Sauce for the Goose

Musings of a frazzled mom, wife, student, and traveller through life in an itty bitty town.

06 September 2014

All roads lead home


I'm sitting on the patio of our camping chalet at Camping Het Amsterdamse Bos, enjoying a cool breeze, watching the bunnies swarm the grounds, and wondering where the last two weeks have flown.  

We have had adventure and misadventure, climbed the Scottish midlands and strolled the North Sea beach at Den Haag, and as much as we have enjoyed it, we are ready to be home.  
This campground sits at the edge of a municipal park four times the size of Central Park in NYC, and is ten minutes from Schiphol Airport.  It's a perfect find for our family.  Very basic accommodations, but beautiful and comfy.  All in all, we've been pretty lucky with accommodations.  We booked our Scottish lodgings through airbnb, and couldn't be happier. They were two very different places, but the people at both were wonderful and made the visit outstanding.  
In Holland, we were very grateful to be put up in the orchard bunkhouse of our exchange daughter's family, as well as in a backyard camper.  
Our trip started with learning to drive manual on the left, getting the two cars separated with no mobile phone service, reuniting , then blowing a tire along the Bonny, Bonny banks of Loch Lomond, which I couldn't even enjoy for the knot in my gut.  Luckily, it was smoother sailing from there, and the rest of our time in the Oban area was delightful.  We had a couple days on our own before joining up with the Clan MacDougall gathering at Dunollie castle. We visited Lismore on our own, taking the Port Appin Ferry, then walking three miles to the cafe and heritage center. 
It's a little different to trudge the Scottish countryside than my semi-weekly walk to the county road stop sign and back, but we strapped on our big kid pants and did the deed. The next day we visited Dunstaffnage castle with the Clan MacDougall group.
Then we explored Oban harbor and MacCaig's tower on our own.  
That evening we attended the Ceilidh with the clan chief and family (and my husband even danced!)
The following day we joined the group tour to Kerrera, another three mile walk from the ferry to the tea house, but this time near Gylen castle 
We sadly departed after A final trip through Dunollie, and headed for Glasgow for our flight to Amsterdam.  Scotland was a brand new adventure for all of us, but the joy of Holland was a wedding and the opportunity to reunite with four of our exchange daughters. 


We were so warmly greeted by our host family! They made us feel so welcome, even in the midst of preparations for a first daughter's wedding.  As a treat, a manicurist gave a house call for fancy wedding fingers. 

The next day, we were able to help decorate for the wedding and pick apples from the orchard for reception favors.  
The wedding was beautiful, and Thing 2 caught the bouquet, for which her long suffering boyfriend Jon, who is with us, gets no end of grief. My husband took far more and better quality pictures than I did, which I will share later. 
The next day, while the honeymooners honeymooned, we went to Efteling theme park. It's sort of an old-fashioned fairy-tale meets steampunk themed park, with attention to detail on par with Disney, but far less plastic-looking.  There we met up with a other of our borrowed kids.  
It starte off a bit rainy,  but after an hour it dried up an was pleasant. 
I was also pleased with how open folks were about bringing their own food and drink anywhere, without being relegated to a picnic area in the parking lot. Very cool. The next day we took the train into Utrecht and took in the Domkerk.   The kids were as amused with the pigeons as anything else.  
The honeymoon was relatively short, as the newlywed a are in the midst of renovating a house, so they returned in Monday and we spent the afternoon together in Den Haag, taking in some sights, the Politie, and the beach. 
This morning we packed up and headed in to Amsterdam, where the general consensus was to decompress
for the day. We were able to check in early, then explored the neighborhood a bit before settling in to enjoy a little sun. 
We'll check out at leisure tomorrow before heading to the airport and home again.  We are sad to leave, but we are ready for home. Perhaps soon I will be able to reflect more eloquently on our trip, but for now I wanted to put some of it down while it is still fresh. The saddest part of travel is how quickly the memories fade. 

11 August 2014

I did a food thing!


