Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vivisms, vol 25

Duh, Mommy...
Me (to Nate): I need to get a Banana Republic card so I can run up the bill.
Vivi: Not run up the bill, Mommy, run up the HILL!

Plotting...
Vivi: Daddy can we watch Vivi TV?
Nate: Not right now honey, I'm watching the weather.
Vivi: Hm, well ok then.  But when Charlotte is asleep and you are asleep and Mommy is asleep and the couch is all empty then I'm watching Vivi TV.

Eating dinner
Nate: Don't lick your spoon, ok? Take a bite like a polite big girl.
Vivi: Boy aren't polite. Boys are gross. You're a boy, right Daddy?

Playing with her "guys"
Vivi: Ladies and gentlemen!...

Me: Why are you out here? Do you want to watch a different movie? (She was watching "Spirited Away")
Vivi: Yeah because it's too fast, and I don't understand it, and I can't hear it with my ear things.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

off to the hizzot in the ATL...

I'm leaving for Atlanta today to celebrate Charlotte & my mom's birthdays and see my Dad and family over Labor Day weekend. Take a look at the weather I'll be missing while I'm gone...


The hot bugs are still chirping, but their swan song won't last long. Fall is getting ramped up, and I venture it's here to stay. It's a rare experience for me to have autumn begin on September 1st, with the brief exception of our two years in Madison, WI. Meanwhile, my home state of Georgia will still be in the 90's all week. I can only hope Boston's version of my favorite season lasts longer than a week (unlike the spring up here, apparently). Please don't start the winter yet. I'm not ready. Ok, I admit to having already bought snow pants for the girls, but that's only because last year I couldn't find any in January and because I got a great deal at Old Navy. But I'm not ready to be cold yet! Do you hear me, weather? I'm not ready yet!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

honesty is the ironic policy

My three-year-old lies. A lot. Perhaps this is not a revelation to any of you; however, for us this development is big news. Where we once had an adorable chubby munchkin whose very face was the embodiment of perfection, we now have a miniature sociopath who lies with as straight a face as I've ever seen. When presented with her colorful adaptation of a previously boringly black-and-white novel of mine, our sweet little girl says stoically, "The baby did it." Oh, you darling angel. Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

The first time it was cute ("The dolly opened the door, Mommy. I tried to stop her!"), but lately, when I find the pages ripped out of a favorite storybook or black crayon scribbles on her bed, I am not finding the fibs all that adorable any more. Of course, I can't let her know the truth that I'd like to go all Samuel L Jackson on her for ruining my book or making me clean up crayon scribbles, AGAIN. Instead, I hide my true feelings and calmly explain the concept of honesty, the irony of my deceit oozing from each sentence. The reality is that not only does everyone lie, but parents also take it to new heights. We lie with exclamation points.

There are the lies we tell others...

"Am I calling at a bad time?" No!

"Don't you just love this play group?" Yes!

"Mommy, do you want to play with me?" I can't wait!

And let's not forget the lies we tell ourselves...

Childbirth wasn't that hard! I can do it again!

I am going to be the cool mom!

Who needs to have their hair washed anyway? Not me! 

The real issue at hand isn't the crayon mess. That's what magic erasers are for. My daughter's lies tell me we're navigating into difficult territory, an invisible mess full of complicated explanations, moral ambiguity, and an exhausting number of whys. While all that parenting responsibility can weigh heavily on my shoulders at times, there are a few things my daughter says that can lift the heaviness and remind me that some positive parenting tips do stick with her, like "May I be excused?" Those four little words are music to my weary ears.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

goodbye clean house, hello hovel

Charlotte is eating finger food...which means I can't keep the friggin' fraggin' stuff off the floor and walls...which means I keep stepping on it in my bare summer feet...which means I have started to curse...

Dare I go on? It's amazing how quickly these kids change, and just exactly when I am at peace with the changes, i.e. don't mind stepping over a gate every two seconds and of course occasionally stubbing my toe in the process, another change comes--WHAM!--and smacks me full-on in the face. Then, quite suddenly, I am back to bemusedly staring out the window and wondering how this all happened to me.

Pardon me?

I did this to myself?

Indeed not. I beg to differ.

Oh, you say I chose to have kids?

Hmmm, yes, I see what you mean.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vivisms, vol 24

Picking her up at camp...
Vivi: Mommy, I had fun and didn't miss you.

Driving...
Vivi: This one is not the same as this one.
Me: Oh?
Vivi: I'm not talking to you, Mommy, I'm talking to myself.

Vivi: I don't like bulls. They're too horny. (get it? horn-y?)

Me: Come here please so I can put this spray on you.
Vivi: But Mommy, I don't need to wear any bug scream! (I am going to Proctor & Gamble with this new title, which is clearly superior to "insect spray").

