Monday, November 30, 2009

Mutt Monday! Reunited and It Feels So Good.

Though they were in excellent care, our pups were pretty happy to see us come home on Monday. I know it's hard to make out, but this is a rapidly wagging tail:

I sat down on the floor to take pictures of the girls, and Boston make darn sure I didn't go anywhere.

Hokie was so happy to see her little snack wagon again. I'm fairly certain that if Hokie was a gardener and had to plant her own food, she'd plant baby humans.

It's good to be loved.

Even our Feline Overlord allowed petting (or in Joe's case, pulling and smacking--lovingly, of course).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Silent Sunday

We're preparing for our return trip home, so I wanted to share a few photos* of our holiday with you. And now back to our regularly scheduled frantic exercise programs to burn off the days and days of leftover pie for dinner.

*The in-focus photos courtesy of Dad.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Most Popular Thanksgiving Product: Couch Potatoes

After an epic meal prepared by my mother-in-law (one meal I don't have to cook), a spur-of-the-moment decision to hit the Black Friday sales at 4am, and long, late night out with old friends whom we only get to see once a year, we are officially pooped.

There are lots of pics and videos to be uploaded, but for now we are vegging out in front of the tube watching all of the college football games. I hope everyone is enjoying the turkey afterglow!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread Day!

Today was the official baking day for the friendship bread that I started 10 days ago (the starter miscalculation that left me with 10 starters to give away!). All in all, I think the journey from Oklahoma to Danville, VA was successful:
We baked 2 starter's worth and saved 2 more to freeze/give away. I'm fairly sure the reason you can make 2 loaves from one starter is because it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to eat nearly an entire loaf the second it comes out of the oven.

It's fun baking in my mother-in-law's kitchen at Thanksgiving because we always blast the Christmas tunes. It's NEVER to early for Christmas tunes, I think (much to the annoyance of my poor college roommates). This year I danced around with Joe to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" while we waited for the bread to cool off.

I don't know which was better; the bread or the dancing. I think he liked it too.

I hope everyone else's bread turned out well! Please let me know if you were baking today! (Link for recipe is here, in case you need it.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nature Adjacent

After a whole day spent in airports/the car, I needed to get back outside and soak in some fall. There is nothing as spectacular as fall on the East Coast, where there is actually TREES and LEAVES and COOL, CRISP AIR and all those things that one traditionally associates with the autumn season. Not that I haven't enjoyed fall in Oklahoma, but it's just not the same.

We decided to take a walk around the now closed Dan River Mill. The old textile mill was the major employer of the people of Danville, VA for over 100 years. Much of the major infrastructure of the downtown area centered around the mill, like housing for mill workers, personnel offices, etc. When the textile company faced bankruptcy several years ago and subsequently was bought by an Indian chemical company, what to do with the empty mill buildings became a subject of heated debate in the community. Eventually, it was agreed to tear down the buildings and salvage as much material as possible to be used in other projects around the country.

We took a walk near the Schoolfield Mill section on Saturday, and I couldn't help but notice that throughout the various ruined structures, there were little glimpses of nature reclaiming the space.
This is the worker's parking lot across from the entrance to the mill. Besides the warping of the asphalt, the growth of grasses and weeds through the cracks is fairly impressive.

I love how the massive pine trees mirror the spacing of the old smokestacks.

This is the turnstile that workers went through every day to get to work. It also reminded me of pine tree branches.

This little tree was growing underneath the mill's electrical substation. It clearly has grown up since the mill closed, which is pretty remarkable considering it never would have been there if the substation still directed power to all of the mill buildings.

I was struck by the almost bovine colors of this rusting structure (housing for heating/cooling? I'm not an engineer, obviously):

See the holes worn into the rusted sections? I made up a little story to myself about how they were broken down by birds who now use them for shelters, but that is probably my overactive imagination again. Speaking of nests:

There were nests EVERYWHERE! I was so surprised--it's as if the people moved out and the birds moved in. I loved the way the seed pods (whirly-gigs) decorated this tree. I took some home with me to see if I can grow my own whirly-gig tree in Oklahoma.

If you look closely, you can see that this pile of bricks and structural elements (which has been there for about a year) is covered in grass. Yes, grass has literally grown up over the wreckage. Will this pile ever be moved, or will future civilizations find it after they excavate the area?

It should be said that we obviously were not able to walk throughout the site. There was a tall fence that kept me walking and positioning myself to try to come up with interesting photo angles (and, alas, hindering my efforts in most cases). I was interested in the way the fence played a role in the following two photos.

