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School pictures

October 21, 2014
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school pics

Here you go, Grandparents.  The boys’ school pictures are in.  Tea insisted on wearing a tie to dress like his Daddy going to work, and Pea insisted on dressing like his big brother.  If Tea had his way, he’d dress like this often, but I allowed the tie only on picture day.  This is completely opposite from my days in elementary school when my mom required me to wear a dress or skirt unless there was gym that day, but all I wanted was jeans.  Jeans were never allowed until I broke Mom’s spirit with my whining in fifth grade.  Well, Tea and I have that in common – mothers who issue random, annoying rules about clothes.  (I still love you, Mom.)

The boys are far more photogenic than I ever was.  One of the pictures that makes me laugh the hardest was something that my school sent home, probably as part of a Christmas present or something, when I was in first grade.  I look like I was beat up before they stood me against a wall to take the shot.

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Darling.  It was obviously taken on a non-gym class day.

Constitutional fortitude

October 6, 2014
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I’m not always sure I’m cut out for this parenting thing.  After school today the boys played “in The Fort”, which, in the past, has meant the hobo village they’ve meticulously constructed and constantly modified ever since they scavenged some junk from the neighbors on bulky trash day in July.  “The Fort” is beautiful to them.  I, however, knowing all about real estate, know its true value is location.  That is, hidden behind the gazebo so I can’t see it.

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The fort formerly known as The Fort. Feel free to stay awhile, but you might have to fight off the neighborhood cats.

Today, however, they apparently had a new meaning for the words “The Fort” which they didn’t tell me about until after they’d been outside for an hour.

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The new fort known as The Fort. You totally want to let your kids play here now, right?

The Fort is now a few rotten boards perched precariously over the uneven, spindly branches of our pine tree.  The upper platform, I am assured, is the roof, and is NEVER to be sat on.  This is mildly comforting.  The lower platform is at least 8 feet up.  It is not nailed, glued, tied, or even taped to the branches.  They were very proud.

 

I wish I hadn’t seen how they climb into it, but I can’t complain if they sit there to voluntarily do their reading, right?  I decided they probably wouldn’t die and held my tongue.  I am trying so, so hard to let them be creative and independent and capable and stifle my “GET DOWN FROM THERE – YOU ARE NOT MADE OF RUBBER BANDS!” tendencies.

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So I bit my tongue and smiled and congratulated them (and gently reminded them to pleeeeease be careful – I am still their mother).  Ten minutes later, the storm door slammed and I turned, expecting to see Tea clutching a broken arm.  He shrugged and nonchalantly said, “I decided to climb down – the wind was pretty strong and my body didn’t feel safe.”

Phew and hurray for listening to that little voice, kid.  I’m proud of both of us.

Super Hedgie

September 19, 2014
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I haven’t been bitten by the creative bug in awhile, so when an idea flitted into my head as I was waking up yesterday, I decided to run with it.  Today everyone in the boys’ school dressed like a super hero.  I can’t remember what Tea said their super powers are.  Something having to do with being super citizens and students, I think.

I’d intended to tell the boys to dig something out of the costume bin to wear.  Whether there are actually two wearable capes left, I’m not sure.  Probably not.  Super heroes are hard on their clothes.

But as I was waking up yesterday, still cushioned in the comfortable, non-reality of dreams, I thought, “Hmm. I could sew some capes.  And make freezer paper stencils for shirts.  And masks.  And whatever those wrist bands are.  What are those wrist things, anyway?  That wouldn’t be too hard…”

After the kids were off to school, I drove around town searching for t-shirts and fabric.  Materials acquisition took far longer than I’d anticipated.  Tea requested an orange shirt.  Pea wanted red.  I could only find an orangish red / redish orange shirt, so that had to do for both.  Fabric for capes and masks was found at a different store.  I already had thread, paint, brushes, freezer paper, elastic, and velcro, so the whole project set me back less than $9.

I went with a Super Hedgie theme, as the hedgehog is their school mascot.  I used an old cape of the boys for a rough idea on design.  Our printer is out of ink (It has been out of ink for months.  Ahem.) so I had to freehand the hedgehog for the stencil, which I really, really did not want to do, but it turned out alright.

The slippery cape material was quite challenging to sew, but by the time I picked up the boys from school, they were done and one shirt was painted.  I alerted Kyle to the “Creative Emergency” and he brought home pizza for dinner.  I love that man.

I cut out felt masks in the shape of hedgehogs, (the felt stretches too much, and I’m sure the boys have torn them off by now) and made wrist thingies.  I finished up as Kyle and I watched an old Doctor Who (they are about to die!  Oh no!  How ever will they get out of it this time?).

This morning the boys woke up crazy-excited to get dressed and wanted to head to school early for a photo shoot.  I am never going to argue with that.

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There was lots of fun and flying until Pea tried the monkey bars.  He’s usually a pro, but the bars were still wet with dew, and he crashed hard, scraping his chin, spitting blood and gravel.  I dried his tears and snuggled him a bit, and it wasn’t long before he was flying around again, trying to eek out as much play time before the bell as he could.

