Monday, February 27, 2012

Goodbye Goats

Thus ends an era. The village of Rushville, in their ill-advised rush to modern-ness and future planning have passed a new zoning plan that prohibits livestock and chickens and other animals in the village limits.

Even as the cities of Seattle, New York, and other major metropolitan areas loosen their zoning to allow families self-sufficiency and companion animals of many sizes, my rural village of six hundred people, with farms within a city block of it's borders, eliminated the use of one hundred year old pre-existing barns, as places for goats to peek out the window and nibble the vegetable scraps of my neighbors and my garden.

Go figure.

Now that's progress. .

The truth is, we've cut back our reliance on our goats gradually, when the zoning ordinance went up for review. I rallied the neighbors and some village members and as I first blogged a few years ago about this issue, when I saw our neighbors support and protest went unanswered, I saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall. Then Katie, our goat herd queen, passed away from old age, wrapped in a soft blue blanket.

We went a year without goat milk and purchased it from a Mennonite farm friend while I was pregnant with Daniel. And why did we have a year without goat milk? Because village dogs broke into my barn and tore open my goats, requiring surgery on three of them and providing me with a healthy farm visit vet bill.

Otherwise friendly labrador retriever and labrador mixes turned into ripping tearing, goat harassing creatures when let out to do their business with no leash. And my goats were zoned out of the village?

Monday morning is trash day in our village, and we usually see a few trash cans with their contents strewn about by a loose family pet of some village resident. My goats never leave their barn, provide milk, manure for the gardens of both my half acre and the neighbors, and eat up the weeds they pull for them.

I fail to see the wisdom of more rules for my barn. Perhaps enforcement of the dog leash law would have been time better spent. But that could just be my bitter bone speaking, I've noticed I have one when I lose the source of milk for my young children and source of cheese for my lactose intolerant family.

By all means, make more government, make more rules, invade my barn. And a plague of flies upon the swimming pool behind my barn during swimming season. I think this summer you'll have a very difficult time making the case that your flies are caused by my goats. Especially since I hang fly strips in the barn and they were usually quite empty!


I think turning 44 years old shortly after giving birth to my sixth child had the unexpected effect of me watching in the mirror for curly white corkscrews. Not right away of course, because between a c-section and subsequent painkillers and then just the routine sleepless nights of a newborn on the every two hour meal plan, not to mention the needs of the other 7 people in this house proved rather distracting for a year.

About Daniels birthday celebration I finally gave in and sought some copper highlights to blend the curly white twists into the rest of my dark auburn hair. It was the perfect antidote to dreading the upcoming winter also. Those highlights were so subtle my husband gave me the deer in the headlights look when I asked him if he liked my new hair color. He desperately searched for where this haircolor was, as if I carried it in a grocery sack in my arms. I take that as a compliment.

It's the end of the dark and dreary but not too cold winter we had this year, and the corkscrews are popping up again. This time I took my 11 year old daughter in to get her eyebrows arched a little, a rite of passage into young womanhood in my family. While my highlights were wrapped in aluminum foil and baking under a bonnet hair dryer, I watched her face as her eyebrows were waxed. I had mine done while I was there too, but somehow I'm the only one that emerged with bright pink spaces around my eyebrows.

The stylist was skillful and pleasant, but a little short for my torso so she requested that I bend my neck at an odd angle for a couple of minutes to complete a task. Today, two days later, I still have the headache that I woke up with the next day, and I think I've identified that as the onset. Note to self, no thank you is a perfectly reasonable answer, she can use a stool, or lower the chair.

A brief pressure point massage from the same daughter went a long way to easing my achey temples, but isn't quite the cure-all I'd hoped. I'm pleased with my new highlights, although these are a bit more dramatic than I'd asked for. Which of course means my husband said "you look like you just spent some time in the sun! and my daughter loved the highlights and wants some for her hair. Thank you, but no expensive self-indulgences should be started at age eleven. And where did I put that giant bottle of Tylenol?

Midweek Waterpark Adventure

We took Thursday and Friday off of life and retreated as a family. The children had requested a Waterpark adventure, and there's no question that indoors is optimal in February in Upstate New York.

