Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rainy Day Projects

Today I woke up to the sound of rain and thoughts of making chicken noodle soup. From the first hours, today was a day that seemed to want to take its time, and in accordance, meant for us to take our time. What better day to begin a project: something a bit meticulous and time-consuming, out of materials soft-to-the-touch, for the purpose of being used on other slow, rainy days?

Some of my favorite memories revolve around the one rainy day that seemed to befall my family every summer on our vacation to one of Kentucky's lakes. The usual outdoor activities put on hold, my grandmother would round up my willing sisters and cousins and we would play Scrabble, tucked safely beneath a covered outdoor patio. As we tried to best one another on the game board, the rain fell just feet away, strong and steady, most times not letting up until late in the day. Until this moment, I had never stopped to think about what a gift that rain was, driving us all in from the damp to the warmth that was my grandmother.

Audrey is not quite ready for Scrabble. But she does seem primed to be introduced to her letters. Lately, she has learned what constitutes an identical match. We don't own the game Memory (another favorite from childhood), but I think Audrey could master its concept. So today, armed with a ridiculous pile of felt, a needle threaded with some embroidery floss, and a rainy day, I got to work making our own Memory game of sorts.

I found a font I liked on the computer, typed the alphabet, increased the size to 150% and printed the letters out. After cutting them out, I used them as pattern pieces to cut the letters out of my felt. Then, I cut out squares, a dark gray square for the back of each game piece (shown below) and varied colored squares to be used for the fronts. Of course, each piece has to be made twice. I embroidered the letters onto the fronts before pairing them with a back and stitching them up the sides. (I realize that we'll end up with 52 pieces, which may seem like a bit much for a 2-year-old, but I figure we can use them a few pieces at a time, concentrating on just the letters we want to focus on that week). Due to nature of the project (all hand work) and the interruptions for tickle fights, cuddling on the couch, and making and eating chicken noodle soup, I finished just one game piece. This seemed like such a simple task when it first occurred to me. I suppose I should be a little discouraged. But as I type, hearing the dog snore under the table near my feet, it seems like - well, that sort of day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Love Water

Yesterday, while in the car, Audrey spied a puddle the size of a small rowboat.

"I get in it," she said, pointing out the window.

"You can't get in it right now, honey, we're going to the library. Maybe we'll find some water to get in later," I said.

Audrey sat quietly looking out as the light turned green. "I love water," she said. Yes, yes she does.

Saturday: the sprinklers at the zoo.

Sunday: the sprinkler in our backyard.

Tuesday: bath time.

Wednesday: "puddle jumping" the only one we could find,
which happened to be at the top of the playground slide and led
to a very wet backside.

Wednesday: some stone "skipping" to cap off our afternoon walk.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pastry Chef

Two busy hands
so eager to help

and leave their mark,

even if just for breakfast.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Point of View

The World From Her Vantage Point:

Picture by Audrey

The World From My Vantage Point:

Picture by Kristin

Friday, April 24, 2009

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 16

On Running, Taking Responsibility, and Putting Mama in her Place:

This week, we have awaken to a few mornings wrapped like gifts: warm and dressed in bright colors. Eager to partake in such a present, we have donned our tennis shoes and spent our days running: with the jogging stroller; through parks; and on Thursday, sprinting down a cubicle-lined hallway at Jason's office. Audrey has yet to go to a corn maze, but each time I take her to the library, I imagine she feels as if we've transported ourselves to a mythical labyrinth of aluminum and bound-paper walls. I can only assume that somewhere hidden amongst the stacked volumes, is a long-lost treasure that Audrey is determined to find. I have no other explanation for the banshee-style running and screaming between aisles that occurs during most outings to the library. Of course, Jason had not yet witnessed this phenomenon. And I had not realized that there was a place quieter than the library where such an event could occur. Until Thursday.

Thursday was Take Your Child To Work Day at Jason's office. Jason works on the first floor, but when we saw the bathroom on that floor was closed for cleaning, we made a beeline up the stairs, where it appeared that they were not participating in Take Your Child to Work Day. No sooner was Audrey out of the bathroom, when she noticed an open cubicle-lined hallway and made a run for it, screaming as she realized that Jason was on her tail. At first, hearing no noise other than screaming, I assumed everyone was still at lunch. Then, I heard a snicker. Then I looked right and left. All the cubes were full of working people glued to their computers. Silent working people. Information Technology people. The quietest workers on Earth - descendants of silent orders of monks, I'm sure. And our little blond, dressed in brilliant yellow, screaming like a shining firecracker flash down the grid before we were able to trap her halfway down the second aisle.