Me: Please eat your oatmeal. I'm eating mine too.
Vivi: And I'm eating mine three!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rockport and granola

Those two words sum up my weekend. On Saturday, we took the leap of faith that all parents with two kids must do to get everyone out of the house and in the car for an hour-long journey. You say to yourself, "This will be fun. This will be fun. This will be fun!" Fortunately for us, our trip to Rockport was fun!
Playing with cheetah and zebra
Boredom sets in...

It doesn't hurt that we were able to listen to some of our favorite Saturday programming on NPR...Car Talk, This American Life, Radiolab...and stopped for burgers from Five Guys along the way. "What, no seafood?," you might be thinking, but when you're all starving, and you have a chance to stop and get something not too giant-chain fast-foodie, tell me what you'd do. Well, if you're this woman, you'd pack healthy organic snacks. But we can't all be Mom-of-the-Year, now can we? Anyhow, the gamble must have paid off because after we all stuffed our faces with greasy burgers and fries, we were a much more agreeable bunch. When we arrived to Rockport, it was off for a long stroll on the rocky coast to enjoy the ocean breeze and give our stomachs some recovery...





...before stuffing our faces again on a town favorite, ice cream.


Rockport reminds me of the classic New England coastal town I'd never visited but always held a picture of in my mind. It's a charming mix of yuppy vacationers, townies, and lobstermen, at times joyfully jumbled together, but somehow still with that Massachusetts edge to them. I sort of think of them as relaxed Yankees. If you cut in line or bring up your opinion on sports, you might also want to consider bringing your fist with you, but otherwise, they are not so easily ruffled as New Yorkers.




On Sunday we had a pleasantly uneventful day full of cleaning the house and making granola. I love homemade granola with yogurt. For several years there wasn't a time in our house where we didn't have it on hand, but the addition of kids has thrown my cooking habits upside down, so I am very gradually getting back into the swing of it. I use an Ina Garten recipe, as usual. You can get it online or with my slight changes below:



granola

4 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking/instant)
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup oil (I use 1/2 c. coconut oil and 1/4 c. sunflower oil)
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
3 cups dried fruit (I use chopped apricots, cranberries, pre-made tropical mix, & raisins)

Preheat oven to 350 degF. Toss oats, nuts, and coconut in a large bowl. Whisk oil and honey in a small bowl and pour over oats mix; stir until well coated. Spread on 2 cookie sheets and put in oven. Stir every 5 minutes with spatula until golden brown, about 25-35 min.  Pour granola onto parchment paper to cool. I store mine in a plastic cereal container or in a vacuum-sealed bag in the freezer. I keep the dried fruit in separate container until serving.



Monday, August 22, 2011

in which I take it to the next level

Warning: we are about to enter the stage in our relationship disaffectionately known as "TMI." You see, part of the vanity in writing a blog is that you begin to think everything that happens to you is blog-worthy. A hazard of the trade, you might say. Come to that, I often wonder if it's not narcissistic even to start a blog in the first place. If I want to remember recipes or what my kid said, why not just keep a paper journal? (I do that too, by the way). I guess what it boils down to is that I'm not a good enough writer to come up with interesting ideas all the time, but I'm not composed and self-controlled enough to stop myself. It's like I'm the unfunny Seinfeld. Help, I'm drowning in a sea of verbal diarrhea! TMI?

I mentioned to my beloved husband this idea that I might sometimes blog about mundane topics, and he raised his eyebrows and said "Yeah" with a little too much emphasis. Hmmm, point taken. One of the reasons I keep him around, actually, is that he's not afraid to tell me when I'm being boring or if I have spinach in my teeth. Buddies are good about letting me know too, like when I ask who's seen Winnie the Pooh and hear that it's "a sad day when you're looking for Pooh reviews." Sigh, true that.

In the spirit of TMI, allow me to share some potential blog posts that in a moment of clarity and good editing got cut from the ranks:
  • I love the spray thingy on the sink
  • Why does nasty goop end up everywhere when I roast a chicken?
  • Is it just me, or do parents go through a s**t-ton of batteries?
  • Me and my washing machine: it's complicated
  • Gross object on the floor is bigger than it appears

It isn't just that I occasionally share disgusting or bland details better left to the annals of parenthood that gives me pause. In an attempt to fix the long-standing problems with the blog's comments, I decided to make it searchable by engines, figuring that more public = less firewalls, spam blockers, etc. I am also tweeting the posts that I think might be interesting to others not in my fan base of five loyal readers and random drop-in Facebook friends. Publicizing my blog in this way brings up a long-running existential dilemma.

[Oh, that reminds me. I have to stop this post for a quick aimless digression in which I tell you that at one time years ago I considered calling my blog "existential dilemma," only to discover the name had been taken by somebody already. Not just somebody, but someone with a personality freakishly like mine...shares recipes and random anecdotes, loves food, family, travel, etc. "I think, therefore I blog"? Also taken. I could go on. See there? Even in the blogosphere I'm unoriginal.]

