Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gifts From the Earth

Now I know I said this wasn't going to turn into a foodie blog, but I just can't help myself today. A few weeks ago, I was reading a blog in the Washington Post Online - the food editor had presented a challenge: take $20 to your local Farmer's Market, and see how much you can get with it. Now I used to live near DC, so I know the prices there are a bit higher than where I currently live. But I was shocked at what these people could (or couldn't!) get for $20. So just for fun, I'll tell you what I got at my Farmer's Market yesterday, for $9.50: 13 ears of corn, picked about 2 hours before I purchased it, 2 huge sweet red peppers (at 2/$1.00 - the same ones that sell for $3.49/lb at the grocery), a huge red tomato, a quart of peaches, and a half peck of lima beans. Amazing - and I was going to get an acorn squash because I found a yummy-sounding recipe for roasted squash with maple syrup, but it's still summer - I'm going to give that a few more weeks!
So for dinner last night? Corn, lima beans. Homemade chicken strips. And tabouleh, with fresh tomato, and fresh basil from my garden. I'm going to be sorry to see summer come to an end - I just love the foods of summertime. Right now, besides the peaches, in my refrigerator, I also have apples, strawberries, watermelon that I cut up last night, a pineapple and grapes. MMMMM - eating close to earth just feels right.
Which brings me to a thought. We are so fortunate in this country. We are a prosperous nation, with all kinds of foods and retail goods available at our whim. We go to huge, brightly lit, heavily stocked grocery stores that make you shiver with cold because they're so air-conditioned. We are so used to all the products we use and eat and need being there for us - neatly arranged and attractively marketed. We even get a little disgruntled when they might be out of something we like, or we can't find it readily. Compare that to those nations where food is a luxury, where children are starving and where men fight for a sack of rice to feed their families for a month. Where produce sits and rots in the heat while people have to walk 20 and 30 miles to get there, swatting bugs the whole time, carrying children, nursing babies. Thank you God, that I don't have to fight for food to feed my little ones. Thank you God, for prosperity, for never having to go hungry, for having our basic necessities plus a whole lot more a short drive to Walmart away. Thank you God, that I can wake up in the morning, greet my family, and ask them what they would like for breakfast today, because I have OPTIONS. At my fingertips.
Just my thoughts for the day - I'm going to go see what Jonathan would like for breakfast --- with a smile on my face!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Catching Up

Wow - time goes by fast. All the sudden I realize I haven't blogged for over a week - sorry about that! We were out of town for 8 days - no excuse since I had computer access - I just didn't really have all that much time! Mark had a training class, which is conveniently near my mom and dad's house, so we stayed with them for the week. Mark and I were finally able to get out and do some fun stuff on our own while Grandma and Poppy watched the boys. On Tuesday night, we went to the Baltimore Orioles/Texas Rangers game in Baltimore. It was great - we got excellent seats - 11 rows in back of home plate - from the scalp-free zone - an area set up so people with extra tickets can sell them for face value or below. We got the tickets two hours before the game and saved a bundle of money on some pretty expensive tickets! It was a great game - the Orioles won, and we had a nice night out. Then on Wednesday, we went out to dinner and to see the movie The Bourne Ultimatum. Now I have to admit - The Bourne Identity confused me a bit - hard to get a grasp on what was happening until the latter half of the movie. And the Bourne Supremacy was totally confusing - I was lost for well over half the movie. So I wasn't too thrilled about seeing this one, but off we went. And seriously? This was the best of the three. You could've watched it without seeing the first two - and it was a great flick! Highly recommended. On Friday night, we all went out to Outback Steakhouse to sort of celebrate my sister's birthday - her birthday isn't until this week, but since we were there, we celebrated a bit early. Then we came home for cake and ice cream. Mark and I and the kids left the next day to come back home. It was almost 100 degrees and deathly humid - not the best travel day. So we're home --- for now. Starting to think about closing our pool for the winter - probably this coming weekend, unless the weather forecast stops us - if it's going to be really hot, we'll leave it open another week. Are you gone, Summer?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blue Matthew

