Wednesday, June 30, 2010

keeping me waiting




Thought I would give this first tomato one more day to ripen to perfection. When I went to look for it this morning it was gone -- some like-minded varmint had beaten me to it!

No worries, though. Soon there will be more than enough to go around.

Monday, June 28, 2010

how does our garden grow?

Pretty well, as it so happens, in spite of the lack of rain. Here it is this past Saturday:

As compared to only three short weeks prior:

I was shocked to see the progress in such a short time period!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

we got the beet

Yesterday we had my husband's family over for dinner, including his two small nieces. Terzo is between them in age. He loves when they get together and eagerly joins in with whatever they come up with. There is a lot of high-pitched shrieking -- a sound we are not used to -- and a lot of running around -- which we love when it takes place outside -- and also a lot of singing.

It has been my experience with little girl play vs. little boy play that little girls spend a lot of time singing songs and pretending to be in a rock band and putting on talent shows and other voice-related activities. I am not sure if my sons are a representative bunch, but this is something they never do, unless of course they are playing Rock Band on the Xbox.

I am not sure of the sociological significance of this, but I do seem to remember that many playdates of my youth involved much singing and pretending to be in a rock band and putting on talent shows, so maybe there is a gender link. Someone needs to do some research on this.

After they left, we found these song lyrics, written by the second grader and left behind near the XBox drumset which they had been beating away on.

The Crush Beet (c)
ner ner ner ner ner
Oh way the Crush Beet Band
ner ner ner ner ner
Oh way the fresh beet band
ner ner ner ner ner ner ner
Oh way the fresh beet band
All the

Who knew raw beets could be so inspiring? Although I am reasonably sure that not one beet, fresh or otherwise, has ever crossed those children's lips, my son included.

Friday, June 25, 2010

fof: fresh green beans

I will cop right away to this being a complete and total cop-out food-on-Friday post. I spent most of yesterday in the woods with a bunch of 14-year-old boys wielding paintball guns. And I did not have a paintball gun, just a camera and a very active threat to make anyone who "accidentally" shot me walk home. This is but a representative sample of my afternoon:

My son -- impossible to tell with those masks -- is on the right on the bottom picture.
Again, impossible to tell, but he is wearing a t-shirt he scored at the thrift store,
which says "US Army" on the front, and "An Army of One" on the back. Gah.

The boys had a blast, pardon the pun, because what boy does not want to be in the woods on a very hot day, hiding behind fake walls and shooting paintballs at his closest friends?

So I have been lying with a cold compress on my forehead all day today, or rather wishing that I could in fact spend a day doing just that, and then panicking around 5 pm at the thought of dinner plus an extra 11-year-old boy joining us. I sent Secondo into the garden, and much to my amazement and delight, he returned with all of these:

Lightly steamed and lightly tossed with this (seasoned rice vinegar, my non-butter go-to for veggies):

Served with grilled chicken and new red potatoes, they were a welcome taste of the bounty to come. And also a welcome break from the sight of my baby toting a gun.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

red gown day

Tuesday night was Primo's 8th grade graduation ceremony. Him and a sea of identically red-gowned young teenagers: 144, to be exact.

He has been with these kids since we moved here just before he went to first grade. Such permanence is mind-blowing to me, as I was in four different school systems (in three different states and one different country) in the same span of time. It is a bittersweet time for him, because he will not be going onto the town high school with them but instead to a county magnet school for kids interested in science.

I cannot believe that I am old enough to have a kid ready for high school, but then I see pictures like the one below and I catch my breath at how grown-up and mature he looks... not to mention that at 5 feet 10 inches and growing, he towers over me.

I forget, all too often, that I need to treasure the last fleeting bits of his childhood because they are almost gone. The busy-ness and bustle of day-to-day life distract me from how quickly they are disappearing. His increasingly grown-up demeanor and conversation and abilities blind me to the fact that remnants of the child are still there, though, however faint.

But his younger brothers know. They are all too aware that he is growing up and away from them. He rarely comes outside to play with them anymore; as last week's pictures show, they are more often a gang of two these days. When he does forget himself for just a few minutes to join them, they are almost dizzy with joy and love.

My wish for this summer is to treasure these moments; to help me remember, and not to let him slip away too easily, even if some days it feels like he is almost gone.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

that d#@% dog

It took 48 hours longer than I thought it would... but this evening Dusty came back into the house with a reeking perfume on his ruff. This picture of the whatever-it-was (I don't really want to know) does not do justice to the stench.

Consider yourselves lucky that the Internet has no scratch and sniff capabilities.

Monday, June 21, 2010


About a month ago, we held what Secondo referred to as "the annual de-floofing of the dog."

Can you tell which way the wind was blowing that day?

