April 30, 2010

Swinging with her eyes closed

One of the greatest things about being a parent is getting to witness those moments when light dawns and a child discovers something new about the world. And of course I'm not talking about new as in a new movie or a new toy, these are the things that are wholly new to them, never before imagined. Like the first time they see their toes or the first time the walk across the room. I remember Briton staring at his hands, wide eyed in wonder. As if to say" whoa, where did those things come from?" It never gets old, watching something click in their heads, seeing them figure something out.

At the same time, one of the saddest things about being a parent is knowing that all of this is fleeting. That every day that they grow older, less and less becomes new and wondrous. There are still many firsts out there of course. But now most of them are firsts I don't even want to contemplate. First kiss. First love. First broken heart. First dance as a husband or a wife. Those give me panic attacks. My children are already growing up too fast as it is. But the in between firsts are few and far between it sometimes seems. Which makes them all the more precious when the do come along.

Last week Evelyn learned to pump. One day it was "Push me! Push me!" and then next it was "Look at me! I'm doing it!" And after a few days of starter pushes to get the pumping going, it became "I can do it myself! Don't push me!" And away she went. It breaks my heart a little bit, not being needed in this small way. Of course mostly it's fabulous because it means that I can sit in my chair and read or daydream and not have to get up and stand in the sun to push. But still, a little sad.

She swings with her eyes closed. With abandon. Singing at the top of her lungs as she pumps. Forward, back, in, out.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star."

She swings and swings and swings.

"How I wonder what you are."

And even that little sad bit of my heart has to smile to see the pure joy she finds in that simple act.

Swing on, little girl.

April 29, 2010

What do a broken washing machine and a weed wacker have in common? Nothing at all...

So you know when you get to that point in the week where you must, MUST do laundry because if you don't, no one will have anything clean to wear? Well we were there on Monday night.

And then the washing machine broke.

And the repair guy can't come till next week.

Fun times.

On the plus side, I've gotten pretty good at hand washing clothes. Thank goodness the dryer still works or I would have been writing this from the loony bin right now.

And in totally unrelated news, I learned how to use a weed whacker the other night. I know, I know, who doesn't know how to use a weed whacker? Ok, so I knew how to use one, I just never had used one.

Despite the fact that, since we switched over to an electric lawnmower eleven years ago, I have been the primary lawn mower person in the house (it's not even that I love to mow, it's that I can mow without running over the cord. And after your husband destroys, say, the seventh extension cord, you just give up and do it yourself) but I've never done the weed wacking. In fact, I've always had a overblown, illogical fear of the weed wacker. It probably stems from the same paranoia that keeps me away from power tools. Or maybe it's a vague childhood memory of being nipped in the ankle with the flying string of my dad's edger. Actually, I'm not sure that ever really happened, but I was told it would happen enough that I grew to adulthood thinking that it had happened. I wonder if there's a name for that - the fear of weed wackers, not the being told something so many times that you are convinced it happened, that's just called childhood.

Anyhoo, while Will and his fair assistant were putting together my pergola (which was lovely, by the way, for our bookclub soiree. And Bre, I did the blue table runner of the white cloth and it was very pretty indeed, but I forgot to take a photo of it!) I decided that the grass was in desperate need of a trim around the edges, so away I went with the neighbors cool cordless weed wacker.

And I totally love that thing.

I'm not sure what that says about me. It seems like any gardener worth his or her salt shouldn't be quite so delighted to see the downfall of anything green and growing, but I did. It made me want to laugh maniacally, except when I try that it just sounds like I'm choking. I'm evil laugh deficient. I can't burp either. But you didn't need to know that.

So now I can't decide if I want a weed wacker or a fig tree for Mother's Day. On the one hand, one of the dogwoods is on it's way to the firewood pile and needs a replacement and, well, you can never have too many fig trees. But on the other, well, there's the destruction of invasive grass at the touch of a button. Decisions, decisions....