As much as we've been stretching our legs this week, the most memorable moments have come when Audrey decides to give her two cents worth:

While at the kitchen table Monday morning, Audrey looked at me very solemnly and said, "I'm sorry, mama, it's my fault." I have no idea what she was taking the blame for, but apparently, she felt the only way to atone for the sin was to repeat this phrase mantra-style throughout breakfast.

Monday night, Jason asked her if she had wished me a Happy Birthday. Realizing that she hadn't, (and always willing to let me know where I stand on the totem pole) she came over and said, "Happy Easter!"

Thursday night, she bumped her right eye while playing. At dinner, I noticed a red bump below the eye and mentioned it to Jason. She hadn't seemed to be bothered by the fall and we had assumed that she must not have hit hard. Catching onto what we were saying, Audrey started to whine, shriveled her face into a wince and said, "this eye hurt," as she pointed to her left eye.

This afternoon, I was trying to send a quick birthday email. As I typed, Audrey was giving me a detailed description about something she planned on doing. I heard her say that she was going to get in the water, I was going to get in the water, and dinosaurs were going to get into the water. Then I heard her say, "I'm talking to you." Oops. I guess mamas should know when a little eye contact is in order.

And, since I never got a decent birthday email completed, I want to say a very late-in-the-day Happy Birthday to my big sister! I hope you had a good day, with little running, few responsibilities, and several people putting you in a well-deserved, relaxing place (preferably one with great dessert and gifts). Love you!

A Happy Weekend to all!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Guess I Should Have Used the Blue Bowls

This week, I feel as though we're doing a little bit of old-wedding-adage cooking, if you will. As the sun plays peek-a-boo and the rain takes over tree-watering duty, we're getting in one last round of our favorite wool-weather soups before we grow so tired of them, we consider throwing the soup bowls out. Last night, I opted for Jason's favorite, South Union Spring Garlic and Potato Soup using a "borrowed" recipe by George Formaro. As I chopped the ingredients, I couldn't help but think of this as a perfect transition-of-seasons soup. Some potatoes from the pantry - a hearty "something old" that has been a winter staple; and the "something new," fresh-from-the-store green onions that have me daydreaming of the farmers markets and strawberry picking soon to come. The soup is easy to throw together, but takes time to simmer, which seems right on a day like yesterday, where fleece jackets and slow snuggling are in order, but lots of work is not.

Of course, we didn't follow the recipe to the letter, opting to substitute the spring garlic for green onions and reducing the cornstarch to 1.5 Tbsp. and the cold water to 2 Tbsp. It just seems to work better for us. A warm meal that tastes like something your mama might have made, well, that always works for us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Destination: Mongolia

Here it is: the Mongolian hat. For those of you with no idea as to what I'm talking about, back in March I pledged that as soon as I finished Audrey's Easter sweater, I would knit a hat for the Dulaan Project. I finished this little blue number over the weekend.

The original pattern, The Cotton Hat pattern from Easy Baby Knits by Claire Montgomerie, called for a striped pattern, but I loved this blue yarn so much, I decided it was interesting enough on its own. I love the pattern the decreases make at the top. Rather than use the cotton the pattern suggested, I opted for a merino wool/alpaca/silk blend. My goal was to keep a kid warmer through a winter where -40 degrees isn't unheard of. Cotton wasn't going to cut it.

Audrey graciously modeled the hat last night to make sure it passed inspection before we put it in the mail. Since it was a simple weekend project, and since there are still several weekends until the July 1st deadline for this year's Dulaan shipment, I might try to squeeze in a few more hats before I make the trip to the post office. Of course, I might also have to go buy another skein of this blue yarn to make a hat for Audrey for next year. What can I say, I love a girl in a blue hat, especially this little girl.

