Sunday, April 29, 2012

This Week's Menu

This week I bought a pie pan.  I feel so official.  So legit.  No more borrowing the neighbors' pans. I'm sure that we all have that kitchen item that we want.  Well for $3.27, I couldn't resist.  Treat.Yo.Self.

With my new pie pan, we plan on making lots of strawberry custard pies.  And maybe a few other things along the way...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Early Bird Adventure

Yesterday I woke up at 6:22.  I was in bed, bored out of my mind and eager to get the day cranking.  Being a night owl and always jealous of those early birds, I was surprised by my attitude.  In my book, getting out of bed every morning is a huge accomplishment in need of praise.  

I got up.  I got showered, dressed, teeth brushed, face put on, baby nursed, and ready to carpe the heck out of the diem.  At 8:10, I couldn't take it anymore and decided that we were going on an adventure.  I made, ate, and cleaned up breakfast.  Changed two diapers and one outfit and told Burl to get ready because we were going on an adventure to the woods.  One of his favorite words being go, he was excited.

By 8:40 we were pulling out of the driveway and headed to a nature park.  Before 9, we were in the middle of the woods.  Here's the thing about being in the middle of the woods for me: my mind goes straight to excitement and adventure.  To the max.  I'm searching the landscape for deer.  I convince myself that one of the last of the mohicans is watching me, studying my every move.  It's like I'm in Sherwood forest and Robin Hood and Little John are just over the hill making some sweet forts and boobie traps.  (Is that how boobie traps is spelled?  It just seems wrong in so many ways.  This coming from the girl who just learned that a prima donna is not a pre-madonna.)  

Yep, I just typed boobies, not once, but three times.  This post is klassy, alright, but I can promise that it just nose dives from here.  

Now, about those woods.  Taking the kids outside is about the coolest thing ever.  My kids are like most kids in that they totally chill out when we're there.  

Burl learns how to walk on ground that is not paved.  As he walks around searching for treasures, playing in the rock bed (aka, dried-up-creek), he's learning balance and catching himself.  It's like gymnastics, outdoorsy style.  If we're going to be a rock climbing family, then he needs some practice now.

And little Fern was just as happy as could be.  She was all smiles and coo's the whole time.  Whether she was riding in the stroller or being yanked around while I fooled with the self-timer for a group shot, Fern was happy.  Nature, you rock.

A little further down the path, Burl found another rock bed (aka dry creek) that he wanted to play in.  A mossy tree with a whole became very interesting.  And this is where things get really klassy.  We were about a mile away from the parking lot, visitors center, and well, restrooms.  Ladies, when nature calls, ya gotta answer.  I popped a squat.  Right there.  And there is something freeing and exciting and rowdy about having to use nature's bathroom.  I was so proud that I texted a bunch of friends: just squat-pee'd in the forest and it's not even noon.   Most of my friends questioned what the heck I was doing in the woods that early in the day, and one friend got it.  She texted, "that always makes me feel legit and hardcore."  Poignant.  

Since all dignity was lost at this point, I figured, "well, it's about time to nurse Fern, let's just do it right here."  I sat on a rock and nursed her.  Without a nursing cover.  In the open.  Not my style, but a mama's gotta do what a mama's gotta do.  And what happened next, shocked me to death.  I hadn't seen a soul the whole time I was on that trail.  Next thing I notice, a home school group doing an outdoor science project walks up.  All boys.  While I'm nursing.  Ok, not really.  No one walked by at all, but I know that at least one of you just gasped and covered your mouth.

Eventually we packed it up and headed home around 10:15.  We were all pretty worn out.  Fern went right down as soon as we got home and Burl was almost asleep even though he doesn't take morning naps anymore.  Because I had pretty much rocked my mother role for the day and given him enough adventure, I popped him in front of the TV and he laid (or is it lied, mom, can you send me the lie/lay rules again?)  there and watched TV for quite a while.  I made another cup of coffee and did things around the house.  

Eventually, Fern woke up and it was time to go again.  I dressed her in a new little outfit and thought she looked so sweet that I put her on the couch for some pictures.  What does Burl do? Hop right up there to get in on the action.  This mama can't resist some sibling pics.

