New Nathan

Hey, I just have to say for the record that I have the Cutest Darn Nephew, ever. And I just have to share him with my readership (if by "readership" one means the coupla people who straggle through my blog who don't already happen to straggle through Chris' blog and have already seen all the Nathan updates as they've come down the pike).



You Did It!

Your generosity has just amazed me! Through the donations of friends, family and outright strangers, my required $2,200 donation toward the Breast Cancer 3-Day has been met! I'm going to be allowed to walk in the event in October (yikes!).

I was lucky. I didn't have to host any giant mega-fundraising events or sell half my attic on eBay to come up with the money.

No, it was thanks to you (and many other people who never come to this blog)! I appreciate it an awful lot.

Now, it's just up to me to complete my training miles, continue to prepare my gear and strengthen my body for the challenge of the event, itself.



ps. I raised my "goal" to $2,500 in case anyone stumbles upon my site. Don't want anyone to feel that their contribution toward eradicating breast cancer was unnecessary or unappreciated. But, $2,200 is my required donation commitment.

For the Record

I just love my husband. I mean it. He's a really truly great guy.

Yesterday at Lori & Travis' wedding, I sat there holding his hand (while he fanned both of us ... it was a muggy hot day in a non-climate-controlled chapel), and realized again that I would absolutely marry him all over again.

Then later at the reception, he danced all over the dance floor with me (he's a fantastic dancer, by the way). He's funny, attractive, so stinkin' brilliant, a wonderful dad.

I'm lucky to have him and want everyone to know it.



Mouth of Matthew

Matthew: Mommy, why did you paint your nails?
Myself: For decoration.
Matthew: Oh. You mean, for that ol' wedding? [Joe's cousin is getting married tomorrow. Matthew is obviously continuing his affectation 'that ol' preceding nearly everything.]
Myself: [taking the teachable-moment opportunity] Matthew, what is a wedding?
Matthew: It's when you find a husband or a wife and you get married.
Myself: Is that all? What else?
Matthew: Well ... when you're gonna be with someone a long time and live with them and get babies.
Myself: Anything else?
Matthew: It's when you're never gonna have to be alone.

Even if he never learns another thing about making relationships work, I think he's going to be just fine. Thus endeth your Warm Fuzzy™ for today.



Cat Haiku

Stumbled upon these, here, among others. Enjoy!

You never feed me.
Perhaps I'll sleep on your face.

That will sure show you.

You must scratch me there!
Yes, above my tail!

Behold, elevator butt.

The rule for today:
Touch my tail, I shred your hand.

New rule tomorrow.

In deep sleep hear sound
cat vomit hairball somewhere

will find in morning.

Grace personified.
I leap into the window.

I meant to do that.

The mighty hunter
Returns with gifts of plump birds --

your foot just squashed one.

You're always typing.
Well, let's see you ignore my

sitting on your hands.

My small cardboard box.
You cannot see me if I

can just hide my head.

Humans are so strange.
Mine lies still in bed, then screams;

My claws are not that sharp.



Recent Outings

So, in the last week, Joe and I met his Mom and her boyfriend, Pete, here to see these guys. They stomped all over these guys. Awwww, too bad, so sad.

I can't say I'm enormously "into" football. But free tickets to a professional sporting event are always well-received around here. We had a blast. It was so much fun. There was an interception run in for a touchdown, a nice long field goal, a seriously long punt by one of my favorite new players (what can I say ... I have a major soft spot for kickers and punters (and hockey goalies and baseball catchers).). But all in all, I don't remember much of the game. I think I'm a touch too ADD or emotionally empathic or something. Because when I'm in a big crowded stadium and there's that rumble of voices, the flash of the Fan-O-Vision/JumboTron, the smell of popcorn and just the general energy of tens of thousands of people ... well, I just have trouble keeping more than 10% of my brain on the game. I do much better with my pause-live-tv to ingest it situation at home.

So, don't ever expect deep sideline insights or play-by-play recaps from me. But, we did have an absolute blast (no pun intended regarding lightning-induced evacuation of the stands which added a pretty exciting touch to the evening).

