Friday, August 29, 2008

Mighty Life List

Maggie at Mighty Girl has inspired me to write my Mighty Life List. It will be an ongoing project wherein I list all the random, crazy stuff I want to do before I go teats up.

Here goes, in no particular order. Some are much more attainable than others, I know, but it's a list in progress.

What's on yours?

1. See the Aurora Borealis
2. Visit NYC
3. Go to Vermont after mud season, but before summer
4. Actually backpack somewhere with my husband
5. Visit my relatives in Sweden
6. Take the boys on a National Park road trip; Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, I don't care where
7. Work the Farmer's Market Circuit
8. Be successful with the above, and by successful, I mean enough to quit my day job
9. Live on a working farm, not just a suburban tract house with 3 chickens in the back
10. Finish one single home improvement project before starting another one

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Week of Adventure

After the weekend, we're heading over to the Olympic National Forest for a week-long respite. Fezzik starts at his new school on September 2nd, and we all need a break before we're ready for it. Our big plans for the week include sitting on logs and staring into the forest in honor of our friend Josh, "hiking" (for how well can we hike with an 18 month old in tow, one who started his independent stage early and refuses to be carried anymore), and splashing in the ocean and the hot springs.

School clothes: check
School supplies: check
Appointment for pre- school year/return to work massage: check!
Mental preparedness: in progress

This weekend is sopposed to be relaxing. ...right. Among other things, we're shopping for our camping trip (we're out of marshmallows!), cooking my dad (and his girlfriend, my grandma, and great aunt) a belated birthday dinner, making a batch of soap (BY GOD), finding someone to watch the chickies (have an offer from a friend, think we'll take her up on that), and putting together the last minute school supplies and such. I forgot to mention a possible sleepover tonight, and if that doesn't happen, a definite play date, and we're going to a matinee of THE CLONE WARS.

I was talking about this schedule with a friend last night, and she said "wow, that's a lot. I wouldn't want to live if I had that much to do." How cute, I thought. She's so not ready to have kids. Sorry Jess - but it's true! And I am slightly jealous of your plans for the weekend. Lazing about sounds deeeeelicous! But I have consequences if I do that, so enjoy it now, while you still can!

So here's a quick note to let you know we're not bringing the laptop on our vacation, so please stand by for pictures of our vacation, which will be posted after we return.

Photo from Sol Duc Resort

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


As Fezzik was getting dressed yesterday, I noticed his hair looked particularly dirty. Odd, because his every-other-nightly shower had happened 9 hours before this.

I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach: my little seven-and-a-half year old is growing up! Soon there will be armpit hairs! And worse! I've heard and read the horror stories of early-onset puberty due to the hormones in our food, but I've really counted on us avoiding that because he is a vegetarian, and we don't buy milk with rBGH.

Anywhoodle, I asked him to slap his baseball cap on that greasy mane, and off we went, me with a mental note to make him shower more frequently from here on out.

After dinner, I asked him to jump in the shower, which he did. I told him to wash his hair really well, at least twice.

He came plodding down the hall after his shower, and Lawnboy and I looked at his hair, then caught eachother's eye. Something was just not right.

"Fezzik, did you wash your hair?"

"Yes. Twice."

"Did you wash it with shampoo?"

"Yes, but it didn't foam up very well."

"Did you rinse your hair?"


"Did you use conditioner?"


"Can you please show us the shampoo you used?"

Plod, plod, plod back to the bathroom, then out to us with this in his hands:

Whoops! No wonder it didn't "foam up" very well! He used the BABY OIL!

I can see how it happened; we use the same brand of shampoo and baby oil. The only difference is the small words on the (almost identical) label, and the pump.

Note to Fezzik: please use THIS from now on!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lazy Sundays

Just kidding. I don't get to have those anymore.

Today we were up at 5 because of the flash of light and the KABOOM right outside our window. Then the rain started, and quickly stopped. I was reminded why I can never, ever live in Vermont. I hate muggy weather!

