Monday, June 20, 2011

June Garden

Thanks to some nice hot days and plenty of rain, our garden is filling in nicely. I decided to plant fewer flowers this year and filled in every last corner with heirloom edibles. We have four different varieties of tomatoes this year, a dozen plants in all, which required the addition of another trellis. We also have four kinds of carrots in red, orange, yellow, and purple, one squash plant that is beginning to resemble something from the jungle, two varieties of bush beans and lettuce, eight basil plants in addition our perennial herbs, some miniature short-season melons, and a wayward Mammoth sunflower that sprouted from one of last year's fallen seeds.The Bright Lights Swiss Chard is living up to its name, looking beautiful, and growing like crazy. Between the chard and our CSA, we are up to our ears in greens right now and will be trying some new recipes from this book. Tonight: Swiss Chard Gratin. Tomorrow: Homemade Braised Chard Pizza.And the lavender is budding. There are few things better than plunging your face into the plant and inhaling deeply. Garden aromatherapy.Thankfully, our not-so-pretty-to-look-at, but pretty-effective fence has been keeping the little critters out of our garden. All except for one that is...
Boy, oh boy, does this baby love dirt! He loves to dig it, squish it, occasionally taste it, and generally get it all over himself and everyone else, all while repeating over and over with much gusto, "Ucko!" Noah, on the other hand, has discovered how to turn on the hose and tries to help wash the dirt off everything and everyone.
Good (and muddy and wet) times in the garden!

Monday, June 13, 2011

In The Summertime

The first days of June brought with it some HOT days (90+ degrees in the shade!) giving the garden a boost and sending us running for our swimming suits and sunscreen. Within the span of a few days, we had filled more days with street parties, wading pools and Popsicles than I could remember having throughout the past two summers combined. Of course, last summer is a blurry, sleep-deprived memory due to the fact that Isaac was barely out of newborn stage, and our outside time was greatly limited to the shade. The summer before that I was pregnant, feeling queasy, and you could not have paid me a thousand bucks to put on a swimming suit. So, armed with a new kiddie pool, complete with a mini slide, and some SPF 60, we are ready to wring every last bit of fun out of this summer.I had been so looking forward to warmer weather and not having to dress two squirming boys in hats, mittens, boots, etc., etc. to go play outside that I quite forgot it takes nearly as long to put sunscreen on two squirming boys. I had also forgotten that sunscreen is messy stuff, as they smear their little SPFed bodies up against windows, appliances, and unfortunately, all over the piano. After finding that the black finish came off with the cleaning cloth when I tried to clean the sunscreen off the bench day after day, I decided that we were in desperate need of a piano bench cover. When an Internet search turned up few options available for purchase, Curtis said, "Why don't you just sew one?" I thought about for a minute before continuing my search even more furiously, because I really didn't feel that I had the time or energy to come up with a pattern. Alas, I could find nothing suitable for our extra long bench. So began a several day project, with me measuring and re-measuring, crawling around on the floor cutting fabric scraps of fabric, and sewing them together while perched on a toddler-sized chair in front of the sewing machine I had placed on an end table in my make-shift sewing area in the foyer. The best (and maybe the only good) feature of the area being that it was located on the other side of the baby gate and out of reach of the kiddos, so they could safely play on the other side while I worked on my project.Several days later, we have a brand new quilted piano bench cover...


I was so happy when I slid the finished cover over the bench and it actually fit that I may have done a little dance. OK...I did do a little dance, and the boys laughed at me. This project just might have given me the confidence to actually finish the quilt that I started over a year ago (the scraps of which were used for this cover). Though I may need to set up a better sewing area in a corner of the basement. That toddler sized chair just isn't cutting it :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lots O' Hats

