Friday, July 29, 2011

Livin' in the Country

Water Country USA, that is....

Back in June, CJ celebrated her birthday and received a very special gift--passes to Water Country USA, a dedicated water park (owned by SeaWorld) in Williamsburg. CJ and R went last year and discovered a sweet deal for residents of Virginia who return to the park after a visit: Free entry! (minus parking and any extras). So, they had a second visit, and CJ has talked semi-nonstop about the place ever since.

Especially, just before her birthday this year. (Hint! Hint!)

She counted down the days 'til the opening of the 2011 season, even writing the numbers on our kitchen blackboard and "Opening Day!" when that rolled around. Needless to say, receiving a pass to her favorite summer attraction made her birthday. But it wasn't just a pass for her. It was a pass for all four of us! Wow.... We were all going to the water park this summer. Yeah! Uh-huh. Oh....gee....

Water Country has spectacular features. If you like going down steep hills on rafts, inner tubes, foam mats or just your bathing suit, you will love the assortment of attractions. For someone brand new to the water park experience, not a swimmer and not a fan of going into new places, Water Country loomed as one more "dark, spooky closet" to check out for RJ2. Still, water rat that she is, we figured she love it.

R and I picked a date with time in advance to prepare. We told RJ2 we were going the week of. CJ took the visual schedule one step further and prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the park. [Would I ever kid you? I would post if Blogger had that option.] So, RJ2 had ample preparation for the big day. We laid out her swimsuit the night before. It's not every day you wake up and put on your swimsuit right after breakfast!

Of course, because this is how things happen in life, the afternoon before had brought one of our worst neighborhood pool outings this season. Too complicated a series of events in dynamics to explain, let's just say, we left early and no one was happy--no one! Was seriously hoping that today was a new day--in every respect!

We left the house in great shape--picnic lunches packed, suits on, sunscreen waiting to be applied. Got to the park in great time and spirits. Made it to the front gate. Then, a stumble! Even though we had told RJ2 there would be no "going inside" and it was only a gate, we were stuck. She could not get passed the blaring soundtrack coming through the loudspeakers. Steps away from fun--even access to the quick lanes, with our passes--but we couldn't budge.

We regrouped, moving to a less loud position and offering to cover her ears. She wanted so badly to just get beyond it. Then, as she has proven so many times this summer, she just said OK. And, screaming most of the way, we went through the gate. [Breathe....Breathe!] It was smooth sailing from there.

Today was supposed to be 101 in central VA. Crazy day to have picked to be at the water park! Lots of other folks had the same idea. But, it worked so well. We arrived at the opening, so we had our pick of the pools to play in, and everyone had a good time. R and CJ went off to ride on the larger flumes. RJ2 loved exploring the different pools, their mini-slides, little boats. Fountains, not so much! The freedom to explore shallow water was just the best.

After a trip down the park's Lazy River--two-person blow-up boats that move very slowly around a segment of the park--we broke for lunch. Then, we closed out the afternoon with the Hubba Hubba Highway and the wave pool. The wave pool has calm water for 8 or 9 minutes and constant waves for another 8 or 9 minutes. Cool! Then, we returned to the car, five hours from when we had started, and left for an uneventful drive back home. We figure the girls will soon fall asleep [yeah, right!], being so tired from a long, exciting day, while we're wondering how we are still awake--because we are tired--and why our legs and knees ache!

Looking back, by far, we had the biggest smiles on the Hubba Hubba Highway. Unlike the Lazy River, we donned life vests before entering this river ride, as the current moves at a strappin' pace! Jets shoot water from the sides--to keep the folks moving around the very long track--as well as from the bottom, occasionally and surprisingly! [Insert slightly embarrassed giggle here. Think Fraulein Maria sitting on the pine cone in the Von Trapp dining room.]

Various types of squirting devices and misters spray water on the participants as they quickly pass by. Signs, a la Burma Shave days, cover the sides of the track. We had the best time, zipping along, grabbing hands when we could, trying to steer against the current. Even RJ2, by the third time around, didn't mind getting rained on! She loved the feeling of freedom, even as she was moving much faster than she could control things.

I was really hoping that our adventure would turn out to be special family time. We don't get to go to "big" places together very often. But our time on the Hubba Hubba Highway--and spending a super-hot day in a wonderfully cool, wet water park--together, will be remembered and talked about for weeks to come.