Then I tried semi successfully to get Fezzik to clean his disastrous room. Lawnboy came home, and brought his patience with him - we're so balanced, me with the "DO IT RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME I WILL GIVE YOUR TOYS TO CHARITY," and Lawnboy with the "It's really important to us that you clean your room. How can we help you get it done today?" His way wins, hands down. I suck at motivational speeches.

The Amazing So and So helped me grocery shop for the potluck this afternoon, and we were off to the Wild and Wacky at Josh's parents' house. Boy, do I love those people. I know I only get to see their good sides, but for a huge family, there is no tension, everybody genuinely cares about everyone else, and we feel so welcome with them. Not in the least because although we only see them once or twice a year, every single one of them remembers us, our names, and our kids names. So, thank you Josh, for having an awesome family and letting us be a part of its extension! I wish that your folks (or any one of your aunts) could officially adopt us!!! How many times can I say that without creeping you out? We'll see.

Updates on the chickens: they're messy and they eat gardens. We haven't had time to fence them off yet into their own run, so they're very free range at this point. Lawnboy finished making the coop functional - it's ugly as hell but we can fix that sometime. Priority one is to get the coop moved (it's a heavy sucka) into its permanent location, and two is to fence it off into their own little chicken run. Should happen this week, especially if we want to keep what's left of the veggies in the garden. They haven't touched the ripe fruits - the 7 cucumbers and the crookneck squash are all intact (and now on my kitchen counter), but they've pecked the hell out of the lettuce and the kohlrabi seedlings are officially toast. Oh well, I hope they're worth it. They haven't graced us with any more eggs yet, or at least not in places where we could find them. Should be much easier to know if and when they lay once we have them all fenced off.

Ta for now!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Egg Mystery

I found this under the tomatoes tonight; let's all hope it's a sign of things to come.

Lawnboy will be finishing the nesting boxes tomorrow, and I choose to believe that this will put an end to eggs in the garden.

Also, here is Pidgey enjoying her new roost. Not so, the Ladies Orpington. We think they're too fat (the poor dears), and we'll be making adjustments to the coop tomorrow to accommodate their girth. Pidge was not amused when Charlie the Wondercat decided to crawl under the coop and stare up through the wire floor at her. There was clucking, and I'm quite sure we'll hear about it if any predators come harrass these girls. They'll be our watchchickens.

Li'l Dinos

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you OUR HENS.

They appear to be two Buff Orpingtons and one Rhode Island Red. Pidgey, Starley, and Taloolah.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Within Sight

We are so close to realizing a dream here. As you know, I've been planning to get chickens for a long, long time now. We've dismantled the dog house in hopes of a fancy chicken coop conversion, and like most of our well-intentioned projects, we came to a screeching halt somewhere between ripping out the floor and actually making it functional. I should mention that this is the Royal 'We' here - and that I shant be responsible for any actual work on said coop. I'm the brains behind this operation, if you haven't figured that out yet.

Shut up, Anna.

The best way to get Lawnboy to finish a project is to force the matter. That is why, when We undertook the dismantling, I had in my head the niggling thought that I would one day come home with a few lovely laying hens, and make him finish the coop over the following weekend.

Friends, that day is upon us.

A girl from work sat down in a meeting today, and said "Who wants to come up to Shoreline and pick up the three stray hens that have been hanging out in my yard for a week?"

Without hesitation, I shouted "DIBS" - as if anyone else was going to beat me to the punch. Such a dweeb I am.

She ran home today to see if they were still there, and they were. Her husband is going to call all their neighbors tonight, and if no one claims them, THEY'RE OURS.

Don't be jealous of this glamorous life we're leading. It's hard to be so AWESOME.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I've had several nicknames, mostly nice ones, but my favorite is the one I've worked hard to earn.

My uncle calls me Pickle Princess. He is something of a pickle connoisseur, and I know how to make a mean dill pickle.