For a Friday, it was kind of a rough morning around here...Jonathan was up to his usual complaining about Matthew getting into his "stuff", and spent half the morning asking me to "take Matthew away!" And Matthew, of course, continued to obliviously plow through toys, not caring, nor probably knowing who's were who's, or what suffering he was inflicting. So I should've known that when it got really quiet in the living room that something bad was afoot. But for some reason, I ignored it for a few minutes while I wiped down some shelves in the refrigerator (how does HAIR get in the fridge?), and I even ignored it when all the sudden, I heard maniacal laughter from Jonathan. Eventually, though, I threw my rag aside and wandered around the corner, and look what greeted me. I'm guessing Matthew upset the crayon bucket, which also contained little stampers, and I could almost blame him for ALL the mess, including the mess on him, but then I noticed the stamp on the back of his shoulder, and the one up by his eye, and got to thinking...hmmmm....was someone decorating their brother? So I asked Jonathan "did you stamp your brother?" And Jonathan says "Yes, Mommy." What could I do, but take a picture for all posterity, and go clean Matthew up. By the way, it didn't come off too readily. He was still blue all through lunch, but I think we got it all in the tub this evening! Moral: when the kids get quiet, go see what they're up to.....IMMEDIATELY!

Song Lyrics

Did you ever have a song running through your head...relentlessly? Enough that you can't sleep (although I think some late-night caffeine may have contributed here a little, too....)? Anyway, I couldn't get this song out of my head tonight, and it was killing me. I could only "hear" small portions of the lyrics, I couldn't for the life of me identify the vocalist, and to make matters that much worse, I have no idea where I had heard it! Quite the predicament. But an hour online, and with the help of a few search engines and the few snatches of understandable lyrics I could remember, I finally stumbled upon Robert Plant's song called "Big Log". If you want a listen, here it is.... And bonus points for whoever can tell me where in the world I've heard it lately - must be on some tv commercial or something.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Graham Crackers and Flatbreads

Homemade graham crackers - that was my task for the day. Well, besides the usual. Why, you ask? Well, where to begin? A while back, Mark and I decided that we really needed to start eating a little better. We aren't in our 20's anymore, and one of us (ahem...) isn't even in HIS 30's anymore. I read somewhere awhile back that the three most important things you can do for your health are:
1. exercise
2. eliminate high-fructose corn syrup from your diet
3. eliminate hydrogenated oils from your diet
Okay, well, number 2 is hopeless. That's in almost everything we eat! But number 1 is easy, and number 3? Well? Okay, so we decided to try it. And I'm happy to say, that first of all, our kitchen had very little of it to begin with. The worst offenders? Crackers and cookies. And lo and behold, there it was, in graham crackers. The yummy graham crackers that I love and give to my babies on a daily basis. So a few months ago, when I stumbled upon graham flour at the local Amish market (gotta LOVE those Amish folks!), I bought my 2lb bag (for 40 cents) and then went on an on-again, off-again internet search for the perfect recipe. Today, I found it. Well, almost. Yes, it had vegetable shortening in it, but if you just substitute butter, there go the hydrogenated oils. I made them today, and let me tell you, they ROCK! If anyone wants to try, here's the recipe.
Also, today, I made herb flatbread to go with the chef salads we had for dinner - I got the idea from Quizno's - their flatbread salads look SO good, but they've got like 1000 calories and 56 grams of fat in each one....ummmm, is that a SALAD? So I did it myself, and I think we have a new addition to the "favorite recipe" box. Oh, and MUCH healthier, I might add.
So before this blog turns into a total foodie blog, which it very well could do, let me just tell you that after those two ventures, plus the chef's salads, PLUS the lima beans Mark brought from the farmer's market that I had to shell and cook, PLUS the watermelon that I cut up for snacks, not only did I spend about 3 hours in a hot kitchen, but had a royal mess to clean up after dinner. It was worth it though. We're trying to eat "closer to earth" these days, and it's working out great. So much farmer's market, so little refrigerator space! I'll be sorry to see summer end. Except for maybe the zucchini. And we, fools, grew those ourselves!

Onto the kids - it's no secret that Jonathan has a major obsession with all things train. Thomas ranks high up there, but nothing beats train tracks. We live in a town that makes half it's living by the rails, and trains rumble through here dozens of times a day. Every time, and I mean EVERY time we're out driving anywhere, we've got to alter our route so we run over at least 2 or 3 railroad crossings....the springs in my van are groaning from abuse! So the other night after dinner, we hit the Allegany Highlands trail - a cool new rail trail that has recently been added onto so that except for a few little spots, runs from DC all the way to Pittsburgh. We're out there with dog and double-stroller, enjoying the evening, when Jonathan decides he needs to get out and stand on the tracks for a bit. We let him out, he goes up to the tracks, thoughtfully looks both directions and says "Train tracks, Mommy...they're so beautiful!" How can you not crack up at the things these kids say?