April 28, 2010

Outdoor Room

This morning I was telling Will that, while I was more than glad that the inside of the house is, if not finished, well on it's way, it is so nice to be able to focus on the yard this summer. I love being outside. I'm not outdoorsy in the "I hike every weekend and live to camp" kind of way. I like camping and the occasional stroll through the woods, don't get me wrong. But what I love is to be able to just be outside. To sit in a chair and read a book or work on the computer or just stare up at the sky.

When we first moved in the yard was big and flat, a rarity in our town, but it was also bare. Other than the beautiful cherry tree and a few dogwoods, there was nothing but an expanse of weedy grass. No flowers, no shrubs (ok, there is a holly bush, but it's more in the back instead of the side where the bulk of our yard lies) nothing. I'm not really a flower gardener at all. And to make matters worse, the flowers that I do know about are great in rain soaked Oregon or Ireland, but pretty much crap here. So it's been a steep learning curve. And I still have a long way to go.

I've been really lucky in that we have lots of gardener neighbors who have given us advice and plants aplenty and slowly, slowly, the garden is coming together. Helped, a lot, by Will who spent the last few evenings building the pergola that I've been imagining since before we moved in. We still have a few finishing touches, including getting the clematis and wisteria that I planted yesterday to grow up and over the top to provide a little shade. But for the most part, it's there. Will wants to add another section so that they stair step down over the fence which is fabulous, more places for the vines to grow. Don't tell him but I'd be happy with it as is.

Tonight my book club is giving the room a run for it's money, sitting outside discussing a book that was both fascinating and long (and which I haven't finished....shhhhh) I tried to string lights over the table last night which resulted in some distinctly foul language, 4 broken bulbs and possibly a few frustrated tears. This morning Will helped me restring them before he left for work so now we are ready to thrash out the doings of the Hemming's Family and our own. Can't wait.

April 26, 2010

The Light

So it's funny, but back when the lockers were on Apartment Therapy and the kitchen was on Design Sponge, I got a surprising number of questions about our light. I still get emails now and then on how we made the thing so, since I decided this weekend to add some rope lighting to the core of the lamp which involved taking it most of the way apart, I thought I'd show you guys how it went together again.

* But first a disclaimer! I'm not an electrician. Over the years I've gotten pretty decent at figuring out wiring, especially old house wiring. But just because this is the way I did it doesn't mean it's THE way to do it. I try to always follow safety precautions with wiring and regularly check things around the house to make sure they are ship shape. *

OK, now that that's out of the way, on to the light.

The origional idea for this light was inspired by a photo I once saw of Nigella Lawson's Kitchen. Along one wall was a mass of white Christmas lights. Since our kitchen is fairly modern and maybe a little stark looking for a house with two crazy kids running around it, we decided that a funky wad of lights dangling from an overstated ceiling medallion would be just the thing to silly things up a bit.

The frame for the lamp is actually two of these, tied together with white electrical tape, wide edges facing eachother. The lights that were on the frame got zapped when someone who shall remain nameless (Hint, it wasn't me and I generally don't let the kids take on the roll of electrician, so also not them) was messing around and wired it wrong. Yeah, that's why the light is one of my projects. Black goes to black. It's just how it has to be.

Anyway, I had always intended to wrap the thing with gobs of Christmas lights anyway so the underlying lights are totally disconnected from the project and we treated the whole thing as a simple frame.

To begin with I fed a six foot long string of rope lights through the core of the lamp. I'm not a big fan of rope lighting in most situations, but inside the lamp they add a lot of light without being at all visable. And in the kitchen, brighter is better in my book.

The end of the rope lamp was plugged into the end of a string of white mini lights which I wrapped around the frame at about one inch intervals until I had used the entire strand up.

Once that string had been used up I plugged it into the next which was wrapped across the circle over and over to form a web.

The web is key because it holds the mass in in the next step. You want it open enough that some lights can dangle through but not so much that the whole thing drops to the floor.

Last strand! The third string of mini lights (fourth altogether) is wadded a bit and stuffed, kind of at random, into the web.

Once it's hung you can pull the wads through to give it a messier look, for the moment though, just stuff it all in little wads into the web.

