! Tangerine-glazed pumpkin cookies! Miss Chef found the recipe in Health magazine four years ago, and I think we can now officially call it our own little tradition. She made it that year for a pumpkin-carving party we hosted, and everyone raved about them. This is the first year I've made them on my own, and you know what I learned? They're farking easy! You should definitely try them; if it's too late for Halloween, they make a great Thanksgiving nosh, too. But you should make two batches. And invite me.

Oh, but here's the best part! Miss Chef and I both made a batch Thursday night; she measured out the ingredients and took them to work to bake, and I made them at home. She was disappointed with hers, and asked to try mine, when she got home..and she said mine were better!

See, I told you they were easy.


The pecan tree is still slowly shedding nuts. I gather a half-dozen or so whenever I get home early enough to take Rosie to the park. I was getting more a couple of weeks ago, but either the tree's slowing down, or the squirrels are speeding up. All the same, those daily handfuls are definitely adding up:

Last weekend Miss Chef used some we had cracked earlier to make candied pecans. Half of them burned (see? even chefs have to throw food away sometimes), but the ones that didn't were wonderful. I haven't seen enough of her this week to ask her how she did it; I know cane syrup was involved. Not that you need cane syrup, she just happens to have a bottle and thought it would work well.

We have the weirdest stuff in our pantry. Like a big round block of palm sugar she bought at an ethnic food store. "How do you use that?" I asked. "I don't know, but it looks interesting." It's been taking up space in there for many moons. But I mostly don't complain, because her defense is absolutely true: she will eventually use it. And 90% of the time, it will be for something fascinating, unusual and tasty. Like cane syrup for candied pecans.


Oh, and in the picture above, you can see I've put my personally painted vase to good use already. Those flowers? Miss Chef got them for me for our anniversary last week. 9 years, and she still makes me laugh. Plus, you know, she gets me flowers. And she gets me. That's important too.


The trees have been putting on quite a show the last week or so. The few times it's been sunny while I've been out walking, I've felt like smacking myself for not thinking to bring my camera. But now I'm just as happy I didn't. I tend to look at everything as a potential image when I have my camera. This year I've been able to just absorb the beauty, from the golden leaves glowing on the willow oaks, to the multicolored carpet beneath them. Too beautiful for words; even a thousand of them are insufficient. This is one spectacle man cannot reproduce or control. That makes it even more precious to me.


So tomorrow's Halloween. I'll be at home, greeting trick-or-treaters alone again. Bleah. Miss Chef would enjoy all the little kiddies so much more than I do. I do love seeing them all dressed up, and maybe this year I'll recognize even more of the parents. I'm still pondering how to handle the teens who show up without even a costume, just a pillow case. I'd like to refuse them candy, but they're generally bigger than me...and it's Halloween.

Oh, wait, that's the whole point, right? Maybe instead, I'll put on my witch hat and cackle like a maniac until they turn tail and run.

Hee hee hee heeeeee!!! Happy Halloween, everybody!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oops, I Missed It!

I missed my own 1-year anniversary! My first post was October 17th of last year; I thought I hadn't started this blog until November!

Well. Time sure flies, eh?

I'd like to thank everybody who's been along for the ride, or at least part of it. Y'all have helped me keep my sanity on many a lonely weekend. And you've renewed my faith in the goodness of strangers. And taught me some things.

That's all; just wanted to say "thanks!" and "can't believe I've made it this far!"

Carry on.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Flartus Goes to the Fair!

Here it is, my State Fair post!

First, a wasn't the best fair weather: 50s, overcast and occasional drizzle. And we got a late start getting on the road. Aaand it was a longer drive than we anticipated (echos of our Atlanta trip in the spring...). was still crowded when we got there! Joanna, it still seemed like a good family atmosphere; not trashy at all. Of course, we went on a blustery Sunday, so maybe only the die-hards were there!

We started off in the extension-area, where they had an old grist mill, some old-timey buildings, and then some of the garden displays. Miss Chef got her (first) cider fix, too.

My main interest at the fair is the animals, and then the fair food. Miss Chef likes the rides, but I don't do any of those, and she didn't want to do them alone, so she was stuck on the ground for the most part. I had some trouble locating the livestock; the rabbit building was kind of hidden behind the first cluster of food vendors. "Roast Corn! Rabbits! Chocolate-Covered Bacon!" Wait, did that say rabbits?