It looks as if this felled tree bough was trying to escape the mill, with half on either side of the fence. And this is my favorite:

This gorgeous little vine was growing (and blooming) along the outer fence. I could say something about hope or opening windows accompanying closed doors here, but I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

On a personal note, I snapped this picture of three generations of Cook/Thorntons (Joe, Dad & MaWat) huddled outside of the mill that sustained recent ancestors:

In a few years the rest of the mill will be torn down and our son will be grown up. Of course, I can't help but wonder what he'll find if he ever decides to return to this site.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mutt Monday--Neighbors!

I know it's probably bad form to defy convention so soon in the Mutt Monday tradition, but there are PUPPIES involved, so I don't think you will mind, right dear readers? This week we're featuring doggies that are decidedly NOT mutts, but because their people are watching our mutts while we are at Grandma's for Thanksgiving, we wanted to show them some love. PUPPY Onto the pics.

These pictures were taken while our neighbors were on vacation and we had the great pleasure of taking care of their pups. They are Miniature Australian Shepherds, and in these pics they were only 3 weeks old. We LOVED having them for a week, but Joe thought the feeling of their little paws on his skin was kind of strange:

They wanted to suck on his toes. It was very amusing. Their mama is a gorgeous girl named Zoe, and she is an even more relentless ball-fetcher than Hokie.
If you want to learn more about these amazing little pups, check out their homepage here. I wish we could spend a week with every litter.
Our other doggie neighbor that we had the pleasure of playing with while his folks were away is little Brownie:

He's an enthusiastic little Yorkie who was so busy sniffing around my kitchen I could hardly get him to stand still enough to take this pic. And while the Wat Ranch has a very strict no-dogs-on-on-the-furniture rule, we did make an exception for this little guy. Not all lapdogs are yappy and annoying. Some, like Brownie are cuddly and sweet.

That's it for this week, folks. Big thanks to Zoe's people and Brownie's people for taking care of Boston, Hokie, and their feline overlord while we are gone. I hope they behave as well as your doggies did!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

God Gets a Lesson on Lawns

This is blatant blog theft. Hey, I'm on vacation. I stole this hilarious post from A Suburban Farmer, one of my new favorite gardening blogs. Having been raised in the 'burbs and being an unwilling laborer in my dad's quest for the perfect lawn, this made me laugh extra hard.


Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago?

I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.


It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.


Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?


Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.


The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.


Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.


They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?


Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.


They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?


No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.


Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?


Yes, Sir.


These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.


You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.


What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.


You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.


No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?


After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.


And where do they get this mulch?


They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.


Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?


‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about….


Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St Francis.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On Taking Care

I've recently been thinking a lot about the idea of "taking care of oneself" and the widespread ramifications of not taking care of oneself. With news stories about the growing obesity problems among all walks of American life and the choices that people are making regarding paying for health care in this economy, this has become a topic that is becoming harder to ignore.

What does it mean to "take care of yourself"? Does taking care of yourself involve waking up at 5am everyday to work out for hours, have a manicure on your lunch break, and then spend the evening meditating in your home zen garden? Or does it mean driving past the fast food restaurant in favor of a homemade lunch, taking a walk with family after dinner, and taking a long, hot bath every once in a while? How can one quantify "good" care versus "neglect" of oneself? Who can judge?

As a parent, I know that after 2 nights in a row of little sleep due to a teething baby, I am completely useless without a good nap. And by useless, I mean I can't focus on work and Joe can expect a "Yo Gabba Gabba" marathon. And therein lies my point, I think. As a mother, if my basic needs are not being met (food, sleep, shower) than the needs of my child (attention, activity) suffer as a result. It is fairly easy to see the care relationship in that example, but how common is this scenario? How often to parents today come home after work, toss a few frozen entrees into the microwave, and hunker down on the couch for some veg-out time until bed? It's not exactly an option for many families to have less than 2 full-time incomes, and with that comes full-time exhaustion. Where is the care in that?

At what point do we stop blaming our childhood customs for our adult problems? When the overweight 20-something who has no idea how to cook a nutritious meal for herself decides to fix a packet of Ramen noodles instead, is her mother to blame for not loving her enough to show her how to take care of herself? Is society to blame for placing so much emphasis on convenience and discount? Do we blame schools for offering products like Ramen noodles in a la carte lunch lines, therefore institutionalizing poor nutritional choices? Who is responsible when this girl one day becomes a mother and then begins the cycle all over with her own child?

On a macro level, are we as a society expected to begin taking care of each other financially? The controversy over "public options" for universal health care packages is directly related to this issue of responsibility for one's own care. As it is today, even with privatized health insurance, we often pay higher premiums because SO MANY people are on medications for conditions that could be controlled through taking better care of themselves. Since when did "medication" stop meaning something one takes when one is very ill to something one takes chronically to feel normal? The number of people in this country--especially young people--who are on daily medication is staggering.

