"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Bucket List

Whenever I get to midsummer I always feel like things speed up a few notches. Suddenly, everything is a big fuzzy blur full of manic days and kid-filled zaniness. My thumb-in-the-dike plan for stopping the overwhelming urge to cancel everything for the next month is to write a list.

Here's what I am dreaming of doing before the warm weather leaves us, Autumn takes over and Summer has officially "kicked the bucket." Sometimes printing a list like this and putting it on the refrigerator can give you ideas when your family is searching for something to do or when you're trying to remember all the things you wanted to make for dinners while the garden produce was still rolling in.

My Summer Bucket List
  1. Make lemonade from scratch
  2. Have a picnic
  3. Go camping
  4. Paint three rooms in the house
  5. Harvest our first sweet corn
  6. Make fried chicken
  7. Attend a Shakespeare in the Park production
  8. Catch fireflies in the backyard with the boys
  9. Go swimming at the local river swimming hole
  10. Make a lemon merengue pie
  11. Watch the sunset on a beach
  12. Stay up late giggling with my sisters
  13. Make my annual plum tart
  14. Sell a painting (EEP!)
  15. Insulate the attic
  16. Make a sand castle
  17. Go to the zoo
  18. Make ice cream
  19. Sing along with The Beach Boys
  20. Kiss on a bridge
  21. Read a great novel
  22. Fall asleep in the grass
  23. Blow bubbles in the yard
  24. Pick peaches
  25. Raise a Monarch caterpillar
  26. Make tomato sauce
  27. Eat a popsicle on the front steps
  28. Make s'mores over a campfire
  29. Draw on our sidewalk with chalk
  30. Hang our flag out.

So, that's what's on my summer list. Glad I got that off my chest, it's good to write these things down instead of staring at the ceiling in the wee hours telling yourself over and over, "I have to remember to...." What would be on your bucket list?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wind That Shakes The Corn

 We've got our paintbrush out and we've been helping the wind pollinate the corn at our house! Corn plants have both male and female parts on the same plant and the plant sex that creates big juicy cobs of corn is all about the pollen getting from the male parts (the tassels, up top) onto the female parts (the silk, at the tip of each potential ear).  In a big field of corn, the wind does the job admirably. In our little backyard patch with only three rows and a hedge around our property to block wind, not to mention neighbors houses and trees and such, we can't be sure the wind will get the pollen in the right spots.
 So, we're helping out a little. Here is Ru, demonstrating what I've been doing with my biggest watercolor wash brush. I snipped several tassels that were shedding pollen and put them in a ziploc and then dipped my brush into the bottom after giving it a few good shakes. The pale yellow dust collected on the hairs of the brush and then I went around giving each tassel a little brushing.
 Some of our tassels are this pretty color, like some of the female parts got all My Little Pony and wanted to make sure everyone knew their gender by wearing all pink. Kind of makes me chuckle.
 And some of our silks are this pale blond color, almost transparent in the sunshine. I am interested to see how the corn kernels relate to the silk color. (If they do) Every single one of those hairs runs down to a specific kernel of corn and if each strand finds a granule of pollen it will develop a juicy bump on the cob...if not it will be a dry blank spot. Trying to hand pollinate our corn makes the whole process seem ridiculously miraculous. I think it will be astounding if I manage to get any full ears out of the process. How can you ever be sure that every single hair has been given pollen? There are so many of them and the pollen is so tiny. It's amazing to me that it ever works with just the wind to do the job.
 We were the only ones after the pollen. Some bees, not our bees as far as I noticed, but a larger variety that werem't honeybees, were collecting too. Bees actively gather pollen in addition to nectar. Pollen has a lot of protein and fat, basically a meat substitute for a vegetarian species...nectar is mainly sugar, which is a good energy source. The bees turn nectar into honey but they just eat the pollen. Fun to see that our corn is making food for us and others, with no extra effort!
corn, plants, garden, pollen, pollination, sex, ear, cob, kernel, bees, grown, summer, gardening, food, sweet corn