It has been brought to my attention that when you post several photos of newborn hats on Ravelry, people assume that you are expecting a new baby. So I thought I had better announce that we are not expecting. I am, however, knitting a bunch of newborn hats and other items for a local newborn photographer (check out her amazing work here).
As a knitter, I really can't imagine anything better than getting to pick out a variety of gorgeous yarns (that I don't have to pay for!) and trying out a bunch of new patterns, while at the same time satisfying my need to knit teeny tiny baby things. I can't wait to see some of these hats on the beautiful newborns she photographs!
~Jen

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Introducing Bunny

I mentioned in my last post that I was pretty sure there was a rabbit living under our back steps. Well, the rabbit had babies apparently (pretty early in the season for that isn't it?), and at least one of them is still hanging around. We have seen him (or her) several times over the past couple days sitting nestled next our back step under the protection of our pergola, and venturing out from time to time to nibble on some grass. I caught a picture of him through the glass doors yesterday. I must say, he is adorable with a little patch of white fur in the middle of its face.
I am torn between loving the fact that he is out there where the boys can watch him (though I am sure he will get more shy as he gets a bit older) and knowing that the same cute, little, fuzzy bunny will wreak havoc on the garden later on. Of course, we could just get the rabbit fence back up and live in perfect bunny harmony. Until then, we will enjoy watching him and feeding him little bits of pear and carrot. Maybe that will keep him from eating my lilies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Ramble

Time to break the blogging hiatus. I have plenty of excuses for not blogging lately, none of which are very interesting or exciting, so I will spare the details and just move on...

We are enjoying warmer days here and there, though Mother Nature has a nasty way of playing tricks on us and giving us nice warm days one week followed by snow and sleet the next. Isaac is mastering the new challenge of walking in the grass and dirt, and particularly enjoys eating the bits of bread that we have thrown outside for the birds and rabbits when I am not looking. Meanwhile, Noah is back to his favorite outside activity of mowing and raking. And while we don't have a sandbox, the boys seem content to dig in a corner of mulch for hours on end, filling and dumping the same bucket over and over again. Isaac only sampled the dirt once or twice.
The garden is in need of some fresh compost and soil (our compost bin doesn't produce enough for the whole garden) before it is ready for planting, so I am a bit behind in my spring planting. However, we do have a few seedlings growing nicely in the basement. I am keeping it simple and starting only basil, Swiss Chard, and a few varieties of heirloom tomatoes inside. The rest of the garden will be directly sown as soon as the weather is more consistent and we get our rabbit-proof fence back up, lest I make the same mistake as last year and feed all those nurtured seedlings to the rabbits.
Speaking of rabbits...I am pretty sure one of them lives under our back steps. Though we rarely see it, he or she leaves behind plenty of um...evidence. However, last night as we were eating our Easter dinner, I happened to glance out the big sliding glass door in our dining room and there it was, just a few feet away, nibbling on the bits of bread (the ones Isaac hadn't eaten) and joining us for Easter dinner. How many people can say the Easter Bunny joined them for dinner? :)

That brings this Spring ramble to a close. I promise to be back soon with an update on some new projects and the boys' latest antics...
~Jen

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Afghan in Progress

Quite possibly my favorite thing in our little living room is this painting, called Spring Leaves by Teri Jonas. I love the colors and the feeling of calm that it evokes every time I look at it. We got it shortly after I read the book, Tuck Everlasting, and it reminds me of the forest clearing described in the book.In fact, I love the colors so much that I was inspired to crochet a cozy wool afghan for our living room picking up on the colors in the painting. The afghan is a simple granny square pattern that I simply kept making bigger and bigger (instead of making a bunch of little squares and later sewing them together). I have a very bad habit of starting these large projects and then not finishing them, but the changing colors help keep my interest while the mindlessness of the pattern allows me to work on it little chunks of time and when there are other lots distractions. I was on quite a roll too, almost two-thirds finished and rather proud of myself, before I realized that I underestimated how much yarn I would need. So this project is currently on hold because the yarn I need is now on back order. Actually, a benefit of this pattern is that we can use it right now, it is just a little on the small side. (Isaac, as you can see, had his own ideas about how the afghan should be displayed for pictures.)
With the afghan project on hold, I have been working on a few quick little projects, including a vest for Isaac using a robin's egg blue color that I had gotten for the afghan and then decided didn't quite work with the color scheme. This was my first time using this particular pattern by Georgie Hallam (details on ravelry). Like her other patterns, it is well written with lots of room for personalization. I added a little orange elephant color work just for fun, but I like how it ended up matching Isaac's amber teething necklace so well.