It got rid of quite a bit of his undercoat, but it wasn't quite as successful as last year's defloofing. His britches (the fur on the back part of his legs, seen below) were still quite full and, unfortunately, getting matted. Even more unfortunately, he hated us trying to brush out the mats and would just plop his butt down every time we tried.

Now this is the weather britches were invented for!

He was also terribly hot with the heat we have had already. He would come in from chores or horsing around with the boys and pant desperately for well over an hour.

So today we took him to a groomer and had him depantsed, and de-belly furred as well, mostly to help him with his heat-management issues -- but he also needed a good scrubbing. Being a good farm dog, he is OK with a hose-off on the back patio, but you can only get him so clean with that.

Dusty's snowy white bits have never ever been this snowy white.

He is not super happy about this. As a matter of fact, he seems to be quite embarrassed and has been lying under the kitchen table, refusing to get up so the boys can laugh their pants off at his lack thereof.

Nekkid dog!

He alternates between wondering where his britches went, and begging me to take off the silly bow they put on his collar.

I took pity on him and took off the bow. I know he is just biding his time to go roll in something really smelly and dirty, to take care of the rest of the grooming job. Except for the pants part. That, he's stuck with for a while.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

no more teacher's dirty looks

At least, I hope not... It's that time of year again, when I sweat the gifts for the teachers and the bus drivers and all the other various and sundry people who put up with my children on a daily basis for ten months of the year. This is yet another reason for you homeschoolers to feel grateful for what you do: one less thing to worry about right now! If you just treat yourself to a mani/pedi then you have covered the bases in teacher appreciation and time away for yourself in one fell swoop.

But for the rest of us, there is this need to come up with a little something. Even if I contribute to the class gift, I still feel like I have to give a little something! Yes, I must learn at some point to just let the heck go but we already knew that.

My solution this year is knitted bookmarks, very loosely based on this pattern. If I was just a bit more organized and forward-thinking and had oodles of spare time then I could have knit them all a beautiful shawlette or something, but I am not so I did not. Plus did I mention there are four of them?

Terzo's class spent the last two months studying insects in great detail, so we made this one for his kindergarten teacher.

I say "we" because he was most insistent on knitting a few stitches himself, and choosing the exact placement of the second button, which he also insisted on. I thought we could have done with just the one, because the leaves -- based on the "just a leaf" pattern available on ravelry-- are so simple and elegant all by themselves.

Here it is without the book, so you can get a better idea of how it works and how simple it is. It reminds me of a thneed from "The Lorax": it could be a bookmark! a necklace! a hair band! a bicycle seat cover! Well, OK, maybe not the last one.

Secondo's teachers call him "dawg" for reasons known only to them, so I changed the leaves into bones (yes, they are bones, not peanuts) and customized the button to fit that theme. Bit of trivia: there are a lot of cat buttons out there, but the choices in dog buttons are very limited. Not sure what that says about people who use novelty buttons.

I hope the teachers like them, and find them somewhat useful, so I can avoid those dirty looks.

I still don't have a solution for the bus drivers, though.

Friday, June 18, 2010

fof: chicken taco casserole

This is one of those recipes that I pulled off the internet in desperation one night. The process went something like this: "OK, I have a little leftover chicken and some rice... what can I make?"

Sadly, this is an all-too-familiar scenario in this house of little planning.

This particular dish has become a staple for our family, because it is somewhat healthy and it is a great way to use up a little bit of chicken (from a rotisserie chicken, from a chicken breasts picked over by picky children, from chicken used to make chicken stock; you get the idea). The rest of the ingredients are easily kept on hand in case of emergency.

The dish starts with rice; I am not a purist, so I make mine in a casserole dish in the microwave. I use brown rice and, because I have hungry boys, about 1.5 cups of rice with 3 cups of water and a little olive oil and salt for taste. You could use less rice if you don't need all the starch to fill up those bellies.

While the rice is cooking, mix your shredded chicken or whatever meat you are using (about 2 cups is ideal, but I have made it with less) with a small can of tomato sauce and a packet of low sodium taco seasoning. Yes, I could make my own taco seasoning -- I could make my own sauce, for that matter -- but without descending into the realms of possibility, I note that this particular dish is all about quick last minute assembly when I'm under the gun.

After the rice is cooked, pour your chicken/tomato/taco mixture on top of the rice.

Top with refried beans, spreading them out as if you are frosting it. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and pop in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese melts and the beans heat up, about 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream and/or on tortillas if you are so inclined. My LSH loves it with siracha hot sauce.