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pie Secrets

 Just making and eating pie again, as is my usual custom this time of year. It seems like pie would be a great thing to make in winter when it is cold (and it is, if you freeze or can some of the summer fruit!) but I seem to mostly make it in warm weather when the bushes and trees are dripping with fruit and all hands are stained with juice. I love pie. Passionately. You can keep your cake...I'll stick with pie.
 I was busily making pies this week and then eating pies and think to myself about a small correction or two that I owe the pie making section of my blog audience. A while back I shared my favorite pie making cookbook and typed up the recipe I always use for blueberry pie.
 Well, a good friend used that recipe to make a pie and was much disgruntled to find that it sank down a very slumped in, and pale version of itself and came marching back to me to ask exactly why her pie didn't look anything like mine even though she'd used my recipe.
 I am my mother's daughter. I use recipes but I am also not afraid to experiment, and sometimes do so without my conscious or deliberate thought, even habitually. Can you believe that of me?
The hitch with my pie making is that I discovered in my newlywed pie making days that any standard recipe seems to yield those sort of sunken results and so requires tweaking. I follow the recipe's suggestions for sugar and thickening agent (usually cornstarch) but I pour in far more fruit than anyone would advise. They say, for instance, to add 3 1/2 cups of blueberries? I put in 6-8 cups. Pies should be teeteringly piled with fruit, so much so that the crust is required to hold it all in, because during the baking everything will shrink and compact and a bit of evaporation will occur. Always add more fruit. Add as much fruit as you can practically manage to squeeze in. Truly.

Another thing I always change in my pie recipes is the amount of water in the crust. Invariably recipes suggest far too little water for me to be able to get it to work. I just add water in tiny amounts...say a tablespoon or two at a time until I am able to get a dough to form. It is easy to go to far so go slow, and try to stir briskly and minimally in order to avoid making your dough tough, but I often end up adding as much as a half a cup of water. I just keep dribbling it in until the dough behaves.

So, there are my secret pie confessions....go forth and make pastry!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dusk, Shore Walk

 I don't own a boat, I've never owned a boat...I'm not even really a big "boat person" but they sure are peaceful to look at, floating by the docks, all ready for seafaring adventure. I have a boat photograph that I'm trying to work up the nerve to paint, and some day I will have the guts to give it a spin and try putting boat-happiness on paper.

 Spent the dusky, muggy evening strolling the shore, at a park near the marina. Geese and swans, the lighthouse in the disance the last of the golden sun, and boats galore....

 Old men in boats are extra cute. Maybe I'll get a boat to putter around in when we're old. As long as he'll take me along on misty evenings near the shore.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Clothesline Poem

 Happy Poetry Friday ya'll! Second time round on a laundry poem today. Every time I go outside I see my clothesline and think that I ought to try poeting about it so, here I am today, giving it a whirl. Hope the weekend treats you well and that you enjoy all manner of fabulous summer moments.

Laundry DayImage by atrphoto via Flickr

The Laundry Parade
Laundry marches down my clothesline, post-dawn
Before the egg's cracked or bacon begins to spit
In the cool morning breeze they are drawn up
And shuttled one by one into their given spots,
Each damp shoulder tucked against his fellow's
All day they are there in an obedient row
Stretching from the backdoor to the garage
Flowing and snapping in ceaseless formation,
One grand color coordinated battallion,
Today a troop of brave, bleached whites
Yesterday a platoon of red, all glowing in the sun
When I take them down at dusk and finger them,
They are crisp from standing at attention
For hours in the sun, their very fibers thick
With all the remembered effort and so as a release
I shake each playfully in the evening breeze,
Wiggle them and dance their various stiff joints.
And then I lap them into restful accordion folds
Soft, fragrant layers of rest, all piled together
In the wicker basket I carry in for the night.

You can find all the other entries for Poetry Friday at A Year of Reading. Hop on over and check them out!
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ptosis Update: Leaving The Surgeon

Another little update today on Dee's congenital ptosis situation. If you're curious about the preceeding chapters, feel free to read more about his surgery at the age of one here and my last update on his healing and visual status here.
 "He's doing really well" is the short version of current status. We notice that he is doing less tilting his chin up to see out of his affected eye and more lifting his lid using the new brow connection. He has had lots of eye exams at this point and so far he has perfect vision in both eyes which means that we caught the timing perfectly and did the surgery before there was any damage because of the drooping lid pressing on the retina. We feel like we won the lottery on that count. 20/20 vision is a fabulous gift.
We saw his surgeon again for one last post-op check-up this past week and Dee even sat up in the eye exam chair alone for the first time, usually I sit in the chair and he sits on my lap. He did a big boy eye exam with a chart (all ships and cowboys instead of letters) and verbal responses and scored perfectly. His surgeon said he's very pleased and although the lift isn't cosmetically perfect, (maybe slightly lower than ideal and a touch off center on the creasing) it is clearly perfect functionally and doing exactly what we were hoping it would.The surgeon shook Dee's hand and said that he has no more need to see him unless there are particular issues that arise so we'll just see the regular eye doctor for check-ups now until Dee outgrows this lift and needs a new one (maybe sometime in his early teens?).

