Thursday, May 31, 2012

how our garden grows

Vivi's patient pursuit of four-leaf clovers can consume an entire afternoon.

Much like Mary, we are contrary gardeners around here. Despite dire warnings from neighbors and strangers about critters eating the whole lot come harvest time, our seedling adventure is still chugging along. I'm unflappably optimistic about the venture, figuring all the exercise and dirt therapy is worth whatever food we must eventually offer up to the tiny garden gnomes or whatever other earthly creatures lie in wait.

Offering the kids plenty of occupying activities: house, bin o'toys, tub o'water, and a branch fort

"Digging in" my garden with compost, peat moss, and fertilizer

A few of my trophies. "Rocky" doesn't begin to describe this patch of soil.

Peonies, thanks to the lady who used to live in our house. Aren't they lovely?

Drooling over my neighbor's sweet tomato set-up. Can you believe the upside down thing really works?

Hybrid bell peppers, squash, zucchini, and a tomato (not pictured)

Three more tomatoes, raspberry, and Vivi's sunflowers

This is some kind of weedy flower that is apparently impossible to get rid of. Luckily I like it, and so do the bees.

Strawberries! I'm sad we are going to miss most of the picking season while we are on our southerly vacation.

We are making progress! This week was the biggest output of energy yet and involved lots of digging of dirt, rocks, and roots, and multiple trips back to the local farm for fertilizer, compost, and pots. Ultimately, we ended up with a 4'x8' plot in the ground (minus a spot for the tiny maple tree I couldn't bear to dig up) instead of raised beds. I couldn't find salvaged wood or cinder blocks in the time frame I wanted them, and it occurred to me I didn't mind putting in a bit of extra labor of digging in the soil. {Note about supplies for digging in: for our 4'x8' plot, I used 4 40lb. bags of composted cow manure, 1 cu.ft. of peat moss, and about 3/4 c. of organic fertilizer}. We've also added a bunch of pots in the sunny spot next to the garden plot that had too many roots to plant in the ground, and a few random pots of strawberries, herbs, and flowers here and there.

Having given you my nonchalant spiel, do you green thumbs out there have any tips about keeping away unwanted critters? Some sort of {gulp} fencing I should put in? Or {double gulp} fox urine I should spread around? Even without the garden, we could use some protection anyway against whatever omnivorous nocturnal creature is eating our garbage, be it raccoon, possum, or skunk.

Vivi's flower pot: lantana and some unknown vintage hybrid mix. Somehow they managed to make those flowers all co-exist in the same plant. Don't ask me how, but isn't it cool?
Front porch herbs: sage, thyme, and parsley (back porch has rosemary, oregano, and basil)

Update: A few hours after I posted this article, Tom Ashbrook hosted a great hour of NPR's On Point called Garden Fever. Guess his show ain't called "On Point" for nothin'! I enjoyed the discussion and learned a lot--I highly recommend it if you've got some time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

getting our learn on this summer

 Thank you to LeapFrog for sponsoring my post about LeapFrog Summer Camp. To sign up for LeapFrog Summer Camp, please click here. #CleverLFCamp #spon

Remember back at the start of the year when I told y'all about Vivi's computer game (aka. that time I figured out a way to have a few minutes of night cheesing while Vivi is still awake)? Well, Vivi still loves her computer, but I'm also looking for ways to entertain her this summer that are educational but don't necessarily require a computer screen. That's where LeapFrog comes in! Read more about their summer camp here!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Martha and me

Welcome to the May 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Organizing
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we organize our lives. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.

Mountains of laundry. Check.

Friday, May 25, 2012

different strokes

Welcome to May edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Parenting Practices and Criticism”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!


No, this is not a post about that TV show from the '80's (although I will share with you quickly that whenever Vivi says something silly, I usually reply "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" to which she always answers "I'm not Willis, Mommy, I'm Genevieve"). Rather, this is a post about how I help my kids understand that we do some things differently in our family from other families.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

high on thrifting


It's bittersweet to say goodbye to the spring thrifting season. Bitter because it's over, but sweet because I have once again outdone myself in fantastic deals. Yes, I know I can still shop thrift stores year round, and I do, but it's not the same as the nutty spring bonanza. I live for crazy lady 'bowing episodes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

wordless wednesday: {the three muskateers}

At our favorite local Audubon sanctuary, Drumlin Farm
Editor's note: This post is part of several Wordless Wednesdays...Jenni from the Blog and Live and Love Out Loud.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

hello rhubarb!