[For those of you wondering if Easy Baby Knits is the only knitting book I own, you would be correct. I have another knitting book in my possession (on loan from my sister) that is a glossary of stitches, per se, and last week I was given a gift of a knitting kit that includes cards with knit patterns on them (Thanks, Allens!). For those of you wondering if I'm just working my way through the book one-pattern-at-time, possibly. I have been known to read magazines cover-to-cover, regardless of if I'm interested in all the articles. As a kid, I used to eat meals one side at a time, beginning with my least favorite and working my way around the plate, ending with my favorite. So, it's highly possible (and my favorite pattern in the book has yet to be attempted). Guess you'll have to stay tuned and sorry for the repetition.]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Love Saturdays

A trip to the zoo with special guests;

An opportunity for Audrey to practice her "walrus;"

A walk with my sweetie to take in the colors of Spring;

A sweet end to the day.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I am experiencing a technical hang-up. I had planned to post a couple pictures and write about our weekend, but for whatever reason (most likely a failure on the part of the one, ahem, operating the computer) my pictures won't load. So instead, I will tell you a story, one for which there are no pictures, just the snapshots - some vivid and others slightly out of focus - in my mind:

The first house I remember was a simple ranch at the end of the street, blocked by the larger, busier street by a small field lot where the owners put up hay, the bushels out of which my father once built a fort where we spent an afternoon. My little sister was born while we lived in that house. My older sister and I shared a bedroom. In our front yard, was a large tree perfect for climbing. Climbing it one afternoon, the back of my sweater caught on a branch and as I hung with the help of some strong yarn, my older sister ran inside to fetch my parents, saving me from a rather ungraceful descent.

Beyond the tree, across the street, were sisters Betty and Marjorie, our neighbors. Marj had already been diagnosed with cancer before my little sister was born. She kept a glass candy dish of Brachs Creme Filled Royals on their end table. Each time I came to visit, Marj and I would fight over the last Butter Rum caramel (my favorite). I never stopped to wonder why there was only one golden-wrapped caramel in the dish each time I came to visit. It wasn't until years after Marj was gone that Betty let me in on the secret. Before each visit, Marj would send Betty to buy more of the candy I liked so much. Then she would hide all the Butter Rum pieces except one, so she could fight me for it before an entire bag magically appeared from the kitchen.

Betty, a retired teacher, became our baby-sitter, our partner-in-crime, and our adopted grandmother. Like our front-yard tree, she was a constant feature for holidays, at school musicals, in the bleachers at track meets, and on this day: my birthday. She taught us how to make egg noodles and finger puppets out of the tops of snapdragons. She took us to pick-your-own strawberry patches and a park to feed stale bread to ducks. We felt as if we knew her like family. Her favorite color was blue, she preferred pants to dresses, and she was a descendant of Orville Redenbacher. Like us, she came from a family with three children: herself (the youngest), Marj, and an older brother who, other than saying that he had died in the war and jovially recalling a story about how he had helped her sneak under a blanket in a car to spy on her sister's date, she never talked about. We didn't pry. We eagerly took the pieces she gave us: her full-blown laugh that sometimes erupted into a coughing fit, her welcoming home that smelled like a well-used kitchen, her generous time.

She passed away during March Madness, months before my wedding. While helping to prepare her house for sale, I ran across a chest filled with newspaper articles. Among them, I found a purple heart and an article about her brother's death. As I read the article about his plane being shot down over Germany, on this day, over three decades before I was born, I realized that until that moment, I had never even known his name.

I often think of the things I did not know, the things we never asked. Maybe we should not have been so polite or content to mind our own business. Maybe I should have wondered about the secrets Betty kept that didn't involve Brach's candy. Then I think of how much her silence said. Year after year, on this day, in spite of unimaginable loss, she watched as I blew out my candles, clapped her hands, and celebrated me. Sometimes our gifts are loud and bright: icing-covered with lit candles. And sometimes, they are quiet gifts of the heart, given secretly, given generously. What a blessing to have had both. A Happy April 20th to all of you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 15

Simplicity and Two-Year-Old Intuition:

On Saturday (the day before Easter), Audrey and I went to the fabric store - our first of three trips. If you read about the green Easter sweater earlier in the week, you may remember that this is the trip where I forgot my money, only realizing it as I got to the cash register (an action that pretty accurately set the pace for the rest of my comedy-of-errors-laden day). While I thought I had handled the disappointment of a wasted trip well, as I carried Audrey out into the parking lot, she looked at me and said, "What wrong, Mama?" And somehow, her sweet, surprising intuition made that trip seem not such a waste, after all.