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Before Kids: A List

I sometimes think idly about how I might have prepared myself more fully for motherhood. I don't mean learning how Tylenol dosage works or practicing diaper changing but more holistic, easily missed or even simple, practical ideas. The kinds of things nobody tells you but you sort of wish you'd known.You know?

I've been compiling my own mental list for a while, here's what I've got.  Maybe you're still in the waiting stage, expecting to be a parent eventually but with a little time buffer between now and then...here's my advice.

Before You Have Kids, You Should.....

  • Learn to live by routine. Before I had kids I was the sort of person who had trouble remember to brush her teeth consistently enough, I could never take my multivitamin consistently, I went to bed at random hours...etc. I think one of the main keys to motherhood sanity is simple routines. Always make your bed. Get up early. Shower consistently. Nap-time happens, come hell or high water. That sort of thing. I now live on a menu, have a shopping day, work from a standard home chore list and I'm doing much better but it was an up hill battle....still is. :) Do yourself a favor and get this stuff under your belt now. If you're struggling with home routines...check out Motivated Moms...they have an app for the iPhone and also a Yahoo group that can email you daily chore lists. I love their system.
Quiet day at home, all three brothers.
  • Make friends in the same stage of life. I married young which made it easy for me find myself without peers when I was having my first child. BUT, I was also a snob and turned up my conceited little nose at the company of a bunch of "mommy friends." Oh, I was a ridiculous little goose! Learn from me. I now have lots of parenting pals. I think it's really important to have friends who understand what it feels like to be up all night with a screaming toddler, or who are also brainstorming solutions to teething woes, and trying to find pediatricians. People in the same stage of life have sympathy for your issues and also have answers for your puzzles. Seek out your life-stage partners. And if you're worried that the mommy types won't be interesting or engaging enough, seek out people who are your type who also happen to be in the same stage of life. I know this sounds tediously basic but when I was a new mom I thought all new mothers would want to talk about nothing but their kids and wore sweatpants all day. I just had to find a few moms who like to grow their own food, think Monty Python is hilarious and happen to be artists. It's worth looking...you can find all kinds of people in every stage of life.
  • Develop personal hobbies and activities that are kid-free and fullfilling. So much of parenthood involves giving to the small people, learning to eclipse yourself and let go...and that's all helpful and good. The other side of that coin is that it is also good to have something that can be a respite for you to retreat into to recover from your kids. It's great for kids to see that their mom has a life beyond them, that she has talents and interests and still grows and learns. It's also good to have something in life that you've held onto that excites you beyond your children for the next stage of life when you stop having babies and decide what else you want to contribute to the world. So, right now while you're kid-free...live in the current stage and dive into whatever you're good at, whatever you're curious about, whatever you've always wanted to try...then keep after it, even in tiny doses once there are little people in your life.

