Wednesday, February 28, 2007


In the Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, Spock does his vulcan mind meld with Bones, uttering one word -- Remember. And at the end of the movie Spock is dead, the audience is in tears of disbelief, and Bones is left with an odd look about him.

This is how I feel sometimes when I look at my husband. And it was while watching a Star Trek marathon that this idea hit me. It's not that my husband has pointy ears, or that he gets me in weird holds during pivotal times during our relationship. It was the word remember.

I need to remember when I walk into the house after running the girls every which way to every activity under the sun and the kitchen counters are stacked with filthy dishes. I need to remember that it is my husband that bathes our children, reads to them nightly without uttering the tired excuses that flow from my mouth, takes on homework assignments and tantrums that I have already dismissed, and rises to my defense when my voice is two notches above normal. It is my husband who, knowing full well the cost ineffectiveness of maple sugaring, built me a sugar shack, gets the propane tanks filled, and rises with me at 4 AM to start the boil. It is my husband who barely comments on how many evenings I am out due to school, church, writing, town commitments, or the fact we are having ptcakes surprise stew/soup/casserole for dinner for the third night in a row.

I need to remember love doesn't always come in flowers, candy, cards, and jewelry. I need to remember the sugar shack lights that just appeared one day, the question, "When are we going to paint the new shelves?", and the hand that warmly holds mine as we drift off to sleep.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The sap is sweet

Maple sap looks like water, and usually it tastes like water. This year, it's sweet. At first I thought it was my imagination. You know, mind over matter, if I think it's sweet it will taste sweet. So after the first taste, I tasted again, and again. Then I asked the girls to taste it.

"Is this sweet or my imagination?"

They tasted. "It's sweet."

Maple sap is on average 4% sugar. That's the average. Some species of maple tree produce sap that is only 1 or 2 percent sugar. And I've read that during outstanding runs the sap can be 7% sugar. I think we are having one of those outstanding runs. And I fear it will be short lived.

My hypothesis, (I used to be scientist you know), is the sap is sweeter due to the warmer winter. And if you look closely at the leaf buds, you'll see that they are slightly swollen. In other words, one good warm sunny spell and the leaves will be out, and so will the maple sugaring season. Time will tell.

In the meantime, full of anticipation of our first boil, I am enjoying collecting the sweet sap. And everyday when we are out, I take a taste. And everyday, like the day before, I say, "It's sweet. Taste it. Does it taste sweet to you?"

The girls smile, and say, "Yes, mom. It's sweet this year."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mother - Daughter Quilt

I'll be the first to admit I had doubts about surviving February break. The girls had one snow day this year. And after the initial 20 minutes of glee, it was sibling rivalry to the max. So much so, I threatened to send them to school, with or without teachers. So, 5 days home, actually 9 days -- including the weekends, seemed daunting.

Usually, February break we have big plans. Multiple overnights to see friends in Pennsylvania. Leisure stays with aunts and uncles down the Cape. We even went to Florida one year. This year we were home. I started frantically planning. One day at the Science Museum, (after reading the museum vacation week survival guide), visiting a friend and her new baby one morning, a walk with another friend on another day. The schedule was far from full. But shouldn't vacations be that way.

Then the request came. "Mom, can we make a quilt?"

I don't sew, nevermind quilt. Oh, I keep a sewing machine in our attic, but it's mainly to prove that I am indeed a mom. Much the same as the package of Swiffers I keep at the ready. Incase the urge to dust arises.

Then the response, "Sure, we can give it a try."

We pulled out the bag of scrap material my expert quilter mother sent over; just in case the girls want to start a project. We pulled out and Swiffered off the sewing machine. Amazingly, it worked. Everything laid out and ready, my quilting partner opted to watch a movie.

"No worries," I said. "Go head, I'll just see how this is all going to work."

Three hours later, I'm still at the machine, working a green motif, when my partner emerges from her movie.

"Is that movie really that long?" I asked.