I didn't grow up eating rhubarb. It doesn't grow in the south because the weather is too warm (even MA is a little warm, it prefers the colder weather in Canada). I have a tendency to view vegetables I never ate as a child in a skeptical light. Fruity celery? No thank you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

love the place you live: Belmont Town Day

There is a town near us called Belmont, and even before today I would have said it was the quintessential New England town. And then! They hosted a "Town Day" today, which was such a perfect way to spend a warm spring day and a great spot to visit for this edition of Design Mom's {Love the Place You Live} series!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

THE mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

I love me some mashed taters, mmmm hmmmm.  I've been perfecting a recipe over the years. It started with just one secret ingredient, cream cheese. In fact, sometimes I still just make them with cream cheese and call it a day (and some chives to make ranch mashed potatoes; an even fancier ranch potato recipe can be found here). Delicious.

But when I'm feeling real fancy-like (said in drawl it's more like "feeellin' rill fayn-cee liak"), I add a little extra something--namely rosemary, browned butter, and garlic--that sends this dish to the next stratosphere. You know when you're at a restaurant and you wonder what in the world they do to their potatoes? This is that recipe. Let's not even discuss calories. But if you were worried about such things, you wouldn't be reading a recipe for mashed taters, would you?

Mashed taters with beef carbonnade (Flemish pot roast)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

flow: a simple way of parenting

Hello, Readers!
I am pleased to introduce you to talented writer Megan Massaro, who co-wrote the book (The Other Baby Book). The authors of the book are conducting a virtual book tour, where they pop in to blogs and guest post. The Other Baby Book is linked up to my blog in my sponsorships sidebar. As with all the other "sponsors," I gave an ad spot and post to Megan because I like her and her blog and think you will too. Be sure to read through to the end of the post to see her bio and other links.


“Balance” is a buzz word for women, and mothers in particular.

As in, “It’s important to have balance in your life.” “Babies, career, friends, partner—it’s a balancing act.”

There’s even a book called The Balanced Mom: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Self. (I have not read this book, BTW. Just mulled over the title.)

Balancing sounds nice, but it’s better left to pilates classes, not moms of babies. Balancing can be scary. If you don’t hold things in exactly the right way, something’s out of whack.

Enter: Flow.

Friday, May 18, 2012

recalling my German heritage: making spaetzle

My Grandma Jackie, seventh grade

"In wine there is wisdom,
in beer there is strength,
in water there is bacteria."
-German Proverb

I grew up hearing stories about my Great Great Grandma who was German. When I close my eyes, my memories dazzle with all the times my Grandma Jackie would pass on the wisdom of her mother and grandmothers. She is full of pearls like the one above (which actually isn't one she gave me, but it shares the sentiment of her zingers). The one thing she hasn't passed down, unfortunately, are German recipes.

Luckily, a few months ago our great CSA farmer shared her own recipe for German spaetzle, and I stashed it away for a later time when Nate was home from his two-month international trip. After all, who wants to make such a hearty, cheesy comfort meal when serving a table of one? No, this is a dish that is made with love and labor, and it is so gluttonous it practically demands being shared.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

my guest post on Natural Parents Network!

"Does Daddy have a bajingo or a wee wee?"

Find out how I answer that question* and others posed by my inquisitive four-year-old on my guest post over at Natural Parents Network. If you like and can identify with the post, feel free to pass it along!

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I've never actually been asked that question, but I thought the prospect of it was funny, given the questions she has been asking me lately.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

start a food revolution

Did you know this Saturday, May 19th is Food Revolution Day? Word. Gotta love Jamie Oliver, right? I'm on the look-out for an event to pop up in my area (maybe a farmer's market rally or something?), but in the meantime my plan for the fam is for us to eat all from-scratch food that day, even our cheese and crackers. Are you doing anything special to mark the occasion?