The last strand was hardwired to some standard lamp wire (the kind you see on floor lamps) which was then secured to the top of the frame. I also secured two dummy sections (meaning they were in no way wired in) to two more points on the fram, creating a balanced, three string look. Because I didn't want the actual wires to do the supporting however, I also hung the three wire hanger that came with the lamp at the same points with the top hooked through a bracket on the ceiling.

If you aren't comfortable with hardwiring, you can also hide an outlet in your ceiling where the junction box is and simply plug the lamp in, hiding the junction with a smaller medallion that mounts to the larger one.

The bulbs will eventually burn out, as all lightbulbs do, so be sure to keep the extras that come with the strands and maybe keep an extra string of lights around to steal bulbs from when you need them> Ours went about eight months with daily use before the bulbs started fading, which isn't bad for teeny little light bulbs!

Stitch, Stitch

While it's the tiniest bit terrible to say, I have to admit that one of the first things I was excited about when I found out Evelyn was a girl was that I finally had someone to sew for. Yes, yes, you can sew for a boy. And I have, I still do. There's a piece of pirate flag fabric destined to be a tie sitting on my work chest right now and I'm on the lookout for some Hawaiian fabric for a requested shirt. But the truth is that girls are just a little more fun to sew for, at least for me. There's nothing quite as satisfying as making a twirly little dress and then seeing it worn to shreds because she loves it so much.

My standby is the Sewbaby dress. It's simple, fast, takes minimal fabric and is still probably the best summer dress ever. This summers will be Evelyn's third or forth incarnation of the same pattern. But since I tend to get bored doing the same thing again and again, especially when it comes to sewing, I've been on the lookout for a new dress pattern. Last fall I had a run in with a commercial pattern that made me pull my hair out and eventually strike out on my own, patternless, to finish the project. It was so poorly written, and so badly sized that I couldn't even think about flipping through the pattern books when the warm weather came around. Thank goodness for Google.

After a lot of browsing and reading in which I became way too obsessed with sewing patterns for preschool girls, I settled on something from Oliver + S, anything from Oliver + S. In fact, it took all my restraint not to order all the dress patterns they had plus the raincoat/peacoat pattern. Actually, I'm still fantasizing about that coat. I wish it came in grownup girl sizes as well. Hummm...

But back to the dress. Will's mom kindly went to a fabric store in Dallas where the patterns were sold and sent back the Ice Cream Dress with Will during his visit. She also, incidentally, sent back flower fabric for the dress and some really cute cutlery patterned fabric for me, which Evelyn promptly claimed for herself declaring "I want a fork dress!" How could I possibly refuse?

Which is why, after an idle hour on Friday afternoon and another that evening, Evelyn woke up Saturday morning and put on her "fork dress".

I'm seriously in love with this pattern folks. It's well written and, as far as I can tell, built to hold up well despite chicken hugging, tree climbing, scooter riding and a very long session of swinging in which we at last discovered the secret to pumping. The only problem I have now is weather or not to make another Ice Cream Dress out of the next pair of fabrics in my pile or if I want to plunge into the Birthday Dress. Or the Tea Party Dress. Or even the 2+2 Blouse and Skirt. decisions, decisions....

Ack! I can't decide. Opinions please!

April 23, 2010

Just so you know how long I've been at this...

My first writing gig- helping dad with his work for the Tahoe World..

April 21, 2010


I've gone a little silhouette crazy ya'll.

See! I'm saying ya'll! I must be crazy! Not that it's a bad thing to say, it's just, I haven't said ya'll in regular conversation since, well, since I moved form Texas to Oregon in High School and realized the boys thought helping a sweet little "southern girl" find her way around her new school was fun. (I was a theater geek, I couldn't resist!)

But seriously. Every since the Sunprint Silhouette project came out so well I've thought of five different things I could do with silhouettes. FIVE. And those are just the semi-practical, doable ones. I'm not even counting the weird ones (could you skywrite a silhouette?)

I won't go on and on with all five today (partly because I've only gotten as far as making two and partly because mother's day is coming up and, well, I don't want to spoil it for them :)) but I will show you this one because it's cute and I love it and it's sitting on my desk looking at me when I'm supposed to be writing about crafts you can do while you multi-task at a video conference. I'm easily distracted people.