Ok, back to my predicament. I have always been somewhat afraid of the Internet. It's a love-hate thing. I love blogging and shopping online and social networking. But then when I am being introduced to the leader of a huge organization and move in to shake his hand, and he says "I saw online that you just bought your first house," I start to wonder if it's such a good idea to air my dirty laundry in public. As I've become more fond of other blogs, I've noticed a trend in which moms refer to their children by nicknames. In this era of over-sharing, perhaps that's not such a bad idea. So if you start seeing "Peanut-isms," you'll know why. Less is more, right?

review: memoir about finding inner happiness

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is...: A Season of Unlikely HappinessThis Is Not The Story You Think It Is...: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I mentioned a while back that I was reading this memoir, which I started after finding this NY Times article. I enjoyed reading about her ability to stay calm when her husband was having his "mid-life crisis," but I think I got most of what the subject had to offer from the succinct, interesting, and considerably shorter article.

I do think that her message of finding happiness within yourself is an important one, as is staying calm in difficult times. This book would be a good read for anyone in an existential struggle either with a loved one or within yourself.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 19, 2011

a wonderful children's book

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find YouWherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


We got this book from the library, and it caught me by surprise how much I loved it. Vivi likes it too, but she can't understand it on the same emotional level as me, so I am definitely the one who requests it at story time. I tear up every time we read it, which is somewhat rare for me. I am a crier in long books and movies but not so much in commercials and kids' stories.


Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
I wanted you more
than you ever will know,
so I sent love to follow
wherever you go.

It's high as you wish it. It's quick as an elf.
You'll never outgrow it...it stretches itself!

So climb any mountain...
climb up to the sky!
My love will find you.
My love can fly!

And if someday you're lonely,
or someday you're sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or you think you've been bad...

just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That's me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

If you're still my small babe
or you're all the way grown,
my promise to you is you're never alone.

You are my angel, my darling,
my star...and my love will find you,
wherever you are.

You are loved.



View all my reviews

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Charlie crab-crawls and "helps" me clean

video 


video

Here are some I've been meaning to post for a while of Charlie doing the crab-crawl and carrying her "lovey" the broom around with her. She also loves to "help" me do laundry by pulling down my freshly folded clothes. Caution: These are 'typical day' videos only a grandparent could love. Consider yourself warned. Proceed at your own risk of boredom.

help! Walt Disney hijacked my kid's creativity

I'm sure it's not an original sentiment to proclaim that my kid is being brainwashed by Disney movies and their inane plots. Allow me to summarize:

A princess aspires to meet nameless prince with no personality, who can then rescue her from some kind of tower or sinister monster or wicked stepmother, thereby whisking her away to happily ever after, whatever that means.

Has anyone noticed how many princesses are nearly murdered by psychotic women due to jealousy over their beauty? Why can't it be jealousy over their genius mind or charming personality? And why are there so many psychotic women out there in story land trying to murder princesses? And why do these stories always portray women as either mindless gorgeous princesses or crazy princess-killing bitches? And why do the protagonists always have to be princesses in the first place? Sheesh!

The latest Disney princess movie, Tangled, is admittedly pretty cute; in fact, I found myself stopping whatever chore I was doing in the next room to watch for a few minutes, which is no small feat given my ability to tune out Vivi's movies (honed from many hours listening to the drivel dialogue frequently present in the 1940's princess classics). But I am rapidly tiring of the same ol' silly premise, and unfortunately even Rapunzel doesn't escape the Grimm brothers' fascination with stolen babies and crazed women.

Fortunately, despite Disney's attempt to squash creative thinkers, my daughter has somehow emerged with a budding imagination. And when I am in my little peanut's imagination-land, I would much rather play "bean-bag dinosaur and Buzz Lightyear go shopping for fruit cups" than "the prince slays the monster to save the princess." Another lucky break is that our latest great library DVD find is "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" classic that I loved so much as a child. I am happy to say it's now her most-requested film. I can't wait to get her some of the Milne books, not to mention eventually taking her to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie in the theater, if it's still out there.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

gotta love a help desk that actually does something

I give Google a lot of credit for keeping Blogger up and running well. I was skeptical about using the Help section to fix the issue with comments, but it just may have worked! Using my sister-in-law as a guinea pig, we ran through the problems with a troubleshooter, and I think it's working now. I hope those who have tried to comment in the past will be able to now, but let me know if you still have trouble.

Vivisms, vol 23

Vivi: Today is Windsday (thanks Pooh), tomorrow is Thursday, and then it's Fried-egg and the weekend and I can watch a movie!

Me: Vivi, come here and let's put your clothes on.
Vivi: Hang on, Mommy. I'm thinking about blue and yellow.

Vivi's first music playlist...
Vivi: Is this Adele? I love Adele. I want Adele, Usher, Katy Perry, and Rihanna, and that's all I want. And I want it loud.

Making a shopping list...
Vivi: Mommy, can we get a diamond at the store today?