I couldn't help but compare everything to my hometown county fair, and I have to say, I was a little disappointed. There seemed to be fewer of each type of animal. For example, at my county fair, you'd see 10 or so Belgian Giant rabbits, and scores of the Dutch rabbits. But I only saw one or two Giants and about that many Dutch. Odd.

Still, I really enjoyed the poultry tent...even the smell; what an oddball I am! They had baby chicks and ducks you could hold, and I learned that Miss Chef had never held a chick before. I had to drag her through the entire tent, showing her the breeds we used to have, and pointing out the Ameracaunas. Hey, maybe she'll let me have chickens if they lay blue eggs...

The cattle were a bust; couldn't find 'em. I suspect they may have been auctioned off and shipped out, as there were big bulldozer-y machines scooping all the bedding out of that barn. The swine/goat/sheep barn was closed for cleaning when we found it. We did get to see a selection of the different animals in the Exposition Hall, but only one or two of each.

But my greatest disappointment--we couldn't pet the livestock! I know, it's probably too dangerous nowadays. Hell, my aunt once got a really bad bite on her shoulder from a mean draft horse at our county fair. And every livestock area had handwashing stations and signs about keeping everyone healthy. But I missed getting face-to-face with the different breeds, checking them out to see what their personalities were like.

Still, it was nice just to see the livestock, and marvel at how many people were interested in seeing them, even in this agriculturally-distant day and age. It gave me a little hope for our future. The same building had the produce entries, and it kind of amused me to watch people file slowly past displays of food they probably hardly ever eat--but put it on display with ribbons on it, and it's suddenly fascinating!

Fortunately for me, we happened upon the petting zoo (at the end of the smaller of the two midways, how odd). So I got my goat-patting in for the day. And my llama patting (or was it an alpaca?). And some cow patting, too. No horses, though. *sigh*

In between, though, we hit the fair food: corn dogs, elephant ears, candy apples...and Miss Chef just had to try a deep-fried Snickers bar. Final judgment: meh. She thought it might have been better if it had been cooked a little longer, since none of the inside of the bar got melty. I was sorely tempted to try a fried Twinkie, but the elephant ear had put me past my sugar limit for the day. Guess I'm not a kid anymore.

I have to say, I never realized before how many happy memories I have of going to the fair as a kid. Just being there, in that environment, with so much to look at--animals, baked goods, crafts, gardens--and the crazy food we'd never eat anywhere else, had me walking around with a big ol' goofy smile on my face all day long! As I've mentioned before, just the smells of the fair make me happy: manure, fresh hay, fried foods and random whiffs of cooking smoke. (Yup, I said manure.)

Oh, and Miss Chef did get her ride. I agreed to go on the ferris wheel, which was more enjoyable than either of us expected--I mean, sitting exposed 50 feet in the air on a cold, drizzly day doesn't sound all that fun, but being together, having a good was really a memorable day.

Ok, enough words, now how about some pictures? (Don't turn your sound up too loud; the videos in here played really loud on my computer.)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: State Fair

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ceci n'est pas un post

Fall is here!

In spite of appearances, I am not blogging today! For some reason, I am feeling particularly...lasse today. That's French, and the fact that my mind can't be bothered to come up with a good translation gives you some indication of its meaning (think "lassitude." Is that an English word?). Basically, I'm too worn out, lazy, tired, whatever to blog today (or, apparently, to get a dictionary).

But I will post just a few random pictures from the NC State Fair last weekend...and maybe I'll get some inspiration this weekend to do a slideshow for y'all. In the meantime...

Quizzical Stanley. We had a Polish rooster just like this one when I was a kid. I kind of took this picture for my dad. He maintained that Stanley is a typical Polish name.

Midway taken from the ferris wheel. Mind you, it was in the mid-50s, breezy and sprinkling rain. So it took some sacrifice to get this shot. Click on it to biggerize it...can you find the giant ostrich head?

Eager kid in the petting zoo. They sell baggies of carrot slices on the way in, so the animals are very friendly.

That's it, just a tease! Miss Chef and I took over 50 pictures, so I'm sure I'll be able to wrangle up enough to put together a slideshow...eventually.

Ah, quelle vie...où sont mes bon-bons ?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fragments

Fall came rushing in this past week, with lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of rain. And gray skies and chilly temperatures. It's been perfect soup & fireplace weather.

The rain finally tapered off yesterday and today, and the drop in temperature means Rosie has extra energy that needs to get walked off. Which I don't mind, either, now that it's cool!