Although there were so many "picture perfect" memories, we didn't want to bring a camera into the park. Just too much to think about with doing that. So, there are no actual pictures of our visit. But, since it's hard for me to blog without a photo....

I made one.

Greetings from Water Country USA! 'Til next time....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crumblin' Down

Artwork by CJ

Last week was so incredibly busy! The whole family was split up!! Even though R traveled more miles by flying, I felt like my east side-west side-all around the town pick-ups and drop-offs surely must have come close. Wow.... Things didn't really come to a pace of relaxation until after Sunday's bell-playing concluded. Enjoyed a very "regular" day today. Whew!....

Amidst the bustle of our busiest week this summer, there was a lot of cooking done last week. The gluten-free pantry was a bit bare. Even though I complained about having so much bread in the fridge, I copped the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude and made some gluten-free bread! Helped to finish off some cold cuts and condiments. (HA!) The best part about this was deciding to try the King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Bread mix--the best gluten-free bread I have had so far. Loved every single slice--especially toasted, but, not necessarily. That's how good it was! (Now, today, I made a mistake and bought K.A. G-F FLOUR mix. OOPS! Fortunately, K.A. has directions for making bread with the flour mix on their website. Of course, it's not as good as the bread mix. Doh!!)

R left us three of his bananas when he left town. RJ2 helped me make some very tasty G-F banana muffins--half with chocolate chips. She eats one of those every day!

And with the cool breeze blowing--yes, this was last week, when the cool breeze was blowing, and I was cooking like it was Fall outside!--I peeled up the last apples from the beach trip and whipped up a crumble. Because, any day can be a crumble day! (And I think some of last week's truly were. "Crumblin', crumblin' -- dowwwwwnnnnnn.....")

Grabbed the last of the strawberries and tossed them in. (I love this gadget! I asked for a strawberry huller for my birthday, and this crazy syringe-looking thing is the coolest huller ever. Works great on tomatoes as well. And, since strawbs season is wrapping up, it's getting much more use with tomatoes now.)

Last of a bag of frozen raspberries? Sure, why not. Dried cherries. Oh, yeah!

And the crumble part--G-F oats, brown sugar, butter....

You know when it's done when the juices overrun the sides. No, not really, but.... YUM! Have been enjoying it with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt--trying to use up both, actually. What really makes it is being able to heat it up, to re-live the just-out-of-the-oven experience. Unfortunately, the microwave is shot, and I just don't feel like heating up one more thing on the stove at the end of the day. But, it's fine cold, too. (Gosh, we really did used to heat up things without microwaves once. So spoiled!)

* * *

One more apple story....

Our neighbors planted an apple tree in their front yard a couple of years ago. It is a really nice tree now but, they have struggled with keeping their fruit. No, not a bug problem. Not a mold/fungus problem. Not even a kid problem! No, the squirrels have pretty much claimed the tree theirs. Most nights, while we're eating dinner, I spot a squirrel with a huge chunk of bright green in his mouth. You would think he would dine at the source. But, no, it's take-out, every night--on top of our swing set!

We have since found parts of apples stashed all over the yard. I found a large uneaten one buried under a pile of leaves! But, the funniest find so far has been the one that was left on the swing set the other night.

Mrs. Cardinal, enjoying herself some apple crumble....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rainout at the Diamond

One of the small nuggets of excitement in this town in the past few years has been the return of minor league baseball to Richmond. The Richmond Flying Squirrels have provided great evenings of fun since making here in central VA. Recall last summer's awesome Fourth of July fireworks night in which we received Chick-fil-A coupons for sandwiches when a Squirrel hit a ball into the "fowl" pole. Sweet!

Last Friday night, R and CJ had tickets for the game. They were hopeful to see Bryce Harper, a young phenom who has been playing for the Harrisburg Senators--a farm club of the Washington Nationals, our root-root-root for the home team. The Senators were to play the Squirrels, and Friday night was the start of the home stand. Except for this....

Even though the P.A. announcers were optimistic that baseball would be played, the radar map suggested something quite different. No, there would be no baseball. In fact, many hours later, R would discover that Bryce Harper was not even at the Squirrels' ballpark on Friday. He had been whisked away by management to another event on the west coast! Even if a pitch had commenced, Bryce Harper would not have been there to take a whack at one.