 We're eating kinda weird at Casa del Goose lately.  We're trying to use up anything we wouldn't want to greet us after a two-week absense.  We don't want anything crawling out of the fridge and attacking the house-sitter.  This had led to a few interesting concoctions such as Mac and cheese with leftover spaghetti sauce and a can of ro-tel stirred in (pretty good).  
As I was prepping for the mower today, I noticed that my first big gorgeous tomato had fallen off the vine and onto the sidewalk.  It was perfect and lovely and very, very green. I set it on the counter, wondering how long it would take to ripen. 
As suppertime rolled around, my thoughts turned to fried green tomatoes. The local CSA posted a recipe last week for FGT sliders with coleslaw. It looked wonderful, but I used up my cabbage in boiled dinner on Saturday.  I figured I could think of something, and went to the internet to learn about FGT. Minnesota is hardly a bastion of southern cooking.  The only thing we're south of is Canada.  I looked up several recipes and sought out the common themes.  Most called for a roll in seasoned flour a milk or buttermilk egg wash, and a final dredge in cornmeal or crumbs of some sort.  One genius called for bacon to be fried and the tomatoes to be cooked in the grease.  with two elements for BLTs now present, my wheels were turning.  We had a French bread on hand with little round slices, so BLFGT sliders were born.  
Several sites noted that the moisture from the tomatoes could be problematic to the flour sticking well, so I sliced the tomato about 1/4" thick and salted it lightly to leach out fluid. Then I started the bacon in the trusty cast-iron skillet (the recipes universally called for cast iron. Smart folks).
While those were busy doing their thing, I set up my dredge.  I seasons flour with garlic powder and a hint of white pepper. My buttermilk was frozen, so I used a milk and egg wash. For the crumb, I went to the freezer, where our tortilla chips go to die when they get too small to dip or go stale.  I tossed a couple of good handfuls into the food processor and let 'er rip. 
Once the bacon was done, I augmented the grease with a small splash of veg oil. 
I ran the tomato through the dredging gauntlet, then waited impatiently for the golden brown to happen. 

When all wa said and done, I assembled the BLFGT with only a scant swipe of salad dressing. 
They did not disappoint.  That little hint of sweet with the sour tomato and the salty bacon was really good.  They tomatoes crisped up nicely.  Not bad for a first run.  

07 August 2014

Exercising futility

     Well, hello there you few poor stragglers.  It's been awhile, I know.  Every time I come back to Blogger, I have renewed intentions of writing more consistently.   You'll note, it's been mostly a biannual exercise in futility. Facebook and Twitter are terrible for writing stamina, encouraging shorter blurbs and pithy remarks rather than content and reflection. I am hopeful of a better run this time, though.  I am renewing my intentions to practice what I preach when it comes to writing.  Although the nature of the beast here is certainly more informal and conversational than academic writing, it's a way to limber up before the heavy lifting, so to speak.
     I have finally completed my second license in ESL, and am merely waiting for the state to sign off on the new license, or cash the check, whichever comes first.  This means I am currently finished with graduate classes, at least for the time being.  I may eventually decide to complete an entire MS vs. the licensure only option, but I need a break.  Wrapping up meant a couple of weeks of student teaching in the "new" content area, so just about the time summer started, I was back to work again.  When I finished that, I wrapped up all the paper- and portfolio work, and lo and behold, it was July.
     I had a couple of weeks scrambling to work on a Shakespeare project, then began slowly heading back to my classroom to get organized and ready for the upcoming school year, which begins the day after Labor Day.  I needed a bit of a head start as we are now less than two weeks (Holy crap, did I just say less than two weeks? I did.  ACK!) from our two-week trip abroad to Scotland and Holland.
Last time we went, we spent much of the trip telling each other, "Next time, we have to bring the kids." We weren't expecting "next time" to be quite so soon, but Karlijn, our second Little Dutch Girl, is getting married, and we wanted to be there.  As we hemmed and hawed over costs and possible itineraries, we noted that her wedding year coincides with Scotland Homecoming, a promotion which occurs every five years, and that the coinciding Clan Macdougall gathering (iPastor's maternal clan) is the weekend before her wedding.  A quick search found it was actually slightly LESS expensive to fly into Glasgow and back out of Amsterdam than a round trip.  I'm sure it was a serendipitous glitch in fares, which bounce unabashedly, but we're completely taking advantage of it.  And yes, this time, we are taking the kids, plus Thing 2's boyfriend, who's been around for five years and totally counts as family at this point.  So, we will spend a week in the area near Oban, Scotland, then fly to Amsterdam and spend much of our time near Utrecht, Netherlands.  Then we will come home and immediately get caught up in the festivities surrounding the wedding of iPastor's stepbrother.
     This format feels much like a letter to distant but fondly-remembered friends, which it very much is in many cases.  I will do my best to write more often and post pictures from the trip.  