These are the first beauties of the season! Fifteen years ago, when I was in graduate school in Indiana, I couldn't resist the gorgeous reds and violets decorating the sidewalks on my way into campus each day. Finding myself in the departmental office with pockets full of woodsy-smelling fall leaves, I started leaving them as gifts in some of my friends' mailboxes. These days I leave them for Miss Chef, beneath the lamp I leave on for her at night. She loves it, too.

And you'll that the ripe persimmons are pretty much out of reach, I've switched my attentions right across the path to a pecan tree that's started dropping its fruit! We already have a pretty good supply--the dishwasher at Miss Chef's restaurant gathers them, and had so many he gave her a ton--but it's so fun to pick up your food off the ground! I delight in seeing nature be so generous, just leaving food around for the price of bending over and filling your pockets.


Speaking of the restaurant...Chef Adam went to interview today for the next season of Hell's Kitchen. Miss Chef interviewed a year or two ago, but she's too nice and sweet outside of the kitchen--I'm sure they're looking for potential hotheads, and she doesn't show that side without tongs or a knife in her hand, a window full of tickets, and lots of fire at her back. On the other hand, Chef Adam is from NYC, so he has the ability to play up his asshole side (even if some of us know better). It all depends on how well he can act the part.

Callbacks are this evening, so he'll know soon whether he made it to the next round. I suspect not, honestly...but still, it's fun to think about, huh?? Especially since the five weeks of taping would give Miss Chef lots of experience running a restaurant on her own!


The foodies among you will be very aware of what this is:

It's the very last issue of the oldest food magazine in the country. Yep, for those of you unaware, the November issue is Gourmet's last. When I pulled this out of the mailbox, I stared at it a while...before flipping it over and seeing THIS:

(Well, I didn't flip it over sideways, even if stupid Blogger did.) What the hell??? Yeah, I'd love to send you some money for your NONEXISTENT MAGAZINE. As it is, Miss Chef somehow finds her subscription paid up through 2012; we're very interested to see if she has to jump through any hoops to get a refund. Oh, yeah, she'd better be getting a refund!


I love traveling; nothing makes me happier than knowing there's a trip on my horizon, and right now I've got TWO to think about.

This weekend Miss Chef and I are planning to make the two-hour drive to Raleigh for the NC State Fair. She's heard me wax nostalgic about my hometown fair--The Great Geauga County Fair, boo-yah--for years, and is getting interested in the farm-to-fork movement, so she suggested we make the trek.

I don't know much about the state fair; in fact, for all its central importance in my 4-H years, I never even made it to the Ohio State Fair. But I'm looking forward to the sights, sounds and smells--even cow poop can make me nostalgic. And yes, I plan on taking pictures...but it'll probably be next Friday before I can post them. Just a little tease to make you come back.

Now, my second trip will be in January, to visit my brother's family--well, really to visit my nephews & niece--in NJ. I'm working on Miss Chef to come along with me; she looooves playing with the kids, probably even more than I do! And they live a short drive or train ride from The City, which--believe it or not--Miss Chef has never visited. So I'm thinking between playtime and dinner time, she'll be happy enough to join me.


Oh my; I almost forgot to share my latest amazing teaching moment! I swear, this quarter I am going to get so spoiled, I'll be ruined for any other class! Wednesday was the first presentation--yes, in the second week of class. But, as I pointed out to my students, this is a conversation class; the goal is to speak French, n'est-ce pas? Besides, it was easy: just say your name, nationality, where you're from and what you're studying. Four sentences, all of them starting with "Je suis..."

I showed up my usual half-hour before class, made my copies, and decided to go check my email in the classroom, rather than logging in twice. But when I went to my room, the door was closed, and there were a bunch of people in it. I recognized one of my students, thought, "Huh, he must have two classes in a row in there," and went back to the faculty room to log in.

It wasn't until I went back to the classroom five minutes before class that I realized what was going on. As I rounded the corner, I saw the room was still full, but now the door was open...and my students were practicing their presentations! And not just two or three of them...more than half the class was there; they all clapped as the student up front finished up.

How cool is that? I can't get over it...not just that there were so many motivated and hardworking students, but that they all were supporting each other, creating an audience and probably helping each other out. You can't teach that; I'm really going to enjoy this group of students!


Hey, thanks for all the comments on the Womanly post yesterday...I really enjoyed the experience of seeing what others had to say on the same topic. Several bloggers managed to put into words some of what I was just kind of edging up to, so I'm grateful for that. I'm thinking of writing a post about my grandmothers, as a result of thinking and re-reading my list. Hell, I could use that list to blog for the next year!