These days, the biggest block of time that we have to go anywhere is around lunchtime, between Fern's morning and afternoon naps.  Often, we found ourselves eating places other than home.  Sometimes I'm smart and we eat a picnic or eat with friends, but sometimes I expose us to the horrors of fast food.  We can eat at Wendy's for $4.33 and I don't have to clean up afterwards.  That's what we did on this day.

We've done this a few times before, and I'm not sure that we can keep doing it.  A lot of men come in to eat at this particular one, and these days, Burl likes to point them out and call them daddies.  Especially if they're wearing boots.  This day was no different.  Burl was googly-eyed for these two guys with boots AND hats.  They were across the restaurant and he kept staring, pointing and yelling "da-ee!"  I eventually explained to them why Burl was yelling that at them, we got into a lite conversation (across the restaurant) and next thing I know one of them is yelling "oh I done learn my lesson.  I'm paying child support on six different kids, I done got myself fixed.  No really-I did."  And I just laughed.  Not, polite-I'm going to laugh-cause-you're-laughing.  No, I laughed hard.  Because it's not every day that a girl hears that.  Across the restaurant in Wendy's.

And all this happened because I woke up at 6:22 ready to carpe the heck out of this diem.  Well, diem, you got me.  Good one.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weed Hat

I can finally say that I learned how to make one of those weed hats like my friends used to make at recess.  I was never good at those.  What kind of mom of a girl would I be if I didn't know how to make one?  While Burl and I played outside during Fern's morning nap, I sat down and tried it.  How could I not do this before?  Easy-peasy.

I texted a picture to my brothers and the grandparents with this caption, "practicing on Burl for Fern later."  The responses were all over the place.  

Burl's thoughts?  Well, he just called it a hat and kept on working.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How I Like To Weekend

There was a lot this weekend.  It wasn't busy.  It was fun.  There is a difference, and the difference is usually related to how much one enjoys the things that they are doing.  Like=fun, don't like=busy.  

This weekend was fun.  Throw a ball in the house, bring the sidewalk chalk inside good.  Oh the magic of an empty room for a toddler! Ok, John and I like it as well-hello family dance parties and extra room to exercise.

A little home improvement project turn living-room-makeover kept us together all day Saturday.  John worked on the ceiling while I played with the kids on the floor in the corner.  That's how they are.  Where Da-ee goes, Burl goes, where Fern goes, where Mama goes.  

There we sat, on our little section of the brown paper.  Burl was good.  He stayed on his side of the line that I drew for him.  Then, it was his turn.  The paper was pulled and we cleaned up-a family affair.  

And Burl took turns with the shop-vac.  Those turns that are like the ones from my childhood-I took turns with my mom when she cooked.  It seemed like the time between my turns took eternity and all I wanted to do was get my hands on that mixer!  I think I probably let her work for 3 or 4 seconds until I started begging for my turn again.  Same with Burl.  Same with the shop vac.  Imagine this pant-less little boy pointing to himself saying repeatedly, "I do. I do."

Then there is the little Fern.  In true infant style, she slept for most of the day and missed out on the action.  In between naps, she was smiles and softness.  I could rub those cheeks for hours.  

Sunday night we rallied.  Forget slowing down and preparing for the week.  We left those cute little babies with my mom and hit the town.-dinner and live music style.  It's like every month there is another awesome concert that I have to go see.  Oh, the trouble.  After mentioning that John's favorite band was Punch Brothers, two friends emailed me right away, "you know that they're coming to Chattanooga?"  We didn't know that.  I called John and told him, scoring me 1,000 wife points for being in the know.  Thanks to those two girls in the front, we had a good night.  Friends and family style.  Punch Brothers might be the only band that John, my brothers, and I like to see.  Music, bringing people together.  

We went to bed LATE that night and felt it the next day.  For all the lack of sleep we felt, the energy and memory of the night before kept us smiling and beaming.  
That was one fun weekend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Celebrating A Simple Life

"It's no small thing to celebrate a simple life."  That's the quote {or something like that} from Fellowship of the Rings when talking about a birthday.  I couldn't agree more.  Birthdays are a lot of fun for me.  I know this because I see it in myself and because I just took a personality test that told me I am the guardian of birthdays, holidays, and traditions.  

