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[Comments] (15) : After a wild four months preparing nearly thirty job applications, sending Dave to interview at six universities, and weighing three offers, we have made a final decision. We have accepted an assistant professor appointment in the Reubin O'D. Askew School of Public Adminstration and Policy at Florida State University. Yay, Dave! Way to go! It really is a fabulous opportunity. I am very pleased. Tallahassee, here we come!

[Comments] (2) : I am attempting to clear a few things out of our apartment. I finally got around to taking Atticus' walker (needed for recovery after surgery in spring 2005) for donation at the Kansas Equipment Exchange. After his surgery, Atticus was cheered by decorating his new walker with scores of Batman and Spiderman stickers. Today I asked Jim (with KEE) if they would likely remove them. No way. Jim was delighted that some little person in Kansas would have such a cool walker.

I will be glad not to trip over the thing any longer.

[Comments] (3) : "Mom, Mom, Mom," Atticus begs for help with his bag of library books, "You have more arms than I do!"

[Comments] (5) Atticus Funnies: I've had the stomach flu and a mild fever, and spent most of the weekend lying on the couch eating saltines and sipping Canada Dry and Gatorade. Atticus was very jealous that he had to eat his saltines in the kitchen, and he tried to negotiate eating them in the living room. He whined to Dave "Why does Mom get to eat in the living room?" He answered, "Well, first of all, she is the mama. Second of all, she is sick!"

"Awww," he protested, "But only 'low-grade!'"

[Comments] (2) West Coast Breeze: I'm visiting my cousins, Susie and John, and their precious new baby beet (aka Maggie Sue) in Costa Mesa, CA. I'm enjoying the pace here, the quiet and focused energy. After all, what more important tasks do we all have but eat, sleep, cuddle? I'll neglect to include poop in that list, though there is a lot of that going on, too. My mom is kindly tending my boys (Dave included, since he is trying to keep up with his agressive dissertation timeline), so I can tend John and Susie. Maggie doesn't need much tending from me since her new parents are doing such a superb job.

I'm loving all the uninterrupted cooking time, too. Here is a recipe for coconut french toast. I made this yesterday for breakfast. It's from Susie's recipe collection. It is really great. I substituted coconut milk for the milk. You can imagine the delish. We won't mention the added saturated fat. We're nursing here. I also made half a batch. We don't need 14 french toasts!

Coconut French Toast

12 eggs

1 1/4 cup milk

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

12 slices bread, preferably day old bread

1 7 oz. pack flaked coconut

In a large bowl (a square pyrex dish worked well for me), beat eggs. Then add milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. add bread, a couple slices at a time. Let soak for 1 minute on each side. Coat both sides with coconut. Place on well greased baking sheets. Bake at 475 for 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with syrup, fresh raspberries, diced mango and whipped cream for a tropical treat.

[Comments] (6) Reports: After the boys spent a week with "Moppie" and "Poppie," my parents had lots of tales to share. Here are the most quotable two:

While Atticus and Samuel were helping clean the pool, a june beetle crawled onto Atticus's foot. He watched it with curiosity. Samuel noticed the bug and came over to observe as well. After a moment, Samuel bent over and pinched the bug between his thumb and index finger, giving the little bug a complete squish. Poppie noticed and encouraged, "Hey, Samuel, why don't you eat that?" To which he replied, "Ewww, Poppie, it's already dead!"

After dinner one day, a 7.5 months pregnant family member remarked that she was completely stuffed. Samuel looked at her stomach with very wide eyes and stared in disbelief for about half a minute. After noticing this glance, the soon-to-be mommie said, "Samuel, there is a baby in my tummy." His look changed from one of disbelief to one of curiosity and he said, "It is a good thing boys don't have babies, because they would really want to use their tummies as a punching bag."

[Comments] (3) Scar Face: If you were to meet Samuel on the street today, you would find a boy whose face is scraped and scratched. Most of these are due to landing face first in the Broken Arrow Elementary playground wood chips after attempting some crazy stunt (while waiting for Atticus to get out of school). The cuts on his right cheek, for instance, resulted from a fall from the monkey bars. He lost his hold while hanging upside down and I was not fast enough to catch him. He went splat, and then got up to try it again. The most recent and noticeable of his injuries, however, are three abrasions on forehead, down the bridge to the tip of his nose, and on his upper lip.

