Skink, Skink, Severus Skink

Do you know what’s worse than finding a skink in your child’s closet?

NOT finding the skink in your child’s closet.

The Buster knew he had seen a moving skink, but it wasn’t until we moved the very last item on the floor of his closet that we confirmed it.

Small, fast, skittery things normally fall under the “things for a Buds to handle” category, but I had to put on my big girl panties today and take care of the skink.

As with most things, the reality was much less frightening than the imagined. The poor little skink was petrified. Luckily he didn’t drop his tail, but he was zipping around from dark place to dark place. I was surprised to note that skinks run like alligators in a “hinged in the middle” fashion. Science lesson for this morning.

My fearless helpers...notice they are standing in a box...for protection.

My fearless helpers…notice they are standing in a box…for protection.

Good bye, little sweet friend.

Good bye, little sweet friend.

We released the little one outdoors and went back to our work. I hope it isn’t the return of Skink Season in the house.

The Right Equipment

When your 7 year-old niece mentions that it is time for you to get that pile of landscaping rock moved, then it is probably time to get the rock moved. “That’s sure been there a long time, Aunt Jennie.”

Buds was in the midst of a very long rowing workout, in the shade, right by the rock pile. Moving rock, cheering for Buds, it was the perfect set up.

I had a cat litter bucket and my shovel, and I was moving along, slow and steady, 5 scoops/bucketful.

Then I looked around and saw Dave, our lawn guy, grinning at me from atop his cute little tractor. He also mows the yard across the street, and he had noticed me with my bucket.

“You’ve got a bucket, I’ve got a tractor,” he said with a cheeky grin.

He drove over and the rocks it would have taken me all day to move he had spread out in 15 minutes. I was so thankful, and it gives me a smile every time I see the lovely hill, just waiting for plants.

Zip, zoom, done.

Zip, zoom, done.

The Wonders of Helium

Apparently we had never introduced the children to the wonders of sucking on helium. Thanks to my birthday balloons from Aunt A, Uncle Z, and Cousins, that oversight has been rectified.

And to answer Buddie’s question about a gas that can lower the voice, here’s what Steve Spangler taught us:

Happy, Happy Birthday, Monkey

She’s excited and nervous and apprehensive and intrigued about being a teenager. I trust she’ll handle the teen years with the same grace, kindness, and open-heartedness she has handled the previous ones.

Present opening happened. She’d chosen her gift, and even helped pay for it, so it wasn’t a surprise, but still fascinating to all.

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Siblings gave her gifts and cards that brought many hugs:

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With Dad home to be part of the fun, cake decorating happened today, one day post-birthday:

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Nonni and Poppi checking in on the decorating.

Nonni and Poppi checking in on the decorating.

Final touches

Final touches

Complete!

Complete!

Light it up!

Light it up!

We sang away to her...

We sang away to her…

Two puffs and they were all out.

Two puffs and they were all out.

A wish for another fantastic year! And on to another 700 blog posts. Promise fulfilled.

Monkey Through The Ages

I promised Monkey that the 700th post for this blog would be about her birthday, which means I need to write one more post to bring us up to her birthday…and #700.

A look back at Monkey through the ages seemed like a good way to go.

Many of these are recently digitized photos from old paper copies. The quality may not be great, but the content is priceless. Many of these photos were taken by Grandpa Vermont, which is why he doesn’t appear in any of them. Thanks, L.P., for taking such great photos through the years.

Her first bath

Her first bath

She has always been loved by two and four-legged critters.

She has always been loved by two and four-legged critters.

Grandma VT was there for new baby snuggles.

Grandma VT was there for new baby snuggles.

A little cross-eyed, but beautiful.

A little cross-eyed, but beautiful.

She looks like a cross-eyed ninja in this photo.

Reading to Grandpa.

Reading to Grandpa.

A grandma and green jeans

A grandma and green jeans

Cooking w/Mom...note the Buster in the belly.

Cooking w/Mom…note the Buster in the belly.

Always so fashinable.

Always so fashinable.

With Great Grandma Veryl and Cousin Liz.

With Great Grandma Veryl and Cousin Liz.

First time at the beach

First time at the beach

Grandpa makes a good step.

Grandpa makes a good step.

Her first Christmas

Her first Christmas

We'll always be by your side, Brave, Strong Monkey.

We’ll always be by your side, Brave, Strong Monkey.

Happy Birthday, Person who made us parents.

Pre-Birthday Planning

Decorating the cake is one of our birthday traditions here at The Shoebox. Monkey chose an Ocean Theme for this year’s cake, and I got to work baking the cake so she and Dad could work their magic on it.

It used to be that I was baker and decorator. The children have wisely evolved those roles so that I am now baker and decoration is done by the creative folk in the family.

Based on this cake creation, they may want to take away the baking from me, too.

I made a double batch to ensure a nice high cake. I had both pans in the oven, then realized I had forgotten to add the 2 cups of boiling water the recipe called for. Buds was working from home that day so I zoomed back to ask his opinion of if the water mattered. He was on a call, so I had to decide for myself. I decided the water DID matter, so I took the cakes out of the oven, and mixed a cup of boiling water into each pan.