  • Get a puppy. I'm just saying. If you've always thought you wanted to have a puppy and you imagine your little ones growing up with a Rover of their own to love....get the puppy now. House-breaking a puppy while potty training your toddler is not to be done. Get the puppy now.
  • Learn cooperation (and not just with your spouse). This one is connected to making friends in the same stage of life. Ask for help with parenting. Don't ever suffer under the delusion that "real" moms doing it all by the sweat of their own brows. That's wackazoid! Real moms, healthy moms...are part of vibrant communities where all the flawed and brilliant parents lean on and help each other. Crying your eyes out over discipline? Call a pal. Need childcare for a trip to the dentist? Call a pal. Have a hilarious story about what your 3 year old said on the potty? Get on that phone. Smart parents never parent alone.
  • Build a habit of getting up early. I think there are very few parent mood-killers with quite the same potency as the feeling you get when you finally straggle, foggy-headed out of bed and find the mess the kids have been creating all over the house, and look at the clock and realize lunch is in two hours. Getting up early, even if you aren't naturally a morning person...is a huge win. You set the mood for the day, you give yourself more time to get things accomplished, you get your feet on the ground before the kids show their mischievous little faces and you might even get a few stolen moments as a couple before the world is spinning 5,000 miles an hour again. I love this post from the wonderful blog, Like Mother, Like Daughter, about teaching yourself to get up early.
Baby kisses. :)
  • Learn to eat well and be active. Take your vitamins every day, make your own food instead of buying processed substitutes, eat multiple colors of produce at each meal, be active every day, don't stock things you don't want to eat all the time. Some of these things are habits, some are education, some are skills....work on them now, while you have the time. Another good thing about working on health before you have kids is that you have the chance to pre-stock your body with the supplies to handle pregnancy, birth, lactation and the stress and pressure of motherhood. 
  • Purchase a good bed. (Or at least a killer mattress.) We have a hand-me-down mattress that is in somewhat lamentable condition. I'm truly not sure how old it really is. I wish we'd saved up and purchased a great one before we had kids. When you're really pregnant and sleeping on a mattress with dips and lumps, it's a pretty big insomnia machine, even if you're a great sleeper like me. Now that we're in full-on parenting mode we keep thinking we'll get around to a new one but honestly, I expect us to keep on with the mountain-range model until a spring stabs one of us in the back. Oh to start off on the right foot! And make sure it's at least a queen...we almost started married life on a double and now, I think God every time the baby snuggles down between us or all the kids pile in on a Saturday morning that we actually have the room to allow us and kids sanely.
Sometimes romance has to come, on the fly.
  • Spend a lot of time and energy working on understanding sex and getting to know yourself and your partner sexually. Experimentation is good but raw knowledge will give you a turbo boost. Don't just have sex;  read books, listen to lectures, look at diagrams, get out your hand mirror, talk to each other and compare notes, read studies and talk to your friends about their experiences. This is the time to learn and establish sexual skills. Once little people are shrieking in the other room, your man is in the mood and your libido is nursing mother low...knowledge and sexual compatibility will be really difficult (although not impossible, never despair!) to attain. Do it now, this is sexual prime time.
Jam session with my parents and my brother, at Christmas-time.
  • Make peace with your family. Nothing like having kids to further stress a strained relationship. If things are distant or rocky or just odd between you and your nuclear relatives, do all you can to let bygones be bygones, protect yourself and appreciate their strengths as well as recognizing and accepting their weaknesses. Remember that you're a grown-up now and mistress of your own ship so there's nothing to fear from the previous stage of life when your parents were in change and made other choices. Time for love, in whatever form and within whatever constraints you can deem necessary.
  • Learn to love self-improvement and self-forgiveness. Life is always about balance. Learning how to be a good mother is all about setting impossible high goals, those kinds of "When I'm a mom, I'll never...." sort of statements and then when you fall short forgive yourself. If you can forgive yourself you can move on instead of letting yourself get stuck on whatever your failures are as a parent. You will fail. All parents fail. And there is no failure that can't be forgiven and learned from. None. You are what you are...seek to improve and forgive.
  • Concentrate some good energy on getting to know and connection to your nieces and nephews, your godchildren and any other important small children in your life. Interacting with kids is the best practice for interacting with kids...not to mention the fact that it is really fabulous to spend the time and energy on children other than your own while you still can. It is much harder to be an involved auntie to my far away nieces and nephews now that I have three of my own here under the same roof with me.
Jane her Megaman, demonstrating A+ aunt and uncle skills.

That's what I've got for now. Maybe sometime I'll share a list of things I did right that I'd do again if I had the chance. Anyone have anything they'd like to add to the list?

Impromtu Beach Stop

 Mama saw a taco truck. Mama pulled over. Mama told the boys to put on their bathing suits. Mama bought some tacos. The Beach + A Taco Truck??? Crazy cool.

 There's a lot of sea lettuce on the shore right now at this particular spot, and so you had to find a clear spot or wade tip-toe through it to get to the open water. Love that my boys aren't to prissy to handle it.
 You can see why it got the name it did. I hear it's edible. I've never tried. I don't actually personally like sea veggies unless they're on the outside of my sushi.....at least as far as I have tried.
 Isn't this red kind pretty? Anybody know their seaweeds? I need to learn their names.

 There was a little wading, which became a little splashing, and a few falls...no harm done. Just slightly more damp  on the ride home. We don't mind a little sea water.

Found a lot of scallop shells at this beach right now too....interesting to see how the natural detritus changes over the season and location to location. We don't have many scallop shells near our house, we have whelks (Look! I know a new one!) and lots of oysters and mussels.
We sat and ate our tacos, watched the freighters unloading across the harbor, launched a few driftwood ships and then hopped back across the sand to our car. First impromptu beach session of the year? Check!

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