Friday, August 31, 2007

A Promised Poem (stop cringing!)

My Heart's Desire
By Stacy Christian-2006

Dear Father,

You have already answered many requests
From the gigantic to the mundane.
Well, I've got another big favor to ask.
So here I am praying, Lord...again.

There's a pile of laundry I don't want to fold
Waiting for me on the couch downstairs.
Baskets of undershirts and pants and towels;
Bed sheets and crew socks-all needing their pairs.

If you could see fit to take us to Heaven-
The sooner, the better. We won't mind!
We would much rather be with You anyway,
And I could leave the laundry behind!

Mowing Mutants

I, the sometimes somewhat intrepid Nitrocat, am not afraid of bugs. After all, I live in Northern Illinois and not the Amazon Rainforest. I've been there, you know. They have two sizes of insects down there. They have the ones that are small enough to fit through the holes in the screen door, and the ones that are big enough to open the door for themselves and walk right in. There was a spider in the shower with me once with a body the size of a grapefruit. I didn't stay in the shower, but that's another story. After surviving the jungle, there isn't too much that worries me (Okay, I do confess being freaked out by ticks when I find them on my stomach, but come on!). The bugs here are laughable by comparison.
That being said, I found myself fleeing for my life while mowing our yard yesterday. There was a mutant dragonfly, which I initially mistook for a bird, that seemed extremely angry about something. It started chasing me and smacking into my head as I rounded one corner. On the next pass around, it hovered in front of the mower, looked me square in the eye, and by some extra sensory means, I could hear it lick it's lips. I decided to leave off mowing and find something in the house that needed urgent attention, like laundry. I could fix the swerving path in the grass later.
After some astute thinking, I have decided that the dragonfly must have eaten part of the mutant mushrooms in the yard. That would explain it monstrous size and ferocious nature. Now all I have to do is electrify some railroad tracks or design a gun that harnesses all of the sun's energy in order to destroy it. Well, at least that works in the Godzilla movies. In this case, a tennis racket might suffice.

This will be the last of our mutant mushroom pictures. I hope. I mowed them yesterday. It was very gratifying to see the ragged chunks spread all over the grass shrivelling in the sun. Unless the ominous black cloud that exploded from one of them when I ran over it means anything...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fungus Fanatics Unite!

Past experience has taught me that the folks at the county extension office weren't going to be too successful at identifying the mushrooms overtaking my yard. They are nice people and try to be helpful, bless them, but I can thumb through antiquated books with a blank stare on my face with the best of them.
So when some of the shrooms tripled in size overnight, the finding of information became a more pressing concern. Would the dog turn purple and swell up like a balloon if he sniffed one? Would the girls shrink and carry on conversations with caterpillars if they licked one? Then I found these lovely people over on the forum at and quick as a wink they had several of my monsters identified. The whoppers above and the small, cottage cheese-like ones in the last post are both types of puffballs, and are edible. Cream of mushroom soup anyone? Me neither. But it is good to know that I don't have to worry about them. The others look like the common ones that you see growing in mulch and they are already drying up.
The internet may have it's draw-backs, but I love how quickly you can find the information that you need on any given topic from British pipe fittings to the micrathena gracilis. Now you know you won't be able to sleep until you look that one up!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Unidentified Flying Fungus (UFF)

Just for the record, we live in northern Illinois on 3 acres of farmland. No shade to speak of in the yard. And lots of wind. With that in mind you can imagine my surprise when I mowed the grass today and found legions of evil mushrooms stalking their way across the lawn. I counted at least five separate armies. I can guess that they are here trying to take over because the cloudy, muggy days and more than 4 inches of rain over the last week or so gave them an opportunist's foothold.
Here are some of the culprits:

I don't know what any of them are, but they all had one thing in common: They all get chopped up nicely and come flinging out of the mower just like the grass!
Here are a couple of other things I found today while mowing:

This baby bunny isn't much bigger than a field mouse and doesn't even have it's eyes open yet. The rest of his story is sickening and quite pathetic so if you want you can skip down to the tennis ball.

The bunny is currently in a shoe box resting. I had seen him from the mower and avoided his patch, but when I checked it out later, he was sitting at the top of his nesting hole--on top of several dead siblings who had drowned in the rain. He stunk something hideous, but has had a gentle rinse and now only smells slightly like fish. I won't say what he smelled like before. I have a friend who is a forest ranger and wildlife rescue-er (??) that I hope can help.