Last week, we borrowed one of those little plastic cars meant to be driven Flintstone-style from our neighbors to help occupy Audrey during our tree-planting extravaganza. She skinned her knee on our concrete patio while trying to get out of it. Every day this week when we change her clothes or bathe her, she points out the boo-boo and asks us to take it off. Early in the week, I told her that I couldn't take it off, that God would take it off in a few days. God's pace apparently not fast enough, she informed me that she was going to take it off, herself. Ever the woman whose prerogative it is to change her mind, the boo-boo has stayed and a new mention of it made every day.

Monday, we made a trip to the library to return some books and play with the train set. The train set pieces are screwed down, but a few have come loose with time and use. Audrey picked up four pieces that make a loop, turned them upside-down and said, "Look, Mama, a rainbow."

Have you been wondering what that new dance craze is hitting the nation, I mean, kitchen? It's the walrus. At least, that's what Audrey told me she was Tuesday morning as we danced across the hardwood floor while she waved her arms up and down.

For those of you who have noticed my very late posts this week, our days have been a little one-room focused lately. When I saw the forecast for several days of rain, I thought, since we won't want to be outside, what better time to start potty-training? Our days have become very simplified: simple tasks, easy-to-prepare meals, very few errands, all with the idea of making our one goal (and life in general this week) a little bit easier. Of course, it was only a matter of time before this intense focus found its way into Audrey's perception as well. Yesterday, while playing with a stuffed Mickey Mouse (an Easter gift from her grandparents) she informed me that the red trouser-style shorts he has on (remember, the ones with the two brass buttons?) are his underwear. Hmm...fancy. Let's hope she doesn't expect a pair, herself.

Yesterday, I read an article about cleaning your return air grills (those things that look like registers on steroids) to improve your home's energy efficiency. So this morning, Audrey safely strapped into her booster seat with a sippy cup and some mandarin oranges, I grabbed a ladder and a screwdriver and set out to make our home a more efficient (or at least dust-proof) place. Audrey watched as I brought the ladder in. As I unfolded it, she said, "Mama, be very careful up there." I climbed the ladder and Audrey asked what I was doing - four times. Each time, I explained a little bit more, until the last when I simply said, "Mama is being very careful." I cleaned the air grill, screwed it back in place, and returned the ladder. When I came back inside, Audrey said, "Mama, Audrey scared." I guess she knows me too well to expect graceful coordination. Maybe next time, I'll climb the ladder when she's out of the room.

We hope that your week has been sweetly simple, that any rain has been welcomed, and that sunshine is yours to enjoy this weekend. Have a good one!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The World as She Sees It

An afternoon outdoors (all pictures taken by Audrey):

Her torn chalk bucket - the chalk replaced by 3 newly-found rocks;

Garden dirt and a corner of Frisbee;

The grass and Mama's leg;

Standing in the garden, admiring her feet, Frisbee, and afternoon shadow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waiting for the Sun

Earlier this month, the earth opened up with promising buds - purple, yellow, white. Buds that remind me of butterflies, the sound of swing set chains needing oiled, the smell of fresh mown grass, and the smell of rain-soaked earth. Rain. The last two days we have carried the remnants of puddles on our shoes and tried to shake the chill off our shoulders each time we step inside. While this rain is a welcome sign for our new trees, it's a blatant reminder of the transition that is Spring. Our windowsill serves as lobby for Audrey's sprouts waiting for a warm frost-proof day. We dart out between showers to run errands or huddle up in the library, happy for a warm, dry destination or a good book to take us somewhere a little less gray. Today I bought some beautiful yarn, a brilliantly-hued blend of wool, alpaca, and silk to begin work on a hat for someone else. Curling up to knit something with warm chunky yarn felt just right for today, but I have no desire to be wearing the alpaca myself. As I grab for sweaters in the morning, I keep eyeing the cotton capri pants and knit dresses just hangers away. Tonight the spicy smell of cumin and chili powder sauteing amidst ground turkey and kidney beans was the recipe for comfort, but the thought of fresh-picked strawberries makes my mouth water. I have one foot buried under the comforter and the other ready to feel the spongy grass, as I wait for the rain to subside and the sun to come, bringing with it thoughts of snapdragons and twinkling jars of lightening bugs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Last of the Easter Handmades

I'm not going to lie. I just finished the last of my Easter handmade gifts. Just. As in today - two days after Easter. They still have to make it into the mail, which will hopefully happen tomorrow, but with me, you never know. I did manage to get Audrey's and one for her cousin done in time for Easter, but these last two stragglers (made for my God kids), well, you know. A birthday gift needs to be tucked into the package, too, for the child whose birthday was, ahem, today. Are you detecting a pattern?