Well, have a happy weekend, everybody! Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What It Means to Be a Woman

Big topic, huh? Not my usual fare. But Miss Liz of Eternal Lizdom has invited me to join a blog chain, and I love it when people invite me! Plus, this will take me in a different direction; stretch my writing muscles a little, as it were.

What does it mean to be a woman? Simplistically, it means having a period. I developed this working definition for myself back in college. This was in the first flowering of Political Correctness, and it was simply too much for me when a male friend of mine referred to a group of 2nd graders as "women." I immediately took offense. "Girl" is not a dirty word; it exists for a reason! I was highly insulted at the idea that years of wrestling with sex-starved boyfriends and a twisting uterus could be so minimized, just by giving those prepubescent innocents the same label as I.

I suppose that was the beginning of my realizing that "woman" means more than body parts. And, you know, some might say I'm barely qualified to opine on the subject. For one thing, I've pretty much left the whole man/woman communication/power struggle behind. By being in a relationship with another woman, I've lost the need for "his" and "her" distinctions at home.

For another thing, I'm not a mother, and never plan to be one. In most human societies, womanhood equals motherhood. From what I can tell, motherhood (and fatherhood) completely redefines a person.

So what does that leave me, as a woman, other than a twisting uterus? Oh, just a whole lot of image problems and guilt! Seriously, being a woman in 21st-century America is complicated, since society is changing so rapidly. I have a job, but not really a career; I have clothes, but not really a wardrobe; I have facial soap, perfume, jewelry etc., but not really any fashion sense (or interest!).

In short, it's hard to nail down, and as a 21st-century American woman, I'm really busy (two jobs, household, blogging, etc.) So I'm going to be stupid efficient: I'll give you some dots, and let you connect them!

For me, being a woman means...

...freaking out men by talking about things like "uterus" and "menstruation."

...getting used to being referred to as a "lady" instead of a "girl;" going from "Miss" to "Ma'am."

...comparing myself to my mother.

...reminding men that I'm here, too.

...using the "p" word, but only with very, very close friends.

...shocking men with the "f" word every once in a while.

...deciding to age naturally.

...hating my body (there, I said it).

...feeling like a second-class citizen as a childless woman.

...being glad I don't have to "woman up" or "be a woman."

...laughing at men for their obsession with size.

...appreciating the freedom to wear pants, hold a job and own property.

...changing my mind a lot.

...changing my clothes a lot.

...understanding the need for 5 pairs of black heels.

...fearing strange men in the dark.

...learning to crouch over public toilets (good for the quads!).

...being confused, intimidated, frustrated and disgusted by fashion.

...blaming men, unfairly, for high heels.

...being proud to be descended from my grandmothers.

...empathizing with women around the world who are abused & oppressed.

...being jealous of beautiful women.

...being misunderstood by my brother.

...confusing the hell out of my father.

...not being able to get married.

...having an instant connection with other women (see #1)

...dancing in public if I want to.

...needing to talk.

...learning to cry.

...knowing how to put on a bra.

...not being afraid to touch other people.

...being able to sing "Roxanne."

...being included in a warm, caring & supportive group of bloggers who understand the need for kind words and emotional support.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Flat Friday

My title is because I'm feeling a little flat today...a little tired, a little dull. So I don't think I'll be amazing anyone with my prose this week!

First, a follow-up to Ma and Pa Flartus' visit last week:

This is some of the unglazed pottery available for painting at artspacestudio, where I dragged my parents during their visit, for some enforced creativity. I rejected a big pitcher and opted for this simple vase. I thought it would be the perfect shape to hold the smallish bouquets I gather in the summers.

Miss Chef of course went for a platter:

I'd guess it's 10 or 12 inches across. I didn't get a picture of Ma's unglazed napkin holder; hers seemed to be the last one on the shelf.

The more complete version of the story I alluded to last time is that Miss Chef only had a couple of hours to spend with us before she had to leave for work (the story of our lives). So of course I told her I'd finish up her project for her.

Ugh. Turns out you have to put at least three coats of paint on everything, and she had all kinds of stencilled details I had to paint around three times. I ended up sending Ma and Pa home, to come pick me up later. Four hours later, to be exact! I texted Miss Chef at work, "U owe me."

Anyway, a week later, I went and picked up our painted, glazed and fired results:

Ta daa! I think Ma's turned out the best, though she claims she's still turning a critical eye on it. (She's only seen pictures; imagine how carefully she'll examine it in person!) And she tactfully asked me, "Were you expecting such a vivid red?" Hee hee. You can see on the platter where I didn't get the third coat evenly all around; the paint dries so fast it's hard to keep track of where you've been. But Miss Chef thinks it looks great, so that's all that matters.