A couple of days later, we took the kids (along with Joe's mom again, but this time also with Mom's cousin Pauline, who's the best) to this very awesome show at the Spectrum. They did a very nice job bringing in the science while still allowing time for oohing and aahing over extremely impressive and life-like (as far as I'd know) full-size dinosaurs. The climactic appearance of the Tyrannosaurus Rex mama near the end is totally worth the wait. (although I couldn't help chuckling at her puny little forearms, a la Meet the Robinsons). I'm also impressed by the narrator/paleontologist. He does basically a 2-hour monologue. No mean feat, that.

This week it's back to just chilling out at home (particularly in the wet and clammy weather we've been having, I actually made chili and homemade bread yesterday and it was goooood!). Posh family wedding this weekend to look forward to.



Animated Knots

Since I know several Scouts, climbers, sailors ... I present a very handy website.

Animated Knots by Grog™.

I've made a Turk's Head bracelet myself in my day (under "Decorative").


Public Service / New Blog Feature

AKA ... when I feel like posting, but I'm not sure I have anything worth saying. Slightly editorialized versions of recipes I like.

French Onion Soup Gratinée
aka ... Joe's favorite cold-weather food, ever
  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium-high heat (don't be skimpy, live a little ... the butter helps the onions do their thing). Stir in one teaspoon salt, two large thinly-sliced red onions and two large thinly-sliced sweet onions. Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy. (I sometimes let the onions just barely start to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, and then scrape them off ... the brown goodness scraped up from the bottom helps them caramelize beautifully.)

  2. Mix one 48-oz can chicken broth, one 14-oz can beef broth (fat-free and low sodium are good for the broths), ½ cup red wine red wine and one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce into pot. Bundle the two sprigs fresh parsley, one sprig fresh thyme, and one bay leaf with twine and place in pot. (or just sprinkle in lame-o dried herbs, like I do) Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the herbs. Reduce the heat to low, mix in one tablespoon balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep over low heat to stay hot while you prepare the bread.

  3. Preheat oven broiler. Arrange four thick French or Italian bread slices (slightly stale and very crusty is good) on a baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, turning once, until well toasted on both sides. Remove from heat; do not turn off broiler. (Quickie "cheat" is to just use large croutons, especially if the idea of cutting into a giant cheese-covered slice of bread doesn't appeal to you.)

  4. Arrange 4 large oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet (so you don't wind up with the abundant aroma of blackened sloshed-over-the-sides onion soup, mixed with the gloppy mess of drippy melted cheeses draping your oven elements). Fill each bowl 2/3 (why isn't there a pretty html code for "2/3"?) full with hot soup. Top each bowl with one slice toasted bread, two slices Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese and ¼ of shredded Asiago (or mozzarella) cheese. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika over the top of each one. (the cheese works best at room temperature, so get them out on the counter when you start working the onions, if not sooner)

  5. Broil 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will cascade over the sides of the crock and form a beautifully melted crusty seal. Serve immediately!
et .... voila!--End--


Dugan Diversity

Visited the pediatrician today. Nothing extraordinary, just Matthew's annual check-up. Of course, Emily wanted to be involved in the goings-on, as well.

In any case, Dr. Patel is happy with their development. Mackie passed his vision and hearing tests just fine and is in the glow of health.

But, a visit to the doctor's office is never complete without checking the kids' heights and weights. My kids are sometimes two of kind, my eyes, Joe's build ... no one would ever not recognize their family resemblance. But, when it comes to the growth charts ... the differences are readily apparent.

Emily: 48" (8th percentile), and 44 lbs (>3rd percentile)
Matthew: 50.25" (97th percentile) and 57 lbs (90th percentile)


Emily did have a bit of a break-down about it at the very end of the appointment, and it's my fault. When Dr. Patel was running down some basic health questions, he asked about booster seats. The kids both confirmed that they always buckle up and always use a booster. Then I blew it by joking that Em will likely be in a booster seat until she's 12 (they recommend at least 8 years of age and 80 lbs). She pretty much fell apart.