01 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Rather than "resolutions," a friend posted a New Year's "Bucket List." I like how her bucket list items were very specific, and completely attainable.  My ideas are still more ephemeral, and less specific.  I haven't had the time to sit down with myself and formulate such concrete ideas, but I will start here and keep working at it.  Putting these out here for accountability and support.

More reading for pleasure.

    Lately it seems I only read for class, or inane crap on the internet.  While there's plenty of delightful entertainment out there, there's also plenty of timesuck. I do also read articles on subjects that interest me, but I feel my patience for long-form literature waning with each bite-sized blurb.  I need to rebuild stamina.

More writing for pleasure.

    Again, research papers, case studies, lesson plans:  blech.  I want to write for fun.  Or deep philosophic introspection.  Right.


More active interaction with my kids.

     We are actually making an effort to at least gather together with our various devices and distractions.  It's actually a very pleasant way to pass time.  I do not, however, want it to be the only way we spend time together, and that will require actually putting forth an effort.

I will try some sort of outdoor winter activity.
 
     I HATE  WINTER.  I resent being trapped inside and I abhor the dark and bitter cold.  I want to combat this by trying something I can enjoy outside in the snow.  Perhaps snowshoeing or cross-country ski.  We have paths nearby, and it's way less expensive and smelly than snowmobiling or ice fishing.

Send more postal mail.

    I have done this in the past, and miss it when I don't.  Also ties in with the writing.

More date nights/weekends/events.
   
    We've been thinking about this, and got a couple in.  Need to prioritize it and not let it fall by the wayside.

Thoroughly explore the possibility of a practicum abroad.

     I need to put in 45 hours student teaching ESL somewhere.  Why not overseas?


Start a Bitstrip chronicle of my life

     Lolnope!

I need to get going on some of these and get out of the chair.  Hope everyone has a blessed 2014!





20 August 2013

Summertime, and the living is crazy...

The waning days of summer have arrived, just in time for the heat to return.  Uck.  Also, iPastor is having some terrible neck pain, so if you're of the praying sort, put in a good word for him. He had a tough day yesterday, and couldn't get settled in well at bedtime.  Subsequently, I slept fitfully, if at all, and finally got up and switched to the daybed in the library about 2:15.  We have some trees that need trimming, apparently, because the branches squeaking on the windows infiltrated my dreams, making them...weird, to say the least. I was fretful, knowing iPastor had a 10am PT appointment, and I didn't want to oversleep if he was too sore to drive.  I didn't have to worry overmuch, because by 5 am I was awakened by spatting cats, and iPastor stumbled back down at 5:30.  I shambled about in a sleep-deprived daze most of the morning, and we ran some errands. When we got home, I made sure the kids weren't starving to death and planned a late lunch.  I wandered up for a brief nap about 12:15, and once again didn't have to worry about oversleeping, because one of the Things decided they waited long enough for lunch and woke me with a text at 12:45.  After that was said and done, I puttered around a bit, took another stab at a nap and failed, which just meant I was still tired and crabby, plus I didn't accomplish much anything of use, either.  Wonderful.  I trudged down to make smoothies, and dropped my slacks down the laundry chute on the way by, as I noticed a spot on them.  If a gal can't run a blender in her underwear in her own kitchen, what's this world coming to, after all?  I pulverized fruit and yogurt with the noise of a thousand chainsaws, according to Thing 4.  I headed back to find new pants and go fetch my veggie share.  I walked out of the kitchen to find every. kid. in. the. stinking. neighborhood. in. my. foyer.  I don't know if the old lady underwear or slamming door shocked them most.  So far, the rest of the evening has been uneventful, and I have to believe it can only get better from there.  It was almost enough to make me look forward to going back to school. Almost.