Last Thursday, Samuel was experimenting on the swings. He discovered that if he intertwines each leg around a chain, he can swing upside down. Then he found that by releasing his legs from the chains while swinging forward, the momentum can flip him to land on his back, the fall padded by the wood chips. But this success was not easily repeated because the second time he attempted the trick (and after I forbade him to do it again), he landed face first.

My poor boy. He has to learn the hard way I guess.

[Comments] (4) Atticus Trivia: If you were to compare a picture of Atticus on the first day of school to a picture of him today, on his very last day of Kindergarten, which face would have the brightest smile? Well, I couldn't get a picture without him crying on the first day of school. Atticus was practically leaping and celebrating all afternoon. I'm afraid he will not like school in full day portions, but maybe a summer will mature him enough to be ready for next year. He does enjoy it while he is there at least, and he loves his teacher, Mrs. Broz.

[Comments] (8) Life is flowing like ketchup on chop suey. . .: Hey there. We will be Kansans for only three weeks more. Dave is waiting for his dissertation defense date to be set. The dissertation is written, but still needs polishing. The boys and I hang out at the outdoor pool every day. Our biggest hurrah: we bought a house in Tallahassee. It is a darling little house, very mid-century modern. It reminds me of my great Aunt Jeunie's homes, and I adore its every little detail. Come one, come all, to see us in Florida. We'll even take you to the beach!

[Comments] (3) Rain, rain, GO AWAY!!: It has been raining for four days, so each day has felt very long. Dave has been worrying over his defense, I've been ill, and between those two things I've been feeling very sorry for myself. Atticus asked me one afternoon why I was being so grumpy. Right when he said it I had a moment of realization. "I've been poisoned!" I said, and this caught his interest. . . "I've been poisoned with self-pity!" Atticus reacted as if self-pity was not a very imaginative kind of poison, but I had a laugh at myself and felt better. At least for a little while. The boys and I have become used to spending a good deal of time outside each day, so the rain is a bummer. We miss the swimming pool and time on our bikes.

All the time inside has lead to some mischief. Here is the list of biggest mischief made: 1) I found the boys smearing wart medicine on their lips like it was chapstick (it is packaged in a tube). 2) They discovered a jar of buttons, and while attempting to open it, they broke the glass. Atticus decided after the incident to bring be to the corner where they'd hidden all the pieces. Good thing. 3) Samuel dropped a spoon in the toilet. Though dropping it there was a genuine accident, I still had to fish it out with my hands (he dropped it out of his mouth while standing to go pee). Gross!! 4) Atticus started a small cloth bag on fire in the microwave. Luckily, no damage was done. Except to the cloth bag.

We finally celebrated Dave's birthday today! Yay, happy thirty-four! He is back on campus tonight working on his presentation for Monday morning. Our fingers are crossed. I think he liked his cake, though, a Boston Cream Pie. The boys and I certainly enjoyed making it. Our real fun and highlight of the week was seeing Ratatouille at the theater this afternoon. We LOVED it!!! It is a winner for sure. Maybe I'll write a review. . .

[Comments] (1) Boston Cream Pie: Did you know Boston Cream Pie was created by a French chef working in Boston? Here is the birthday cake recipe the boys helped me make for Dave this year.

One layer of 1-2-3-4 cake recipe

Vanilla Pastry Cream (could be doubled for a thicker layer, but like Dave said, it is good to be left wanting more)

1 cup milk

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar

pinch salt

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 large egg yolks

2 tsp. cold unsalted butter

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Shiny Chocolate Glaze

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

1. Vanilla Pastry Cream: Rinse a heavy nonreactive saucepan with cold water; shake dry. Add 3/4 cup of the milk and the 1 Tbsp. sugar. Bring to boil over medium heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of milk, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the salt, cornstarch and egg yolks until pale and light, about 1 1/2 minutes.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and gradually whisk some of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, and return to medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking. Whisking constantly, boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and the vanilla.

4. Strain the pastry cream through a fin sieve into a clean bowl. Press a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a "skin" from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

5. Brush off any excess crumbs from the cake. With a large serrated knife, split the cooled cake horizontally. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the cake, reaching nearly to the edges. Replace the top cake layer; gently press into place.

6. Shiny Chocolate Glaze: Combine the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool until the glaze thickens slightly to a spreadable consistency.

