Thursday, July 31, 2014

Haircuts

     After that last hair post, I knew I had another one in me. This one is about boy hair, because in this Clan there are 8 boys, and they all have hair. One way or another, we have to deal with it.

     The standard around here is just to shave it all off every few months. We know it's time for haircuts when Mom can pull their hair. The skinhead look is typical for my family. Even Dad does that haircut.
     Sometimes it looks a little scary, though. Eight little baldhead boys and their dad. 
     Yeah, that might be scary.

     But sticking with standard isn't something we're known for doing that often. Plus my Mom has some crazy friends who give her crazy ideas. And that's only if she doesn't come up with crazy ideas all on her own.

     So there was the time when she let us dye our hair with Kool-Aid. Almost all of us did it, except David and Mom. Mom didn't because she was the hair-dyer, and David didn't because...well, pretty much because he didn't want to. And we couldn't convince him. So we can only imagine what it would have been like to see David with purple hair. Sigh.

     After Mom smeared goopy Kool-Aid all over the boys scalps, she had them wear plastic wrap caps overnight, and the next morning after they showered, what a transformation.
     And Mom also had this cool idea for telling the three Melonheads apart, since they do happen to look a lot alike. When she gave them haircuts, she left a letter on the sides of their heads. When we went to our grandma's Christmas party, all the relatives could finally remember all the boy's names and put the right name on the right boy. That was a first.
     And for those of you who didn't already know that I have a Mom who thinks up all sorts of crazy ideas, here's the newest fad around here. The Fu Manchu thing died out pretty quickly, but we've already got something to replace it. Behold the lizard haircut.
     Now that is very cool. I almost want one...but I don't think I'd rock it as well as the boys are doing. 

     Mom drew an outline on their heads with a dry erase marker first, and then used a nose, ear, and lip razor she bought at Fleet Farm to cut around it before she went in with the normal razor and shaved off everything else. Leaving a lizard crawling on their heads. I can't wait to see what an impression we make when we go camping this weekend. We're really going to get some looks!

     I don't know what we'll do next. Around here, it's hard to tell. But whatever happens, I'll make sure to do a post about it. Eventually.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hair Care with the Clan

     Nope, you didn't read that wrong. I did say hair care.

     The other day we went to the lake, and unlike my sisters, I didn't wear my swim cap because I couldn't get it to fit on well. So after dorking around there for an hour, I had plenty of pretty yucky water in my hair. I didn't think it was a big deal, I'd just wash my hair out well when we got home, and that would be the end of it.

     But the next day, after I'd showered really well, I noticed my hair felt really dry and coarse - which isn't usual. It's usually a lot finer than that.

     Not bragging or anything, folks, just stating a fact.

     So I washed it out again, and it didn't do any good. So I asked my Mom what to do, since she's an expert on just about everything. And unlike some Mom's, she didn't tell me to use some replenishing shampoo that would give body to my hair, thicken it, heal it, etc, etc. (How can hair be healed? It's dead cells, folks, nothing there to be healed.) Mom didn't say anything like that. She looked at it, and said, "Oh, you need to rinse it in vinegar."

     So I tried that. Mom told me to dilute the vinegar with water until I only had about 40% vinegar, and to be careful not to get it in my eyes - I didn't, but I know that would sting something awful. And the vinegar worked really well. My hair feels almost normal now, so I'll probably give it one more rinse later, and maybe wear my swim cap next time I go to the lake.

     The side effect of vinegar washing is that it made my hair smell like vinegar. Not a whole lot, but enough that I smelled like a pickle. It was kind of too bad, too, because I went to my martial arts class that evening as well, and ended up smelling like a sweaty pickle. So next time I use vinegar on my hair, I'm going to make sure I do it someday when I'm not going to be going into public that same day. Just because pickle-smell isn't quite the perfume I'd like people to associate with me. 

     Why did the vinegar rinse work? I had no idea, so I asked my Mom, since she's pretty smart about that kind of thing. And here's what she said. Because vinegar is an acid, it breaks down whatever is in my hair. Including stripping out whatever soap residue, oil, lake muck, etc, is hanging out there.

     Simple as that. Pretty nifty, huh?

     Maybe not quite what you expected, but that's how I like to do things. Unexpectedly. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Swimming Hole

     When it gets hot in the summer, we like to go swimming. Actually, even before it gets warm, we like to go. It doesn't matter if the water is going to be icy cold, it doesn't matter if it's only 65 degrees, we'll still go if Dad will take us.

     Our local swimming hole is at Lake Louise State Park. We don't have to pay for a pool pass or any of that - to get in all we need is a state park sticker, and we always have those because we go camping and hiking so much. For us, it's a lot cheaper than getting this many people into a pool in town, and besides, we have a lot more fun at the lake.
Sometimes we have too much fun.

