Friday, November 28, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving! We had a nice quiet dinner with Aaron's parents and brothers. I had a fairly relaxing day of cooking while Aaron and the boys strung up Christmas lights in the front yard. It felt a little strange to me to have so few people over for Thanksgiving; growing up, Thanksgiving was usually a family reunion which required strategic placement of furniture and food. One year we had so many aunts, uncles and cousins that we had not one but TWO kids tables, one in the dining room next to the "big" table and one spilling out into the hall. I think my favorite part of Thanksgiving when I was young was playing in my parents' huge empty kitchen after dinner; they had a big kitchen table that got moved to the dining room twice a year, once at Thanksgiving and once on Christmas Eve, and the vacancy it left meant the kids had a huge space of linoleum floor to run around and slide on in our socks. Because of that, it doesn't quite feel like Thanksgiving to me unless the furniture is rearranged. We didn't have to move our table which is good because we don't really have anywhere to move it to, and it occurred to me last night that one of the things I'm thankful for is fact that there are so many people in my life that I care about, it would be impossible to gather them all around one table. Especially in my little house.I realized just before setting the table that I didn't really have any decorations planned; I usually just light candles, but Matteas thinks he's Smokey the Bear and takes open flame situations very seriously, so candles were out. I cut some hydrangeas from the front yard and added a little of this and a little of that from our fall decorations around the house.
The living room, three hours before dinner.
The living room, twenty minutes before dinner. The fabulous cleaning and vacuuming job was courtesy of my husband Aaron.
The dining room, three hours before dinner.
And later. You can't see very well in this picture, but Jack is wearing his glasses.
The morning was fairly peaceful; I made this apple galette while sleepy-head Matteas slept in. He woke up just as it went into the oven.
Which was just in time to enjoy the leftover cinnamon-sugar apples.
A culinary triumph: a dairy-free pumpkin pie that was, frankly, amazing. I'll post the recipe later.
The cozy fire Aaron made after dinner which crackled long into the night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Necessary Beauty

I'm not a person who likes a lot of decoration. At least, not on a daily basis. Come December, I put up lights and make wreaths and light candles like nobody's business, but on a normal day I find I prefer simplicity to embellishment. What looks like decoration to other people looks like clutter to me, and with two busy and curious little boys, decorations are often huge liabilities. However, I appreciate beautiful things, so lately I've tried to incorporate as much beauty as possible into my normal everyday things, rather than having the "useful" stuff be separate from the "decorative" stuff. One of my favorite innovations is the glass bottle I use for dish soap. The valve is a little irritating because the soap is too thick to flow out of it freely so I have to water down my dish soap quite a bit; this turns out to be a huge money-saver, as I've been on the same bottle of lavender dish soap for about six months now. Despite my lack of English heritage, I drink a lot of tea. The little green pot is from my English mother-in-law, and it makes the perfect amount of tea for one; more than one cup, but a little less than two full ones. The pitcher I bought at Ross and the cup at a thrift store. I like small cups with narrow tops so my drink doesn't cool off too quickly. Both of these little cups used to have candles in them. When the candle reached the end of its life, I scraped out as much wax as I could with a knife then used boiling water to get the rest out. The tea container I use to keep baking soda in, and the red quinoa is in a recycle spaghetti jar. This was a delicious canister of hot chocolate; when it was gone I covered it in paper and now I keep paint brushes in it. It's useful, beautiful, and economical; my favorite.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Noah's Ark
Serpent wrapped around an apple. The large bulges on the right are the serpent's eyes. The very picture of temptation.
Every year Christmas seems to come and go in a rush of relatives, friends, dinners and parties, and every year I resolve that next year, I will find a way to make it last. A hunger that I feel goes unmet each year is that I'm never prepared, but somehow Christmas seems to pounce on me when I'm least ready and I find it extraordinarily difficult to disengage from all the busyness and craziness and just be present. Every year, I also resolve that we are going to do our Advent calendar, light candles, and hang ornaments on the Jesse Tree. It never happens, and part of the problem is that we have no Jesse Tree ornaments. Growing up, my family went through several sets; we kids were kind of hard on them. One year my mom bought a bunch of Fimo and had us all make our favorites, and to my knowledge it is still the finest collection of ornaments ever made. Istvan was about four at the time, and his baby Jesus in a manger is to die for. Jack and I started working on our own collection yesterday, and hopefully we'll have enough finished to start hanging them on December 1st. Anyone have any other good ideas for Christmas preparation?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Normal