7. Spread the chocolate glaze over the top of the cake. If you like. let some of the glaze drip down the sides. Let the glaze set for 10 minutes or so. Serve at cool room temperature. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Preparation Time: About 15 minutes to prepare and assemble with cooled cake ready to go

[Comments] (1) 1-2-3-4 Cake: This all purpose yellow cake is absolutely wonderful and moist, and was a great performer in the Boston Cream Pie we made for Dave's birthday. The recipe comes from Classic Home Desserts, a beautiful cookbook written by Richard Sax. In it, he writes, "the name refers to the quantities of its ingredients: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs." As you see, the following does not stray from the proportions that are were traditional to many a cook over the years. Even a dusting of powdered sugar is an unnecessary embellishment on this very tasty cake. It is my new staple! BTW, I cheated and only sifted once, all dry ingredients together.

Ingredients:

3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans, two 9-inch cake pans, or two 8-inch square pans; set aside. Resift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until very light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Lower the speed to slow and beat in the flour mixture, alternately with the buttermilk or yogurt mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing gently.

3. Bake until the cakes are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 30-35 minutes.

4. Cool completely in the pans on wire racks. Run the tip of a knife around the sides of the cakes to loosen them from the pans; invert the cake layers and use as desired.

Number Of Servings: Makes three 8-inch round layers or two 9-inch round layers or two 8-inch square cakes

Preparation Time: A little less than an hour to prepare, with 30-35 minutes in the oven, about 2 hrs to cool completely

[Comments] (1) you've just squandered another perfectly good hour: We came upon some friends whose car had stalled out on a busy road. Dave jumped out of our car to help, and Atticus said, "I think Papa is going to tell those people to listen to Car Talk. Those guys will be able to solve all their problems."

[Comments] (10) And the shackles fall away: Dave has successfully defended his dissertation, and it has been accepted WITH NO FURTHER REVISIONS!!! I cannot stress how wonderful this is! It is not common to pass without needing a few changes at least. Listen up world! Dave is DONE with his PhD! This means graduation! Bring on the confetti! We are no longer students! Bring on the real grown up parts of life (like a salary)!

[Comments] (2) Eek!: Oh dear, Samuel just mooned me!

[Comments] (3) A pinch, please: I'm pretty unmotivated right now. We leave in less than a week, and I haven't done much to get ready. FSU is paying for packers and movers to do the job, so my laziness is conceivable but unwise. The truth is, organization and children are antithetical. And somehow I can't imagine that I am really going to leave this place.

[Comments] (8) Whirling Dervish: Thursday July 19th: We sign all paperwork and commit ourselves to a home mortgage. Receive keys to our house. Discover that the a/c is broken. Hello Florida heat.

Friday July 20th: We purchase a rake and a copy of Harry Potter book 7.

Saturday July 21st: Read Harry Potter. Rake spots in the backyard that have decaying leaves, pine needles and Maple tree pods. Discover two pear trees and two banana trees. Don't know if bananas are edible. Pears are delish. Establish a compost pile.

Sunday July 22nd: Moving truck arrives at 7:40am. Our house becomes full of boxes! Boys' room is unpacked and all set. Unfortunately, boxes are not as fun to deal with as Deathly Hallows.

Monday July 23rd: Get all school enrollment errands done (transfer immunization records to "Florida card," get "Florida" physicals. Obtain Florida driver's license.

Tuesday July 24th: The A/C guy comes. The motor is all a bust.

Wednesday July 25th: We leave at 4:30am central time to return borrowed car to parents in S.A., purchase new vehicle, and catch a flight for Calgary (cheaper fare from SA than home). Rain gets pretty scary so we stay the night at a hotel in Katy, TX.

Thursday July 26th: Finish drive to SA, purchase Honda Odyssey, hang with the family.

Friday July 27th: Early flight to Calgary, then four hour drive to family reunion destination in British Colombia. Finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Tired boys. Tired parents.

Today: Had a good time kayaking. Purchased some B.C. cherries and creamed B.C. honey at the Farmer's market. Don't have to cook, clean, or unpack boxes. Love that mountain air.

[Comments] (15) Expecting News: My life feels like a great run-on sentence. . . We had a chaotic summer, a big move, and right as we were getting settled, I began feeling constantly nauseous and fatigued. Number three baby Matkin is on the way, due to arrive close to Atticus' birthday (june 11th). We are thrilled, but I think I would prefer if I never in my life had to eat another meal or puke it back up.

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