Vivi: I love the book that Aunt Katie and Uncle Jason gave me.
Me: Good! That was a Christmas present. Do you remember Christmas?
Vivi: Yes! I love Christmas. Santa is my good friend. He gives me cheese! (Note: our Santa we visited actually did give her cheese for some odd reason, and she never forgets a friend who gives her food).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

baby dhal

Remember how I said I am making vegetarian Indian food? Well, I figured there's no reason Charlie has to miss out on the fun. Can you believe she loved it from first bite? I figured we'd have to go with the 8 tries until success, like the general wisdom suggests. Here's a recipe from my favorite baby food cookbook. As with most baby food recipes, I always double it.

baby dhal

3 c. low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 c. dried red lentils, rinsed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 c. cauliflower florets

In a medium saucepan, combine stock, lentils, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients; cover and simmer until vegetables and lentils are very tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Transfer to blender and puree on high speed until smooth.

Update (1-28-12): As Charlotte gets older (17 mon.), I still make this for her and Vivi too, but I add ground ginger to spice it up, and I only puree half of it in a food processor to keep it chunky.

ode to August

Ah, August. The month of humidity, more spiders than I thought existed, "What is that smell?," and camp! Glorious camp. By now the kids are already back to school in Georgia, but up here in Boston, camp is still in full swing. Vivi is at a YMCA camp this week, and I spent my first day in my week of freedom and quiet shopping for clothes for her at TJMaxx. Today the plan is to clean the house, and tomorrow I'll be organizing and scrubbing the basement. It's amazing how much can get done with only one child around.

Another reason I like August is that it signals the coming of my 2nd favorite month of the year. September is the month of Labor Day, my mom's birthday (which, thanks to being on/near Labor Day, we usually celebrate together), the first few hints of fall, and back-to-school time. And in turn, September signals the coming of October, my favorite month of the year: the month of my anniversary, Halloween, fall festivals, and full-blown autumn.

Monday, August 15, 2011

bizarro weekend

Did you ever see the "Bizarro Jerry" episode of Seinfeld? It's the one where Elaine meets the guys who are exact opposites of Jerry, George, and Kramer and decides she'd rather be with them. It's also the one where Jerry dates the girl with "man hands," one of my personal favorite relationships of his. This weekend reminded me of that show because it was so strange.

It all began on Saturday when we went to get iced coffee. I almost never drink caffeine, and when I do I occasionally get a feeling of euphoria. But not this time. Instead, because I had also taken a Sudafed (which I learned later has a drug interaction with caffeine), I got a peculiar feeling of dizziness and restlessness, and later on, sleeplessness. In fact, I ended up not falling asleep at all, which has never happened to me before in my life. It was such a crazy feeling to be up still at 4:30 a.m. and not be tired...AT ALL. I read an entire book that night.

On Sunday we had an unusual activity planned. I signed Vivi up for her first ever psychological research study. Back in the days when I was a child psychopathology researcher, I always knew I would volunteer my children both because I find psychology fascinating and because researchers are always in need of participants, especially children. Plus, who can resist going to Harvard and some of the other fantastic universities in the Boston area? This study is being conducted by University of California, San Diego using subjects from around the country, and it is creating a pediatric imaging-genomics database. Along with an eight-page medical history questionnaire that I completed, Vivi took part in neuropsychological testing using a touch-screen computer and had an MRI scan of her brain. She loved the experience from start to finish. Just having a special trip that was for me and her was enough to get her excited. We don't often make it into the city, so it was fun to see how enthusiastic she was about the beautiful bridges and buildings we saw on the way to the Charlestown Navy Yard. I'd say the "computer game" part was Vivi's favorite, but strangely, the MRI wasn't far behind. They let her watch a movie while in the machine, which they called a rocket ship, and she got to pick out a prize afterward. I was relieved she seemed not to have inherited my claustrophobia. Oh, and we got a check for $100, which I plan to put toward some much-needed wardrobe purchases for Vivi today. While we didn't do it for the money, it certainly doesn't hurt. I am looking forward to Charlotte's first infant study with Harvard next month!

The oddities continued into the evening, when I got lost in Boston looking for the highway. We were starved, and it was raining, so I reluctantly swung into a McDonald's for only the third time in the last eight years. It was Vivi's first Mickey-D's experience, and I made sure I didn't tell her the name of the place we were eating and didn't give her the toy that comes with the Happy Meal. I almost took Morgan Spurlock's advice and punched her in the face, but I decided that was taking it a bit too far. Kidding!

Last up in the weekend trip to the extraordinary happened upon our return home, when I learned that Nate had a great time hanging out with Charlotte. In fact, he said she was, and I quote, "cute and fun." WHAT?! Don't get me wrong--my husband loves his children. But Nate giving a baby a compliment? Now that's bizarre.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

review: honest and funny memoir

I Remember Nothing: and Other ReflectionsI Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron is once again as hilarious and true to life as ever. Since I was a kid, my dad has kept a pad and pen in his pocket so at any point he can jot notes to himself. This is the method he's worked out to make sure he doesn't forget picking up the dry cleaning, that fourth item on the grocery list, that album that he wanted to look up online when he got home, etc. It's a great trick to counterbalance the CRS (as in "can't remember...anything") that runs in our family, and I picked it up as I've gotten older and had more responsibilities. The trouble with my system is that my notes often don't make sense to me later. I'll write something like "ask him re: the stairs," and then I'll look at it later and think "Ask who? What stairs? Where?" I've never wanted to own up to this clearly idiotic trait, but her admissions of forgetfulness have freed me to admit the truth. I remember nothing too!