I was going to add a few of my thoughts on real food here, but I've probably done enough of that already. Plus, I have the hunch that anything I say to you about eating real food will be preaching to the choir, especially since I have gotten as many food tips from this blog as I have given.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Genevieve's simple garden tea party

blowing candle
Update: Vivi's birthday was featured on Apartment Therapy Family's Best Kids Parties series!

Genevieve turned four at the end of April. This was the first of her birthdays that I was as excited about as she. Well, almost as excited. When she was turning one, we decided not to have a real party with kids and steamers and instead to wait until she expressed interest in a party. This is the first year she seemed excited about the party aspect of the birthday, so it seemed like a good year to throw one.

While I'm not generally enthused about bringing in new items to the toy rotation, I did enjoy taking a simple, frugal approach to her party planning. I started mentally preparing for the big day after her best friend's party in February. Vivi's party was a great success! I thought some of you might be interested in the details, so here's a synopsis of the day's festivities.

Monday, May 14, 2012

call for submissions: simplicity parenting blog carnival, May 2012

Do you strive to live a simple life? A life where you focus the essentials and cut out the excess? Have your children motivated you to simplify everything or left you feeling like life is more complex than ever? Either way, the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival is for you!

Please join Justine at The Lone Home Ranger and Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM on the fourth Tuesday of each month for a blog carnival all about simplicity parenting. Whether you already consider yourself a simplicity expert or you’ve just started taking small steps to slow down, we want to hear your about your experiences, challenges and successes. We’ll focus on a different topic each month in order to share information, learn from one another, and celebrate simple family living (or living simply or simply living)!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May flowers

I had a great Mother's Day weekend! The hubs really pulled out all the stops, so I had another holiday of not having to change diapers, give baths, or make dinner. We went for a long bike ride yesterday to our town center to have some ice cream, towing the girls in a trailer for the first time. I only feared for their safety 99.9% of the time; but even with the fear, I'd call the trip a deliriously fun success.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I am enough: a Mother's Day declaration

time magazine

When I saw the Time magazine cover story announced yesterday, "Are You Mom Enough?," my initial reaction bore mixed feelings. On the one hand, I applaud the message sent by mothers who want to show that breastfeeding at any age can be a good choice for them.* Above all else, I am tired of the "mom wars," in which we judge and berate each other's parenting decisions, particularly the decision to breastfeed. We even go so far as to create laws that would hinder those decisions. There is such a sad double standard in a society that allows barely-clad breasts to advertise sex on billboards but restricts mothers from feeding their children wherever and in what way they see fit to do so.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

word nerd alert

Sometimes I read Wikipedia for fun. Even if I know the meaning of a word like haiku, I'll look at what Wikipedia has to say on the subject and end up trolling the sub-links until I inevitably learn something somewhere.

Yes, I am a word nerd.

When people ask me how I can manage not to watch TV, I consider telling them I'm a Wikipedia troll, but then I reconsider and say "I read lots of books and magazines." I do that too, but often instead of reading my stack, I'm learning about synecdoche*, which incidentally has a great Wikipedia entry with somewhat hilarious examples (e.g. "Prominently used in slang and vulgar speech, where a person's home is referred to as his 'crib' or the entire person is referred to by his/her genitalia").

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

word{ful} wednesday: a long weekend

Our friends Alan and Liza came up for a long weekend, prior to Alan's big presentation to executives in Connecticut on Monday. We had a great visit! My experience with them cemented a theory that's been bubbling in my mind: we define a sense of self through the people closest to us, possibly because our companions mirror back to us the best parts of our personalities. Thus, when we are away from loved ones for prolonged periods, we begin to lose our grip on who we really are.

I'll never forget hearing what my great-grandfather described as the most difficult part of living nearly a century: losing his loved ones. I thought grief would be his reason for the difficulty, but it wasn't the kind of grief I was expecting. Rather than focusing on the sadness of losing them, he highlighted the loss of his own sense of self.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

our summer tribe

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

A bluegrass band playing at the pavilion

My dad and his cousins were raised together in Miami, Florida, and in the summer they would drive the fourteen or more hours to the north Georgia mountains to "escape the summer heat" for a week. As someone who now lives 1,000 miles north of the park they visited, the humor of their different interpretation of "heat escape" is not lost on me.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Aunt El's corn pudding: a simple heirloom recipe

Corn pudding (recipe below) with avocado and Cholula hot sauce

While my "Made from Scratch" life has snuck up on me in recent times, my love of family recipes has been life-long. I love continuing family traditions and starting new ones of our own, and I have begun a project of assembling my favorite recipes into a collection. And I'm planning to share it with you!

