Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Where in the World?

Where in the World Have I Been? Ten Things Keeping Me TBtB (Too Busy to Blog)

1. In the field picking strawberries and in the kitchen making jam.
It's strawberry season. I've got strawberry jam in the basement and bags of strawberries in the freezer. I'll make at least one more trip to the strawberry field, probably this weekend. Loving husband is craving a strawberry pie.

After I processed two flats of strawberries this weekend, all hulled by the elder of the lovely ladies (who was a grand sport about the whole thing), she reportedly remarked to loving husband, "I don't know why she thinks she needs more strawberries." He pointed out to her that seven people eat a lot of jam.

Best of all, I estimate that we've gotten the equivalent of a flat of strawberries, one heaping bowl at a time, from our front yard. The back yard strawberries are just now coming on.

2. At the pool. Swim lessons.
This year instead of the "funnest" pool, the indoor one with the kiddie pool and the cool names for the swim classes, I chose the closest pool. Out-of-district fees and gas prices combined made the nearby pool a far more attractive option, especially with three guys in lessons.

I realized this morning that I've just taken my last young one to his first swim lesson. Five first lessons. We've been going for swim lessons since the summer I paid the eldest lovely lady five dollars to dunk her head under water. (She dunked under ten more times, hoping for more dough.) The boys have all been traipsing--well, more like traipsed, as they couldn't walk and didn't choose to go there--to the pool since they were tiny little ones on my lap. It's delightful to see my baby growing up, but I got a little misty. What is wrong with me????? I've been longing for the day when I can send them all off into the pool and read uninterrupted for half an hour. The day has come and I'm all sappy and nostalgic. And did I read? Nooooooooooo. I watched the lessons.

3. With the dog.
Poppy took a puppy vacation at a boarding trainer. Now she's home, and I've been spending inordinate amounts of time with her working on manners. We really want to keep our sweet loving dog, so it's worth the time and effort. It's paying off. We're all seeing a calmer, more obedient dog.

4. In the yard.
The fine young gents are appreciating our fine summer weather, playing in the sprinkler, in the kid pool, in the hammock.

5. In the garden.
Truth be told, there's not that much to do right now. Everything is planted. Most veggies aren't ready for harvest except for the salad greens. I've been weeding a little, pulling the lettuce and spinach that have bolted, appreciating the growing plants.

6. At the park.
I've got photos from recent nature hikes, but no time to post them. We've been getting out and about on our own and with friends. I appreciate that we've got good friends with whom we play on a regular basis.

7. Around the house, cleaning and organizing.
Putting away school supplies, setting up summer activities. Throwing away all the toys. Not really but every year at this time I really want to call Goodwill and tell them to back up a van to the door and I'll shovel it all in the back.

Every winter when we're cooped up in the house and we rediscover the toys, I am glad that I didn't toss them.

8. Sleeping.
Duh. I'm running out of places I've been, though, and it's true that I've been choosing to sleep instead of write blog entries.

9. Still at home, preparing for our Chinese students to arrive.
Our choir hosting experience was such a delight and a success that we've decided to host some students from China for two weeks. I can't wait. Then I get anxious--will they like us? Will they eat our food? Will we meet their expectations? I mean, they're here to get a picture of typical American culture, and our family isn't exactly typical. Which....talking to myself....I suppose is part of the point: How do individual families fit into the larger cultural picture? (Discuss amongst yourselves, I'll be back when I'm not so busy, say in September...when school starts...how about October? Christmas break? When the gents are teens?)

10. At the library.
We signed up for Summer Reading and got our free books today. Another sign of our growing-up family, only three free books this year. Both of the lovely ladies have aged out of the program. The gents made some interesting choices, and we had an out-of-the-blue tantrum adventure, one of the get-that-kid-out-of-the-library kind. But he wore himself out so that he took a two-hour nap when he got home. So life is still good, even when your kid is screaming in the library.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Day in the Life: Friday Pond Day

Visiting:
The pond. This time with the pond dipping back pack. A pond visit is the perfect way to end our school year and kick off the summer. The fine young gents waded and splashed and dipped for minnows. The weather was perfect, warm with a light breeze. We spent four hours at the park in the glorious sunshine, dipping in the pond, then across the bridge to wade in the canal and feed the ducks.