So just what are these gifts? Easy-to-sew drawstring totes. I cut out two pieces of fabric (I believe they were 8" x 6"), serged the edges (could just as easily keep them from fraying using pinking shears), stitched up the three sides, ironed on a small square of interfacing at the top where the drawstrings would enter the bag, stitched two buttonholes on top of the interfacing side-by-side about a 1/2" apart, turned down the top edge an inch (also serged) and topstiched it down. I attached a safety pin to the drawstring (recycled from an old shopping bag) and fished it through the buttonhole pushing it through the inch-wide casing and out the other buttonhole. I tied a knot on each end of the drawstring to keep it in place. Then, I embroidered a small piece of cotton fabric that I had serged the sides of, pressed down the edges and topstitched it to the front of the bag (this is the part I was finishing today) to make a tag - because when you are little, everything is a little more special when it has your name on it.

Why were totes in order? To hold these crayon rocks, of course, which I found here. Made from soybeans and specially designed to strengthen the muscles in tiny hands preparing little ones for handwriting, they seem like all-around winners (although we've noticed that our dog thinks they are treats). Oh, and they look like Easter eggs. Now if only I could get the Easter Bunny to turn back the clock so the postman could deliver them on time. Hopefully, the two little ones receiving these gifts won't mind if I drag out the celebration just a little bit longer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Huge Sweater: The Sequel or Oops, I Did it Again!

I think I need to join a self-help group. Inappropriately-sized Sweaters Anonymous, perhaps? Something geared toward parents who habitually knit enormous clothing for their children. You may remember the "Huge Sweater. Big Hat." post from earlier this year. If Audrey grows at the turtle-pace her father and I did, she might be able to fill out that sweater by middle school. But, probably not. One day, while working on it in the back of the room while Audrey enjoyed story time at the library, another mother asked me if I was making it for myself. Sadly, when I tried it on at home that evening (yes, I went home and tried it on), it fit. It was a belly sweater, but if the house were on fire and it was the only thing I could grab on my way out, I could make it work.

After that incident, I've been trying to pay more attention to the actual measurements listed for finished garments. Audrey is petite around the middle, sometimes matching the measurements for 6-month-old sizing. But her height is average, leaving me in a bit of a quandary at times, as with this green sweater, The Wrap Top from Easy Baby Knits by Claire Montgomerie (knit up in Lion Brand's Nature's Choice Organic Cotton in Pistachio). While I tried to adjust the pattern to decrease the width while keeping the length average, I ended up with yet another enormous sweater. When seen with pants, it doesn't look too bad. But when we put it over the dress she was wearing for Easter, it looked nothing short of ridiculous.

The size was not the only drama with this little-but-too-big sweater. I went down to the wire with this one, finishing it late Saturday night. Saturday afternoon, I ran to the fabric store for the yard of ribbon you see tied at the back. I took the sweater (and Audrey) with me to pick out the right ribbon, had one yard cut, stood in line at the check-out, and realized after the cashier had rung me up that I had left my wallet at home. We left the store, picked up Jason (and my wallet) and went back to the store. We retrieved and paid for the cut ribbon. En route to buy dinner, I realized I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen the sweater. Was it at home? I couldn't remember putting it inside the house. I only remembered moving the sweater aside to rifle through my bag for the wallet. Odds are, I thought, it was still back at the store, in the basket of a shopping cart. Luckily, Jason (always level-headed in a crisis) was already on his phone calling information to get the number for the fabric store. The sweater was still there, safely returned by some kind soul, which seemed to start the Easter weekend out right. Because something not being the perfect fit, doesn't make it any less precious, and having a perfect stranger get your back - well, that's what Easter is all about.

Friday, April 10, 2009

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 14

When I was a kid, my favorite toys were cardboard boxes and discarded wrapping paper tubes. Apparently, we didn't have any of these big black tubs laying around. Yesterday, while planting, Jason threw the empty tree containers into our resting garden. Between shovelfuls, I looked to find Audrey in the garden creating a makeshift playground of sorts.

Of course, with all play must come some rest. Audrey found a new spot for that, too. This is one of the circles Jason cut out of the yard to start digging a new home for one of the trees. (Also temporarily discarded in the garden).