"No," she sheepishly replied. "I missed a spot, so I used scene selection and then played it again."

She must've replayed it from the opening credits.

Anyway... we started her quilting in purples and pinks. For three days, okay more like the better part of two and a half days, we measured, cut, sewed, ironed, and tied. And in the end we had a wonderful February break, and a mother - daughter quilt to remember it by.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Art with words?

with my last post, that
I could make shapes by centering the
words on the lines. Interesting,
probably only to me. After all
what is a stay-
to do
break with
her children
home from
school? What
projects can
we start only to not finish?
quilting, x-stitching, knitting, baking, painting, sugaring

Space Needle

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My First Sock

This whole foot thing reminds me of Cape Cod. Where that little bit of skin represents the canal & the toe, Provincetown. My favorite part is the instep. There the tide goes out for miles, making for great beachcombing.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It Starts

I tapped today. I went to old reliable, drilled a hole and the sap ran. Very sweet, sweet sap. Slowly... but it was there. So I tapped all our trees. Ten taps. With all the sacredness usually reserved for a Sunday, I drilled, hammered and hung buckets.

The other intown sugarer agreed with me, that this was it. I was so happy to hear he'd be tapping. Health issues had kept him from sugaring for two years. And lucky me, he'll be over sometime to see our set up. There are so few of us; us sugarers need to stick together.

In January, if you asked me if there was going to be a season this year, I could not have given you a hopeful answer. The delightful warm weather was rushing in spring. A circumstance that is not good for sugaring. Now that the taps are set, I suspect the season will be quite short, with the buds ready to burst from the warm January.

Still, this is the best time of the year. I can't wait to light the burner and start the process of turning sap into syrup.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I'm so dizzy. My head is spinning.

When I was growing up there was a popular song with those lyrics. And today, those words ring ever so true.

I just got in from sledding with the little ones. My hair is still wet from the snow, but I had to write.

For the record, I love sledding. However, I'm dizzy because every time I try to play with both little ones, they both whine.

"You let her ride on your sled more."

"I want to be in the middle."

"You don't love me. I know it -- you let her hold onto your sled handle."

"That's the second time she's been at the end of the train. I want the end."

And the crying. I told them we were going to winter in Alaska. "That'll teach you. Crying over nothing will get you frozen eyeballs." It didn't work.

Finally, after 1.5 hours of sledding fun, my head spinning, almost exorcist-style, I called it quits. "I'm in girls."

"Why?" (insert more tears here.)

"My crying quota is full. I need to go... knit." Right after I write all this down. So that the child-free folks that read this blog will know, once again, that they have made the right decision. And those that have children, will come over and partake in the only wining I love.

I'll be skipping the stemware, and drinking from the usual tumbler.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Craned Neck Syndrome

When I was a post-doc at Cornell, just starting to work in the field of computer-aided drug design with some of the brightest minds in solid state physics, my mentor in computers and life, Marty, would often find me hunched over the keyboard, working though the numbers and crying. Crying, you ask, why would you be crying?

Yes, crying, because I wasn't up to speed with the boys in physics. I couldn't weld the numbers like they could. They had the magic. My project was basically pro-bono. And I suspect the boys kept me around, like some people take in a persistent stray dog that won't leave their back porch.

It all started when I sat in on a course in pseudopotential theory with a girl friend who needed physics credits to graduate. Sure, I'll help. Why not, I loved the watered down quantum mechanics I had taken as both an undergrad and graduate student. I had the time in my schedule to take the course, and access to a VAX we could use to run the software for the one exam. What I didn't count on was the full blown mental love affair I would be completely and totally consumed by.

The modelling of electronic interactions, specifically those involved in hydrogen bonding was my heroin. To say, I couldn't get enough of it, is an understatement. I read and reread books on local density approximation. I forced calculus and differential equations down my throat. I set up computer jobs to run, whenever a computer was available, 24 hours a day. When I was in the groove, I worked 20 hours a day, in a windowless room, without a worry or a care for the outside world. I paid my own way to go to conferences and courses on the latest ways to model electronic interactions. I would do anything to learn anything about my love. And I was crying.