This actually started out as a birthday card for my friend. I'd talked her kids into letting me take their profile pictures one weekend (well, two of them, the third I had to sneak in later) with the promise of making them t-shirts with their faces (that was silhouette project #1, which was totally cute by the way, can't go wrong with freezer paper stencils and little girls profiles!) but then I loved it so much I made one of my kids too.

Just as with the sunprint version, the trick is to get a good profile shot of your child. If you have a girl, by the way, hair up is the way to go. They just turn out better and offer more scope for cutting out little curls and wisps. I actually used the cutout's that I made for the sunprints since I ended up making about ten sunprints for each of my kids. It just never got old.

Using a piece of felt to keep the picture steady and for overrun, I painted the photos with a dark gray paint (black is the classic but I wanted to use funky backing paper and gray looked better). Once they were dry I simply mounted them to a piece of Amy Butler paper and then mounted that to some heavy cardstock for strength.

Voila. Cute. Modern, and one of those things that I'll keep forever.

April 20, 2010


While my head knows that we are within a few weeks, a month at most, of the beginning of strawberry season and therefore, real, homemade, bright red, strawberry jam, my heart hit a wall this weekend and couldn't stand the wait any longer.

I would have been fine except that we ran out of milk mid week and so I went to the grocery for a change (my obsession with Retail Relay may run deep, but even I can't justify a delivery just for milk) and there they were. Strawberries. They still weren't cheap, but at least they weren't cry-when-you-buy-them, hide-them-from-your-children-because-they-can't-possibly-appreciate-them expensive. So I bought a 3 pound box and - ok, still hid them from the kids, but only until I had enough chopped for jam, then I let them have the rest.

Since I was making a small batch I decided to get a little crazy and try to go the pectin free route. If you've never made strawberry jam, the berries don't have the natural pectin to make the jam set up (as opposed to apples which are full of it) so you have to add it. Over the years I've come to find that the sugar free (which still requires sugar, but not as much) is my favorite, giving a more true "strawberry" flavor, at least in my opinion. Will thinks I'm crackers and prefers the high sugar variety. This time around I pulled out my old natural canning book and used grapefruit juice instead of pectin, (It was supposed to be lemons but I was out and figured, what the heck, if nothing else we'd have strawberry syrup for pancakes). The nice thing about going the pectin free route is that you can use whatever amount of fruit you have. With boxed pectins you are supposed to follow the proportions exactly and, although I have many times, you aren't supposed to double or triple the recipe in most cases.

The resulting jam was a little runnier than I'm used to and maybe a tad sweeter than I like (Will and the kids say it's perfect though) but, with a little adjustment, I think I'm sold on the juice over pectin method and I can't wait to get going with a huge batch to get us through the year. Especially because, umm, it's already gone. Oops. (but it was so good by the spoonful! We couldn't help ourselves!)

Hurry up May!!

Strawberry Jam

2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups sugar
1/2 grapefruit

Proportions can be doubled, tripled or halved.

Core and chop the strawberries, crushing them gently until you have an even consistency. Add the sugar and the juice from the grapefruit and the squeezed out fruit and allow it to mellow for a few hours (or overnight). Pour into a heavy bottomed pan, remove the leftover grapefruit and bring to a roaring boil for 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off the foam as it forms. Allow the jam to cool for about five minutes before pouring it into sterilized jars and processing. (Or just stick them in the fridge for up to two weeks)

April 19, 2010

Project #2

Ok, so the photos didn't make it in on Friday. The project was finished, the photos were taken, but I decided to opt for a glass of wine with a friend and then a stroll down to Charlottesville's weekly (in the summer) concert, Friday's After Five. What can I say, Will's out of town - I needed a little down time :)

So first of all, as promised, here's what I did with the ugly chandelier. Much better no? A little spray paint (not too much went onto the grass!) and a big old hook in the tree over our adirondack chairs, my favorite afternoon sit and read or work or watch the kids play spot.

When I bought it I had grand plans to rewire it for outdoor use. I'm not bad with wiring and have knocked out a few DIY lamps, but decided that I didn't know enough about what went into waterproof lighting to give it a safe go.So I clipped out all the existing wires and pulled off the lightbulb sockets, leaving me with just the faux candle holders.