I almost didn't put any pictures from our weekend up because it was NOT very picturesque. These are from last week, showcasing Matteas' favorite perch. He loves to find cars(or blocks or whatever) and drive them along the windowsill; he even makes car noises, something Jack didn't do until much later. I think Matteas seems more advanced to me because he learns from watching Jack. So the weekend. Wasn't so hot. Aaron was going to take a drive down to Gig Harbor to look at a potential project, and he was going to meet Trevor in Tacoma for breakfast. I didn't want to spend Saturday morning alone, so I decided the boys and I should go too. This is not the kind of thing I usually do. First of all, it involved waking up at 7:30 on a Saturday. Secondly, I'm always a little paranoid of being long distances away from home in case anything goes wrong. I used to be really enterprising before I had kids; I've even been known to go on overnight hiking/camping trips and spur-of-the-moment road trips, but that kind of stuff is a little tricky with little ones. Aaron doesn't think so, but I do. I worry about what could go wrong or not having the right stuff a good deal more than is necessary or reasonable. Everyone has their internal struggles. Mine is with worry, mostly in anticipation of the stomach flu. I will go to pretty ridiculous lengths to avoid exposure to anyone who has recently been vomiting, and it occupies most of my worrying space. It's a bit of a handicap. So Saturday morning was an exercise in personal growth for me, and I decided to make it about choosing things based on what I actually wanted instead of what I was afraid might go wrong. We had a bit of a grumpy morning with Matteas, who didn't want to eat breakfast, but we managed to get out the door and on the freeway with relative ease. The hour or so drive passed without incident, Matteas taking a little nap and Jack happily coloring. We met Trevor for breakfast and Matteas was a little clingy. Jack had to be coaxed into eating a decent quantity of eggs, and the last bite proved to be too much. He gagged, and up came all my hard work. Luckily I grabbed his plate and some napkins in time and we kept most of the barf off of him. The voice in the back of my head said that this was not a good sign, but I pressed on. We strapped the boys back in their seats after breakfast and prepared to head out to a piece of land Aaron's looking at. Matteas was very upset about being put in his carseat, and cried and screamed until he threw up all over himself. Aaron thought he was just upset and was possibly inspired by Jack, but he's never made himself throw up before. This is when alarm bells started sounding in my head. We cleaned him up, changed his clothes and headed out once more. Two minutes down the road, more puking, this time without a fit preceding it. It dawned on me that Matteas was actually sick(Jack, however, merely has a sensitive gag reflex). The poor baby threw up every ten minutes for the next hour. We decided, since we were already down there, to check out the property anyway. Between barfing, Matteas was his usual chipper self and insisted on going trekking through the woods without so much as holding my hand. When he'd start to gag, I'd pick him up and lean him over and then he'd be on his way again, pointing and chirping and exploring. The drive home wasn't so bad; I sat next to him with an empty Starbucks cup and LOTS of diaper wipes and managed to catch most of it, but he was still pretty yucky by the time we got home. I always enjoy having nice clean babies, but I have never looked forward to a shower more than I did that afternoon. I usually give the boys baths, but I thought a shower would be more prudent under the circumstances. Matteas just laid on my shoulder while I washed his little body and rinsed all the horrible bile down the drain, replacing the bitter smell it left on his baby skin with lavender baby wash. I nursed him in the shower, thinking that vomiting something is easier on the stomach than vomiting nothing, then stayed in the shower a while, waiting for the milk to come back up. It didn't for a long time. Specifically, until after we'd gotten out of the shower. Luckily we were standing in the kitchen, which has a tile floor so it was easy cleanup. I have a renewed affection for disinfecting wipes; I'm sure they're not environmentally friendly, but the disposability factor is great for cleaning up barf. Fortunately, the incident in the kitchen was the last of it, and everything he ate after that he kept down. I nursed him over the next couple of hours and he got more and more cheerful, so after about three hours of not barfing I gave him some peeled cucumber and cubed ham, which he devoured while breathing heavily. The rest of us have escaped unscathed so far, but even though it's time to change the sheets I've resisted; I figure if I do, that will be the night Jack will come barf in my bed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Look What We Made