And Matthew? Well, today he learned a new trick - how to climb up onto the couch. He hasn't yet figured out how to get down. Well, actually, I take that back. He CAN get down, but he usually winds up with a bruise somewhere and he has a screaming fit. Not that I can blame him. Just one more thing to add to my list: go yank Matthew off that couch before he cracks his skull....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ages and Stages

Well, we had a major breakthrough this afternoon. I actually got to vacuum without Matthew turning himself inside out in hysterics. Major, MAJOR turning point! I knew from experience that his terrified fear of the vacuum would only last so long, but it was driving me crazy all the same - and every time I vacuumed, I'd have him on my hip while trying to vacuum under beds and around tables and chairs. Not fun. So today is a baby-step in the right direction. He still wasn't happy, but at least this time he just ran away rather than melting down.
Which brings me to question...will there ever be a "stage-free" moment? It seems like they give up one bothersome behavior only to pick up two or three more. And it's funny, you never can quite remember exactly when they give up a bad habit - it just kind of happens and then a month or two later, you're like "hey...he doesn't do THAT anymore". Take Jonathan for instance. For a long time, he refused to walk up the steps by himself. He HAD been doing it fine, but I guess after Matthew was born, he saw me carry Matthew up, and then he started refusing to go up without assistance. Most of the time, I couldn't carry him - I had Matthew, my purse, the diaper bag, maybe some grocery bags or four.... So then he started needing to hold my hand up the steps. This went on for months! Then all of the sudden, just today, I realized that he hadn't needed "help" for a good while now - probably at least a month or two. Here I never thought the day would come, but indeed, it did come, and I never even noticed.
So I know Matthew will think up something else to make up for finally accepting the vacuum. It's just the way they are, I guess!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Sad Read

Sometimes it's easy to lose yourself in the drudgery of everyday life - easy to complain about the heat, the lack of A/C in the house, the husband who has to work late on the very day the kids have been climbing the walls all day. The double-batch of zucchini bread that turned out so awful it came out of the oven and went right to the trash can....
The last few weeks have had their low points, that's for sure. But then you stumble upon something that puts it all in perspective, and I'd like to share it, even though it's not the happiest thing in the world. I read this family's blog the other night - it's not long - it only covers a time period of a few precious months. Reading something like this was just the kick in the pants I needed when I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself. I am so grateful for my family, my children; my healthy, robust babies that bring me so much joy just by their very existence. I thank God every day for them, even when that prayerful thanks is followed by another prayer that God grant me enough patience to just get through another day.
So I leave you with this link. Whether or not you choose to read it is your decision - it is very sad.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Yes, the zucchini have grown out of control. We ate out for two nights in a row on the weekend, and all the sudden, the zucchini overtook the garden. I'm not even going to bother cooking up these, I've got two more in the fridge a little smaller, and these are just too big to deal with.

Boy, is it HOT. We've had a dry, coolish summer up until now - only a few really hot days here and there. But the heat is here, and here for at least a week. Last night it didn't cool off overnight that much, and our un-airconditioned house is over 80 degrees this morning, and it's supposed to be 98 today. But today's the worst of it - I hope! I think the pool might get a lot of use today!

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Few Things of Note....

Just a few things to tell - some of you know about my "wristwatch woes". If you don't, here's a synapsis - thought my Fossil watch had a dead battery - took it in, had it replaced. Worked fine for a week, then stopped keeping time, but second hand was still moving. Repair guy thought it needed to be cleaned and oiled to the tune of $30. Well, the watch wasn't hugely expensive to begin with, so I told Mark to buy me another for Christmas. In the meantime, I would wear my Seiko, and go buy another "everyday" watch at Walmart - just a cheapie. Which I did. Two days later, both the Seiko AND the Walmart watch both stopped running. But they would always start up again later. I was completely baffled, until I thought of an explanation - when I wash dishes, I lay my watches in a little wooden bowl on my windowsill in my kitchen. I assumed that the humidity was slowing them down, and when I would take them out of the window, they would work fine. Fast forward another week. By this time, I'm completely anal about checking all my watches - have them all laying out side-by-side, INCLUDING the Fossil which I thought was just dead. All working great. UNTIL Saturday. Wore my Fossil, and on the other wrist, wore my new, cool, magnetic bracelet. That night, took them all off and put all of it into a pile. Guess what? Fossil stopped overnight. Removed it from the presence of the magnetic bracelet, and VOILA - it works again. It wasn't the humidity. It wasn't dead batteries. It was the bracelet, which, for awhile, had been living in that little bowl on my windowsill. Glad I got that cleared up - it was driving me crazy!