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Sometimes it’s fun to drop everything and do something creative.  I never get around to it if I try to just carve out a little time here and there – for me it’s all consuming.  The house is trashed, so I’m not sure Kyle agrees with me, but he’s a good sport.  I’m looking forward to hearing all about the day my super heroes had today.

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On zucchini

August 15, 2014
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We recently returned from an 8-day vacation.  When we got home, I wandered into the vegetable garden and found seven obscenely large zucchini / “pool ball” (ha!  basketball!) squash laughing heartily.  They were growing so fast I swear they were bigger 30 seconds after I spied them, when I returned with a knife to hack them free.

Child for scale.  The squash are 60% of his body weight.

Child for scale. The squash are literally 60% of his body weight.

This is a challenge for me, although not an unwelcome one.  They are too large to stick in a neighbor’s mailbox under cover of darkness, and gifting them to friends seems nearly like an act of aggression, although one friend did bravely cart one home to make bread.  In retrospect, I should have lent her the wheelbarrow… The largest zucchini is nearly 5 inches in diameter.  The largest pool ball squash would make an excellent jack-o-lantern.  Combined, I harvested 25.7 pounds of squash from one week’s neglect.  Twenty-five-point-seven-pounds.  From three unfertilized plants.

It is astounding to me that three plants can produce so much vegetable matter in one week.  It’s alchemy.

Some people would be dismayed at a counterfull of zucchini, but we love to gobble it up when it’s crashing through the kitchen door for free.  In our five years of vegetable gardening, we have amassed a collection of awesome zucchini recipes, and while I don’t get excited about eating it raw, I’m perfectly happy if it’s cooked up right.

Some of the meals we are currently really enjoying (repeatedly) include:

Roasted zucchini torta with tomato and mozarella, Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.  This was unexpectedly, profoundly delicious.  It far surpassed what I imagined.  Roasting the squash before layering it with cheese and tomato sauce made it unbelievably sweet and tasty.  We use cherry tomatoes from the garden instead of the canned crushed tomatoes listed when we’ve got them.

Zucchini and ricotta fritters with lemon, Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  One of my favorites.  I can eat a lot of these.  A lot.

Spaghetti with zucchini and lemon, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.  Pea’s favorite, and fast and simple to prepare.

Zucchini frittata with parmesan, Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  Fast and simple for a weeknight, this is awesome with a green salad and some roasted fingerling potatoes.

Bountiful garden zucchini enchiladas (add a can of black beans).  This has been a summer staple in our house for years.  It’s a bit slow to assemble, but can be made in advance.  Cool, fresh tomatoes from the garden are added after it’s removed, piping hot from the oven.  Late summer perfection.

Happily, other bloggers have typed all of these out so I can easily share them with you.  If you see a trend with Jack Bishop, it is because he is my god of vegetarian cooking.  Nom nom nom nom, so delicious.  Don’t ask me about his potato arugula pizza unless you have an hour.  Pure genius.

Now there are only 2 squash left on the counter.  The rest has been consumed, given away, or shredded and frozen.  I have 20 cups in the freezer so far and will probably add to that stash before the season is over.  Given our love of the above recipes, that won’t last as long as one might think.

My favorite quick bread recipe for zucchini is one with lemon.  I add 1t vanilla extract and up the lemon zest to an entire lemon.  There are two loaves cooling on the counter as I type, ready to go to a garden party across town tomorrow.  A blogger I follow is having a pot-luck brunch followed by a tour of hers and three other vegetable gardens on the east side.  I geek out seeing vegetable gardens and can’t wait.  I hope for lots of inspiration for the garden for next year – like other varieties of zucchini I should try.

Owen Park, July

July 20, 2014
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DSC_0527Same park, different month, different kid.DSC_0488

While Kyle took Pea on a bike ride to the union, Tea and I went hiking at Owen Park, which I enjoy because it has both prairie and wooded trails.

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Hiking stick. Grrr.

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Tea was patient while I photographed a few things (while yearning for a macro lens) and I was patient while he quietly observed the 87 bunnies we encountered along the trail.  He never wanted them to feel scared, so we’d sit and wait and wait and wait until they hopped on.  Sometimes another hiker would pass, startling the bunnies into the brush, and Tea would pout.

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Tea watches a bunny through binoculars

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Bunny, take a lesson from your brothers – you should not let us get this close to you

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kid legs in summer

 

We hiked both the prairie and the woods, as Tea was in an exceptionally accommodating mood.  “We can walk whichever was you want, Mama.  This trip is for you!”  Where he got that idea I don’t know, but given the sometimes (often) challenges of too-much-together-time-in-summer, I embraced the cheerful attitude.DSC_0455

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We also spotted turkeys, including a hen and three poults (that’s baby turkeys to you uneducated people who didn’t just use Google, like I did).  Many turkey feathers were collected, which were later used to fletch arrows.  Obviously.