I love canning and preserving. When we moved back from Tucson, I asked my Grandma Bonnie to tutor me in the fine arts of canning. She always had pickles, jelly or stewed tomatoes going in her kitchen. I was really interested in making jelly, but she told me in no uncertain terms that I was to learn how to make pickles, so that she could have some. I agreed, and an obsession was born.

I've made a few different recipes over the years, but the one I found that wins the taste test every year is Short-Brine Dills, which I've adapted from The Joy of Pickling. I made them today.

Short Brined Dill Pickles
12 lbs 3 to 5 inch pickling cucumbers
1 1/2 c. pickling salt, divided
2 gallons + 2 quarts water
7 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
16 garlic cloves, sliced
16 shallots, chopped
40 teaspoons mustard seeds
40 dill heads, plus fronds if you'd like
40 black peppercorns
20 small dried chili peppers
40 grape leaves

The cast of characters:

1. Gently wash the cucumbers, slicing off the blossom ends.

Then, dissolve half the pickling salt in the 2 gallons of water, in a large bowl or crock. Add the scrubbed cucumbers, and let them sit overnight.

2. Drain the cucumbers the next day. Wash and sterilize 20 quart-sized mason jars and lids.

3. In a stainless steel pot, bring the remaining 3/4 c. pickling salt, the 2 quarts water, the vinegar, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.

4. While that stuff is heating up, divide your garlic, dill, grape leaves, mustard seeds, shallots and peppercorns among the jars.

5. Stuff each jar as full as you can with cucumbers, then pour the hot vinegar mixture over the top of them to within 1/2 inch of the rim.

By the way, you'll likely get to your last jar and have tons of cucumbers left over. Start squeezing them, it won't hurt. I always manage to get more into the jars when I go back to get the leftovers in.

6. Close up the jars with your lids and rings, and process them for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Don't be too disappointed when this happens. I manage to break one jar every single time. I have just come to expect it.

7. Store them for at least a month before you open a jar.

Bonus points if you enter them in your county fair! I'm really going to do that this year, I swear!!!

Socking it Away, in Vinegar

Today I will be working on my short-brine dill pickles. I should have at least 8 quarts done by the end of the day. I'm taking pictures of the whole procedure and will show you just how I got the nickname Pickle Princess tomorrow.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


After-dinner update: This totally worked! I am looking forward to having more help in the kitchen. He even ate the visible kale! It's time to teach him how to use a knife!

How do you get kids to eat what you put in front of them?

This conundrum has been a struggle at our house, albeit not nearly as bad as the horror stories I've overheard. My kids love macaroni and cheese, but they know that we won't serve that them every single night. Or even once a week, for that matter.

I love to cook, and I love to experiment when I do. I have my standards, my easy weeknight meals, the same as anyone else who cooks, the spagetti, the tacos, the tortellini soup. But this working girl likes to get creative on the weekends.

Sometimes when I do that, Fezzik turns his nose up at the plate in front of him. Because we've taken pride in the fact that we don't have particularly picky kids, and we do take credit for that, when he says something is "yucky," my hide gets chapped. Fast.

These days, when we're trying hard to stick to our strict budget, we've been cooking a lot more, and using what I've been pantry-hoarding over the past year. Today, it's lentil soup. This is something Lawnboy and I love, but I don't make very often, for whatever reason. It's been rainy and chilly all day, and I have a cupboard full of nice green French lentils, so why not?

My strategy today was to ask for Fezzik's help in the kitchen. We're currently waiting for the soup to cool down, so we'll see how well this plays out in a few minutes. I hope the effort he put into peeling the carrots, and measuring the spices and broth, will translate into some pride in his soup, and lead him to be excited about eating it.

I hope, also, that he isn't able to pick out the microscopic bits of kale I've hidden in it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Emma Larson

Have I mentioned my desire to be a full-time Mom to you?