So there, now that I have shared the afghan project with all of blogland, I will be less likely to set it aside and never finish it. Right?

Monday, March 7, 2011

First Steps

As promised, here is a video of Isaac's first steps. I just love his persistence and the look of concentration on his face. It makes me smile every time I watch it, which has got to be close to a hundred times by now! (So as not to get our blog music playing over the top of the video, you may want to go way to the bottom of the blog and pause the music player.)

video

Friday, March 4, 2011

Toddling

In honor of the fact Isaac is officially toddling, I thought he deserved some new mama-made pants. Some time ago, I came across the free pattern for these adorable and appropriately named 'On The Go-veralls' and immediately added it to my knitting queue. I waited to start them until after he began walking, figuring he would be less likely to wear through the knees at that point. Knitting details and modifications are on ravelry.
The legs came out a little long, but are easily cuffed, allowing some growing room. I really think I might need to make another pair of these cute, cute pants!
And I promise, as soon as we figure out how to transfer video to our new computer, I will post an equally cute and adorable clip of Isaac taking his very first steps :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

One

Our baby turned a year old this week! In the days leading up to Isaac's birthday, I found myself remembering back a year ago, thinking, "Last year at this time..." Memories of having a gigantic belly, but having no idea that inside was a 10 lb 5 oz baby boy. Memories of being so, so sick the week before his birth and hoping that he would postpone his arrival until I could at least breathe through my nose. Memories of finally feeling better, nearly a week after my due date and my water breaking at 1:00 am on February 12, 2010. Memories of surrendering to the fast and intense labor that seemed to take control of my body. Memories of the minutes leading up to his birth, Curtis leaning over the bathtub and supporting me as I pushed while holding a phone in his other hand, giving the en route midwives play by play over the phone; "The head is out! It looks like Noah!" Reaching down and cradling the top of his head in my hand for the first time, his soft hair floating gently in the warm water. And finally, at 2:17 am, pushing harder than I had ever pushed before, then reaching down, scooping his slippery, wet body up out of the water, bringing him to my chest, and seeing that Noah had a brother! Being the only ones present for his birth was a gift that we shall never forget, though we were very happy when our midwife and her assistant arrived minutes later!

Now, a year later, he brings such smiles and laughter to our lives. Which is very appropriate, since his name means 'He will laugh.'
He still likes to spend a good portion of his days perched on my lap, thus the reason most photos of him are close-ups these days. But he is also gaining independence. Learning to walk. Learning to let go. It is so bittersweet.
Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Magical Moments

Lately, it feels as if I spend my entire day mediating the relationship between the boys. Every other sentence out of my mouth is something along the lines of, "We don't push," or "We don't take things each other," or simply, "Share, please!" The boys are in general very loving and sweet towards each other. They just both abide by the Toddler's Rules of Possession:
1. If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I am doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it's mine.
8. If I saw it first, it's mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it's broken, it's yours.

