Monday, May 29, 2017

Poppy Party!

What a whirlwind life has been. As school activities seem to be trying to squeeze in every last thing in the last few weeks of school (school auction, spring performance, school parade, field trip, field day, school art show, etc) the garden has been really waking up and taking off. Last weekend, before volunteering for five hours at the school auction, I spent a lovely afternoon in the garden out back, sowing summer and winter squash seeds, pole beans, sweet peas (possibly tragically too late), and planting tomatoes, herbs, and red bell peppers. Vincent built a trellis for the snap & shelling peas and pole beans. It's everything we can do to not prematurely pick the peas before they are ready. I've been eating salads with homegrown lettuce and radishes instead.

After spending the first two years renovating the interior of this house, last summer we turned our attention to the front yard. Vincent built retaining walls and I planted perennials and bulbs. Last fall I found lots of Asian Poppies on sale, bought a lot and now they are glorious! It's a parade of big blossoms. We've been watching the bees flock to the newly opened poppies in the morning as they get covered in black pollen.

This week kicks off a few weekends of travel for me; Berkeley with a friend to eat at the Chez Panisse Cafe & catch a Ryan Adams concert (beyond excited!), Seattle with Vincent (and no kids!) for our 10th wedding anniversary, and all together camping at the beach after school ends.

I've been making copious lists in preparation for the trips; restaurants to visit, clothes and books to pack, and many more lists for my mom to aid her in taking care of the kids for our Seattle trip. I've got an Elin Hilderbrand book to read (a quintessential "beach read" to counteract the sadness of the book I just finished, Ann Patchett's Commonwealth) and The Happiness Project, which is really inspiring.

Next weekend, I'll arrive home in time for dinner and bedtime, then I'll walk two streets over to drink a glass of wine and catch the last half of book club. This month we're discussing Piecing Me Together and the podcast S-Town. Whew. Life never stops and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

On My List

I try to make a point to plan out our meals for the week each Sunday. Then on Friday I plan out the meals for the weekend. It saves me so much work during the week if I already know what I'm making for dinner. Plus it cuts down on the expense of last minute takeout dinners, of course those are bound to happen from time to time. I got this handy pad of weekly schedules that helps me sort out everything we have coming up. This week is especially busy, with two evening spring performances and two evening kung fu classes, not to mention the sick preschooler currently coughing on the couch, which might complicate things further...

I had seen the beautiful cookbook, Feeding A Family by Sarah Waldman, on Instagram a few weeks ago and it piqued my interest. I checked the library (my first stop for new books) but they didn't have it. Last weekend I spotted it at Costco - the only one I could see on a stack of other books - and bought it. I'm so glad I did! It is gorgeous and delicious and I'm not just talking about the food. I'm seriously coveting a few of the sweaters that appear in the book. What can I say? I love sweaters. Sigh...

We made the chocolate mint milkshakes, sweetened with dates and a frozen banana, and we all loved them. They reminded me of a Frosty, a childhood favorite of mine. We drank a round and then froze the rest into popsicle molds for the strangely hot days that came later in the week. I asked the kids to tag the recipes they were interested in. Gianna tagged every dessert plus roasted carrots and steamed artichokes. Dean tagged a curry noodle bowl, roasted veggie sushi rolls, and apple cider donuts.

Here's the menu for the week:
Sunday - chicken tortilla soup + broccoli (the broth is in the slow cooker right now)

Monday - chicken tortilla soup + salad

Tuesday - enchiladas + beans & rice for the enchilada-averse, + broccoli

Wednesday - slow cooker chicken gyros + veggies + frozen melon balls (from the new book!)