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 13, 2011

on appreciation: a letter to my favorite teacher

Dear Dr. Harper,
You were my most beloved teacher I have ever had. I took your College English class in my senior year of high school in 1997-1998. I wish I had kept up with you as a pen pal, the way you invited us all to do. I did for a few years, but then I fell out of touch the way sometimes happens in your 20's when you think your life is busy (before you have children, and you learn the meaning of the word busy). I'm certain you are shaking your head at my use of parentheses because you taught us they are almost never necessary unless parenthetically citing a fact [I'm also sure that was a run-on sentence. See how I cheated and used brackets? That was our favorite inside joke, if I remember correctly]. I still have your list of "Grammar Nuggets," as you called them. I refer to them often, mostly mentally, as you drilled them into my head so effectively that they are now stuck there forever.

I cannot begin to express my thanks for the multitude of lessons you taught me, both about the written English language and life. I have thought of you so often over the years. Your first education was not even a verbal one. I had seen you throughout my four years at Roswell High School, slowly and deliberately pacing the halls on your way to class. On my first day of your course, I entered the room, saw a cane, and immediately presumed your teaching ability to be lessened based on your disability, which turned out to be temporary due to a foot injury. I couldn't have been more wrong about your demeanor and intellect. Of course, as soon as you opened your mouth, I was won over for good. What a valuable example that was on not judging a book by its cover.

I was thinking about you again today as I am slowly dipping my toes in the water of freelance writing and editing. I owe any meager writing talent I may possess to your constant encouragement and good teaching. I desired to write you today both to express my gratitude and in the hope that I may have made you proud. How bereaved I was to learn that you passed away only a few months ago. Once again, you have taught me a lesson without even uttering a word. Correspondence is an integral part of life, and one that I will attempt never to take for granted again. How important it is to let those we love and appreciate know how much they mean to us, every chance we can get.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Wherever you are, I hope you are smiling down on us, your grateful pupils.

Warmest regards,
Justine

Friday, August 12, 2011

blog round-up: organic food & gardening


Yesterday I shared some thoughts on growing and/or canning our own food at home. Although this goal may be difficult to achieve, I am committed to cooking organic food as much as we can, if for no other reason than this adorable, brilliant, and frightening glimpse into getting a sweet potato to sprout. Even my less lofty goal has been made more difficult lately because of rising food prices. I find myself buying more processed foods simply because the bottom line is cheaper, which reminds me of something a recent fellow blogger (author of Chiot's Run; see link below) said about the difference between being "cheap" and "frugal." Essentially, she sees frugality as withholding purchases but not necessarily purchasing poorly made items, whereas being cheap means buying crap. So, maybe that philosophy can extend into the food world. I will try my best to buy whole food frugally, getting only what we need and not buying processed junk simply because it's cheap (hear that, sun-dried tomato Triscuits? You're outta here).

So with all that in mind, here are my favorite blogs that inspire me to make better food for my family:
  • Spoonfed: a great blogger shares tips on teaching kids to care about food
  • Chiot's Run: adventures in organic gardening
  • Dinner, A Love Story: a hilarious wife-husband writer team who blog about getting the family dinner to the table
  • Slow Food USA: a movement to connect food and farming
  • Nourish (food + community): this blog's part of an initiative on food and sustainability. The post I linked to is a video on "food and family"
  • LocalHarvest: a non-profit that assists in finding local farmers markets and CSAs
We are on a waiting list to begin using a meat CSA, which will hopefully start in January. Until then, we are planning on sharing a pig with another family. I will report back on the experience.

What inspires you to make better food? 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

showing the mason jar some love


The rule of three strikes again, this time with mason jars making it into the forefront of my psyche. I noticed our hydrangea bush was getting a little out of control, so I did some pruning and made floral arrangements in my favorite multi-useful vases, mason jars. If you've ever been to my house, you know of my attachment to them because we keep mason jars as drinking glasses. Then I went to a farmer's market and picked up homemade jam in, what else, a mason jar. Finally, I read a few blog posts and found more interesting mason jar discussions. Here are my favorites:
  • The Single Nester's instructions on how to dye your jars blue (via CentsationalGirl). Genius!  
  • Ethel's Gloves' ode to mason jars
  • Chiot's Run's post about freezing food in glass jars; a very helpful tip given our switch to glass from BPA plastic, and now that we have a big freezer in the basement
  • Hounds in the Kitchen's ideas about making your own jam (via Attainable Sustainable)
  • When pondering the question "how do I make food in jars?," look no further than the trusty Internet (aka a website aptly named "food in jars")
A wise uncle recently pointed out to me that with the current economic climate, many people are about to find out for the first time what it's like to make an honest attempt to live within their means. While the frugal side of me (what am I saying? there's no unfrugal side) thinks we've always done our best to live within our means, rising grocery prices are testing that assumption. And with regulatory agencies routinely falling down on their job to control agribusiness and the food industry, we are turning more local for our food purchases. Perhaps it's time we made the biggest leap of all local choices and make some of our own food. I am finally trying my hand at composting, so I'll report back when I have more to share about that experience. Next up, gardening and canning? Why not!

