Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In our Kitchen, August 2011

1. Garlicky Green Beans, 2. lemonade, 3. SNAP Dark & Stormy, 4. peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, 5. fish taco, 6. caprese kabobs., 7. Mom's Penne and Meatballs, 8. Grilled pork loin, 9. Chicken Enchiladas

A flickr mosaic via Big Huge Labs because I’m always too frazzled getting food to the table while it’s hot to take photos.

It’s harvest time, the time of year when we ask each other, “How many tomatoes did you eat today?” to make sure people are doing their share.

It’s also the time of year…just when everything is oh so plentiful, that we finally get a little tired of salads. It’s still too hot here for soup, but I’m so ready to start baking and stewing in the kitchen.

We’ve been having lots of typical fare. Tonight was mostacolli and meatballs with garlic toast (since we only had sliced bread), with salad---of course. Last night was chicken enchiladas. I found it hard to find a recipe for them that doesn’t contain the dreaded can of condensed soup, so this Tyler Florence recipe is a keeper. I include a spoonful of shredded cheese on top of the meat before I roll them.

Pork loin is a favorite, because if you snag it (and one to freeze) while on sale, you’ll have enough for a party or at least a few meals. It’s too hot to slow cook in the oven so I tried grilling it for the first time (using a variation of this recipe). Ours caught on fire during the browning/over the coals stage, and it is easy to overcook, so you’d have to play with the timing. I like it slightly pink so next time I’ll use a meat thermometer (though Bri prefers no pink and liked it better this time).

An unfortunately theme this week was making kid-versions of some dishes. Sometimes that means taking their portion out before I add the good spicy stuff (see the recipe for Garlicky Green Beans at the end of the post), or giving them all the ingredients (ala chicken enchiladas) but not mixed together. Aidan and Sean want nothing to do with anything that even resembles a casserole. They’re great about eating their veggies though,  so I grant them this request. They had beef tacos when Bri and I had fish tacos, but that’s only because I didn’t want to share and we had leftover taco meat in the freezer.

This Peanut Butter chocolate chip cookie recipe from Smitten Kitchen we all agreed on. Oh me oh my. I said I wouldn’t make them again because they were TOO good, but I’m totally making them again this week. If it cools down enough to turn the oven on again.

Also pictured are some favorites from this summer---Dark & Stormy; weak lemonade with some mint---a discovery from my friend Sarah who adds 2 parts water to 1 part Santa Cruz Lemonade and some mint, super simple and so refreshing; and caprese salad on a stick (I served them on long sticks in a big mason jar).

All these recipes are online except for one from Too Many Cooks by Emily Franklin:

Garlicky Green Beans
1 lb green beans
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
Olive Oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt and a dash of soy sauce
“Trim and steam the green beans but make sure they stay crunchy---maybe 5 minutes in just a half-inch of water. Drain. Meanwhile, slice and saute the garlic in olive oil without letting it brown. Add in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more. Turn off heat. Dice some red pepper and add to the oil and garlic mixture. Sprinkle with sea salt, trickle with a bit of soy sauce, and pour the whole thing on top of the drained beans.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 First Day of School

Take your time and see if you can figure out who was a bit more excited about the start of school.
My nine year old?

2011_08_23 Aidan's first day of 4th grade webweb sharp Sean's first day of 1st grade

or my six year old?

Of course Aidan’s expression may have as much to do with my dorky signage as the impending school year.

After the mind-numbing “attendance policy” tutorial we attended  (billed as “Back to School Night”), I started second-guessing our whole home-schooling vs. public-schooling decision. The only thing I contemplate more than this decision is my inner debate about where the line is between being a conscientious parent and being a mom who second-guesses herself ad nauseum.


They CHOSE to dress “like twins” (which they did again on Friday that week). I love our little family, and am more content when we are all home together than anywhere else. Aidan is always coming up with his own projects fueled by his curiosity (after tonight’s homework, he went upstairs and created a flip book). So school sometimes feels  like nothing more than a stealer of precious time.

And then there’s Sean, the extrovert in a family of introverts. He’s actually become shyer in the past year, but he still thrives on being social.

They were determined to take the bus together on the first day. I said sure, but then it hit me---no photos of them walking into the school, of them with their teacher on the first day. Perhaps all this did occur to Aidan…


Nolan and I found an excuse to stop by school anyway. Those reams of copy paper and big kleenex boxes were too bulky for the bus. And Sean forgot his water bottle.

wait for me Sean to Aidan copy

I’m so glad we did. They both have amazing teachers. I knew this already; Aidan’s teacher is a friend. But I needed to see it too. To see them both happy there. I overheard Aidan tell his friend Alex this weekend that his teacher is “awesome”, and Sean practically leapt into my arms at the bus stop that afternoon, overflowing with tales all the way home.


Then someone channeling his inner Larry King demanded I take his photo as well. His first day of preschool  is tomorrow.