Not like she's dumb enough to complain, anyway!

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An update on teaching...Monday the 5th was the first day of class in the new quarter. I have a new, completely overhauled syllabus, a new classroom (in the main building, hoorary!) and a new crop of students. And so far, everything has fallen into place.

My first two classes went beautifully. There are several reasons, I think, that this quarter is starting out so much better. First, I have more confidence: the course design better fits the students' needs, I know how much I can cover in a two-hour period, and I've better remembered how to establish a class atmosphere.

Second, I have a critical mass of motivated, interested students. It takes only two or three outgoing students who love to play with the language to show the others how to enjoy class, and set a positive mood for everyone. I like to use humor and play a lot in class (big surprise, right?), but sometimes students interpret this as being treated like children. They just don't appreciate the difference between childish and childlike.

Third, I honestly think the environment has a subtle but strong impact. Last quarter we were in a small, windowless room created by one of those rolling dividers in a larger conference room. It was gray, it was dingy, it was isolated from the rest of the classrooms in an annex building. This quarter we have a small room again, but it's a corner room, with two big walls of windows. It's dark outside, but still, it feels like we are not forgotten, shoved into an extra corner.

Or maybe it's just me, and my attitude carries over to the students. Either way, I like my new room.

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Amazing teaching moment...I try to speak as much French as possible in class, even presenting vocab all in French, with lots of examples, gesturing, images, whatever. Often the average students turn off, not even trying to capture what little meaning they can, depending on the "good" students to clue them in.

In Monday's class, while laying the groundwork for the quarter (no chewing gum, get here on time, raise your hand if you have a question...), I mentioned that I prefer to have students seated in a horseshoe or u-shape, and that I would be asking them to move their desks. I left them sitting in rows the rest of the class, since we were so far into our first hour by then.

Wednesday, I came in and didn't speak a word of English: "Bonsoir, comment allez-vous? Bien? Excellent..." Then I remembered about moving the chairs. I swept my arms to the sides, saying, "Il faut changer les..." and before I could finish, all the students were on their feet and the desks were moving like magic back up against the walls.

I never finished my sentence. I'd never seen students respond so rapidly to a sentence they didn't understand! Right now, I love 'em all.

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Commuter inspiration....I don't really like my commute, especially in the afternoon. While, for the most part, I'm going against traffic, I still have to take 485, the ring highway around Charlotte, in between getting stopped at numerous traffic lights, regretting the exhaust fumes I'm adding to the environment. Charlotte's public transportation doesn't reach us, and the bus routes are confusing and all go in the wrong directions. I did carpool for a while, but my second job put an end to that.

Actually, the only reason I think my carpool buddy was interested in carpooling was the fact that gas was hovering around $4 a gallon when we started. Remember that? All of the sudden the buses were full, the new Lynx train here was running about 150% above projected passenger numbers, and carpooling was socially acceptable.

That's when I first noticed The Biker.

I was sitting at one of Charlotte's enormous 5x5 intersections (two four-lane roads plus turning lanes), burning gas at yet another red light. It was warm, summertime in the city, and there sat a guy on his bike. New red bike clothes, new helmet, chugging water from his new water bottle. He looked miserable. I noticed he wasn't in biker shape; he looked like he might have a little bit of a gut, and his legs looked soft compared to the rock-like calves I'm used to seeing on serious bikers.

But bless him, he kept at it. I would see him randomly over the next several months, both morning and afternoon, pushing himself along a busy light-industrial parkway through rush-hour traffic. I admired his commitment, as well as his brass balls in sticking it out with all the SUVs and semis fighting for first place around him.

That was last summer, though, and I have to say, I didn't really think much about him outside of those occasional sightings. I pretty much forgot about him. Until recently.

I was sitting at the same red light where I'd first noticed him, and there he was again. Same red jacket and helmet. New water bottle. And completely new body. He looked so much more comfortable there, sitting up with one leg on the pedal. He wasn't hunched over, lungs heaving. He was just sitting calmly, waiting for the light to change, doing his commute.

I'm so proud of him, so happy for him, so amazed by him. And yes, I'm a little bit jealous. But not much. Cause damn...he earned it.

Congratulations, Mr. Bike Man. You're a new man, aren't you?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Family Time in Flartopia

A good week here. Flartopia has lived up to its name.