What are your favorite uses for mason jars? Anyone tried making your own food?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

comments, anyone?

Dear reader(s),

I've noticed that lots of people are emailing me or putting a note on Facebook that they like the blog, but almost no one comments on the blog posts directly. I am wondering why and postulating that maybe something is off about the comments part of this blog. I just went under the hood and tried to tinker a bit with the comments settings, but I can be technologically challenged at times, so it might not have worked.

Of course, the irony of this situation is that you won't be able to comment on this post to tell me if you are having trouble posting comments. Ha! Ain't life grand? But you can email me by clicking the link I just added at the top right hand corner of the page or post on Facebook if we're "friends." If I wake up to 10,000 new emails with the subject "here's something exciting I wanted to show you," I might have to take the email link down from the blog. I sure do hope I can get it figured out because I would love to hear what you have to say about the blog. Too whiny? Not enough snark? Let me know!

Sincerely,
j.u.

Vivisms, vol 22


Establishing priorities while hiking in the woods...
Vivi: Be very quiet, Mommy.
Me: Are we looking for animals?
Vivi: No, we're looking for diamonds.

Still hiking in the woods...
Vivi: Why isn't there any water in the creek?
Me: Sometimes when it hasn't rained very much and it's hot, the creek dries up. Also, the animals drink out of it.
Vivi: I think the animals pulled out the plug, and the water went down the drain.

Me: Please eat your oatmeal.
Vivi: But I'm relaxing!

Every time I listen to this album! I think it might be a set-up...
Vivi: Who is this?
Me: It's "Vampire Weekend."
Vivi (serious face): Oh, well if it's the weekend, then I can watch a movie.

Vivi: Mommy, can you turn Charlie's nose off? She's gots too many boogies.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

the end of suffering

I stop cold for a few moments, silent, trying to decide what to do. The girls are in the back, unknowing, V still singing the song I abruptly stopped singing only a second ago.

Am I strong enough? 

I listen to a few bars of "Winnie the Pooh" before I can muster the courage to look. Finally, I glance up in my rearview mirror to study it again.

Shit, it's still there. But I didn't do it. This isn't my mess. Why do I care so much?

"Mommy, what are we doing?"

Decision time.

I pull the SUV into a driveway and spin around to head back the way I just came. The half-flattened, freshly hit squirrel is in mid-squat stance, fighting to try to stand. I stare at it, and somehow I feel like it's staring back.

Just do it already. He's suffering.

But as I prepare to floor the gas, he miraculously perks up a bit. Sure enough, he begins to walk, then scamper, back into the woods. I turn the car around yet again and head home, my head spinning, thoughts racing through my mind. Was I in such a hurry to put this squirrel out of his misery that I almost killed him unnecessarily? It would appear so. But what does that say about me?

Maybe I've always been this way, but it wasn't until I had children that I've realized how difficult it is for me to allow others to be subjected to unpleasant experiences. Once, Nate and I were in couples counseling, and the therapist asked Nate a question. Nate paused for what seemed like too long, and I immediately jumped in to respond. The therapist stopped me and asked me why I felt the need to interject. I pondered and said "I guess I felt like the pause was too long and awkward, and I was worried you would feel uncomfortable," to which he sarcastically quipped "How nice of you to be concerned with my feelings. But aren't we here to discuss your feelings?"

I'm currently reading a woman's memoir that highlights suffering and the quest to terminate it. She says wise philosophers, spiritual or otherwise, point out with certainty that "the end of suffering happens at the end of wanting." Clearly this statement means little to the squirrel in the road, or to anyone enduring physical pain, but it speaks volumes to me and my desire, nay, need to squash suffering. There are times when Vivi dares to introduce herself to strangers at the playground, and they do not answer her, typically because they are much older or in the midst of a game. My instinct is to swoop in and protect her from any hurt feelings, but at this age she takes the slight in stride, continuing about her play. I know one day she may take it personally, and when that times comes, I will be forced to make a choice. To swoop, or not to swoop. I hope I will have learned by then that wanting to spare her the pain does us no good. In fact, it could be that a little suffering goes a long way to teaching a lesson, and if I intervene, I rob the sufferer of their due education.