As most parents of young children know, the constant bickering (and my subsequent intervening) can get exhausting! Then, just when I am thinking I need to give myself a timeout, there will be one of those moments. One of the boys will do something silly and the other will erupt into a fit of giggles. Or Isaac will become overcome with the need to smother Noah with wet, slobbery kisses, causing Noah to roll around on the floor in a fit of laughter. One of those moments when I am reminded how special their relationship is and how lucky they are to have each other. It is in those moments that I love to just sit back and watch them interact with each other, thinking that this, right now, is what it is all about. It makes the constant breaking up of little squabbles all worth it.And sometimes, on a really good day, that magical moment will extend for several minutes, or even hours as the boys settle into play together. Yesterday was just such a day, and it was brought on by something as simple as an impromptu blanket fort. The giggles and squeals of delight that began as they crawled in and around the blanket suspended between two stools continued throughout the morning. Noah pushed Isaac back and forth in the cart. They jumped together into a pile of pillows and blankets. They played music together. Noah fixed Isaac 'lunch' in his kitchen and then 'fed' it to him at their table. It was wonderful and magical to see.
So, while I wished these moments happened much more often, I will take them when I can get them, because they are what sustain me through all those other not-so-good times. That, and lots and lots of chocolate.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Little Snow

So we had a bit of a blizzard Tuesday night. I had the privilege of driving home from work in it at midnight. The road was not really visible, but was more of a drifted over path in the general direction of home. Thankfully, I avoided the ditches (unlike many other folks, unfortunately) and made it home safely. As a nursing mother, I am glad I left when I did, because many of my coworkers ended up sleeping at the hospital and were still unable to leave in the morning. Poor Isaac would have woken up and wondered where his milk supply had gone off to.

Yesterday, the boys and I bundled up and ventured out into the snow-covered world. These pictures are not that great, because it was cold and windy and the boys weren't particularly happy about being outside, but you get the idea: there is a lot of snow. Mailboxes are buried in snowbanks (I don't think the mail actually came yesterday anyway)...That would be the sidewalk to the right of our fence, under about 3 feet of snow.This is Isaac's 'stop taking pictures and get me back in the house and out of this suit' look. Amazingly, he was actually able to crawl to me and then stand up in his puffy suit, with his little arms sticking straight out to the sides. I wish I could have taken a picture of that, it was pretty cute!Today the wind chill is in the single digits and we are staying tucked inside where it is nice and warm. Hopefully we won't be getting any more snow for a while, because I really don't know where we would put it!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making Music Together

Even before we were expecting our first baby, Curtis and I decided that we wanted music to be an integral part of our children's lives, as it has been in ours. So, while most families center their living rooms around a television or entertainment center, we decided to make a piano the center of ours. As it turns out, it is not just the center, but most of the living room because though it is a baby grand and small when compared to other grands, our living room is also relatively small, leaving little room for anything else. Despite its size, we love our 1929 Knabe piano (even though the first piano tuner we had come over wondered if it was made in Mexico and passed off as a refurbished Knabe and said it was so bad that he wouldn't even tune it before we had some extensive work done on it. We got someone else, and never called him again!).

Most nights after dinner has been cleaned up, when other families may sit down in front of the television, our family heads to the living room for some music making. Either Curtis or I play the piano and the boys play along on a rhythm instrument. Isaac bounces up and down on his knees and is quite the little maraca and jingle bell player. Recently, Noah's instrument of choice is the 'ma-ca-ca' (harmonica), when he isn't just running in circles, that is. Often, when I am playing the piano, I will glance over my shoulder to find Curtis, the percussionist, dexterously playing three or four rhythm instruments at once and keeping us all on beat. Our repertoire ranges from children's folk tunes to the Beatles to Jason Mraz to Johnny Cash. And I can belt out a dreadful version of Unchained Melody that makes Noah laugh and Curtis cringe (lovingly, of course).
A few weeks ago, all this boisterous music-making led to me wanting to learn to play the guitar. I already have about a million other balls in the air. Why not add one more? So now, armed with my Dad's guitar (which I still hold rather awkwardly), I practice my chords for a few minutes each night as well. Literally, just a few minutes. Because my goodness it really hurts my fingers to hold down those strings! Apparently it takes some time to toughen them up. We shall see...

