Monday, August 30, 2010

She Flashes Her Eyes

She was working on a sewing project when she looked up and flashed her smiling eyes at me. And for a moment, life was still.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Continued Progress

Very, very close to having the first one of the pair done. I'm excited ... and a little scared. Does anyone else get last-minute jitters on projects? Will the picture in my head match the reality of the effort?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Projects in Abundance

Ever notice how once you work up the gumption to start one project, they seem to propagate like crazy? Since the paint brushes are being put to work and the tarps are out for the never-ending staircase project, why not also paint a bench, some stools, a (birthday) desk for Jane and ...

... these stellar pair of chairs found on Craigslist. Isn't that teal velvet divine? I'm taping off the freshly steam-cleaned upholstery and prepping the wood and wicker for a modern coat of light dove gray. I'll keep you posted ...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Slowly Starting the Day

I can't quite get enough of avocado toast lately. Mashed up with some coarsely ground sea salt, plenty of lime juice, and slathered on toasted sourdough. So. Good.

This past year I endeavored to be more deliberate about breakfasts together, and it worked! I was most pleased with the effort. However, with the luxury of lazy-start summer days ... it's turned much more slap-dash. Actually, more like slap-mozy. While I've loved the slower pace ('cause I know it's ending soon!), I've missed real meals in the morning.

So lately, once the kiddos have been tossed their oatmeal or cereal, I've been making a grown-up breakfast for myself and having my quiet-time. Me and Nehemiah have been enjoying the time quite nicely.

How do you like to start your morning ... given a choice?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dinner, Summertime Style

One of the things I love most about summer is how cold salads can count as the dinnertime meal. Hurrah! Recently, Jeanette brought over a pasta salad that forced me to have three servings it was so good. I'm not sure if my version is quite as magical, but it was still pretty darn good.

Toss together bow-tie pasta, chicken (grilled on the bbq and chopped up), sliced olives, chopped artichoke hearts, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, garbanzo beans, and toss with favorite vinaigrette dressing. Serve with watermelon wedges and you're good to go!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Life of Sharpening

Mmmhmmm. Yes, that is a giant machete my son is sharpening. I think his nine year-old mind is constantly dreaming up ways to handle dangerous objects.

When my menfolk went to "Man Camp" (the weekend that left me utterly and blissfully alone), they had some serious bonding time. Lots of activities that involved fire, extreme heights (of which they took a video that I can't figure out how to upload ... here's to hoping I prevail ...), unsecured road travel in backs of pick-up trucks, plenty of sharp objects, and nary a mom in sight. They even brought back matching t-shirts that declared themselves to be: "Sons of Thunder." Man Camp = Man Heaven.

Even though my mom-ness requires me to be a ninny about many pursuits that appeal to my menfolk, I am so, so thankful they have each other. Yes, they have a blast. But life-training seems to happen so naturally when they are alone together. Not planned out over tea, as us moms like to finagle. Just spontaneous, quick, and often profound.

Pops told me of a conversation they had while both balancing on high-wires 50 feet off the ground:

"Dad. Are you scared?"

"Well, I trust in the safety gear we strapped on. But yes, at first I was scared. Once you know you are protected though, you focus, push your fear down, and move forward."

"Okay, Dad."

And they did. Together.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Male Perspective

I was most charmed by this catalog cover. Apparently, my menfolk don't have the same appreciation for aesthetic that I do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Season of Bloom

Before my grandmother's illness really took over, one day we spent some time in her backyard. She had a bank full of these crocosmia, or as she liked to call them "Fourth of July!" She thought they looked just like a floral firework and hers often bloomed in that mid-summer month.

We determined that I should have a punch of fire for my yard, as well. We set to digging some up and, with her convincing gestures, Grandma began commanding Grandad to assist. Her voice was in the full stages of failure, but Italians don't need words if they have arms to flail and eyebrows to raise.