About 16 Eastern Tailed Blues were "puddling" on one of Kirby's tennis balls. The whole time I was mowing, there was a thick cloud of these and other butterflies around me. It was too cool.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chicken Cordon...Whatever

Every once in a while I get a bug in my britches to make a specific dish for which there ends up being no recipe. Then I get inventive. This usually happens when I am running on very little sleep, have had more sugar than I should be allowed and get in a strange mood where I use phrases like "bug in my britches", actually want to eat asparagus, and write really long run-on sentences.
So after several sleepless nights~one which included vast amounts of derogatory calories~I found myself yesterday hankerin' for something not quite Chicken Cordon Bleu; which I have never made anyway. So after J's EEG, a foraging trip to Jewel, and a make-it-up-as-you-go sort of plan, this was our supper last night (and I might add, it wasn't too bad!):

Chicken Cordon....Whatever
4 fat boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
8 thick slices deli ham
6-ish ounces good Swiss cheese, sliced
2 bunches fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup white wine (give or take)
1 1/2 T. mayo/mustard stuff (Okay, I went and looked. It is officially "Durkee's Famous Sandwich and Salad Spread-a tangy mustard and mayonnaise dressing"-happy?)
1/2 T. dried Tarragon

What I did...
Since I didn't feel like waiting for the whole thing to cook in the oven, I grilled the chicken on the Foreman and blanched the asparagus. Then I layered the chicken, ham, asparagus, sauce(the soup, wine, mayo/mustard stuff and tarragon) and cheese in a 3 qt. casserole dish and baked it at 450, covered for 15 minutes and uncovered for 15 minutes.

What I'll do next time(which indicates that it was good enough to try again)...
Put one cup of uncooked wild rice in the bottom of the casserole, than add the chicken (uncooked this time) and everything else (except the cheese) in the same order. Bake at 350, uncovered until chicken and rice are done. Add the cheese and bake until golden and bubbly.

I should add that while DH did like it, he also said that this was probably the first time in culinary history that Chicken Cordon Bleu had ever been made as a Hotdish. I took it as a compliment, mostly because I was too tired to decide if it was an insult or not. If you don't know what Hotdish is, then you have never spent any time in Minnesota.
This only relates to the laundry in that my laundry still remains unfolded because my family got a home cooked meal instead.
Maybe if you're good, tomorrow I'll post my poem about the laundry. Wait...don't all leave at once!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Teasel the Hedgehog

After practically an all-night session (that's what happens when you are working with nocturnal stuffies), our first boxing buddy is nearly ready. Let me introduce you: This is Teasel the Hedgehog. He was named after the dramatic looking weed with the spiny seed heads. He is completely lovable and only causes trouble occasionally; mostly when he forgets to wipe his paws or gets things caught in his prickles. He loves to forage through the leaf litter in the woods and in doing that he accidentally found his first letterbox. He has been "stuck on it" ever since. Because he digs very gently, so as not to mush the grubs he is looking for, he is a very good helper when it comes to hunting letterboxes. Fat worms, slugs and grubs are his
first choice when it comes to food, but he can be persuaded to eat the occasional mosquito; although he says they taste like eating kleenex. For the most part he has adapted to our diurnal lifestyle, but if he comes to your house, don't be surprised if you find him rummaging in the fridge for bologna in the middle of the night.
He wanted to make his own logbook, so I stayed up with him last night until he was satisfied with how it turned out. He has been practicing some carving and finished his sig stamp in the wee hours this morning. I am quite proud of him. He didn't complain once even though I couldn't find the handle for my exacto knife for him and all I had was PZ Kut. He says he prefers the Speedy Stamp.
I will tell you that he is not very brave. At the first sign of danger (perceived or otherwise) he rolls up into a ball and won't come out until he thinks it is completely safe. He can be quite stubborn about it. Moppett is the absolute sweetest cat and I am sure she was just investigating a remnant of olive loaf he missed.
Teasel's family is originally from Europe. His parents and siblings were captured along with him one evening on the English countryside. They were stuffed in windowless crates and shipped overseas. We discovered him in a shop window several years back and rescued him immediately. Through a service that works to reunite families that have been separated, we have heard that one of his brothers is part of a traveling animal education program. He visits schools and day care centers along with the other animals in the program to help children learn about being good pet owners. Recently, we also received word from his parents. They are well and living with a retired gentleman on the east coast where they help him by patrolling his garden at night. We can only hope that the others are also okay and being looked after.
If you would like to host Teasel and take him letterboxing in your part of the world, he would love to visit. Just contact me here or through AQ mail and we will set it up. He will also be listed on AQ as an "other" letterbox so that you can log him as a find. (Note: I changed him to a postal box so that I could add him to the tracker I created)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