Thursday - enchiladas + beans & rice again

Friday - slow cooker chicken gyros + veggies + frozen melon balls

I don't think the kids have ever had a gyro before. I'm fairly certain that Gianna will eat the flatbread and possibly nothing else. Trying new recipes is always tricky. I try hard not to take rejected food personally. Crossing my fingers for success!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Daffodils, Tulips, and Doughnuts

Last week Gianna turned seven. The week before I went to the fabric store looking to buy a skirt pattern. I came home with a dress pattern (Ellie Mae Designs, K147) and found myself cursing that decision as I realized how much more work a whole dress - with sleeves, pockets, and buttonholes - can be. I sewed the buttons on at 11 the night before her birthday so she could wear it to school the next morning. She told me it was her favorite gift; "Mom, I knew you were making me something, but this is more amazing than I imagined!" The following weekend we hosted a party for her, 10 of her little friends and their parents. One parent remarked that we should write a book on throwing children's birthday parties. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. We made pizza & mimosas, stuffed a piƱata & stacked store bought doughnuts. Vincent is amazing and wrote up and hid 10 treasure hunt clues around the house and yard. Another parent commented that our house really felt like a home, which made me really happy. I love the saying "Less house, more home" and have really taken it to heart.

As I was sewing, cooking, and tidying I listened to Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco. It is about her time working for Barack Obama when he was in the Senate and in the White House. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also listened to S-Town which was beautifully told and captivating. I finally finished listening to The Year of Yes and found it inspiring and motivating.

A year ago we started the process of redoing the front yard; building retaining walls, tearing out azaleas, planting perennials and burying bulbs. Now things are coming up and beginning to blossom and it is wonderful! A few plants died in the snow and a few others that I thought had died have come back! What a welcome treat it was to see the Bleeding Heart bigger and better than ever. Last year I was guessing a lot when I was buying plants. Now I know to get a few more Alyssum "Basket of Gold" and to plant more bulbs next fall. The anemones were up first and are still blooming. The squirrels dug up all of the crocus bulbs, so I know not to plant them again, sadly.

It has been quite rainy and still cold at night. This weekend is supposed to be warmer and dry. I hope to plant the veggie starts I started a few weeks ago into the ground. Dean is home sick with pink eye and a respiratory virus, so hopefully he'll feel good enough by Sunday to join me in the garden and do an easter egg hunt as well. Squirting ointment into his eyes 4 times per day for the next 7 days is torture for both of us. We both would benefit from some sun and digging in the dirt, I think.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Winter Warmth in Spring

I'm almost always cold and am constantly seeking out warmth. I always want to sit by a fireplace. Our last house had one and for a while I didn't want to look at houses that didn't have one. I quickly realized that was a bit ridiculous. When we found this house I was very excited to see that the previous owners had put in a stove pipe for a wood stove. They had taken the wood stove with them, but had left the fixture from the ceiling through the roof. Over the next couple of years my husband and I debated whether we had the room for a wood stove. We talked about putting in a fireplace in the corner. We've had so many great conversations about possible changes we could make to this house; it's such a blank slate. 

After having multiple snow days this winter we decided to get one. I picked up a few brochures at a local family owned shop on day in January and that evening it snowed 8". We were snowed in for the next week. We spent that snowy week drooling over those european wood stoves, wishing one was already in our home. We picked one out, only to find out it was on back order. We chose a different one, much smaller, only to hear that not only was it also on back order but it was the 'most popular stove in the world.' We decided to stick with it and wait. I kept calling, trying to get an idea of when it would come in. I didn't hear anything. We were frustrated. Six weeks later, after complaining and complaining, we finally got it. As it was delivered we were told that we were lucky because they're still on back order and the other one they received had fallen off the truck and had cracked. The squeaking wheel gets the grease! I'm so glad I kept calling.

Now it is officially spring, temperatures are warming up, flowers are blooming, and we now have this wonderful wood stove. Neither of us had ever built a fire in a wood stove before and wrongly assumed it was the same as a fireplace. It isn't! It's so much easier. You pack it full of kindling, paper, and dry logs, light it and close the door. That's it. It puts out so much heat when it gets going. I'm actually looking forward to next winter already so I can keep a fire going all day. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sigh, It's Still Winter

Highs and lows of the last few days

Lows: kid stomach flu leading to lots of laundry, excessive tv consumption and parental sleep deprivation, also waking up to snow falling Monday morning.

Highs: kid learning how to puke successfully in a bowl (!), the shelves that Vincent built for the kitchen that make it feel finished, blooming quince branches from the backyard.