Finding:
Silvery minnows. A few water bugs. Snail eggs. A water skipper. A live dragonfly nymph. An intact exoskeleton, which we brought home in a tiny vial of water so that we could see it under the microscope.








Eating:
A Poohsticks-style picnic under the weeping willow. (Poor gents had to listen to this for an hour: "I stopped to see a weeping willow, Crying on his pillow, maybe he's crying for me...." Name that tune.) A typical picnic lunch--I fill the water bottles and throw everything I can find into a reusable grocery bag and a lunch cooler, and off we go. We ended up with hard-boiled eggs, ham, cheese, leftover bagels with sunflower butter, dried apricots, and a dish of strawberries from the front yard.

Watching:
Dragonflies. Giant red and blue ones, and smaller dragonflies with striped wings. Damselflies, too, like tiny flying jewels.

Birds. The tree swallows are fascinating, the way they swoop and dive over the pond.

We remembered a container of grains for the ducks, and were rewarded by a visit from Mama Duck and four fluffy ducklings. The gents were fascinated, and managed to sit still for quite some time so that the babies would come close to the bank. The water was clear enough that we could watch the ducklings diving and swimming under the water.

The great blue heron that has circled the pond a few times on previous visits finally decided that we're not too scary--or that he was too hungry to wait for us to go away. Herons are such stately birds, lovely when they fly, slow and regal wading in the water. They nest in a tall tree near the pond, and we see them often at the pond and around the canal. This bird watched us cautiously as he stalked the opposite edge of the pond, but the gents were still and quiet so he decided to stay.

Playing:
Poohsticks, of course.

We came home tired and warm, inside and out. It was a lovely afternoon.

Life is good.

Eat Beets

An article about cooking beets, including delicious-sounding recipes:
http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/106/beets

Some excerpts:

"...beets along with prickly pears make up the only edible sources of the valuable family of pigments called betalains. Current research is discovering the ability of these pigments to act as powerful antioxidants, helping in the fight against the damage caused by free radicals. Beets also provide potassium, vitamins A and C, magnesium, riboflavin, iron, copper, calcium and zinc."

"If you purchase beets with the greens attached, it is best to cut them off as you as you get them home, and serve the greens within a few days. They are similar in flavor to Swiss chard and can be sautéed with garlic and olive oil. The beets themselves can be stored in the refrigerator loosely wrapped for a few weeks."

and

"Beets can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, juiced or roasted, but no matter how you eat them, they are a delicious and healthy addition to your diet."
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Added later: Who knew??? I rubbed the beets with a little olive oil, wrapped them in foil, and roasted them according to the directions in the article linked above. I tasted the beets plain so I could get a sense of the flavor.

Yum. Just....yum.

Delicious and easy. I peeled and sliced them, tossed them with a little salt and pepper, and Voila! Beets for dinner.

Now to convince the kids that they really hate beets so that I can have them all to myself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

What is that shining blinding orb in the sky?

The sun has returned. Finally. It's been a dreary, gray, cold, rainy spring.

Yesterday the fine young gents and I went to the pond. Painters arrived at our house, early and unexpectedly and we had a burning desire not necessarily to see nature, but to get away from the paint smell and strangers in the house. When we left it was gray and cloudy. By the time we arrived at the pond with our things, it was glorious, sunny and cool.

We hung out by the pond for a couple hours, watching birds. We saw great blue herons circling overhead and a mama duck with six fluffy ducklings, watched the tree swallows skimming and swooping and circling and feeding babies in the nest boxes at the edge of the pond, and spied on a starling's nest in a lampost. Best of all, we saw a green heron, a bird we've been longing to see. It flew to the pond just as we arrived, perched on a branch in the middle of the water, then flew away, probably searching for a quieter spot. Our spring bird study has blossomed into a love of birds, birdwatching, learning the names of different birds, observing their habits.