Okay, I know he's my kid and everything, but Jack's drawings really are pretty amazing. He's only three years old, after all. I bought him a set of markers a few days ago and thought about hanging onto them until Christmas, but I couldn't help myself and I have no regrets. That little set of markers has provided hours of creativity for Jack and peace for his Mama, not to mention the priceless works of art I get out of the bargain. The picture above is a dinosaur montage; on the far left, the green dinosaur with the read tail is a T-Rex. Next to him are two blue and green archaeopteryx. On the far right, the black blob with red shooting out is a volcano. The two orange circles towards the bottom are pumpkins(these are seasonally-hip dinosaurs), and at the top, my favorite: a flock of pteradactyls. Last night was one of those crazy evenings where, just as dinner time approached, all hell broke loose. The first incident was Jack finding a bottle of spray cleaner with bleach in it, and using it to try to clean off his dry-erase letter board. All over the living room rug. He also got it on his sweatpants, and was devastated over the resulting discoloration so I'm pretty sure he'll never play with bleach again. I put Matteas in his high chair with some snacks so I could work on dinner, and just as I dumped the bowl of thawing chicken over on the counter sending raw-chicken liquid EVERYWHERE(did I mention I'm a Lysol-obsessed germ freak?) Matteas decided he was NOT interested in his snack, but he WAS interested in screaming and trying to climb out of his high chair. Somehow we survived, and the Chicken Parmesan and Mixed Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook got finished. It was almost good enough to soothe my ruffled feathers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Accidents

Last night, the boys and I came home from visiting at Briana's to find a tired and hungry Aaron, and I had no dinner plan. I did, however, have a produce bin sitting on my doorstep, which always makes my heart beat a little faster. Jack and I brought it inside and opened it up to find several treasures, one of which was a pound a very fresh green beans. There was also a pint of lovely cherry tomatoes, and the wheels in my head started turning... I put some water on to boil for some ravioli I had in the fridge, and while the water was heating I chopped parsley, tomatoes, lemon and garlic. When the ravioli was done I poured it into a colander and returned the pot to the stove; I added butter and olive oil, and sauteed the garlic. After a minute or two I added the cherry tomatoes, and cooked until the tomatoes just gave up their juices. I turned off the heat, and squeezed half a lemon over my tomato-garlic mixture. I returned the ravioli to the pan and tossed everything together, then topped it with parmesan and parsley. I steamed the green beans while the ravioli cooked, the entire thing took about fifteen minutes from start to finish. I was pleased enough with how quickly the meal came together, but even more gratifying was the fact that it was extremely delicious. There was also a lovely little hubbard squash in the bin, so I sliced it in half and roasted it in the oven while dinner cooked. I wasn't in the mood for squash after dinner, so I just wrapped it up and put it in the fridge. This morning my usual breakfast of oatmeal and coffee just wasn't appealing, so I got out the squash and stared at it for inspiration. I put half a cup of flour in a bowl, with a pinch of baking powder and a dash of baking soda. A generous pinch of sugar, one egg, a dollop of vegetable oil, half a cup of cooked squash, and several splashes of milk. Oh my goodness...I tried the pancakes with syrup, and they were great. Out of respect for the squash, I decided to try them with brown sugar and butter: it was a life-altering experience. I'm not sure I can make pancakes without squash now. I suppose sweet potatoes or pumpkin would work equally well. The squash does something amazing for the texture; it makes them substantial and very chewy, but somehow keeps them light. It was almost the consistency of a donut, and with nutty undertones from the squash. Jack loved them, even after I told him there was squash in them. He doesn't even like squash, but he ate half my breakfast(after eating his usual oatmeal). Despite some popular trends involving hiding pureed vegetables in their boxed macaroni, Aaron and I have found that the best way to get our kids to eat vegetables is to be honest. Our garden was a big hit, and the carrots and cucumbers were regularly devoured by the boys. We had Jack help us plant the seeds and help water, and explained that if we took good care of the garden then our seeds would grow into vegetables. I think being part of the process made a huge impact and helped Jack form a connection to the vegetables; they were the fruit of his labor, not just things that showed up randomly on his dinner plate.