Recently, our friend turned 40 and his wife threw him a fun dinner.  Close friends gathered.  It was catered.  She turned her house into something grand.

As we were eating dessert, she turned the conversation towards her husband.  She asked for stories and thoughts about him.  We had some laughs and some sweet memories.  Towards the end, he ended up talking and saying somethings and it was really good.

He talked about not knowing where your life is going.  Being from New Zealand, he never expected to marry a girl from Tennessee and live in the US and have all of us as friends.  What a wild adventure to live!  I can not fathom creating a whole new life in a whole new country, but then again, I could not have fathomed my life here and how it has evolved.  

And it deserves to be celebrated.  This life of his.  This life of mine.  This life.  Whether I'm throwing a big party or lighting a candle for a low-key dinner at home, I want to celebrate.  I want to live.  I want to put life and celebrating and fun and meaning into my days, no matter how grand or simple they may be.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This Week's Menu

For structure and consistency, I post my weekly menu on Sundays.

This week, it's looking a little fancy-smancy.  Crab and brie are on the menu.  I finally busted out the cookbook that my sister-in-law got me for Christmas.  It's the one that our Junior League just published and it is beautiful.  As for cookbooks go, it is quite nice.  I've been a little intimidated by it though.  Because some of the things require crab. or brie. and one of the chapters is titled "ladies that lunch."  Even though I use that line on a semi-regular basis, it's all in good fun.  The fanciest lunch that I did this week-eating off the $1 menu at Wendy's with the kids while Burl pointed at all the construction men and yelled "Da-ee.  Boots."  Because somewhere in Burl's 2 y.o. mind, a Dadee is someone who wears carharts, boots, and looks like they're ready to do construction.

Well, these boys are eating crab and brie and will proudly use cloth napkins.
That's right, cloth napkins-STAINED cloth napkins, to be exact.

{click on picture for link}

Summertime Brie Pasta
Crab Quiche, steamed broccoli
BBQ Baked Potatoes already ate this for dinner last night
Cream of Broccoli Soup, BLT's
Pintos, mashed potatoes, green beans

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sitting Up

Little Miss Fern has been sitting up for quite a while now.  Well, for a couple of weeks at least.  Something about the sitting position makes her appear even more scrumptious.  

She's pretty good at catching herself if she starts to lean too much the wrong way.
Sometimes she just falls back.  

Then, I pop her back up for more and I think she's about the cutest little thing!  

Thursday, April 19, 2012


While making dinner the other night, I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures of the strawberries.  Getting dinner on the table is easy enough, why not toss photography in the mix?  I thought, "well this is just silly that I'm doing this.  What am I going to do with these pictures-of strawberries and empty containers?"  (The color of those empty containers is my new favorite.) Then, I remembered that my father-in-law and sister-in-law just posted pictures of their strawberries on facebook.  

That's usually how it goes when a new produce season hits.  My in-laws are the first to know and the first to tell us.  During one of their many scenic drives they end up hitting a few farms and/or produce stands, buy enough for us and them and everyone and dole them out.  It really is quite nice.  I am usually told what this season's fruit taste like and why.  "With all this warm weather and that last good rain, these are the sweetest strawberries I've had in a while," I'm told.

We love them.  Strawberry season is almost as great as tomato season.  We make our custard pies, a secret family recipe.  How special I feel having a secret family recipe!  

I yell at John from the computer, "your dad just posted pictures of strawberries and says they're the sweetest in years.  It's time to make pies!"  But, before the pies, we enjoy just straight strawberries.  I think we ate two pints the first night.  Or are they quarts?  I'm not sure, whichever makes the story better.

The kids love them too.  I don't think Burl stopped to breath while he ate them.  And Fern, she kept pushing her head out for more.  They go so well with pureed green beans, I'm sure of it.  

And this, my friends, is the start of the Tennessee Strawberry season.  Finest in the country, I tell ya.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

{right now}

Right now I am...