When Grandad backed too far down the embankment, toppled backwards, and skidded towards the fence, we both grabbed at our hearts and waived our spade-fisted hands in alarm. Fortunately, Grandad was fine. Once that fact was established, Grandma looked at me knowing eyes and a slight sigh. As if to say, "Oh, those dear, dear men. So complicated they make things, but we love them so."

She had a way of being so unintentionally funny. The best kind, if you ask me.

My firework flowers haven't bloomed since I re-planted them those couple summers ago. I thought maybe they weren't getting enough sun. But then, Jane brought me this sprig the other day, with pride all over her face. "Look what I found!" she declared.

Turns out, they just weren't ready to bloom until now. Perhaps they were getting rooted. Perhaps they needed a few seasons of establishment until they were secure enough to bloom freely. I find this realization extremely relatable.

Blooms come and blooms go. We enjoy them when they are here and await their return when they fade. Much like life. Much like joys. Much like memories. And somehow, it is all good.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ..."
Ephesians 3:1

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Woodland Enchantment

A day excursion to meet up with two Aunties, one baby cousin, one Grandma, and one Great-Grandma at a woodland play park? So. Much. Fun.

I remember coming here as a child and finding all of the pint-sized fun so unusually magical. Familiar nursery rhymes come to life, cubbie-holes and tiny tunnels to explore, bright colors and wooded coves at every next turn.

But of course, there are rides and slides, as well. Very exciting.

Besides tiny ferris wheels (remembering my distaste, you'll know I was thanking the heavens that the girlies were securely caged in), the "Old Lady's Shoe" had a marvelous slide, and not to forget ... the Log Ride.

Thank you, Aunt Laurel, for volunteering to keep Jane from popping out by going on this soaker with her!

Of course there was much more. Hugs and cuddles with Grandma and Gigi. Lunch at the wooded theater with Hansel and Gretel. General wild-eyed delight.

And then. We were tired. We tried to wake Jane up for dinner, but she would have none of it. So, we slid her into her bed like a warm little ball of dough that wasn't quite done baking.

Night, night.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Afternoon Snack on the Grass

Yesterday, the masses were feeling snacky. Fortunately, I had a bag of these funky pretzel grids that seemed like they were begging for a summer coat made out of chocolate.

Dump some chocolate chips and a little water into a glass bowl and shove into microwave. Heat, stir. Heat, stir. You know the drill ...

Place on tray and take out to the grass. This is a messy snack, one that your floors and counters may not appreciate.

Beyond that, not much instruction is needed. Remarkable how the short people know just what to do when given a tub of melted chocolate and handfuls of pretzels.

Eat them straight away, or allow to cool on waxed paper 'til you just can't stand it any longer and have to eat them anyways. In our case ... about 4 minutes.

Once finished? Turn the hose on them. Clean-up's a snap!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just Chillin'

It's a rough life being a bunny. Especially after Pops and the kids go out on a weed-collecting hunt and bring back 20 pounds of the leafy greens.

Stretching is good for the digestion.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Inspired Series








Thank you, one-dollar sunglasses. You inspire us down to our intellectual core.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happily Abandoned and Recovered Again

There isn't anything about my phase of life I would change. Even the hard stuff. God has been abundant in his blessings and gracious in His provisions. However. Given an opportunity to have no responsibilities and excessive time to myself? I'll snatch it up in a heartbeat!

This past weekend, the boys were at "Man Camp" and my mother offered to host a weekend for my girlies, leaving me ... all alone. For the first time EVER I spent a weekend by myself, with no one else around. It was a first in a very big way.

So, I decided to approach the whole weekend in a "firsts" sort of way. A nice mix of kicking my feet up and doing new things.

Friday afternoon. Beginning the adventure of firsts. After reserving and picking up a free pass to the art museum (that we didn't really get a chance to see a few weeks ago) from the library, I headed into the city for my own solo viewing. It was a gorgeous evening to be out. I strolled the museum for an hour or so, taking time to sit and stare. I was mesmerized by an enormous Monet. It was a water lily painting as I've seen many times in print, but in person, I was stunned by the texture and the surprising neon quality to the floating flowers. So electric, yet serene.