I don’t know if I’ll be dancing in the streets at the prospect of free time, or curled up in a ball crying that my baby is growing up. But there is no second-guessing this decision---the boy is ready!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

20 on the 20th: Us Right Now

When I think about what I want to capture in this space, it is the details that are ever changing. I hope to do this monthly or at least seasonally, capturing current details about each of us.

nolie at sl web
  1. has just moved into a bottom bunk in Aidan & Sean’s room (they all have opted to share the same room), about which he’s thrilled. Thrilled is the perfect word to describe him right now---so full of enthusiasm. And full of big transitions.

  2. is taking two steps forward and one step back each week in the giving up diapers department. Let me just say the cheap plastic IKEA potty chair is the way to go, so easy to clean.

  3. is party-obsessed. He cried when the last our of guests left the Full Moon party last week (and waved from his bedroom window as the Wallings drove away), but calmed down when he learned there was a baptism party the following day. “Party today?” is one of his first questions each morning.

  4. reminds us to say grace at dinner, and always says the same exact one (wish I could transliterate his pronunciation): “Please Mama back hurt no more, daddy no more fires, Sean no more potty talk, Aidan no more bye bye. Amen.” The only one that changes (and that we can’t always understand) is his prayer for Aidan. Sean’s been getting in trouble for cracking his brothers up at the table with potty humor. So even though Nolan is his biggest fan in this department, he prays for Sean’s comedic redemption.

nolie pushing aidan
Nolie’s song of the moment (and always): “You Are My Sunshine”

2011 08 09_snapshots_Sean
  1. starts 1st grade next week, which means a full day of school for the first time. I can’t imagine not having lunch with Sean every day. He tries to imitate Aidan and say school is a pain, but he can’t hide how excited he is to go back.

  2. is thrilled to be on a top bunk, and not so thrilled to be working on his biking skills. “Of coursely” as Sean would say, he’s getting better daily.

  3. was Spiderman obsessed last month. We debated lunch boxes for days---I wanted another Laptop Lunch box like Aidan’s, he wanted one of the cheap Spiderman boxes from our grocery store. We compromised with this one, which should be able to fit a bento-like box.

  4. is (as predicted) completely over Spiderman now and obsessed with Green Lantern. But says he’ll be Harry for Halloween. Lots of Green Lantern drawings around here. The most money-minded of us, he’ll often ask how much I think someone might pay for one of his drawings.

2011 08 05_seven peaks_aidan and sean acting crazy
Sean’s song of the moment: “American Pie”

2011 08 09_snapshots_Aidanweb
  1. has reread all seven Harry Potter books this summer, and reread the Percy Jackson series. Definitely in need of a new series of books. Has checked out several from the library, most of which leaving him saying, “Meh.”

  2. endured an hour of our principal explaining  how to drive through the drop off lane and the new attendance policy in detail. I promised him we’d never attend another Back-to-School night again. Constantly debating the homeschooling vs. public schooling  decision.

  3. is lamenting having spent all his savings on the new Lego Universe game during our trip to Target in July, only to learn that it only works for one month unless you are willing to pay a monthly fee for the rest of your LIFE.  Seriously, LEGO Co. what happened to you?

  4. eats at least three green apples a day. Asks for soda daily despite knowing the answer. Hubba-Bubba obsessed.  Plans on being Green Lantern for Halloween as of today. Bummed his best friend Hayden isn’t in his class this year.

aidan's first time mowing web
Aidan’s song of the moment: “I Want Candy”  ---the version from “Hop”

  1. stayed up way too late this week making the above canvas (thanks to Groupon) and a “Homework Tool Box” thanks to the $40 off BEGINANYWHERE code for  Paper Coterie.

  2. got four inches of her hair cut last night. Note to self: next year, cut it in June.

  3. let the boys watch “Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” online, despite it not being a “movie day”. The hysterical laughter that ensued was worth it.

  4. got a phone call from New Zealand on Sunday that made her day. Despite giving up hope that Annabelle will ever live nearby again, I’m thrilled (just like Nolan!) that our lives still have so many parallels and we can laugh over the phone if not over cups of tea now.

Deirdre’s song of the moment: “Brighter than the Sun”

brian web
(That’s not his real smile but he was a good sport about my getting a snapshot in good light.)
  1. has more energy than anyone I’ve ever known, even when he’s tired and catching my cold. We got our carpets cleaned this week and he moved all our furniture into the playroom and then back. Rode Dead Man's Loop three times this month. He brought up the 2nd bunk bed set from storage and put it together…all while I was making dinner. Crazy.

  2. is going to see “The Help” with me, despite his current delusion that he’ll get a pass & I’ll see it with my book club.

  3. has had to hire two people this year, and just learned he’ll now have to hire a third. Resumes, interviews, oh fun.

  4. has been on call for two weeks that ends at midnight tonight. *sigh of relief*

Brian's song of the moment: Mr. Sirius Radio doesn't have a "favorite" but he did blast Aidan's favorite for our entire neighborhood as we drove away for our final Hawaiian shaved ice of summer.