...taking pictures of everything, anytime I get the chance.  Practice makes perfect sounds like a cheaper plan than photography classes and much more convenient at this time in my life.
...learning that I have a long way to go until I feel like a good picture taker.
...deciding that my pictures have changed and I'm getting slowly closer.

The rosemary bush that has beat all the odds and continues to thrive.

...wanting to write.
...having a lot to say and put out "there."
...trying to slow down and organize my thoughts.  
...wanting to compose those thoughts clearly and carefully.
...remembering Anne Lamott's "bird by bird" advice.  When her brother waited until the last minute to write a lengthy paper on birds, he sat overwhelmed.  His father sat down beside him and said, "son, just take it bird by bird."
...thinking that is good advice.  I might just write a post about strawberries.

It looks like I'm going to have a lot of hydrangeas again this year.

...reading over this little list and thinking, "gosh I sound cheesy."
...hoping that I learn to sound genuine and thoughtful, not arrogant and quirky.
...enjoying this blogging thing and what it means to me.
...defining what this blogging thing means to me.
...anticipating a series and blogging.
...thinking about what creativity means to me.
...dreaming of fitting it into my life.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This Week's Menu

I like to do little things in a fancy way.  It makes me feel fancy and special-in a small way, not in a big way.  That might sound arrogant, and I really don't mean it to sound that way.  The truth is, I think that we all do that in some way and I think that's great.  We might put a cute picture in the dashboard of our car.  We might always use that one special coffee mug.  We might take the extra time to write that grocery list in a nice, pretty print.  

One of the things that I've been doing for years is using my hands for the salt.  Salt shakers have been banned from this house.  In their place, I have this little terracotta dish with large, flavorful kosher salt.  I grab and pinch and sprinkle the salt on my food.  I feel so chef-like when I do it.  Even Burl uses it when we eat eggs, and he pretends-sprinkle when he's playing "eat."  {Which is about the cutest thing ever!}  It's like American's Test Kitchen up in here.  And I like it.  It's fancy.  It's fun.  

So, when I'm sprinkling salt this week, I will be doing it while making these meals:

5-bean chili
Chili-mac (with leftover chili)
Curry chicken and rice, broccoli
Cream of chicken and wild rice soup
Salad, fresh bread

Friday, April 13, 2012

Terrarium Fun

Recently, John and I read a NY Times article about terrariums.  They are becoming a high-priced ticket item and there are experts and people are making a lot of money making of sticking dirt, rocks, plants, and random objects in glass containers.  I'm not really sure what the exact definition is, but I have picked up on the theme.  

Naturally, I thought they were for rich people who were too good for potted plants.  That was until I read a post about them and how one mom let her sons make them out of random things from nature.  My mom-light bulb went off and I thought, "oh yes, this is going to be great fun for Burl and I to do while we're outside!"

I grabbed some random jars with small openings.  (I have a few of these that I've saved from buying applesauce, spaghetti sauce, jelly, etc.  Save those jars!  They have been so handy to have around!)  We dug for rocks, spooned in some potting soil, and hunted for moss.

I was the official digger, but Burl sure did try.  

Luckily, we have one of the five trees remaining that were here 6 years ago when we bought this house.  That tree creates enough shade for some nice, fresh moss to grow. 

Also, I added some monkey grass that seems to need no help of mine to grow and I found a wild fern growing in my flower bed.  Be still my heart, I could not believe that I found that gem growing in my dry, sunny front yard.  I got Burl's shovel and dug that sucker right up.

This was a fun activity to do with Burl.  Here were the benefits:

1. It was an outside activity.
If anything can become an outside activity, then Burl is locked in for the whole thing.
2. We had to go to the basement (where John keeps all his tools) to get the dirt, and this makes anything important in Burl's mind.  If it comes out of our nasty basement, Burl wants everything to do with it. Not only is it a chance to see the lawn mower and power drill, but he thinks that all-things-basement are awesome.
3. He got to dig up rocks with Mama, a favorite activity.
4. Burl can say moss.
5. Burl learned how to use his foot when shoveling.
6. Burl got to play in dirt.  The more opportunities that I can give him to get his hands in different textures, the better.  It means that he doesn't have to play with his food at dinner.
7.  I got to learn how to teach Burl a process.  I'm not sure how all moms are on this, but I'm still learning how to teach Burl to do things that requires attention to details.
Specifically: I'm working on how to give clear instructions without saying 1,000 words a minute; how to redirect and encourage instead of saying "no" constantly; how to relax when he doesn't get it right; and how to be more patient with him.  I feel like I am learning this with every activity that we do.
8. Even though he dumps one over and we have to start from scratch,
Mama breaks a jar while watering them.