Another issue that stems from this core question is the idea that we are supposed to be taking care of those who protect the population and their families. Our veterans are returning from war with not only physical wounds, but severe mental disturbances in record-breaking numbers; yet they are faced with bureaucracy and self-imposed humiliation when they attempt to treat their issues. In many cases they turn instead to self-destructive behavior, which is one way to "take care" of the problem. How are we, the citizens of the country they are fighting for, supposed to live up to our end of the bargain when it is sometimes easier to ignore? Sure we all know someone who has been deployed, but how far should we as individuals be expected to go in taking care of those who serve? Vote on legislation? Volunteer at the VA? Thanking a vet at the airport? How much should we consider what these vets go through to be "just part of their job" because they "signed up for it" and we didn't? Like parents and other guardians, it's sometimes most easy to take it for granted that these folks will always be around to take care of us, regardless of how we treat them on an individual level.

As are most things in life, I believe these issues are utterly cyclical. I posted the following thought in a tweet the other day, and I think I am going to strive to make it a new personal motto: "We should strive to take better care of ourselves. Failing that, we have no choice but to take better care of each other."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Picture Post: A Literary Mind

Over the river and through the woods...

The Wat family is headed to Gramma's house, so there will be no written post today. Please check back later a picture post, and many safe travels during this holiday week!

-KaiWat, BillWat, & JoeWat

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deep November

While we wait patiently for the temperatures to drop ever-so-slowly to the freezing point, the Animal Kingdom of the plains seem to be soaking in every drop of Indian summer.

The birds are reluctant to make the trek south.
The butterflies insist on drinking the very last drops of nectar to be found.

The cat languishes in the abundant, slanted afternoon sun.

Everything I have read suggests a harder than normal winter to come, but I guess I shouldn't believe everything I read. What are things like in your neck of the woods this deep into November?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Family Affair: Cloth Diapers

I chose to post on this topic because as we travel for the holiday next week, we will be forced to use the evil disposable diapers (not because there aren't products out there made for traveling green, I just was too late to buy them before our trip), so I thought I'd put some good diaper karma out there. I also wanted to help dispel the misconceptions that cloth diapers are still the old piece-of-fabric-and-safety-pins models that weren't waterproof and were picked up by a cleaning service. Please. Do you think I'd do something if it wasn't easy, modern, and cute?

WARNING: This post involves a discussion of BABY POOP and how we get rid of it. To make up for it, I've dispersed adorable photos throughout to keep things fun.
Although our friends and family thought we were gluttons for punishment and too "crunchy" for our own good (and maybe even a bit gross), Bill and I decided to use cloth diapers on our son. We did this for the following reasons:

1. Over time, it is cheaper to buy 24 cloth diapers than thousands and thousands of disposable diapers.
2. It is more convenient to have diapers on hand at all times than drive into town (25-30 minutes) when we're low.
3. The obvious environmental savings of keeping chemical-laden diapers and poo out of landfills and our water supply.

The cloth diapers of today are cute, functional, easy to clean (no, our washing machine does not smell like poop), and hardly ever leak. We LOVE BumGenius One-Size* cloth diapers because they can be adjusted to fit throughout the entire diapering period.

*I'm not compensated by BumGenius, I just love the product. I pulled this picture from the CottonBabies website.

After we wash the diapers (I do a load every 2 days or so) we stuff them so they are ready to go at the changing table. Sometimes Joe "helps" like he did tonight:
Sometimes some of the diapers even make it back to the changing table.

We also use homemade cloth wipes. When Joe outgrew all of his tiny newborn receiving blankets, I cut them up into squares. I whip up a spray with a little baby soap, some baby oil, and water and we spritz the wipes as we use them. I know it sounds crazy, but after using disposable wipes and having to fish them out of the diapers and then have them sit in the trash (do you know how long it takes to fill a trash can with just wipes?), the cloth wipes are SO much easier.
It's all about setting up a system. We use a regular plastic trashcan with a lid and a waterproof pail liner that we throw right into the wash with the diapers. There's a little patch of felt in the bag that I sprinkle with lavender and tea tree oil to eliminate smells.
And the KEY to removing "solids" from the diapers is a sprayer we hooked up to our toilet so there is no touching the nasty stuff.
Best of all (for me) is that this is all Daddy-approved. My husband is wonderful, but he feels the same way about poop as these guys:

But even my poop-hating husband (and babysitter, visitors, etc.) feel like cloth diapers are easy (been using the same ones for 8+ months). There's is a huge wealth of information over at the CottonBabies blog, but I just wanted to add my $.02.