And in other news, Mark has been singing a new song around the house lately: to the tune of "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover".... Mark sings: "50 Ways to Have Zucchini". Tonight's menu - kebobs - shrimp, pepper, onion, and of course, zucchini. On the grill. Marinated in herb-garlic stuff. And I've still got more zucchini the size of baseball bats, on the vine, in the fridge. Why don't the deer and chipmunks eat these, huh?.

A Trip to Idlewild Amusement Park, Ligonier, PA

Well, we've been hearing about it for a year or two now, and now that Jonathan is old enough to enjoy it, we went to Idlewild Amusement Park on Saturday. It was great fun! Jonathan loved all the kiddie rides - and they had tons of them. Supposedly, this park was rated #2 in the country for "little kids", even though they had all the big kid rides, too, as well as a ropes area and the huge "Soak Zone", which we didn't do. Plus, they have Storybook Forest where all the characters from all the children's books are there. We didn't get to that either - the place is huge, and between Jonathan wanting to ride rides, trips to the potty, getting snacks, more trips to the potty, drinks all around, diaper changes, more potty trips, AHHHH! But all in all, we had a great time - are seriously considering season passes for next summer - we'll see.

On Sunday, we didn't get much done because it basically POURED all day long! We needed the rain, but what a bummer - we had planned to spend the whole day in the pool with the kids. I got a few odds and ends done in the house, but we were all mainly in recovery mode from Saturday, so we didn't do much. We only have a few weekends left with the pool - it's stormy today, so I'm not letting Jonathan go in. Tomorrow's supposed to be 99 degrees - yep, we'll be swimming!

Friday, August 3, 2007

What Has the Humidity Done to My Hair?!

Sorry, Matthew, that's what life with curly hair will get you - nothing but grief. Just be lucky you're a boy - we'll keep it nice and short for you, but not quite yet! It's just too cute right now! In the meantime, Mommy apoligizes for passing along those genes. Mommy's been battling curls her whole life - you'd think they'd realize by now that they're not wanted and just go away!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My Babies SWIM!

Jonathan with his favorite "noodle" - ONLY the purple one will do!

The next Michael Phelps? He was actually kicking his legs and moving his arms!

Okay, they aren't exactly swimming. But boy oh boy are they loving the pool. Both of them! Jonathan even jumped off the diving board yesterday into my arms. He kind of took me by surprise - I was floating around holding onto a "noodle" and he was running around on the deck tossing things in and out and being cute. All the sudden he calls me over and says "Mommy, I want to jump in." I hated discouraging him - I grew up in a pool and LOVED it - I want my kids to be the same way. So I paddled over and THEN he climbs onto the diving board. Looks at me with a big grin and says "Mommy, come closer". The rest is history, and since then he's done it half a dozen more times. I more or less catch him, make sure he doesn't go all the way under. Enjoy the pics!

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini

Well, the zucchini are coming fast and furious in the garden, and we've been eating it every night for a week now with no end in sight. I can't keep up with the ones that are getting so big - then I read somewhere that any "professional chef" wouldn't touch a zucchini over 5 inches long. HA! They're not THAT bad! Anyway - we've had it stir-fryed with fresh rosemary, stir-fryed with onions, stir-fryed with garlic and olive oil, zucchini pancakes and broiled zucchini with parmesan cheese and garlic pepper. Tonight I think it's going on the grill with some Old Bay seasoning. Anybody else got any other ideas? Email me if you do - if I don't keep changing the way I make it, I might go crazy.
Our banana peppers are coming in well - last night we had one cut up into our salad and it was a great addition. Tomatoes? Not so great - we have a small chipmunk problem! Mark has already caught five chipmunks this season. We re-locate them to a place we won't name and are very sure they don't (and can't) come back. But we think new ones are moving in as soon as the old ones get evicted! Ah, the joys of gardening!