Note, I didn't say I wanted to be a "housewife." To me, there's a much different connotation to the term "full-time Mom." "Housewife" implies housework to me. Bor-ring!!! But a "full-time Mom" is a Mom with a capital M, the kind who bakes cupcakes every week, who plays Uno with her kids and goes off on Dragon Chases in her back yard with her boys. In other words, the kind who doesn't give a rat's ass if there are Cheerios stuck to her kitchen floor.

When I was a girl, I babysat for this hilarious family, we'll call them the Larsons, because that was their name. Emma was the mom, and she was particularly colorful. I remember looking up the word "douche" in the dictionary after finding her Massengil in their tub when I stuck her two little ones in the bath. I had no idea such a thing existed. My mom, if she'd been a user of such products (she wasn't), would have hidden such a personal item far from the teenage babysitter's prying eyes. I don't think Emma could have cared less! She had LIVING to do! She couldn't be bothered with hiding things or housework, that's for sure.

My mom kept a clean house. Not tidy, all the time, but clean. My sister and I were whipped mercilessly (just kidding, we were nagged) if we didn't do our chores after school. I, on the other hand, well you could say I've never been a neat or tidy person. My cubicle at work is usually overflowing with files and drawings for the projects I'm working on. I've always wanted to be motivated enough to pick up after myself more, but I get distracted. Whatever!

The thing is, I get embarrased by it at times. I WISH I had a clean house. Don't get me wrong; we don't wallow in filth, we're just messy. I scrub the bathroom at least once a week, and we don't let the dishes pile up too long. But if you catch me towards the end of the work week, don't be surprised if I run from the doorbell if you ring. Or if I meet you out on the front step, and don't let you into my house. My mom did a good job of instilling the guilt about a messy house, she just didn't figure out how to get me to clean up instead of feeling guilty.

I wonder what I get from that guilt. Is it better for me somehow to feel guilty, than it is for me to just get off my arse at night and scrub? I have no idea.

In the end, I'm more of an Emma Larson. She was a legend in our house, mostly for those stuck-on-the-floor Cheerios. If I ever run into her again, I'll have to ask her if she ever felt guilty for not being more of a Housewife. And if she didn't, I'll have to figure out her secret.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ouchey, and a Yard Sale

Got my first (and hopefully my last) crown today. I had no cavities at my last checkup (huzzah for Tom's of Maine toothpaste and my Sonicare toothbrush!), but an old root canal was starting to fall apart on me. Now my tooth nubbin hurts! The temporary crown is weird! But I love my dentist. The Novocaine was starting to wear off toward the end of the grinding, and she knew it, but she did what I would have told her to do if my mouth hadn't been propped open: she hurried up with the grinding instead of stopping to give me more Novocaine. Hooray for getting it over with!

In other news, the yard sale is almost ready. Waiting on borrowed tables arriving tonight, and just a few things left to price tonight. Wish us luck tomorrow in getting rid of our treasures!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Evangelicals Cause Hemorrhoids

So the news out of Houston today was particularly surreal.

The next time you're on an airplane and someone flips out, just be glad televangelist Joel Osteen and his insane wife aren't there.

Click the link, and you won't be disappointed; I kid you not - the televangelist's wife threw a fit about a spill on her armrest, and caused this poor flight attendant's HEMORRHOIDS to flare up! You can't make this stuff up!

Fantasy # 412

I just looked at Fezzik's School Year Calendar for 2008/2009. I zoomed immediately to his vacation dates, so that I can make sure a)I have enough time off to cover his breaks without a babysitter, and b)(more importantly) we can schedule vacations and have fun as a family!

I think my plan for mid-winter break is especially brilliant this year. I haven't broken the news to Lawnboy yet, but I think we need to blow our tax refund on a trip to HAWAII.

There, I said it. Honey? Can we? Pleeeeeease? Because as you well know, the more sun you expose me to in February, the less medication I need the rest of the year. Seriously.

Tornado Update

Did I mention that I wanted my sister to move back home? I know she loves Chicago, but the city is filled with arseholes.