Around lunchtime we wandered across the bridge for a picnic, played in the field, saw an osprey soaring overhead, played a round of Poohsticks.

I forgot sunscreen. Lately, preventative packing has been more along the lines of boots and raincoats. I'm out of the sunscreen habit. The fine young gents are relatively unscathed. The eldest of the gents has one red ear, and the edges of his neck recently exposed by a haircut are a little pink. His brothers are just fine.

My own face is bright red.

A kind friend said to me yesterday, "Oh, you look so tan. I was wondering if you'd been out in the sun today." Well, cool, I thought, until I saw my lobster face in the mirror.

We're off the the pond again today at the request of the gents, and I've got a list of items that we forgot yesterday: A blanket for sitting, the pond-dipping backpack, hats, a black pencil, sunglasses. And sunscreen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CSA box--June 11

We picked up our first CSA box this afternoon:
Lettuce, a bag of spinach, a bag of salad mix, carrots, radishes, bok choy, cilantro, peas, beets and a little box of strawberries.

Loving husband is looking forward to cooking the bok choy. He's already got something in mind.

I am stuck with the beets.

shudder

I have to learn to cook beets. I hated beets when I was a kid, except for pickled beets, probably because once they're pickled they no longer taste like beets. Beet-lovers assure me that beets are delicious. We're about to find out.

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Adding later:
We ate bok choy for dinner. It was delicious.

We had fresh green salad too, with radishes for the top. Yum.

I made a carrot-radish relish (recipe here), which used the rest of the radishes, some of the carrots, and a little of the cilantro. It was all right.

My own spinach is coming on strong in the garden, so the CSA spinach has been frozen for future use in quiches, omelets, and soups.

The fine young gents are in their tent in the back yard shelling and eating the peas. They had their eyes on the strawberries too, but I told them hands off, the berries are for breakfast.

We still have the beets. I was kind of hoping that while my back was turned, someone would sneak into my kitchen and whip up a tasty shredded beet-and-carrot salad, or some roasted beets with caramelized something. No such luck.

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Choosing Joy

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.


Last week I was struggling to put together my thoughts on choosing joy in our lives. I wrote: "I want to write a thoughtful post about choosing joy over the blues, contentment over frustration, love over impatience. About how we can't control our emotions, but we can control our habits. About mindfully practicing joy and peace, rigorously, in order to lead a joyful and peaceful and mindful life."

Then the song lyrics kicked in. I wandered around humming Phil Collins songs for days.

In the meantime, I ran across the quote above. It seems to be intended as more of a warning to keep our thoughts right and moral. But think about it: If we choose to notice and embrace the joy and beauty in our lives, if our thoughts are loving and peaceful, then we will speak words of joy and of peace to those around us. We act in love. Embracing joy becomes a habit. Our character shines with peace and love.

Our destiny is joy.

Mindfully practice joy and peace, rigorously, in order to lead a joyful and peaceful and mindful life.

Life is good. Really really good.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

If you couldn't be there......

...or even if you were.



His younger brother refused to play in front of everyone, but he got a piano trophy anyway.

Fruits of our labors

This evening we ate a spinach salad with strawberries and toasted hazelnuts, all from our very own yard.
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Yesterday I thinned the spinach and salad greens again, and came away with a bowl full of greens. The front yard strawberries are ripening. We ate a bowlful of fresh strawberries with breakfast this morning, and I picked another large handful for the salad this afternoon. Last fall, loving husband raked up the hazelnuts from the filbert tree in the back yard and shelled a bucketful, so there are hazelnuts in the pantry for toasting.

Spinach and strawberry salad
Put clean fresh spinach in a bowl.
Toss with sliced strawberries and toasted hazelnuts.
Serve with a balsamic vinagrette.
Delicious!
(If you've got a goat, or even if you don't, a little goat cheese makes the salad even more perfect. But alas, we've not got a goat, nor had we any goat cheese. And I didn't want to go to the store, so we went without.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Joy



i thank you God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~e.e. cummings