Monday, August 21, 2017

Just a Little Older (Beach Girls 2017)

In the past year, none of us beach girls has lived out of the country, had a baby, moved, or . . . well, actually, I'm not sure of the other categories because the years have started to melt into each other.  This past year may have had job changes and health crises, or maybe it was the year before.  The years just puddle together. 

For sure, we ate well this year and didn't bother with a restaurant.   Sprinkle some fresh tomatoes and feta on your fried egg and add a basil sprig; it's divine (the bacon and potatoes help, too). We settled into long intimate conversations whenever we felt like it, wore our jammies maybe as much as our clothes, and ate ice cream whenever it occurred to us.  Bliss.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Back Yard, August 17, 10:16am

I had just gotten done hanging up three loads of laundry, with one more agitating in the machine. I wanted to document these luxuriant, volunteer squash vines; one appears to be a butternut, and the other a small ornamental. I planted some cucumbers elsewhere in the yard, on purpose, but they did the dramatic overnight flop-wilt-die after giving us two cucumbers, whereas these crazy squash vines are not giving up.

Inbetween them are the zinnias I planted from seed. I am so proud.

 My peppers are growing well, but slowly this year.  They are not helped by the toddler who picks them too young on the sly.  And the green beans are doing fine, but the herbs are not.

There is always some kind of weird structure in the yard.  Behind Phoebe is, obviously, a guinea pig hutch for the guinea pig that the parents have already said no to.  

Phoebe means business with that hammer; she is not pounding her fingers, either.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Good Food Fight

"The processed food industry has transformed our food into a quasi-drug. . . What happened is that cheap, calorie-dense foods that are highly rewarding to your brain are now ubiquitous.  Once you've had a glass of orange juice, you are not likely to be as satisfied with a healthier and less caloric orange that you have to peel. . . Although it's far easier said than done, just limiting exposure to high-calorie foods and recreational drugs would naturally reset our brains to find pleasure in healthier foods and life without drugs."

from  "What Cookies and Meth Have in Common" by Richard Friedman in the June 30 New York Times

Here we have roasted feta on homemade whole wheat sourdough toast, sprinkled with thyme from the front porch pots with a side of delectable cantaloupe and black coffee.   I am definitely finding pleasure in this breakfast.

But I am finding it hard to limit my my family's exposure to high-calorie foods in the general mayhem and party that is summer. One example: kids' meals at a barbeque joint served with 16-oz. sodas, even for Phoebe.  Of course, I didn't let them drink the whole things, but it takes vigilance and education to help them understand that glittering bottle. Sometimes, I am just tired of trying, but then I read an inspiring quote like the one above and push away the processed food. Fight the good food fight, everybody!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Striping Curtains

All my extra time is going to sewing stripes on canvas right now as I make outdoor curtains for our balcony.  This has turned out to be a terrible idea because of the method and time, not the cost.  The end is almost in sight.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

East of Eden

I took the kids down to Eden, NC to be spoiled by my aunts and uncle.  That and the craziness that is August accounts for the blog silence here.

My parents drove us down in their van that has a blessed TV/DVD with headphones, and altogether the kids were outnumbered by adults so that made for a good vacation.

 I asked Aunt Maggie to model the apron I made her (so charming with her gingham shirt).  Here she is standing next to a giant rosemary bush that is the envy of my Northern, newbie-gardening heart. Her gardens are full of whimsy and fun, just like her.

 Uncle John David grows fantastic melons, among other things. He let Ben drive the tractor. The kids also had access to any number of tablets and phones from the indulgent adults, and that plus the uncounted s'mores make a great vacation for them.

I got to go schnausing with my aunts and mom in the afternoons, while Dad reigned over the kids back at the farm (I have the best dad!).  Schnausing is a family word (I think) that means driving around looking for cute little shops, pretty towns, pretty scenery, snacky eats, and hijinks; in my extended family, this is done by the women on vacation.  It's the only time I shop for entertainment, without a list, and in the company of my mom and her giddy sisters, it is so fun. [Edit:  Aunt Maggie says the made-up word is spelled "snausing."]

 We also take walks, and sometimes burst into hymns.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Sundress for Genevieve

I suggested to Genevieve that she needed something between her pink dress and shorts and tees to wear this summer.  She agreed.  And after she approved the pattern, she basically let me have my way with fabric and such!

However, she was wary of the dress for a while because she had to try it on several times as I fitted the tricky bodice, and she hated the feel of the seams on her skin.  I cut up one of her knit camisoles and handstitched it into the bodice as a soft lining to cover the seams she objected to.  It worked perfectly!

 Now Genevieve wants me to sew her another sundress, but I'm wary because this was not an easy pattern (thrifty note: I borrowed it from a friend).  I think the elastic should be shorter on the pockets so they're snugged tighter to the dress. I think the bottom ruffle should be a tad fuller.  That bodice was a real pain and I had to rip out stitches a number of times.