I'm in the process of testing and photographing recipes that I've never made before. It's been a fun journey so far. Once I started researching "heirloom" recipes, I learned the term is actually "heritage recipe," and there are websites dedicated to preserving and sharing them; my particular favorite site is here.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

in the ranger kitchen {2}

I can't wait to buy my new 50mm lens. It has been no fun trying to do food photography with a mostly-broken focus. But it is also a good exercise in learning to make do with what I have, so I'm waiting patiently for when it's my turn to splurge with the budget. Maybe my birthday?

Despite shoddy camera work, we have been making some great food around here since Nate got home. He made an oxtail stew the other night, and I dunno, I think it could have been close to the most YUMs I have ever uttered during a meal. Oh, and did I mention he served it with the world's best mashed potatoes (homemade by yours truly) and crusty bread with butter? I'll try to pester him into posting the recipe soon.

Oxtail stew, mashed taters, salad. Recipes coming!

Friday, May 04, 2012

{this moment}: Vivi's birthday

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

I'm cheating this week! I simply cannot choose just one photo from the many of the day. So here's a collection of some of my favorites...

Thursday, May 03, 2012

beans, rice, avocado: the perfect protein trifecta

This post was inspired by a Facebook chat I had this morning with a vegetarian cousin, who says she's hungry all the time. A common issue among veggie-lovers, I imagine. Enter beans, rice, and avocado.

In my nutrition class taken almost 10 years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about beans and rice that I have committed to memory ever since. Individually, grains and beans are lacking essential amino acids (i.e. protein building blocks), but when combined, beans and rice complement each other and become a complete protein. An affordable, complete protein.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

simple living: when simple is anything but

Today I am featuring a guest post about simple living by Molly of Molly Makes Do. I hope you will find her post as inspiring and passionate as I have. Be sure to read to the bottom to see her bio and link to her blog.

The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn't simple. 
~Doris Janzen Longacre

According to the word “simple” contains the following five separate definitions:

Simple –
  1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.
  2. not elaborate or artificial; plain.
  3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned.
  4. unaffected; unassuming; modest.
  5. not complicated.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

homemade Mother's Day video & Animoto giveaway!

Happy May Day! I'm going to start off this month a bit differently on the blog and host my first giveaway. I'm not a giveaway girl usually. Maybe it's because I'm a book nerd, or because I'm frugal, but I don't often find myself getting excessively hyped up about any new product or electronic toy. I'm a simple chick. I have a dumb phone--you know, as opposed to a "smart" phone--and I prefer to scrub my floors on my hands and knees to the fancy steam mop that Nate bought and that, less than a year later, has just been donated to our church rummage sale.

Now that I'm past that little rant, I'll tell you about the electronic toy I love. When Clever Girls Collective offered me a chance to make videos from my pictures, I thought: how fun! It was perfect timing because I just scanned a bunch of pictures of my mom that my dad found and sent me. Since Mother's Day is coming, I decided to make a movie for mom of the pictures I scanned. Happy (early) Mother's Day Mom!

And guess what? I'm not the only one who gets a freebie. There's something in it for you too. Just go to Animoto and enter the code CleverFL to get a free video. AND one lucky reader will also get a free one-year subscription to Animoto Plus, which gives you unlimited full-length videos.

Here's how you can win the free year's subscription:

Leave a comment by midnight on Sunday, May 6th letting me know who you would make your free video for. Also sign into the Rafflecopter widget below and complete as many other entries as you'd like. The winner will be selected randomly by Rafflecopter and announced on Monday, May 7th. Good luck!

As they say on their website, making videos on Animoto is "shockingly easy." This is important because I have only a few minutes to spend on learning new things, due both to my post-baby brain power and hectic mommy schedule. But dudes, I'm serious when I say that if you already have the pictures and song, it will take you about five minutes to make your movie. So go for it!


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