     It's actually more like a mudhole. The soft, gooey stuff we're walking on isn't just mud - there's plenty of rotted plant matter down there on the bottom, and probably some other stuff. This mud is very soft and squishy, and thus it makes great throwing material and splatters quite nicely. I really wish I had some pictures of the stuff we've done with that mud. For example, we have painted each other with it, literally from head to toe. And the mud fights are beyond awesome - imagine how much fun it would be to dig your toes into the oopey, goopey mud at the bottom of the lake and throw big, slimy globs of it at each other. Not to mention what gets in your ears and mouth when you get hit in the face. It's all just awesome.
     Oh, and did I mention the leeches? We sometimes get leeches. Just a pleasant side effect.

     The cool thing about that lake is that it's not really a lake, just a wide spot in the river. Most states wouldn't call that a lake, but this is Minnesota, and every body of water that's knee-deep is a lake to us. Lake Louise isn't very wide either. I'm a lousy judge of distance, so I'm going to settle for 'kinda small' as a generic term of size. Probably something like a hundred yards. And it's not very deep either, so we still have a lot of room even when the beach is crowded with other people.

     By the way, when I saw we go swimming there, I don't mean swimming in the literal sense of the word. What we're doing is more like splashing around on the top of the water.

     In fact, the only time we've ever had anything like a swimming lesson would be the time when Dad took us out as little kids and tried to teach us to float. With all the screaming and gasping and freaking out we were doing, I don't think we learned much, but we did eventually get through it. 

     And now some of us can float. For short periods of time. In shallow water. 

     The rundown for a trip to the lake is as follows: We load up the back of the van with noodles, life-jackets, kickboards, and some buckets for the little kids. Everyone puts on their swimsuit, which for us is a rashguard shirt and shorts - and for the girls a swim cap as well to keep the muck out of our hair. We drive the twenty minutes to the lake, unload everything from the van and put it someplace on the beach, and then make the first mad dash to the lake.
     We generally stay at the lake for an hour or two doing all sorts of water activities, including running to use the pit toilets once or twice.
     The signal that it's time to go home is when the little kids are blue and shivering. We try and keep this from happening for as long as possible. If they stay mostly submerged in the water and away from the beach, Mom and Dad can't see that they're shivering and have blue lips, so we stay a while longer. As for the blue children, too bad, so sad, right?
Poor skinny children.
     Then Dad calls everyone back in so we can go home. We wash all the sand and mud off the gear, rinse our feet, and use some towels to get the worst of the water out of our clothes.
     The towels we bring to the lake aren't ordinary cotton bath towels. Those take up too much space and get very heavy and wet. Instead, we use these microfiber synthetic towels which dry quickly, are smaller and take up less space, and only cost about six bucks apiece at Fleet Farm. We can bring enough of them to towel off thirteen children and still have enough so that we can all sit on one in the van to keep from soaking the seats. Mom explains on her blog why the synthetic towels work better for us than cotton ones, and I'll let her reasons stand because I probably can't come up with a better way to say what she says.
     I don't know if our swimming hole is for everyone, but then again, some of the things we do for fun aren't for everyone either. It takes a special kind of crazy to have a good time in the mud and dirty water where we can snort up muck and get an ear infection just like that. We still have a good time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eggs for Breakfast

     This morning we had eggs for breakfast. Any meal we have involves a lot of food, but when we have eggs for breakfast, we put away a lot of food. Here's how much.

     Mom fills these frying pans with sunny-side-up eggs five or six times for one breakfast. 


     Today we ate five dozen eggs. David and Bicycle Boy weren't here for breakfast - if they were I think we might have polished off another dozen eggs easily. We eat that many eggs not  because a few of us eat a ton of eggs, but because all of us eat a ton of eggs.

     Pete had ten eggs. Believe it or not, that's normal for him. 

     Tubby had nine...

     Nah and Fro had granola and yogurt in addition to four eggs apiece.  


     Becca had four as well, and she had granola, and she finished it all.

     Skinny had twelve eggs. Plus granola. In one sitting.

     Gotta love eggs for breakfast.

     That's a lot of food.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stark Raving Jam

     About this time of year, the raspberries and strawberries in our garden are ripe and ready for picking. We also have a wild black raspberry patch out in the woods behind our house where some walnut trees were cut down several years ago. The raspberries took over the sunny space left after the trees were gone, and we can generally depend on picking something like six gallons of black raspberries out of there. For jam.

     The jam rocks, but the actual process of getting the jam is pretty tough. First of all, the woods are full of bugs. And raspberry canes have thorns on them - as well as the gooseberries and other assorted vegetations. Plus, then Mom has to take the berries and make jam out of them, and then we have to find space for them downstairs. 