The gorgeous ribbon was just enough leftover from my Bavarian princess dress.  I want to be twinsies with her yet this summer, when we both wear our dresses.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lemonade Fever

My big kids read a book for school called Chocolate Fever, and today Ben told me cheerfully that he has "lemonade fever."  He was mixing up a half-gallon of lemonade for his lemonade stand, which he has been doing every hot afternoon after his chores are done for two weeks now.  

He's finally hit on a scheme for making money that works!  He has a product to be proud of (recipe below), he's learning about supplies and inventory (he buys his own and makes his own), and he's learning customer service.  At first, Ben would yell "would you like some lemonade?" at every pedestrian, but I patiently convinced him that people don't always want to answer questions or make eye contact. He's learned to yell "lemonade!" "fifty cents a cup!" "fresh squeezed lemonade!"  

I also tried to convince him to make a bigger, brighter sign, but he's convinced that his yell is the ticket to success.

Recently, I was returning from an errand on foot when I saw a sweet young couple dawdling at the historic church, and he had one of Ben's lemonade cups dangling from his hand.  So I told Ben that I had seen some of his customers, and his face lit up because they were memorable:  "they gave me five dollars for two cups of lemonade!"  With some probing, I found out that young Ben said upon receipt of aforesaid five dollars:  "do you want change?"  Oh Ben.  Dear Ben.  We sat right down and had a lesson on giving change and how that change is given, as a right, back to the customer, and how any tip is handled as a surprise and a bonus with a huge thank you. 

 But the little old ladies are not helping this lesson to stick, because as often as not, they simply hand Ben some money as they wander by, declining a cup of lemonade.  

Ben is making very good money, actually.  My heart is warmed by all the people who want to encourage a kid.. . the neighbor who insisted that Ben take two dollars because fifty cents is not enough for a cup. . . the big sister who buys lemonade. . . the repeat neighbor customers. . .the contractor who came on business and bought a cup from Ben and told Ben personally that the lemonade was delicious and then later in an email to me that the lemonade was really good. . ..  It really is.  Try it yourself!

Ben's Lemonade (will not make you feverish, does not involve simple syrup or waiting, does not need adult help if you can handle a knife)

Makes a half gallon

Thinly slice three scrubbed lemons.  Pick out the seeds as best you can.

Put lemons in sturdy half-gallon pitcher.  Add 3/4 cup sugar.
Pound and mash with a wooden spoon (Ben says this is his favorite part).
Fill up pitcher with cold water and ice cubes.  Stir. Taste, and adjust flavor with bottled lemon juice if needed (this is my favorite part, to see my son tasting with panache and confidence; sometimes he asks me to taste it also, and then we discuss seriously, as cooking peers do).

In the event that you want to store this lemonade for more than a few hours, fish out the floating lemon slices and keep them separately or discard.  They will turn the lemonade bitter if they sit in there too long, and they're mostly for pretty anyway.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Relatives, Permaculture, and Hot Dogs

We went to visit Uncle Ron and Aunt Elena on a little trip.  They spoiled us.  We sat up late on their cozy front porch, talking, and made delicious food together (apparently Phoebe was sitting up on the counter licking the cake batter bowl, but I was out on a bike ride and didn't see it).  We visited the SteelStacks together, a lively place with fascinating history.

One of the books I had along to read was Gaia's Garden, recommended by Amanda Soule. I like the idea of permaculture, and this second edition has a chapter on urban permaculture which is making me think and consider. I think I also understand why my dear friend was looking for stacks of newspapers when she started her garden (to mulch!  mulch everything!).

I have a lot to learn in gardening, so I was especially fascinated by Aunt Elena's gardens.  She mixed veggies and herbs in with her flowers.  She composts her scraps in one of the ways Gaia's Garden mentions:  just put the stuff in the ground and let it go.  Her soil sample tested beautifully last year.  And she has little broken bits of china here and there in the sweetest way. I adore the mix of order and whimsy in her garden:  not perfect and prissy, but definitely cared for, definitely abundant and happy.

On the drive home, we stopped at Yocco's Hot Dogs.  My hot dog quest continues! I wasn't seeking out a hot dog joint - we just needed somewhere fast to get food that hopefully wasn't a chain and hopefully before the toddler lost her mind.  My husband remembered that foodie friends had worshiped at the Yocco's shrine, so we wanted to check it out.  The hot dogs were fine - good, sure - but my attention was caught by their steamed buns. I had never heard of steamed buns before a commenter on my Patagonian hot dog post mentioned Chicago-style hot dogs, and I went googling off to do some research.

Yocco's clearly is an institution and has a loyal following.  I always love when people make a fuss about food - it immediately becomes a goal of mine to track down the food and taste it.


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