I forgot to take a picture after it came out of the oven. It was attacked before I had a chance! So here's what it looks like, half-eaten. No one will ever accuse this of being a real cooking blog. But here's the recipe, in the off-chance that the picture above makes you think you might want to try this:

Chicken Taco Casserole
1.5 C brown rice, cooked according to directions
2 C shredded chicken (or other leftover meat)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1/2 C cheddar cheese or to taste
sour cream (optional)

Cook rice in 2.5 quart casserole dish. Mix chicken, tomato sauce and taco seasoning in a separate bowl and then pour on top of cooked rice. "Ice" mixture with refried beans and then sprinkle with cheese. Warm in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream, tortillas and hot sauce if your tastes are so inclined.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

loving it

Why, the new camera, of course.

I love photoshop almost as much; here's the original image.

I thought the illusion that he was about to land on his brother's head (it was just the angle of the shot) was too distracting, not to mention the discarded bright orange Nerf gun. That was left over from their earlier escapades:

Even un-photoshopped, run-of-the-mill shots of boys playing become interesting, thanks to the magic of focus and quick exposure. And thanks to that magic, every so often, I luck into something truly amazing.

Side note: Have you ever seen a happier dog? It cracks me up, how he makes himself an integral part of whatever they are up to.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

you can try to dress it up

Good friends recently returned from England, and brought us these bags of candy:

Terzo: "What do these say?"

His dad: "Rabbit Droppings. Sheep Droppings."

Terzo: "What are droppings?"

His dad: "Poop."

Terzo: "Yuck! They gave us poop?"

Dad: "They're covered in chocolate."

Terzo: "Yeah, but it's still poop."

There's a pretty basic life lesson there, something that should always be kept in mind... No matter how something is packaged, no matter how it's presented, you'd be wise to check out what it's made of.

Monday, June 14, 2010


A knitterly acronym, for Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectency. Which is really cute and all, until you sit and think about what it really means for your stash of yarn outliving you and then it gets a little depressing. All that yarn that you carefully selected and amassed and stored for particular projects or just because you thought it was lovely, getting to continue on its merry little way while you go... well, some other way. (Personal opinion may differ as to which way that is.)

We are sorting out two such stashes at our church right now. Two knitters/crafters, whose stashes were donated within days of each other.

That, my friends, is a heck of a lot of yarn.

Two stashes, with their poignant unfinished projects and undirected intentions.

Pretty sure these were meant to be assembled into an afghan;
now to find someone with the patience to
recreate the pattern and crochet them together.

The best way to honor these knitters and their carefully-amassed stash, I think, is to continue on with their work and turn it all into finished projects. The end results are, without a doubt, not exactly what they envisioned when they bought the yarn. But who can really know what was in mind when this color was purchased?

My guess is either something for Halloween
or for a deer hunter.

Despite such questions, our parish is doing its crafty best to transform the stashes and help the yarn legacies move on to the next level.

The stashes contained lots and lots and lots of Red Heart, an acrylic yarn which is sold by the pound. Primo and I stopped weighing when we topped 75 pounds of yarn in widely assorted colors. This yarn is being made into charity projects, intended for those in need at various stages in their lives. Prayer shawls for parishioners, lap robes for nursing home patients, and hats and scarves for the Seaman's Institute -- all to be blessed at the church altar in October before going onto their recipients. I love the blessing ceremony: an official recognition and sealing of all the love and hard work that went into every stitch.

Some of the donations didn't lend themselves to these projects. We had a rubbermaid tub full of nothing but cotton dishcloth yarn. And then there were all the needles that came with the two stashes... dozens of pairs, the exact same sizes over and over... We found a higher purpose for these items, too. Interim House, a rehab center in Philadelphia, teaches its clients to knit and crochet as a way to channel their energy in a different way. As I often knit so I don't commit bodily harm to other people's bodies, I can well appreciate this strategy. It seems the cotton yarn and needles were well received, and are on their way to working their own kind of transformation.

I think, I hope, the donors would be pleased.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

terzo's garden

Sorting through the pictures from the last month or so, I realized that I hadn't yet posted any pictures of Terzo's garden this year. Taking him to a garden center means I am taking my wallet into dangerous territory. While I am trying to pick out vegetables and marigolds, he is eyeing the impatiens (a particular favorite) and wheedling his way into getting yet another six-pack of flowers to plant. He was so effective this year that he managed to expand the number of pots planted to eleven and they are blooming away in a most lovely and colorful fashion on the back patio.

We were a little short on time and so didn't add any new organic matter this year, but they seem to be just fine as is, with one exception. He begged his oldest brother to help him find yet another pot in the shed -- I am not the only one who cannot resist his powers -- and as it hadn't been used in many years, the only soil in it was dried up potting mix. I cannot get that one pot to hold water properly and half the plants have already withered away. Yet another example, as if any is needed, of the power of sheep poop.