5 year old discoveries

This is what I get for showing the 5 year old what happens when you add bubble bath to the whirlpool tub and turn the jets on.
Now I'm going to have to share.

On a more letterboxing note: we have begun the creation of our very first boxing buddy. His stamp and logbook with be finished tonight and his photo shoot should be complete tomorrow. I will post an introducion and he should be ready to travel on Monday!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Night boxing check-lists

From the comments here and on the boards, I gather that there should be two kinds of letterboxes for folks to hunt at night:

Boxes for Most of Us should include:
  • Relatively safe locations free of eye-poking sticks and lurking law enforcement with nothing better to do than press the finer points of the law. (that last could be difficult considering we live in one of those places that prints every public service call in the weekly paper-and it still takes less than a page)
  • A story line or twist to the hunt that gets the adrenaline pumping just a bit.
  • A cool overlook or view of stars (sorry, no mountains or sandy beaches worth talking about in northern Illinois)
  • Preferably no homeless people jumping out at you (I suppose that could cross the line from adrenaline to change-of-underwear in a quick hurry.)

Boxes for Kirbert should include:

  • The need for typhoid and yellow fever shots
  • Carrying a machete
  • A rabid rhinoceros; or at the very least, several vampire bats
  • A moving target

One last question...or two:

How far would you be willing to drive to find a Nighttime Letterbox? And, would it make a difference if there were several fairly close together, perhaps even in the same park/cemetery?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Owning Up and a Night boxing question

Like my new sign? Isn't admitting that you have a problem supposed to be the first step?

I am also happy to report that I have snapped out of my initial fascination with the clothesline. Hung a handful of shirts out there last Thursday and they are still there. They've been rained on twice now too!
The kittens and I have all of our supplies assembled for making a night time letterbox. We have scouted a location as well. Still haven't found the perfect image though. I want it to be really awesome because I figure someone coming to hunt for letterboxes at night doesn't have the advantage of seeing gorgeous scenery or wildlife (I would really hope to not see any wildlife at all if I was hunting a box at night!) to make up for the box being a dud.
So, here is my question: If you went letterboxing at night, what would make the experience a Blue Diamond for you? (not that that is what I am after, but you get the reference!) I will probably ask this on the boards too, especially since I no that only about two people read this!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Budget revisions

Like finances, we have a given amount of time to budget as we must. And like finances, we often must scrape and scrimp in order to have the smallest amount left over for ourselves.
Or we can steal it.
My time has not been my own for an eternity it seems. Responsibilities at home with husband, children and homeschool, plus commitments at church and elsewhere have stretched me thin (but you already know the only thing I begrudge is the laundry). So when the slightest break in the schedule appeared, I took July and ran. It was a daring escape. With the help of the buddies we are hosting and a few "live" friends, I squandered the entire month away. I caught up on my logbook and read hundreds of backlogged messages. But mostly we dedicated the time we had to hunting letterboxes, and we were quite successful. 50 boxes were found and I passed my goal of 100. With that milestone reached, now I want to focus on the stack of 25 boxes that need planting. 25! Many of them are ready to go. Some of them need logbook alterations before planting. Some of them need Lock n Locks. And a few still have to make it home from postal rings. And I have no delusions about getting them all done in a month.
Because now August is here and I must once again spend my allotted time in a responsible, adult manner. But time can be bought even if the exchange rate is high. So maybe if I shave a little off here and there, continue ignoring the laundry and give up sleep altogther, I can save enough for a mad letterboxing weekend now and then. And like my finances, if I'm careful, I may be surprised at just how much I have left over.