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous. After living most of my life up north, learning to dread the onset of fall, I've now learned to love it. It's possible to set foot outside without sweating, panting and sneezing from bad air. Soon, the trees will put on their annual fashion show, and I'll bring home brightly colored leaves as a gift for Miss Chef, left under the light I leave on for her at night.

Not being in school helps, too. I mean, I am in school, but it's year-round, so there's no pulling-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps recharging for la rentrée. School's been out the last two weeks (we're on a weird schedule), and I'm currently gearing up for the official fall quarter. In spite of a very difficult and disappointing summer quarter, I'm still getting excited about a fresh start.

As I mentioned last time, my parents came up from GA last weekend for a visit, and I took off Monday and Tuesday, so we had four days to do as we wished. I tried not to overplan our time, and I think I did ok.

Mom went with me one afternoon for a short turn around the pond, and very graciously held Rosie as I picked more persimmons. It wasn't until I was already in the tree that she said "Now I think I'm nervous." It reminded me of my horseback riding lessons as a teen: every time I went over a jump, I could hear her gasp on the sidelines.

I'm sorry to announce that there won't be a collection of Miss Chef creations to show you. She didn't get to do nearly as much cooking as she'd hoped. She still had to work, after all. But she did set me up. Her big dish was a lamb shoulder roast, which she decided to the Crock Pot!

She left everything in the fridge with instructions for me to start Friday night. We let it cook 'til late Saturday morning. We didn't actually eat it until Tuesday (we were trying to wait 'til Miss Chef could eat it with us!), but we sure finished off that bottle of wine PDQ!

Saturday morning Miss Chef and I dragged Dad to BOTH farmers' markets, where he quickly realized that we don't go for the food so much as for the socializing. The Matthews market (the truly local one) was surprisingly dead; we're in between summer and fall crops, so only die-hards like us show up to buy late tomatoes and early sweet potatoes. Dad did manage to buy a $7 bar of soap, which, if you knew him, would shock you to your very core.

Sunday morning, I did the "cooking," and served up breakfast for everyone:

Hey, Mom loved it, so no complaints. I was going to make eggs, but the carb loading seemed to satisfy everyone! (The pastries are from a local bakery, and there's our own strawberry jam there behind the cream cheese.)
Sunday we had Chef Adam and Mike, the new pantry cook, along with loved ones, over for a cookout. It was a bit too hectic to get pictures of everything, though I did capture Miss Chef's cheese plate.

She is so dang good at arranging stuff to make it look amazing. On the far left and right are goat's milk cheeses she helped make at Bosky Acres. Don't you just love those little French waiter servers!?

For the cookout, we grilled chicken leg quarters over our fire pit. Miss Chef had started the fire before anyone got there, but Chef Adam had to be The Man and build it up bigger and hotter (which meant, too big and too hot). When Miss Chef and I teased him and Mike about the primeval urge to "make fire," they began an impromptu Man Dance around the fire pit. It was amazing that they both knew the steps...I thought it was a joke, but now I'm beginning to wonder...hmmm.

Anyway, the food was great. I harvested all but one of the remaining brussels sprout plants, and Miss Chef shredded them in the cuisinart, browned some butter, then tossed in the sprouts with some sliced almonds. Her goal was to prove to Mike that brussels sprouts can be good, and she succeeded! See, I told you, she's good!

Mom made her usual potato salad, which even Chef Adam liked. I thought it was cool that she wasn't in the least bit intimidated by cooking for three professionals. I guess after living as long as she has, you figure you've got to know a thing or two, right?

Monday morning I did actually cook, using some challah from the farmers' market to make French toast (or as I like to call it, "fransh" toast).

That morning we went to artspace studio, a paint-your-own-pottery sort of place that also offers mosaic making and something called glass fusing, which looks really cool. I thought my mom might find it fun, since she used to do some stained glass projects (stepping stones, window inserts, etc.).

The experience did not go as planned, but I'll just say Mom, Miss Chef and I all painted pottery, and all eventually made it home. It won't be ready to pick up until next week, so you'll have to wait with me and see how our projects turned out! If I've got my stuff together, I'll remember to bring my camera to take "before" shots of the raw pottery.

So that was my fall break / mini vacation. It's always nice to break the routine, and makes work so much easier when you get back to it. Oh, and speaking of work, good news: we're finally caught up! After over two months of crazy overtime, I get to go back to a five-day, forty-hour work week. (I'll still be working 15 hours or so at the teaching job, but that'll be so much more manageable now that I have my Saturdays back!) Now it's going to be doldrums time, until next spring.

But that should mean I have lots more time to share the Flartopian News with you all!