Yesterday, she went to take pictures of her damaged car, so she could submit an insurance claim, and when she got to her car, the city tree-cutters were there, getting the tree off her car. Which is great, right? Except, they broke her mirror. She wasn't upset about it, because really, what's a broken mirror, when your car had a tree fall on it, but she (politely) asked the city worker how she should submit the claim for her broken mirror.

He YELLED at her, and told her she was stupid to park there anyway, and that the mirror was broken by an act of god, so she should just shut up and get out of his face.

Lucky for her, she has an uncanny ability to remain calm in situations like these. I would be in tears already (I would have been close to tears at the point where I realized I'd have to ask a stranger a question - that's just how I roll), but she is SMART and COMPOSED and she remembered that she had taken pictures the night before, too, so she had evidence that the tree did not knock her mirror off, and she told the city worker that. He continued yelling, and she said "I'm not sure why you're yelling at me - I'm not asking you to pay for this out of your pocket. I'm asking how your employer can reimburse me." He was a maniac, and even still he continue to rant at her about nonsense. They went back and forth for a while, she trying to explain to him that she had simply parked on the street before the storm, she didn't actually wedge her car underneath a fallen tree, and finally she told him "Never mind, I will figure out how to call your employer on my own."

Also - the owner of the property from which the tree fell had come out of his house at this point to see what the commotion was. This guy could be considered her neighbor, although his actions were far from neighborly. Karrie asked him if he could lend her a pen so she could write the city worker's information down, and he told her no! She said, "You can't just go into your house and grab me a pen? Really?" He stood his ground and said nope.

I love visiting Chicago, don't get me wrong. But the next time I'm there, I might have to punch a city employee in the face.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The House Began to Pitch

My sister lives in Chicago, and while I was out enjoying a night of fire dancing, she had a different kind of adventure.

You might have heard, Wrigley Field was evacuated last night because of the tornado.

Here's the story, as my husband relayed it to me this morning.

Karrie was on her way home from the hospital where she works, on the bus, when her friend Logan, who was staying at her condo, called. Logan was afraid because of the storm. Karrie said "Well, don't panic until you hear the tornado sirens. I'm on my way home right now."

They hung up, and five minutes later, the tornado sirens went off. My sister's bus was tossed around in the wind, and she was thoroughly afraid. She got off the bus, and had to run three blocks in ankle-deep water to her building.

She was safe, but a little shaken. They rode out the storm, and after it was over, they realized that a tree had come down a little farther down her block.

"Karrie, isn't your car parked down there?"

"Oh crap."

They went to check it out, and the 300-year-old tree had come down and hit part of her car, which isn't totaled, but did have some damage. There were other cars in the area that did get totaled.

The moral of the story? One of the reasons I live here is because unless you're ridiculously stupid, the weather here isn't going to kill you.

Sis, I'm really glad you're ok.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Meditation, with Blueberries, a Photo Essay

My (then soon to be) father-in-law got me a cookbook called "Cookies: a Cookie Lover's Collection" for Christmas in 1996, 6 months before I got married. The inscription says "To Kathi on Christmas 1996, Just a bit of sweetness from a crusty old man to a great daughter. Hope this will stand you in good stead throughout the years trying to keep that hubby of yours satiated. Love, Dave" I haven't yet cooked through the book in its entirety, but I am slowly progressing and would say I've baked at least half the recipes. I have other ways of keeping Lawnboy satiated, but nobody wants to hear about that. I'm just saying that I haven't applied myself to making all the recipes because we've been...busy.

Um, where was I? Yes, the cookies.

Today, our blueberries needed harvesting. I was trying not to make muffins with them, because a)the blueberries are delicious raw, and b)seriously, who needs another muffin? I'm partial to cupcakes. Then Lawnboy and I had a conversation about cheap desserts, and I thought I should bake some cookies. Lo and behold, a recipe for Blueberry Lemon Drops beckoned me and I was able to check one more recipe off the list! I documented the whole thing in photographs for your viewing pleasure. These cookies are quite delicious, nice and tangy with fresh bursts of berries. You should bake them, I mean it.