And that’s a snapshot of us, right now.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Full Moon Fever

2011 08 13_carol tom firepit web

I can’t remember where it came from, but we got the crazy idea to send off summer with a little party to celebrate the full moon on August 13th.

2011 08 13_full moon flowers

Brian and the boys were so cooperative & supportive of my wish to have this party be a little more pretty than our usual firefighter BBQs or boys’ birthday parties. Especially Bri who got the yard ready. We had caprese kabobs, lots of fruit, fresh salsa & chips, and s’mores. Dark & Stormies were the surprise hit.

2011 08 13_grapes and strawberries web
2011 08 13 fullmoon watermelonweb

Over twenty friends joined us around the campfire pit on the patio Brian built last year. He even strung lights per my request on our mulberry tree.

2011 08 13 full moon balloons web

Unfortunately, thanks to cloud coverage, the balloons were the closest thing to a full moon. Brian and I went out later that night and the clouds had cleared, with amazing light.
Even though the moon didn’t make an appearance, our own Superhero showed up!

2011 08 13_full moon superhero

Once it got dark, my photos got grainy but I still love these snapshots of the kids playing. We have finally reached the stage where I could host without a babe in my arms. I told Aidan beforehand that he was in charge the kids, that it was an outside party, and that I didn’t want to hear any requests to play Wii. Silly me, they were way too busy to even ask.
2011 08 13_brendon peace out web
2011 08 13_sean orem pile on web

The kids played on the driveway, trying to pile everyone into a kid car like a circus act, or around the swing set. GREAT group of kids.

2011 08 13_will the moon come

See the lovely girl in pink? She was the only girl among 8 boys. Totally held her own and had no problem. Tava rocks.

2011 08 13_nolie and mama

Sweet Kathy thought to take a photo of me & Nolie. It was too dark by then to focus but I still like how it captures Nolan’s energy. That’s Amici in the background, the world’s gentlest giant dog. I keep trying to talk her owners into just giving her to us, but so far, no luck.

2011 08 13 full moon party firepit glow

There’s something primal and good about sitting around a fire with friends. So grateful for good music and food, and friends with whom to enjoy them. Moon or no moon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


hanging in the crib

We took the crib down today.
After nine years and three babies, its job is done.
With the new ban on drop-side cribs, we probably can’t even give it away. As he was taking it apart, Brian noted, “I think we got our money’s worth.”

All Grown Upweb

Nolan has been sleeping on a futon most nights for months now, but every so often he’ll ask to sleep in the crib again. His brothers were completely out of the crib when they were his age---because there was always a new baby using it by the time they were three.

Sleeping Angel no flashweb copy

I’m excited to have a three year old as our youngest. To mother these three boys without a baby in the mix. To start this next stage of our lives. And yet…

a 07 nov edited CleanColorweb

Almost every day for nine years I lifted a boy out of that crib and snuggled him in my arms. Or laid a sleepy one down in it while singing off-key. I still remember when Brian set it up, months early, in our home on Avery Street (see photo below---we didn't learn the gender during pregnancy #1, though the colors don't look like it). The sight of the crib made my pregnancy more real to me than the queasiness I felt at meals.

crib, quilt and shelf

Maybe it will hold a grandbaby someday or maybe we’ll let it go. Letting go of the crib is the easy part. The sense, though, of all the change ahead each step of the way, of new rituals and daily sights that will eventually change too, of having to let each of them go eventually,  that’s what makes it bittersweet.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Totally random post #1

A friend and I remember the same excerpt from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Bring Me a Unicorn, and thought we'd easily find it online. Instead I found it only in its original French, in a biography about Alfred du Musset, who perhaps wrote it. Lindbergh attributes it only to "anonymous." We had to turn to my very old copy to find it.
"Dreaming beautiful dreams, etc...The outcome of this first test, then, is a sense of bitter thinking. Wounded in its first upsurge, in its very essence, the heart bleeds and appears torn for ever. And yet you live and you have to love in order to continue living; you love with apprehension, with defiance, and little by little, looking around you, you realize that life is not as sad as you had judged it to be. A steadier heart accepts the obstacles, the sorrows, the disgusts even; sure of itself, it anticipates them, fights them, and sometimes changes them into blessings. Having learned resignation, it enjoys the happy days more fully, expects them with greater ardor, prolongs them with greater care. Finally it reaches the point of telling itself: Suffering is nothing, since happiness exists. Allow your heart to beat, allow yourself to be loved, allow fate to take its course. There are lovely days on this earth."

Quoted by AML in her July 13, 1928 entry.

The photo is as random as this entry, though it represents an age when I knew the above passage by heart. Circa 1990, with Marie Taylor and Kim Justice. I'm still in touch with Marie and would love to find Kim again. I'm sure I thought I was fat at the time, which just proves another great quote, from It's a Wonderful Life:

"Youth is wasted on the wrong people."

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