Our children are now the ripe old ages of 1 years old through 14 years old, from 33" to six feet even. With age and attention disparity like that, I was concerned about finding things for all of them to enjoy. I need not have worried, because Palm Island Indoor Waterpark at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia, New York fit the bill exactly.

We arrived at 4pm, hoping to avoid long lines. Our water park passes authorized us to enter at 3pm, but the logistics of six children, two dogs, and homework for the online student delayed us a little bit. The front desk employees were quick and efficient and patient with the argumentative potential patron in front of me. I was pleased that our special request of two suites, connecting, had been blocked out carefully for us, with no disappointment.

We purchased the waterpark package, x2 which included a room that potentially slept 6, $25 voucher toward breakfast at Bel Gusto restaurant inside the hotel, 4 water park passes, and unused $25 toward some nearby gambling establishment which will remain unnamed.

The children had a quick supper and changed into their suits, headed down to the waterpark and emerged again as it closed at 9pm, thrilled to tell me all about it. I confess I mostly nodded and smiled as I hurried through my Statistics homework. Husband texted a picture of Daniel, age 1, overcoming his fear of water and splashing in the six inch deep splash section.

While they spent hours splashing and carousing I had ordered room service for dinner. The bourbon chicken sandwich sounded really good, but the Bel Gusto Restaurant has some work to do on its execution. Chicken breast with bourbon sauce and swiss cheese on focaccia bread has great potential. But the condiments it came with, little packets of mustard and ketchup, left my sandwich naked with mayonnaise envy. Even better would have been a little pot of that bourbon glaze, but there was none to be seen. I ordered a sandwich for dinner in lieu of steak because I had my eye on their ultimate chocolate cake, but the kitchen called back to tell me they were out! I appreciated the heads-up, and opted for the redvelvet cake. It delivered! In fact, the delivery man offered that they had sent up two pieces to make up for any inconvenience. It was cream cheese frosting on red velvet heaven, in fact, the best piece I've had to date.

The beds are so comfortable at the Clarion that I was loathe to get out of ours. But I did, at 5 am with a cheerful little teething toddler who only uses one word. Up. Up. Up. I handed him off to his father at 7 am and headed back for a short nap.

At 8:30 we all used our $25 breakfast voucher and enjoyed their well-stocked breakfast buffet. With the range of ages of our children and their lactose intolerance, it was nice to see lots of choices. I had the scrambled eggs, a sausage link, a slice of bacon, a miniature biscuit with a dollop of nicely made country gravy, some melon cubes, and a glass of cranberry juice.

The baby enjoyed yogurt, fresh strawberries, sausage, a miniature danish pastry, french toast sticks and syrup, and a bit of Dad's biscuit and gravy. The eldest, six foot of walking hungry, ate everything in sight, and went back for more. In addition he had brought single serving soy milk containers to enjoy a box of cold cereal from the buffet, after he had sampled multiple tastes of every other item on it. The servers were solicitious but not intrusive, which we valued.

The husband and I made a quick trip for a forgotten item to the Target store next door, conveniently just across the parking lot from our hotel. Then we changed into suits and spent the rest of our second day at the waterpark. Half of the waterpark is devoted to little people, and our littles really enjoyed the splashing and playing in water that didn't exceed one foot deep. The bigger children, 10-14, played basketball in a deeper lagoon, soaked in the hot tub and double-dared each other to ride the two water slide tubes that descended from the second floor and swooped outside returning to a chute depositing the rider into the waterpark in view of all their friends.

The kids had so much fun that they hesitated to tell me that they were hungry at lunch time. We tried the adjacent mini-cafe's pizza, which came in pepperoni or cheese. We'll probably opt for take-out from somewhere else in the future, but in case of starvation, it will sustain life. We augmented the lousy pizza with chicken and vegetable quesadilla with sour cream and salsa, Chicken caesar salad, and a Julienne salad, from Bel Gusto Restaurant. The servers were polite, friendly, and helpful, but I'd like to have a chat with the cook in the restaurant. Julienne means thin slices, not wide planks of an inch or two. It was sliced cheese ready for a sandwich, and sliced meat, cut into planks, rather than julienned. They should be somewhat uniform - really I'm not overly particular - but this was the messiest salad I've seen, and I paid $7.95 or so for that mess. The caesar salad was close to what I expected, a grilled chicken breast sliced on top of romaine lettuce, store bought croutons, and a bottled dressing. I think that care should have been taken not to include the darkened crumbs at the bottom of the crouton package, because I kept mistaking them for some type of bacon bit, unwelcome in a caesar salad.