Friday, November 7, 2008


One day Matteas was being difficult about going down for a nap, and I needed an occupation for Jack so he wouldn't come bursting into my room at the critical moment. I had a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, so I set him on the couch with it and told him to look at it until I came out. Fifteen minutes later Matteas was asleep, and I came out to the livingroom to find Jack lying on his belly, chin resting on his hands, totally absorbed in his catalog. Since that day, he recognizes the catalog and asks to look at. This morning he was sharing it with Matteas, and they actually sat together for a good ten minutes. Jack would point at something and say "Oh Mom, I really want that for Christmas." Then Matteas would point at something and babble. Jack and I have a Friday morning tradition: I try to sneak out of bed while Matteas sleeps, and Jack and I make muffins. Last week we made apple cinnamon, this morning it was banana walnut. I like to put walnuts just on top of the muffins before baking, so they come out toasted and buttery. Jack's job, apart from pouring after I measure the ingredients, is to put the muffin papers into the muffin tin. This morning I awoke to him standing at my bedside and whispering, "Mom, can you get up and make muffins with me? I already put the muffin papers in, and we have bananas!" Sometimes it doesn't work out, Matteas wakes up and I end up trying to keep Jack from adding inappropriate things to our mixing bowl while Matteas tries to climb into mixing bowl, but this morning it couldn't have gone any better. Jack did careful listening, even more careful pouring, and Matteas woke up at the exact moment I was sliding the muffins into the oven. It started raining like crazy, and the kitchen was warm and smelled like brown sugar and walnuts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Pumpkin Patch

Even though we're headed toward Thanksgiving now, I couldn't resist putting up some pumpkin patch pictures because some of them were so darn cute. Matteas insisted on walking around(as opposed to being comfortably carried around in the backpack by Dad) and, as the ground was rather uneven, he stumbled. A lot. He was determined though, and every time he fell he'd just pick himself up again and keep going, shouting "I do it!" all the while. In the top picture Matteas is clearing away some rotten stem. He worked very carefully with his one little baby finger until he'd pulled away the last gooey strand. This is one of my favorite pictures ever. Jack is starting to be quite protective of Matteas. Most days I have to separate them every fifteen minutes because one of them is biting/scratching/pulling the hair of/poking/ sitting on the other, so I really cherish the cooperative moments. Jack is reliable enough with the camera now that Aaron and I actually get pictures of us sometimes. This is how we've spent the past several days. Jack and Matteas have colds, and it's making my already-Mama's boy even clingier. It drives me crazy when he follows me around the house whining or pulls on my leg while I'm trying to make dinner, but it's kind of hard to be irritated when I pick him up and he just lays down and plays with my hair.


This year, Matteas was a grumpy bear. His costume was a little snug and he was not happy about it; surprisingly, he enjoyed having his nose painted.
Why go trick-or-treating when there's plenty of candy at Grandmas?
Jack was a stegasaurus. My mom made the costume for my brother Damien about 14 years ago, so it needed a little mending and a lot of hemming for Jack but we made it work. He didn't really enjoy wearing it though. When I picked him up from his school costume party he wasn't wearing it anymore, and his teacher explained that during circle time Jack began looking pail and seemed to be leaning over. She felt his head and said he was awfully warm, so she asked him if he wanted to take off his costume. The teacher keeps their classroom about75 degrees, and Jack always complains about his face and his feet getting too hot at school; a big black costume didn't help any.
Matteas on the prowl.