Countryside

I went to a conference in Washington, DC, last month.  I absolutely loved it.  It was a good conference; a nice blend of USEFUL information and camaraderie, with enough free time woven in to check out some sights and spend a little time with a BFF.  One of the highlights for me, however, was just being in the city.  Not even a particularly big one, compared to Boston or New York with skyscrapers, but a busy, humming, diverse place with functional public transit (God bless it!) and choices.  So many choices!  In the two blocks around my hotel I could choose from a dozen different ethnic foods and a variety of shops (the Baskin Robbins store smelled really funky, though, so we opted for the frozen margaritas next door.)  I love cities.  I don't know if I'm cut out to live there full time, but I find a visit rejuvenating.  I love the diversity.
In the boondocks we have limited choices, and the closest regional shopping towns are 45 miles east and south, respectively. Yesterday,  I was forced to make the trek for a routine, work-related lab test that couldn't possibly have been done locally.  As I drove home, though, I caught myself noticing, then made a concentrated effort to notice, the scenery around me.  I often hear folks complain of rural scenery: one field after another, with only a road every mile to break it up.  That's not what I saw, though.  I saw fields of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, sugar beets, hay, oats, stubble and freshly turned earth, all different textures, colors and heights.  I saw the ditches filled with cattails, brown-eyed Susan, thistles, broadleaves and grasses too numerous to keep track of.  Red sumac, silver maple, weeping birch, evergreens and other trees filled windbreaks and groves with a cacophony of color.  Tidy little farmhouses with well-tended gardens and yard art alternated with sprawling, ramshackle farms with bikes, trampolines, pools, lazing dogs, and machinery scattered about.  Here and there a burned or abandoned farm haunted the landscape, with its own particular beauty painted in charcoal colors.  We do, indeed, have diversity in the countryside, it's just of a different sort.  Though perhaps this brand of diversity is not as impactful on lifestyle, its essential to living.

06 August 2013

Sequences

Around here, you may frequently hear my husband or I refer to a task or an outing as "going fishing."  One may quizzically ask what we mean, only to receive a rambling reply along the lines of, "well, we read this book once (well, actually we listened to it on tape) where the author, it was Lewis Grizzard or Robert Fulghum or someone like that, talks about going fishing but first he has all these chores to do and it ends up being more work than its worth, and it was really funny, you should read it..." By the time we eventually trail off, the poor questioner is sorry he asked and the whole ordeal reeks of "guess you had to be there."  Twenty years ago, I worked at a piecework factory that had a library of books on tape to listen to at work, so I wasn't able to remember the author.  I tried occasional google searches, but to no avail.  Tonight I read an article about a photographer named McManus, and a little switch in my brain slammed shut, and the connection was made.  A quick google later,  and I am happy to share with you this link to "Sequences," by Patrick McManus.
Ok, so you have to copy/paste the link into your browser navbar, go to the page, then scroll down and click the hyperlink to "Sequences," but its totally worth it.
I promise.
*Sigh*
I guess you had to be there...


http://books.google.com/books?id=Y9hKytdmRJcC&pg=PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

20 July 2013

Eating healthy is destructive

I may have killed my blender this morning.  


I don't remember where or when we got this blender.  It may have been a hand-me-down from a grandparent or parent downsizing.  I may have purchased it; if so, I'll guarantee it was for less than five dollars at a thrift store or rummage sale, and long enough ago to be lost in memory.  It's an off-white Hamilton Beach 14-Speed.  

Summer is awesome for fruit, so I've been on a smoothie kick.  I buy quite a bit of the "quick sale" fruit-overripe bananas, etc-then bring it home and chunk it up and freeze it.  Some combination of those, a little fresh, some yogurt and juice, and a handful of greens from the garden share (which will otherwise never be eaten and become expensive compost) go into the blender and I get breakfast.  Usually enough "breakfast" to sip on into the afternoon, since my kids turn up their noses at the greens.  

Lately, the poor blender has been struggling more and more with the frozen chunks; this morning, it bogged down under the waxy kohlrabi greens and I soon noticed the tell-tale scent of hot electrical motor.  I gave the poor thing a rest, and we'll see if it recovers, or if its time to consider buying a new countertop appliance. Who am I kidding?  I have a trip into the Cities planned.  They have lots of thrift stores...