I was also quite taken with a room of Grotjahn's Dancing Black Butterflies. If you stood in the room and slowly spun yourself around, the paintings seem to flutter in the hurky-jerky, yet graceful way a butterfly does. Fascinating.

But that's where my sedate and sophisticated evening ended.

Right before I exited the museum I stopped in at the restroom only realize, "Gasp! Where did my favorite belt go? Oh my goodness! I took it off while driving, laid it in my lap, and I bet it fell off into the street when I parked and stepped out of the car!" So out I dashed, down three city blocks, to the car in my heels ('cause you know I wore them since I was pretending to be all chic and carefree for the night!), searched the car and the curb and came up empty. "Drat! I bet it could be at the first place I parked, only to realize it was a 30 minute spot and had to hop back into the car and find a new spot."

So, down the street I clippty-clopped, imagining some punked-out skateboarding teenager wearing my darling belt and having to wrestle him to the ground to re-possess it. But, as I neared the location, there it was, all dejected and huddled by the curb. My belt had been waiting for me and cleverly hid itself from the skateboarding masses. I quickly snatched it up, petting it and whispering words of comfort, and scuttled quickly away from the spiky-haired youths who were, most certainly, wondering what the crazy lady on the sidewalk was skulking about for.

Hunting for a belt on city streets? A definite first.

Back in the car, be-belted once more, and trying to settle down and behave like a sane person, I headed off to my next first. Dinner at a restaurant, by myself. I confidently had made reservations for one at a swanky top-floor restaurant (in a refurbished old building that my mother and I used to lunch at) to sample their speciality, another first for me, sushi. To sum up ... loved the sushi, not the excessive swank.

While the food was delicious and the view and vibrant setting was exciting, it became quickly apparent to me that I was waaaay out of my element and way not cool enough for the establishment. My first cue may have come when my server quite nearly rolled her eyes when I told her I was not ordering alcohol that night and then the second cue may have been giggling to myself realizing that the vintage Grace Livingston Hill book I brought to read, pretty much advertised the fact I was more out of place than a mud-wrestler at a white sale.

By the time the next day had arrived, I was feeling back to my old self and not at all like a figurative mud-wrestler. I spent the day doing a little shopping and general loafing about. However, I did manage to squeeze in another first ... getting my eyebrows done. I've always wanted to do this!

And yes, I know I look kind of mean here. Sorry. It's hard to take a picture of your own face and not show the concentration. Nevertheless, I was quite happy with my eyebrows and I don't think I look overly surprised as I was worried I might. Look okay?

That evening, I changed into some nice stretchy pants and made myself and my eyebrows a nice pasta dinner. I enjoyed my solitary meal and mused that my weekend of firsts had been successfully executed. After I stood up to clear and clean my dishes, I happened to look down and realize ... the pockets of my stretch pants were not at the front where they were supposed to be, but hanging out on my bum instead. Turns out, I ate dinner with my pants on backwards. Apparently, "firsts" can occur without even trying.

My family is home now and I'm quite happy about it. I had a marvelously quiet, tidy, and lonely weekend, but I'm happy to be back in the chaotic swing of regular life. I'm well rested, sporting well-groomed eyebrows and my pants are on correctly. I'm feeling good.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Thoughtful Baker

I kind of like it when one or two fall apart straight out of the oven. It means, in my mind, that for the good of all, I must eat it. Because certainly, one wouldn't want to serve a crumbing cupcake, would one? Of course not. One must self-sacrifice and eat it before anyone's sensibilities are disrupted.

I'm just thoughtful like that.