Marty was adamant. "You suffer from Craned Neck Syndrome."

I asked her, "Is it fatal?"

She replied, "It can be."

I rolled my head on my shoulders. My neck was a bit stiff, but my head was still attached. "What's the symptoms?"

"You are so focused on where those boys are. Those boys, who have been eating, breathing, living, solid state physics for years, that you can't see how far you've come in these few short months. You're on a learning ladder. You're up 7,000 rungs above the earth, but that doesn't matter, because all you see are the 16,000 rungs between you and the boys. Enjoy where you are. Enjoy the learning."

Words to live by.

I don't do local density approximation anymore. But writing about it here, has stirred up so many emotions and memories. I could cry all over again. I'll never forget what it was like to be invited to give a seminar on my work to some solid state physicists. It was in Belgium, where I got to speak in both French and English. I was in heaven... French and physics.

But the point of this essay is, when you don't think you or your life is getting anywhere, stop and look at where you are. Look all around you. Look at your accomplishments. Look where you've come from. We are always growing, changing, learning. Enjoy the process. Appreciate every step of the way.

Thanks, Marty.

Friday, February 16, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like sugaring

Just in case you don't get a chance to look at, the long range forecast is calling for temperatures to rise into the 40's on Feb. 21st. We could be tapping trees in six days.

Joy of joys.

My Idea of Heaven

In my heaven there is someone who will cook for me: breakfast, lunch, dinner... snacks too. Someone who will look through all those wonderfully trendy food magazines, finding the recipes that I would love to eat, and tastefully create them. I want to relax right up until the moment the food passes my lips. No more planning meals, running around making sure the main dish and side dishes are ready at the same time, or charging off to the store for a missing ingredient. I don't want to hear my cherubs complaining they have to set the table. That it's too much work and they're tired. Heck, in heaven -- it would be nice to have the table set too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I did it... dragging my keyboard by it's feet. I figured the day couldn't get much worse since I've ruined dinner, broke the shed door, and am this close to sending some of my children to school, and it's a NO SCHOOL day. I told them not to worry, the teachers should be there in the morning.

Instead we picked up the living room and we are now elbow deep into making cupcakes. (See the advantage of having the computer in the kitchen. You can blog at the drop of a fork.) I got a hug... maybe DSS won't be knocking on my door after all.

Happy Valentines Day!
And if you got flowers from your husband, I'm not talking to you anymore.

Snow Day, Snow Day, La La La La La

I wonder if I'll be singing at the end of the day...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Help Blogger is attempting to force me to upgrade!!

I'm from the old school: If it's not broken, don't fix it.

For me, this old time blogger set up works just fine. I log in. I scribble down a few words. I read a few blogs and leave comments; life is good. So for me, I just as soon stay right here in old-time land.

Tonight we've been watching the Star Trek movie that has the Borg. And I've had hours of listening to "Resistence is futile!" Well, Borg and Blogger, my resistence is in the works. Twice now, I've squirrelled my way around in the UI (User Interface) and found holes that will allow me to blog on. (Care to hire me to do QA?)

Of course, this is great for my QA (Quality Assurance) ego. I always loved, and still love to find holes in the code. They brighten my day. It's amazing that a page looks the same in your browser, (Netscape or IE), but depending on how you got there, it can be composed of many different parts that are pulled from various files or values in a database. These inconsistencies lead to holes in the programming. And that is the end of our lesson this evening.

Blog On!

Breakfast, Lunch or Editting

With three children, all school age, my mornings are at best chaotic and at worst, a war torn battlefield of family life. I hit the kitchen running, with thoughts of getting breakfasts and lunches gathered before 7 AM. For at 7, it's time to head upstairs to wake the cherubs. SO, tell me, why am I trying to edit a short story I've been working on for weeks?