The Friday night outing was not a total loss, however, as ice cream was enjoyed in the stands, under that umbrella. And, CJ was inspired to write something really special....

Flashing lightning is the spotlight
for raindrops that dance in tap shoes.


they perform on a silver Acura
frozen at an intersection with a taco bell and a drug store
a sign flashes with a discount for shampoo


she sighs inside the car,
wrings out a pair of socks
and remembers:
waiting in a pair of green seats
for a game to begin that never will.
Under the shelter of a white and green umbrella
as more performers stream down from the heavens
their entrance proclaimed by drum rolls of thunder
climbing up dirty waterfalls on the stairs
wading through pools of puddles by the golden light of cars....
the light turns green
the stage moves elsewhere.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Know When to Fold 'em

It was the best of days. It was the worst of days.

Dickens knew something of the range of human emotion. But, what did he know about playing cards?

At the beach, I was "forced" into a hand of Texas Hold 'em--a kind of straight poker, but the dealer deals the cards to all to consider, not just to you. "Forced" in that someone in the family who was playing had to attend to another matter, and I was a body who walked into the wrong place at the right time. I'm not a good card player. And, those games that I have tried to learn recently have rules that completely conflict with straight poker, which I haven't played since, probably high school. Anyhoo....

In poker, there are very few rounds in which to make decisions. You are dealt a certain hand and have to decide how many rounds you will stay in to make the best hand possible when it's time for the big reveal. As Kenny Rogers sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em." Sometimes, you have to end your game early. "There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."

If you're following me on Facebook, you know this has been a bit of a tough week. The girls are both in summer programs, which were meant to be fun. CJ absolutely loves her creative arts classes at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. She finishes up her studio time on Friday afternoon, and it will be a sad "so long" until we can find another something to send her to downtown. She is so full creatively, and I'm thinking this burst of energy will carry her straight into the start of school, so long as she continues to use what she has learned. She has lots of materials and ideas. Writer's block? Maybe never again! Good stuff!!

After summer school, RJ2 has been attending the county's day camp program. Things have not worked out as well, unfortunately. High highs--like walking into the bowling alley and bowling for the very first time! But, low lows, too. Things are new. People are new. Same environment, but different schedule. Just not able to work things out in this short time span. Last night in my FB post, it boiled down to those lyrics.

The dealer had given out the cards, and I know what makes for a winning hand. But, RJ2 is chance. The first cards had not even a pair. The dealer laid down the next card. An ace of hearts, for sure, in a hand that showed promise for raising. But, again, RJ2 is chance, and the next card left an empty hand once again.
No one else was raising, but did it make better sense to fold, leaving with what chips we had earned this week or to stay in and look at the next card?

Decided to fold and walk away. Not run.... Lots of people had made an investment into this week, and running wouldn't be right. We're going to finish out the camp week--with ice cream today. But, the uphill learning curve, the anxiety, the lack of happiness on everyone's faces.... It was time to fold and walk away.

Hard for me, being the one just playing the hand. I can't see over the dealer's shoulder much less direct chance by seeing the cards in the stack. But, I still have to hold the cards and play the hand. Sometimes, the best move for all really is to fold and walk. I still struggle with that, because it seems like I really have left the game early. But, there's a cost to consider, and I decided it just wasn't worth it, this time....

There will be another chance to ante up sometime. There are lots of tables at which to play. Not looking for one with better odds, necessarily, but one at which we can all play and leave with a few more chips than at the table we played before.

Friday, July 8, 2011


As much as I try to prepare for going away--lists and multiple errands and such, there are always things I have in mind to do that don't get done. Like, washing the windows or cutting the girls' hair.

Really, the haircuts should have been moved up closer to the top of the list, given how much hair you see on the floor! (And that's only RJ2's hair!) By the end of our time at the beach, her hair was almost completely covering her eyes.

Yeah, you mean there are eyes under there?

Not a fan of the haircut, RJ2 did get to pick which room in the house she wanted her hair cut, and picked the empty dining room. (CJ, on the other hand, always picks a room in which she has access to the TV. "Chopped" during her, um, chop, I guess.) RJ2 definitely does not have my hair, in that hers is super thick. It takes a long time to do it well (that being a subjective term).

After I brushed her off, she quickly ran to the bathroom to look in the mirror. Then, in her way of styling, put water on the front pieces to part and flatten as she likes it. Hmm..... So glad it's trimmed for the summer, finally!