• Black Bottom Cupcakes •
(for Grammy's Birthday)

Cream Cheese Mixture:
Whip together:
• 8 oz. cream cheese
• 1 egg
• 1/3 c. sugar
• 1/8 t. salt
Stir in and then set mixture aside:
• 6 oz. chocolate chips


Cake:
Mix dry ingredients:
• 1.5 c. flour
• 1 c. sugar
• .25 c. cocoa
• .5 t. salt
• 1 t. baking soda
Combine wet ingredients and combine with dry:
• 1 c. water
• 1/3 c. canola oil
• 1 t. vanilla

Fill muffin cups 1/3-1/2 full with cake batter, leaving room for a healthy dollop of cream cheese mixture atop. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar for crunch and sparkle. Bake at 350 degrees, 30-35 minutes.

**Note: Makes 16 -18 cupcakes. Odd amount, I know, but I don't want to mess with a good thing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Friends and Blueberry Jam

Do you have a special friend that you only get to see every-so-often, but when you do ... you feel like you've just indulged in a most delicious treat? That is how I feel about my friend, Gini.

Her home is gorgeous from tip to toe, yet without being pretentious in any way. And of course, situated in the country with many acres to roam, a tractor to cut grass, and the most extravagant sand pit one can imagine ... it's utter kid heaven. On top of everything, she is the most magnificent hostess. With a grace and an eye for detail that makes guests feel like a most treasured individual, you want to move in and stay forever.

This visit, she honored me with a visit to our house. The children cavorted and we chatted. We sat on the patio with an iced tea, laughed about life's sillies and nibbled on some of Peter's speciality. And, as always, she encouraged my heart. A little further on in life experience, she has a perspective and a depth of faith that blesses me.

Thank you, Gini. You are a light to my days ... and your blueberry jam was scrump-dilly-umptious!

(ps - Gini is thinking about starting a blog! Don't you girls think she should??)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Upon Arrival

The train trip. After receiving an invitation from darling friend Lissa to bring the family up for a visit, we eagerly accepted. Besides the thrill of a train-trip, there was promise of belly aching laughter, good eats, and excessive paintball-shooting ... so pretty much everyone was excited. In fact, so exciting, I basically forgot to take photos the entire time. Good thing we were headed to Lissa's, 'cause she's a far superior shot anyways. All photos to her credit!

After the obligatory giggles, screams, and jumping up and down after our arrival (the boys just rolled their eyes), we headed straight to a lovely farmer's market. The kids were less interested in the vibrant produce and more in the balloon man.

A white and brown pegasus and a silver sword later, we were ready to head to the land of fun: Tom and Lissa's house.

Grown-ups, as they tend to do, kept on chatting, whilst the young'uns tapped their foots for the paintball bonanza to commence.

Peter was most excited as this was his first experience at it all and had spent the last year jealous of Lucette's prior adventure. I think it was all he hoped it would be.

Not to miss out, little Jane got a lesson too. She was shockingly good. Or should I say disturbingly good? It's an odd thing to hear your frilly four year-old chortle with manly satisfaction after firing off a round.

The masks were worn not only for shooting, but for snake and frog hunting, and for popcorn eating as well. Why would you want to take them off? Seriously, Mom.

Speaking of Mom, yes she gave it a whirl as well. This was my first try at handling any sort of firearm, as I'm not typically a fan. I think it was evident in my skill level, but I did manage to snag a few shots at camo-ed Pops.

We kept him prancing, I tell you. Of course, he was quite a show off with his tuck and rolls, cartwheels, and taunting bum-wagging. At one point, I heard someone had literally knocked his shoes off. Perhaps because excellent marksmanship ... or perhaps because he dove through the air while wearing Mr. Tom's size 16's. (Yes, 16's!)

The day of smiles and reunion continued, but one can't take pictures the whole time, can one? The rest of our adventure smiles happily in our memories. Generous and dear friends make that such an easy accomplishment.

Monday, August 2, 2010

To Ride the Train

A weekend excursion ...




... more details to come.