I have three lunch bags poised and open, waiting for lunch material. There are two salami sandwiches half made lying on the counter, and a package of juice boxes sitting next to the mayo. Two cereal bowls holding a spoon and a vitamin sit on the kitchen table. A toast is well on its way to black, and the tea kettle is whistling, while I'm reading Niblet comments and picking my way through last week's writing group submission.

Thank God, my eldest gets her own lunch and breakfast.

But I'm here, at the computer...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Thermometer Watching

Everyday it's the same thing, wake up, find my glasses, log onto the Weather Channel. It will be this way for a while I suspect. It's funny how the thermometer runs our lives, and our sleep. In December and January panic ran through my veins, Would there be a sugaring season? Now with temperatures holding in the 20's and low 30s I wonder, When will it start?

Last year we we had incredibly warm weather in January. So much so, on Feb. 4th we went out to tap one tree to see what was happening, and the sap was running. So we tapped them all. It was a full three weeks earlier than the year before. Now this year... I look at the 10 day forecast, and wait for the temperatures to shift. As of today, we won't be tapping until after Feb. 21st.

Usually, the rule of thumb is to tape in March. So it's still early. There is still time. But it's coming. Soon there will be the sweet smell of maple in the air, and fresh lovely syrup for our pancakes. I am dying for a hot cup of half-syrup. It's a different world when your day starts outside at 4 AM. Except for the hissing of the boil, there is not a sound. No cars. And then the sun comes up. Be still my heart.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Deadline for a life line

In order to get Aaron Stein his birthday wishes on time, (March 10th is his 21st birthday), today is the day to get all those cards and letters in the mail.

So, here is Aaron's address again:

SPC Aaron Stein
HHC, 1-501
FOB Iskan
APO AE 09312-0506

Send cards, and send them often!

Happy 21st Birthday Aaron!

Of course, when it comes to celebrating birthdays I'm all for a month long gala. So, if you can't get the card in the mail today -- next week sometime is fine too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

As the Heel Turns

"What do you want for Christmas?"


"What do you want for your birthday?"


"What do you want to knit?"


Detect a pattern here? My mom knits the best socks. Three years ago she knit each of us a pair of socks for Christmas. At my last Birthday I begged for another pair. I wear them whenever they are out of the wash, and I do laundry everyday. Or at least it seems that way. And as you might have gathered, the most requested gift from this mom to my mom is socks. So when I started knitting, it was with the goal to knit socks.

As I've gotten older I feel less thwarted by my own personal limitations. For example, knitting socks. I might not know how to turn a heel, or even understand what the pattern is telling me to do, but I can knit the cuff and start the foot. And that is where I am. I have the cuff, and most of the heel done. I don't understand how to turn the heel. Since we talk most days, I asked my mom about the instructions. She replied, "My pattern doesn't do the turn that way."

I got the pattern from my sister-in-law in Vermont, another great knitter. So perhaps a roadtrip or at the very least a phone call is in order, but for laughs here is what the directions say:

Row 1: Purl 18, p2 together, p1, turn
Row 2: slip; 1 as if to purl, k5, slip 1 as if to knit, slip 1 as if to knit, knit the two slipped stitches together (ssk), k1, turn
Row 3: slip 1, p6, p2tog, p1 turn
Row 4: slip, k7, ssk, k1, turn
Row5: slip 1, p8, p2tog, p1, turn... Strange enough, I can follow this.

Here is the problem... Continue working in this manner until all stitches have been worked. The last row worked should be a knit row.

I looked up worked in the dictionary, and there are no further instructions listed. So... my plan is to start the heel and pray for an all will be revealed moment.