CJ's is trimmed, too. Long, long, long--as in, almost time to consider a send-off for donation. Having hair more like mine makes it a little quicker to cut. But, it's harder to make it a smooth look all the way around when you don't have as much hair to play with. She would rather I just leave it all be until donation time. A little trim every now and again will help it meet that 8-inch requirement sooner. I'm thinking she might make 10 inches this next time. Woo!

Besides still trying to get the house back together, I've been trying to find ways to clean out the fridge. When we return from the beach house, our house is the place that receives the leftovers from the beach fridge. The leftover meal items tend to go quickly, as do pantry snacks and any desserty items that weren't consumed at breakfast on check-out day. The problem is with the accumulated condiments. If I tagged my posts, I could find the one that talks about condiments. They are a challenge.

As much as I don't want to make too much new food, sometimes it's a necessity, just to finish off the condiments--which, I have been told by my sisters, do not last forever. ("Don't put those in a box and bring them to the beach next year!" I sense some kind of George Carlin bit developing here....)

So, I made potato salad for dinner, with leftover mayonnaise and mustard, and fresh rosemary from our little herb collection. Nothing spectacular, but it used up a half-finished jar of mayo--yes!! I also made RJ2 homemade cinnamon French toast sticks out of the plethora of bready items that have accumulated. This is when being gluten-free is really tough. So much bread. So many leftovers I can't finish.

"Throw it out!"
"But you can't eat it."
"So. I can make it into...something someone else can eat."
(The look)
"I can make bread...cookies! Yeah...."

Watch me! (gulp!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crafty Fun

Settling back into routine after another amazing family vacation week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ah.... Mounds of dirty laundry folded and put away now affords me a few minutes to sit down and recall yesterday.

RJ2 has started summer school, which, after two days--and two alarm clocks that have gone unanswered in the morning--is going as well as can be expected. She starts Parks and Recreation camp next week in addition to school, so she's got lots of fun and busy days in store.

CJ and I went to church yesterday to help with the "Mix as Usual" program. "Mix" is a neat thing. Older women in the church mentor younger women in crafty endeavors, like sewing, knitting and card-making. They also enjoy food and fellowship time. During this past year, I was one of their childcare helpers, freeing up the moms to fully participate unencumbered by leg-huggers.

The summer "Mix" offering is open to moms and their kids. CJ and I each facilitated a craft table, two of five presented to the group. CJ operated "Crayon Cupcakes," her well-known project of turning broken crayons into recycled cupcake-shaped crayons for giving to the Free Market--an outreach program benefiting an impoverished segment of Richmond needing a hands-up with basic needs. CJ wants those children to be able to be creative, and she hopes these crayons are a tool to help them.

I manned an origami table, using all of CJ's resources! Actually, when CJ's table wasn't busy--and, even when it was--I asked her to come over to demonstrate some origami projects I hadn't prepared but the kids requested doing. She was WONDERFUL in handling all of these kids' requests. Such a fun demeanor she has with these little ones--even making paper airplanes. (Hard to believe that's actually in the origami book!)

A great time was had by all who came out. Moms were peeling crayons and pretty much exhausted CJ's supply. You can see the results above, to be added to a collection CJ has already started. I helped two girls make several different projects, and then sent links of helpful origami sites home to the moms for more fun.

The best moment was when a young boy asked to make a rocket. Had no instructions for an origami rocket. But, the instructions for the frog had a picture halfway through that resembled a rocket. What a wonderful display of creative thinking in this one. He took the instructions that far and had a great rocket! A made-my-day moment!!

OK. Thunder is picking up. Still some laundry to fold. Off for now....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday's mail is here!

Quick update, since there's not much time left in today....

Fridays are always great. The schedule gets lax, though, as we spend an extra long time with everything--beach time, pool time, meals, family pictures, and the dreaded packing up to go home. So, I have to keep it short and get ready to pack up some food and stuff!

RJ2 enjoyed another splendid day at the beach--sitting in a bed of shells (which she really, really likes!) and throwing wet sand into the ocean. CJ was on the board and really didn't want to get off it! That's her with my Dad in the video. (As for me, I have video of my boogie board run on my Facebook page, thanks to a link from my sister.)

Like I said, keepin' it simple. I'm beat!! Slow trip home tomorrow.....