My children urged me to try the "easy, more mellow" chute. If they had nicknamed it "descent into terror" I would have been forewarned, but no, Sarah and Andy urged me into it, telling me that it was mellow and and had pretty lights and I'd really like it. Toward the end of what seemed eternity, about 2 seconds before I wished death as an escape, I had the though flash through my mind that I was going to throw up, or drown, or drown and throw up, and then suddenly it was over. While I searched for my equillibrium which remained somewhere behind me in the chute, I was helped up by my laughing son who saw the look on my face as I emerged from the chute of doom. Then my daughter caused a mini tidal wave as she emerged which knocked my dizzy self back off my feet and gave her a good laugh.

Once the urge to vomit left me I found the whole experience hilarious, and my second 14 year old then felt it was okay to laugh. He's a sensitive soul, when he's not sure if his life is on the line for urging me into the chute.

The 11 year old daughter who helped me up along as I was popping out of the chute laughed and urged me into the "Cobra" tunnel ride. I wisely declined that because I wasn't eager to see my salad displayed. The water rushing out of the "Cobra" tube was still churning, compared to the mere rush of water in the one I rode. I thought the first supposedly scenic ride was very fast, so I was not eager to compare the two. My two daredevil teen and preteen were! They thought it was exciting, colorful, and initially nerve-wracking, in a good way.

Check out time was 11 am for the room, and 3pm for the waterpark, and we stayed and enjoyed every minute until our integrity alone urged us out of the waterpark at 3pm.

We're eagerly looking forward to a return visit as a family during Spring Break. If you go, enjoy the breakfast buffet and the red velvet cake, but avoid the pre-fabricated pizza. P.S. 10 cent dum-dum lollipops from the gift store help make a quieter ride home too.

And tell them KelliSue Montague sent you!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

I have some pumpkins and even more butternut squash taking a siesta in the root cellar at my parents' home up the street. They're calling to me today. They store whole for quite some time, but c'mon, I should be using them up more. So here's a recipe for the squash. You can substitute boxes of frozen squash puree, or any cooked winter squash or canned pumpkin puree you like. Spice it up with curry paste or curry powder if you dare.. but it's a nice subtle pumpkin coconut soup for those days when you aren't quite up to extra spice. I like to serve it with marinated venison or chicken grilled on a skewer, then served with tortillas. Hold a warm flour tortilla, and then place the skewered meat on your tortilla, and use the tortilla to hold the meat as you remove the skewer for serving. I'm hungry... so on to the recipe.

Keng Bouad Mak Fak Kham
Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup

6 to 8 medium shallots unpeeled, roasted until soft
*or see substitution below
3.5 to 4 cups of pumpkin or butternut squash, cooked
*This is about a 4 pound pumpkin or squash, if you have whole ones in your root cellar
For many people, these may also be frozen squash, or cans of pumpkin puree
1 can 13.5 or 14 oz. coconut milk (check the Asian food section in your market)
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup fish sauce (Asian)
Generous grindings of black pepper
1/3 cup minced scallions
Pumpkin seeds, if you have them.

Place coconut milk and chicken stock in a soup pot and then add pumpkin or squash puree, stirring to combine. Add roasted shallots or garlic, or the dried toasted onion option. Heat to a boil, stirring regularly. Add the fish sauce, turn down and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. At this point I usually use my stick blender and blend the soup smooth. It eliminates any stringy bits from our home grown squash or pumpkins. Store bought sieved purees may eliminate the need for this step. Taste for salt, but usually we don't need any extra beyond that provided by the fish sauce.
You can serve this really beautifully in a baked pumpkin shell, but in the winter there usually aren't any available. Serve in individual bowls or a soup tureen with each serving topped with toasted pumpkin seeds or minced scallions.