Any tips from anyone about how to help her be comfortable with her diminutive size? This isn't the first time recently she's commented on how she "hates to be short."



Winding Down

Summer is starting to wind down here at Dugan Manor.

The leaves on the trees are still completely green, but have started to take on that dusty, tired shade. And the yard has definitely browned quite a bit.

Joe has begun planning his fall semester classes and preparing for the busyness that goes along with all that. One of his colleagues has accepted a 5-year grant administration position, so there will be a new math professor filling in. Plus, the math and computer sciences Division Chair has resigned and moved away. So they've shuffled all the departments around. Math is now in the Humanities Division. Yeah, that makes so much sense. So, rather than being directly connected to the engineering or physics departments (the major subjects for most of Joe's students), he has to coordinate course scheduling outside his division so that his students don't have to be in two classes simultaneously. And, the outgoing Division Chair (who was pushing the envelope for incompetency and inappropriateness) managed to bungle some course scheduling and classroom assignments which directly affect Joe. *sigh*

The good news is, he managed to get his hands on one of the college's few Tablet PCs. He's been in need of a new laptop and really hoping to get/try out/permanently borrow a Tablet. Yay!

The kids have just about finished their summer-keep-them-vaguely-thinking-academically-workbooks that their elementary school teacher/nerd mom makes them do every day. Matthew's reading is approaching smooth fluency, and Emily is beginning to multiply quickly in her head. Woo!

And, last Friday evening we actually put on jackets and long pants to watch Matthew's football practice. Really started to feel like football weather. And for one my poor son wasn't completely plastered with sweat from head to toe.

As for me, I'm finally at the point where I can no longer pretend I have weeks and weeks to pull together and create an elementary technology curriculum. I'll be teaching touch-typing to the primary grades and MS Office, etc to the upper elementary and middle school students. I've never been trained in how to do any of this, but am expected to develop an appropriate curriculum and lesson plans, while spending no money on new software or equipment.

We just spent last weekend in the Poconos and had a marvelous time. It's just so dang relaxing up there. I could stay a week and just breathe the fresh air and marvel at just how many freaking stars are apparent when you get away from the haze and glare of South Jersey.

No big plans for the rest of summer until Labor Day weekend. Mom and Dad are coming down and we'll attend the Navy-Temple football game together on the 31st. Should be fun.



Christmas Plans

For a couple of years we've talked about taking a vacation for Christmas, rather than the usual traditional family visits. Being academics, we get a lot of time off work, but we have to take it when our various institutions "say" we can take it (Christmas, Spring Break, summer). And, since summer vacation not only means time off, but also No paychecks for me ... well, it's not the best time to throw money at a vacation trip.

So, Christmas it is. December 22 - 29, to be exact.

Yesterday I booked a week-long stay for us at Colonial Williamsburg. I've been there once, some years ago and even then we didn't pay to actually go into the buildings, etc. We're looking forward to giant 18th Century style tavern Christmas dinners, letting the kids experience some hands-on, up-close-and-personal-like American history. We'll visit Williamsburg, itself, of course, and also makes jaunts to Jamestown (this is its 400th Anniversary year), and Yorktown. And, Richmond and Norfolk are each about an hour away.

Likely I'll go into more detail as it draws near, but for now ... I'm just in the excited early planning stages.


Summer Pictures

Just realized I have a few pictures I'd meant to upload.

This set is from the month of June -- Matthew's birthday, a trip to McKean, Sasha 5 months old...

And these are from our latest endeavor ... the Holly City Midget Football League. Matthew is enthusiastic, if relatively unskilled. He has improved immensely in just one week of "Training Camp." Looks like he's going to be on the defensive line. Goooo, Thunder!



A Mother's Right

Pardon me a minute or two while I shamelessly brag about my first-born. Joe and I met today with the Supervisor of Millville's Gifted and Talented program. We reviewed Emily's WISC IQ test for purposes of placing her into the district's GT program (like we really had any doubt!).

Without going into specifics, suffice it to say that Em scored very highly. Like, 99.8th percentile high.

Anyway, we always knew how smart she is, but it's nice to know it's definitely not all in our heads.