     This year we went out berry-picking again, and for those of you who summon up a warm picture of kids with buckets and smiling faces in the woods, allow me to correct you. The black raspberries are growing everywhere in no particular order, mixed in with elderberries, gooseberries, and nettles. They're spread basically all over the woods, so we have a lot of walking to do. To protect us from thorns and bugs as best we can, we also wear long-sleeved shirts, jeans, rubber boots, and protective headgear. And in some cases, sunglasses.
Left to right: Cob, Pete, Tubby
     To keep away the glare of the sun, I guess.

     The headgear is actually mostly for the bugs. This year the mosquitoes were literally so thick you could almost eat them if you opened your mouth. I could slap my arm and kill five that had been lined up along my sleeve. It was no fun. It got so bad the first day that we ended up caving in and putting on some sort of bug repellent just so that we weren't eaten alive in the first ten minutes.

     We needed a spray that didn't have chemicals in it, though, since if we got it in our raspberries, we'd be eating it later. So Mom put together a spray from vanilla, lemongrass essential oil, and geranium essential oil. We ended up smelling like a really bad lemon cookie, but it did work pretty well. It didn't keep all the bugs off, but while we were wearing it we could tolerate being out there close to two hours.
4/5 full of vanilla + 20 drops lemongrass
essential oil + 20 drops geranium essential oil


     Mom is basically the only one involved in the jam-making part of the process. Given a few instructions and recipe, I think I could do it myself, but around here that's generally one of Mom's jobs. We like our jam without much added sweetening, so Mom uses no-sugar pectin as often as she can get it on sale.

     The recipe for our black raspberry jam is very simple, since any complicated steps get skipped over. It's too much work when we need to crank out jars of jam as fast as we can. 

  • 10 cups crushed berries
  • 7 1/2 tablespoons of no-sugar pectin (we use BALL RealFruit Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin)
  • 1 2/3 cups apple juice
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar

     Mix berries, juice, and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bring to a boil again. Let it boil for a minute, stirring constantly or burning to the bottom, your choice. Then turn off the heat, jar it up, and can it. 
     In a boiling-water bath canner, we can our jars for 10 minutes. However, Mom isn't USDA approved by a long shot, and is likely setting us all up to die from botchilitis or something like that. Once they're canned, let the jars cool 24 hours - check to make sure the jars have actually sealed! - and then store them away.

     This year we went out and picked three times, and brought back a total of about 8 gallons of black raspberries. Mom made nearly 30 quarts of jam from that, so we should have plenty to last us through until next raspberry season. We have more than our share of mosquito bites, thorns scratches, etc, but you know the reward has got to be good given what we went through to get it. That jam seriously rocks.

     I should warn you though, we sometimes get small bugs in our buckets while we're picking - mosquitoes, spiders, tiny hoppy thingies, etc. We don't wash our berries either, which is just another health hazard, but washed raspberries are very sad-looking, and its really just an extra step. As a result, our jam contains trace amounts of protein. But that crunchy stuff between your teeth is probably just raspberry seeds. Don't worry.

Friday, July 11, 2014

SPAMed!

     Breaking news! On July 3rd, Blogger removed Too Hick To Be Square from the internet!

Thankfully my expert technical support team are constantly checking up on my blog and noticed what happened before things got out of hand. Thanks to their hard work and constant supervision throughout the process, Too Hick To be Square has been reinstated and appears unaffected by the brief stint off the internet, although I can't say the same for the general public. The effects of losing Too Hick To Be Square, even temporarily, were far-reaching and difficult to pin down, but are hopefully reversible.

     Joking around aside, my blog did get removed from the internet for a few days. On the 3rd, Stick tried to open it on the computer and couldn't. None of the computers could get at it, and the page said that the blog had been removed from the internet. I checked my email and found I had a nice, polite email from Blogger telling me that my blog had been removed because it was considered spam.

     Yeah, that's right, spam. 

     Wow. Never saw that coming. I can think of a lot of other names for what I'm writing, but spam wasn't quite what I had in mind.

     I'll admit, I was fairly crushed. Blogging has been very fun - I've loved it. I didn't want to come up with a new blog name and start all over again - not to mention rewriting all my old posts. But after a few hours of disappointment, I got my act together and did some looking to see if there was any way to get it back up. And it turned out that it's possible to appeal to Blogger to have the blog put back up. It turned out my blog had been flagged by Blogger's automatic classification system, so I could ask for a human being to read my blog and see that, no, it's not a robot-generated bunch of stuff copied from other sites.

     And since that's not what this blog is, Blogger did put it back up a couple of days later. So Too Hick To Be Square is back! I do find myself wondering, though, how that automatic classification system is classifying my blog now. Is "Hick" even a category?