Another version of this adds some curry paste or powder for some spice. That's a good idea if you have colds or flu in the family. Either way, it's a good way to get extra vitamins in the family during cold and flu season.

*roasted shallots or garlic: place 6-8 whole shallots or 2 cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle with 1/4 tsp. oil, wrap well, roast until tender and the skin has darkened. Another option is to dry roast the whole cloves in a frying pan until the skin has darkened, but the inside is sweet and tender. You can also take 1 tablespoon of dehyrated onions and toss in a hot skillet and keep stirring and tossing around until dark tan, and then add to the soup.

A vegetarian version could include tiny cubes of tofu floating in the pumpkin soup, and use only vegetable broth, and substitute tamari sauce for the fish sauce. Either way, it's gluten free and nondairy.

Happy Winter -- It's been a mild one so far!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Have you noticed how commonplace it is to see a baby with a bottle on television now? When I was young Maria had a baby on Sesame Street. Then natural questions evolved from that. What is the baby doing? The baby is breastfeeding. Oh that's nice.

If all U.S. women followed medical recommendations to breastfeed their infants exclusively for six months, the nation could save $13 billion a year in medical costs and prevent 911 deaths, according to an analysis published in the new issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Thirteen billion dollars a year in medical costs saved by our nation? Now that's worth talking about. And where is a better place to start than Sesame Street. Again.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How cute is this child?

Daniel Martin Kolz was born October 6, 2010. I casually slip in that when he was delivered I drove myself to the hospital, and had him an hour and a half later.

He is our swan song. I turned 44 a few weeks after his gentle entry into the world, and Martin politely turned 50 a few months later.

It may seem like too much to tell you that Daniel makes us giggle each and every day, and he is the reason Daddy hurries home from work, the reason the big boys look carefully through the front door glass before opening the door after school and the reason why Emma wanted to stay home for homeschool instead of attending a public school elementary class. And of course, he's the reason the big sisters smile as much as they do.

I quip to my friends that I breastfeed him just so I get some time to hold him with all the competition! It was my only guarantee that every couple of hours he came back to my arms for some one on one time.

Heavenly Father may have packed his big smile into his little body before he was born, but I hope I can claim that our family is the reason why Dannyboy uses it so very often!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

And a partridge in a pear tree....

I could claim insanity... with no disagreement from my family and friends. That's right, five college courses, 2 teenagers, 1 pre-teen daughter, 2 little girls, one nursing baby, and a partridge in a pear tree. Wrong song.. I lost track.

My friends are all excited about Pinterest. Sign up for Pinterest. Look at all the cute things I found/saw/made/coveted... on Pinterest. Like this lovely and cozy chicken sweater for your free range, organic, Upstate New York winterized chicken.

I just laugh. I don't have time. We're having a blast, but no time for Pinterest. So sing the second verse with me: 5 college courses, 2 teen-agers, 1 pre-teen daughter, 2 L*I*T*T*L*E girls, one nursing baby, two house cats and a partridge in a pear tree.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why do they have to eat every night?

One of my college professors assigned us to write eight blog posts. Thankfully I have six children who provide me with fodder on a daily basis, but lately their quips have gone to waste.

Today, at 4pm, after an afternoon snack should have mollified him, I assigned one of my 14-year-old sons to make supper. "Why do they have to eat every night?" ::hand thrown up in dramatic fashion::

I had to hold back laughter. I'm trying to get some school assignments done before their deadline. The kids are home on winter break from their middle school and elementary school. It seems logical to my mind that your average well-trained teenager can take on a task, especially with food involved. He's a well-fed boy by the looks of him. He did make barbecued beans from a can of pork and beans. It's rather simple and easily done. Chop and saute' one sweet onion in olive oil until transparent, add one large family size can of pork and beans. Add 2 T of brown sugar, 1T of molasses or maple syrup, 2 T of barbecue sauce of your choice, and salt to taste. Serve with hot dogs baked by your sister. Be sure and write a list of complaints that include your mother adds too many nutty ingredients to the beans. But do pass the beans, because the kids really like them.

I was reminded of this comic panel which was delivered to my Facebook page. I was amused. It's not funny to one of my 14-year-old boys. The other one takes after me and stifled his laughter.