Speaking of rest and new toys, on Wednesday, Audrey received a very special package in the mail filled with two blankets and a pillow the perfect size for her dolls and stuffed animals. Of course, before putting her dolls to bed, she had to give her new treasures a trial run. Already much loved, I know these will be favorites for a long time to come. (Thanks, Pat)!

Between preparing for Easter and landscaping part of the yard, this week has been a busy one. But it is also one of surprising simplicity - taking joy in the creativity of simple toys and found objects and Audrey's latest simple but sweet expressions.

On Monday, she kissed Emmy (our dog) on the back, looked at Jason and said, "I love Emmy."

On Tuesday, after being handed a few sheets of paper and crayons she said, "Oh thank you. Thank you so much." I had to do a double take to make sure she hadn't turned 25 before my eyes.

Today, while playing with her Legos, Audrey picked up a long yellow one. She told me it was Jesus. After tromping "Jesus" around the other Legos for a minute she looked at me and said, "Jesus loves Audrey."

I suppose that is the perfect episode to end on and wish you all a Happy Easter. But I would be remiss to give the impression that everything said and done here is simple and sweet. As I've been writing this post, Audrey has been sitting next to me with her etch 'n sketch, requesting that I pause from time-to-time and draw her a picture. Most often she asks that I draw animals: seahorses, giraffes, and fish. But just now, she pointed the magnetic pen in my direction and said, "Mama, draw Emmy treats and poop." Ahem, guess she really does love all things Emmy.

Wishing you a weekend of simple pleasures!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Plant by Number

Two tired backs;
Three dirty shovels;
Five 9-foot trees freshly planted;
Much gratitude to Brian and John for lending their resources;
Too many buds to count (and three more trees to go).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter on Its Way

We have been in Easter production mode this week. Easter season, like so many things this year (the first buds of Spring, our dog's annual round of shots, Preschool Registration!!!) has come steadily upon us in plain sight, and yet, taken me completely by surprise. My fingers can't move fast enough, the day doesn't move slow enough, and the laundry and clutter seem to magically be reproducing themselves.

Ironically, even as I adopt the mantra "less than one week, less than one week," it is the work - finding a quiet half hour in the morning to sew and use the washing machine as a quick-to-reach makeshift ironing board (not advised in the owner's manual, I'm sure) or cutting out pieces of paper to assemble Easter cards one-by-one - that allows me a moment to stop, to rest, to rewrite that mantra.

Luckily, my little one is happy to help this week, busying herself with her own artwork and even sleeping in an extra twenty minutes this morning. Even so, there is no guarantee that the gifts with be finished on time, or the cards written in by Easter (and, I'm sure that the next holiday will come on looking like a slow-moving steam engine from afar until it barrels by me, knocking the wind out of me again); but for now I am convincing myself that the best gifts are the late ones that extend the celebration just a little longer and I'm putting gifts on hold to go use the washing machine, you know, for it's intended purpose.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Week's Meals Brought to You by the Herb Basil

I had plans to make pizza (sauce included) last week. So while at the store on Wednesday, I stopped by the produce aisle for some basil. Of course, being April Fool's Day, the joke was on me. My only basil choices were a teeny tiny .6 ounce container for $1.99 or the rather large 4 ounce container pictured above for $3.99. Coming from a family who makes shopping in bulk for the sake of a bargain look like a sport, and finding it hard to resist all those fresh green leaves, I opted for - well, you know.

So just how did we use up 4 ounces of basil before it turned into a rotting mess in the fridge? Here's a recap:

First, we used "The Quickest Tomato Sauce" recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home for pizza sauce. I keep checking this book out from the library. With little antidotes, such as how he sneaks onions into his wife's food who is convinced she is allergic, and descriptions like "when your onions and leeks are lovely" (don't ask me what this means, but it sounds, well, lovely), this is a book with which I can curl up on the couch. [The pictures and notes on how he grows the vegetables used in the cookbook give me the slightest bit of garden envy.] The pizza sauce was great, an excellent way to kick off our basil extravaganza. Unfortunately, I am not a sauce quick draw, and regardless of what the title of this recipe indicates, I've yet to make this sauce quickly.