At every turn, life is a learning experience.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My First Quilt Square

The St. George Parish Crafters for Christ are now making a quilt. So here is the first quilt square I have ever made. It's hand stitched, but don't be so impressed. I had a lot of help from my mom, who is an expert quilter. Domestic talent runs in my family. My grandmother, aunt, mother, and sister could/can make a stunning ball gown from a pile of rags. And for 46 years, it seemed I had missed the boat or at least all that training. But through the Crafters for Christ knitting project -- A 100 Scarves for Christmas, I learned to knit and with this quilting project, I just might learn to quilt.

Just call me a last bloomer. I guess it's better to be late than never.

Don't Feed the Mommy

Last fall I made a highly concerted effort to diet and exercise. It was either that or buy more clothes and enter self esteem classes. So with the girls back in school, I started walking and avoiding the high salty snack foods and breads I crave. On one of my walks I realized I'm a carboaholic.

So I was good. I stayed away from carbs and lost weight, fit back into my clothes and felt better about myself. Then the holidays hit. And I told myself it was okay to have, a cookie here, a cracker there, some cake and some pie. It's been months since the holidays and I'm still fighting to reign in my eating. My clothes are getting tighter, and I find my drive to exercise is waning.

More than once I've wondered if it's better to just give in. And then I remember how great it felt to have looser cargo pants. So, everyday I'll rewage the battle. Taking it a moment at a time.

Hi, my name is ptcakes and I'm a carboaholic. Please don't feed the mommy. Take her for a walk instead.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Still going on about that Camp In

Go ahead, ask me about my weekend. I hope you have a few hours to kill. I've actually thought about hanging out downtown so I would have a wider audience than the pedestrian traffic that crosses our driveway.

Despite all my ravings, there are people out there that don't completely love sleeping at a museum. This humorous article in theBoston Globe Suburban Diary that offers an opposing view.

That said, we didn't have any dropped toothbrushes, and all the chaperones and girls slept like the dead. All except the one that sat up around 4 AM. I was up, but remember I'm always up, and crawled over to her camping site to whisper, "Are you all right?"

"Yes," was her reply.

"Do you need to go to the bathroom?"


"Then lie back down and go back to sleep."

In the morning, I inquired, "Do you remember getting up last night?" I got the answer no.

Then there was the dreamy call for Mommy and the demand for some JUICE. Both I let go... not to pursue.

I loved watching the girls learn. Every exhibit we went to, they were like sponges -- soaking in everything. Dinosaurs, oragami, live animals, habitats, animation, model making, fish, the solar system, electricity. You name it about science, and they have it.

No worries, other Brownie Moms -- I'm right there, first in line to chaperone our next Science Museum Camp-In. Oh, and no -- (if you've read the Globe article) the chaperones didn't have those self inflating air mattresses; just good thermarest pads. The usual camping pads we use on our family's more traditional camping trips.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

First Self Photo

While sleeping over with the World's Greatest Brownie Troop at a Science Museum Camp In, I found myself awake at the usual time of 4 AM. Amazingly, I was in a totally fun induced walking dead state at midnight. Bad habits are tough to break.

Needless to say, the knitting came in handy. And while I was working away on my sock, in a bright spot, (ie very few lights were on), it dawned on me to attempt a photo.

A Museum Camp-In is one of the BEST field trips I have ever been on either as a participant or a chaperone. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bad Dream Bears

I had a visitor last night. After setting a backyard trap consisting of honey sticks, my middle one found herself trapped. A bear had chased her and her sisters up on to the top bunk. And when I came in to rescue them, the dream got fuzzy. Lucky for me. My middle one isn't the cozy one. She has all her answers to all her questions. But last night, thanks to a bear, I got to be there. I got to find out she's still baby soft, warm and snuggly. Smelling of freshly washed hair and flannel pjs.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I'm Knitting Socks

I did it! I started my first pair socks. Not with the most wonderful wool yarns that Squirrel Lady or my sister-in-law gave me, but with some pretty okay stuff that self stripes.

Knitting socks is wonderful. The needles are so small you can take your project just about anywhere. Like to the Science Museum for a sleepover with the Brownies. Be still my heart, have knitting -- will chaperone.