Saturday, July 30, 2011

In our kitchen

Most weeks our menu is built around the same basic meals for the season. And, to keep the natives happy, Friday is almost always pizza night. This week was a bit more eventful & I want to keep my links here to reference, so that they don't end up like the fresh corn salad from last summer that I now can't find or recreate.

Kale Chips: Reason #241 to love our local Youth Garden. A & S joined their Water Week camp, that culminated with a river trip. Another highlight was their request to recreate the kale chips they made with a sun oven there. At the farmer's market we were told the key is massaging the oil well into the kale, a job perfect for the boys. Since we had to use a boring old oven, we used Smitten Kitchen's simple recipe and they turned out crispy and salty.

We had friends over Tuesday night, which gave us an excuse to make Chicken Bruschetta with corn on the cob, asparagus and a big salad. I tried a new dressing from Mad Hungry:

Rose's Vinaigrette by Lucinda Scala Quinn

1 Tbsp minced shallot or garlic
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (I used balsamic instead)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In the bottom of a clean jar, mash the first six ingredients. Then add vinegar, lemon juice and oil. Cover tightly and shake well to emulsify. Add salt & pepper to taste. She notes that you can store it in the fridge for up to six months. It makes about one cup, so we've been enjoying it all week.

We went on a short camping trip so I packed some chicken in a ziplock with this marinade from Julia's Healthy Italian Cooking, a big batch of breakfast bars, and my pasta salad. Christy brought the pistachios that I think should now be added to our camping essentials list.

I didn't know how to cook when we got married; Brian was the cook. I had planned to keep it that way, but during our Peace Corps days, I got home from work a good hour before him. So starting our fire and dinner became my job. Nothing like having few ingredients and tools (just a stove top, no oven for example) to lower the bar enough to make me enjoy cooking. I had received a small Mary Engelbreit book in the mail there, which included a version of this recipe. It was a revelation once we were home to add real feta and fresh lemon juice. Now it's a stable part of our summer table.

DOK's Rotini Salad
1 lb cooked rotini pasta mixed with 2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved; a can of large olives, also halved; one cucumber, peeled and chopped; 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced; green onions, chopped; radishes, thin shavings; 8 ounces of feta cheese; 1 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Mix 3/4 cup of olive oil with at least 5 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp oregano. Blend well and pour over pasta salad. Add salt to taste.

But you can guess what was the biggest hit at the camp site...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aidan's take on Greek Myths

The Best Books on Greek Mythology (that I've read)
by A.O.K.

 Rankings are from 1 (terrible and horrible) to 10 (the best ever).

The Random House Book of Greek Mythology by Joan Vinge and illustrated by Oren Sherman.
 "This is the first book of Greek Mythology I read. I found it at my school library. It was pretty cool, especially the illustrations.And information on every single god.  As I read more and more, the Greek myths made more sense to me.  I recommend it for 7 to 15 yr olds."
Aidan's Rating: 9-10

The Orchard Book of Greek Myths Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

"I got this book in my Easter basket. At first I liked it a lot. Now I see that it is really missing a lot of myths. The illustrations are the best part, and look like a kid drawing. There were supposed to be four pomegranate seeds but it says six--lots of facts wrong."

Aidan's Rating: when I first read it: 8, but now that I see how much it's missing: 3
Really more for a younger kid.

Myths and Their Meaning by Max J. Herzberg

"An old book of my mom's from when she was a teacher. Now it's mine. It gave an inspiring feeling to me, even though I really hated that it had stuff about the Romans (they STINK!)."
Aidan's Rating: 8-9
[Editor's note: also has a chapter on Celtic myths that my Irish boy says he'll read *someday*]
Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green
"I really liked this for a long time, even right now, because first of all, it's introduced by one of my favorite authors, Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series (totally hilarious!). Second of all, because it told almost everything true. It even had the battle of the Giants and Heracules' tragic death. The black and white illustrations were cool. I'd say it's for all ages."
Rating: 10+ 

And, even though these are a series of novels, they have to be included since they ignited Aidan's passion for mythology:

Rating: 9-10

Another editor's note: Aidan has read each of these numerous times, and even though he's highly critical of McCaughrean's Greek Myths, I've heard him retell her version of Medusa verbatim, so I'd still recommend it.
 If you have any other Greek mythology recommendations, or books for a 9 yr old boy in general, please share in the comments.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I generally feel lucky, but especially so on date nights. To be married to this cute guy. To someone who values making time for our story. To someone who humors me, whether it be my excitement over trying a Dark & Stormy, or my wanting to capture a snapshot of us but not ask the waitress to take it.

Date night can be a challenge in our little town. We had a great dinner at Buck's, then picked out a dvd at the Mom&Pop rental place (The Adjustment Bureau, which was silly and lovely). We enjoyed some gelato as we walked like tourist around our main street. Not too long ago, we didn't go out until after we'd tucked the kids in bed; now we make sure all the kids will be asleep when we return.

I remember thinking, I want to write about this, want to be sure I remember a happy night like this, but now most of what I remember are the who/what/where facts. I've already lost most of the conversation, even though that is what I relished most---uninterrupted conversation. But I do remember looking up at the lightning storm on our back deck and feeling incredibly lucky to be in love with my best friend.

Lucky by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goodbye Harry

I'm sad---because it's over. But happy we (just Brian & I) got to see it, after a very full day.