If Burl's lucky, then he might get to have one in his room.  On the top shelf.  Where he can't reach them.  For now, they're in our living room and I think he's eyed them.  I wonder if he even remembers assembling them?  Well, he is only two years old!  

...Maybe by the time that he's 8, we'll be assembling some impressive terrariums.  
...Maybe we can have a digging birthday party and each of the guests can make one of these.  
...Maybe I can have my friends over and we can have a plant party and everyone makes one.
...Maybe these will quickly die and I realize that I have no business making one of these at all.
...or maybe this goes so well that I'll appear in the NY Times.

Either way it goes, I'm already declaring it a success: free, dirty, free, creative, free, cute, and FREE.

Terrariums, they're worth a go in my book, whether rich people pay hundreds for them or toddlers spend half an hour creating them. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beautiful Beets

I think that I found the remedy for every illness out there: beets.  

Twice someone has brought roasted beets to cooking club, and I finally remembered to make them for dinner this week.  They are delicious.  I can't get enough.  Especially with some creamy goat cheese spread on them.  It makes me want to slap my mama, which she is going to need after reading this.  She's probably passed out on the floor after reading that I LOVE beets.  

When I was a child, we ate a local restaurant that served endless salad.  The salad had beets on it, and she always asked for extra beets-it was awful.  I tried one every time that we went, and never liked them.  (That was my mom's eating rule: we don't have to eat it, we just have to try it.  Which turned out well, because my brothers and I will eat just about anything.)

Yesterday, I started the process of roasting them.  I googled a recipe and found one that seemed easy enough.  

I ripped off the stalks.  With my bare hands.  And let out a little growl.

I rinsed and scrubbed them.  And took a picture while I did that.

I placed them in foil, drizzled some olive oil, sprinkled the salt, and covered them in foil.  I roasted them for 2 hours (because they were pretty large) at 400.  They were nice and safe in their foil home.

After letting them cool, the skins peeled off easily.  I chopped them into cubes for salad and wa-la.  The cure for cancer.  Or the common cold.  Or the cure for feeling bad about myself.

One bite of these and I know that my body was thanking me.  All that color and texture, I just know it's packed with nutrients to the max.

Burl even got some on his little salad plate.  I was worried how this would go over with John and Burl.  Since Burl mimics everything John does, I whispered a little something to John, "Ok, I'm going to give Burl beets.  Don't act like it's a huge thing.  Play it cool.  And if you don't like them, then don't let him see you NOT eat them."  

I set the salad plate in front of Burl, along with his soup.  "Burl, here's your soup, some lettuce, and beets."  I played it cool, like getting him to eat beets is totally normal.  Inside I was wondering, "Is he going to eat them?  Is he going to spit them out?"  He ate them.  All of them.  Like it was his job.  He loved them.  Outside-I didn't acknowledge that this was huge.  Inside-I was high-fiving and fist-bumping myself for getting him to eat all the goodness!

Burl's little salad plate.

I've never been a fan of the maroon and dark green combo.  Until I saw these leaves. 

To be honest, I'm not sure that I would have liked beets if someone had served them to me in any other setting than cooking club.  I would have politely turned them down.  With all the great cooks at cooking club, eating and enjoying everything, and raving about them, my prejudice was set aside.  The little girl who tried them so many times was told to give them one more chance.  

And grown up Meg was impressed.  When John told me that he was not a fan, I was a little sad.  Oh well.  I can eat them for lunch when he's not here.  He might think they taste like dirt and roots, but I think they taste like long life and good eye sight.  And I plan on using them to cure any illness that comes our way.