Until then, I will play the piano or just sing along as we live out those dreams we had years ago of making our family a musical one.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Daily Bread

When Noah was about a year old, I began making all our bread for a variety of reasons, including the avoidance of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives in store bought bread. I began using the method in The Tassajara Bread Book. Because it was pretty much a day-long process, I would make two loaves and we would eat one fresh and stick one in the freezer for the next week. It worked out well enough, but let's face it, bread really tastes best on the first day. And while it was better than store bought bread, it never seem to get that perfect sandwich bread consistency, or taste how I remember fresh bread tasting when I was a little girl.

After Isaac was born, time was short, and we resorted to buying bread once again, though I felt a bit guilty every time I put a loaf in our shopping cart. Now that Isaac is able to play for a few minutes without constant supervision, I am once again delving back into the world of bread baking. Still in search of the perfect bread recipe, I decided to try a few new techniques. A couple weeks ago, I began a sourdough starter. I tried baking a loaf (actually, a boule, a freeform ball-shaped loaf) a few days ago using the baking stone and pizza peel Curtis got our family for Christmas. I didn't bake it long enough and it didn't taste any different than regular white bread, BUT the homemade butter we made to go along with it was yummy! It was our first time making butter, and a bit of an exercise in faith that the cream would actually turn into butter if we kept shaking (and shaking, and shaking) long enough, but it worked. It is funny how something as simple as shaking a couple cups of heavy cream in a glass jar with a pebble (we didn't have a marble) thrown in for agitation produces butter. And buttermilk, of course, which I poured off and used to make some fabulous buttermilk blueberry pancakes on Saturday morning.
So the sourdough recipe needs some tweaking. In the meantime, I tried the method in the book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day with a truly fantastic result . The basic premise of this book is that you can mix up a large batch of dough, store it in the refrigerator, and then lop off a chunk to bake a fresh little loaf whenever you want. I was a bit skeptical of the basic recipe, which contains only water, yeast, flour and salt, but followed it to the letter using our new baking stone. The result was amazing. Truly. With a crispy crust and a soft, chewy inside, it tastes just like Mom used to make. While I originally thought, "OK, who really needs to make bread everyday?" The answer is...us, apparently. Because it was so good we ate it in less than 24 hours. But that's just fine because I made another one today, and it really does require just a few minutes of work. The basic recipe uses white flour, but I am excited to try it with wheat as well. The authors also have a new book out called Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, which I may have to try if we are going to keep eating it up so fast. Until then, we are enjoying our daily bread and the wonderful smells wafting through our house.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We're Still Here

It has been almost a month since I have written here. Once again, the days are full, but with what I don't know exactly. Keeping one eye on Isaac while trying to get anything else done at the same time is a full time job. From the moment he wakes to the moment he goes to sleep at night, he goes, goes, goes. Just getting his diaper changed and dressing him could be a sport in an of itself. Was Noah like this? I don't think so. Neither does my family, who got to experience his enthusiasm for life firsthand during the holidays. The only thing more exhausting than a curious baby that gets into everything, is that same baby in a non-baby-proofed house. He has a great sense of humor, darting behind doors, swinging them shut behind him, and then sitting behind them so we can't open them, all while giggling and squealing. But he is also very generous with his snuggles and kisses, and I have been known to be blinded by drool when he is in a particularly affectionate mood.
We had a quiet, simple Christmas this year. Because I prefer to give handmade gifts, my gift list was kept short out of necessity. Somewhere in those hours between the boys' bedtime and mine, I finished just a few gifts this year: a scarf for Curtis (OK...I actually finished this one the day after Christmas)...
A green gnome for Grandma.
And a soft doll for Isaac to snuggle with at night. Upon returning home after a week away, it was lovely to settle back into our familiar rhythm. For the past week or so, the days have been filled with wonderful play as a few new toys were introduced to old favorites. The tree blocks have been a big hit.
The boys are playing with each other more often now, and Isaac misses Noah when he is napping (Noah naps more than Isaac!). So do I actually, because Noah keeps Isaac happy and busy. Can you guess what game they are playing here?
We have a quiet couple of weeks coming up, and I have been doing some experiments in the kitchen...more on that next time.
~Jen