On Friday, I made a dish based on this recipe for Basil Grilled Chicken by Paula Deen. We used all the same ingredients, but I didn't measure anything out, instead using the toss-a-bit-of-this-and-a-pinch-of-that method. Per normal, I made too much pasta, or too little sauce. But we were still fans and ate the leftovers the next day. Something tells me my husband and Paula Deen would get along just fine.

Yesterday, I used up a heap of the basil making pesto following the How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother recipe from the blog This recipe involved me brandishing a large knife for about fifteen minutes, which gives me about the same satisfaction as wielding power tools. That, coupled with the daydream of cooking like an Italian grandmother and I was a happy girl. I had heard about Heidi Swanson's blog before (which focuses on vegetarian and natural foods recipes), but this was my first visit. It won't be my last.

As soon as the pesto was finished, I opened the April 2009 edition of Cooking Light and got to work using 2 tablespoons to make an Italian Tomato Tart. I used real eggs instead of an egg substitute and Canadian bacon we had on hand rather than the prosciutto. In a happy coincidence, my friend Jill who had just returned from her honeymoon in Spain and Italy, called as I was making this. So while I had my own Italian adventure, I got to hear about her escapades touring the Cinque Terre. As for the Italian Tomato Tart, we found the flavor to be good, but after two pieces each, we were still hungry. Jason thought it needed side of something, like hash browns. I opted for a side of hot chocolate.

So there you have it, how to use 4 ounces of basil in six days. Of course, we still have some leftover pesto in the freezer. I guess another basil recipe is in our future. But tonight, I might let someone else do the cooking.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Friday night Scrabble, dessert wine in champagne glasses, and a chocolate lava cake for two;

Early morning walk around a Saturday garden show;

Followed by a trip to a local nursery;

Art outdoors;

Banana bread missing a piece (a 2nd loaf was made for the man who helped us with our tree);

And our latest addition, a Sargentina Crab Apple, as viewed on a rainy Sunday through our front door.

Friday, April 3, 2009

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 13

Monkey See, Monkey Do & Conversations with God:

Last Saturday, Audrey heard her first booming thunderclap since being able to verbalize her feelings. "Mama, what's that?" she asked.
"That's thunder, baby."
"Mama, make it stop."
(At this point, I could have gone into an explanation of lightning and air particles vibrating, but not being a person who knows much about such things, I went for the simpler explanation).
"Honey, I can't make it stop. God makes the thunder, only God can make it stop."
"Audrey make it stop."
"Well, you'll have to take that up with God."
And, apparently, she did. Right as I tucked her into bed, the thunder (which, she admitted to her Dad scared her) did stop. At least long enough for her to fall asleep.

This week has me remembering the first time I heard my recorded voice played back to me. I was in middle school. From the speakers of a tape deck, I had the sense of hearing something familiar, and at the same time asking, "Do I really sound like that?" Audrey's expressions of choice this week have me asking the same question. And, yes, I sound exactly like that.

On Wednesday, she told me to "give me [her] two minutes." I have no, ahem, idea where she got that.

The majority of Audrey's statements this week end the same way. "Audrey take bath, okay?" "Audrey watch movie, okay?" "Audrey want big house, okay?" (I have no idea if that last statement is accurate, but that's what it sounded like she said in the bathtub tonight). At first this struck me as a little odd, and then I noticed myself structuring my sentences the same way. "We have to change your diaper first, okay?" "We need to run to the store and then we'll go see trains, okay?" I had no idea I was doing this. How I managed to ignore something I do at such a high frequency is pretty incredible - and a little scary. Now that I am aware, it's something I've become a little focused, er...obsessed, about trying to change. Because, when she's four or five and I say, "we have to go to the store first and then we'll see the trains, okay?" odds are, she's going to say "no, I'd rather skip the store altogether."

It's an odd phenomenon to have a two-year-old mirror following me around all day, pointing out things I may or may not want to see. After several days of hearing myself repeated back to me in numerous ways, I spent part of Thursday watching Audrey play with a pair of Jason's shoes. She put them on, watched them fall off, and tried again. Then she took a lap around the kitchen, literally walking in his shoes. Growing up, I worried about wanting others to like me. Now, I'm worrying about the ways in which Audrey wants to be like me. It is not enough for us to tell Audrey who we would like for her to be. Our job is to become the people we would like her to be. Because, for better or worse, she is repeating our words, learning from our tendencies, and desperately trying to fit into those shoes. I want them to be good shoes. Good, sturdy shoes.