They came out looking and tasting delicious, so crisis averted.

Buds slicing off the rounded top to leave it flat for better decorating.

Buds slicing off the rounded top to leave it flat for better decorating.

Monkey and Buds transferring the top to a plate for later consumption.

Monkey and Buds transferring the top to a plate for later consumption.

The partially devoured cake top.

The partially devoured cake top.

Ready to be frosted.

Ready to be frosted.

Let the frosting commence.

Let the frosting commence.

Look at their laughter.

Look at their laughter.

I absolutely adore this picture above. The delight of having a now-teenage daughter who is old enough to understand the inappropriate comment her father just made, old enough to laugh at it, and yet young enough to not be embarrassed by her crazy parents.

Crumb coat applied.

Crumb coat applied.

The cake is all ready to be covered in fondant and decorated up. Pictures of that after the event occurs.

Decorations at the ready.

Decorations at the ready.

Happy Pre-Birthday, Monkey! We couldn’t love you more, except tomorrow we will.

Dress Up Buddie

Not to rub it in after the Dishwasher Debacle, but I did find the world’s best birthday gift for Buds this year.

(Too soon, Buddie?)

Each month a package arrives with new clothes for Buds. They are sized for him, well-made, and fashionable. Because he goes into a business environment most days, clothes had become a point of anxiety for him. He can be pretty casual, but the eccentric IT brainiac image doesn’t shield him from all expectations of attire.

It feels like an exciting surprise when the package arrives each month.

What will it be this month?

What will it be this month?

Except for the men’s liner socks incident (Who would wear these?!), he’s been tickled with everything.

Image from here: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/mens-liner-socks

Image from here: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/mens-liner-socks

This month did have a bit of a wrinkle with the zipper shirt:

Looks like a regular button-down.

Looks like a regular button-down.

But with a twist...

But with a twist…

He wore it today with a t-shirt from a previous month under it. It looked very nice, but he did take some ribbing from a co-worker about it being a jacket, and by the way she’d like to have one, too.

The nearly seersucker shirt that also arrived looks great, too:

Help getting dressed.

Help getting dressed.

The professor is in.

The professor is in.

Here’s a picture of two shirts from a previous month, with the bonus goatee.

Dashing.

Dashing.

This is one subscription we’ll be keeping for awhile.

Hello, Fresh!

We’ve been trying an experiment this week. I bought a Groupon for a company called, Hello Fresh. It’s a subscription service that sends you the supplies needed for 3 dinners for 4 adults, shipped once a week. The deal was for 50% off, or I would never have thought to try something like this.

The box arrived on Wednesday, and Yessa and I cooked up our first meal that evening.

It all comes in a large cardboard box. The box is lined with a plastic bag that has insulation inside it, then the individual meals are labeled and boxed, and the meat is shipped at the bottom of the box, under a cardboard shelf. We got two boxes for each meal because each box has sufficient food for 2 adults. All of this is kept cold by 6 gel packs.

The boxes nicely fill the fridge.

The boxes nicely fill the fridge.

The gel packs

The gel packs

The 6 gel packs we got will be a handsome addition to our “Buddie must ensure everything stays cold in the cooler” arsenal, but if we keep this subscription service, what to do with 40 of them? I emailed Hello Fresh to ask, and their representative responded that she empties out the packs and then puts the plastic bags with her plastic bags. The gel is non-toxic, but I don’t know what it is. Could it be used around plants to capture moisture? Can the plastic bags be recycled with other plastic bags at the grocery store? I need to investigate these issues more.

We did have a splendiferous time making the meal.

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The two pictures above show all the items that came for this meal of “Reuben Steak.” I’ve included both because my partner ran to get a towel to use as a backdrop to improve the picture quality. I think the blog may have a quality refresh in the near future if she provides artistic oversight.

Take the two steaks.

Take the two steaks.

Season them.

Season them.

Cut up all the veggies:

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Cook:

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Cook:

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Cook:

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And sear:

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Drop the bottle of catsup on the floor (This is optional in the recipe.):

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Prepare the dill for garnish:

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Finish cooking:

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Swizzle up the pan sauce:

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Plate and enjoy:

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The next night Buds directed the creation of Shrimp and Chorizo Paella. Also delicious!

It makes more than 4 meals.

It makes more than 4 meals.

Beautifully plated.

Beautifully plated.

I do not know if we will continue after our two weeks are up, but it is fun to see what it would be like to have someone else making the “what are we having for dinner” decisions.

Where Does She Get These Ideas?!

Paula has great ideas.

She was the one who came up with the idea for the backyard concert. The rest of us poo-poo’d, but it came to fruition, and it is one of Buddie and my “perfect lifetime moments.”

While we were in VA, she had another great idea.

“You should stay an extra night, and we’ll have a happy hour so you can see friends you haven’t had a chance to see during your visit.”

So that’s what we did. It didn’t take much to convince us to spend extra time up north. Buds and I weren’t at happy hour together for long because one of us stayed home with Buster, but we had time with friends we hadn’t gotten to see, or hadn’t gotten enough time with. It was delightful!

Keep those ideas coming, Dear One.

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Tania in the picture above, is in Dallas for a lifting competition! Go, T!!!

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