This morning, as I was doing the dishes, there was a giant "BOOM!" in the next room, which brought with it such a calamitous vibration that I thought a car must have driven into my home. One, two, three seconds.... "AAHHHHHHHH!" Nope, it was just Vivi, who apparently somehow launched her forehead full steam ahead into the living room wall, resulting in a waterfall of tears and a nice-sized welt. I swiftly took her into my lap and quietly calmed her as she cried the pain away. V's head bump reminded me that there are times where swooping is in order; and in those times, I will be there to end her suffering.

new cookbook

My Father's DaughterMy Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I got this from the library because I have enjoyed her GOOP.com website and was intrigued to find out what she could have to say about food. I so rarely buy cookbooks these days, looking instead to the internet and my Cooking Light and Food & Wine magazines; however, I am thinking I will buy this one. I found myself completely immersed and read it cover to cover last night. It turns out she has a very strong point of view and one that is very similar to my own, serving her kids a large variety of solely organic meals, even including olives and anchovies (which, it turns out, are some of Vivi's favorites). I appreciate her tips for how to make a meal more kid-friendly, and I am sure the vegans also appreciate that she gives notes for how to make a meal vegan too. The photography is stunning. Her descriptions of her family are deeply personal and touching and make me want to cook the meals that much more. I also love that she includes a list of pantry items in the front; so few cookbooks do that, and it's a great touch.



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Monday, August 08, 2011

tabbouleh

Since I already blogged about hummus, I thought I'd share another Middle Eastern favorite. Tabbouleh is one of my all-time best-loved vegetarian side dishes. It's light, flavorful, good for you, delicious, and easy to make. I use Ina Garten's recipe. It's a great foundation to start with, and we like to change it up from time to time. Nate prefers basil to mint, and I love to use pomegranate seeds instead of cucumber and tomatoes.

Friday, August 05, 2011

summer reading junkie

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved summer reading. Once or twice I even brought a book to camp, camp! of all places, because I couldn't stand to part with it for 8 hours. I can remember one summer that I read "Little Women" two or three times at my dad's house, not just because it was the only book I had there (why I didn't think to ask him for more is beyond me...a kid thing I guess), but because at the time I thought it might be the only book I would want to read for the rest of my life, I loved it so much.

This summer has been some of my best reading ever because I am home with the girls and able to sit and veg for an hour every day in the sun with my stack of magazines, books, and snacks. Before you get jealous, remember that I pay dearly for this small privilege. I promised myself I wouldn't just read new books that are intelligent and worthwhile, but also silly magazines and books I've read a bunch before. One of my best recent discoveries is the free magazine swap bin at my library, which is a hundred times better than any library magazine bin I've ever seen. Vanity Fair, New Yorker, Time, Vogue, Home & Garden, Boston Magazine, you name it. I'm not so good about putting new magazines in there (I only get Cooking Light and Food & Wine, and part of the reason to get those is I hang on to them for recipe ideas), but I at least put the ones I grab back after I'm done.

I currently have a stack of unread books that I'm looking forward to: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and on and on. But right now for some reason I'd rather read Heartburn by Nora Ephron again. If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend it. She weaves recipes into her writing in a way that I've always thought was creative genius, and she speaks the truth about what it's like to be a woman better than just about any female writer I've read. I just got to one of my favorite passages, and I had to share it:

"One thing I have never understood is how to work it so that when you're married, things keep happening to you. Things happen to you when you're single. You meet new men, you travel alone, you learn new tricks, you read Trollope, you try sushi, you buy nightgowns, you shave your legs. Then you get married, and the hair grows in. I love the everydayness of marriage, I love figuring out what's for dinner and where to hang the pictures and do we know the Richardsons, but life does tend to slow to a crawl."

I agree with her on everything she said except that life slows to a crawl. Our life is more full than ever, but it's just full of things we don't really want to do, like doing taxes, mowing the lawn, figuring out where one buys a decal to stop the birds from committing suicide against our big bay window, folding a billion pounds of laundry, emptying out the back of the fridge. And that was only this week's list.

A friend shared a great link this week to a New York Times article about the snacks authors eat while writing. I don't write enough to have specific snacks devoted to the task, but I do have my snacks I eat while reading. Presently next to my stack of reading material are salt & pepper cashews (to die for, you really should try them), jalepeno tostitos, and the most wonderful but insanely difficult to open box of Trader Joe's cinnamon graham crackers.

What are you reading this summer? Do you have a favorite accompanying snack?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

a feast fest in our future

Today began the world's largest Portuguese feast in Boston, The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. We have been looking forward to this festival for months, both because we fell in love with Portugal when there a few years ago and because we love to eat. Kidding aside, one of our beloved pastimes is partaking in all cultural foods a city has to offer. Anthony Bourdain taught us a few years back in an episode of his travel show that Boston has a thriving Portuguese population. We have sampled some Portuguese food like sausage but never so much at once! Nate has been on a work trip for a few days, so I'm looking forward to him returning so we can stuff our faces. Yum.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