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Veggie Garden, mid July

July 15, 2014
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It’s a little surprising to be writing a July update for the garden while wearing a sweater and sipping hot tea, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the cool temperatures from the polar vortex even if my tomatoes are not.  Are you excited to see 47 pictures of my vegetable garden?  Of course you are!

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Kyle and I (OK, mostly Kyle) moved 7 yards of mulch into the backyard to do some major weed control in the flower beds, but also to add a 3′ border around the vegetable garden fence. I want to move the rhubarb over from the flower bed and add some pretty herbs like lavender, calendula, chamomile, and anise hyssop next spring. We also created a large bed between the garden and the neighbor’s service berries. Instead of mowing the grass in an area the boys don’t use, we covered it in cardboard and mluch, and in the spring I hope to plant some bushes that will provide fun edibles for the birds and us as well. I’m considering elderberries, gooseberries, and Nanking cherries.DSC_0030

I think my garden is still behind, either from the cool spring or a lack of fertilizer, but at least it’s looking like a garden now, and we are eating from it daily. Last night was a salad with our lettuce, green beans, parsley, and basil. We have a lot of lettuce. I find the “freckles” variety adorable.

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I have two patches of arugula, one that has bolted and one that will soon. We’ve enjoyed tons of arugula pesto, fritatas,and salads. Next up: arugula pizza.

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We have lots of basil, dill and parsley.  The cilantro was slow to get established, but we finally have enough to harvest.  I love the dill that has popped up all over the garden – it looks like fireworks.

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Pea’s grape tomato plant continues to be the most prolific. He’s harvested a few already and has kindly ensured everyone has gotten a taste.  My 3 varieties are coming along slowly but surely.  This morning I noticed the first teeny tiny Brandywine tomato just starting to grow.  Hopefully we’ll get a few ripe ones before the frost.

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Pea’s tomato

 

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The pole beans are up over the top of the 8-foot trellis and are delicious. The scarlet runner beans sweetly gifted from my neighbor are starting to show signs of flowering.

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The first planting of peas is just about finished, but the second planting, made on the shady side of the trellis, is just starting to spit out peas. This is good, because my boys eat as many as they can find.  The kale, shaded out by the rogue bleeding heart, might give us a harvest some day.

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The over-crowded cucumbers (3 varieties) are finally really starting to scramble up the trellis, and I hope we’ll get some baby cukes appearing below those flowers soon.

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Zucchinis and other squash are sooooo close. I could pick some now, but I’ll give it another few days.  And knock on wood, no sign of my nemesis, the squash vine borer.

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Sadly, the asparagus (the original impetus for starting our first veggie garden 4 years ago) has attracted asparagus beetles in it’s second month above the ground. The good news is I’ve seen the little parasitic wasp that preys on them around. I hope they’re really hungry. Meanwhile, I am keeping a pail of soapy water next to the bed and pay the boys a nickle a beetle and a penny a larvae for each one drowned. (I think I should reverse this payment system, however, as the larvae are far grosser to pick off the plants.)

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The nasturtiums around the fence are getting bigger but no sign of flowers yet.

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The volunteer cup plant next to the asparagus is growing like crazy. I’m sure I waited too long to transplant it and will either kill it when I try, or forever, forever, forever have cup plant in the middle of my garden path. Oh well. There are worse plants to fight – like Asiatic dayflower and bindweed. Gaaaah! I spent two hours pulling them out of the flower beds yesterday and I could hear the little bits of roots left behind howling with laughter. They will be in this yard for eternity.

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There are okra, bush bean, eggplant, Brussels sprout, and ground cherry plants all limping along, wishing for warmer weather. I’ll be happy if half of them get around to producing something this summer.

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bush beans and okra

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ground cherries

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Brussels sprouts and (too small to see) eggplant

And since I can’t leave you with a picture of a pathetic Brussels sprout, here is a guy I saw this morning.  He wouldn’t budge.  I think he’s frozen.  Hopefully the sun comes back out soon.

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This *was* my garden

June 30, 2014
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I intended to document the veggie garden half-way through June.  These pictures were taken 2 weeks and 7 inches of rain ago, so they don’t really resemble the current garden.

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Arugula and lettuce were the only things we were harvesting, although the peas were getting close.

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The basil and parsley were OK but the tomatoes were spindly little things (except for Pea’s plant, which isn’t shown because it is truly unfair how HUGE and healthy his was while mine were NOT.  Especially since all were purchased from the same grower and planted at the same time.)

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A bleeding heart that must have previously hidden in the old dill forest popped up in the middle of the kale and okra seedlings.  It was the healthiest thing around so I couldn’t bear to pull it out, even though I can’t eat it.  I might try to transplant it this fall, but it’s roots must be all the way down below the raised bed, so I’m a little afraid of killing it.

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The pole beans were climbing but the cucumbers had barely broken ground.

Dill was volunteering everywhere (no surprise), the cilantro was taking its sweet time, the eggplant seeds failed to germinate, and the squashes were all hiding under row covers (trying to avoid the squash vine borer).

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And the rabbits were hoping we’d forget to close the garden gate.

 

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