I came late to the party. Students in Oregon pressed the book into my hands, but, never a fan of fantasy novels, I couldn't stay with it. I saw the first movie on the big screen, and fell asleep during the quidditch scene (granted I was pregnant with Aidan at the time).

Then I had three boys.

Last summer we checked out the first novel and the audio recording from the library. I thought we'd read one each summer for a few years. But Aidan fell under its spell and had read all seven books by October. He and Sean came up with their own Hogwarts menu to celebrate watching the first movie together.

I remember the exact moment I got pulled in, which I also owe greatly to the amazing reading by Jim Dale. Harry and Ron were riding the train to Hogwarts and Draco had just entered, taunting Ron and offering to help Harry pick "the right sort" of friends.

Harry replied: "I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks."

Then, as if Harry Potter had joined our family, suddenly he was everywhere. A's Halloween Costume. Our Lego sets.  Santa's Christmas Wii gift. The Dumbledore quote above Aidan's bedroom door. And Sean and I continue reading through the series (albeit at a much slower pace than Aidan) at bedtime.

While the third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite, most of my favorite lines are in the first two books. When Hagrid is astonished that Harry doesn't know his own story (so beautifully explored in this essay/homily by MaryAnne McKibben Dana), and, in Chamber of Secrets, when Dumbledore tells Harry: ""It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

We're still on the fence as to whether Aidan will be allowed to see Deathly Hallows 2 on the big screen. It was scary and violent, and Simone Weil summed up the problem with Paradise Lost as well as Voldemort: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” (ETA: just received a link to Common Sense Media that covers the whole series and their take on age appropriateness. My personal opinion is that no kid should see the opening scene of DH Part 1, but that the rest wasn't bad for 9+).

Some say it's not over; J K Rowling has more in store at Pottermore.

I need only to look across the room to know I'm not really saying goodbye to Harry. I'll get to meet him again in the imagination of these future readers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hallelujah, He's Home

A few days before Father's Day last month, Brian and his fire team were called to Florida. He ended up being away for 20 days, which was probably the longest assignment in the last few years.

I'm grateful he was able to call us each day, though the time difference really made it challenging. We were often at Aidan's ball games from 8pm to 10pm, which made it midnight in Florida. Bri was working 16 hour days and usually asleep by then. So instead of our usual bedtime chat, we would talk at dinner or earlier in the day. He also sent us some photos via email of the wildlife he saw.
I don't like how close he got with his phone's camera on this one.

The swampland was completed dried out this year, leading to one of Florida's worst fire seasons ever.  Two Florida State Division of Forestry fire fighters, Josh Burch and Brett Fulton, were killed fighting a fire about 20 miles from Brian's fire. I thought of them and their families (they each had two children) every time I walked past Brian's still unwrapped Father's Day gifts. My heart goes out to their families. Normally I don't let my mind even go there while Brian is away, but the tragic incident in Florida made that impossible this time.

Which made my heart even more grateful at this sight:

I think his absence was hardest on Nolan, who has been insisting "no more fires, Daddy!" ever since he got home. Aidan definitely missed having his own personal baseball coach in the backyard, though Bri made it home in time to join us in following Aidan's team to the state tournament. Sean skipped around the house out of happiness to have his dad home.

And even though our traditional Father's Day breakfast came three weeks late, I don't think it could have tasted any sweeter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

4th of July recap

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, second only to Christmas. No huge preparations, no huge meal---just simple summer salads, watermelon, and a kid-friendly barbecue. Love the fireworks, the cheesy parade, and the sense of community giving thanks for this amazing country.

Brian started fighting wildfire in the summer of 1992, so almost 20 yrs ago, and yet we've never spent a 4th of July apart...until this year. Crazy wildfires in Florida kept him there for twenty days. We did our best to keep up traditions without him. Aidan, ever the Cub Scout, remembered to hang our flag outside. We were four minutes late for the parade though...which in our little town means we missed it. Definitely wouldn't have happened if our timely leader had been here!
The boys still had a great time winning prizes at the free game booths and knocking down a high school football player at the dunk tank (Go Aidan!).

We came home for Nolie's nap time, a little Wii time, and then had some friends over for a BBQ.
Both dads are on the same fire team, so we didn't have a pyromaniac fire safety expert on hand, so no big fireworks on the driveway this year. Just sparklers, which were fun enough before the big city show.

My favorite part of the day---a phone call from my dad, telling his grandsons how this is his holiday, how he is even more American than they are as he chose this country, coming here from Ireland at age 21 whereas they were just born here.
I am so grateful my dad made that brave decision, and so grateful to live in America. With all our faults, there is still so much more right than wrong here. So grateful for our rights and freedom and to all who have sacrificed so that we might have them!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

You know there might be danger involved...

when you overhear your eldest son giving his last will and testimony to his brothers.

He eventually changed it several times during the course of their Bunkbed Olympics, but I was reading in the living room when I first heard Aidan declaring:

"I leave Bowzer to the whole family. I leave my wii to Sean. I leave my derby car to Nolan. And I want the lava lamp buried with me."
Bowzer is his fish. The lava lamp is a new addition to their bedroom, compliments of Brian's Grateful Dead era.

I got up, looked in, and decided to capture it on video before putting an end to it. Youtube required me to switch the Van Halen song for a new one. One of Aidan's goals for the summer is to learn how to edit video. Don't know how far we'll get with his hour-long version of Perseus vs Medusa, but this was a good start.

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