boring AND dangerous

I suppose it goes without saying that I love my kids dearly, yes? But inevitably there are phases in babyhood that drive me crazy, and right now we are entering such a time with Charlie. I call her boring because for the most part, that's how I view babies in general and truthfully even my own. Chubby and adorable, yes, but beyond that they don't really do very much. Except of course when they become mobile, and then they do things all day long, only they are things you don't want them to do. Hence the dangerous part. Where I once was able to plop her down with some toys and complete a 10-minute task out of the room (is it ok to admit I do this? I'd hate for the parenting police to come knocking), I now have to try to do things in the room with her or else drag her along with me to the next room and put her in some kind of contraption (read: doorway bungee jumper). Vivi was interested in taking the DVDs down off the shelf just as Charlotte now is, but that is where their mobility-related similarities end. Vivi mostly enjoyed cruising around the furniture and playing with the remote control, whereas Charlotte enjoys slinking off to a corner where she can put a small object in her mouth or remove the outlet covers from the wall. I can't tell you how many times I've walked in to find her smiling with colorful teeth because she has yet again found a crayon under the couch or between two cushions. As with all phases, I repeat my "this too will pass" mantra, but this one can't pass soon enough. Of course the next phase is walking, which brings with it all sorts of new issues. Careful what you wish for, right?

I included the video below in this post because it accidentally captured some of what I'm talking about. I was trying to video Charlie dancing to the Beatles' song "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da." Earlier in the day I listened to an NPR segment about songs played during childbirth, and when a bit of that song came on, she clapped and giggled and danced in such an adorable way. So of course I tried to recreate the scene, but I didn't realize bringing in the camera would elicit such a different reaction. She LOVES electronic stuff.

video

On the plus side, Charlie gives the best big slobbery kisses, and she has such a cute laugh. I love being with her, and I love it even more when I watch my two girls interact together. With great gifts come great responsibilities, I suppose.

Vivisms, vol 21


Vivi: Why is Charlie crying, Mommy?
Me: I'm not sure.
Vivi: I think you hurt her feelings.

Vivi: What sound does a rhino make, Daddy?
Nate: Hmmm, I don't know.
Vivi: I'm going to ask my animals.

Vivi: What is this store called?
Me: It's CVS.
Vivi: But I don't see any V or S.

Vivi: What are you buying? Is that candy?
Me (grabbing a bag of pretzel M&Ms): It's chocolate for Daddy.
Vivi: For when he goes poop?

Vivi: Pretend this is my house (the corner of the room behind the couch) and this is my grandma (Charlotte).

Vivi: Mommy, can I help you fold the laundry? Here's your elbow thing (a bra).

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

feeding the toddler brain

Brain Quest Workbook: Pre-KBrain Quest Workbook: Pre-K by Liane Onish

Vivi is like a sponge, absorbing everything around her at an amazingly rapid pace. While it is impossible for me to keep up, I try to occupy her mind with as many activities as I can, from working on our Spanish colors, to counting to 20, to drawing monsters, and even dancing "ballet" to classical music. A few days ago we were at the park, and a little girl around Vivi's age was playing with her father. She said "I'm going to draw a rectangle." I was surprised enough that she knew such an advanced shape, but my wonder grew when her father replied "It would be tough to draw a rectangle because we have nothing to measure the sides with to ensure equal length, nor do we have a way to judge right angles." Thinking she would shrug him off and continue on her merry way, I was thoroughly shocked when she furrowed her brow, thought for a moment, and said "I'll draw a triangle then!" I hate to participate in racial profiling, but I feel in this case of profound awe and envy, it is probably ok to tell you they are Asian (did you guess that already?).

Instead of simply being jealous--although I admit I was--I use these experiences of being one-upped to improve my parenting ability. Who knew some 3-year-olds are ready to learn about measuring inches, shapes like rectangles and trapezoids, and right angles? I'm waiting for this book to arrive from Amazon, and then we'll hit the ground running. I may not be able to teach her algebra yet, but she's probably ready to move beyond reciting her ABC's. I got a great tip from a teacher/mom who left a review on Amazon, and I just have to share even though I haven't tried it yet. She suggests taking all workbooks to an office supply store and asking them to spiral bind them so you can lay it flat for your child to work. Genius!


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Monday, August 01, 2011

the perfect boiled egg

I have known how to cook a great egg for a long time, but it was only recently that I read the science behind why it turns out so well every time. I thought you might be interested in the brief article (see the rest of the article if you're interested in knowing other cooking mistakes). If you have been wringing your hands about boiled eggs, worry no longer. This is a fool-proof method:

Place eggs in a saucepan, cover them by an inch or two over the top of the eggs with cold water, and set the pan over high heat. When the water barely reaches a boil (i.e. not yet "rolling"), remove from heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs stand for 12 minutes (note: This is a departure from the article, but to me, 10 minutes sometimes results in runny whites...yuck). Set eggs in an ice water bath, and peel under running water for the easiest shell removal. 

As for why sometimes the shell sticks, I am still not sure about that one. One of the great mysteries of life, I guess.

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Update (4-16-12): Since writing this post, I have learned that difficulty in peeling can be due to a too-fresh egg. Who knew there was such a thing?

Editor's note: This post is a part of Monday Mania.

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