Blueberry Lemon Drops

2 c. all-purpose flour, + 1 tablespoon for berries
1 c. fresh blueberries
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 1/2 t. freshly grated lemon peel
1 T. fresh lemon juice (don't cheat here, or you'll regret it)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
Oven: 375 degrees

First, go pick about a cup of blueberries. Alternatively, acquire them from your local organic berry farmer. Then, when you get them into your kitchen, stick them into a small, cereal-sized bowl and cover them with about a tablespoon of flour.

Now, go zest your lemon, like this.

And juice it. You can strain the seeds later.

Now you can stick your butter, the sugar, the egg, the lemon peel and juice into your mixing bowl. See?

Beat all that on medium speed for a few minutes, until everything is smooth, light and fluffy.
Not there yet:

Ahhh, here we are!

Now you're ready to add your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Just dump it right in, like so.

At this piont, stir it all together on low JUST until the flour is all mixed in, and it forms a little ball in the middle. Not too much, now, or you'll make them tough. We wouldn't want that.

Now you can take a rubber spatula and very gently fold in your blueberries, trying very hard not to break them up, but also trying to distribute them evenly throughout the dough. It's a delicate balance, but you can do it.

It should end up looking like this. Can you tell that most of the berries are still whole, and they're pretty evenly spaced in the dough?

Now you're ready to plop them onto your greased baking sheet or your preheated baking stone. I used both, but I like how they turned out on the stone. The well loved, messy-looking stone.

You might be wondering how I was able to get to this point uninterrupted. I cheated. Yogurt, pretzels and a high chair.

All that's left is to put them into your hot oven for 12 minutes, take them out, and let them cool down on the racks. I highly recommend cooking each batch a slightly different length of time, because sometimes it's nice to have a darker, well-done cookie, and sometimes you want a squishy, light one. Note we have both. Also note how much effort it took to keep our dirty mitts off these cookies until I could get a picture of the full racks. Man, the willpower in this house is amazing. Especially when I'm standing by the rack with a hot spatula in my hand.

The cookbook said this would make 2 dozen cookies. I'm stingy and make small cookies, I guess, because I got 6 extra cookies out of this batch.

See how easy that was? For goodness sake, what are you waiting for? Go eat!

More Moneymaking Adventures

We are having a garage sale next weekend. Dad had one a week ago, and we thought it would be good for us to dump some of our crap on unsuspecting strangers.

I mean, you know, sell our valuable pre-owned items to sharp bargain-hunters.

I cleaned out The Amazing So and So's dresser and closet, and Fezzik decided to part with both pair of his cleats because he's "never playing baseball again." Sorry Auntie and Grandpa, looks like my tall boy didn't like it.

Tackled the linen closet today and I'm embarassed to admit I found a pile of brand-new bath toys underneath the towels and pillowcases. The bath toys were a baby shower gift, 18 months ago. Yay! New stuff! The boys are both currently playing with these new toys.

I should go up into the attic and get down a couple bins of toys we put up there to swap out. It would be fun to watch them play with Lincoln Logs that have been put away since last summer. Although, I'm really hoping that the clouds will dissipate today and allow us to set up the Slip N Slide. I'm ready for another weekend of summer.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Things I Own and Love

I know you're not supposed to be so attached to material goods, but let's face it, we all are.

I bought my first Green Man, the one in this picture, at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. You might have read about that in The Da Vinci Code, but we went before that book was published. Or if not before it was published, before we'd read or heard of it. Anywhoodle, the Green Man I bought there was a cast of one inside the church. Green Men were a pagan tradition that got adopted into Catholicism in England. I just love stuff like that - "Let's convert these heathens. Hmm, how should we do that? I know! Let's just tell them that everything they already know and believe is a part of OUR religion too!"

I went on to start a small collection of them, and when my mom died, I inherited half of hers. The six of them now hang on our walls to protect us and connect us to the trees. And also, to look cool.