Candles! Ohh, I could put candles in there! Pretty, romantic, nice, soft lighting. Also fire. In a tree. Where there is a huge dead limb just overhead. So. No.

On to plan C. Flickering LED tealights! The good news is that they fit perfectly in the little holders. The bad news is that they are a little low so I still have to add something to boost them up so you can see their happy little glow. But for the most part, it's done. And really, even without the lights it makes a pretty addition to the garden. I think, however, once the pergola is done (Hurry home Will! I'm impatient!) and the lights are up on both that and the lamp, the outside will be fantastic for evening rambles and meals. I can't wait.

My other big project of the weekend, besides finishing the downstairs floors (yay! done! SOOOO much better! now onto the stairs...) was to move the gigantic pile of mulch I've been moaning about. I overestimated by a leeetle bit on the mulch order. Six cubic yards turns out to be a monstrous pile of mulch. But finally, FINALLY, last night I got the last bits spread. I'm sure the neighbors are much happier now that there isn't a ever-spreading, never ending pile of dirt on the road, not to mention the giant tarp that tended to drift out into the street on a windy day. But NO MORE. Until fall at least....

Will comes home tomorrow night and I've still got a few things to finish before he does then we have a busy two weeks in preparation for some exciting events that I'll tell you about later, when I'm allowed to (it's cool! I promise!) I'm going to try very hard to focus on what must be done as opposed to what I want done (mudroom - will it ever end - probably not. Ugly red deck - to paint or tear down and build anew. Outdoor chairs - do I have too much blue already to coat them in various shades of azure? It goes on and on folks...) Sigh, so many projects, so few hours when the kids are asleep or otherwise occupied so we can get down to work!

Speaking of work, time to get back to it. Tell me what you think of le lamp, will the flicker-lights work or should I try to wrap in twinkle lights?

**Edited to add**
Bre over at Red Bungalow has some pictures up of a series of back yard chandeliers. Love love love. And now I want a long blue table runner for my table like the pink one in the photo...

April 15, 2010

Before and After: The Floors

Well, I guess it's not a true after since I still need to give it another buff, but between digging new flower beds yesterday, pulling a huge wheelbarrow load of monkey grass and then staining, waxing and hand buffing the floors last night, I don't think my shoulders will bow to more work for a few days, so it will have to do.

As I said, the wood wasn't in bad shape, just blotchy and faded. Since I used a wax instead of a clear coat, they wont be glassy shiny every, but I'm ok with that since I find shiny surfaces just show the kid/dog/renovating a house smudges. It's not perfect by any means, but better, more consistant. And even pre-buffing, it feels so much better in here. And I kinda dig that floor wax smell, it reminds me of ancient churches.

Unfortunately I didn't take any photos till after I started furniture moving, and even then it was dark outside so it's hard to see the original condition of the floor, but you can get a sense of it here, just imagine that, house-wide.

I managed to get the dining room, kitchen and hall done last night. I want to tackle the playroom next but a) my arms need a break (see above) and b) it's a total wreck but Briton and I have a deal that he only has to clean it up on Fridays, so I'm hoping that Friday night I'll be ready to go and the floor will be cleared of all the Lego pieces, Playmobil heads and play dishes that are currently making the floor just about impossible to see. I'm not sure if I'll tackle the upstairs this go round. It's not as bad and, well, no one but us sees it much anyway, so it can wait a bit.



It's gorgeous out today so after some library time I think Evie and I will tackle the monkey grass. The lamp is making progress too, pictures tomorrow I think...

Now, time for a little more coffee (late night) some Tylenol (shoulders) and a walk to the library.

April 14, 2010

While the cat's away...

When I was a teenager, I loved the movie Sleeping Beauty. I didn't actually own the movie thanks to Disney's irritating "in the vault" marketing scheme which, I will admit, is kind of brilliant but as I said, irritating. But I baby sat every Friday night for a little girl who did have the movie, and I watched it almost every week after she had gone to sleep.

There's a moment in the movie, near the beginning, when Rose comes down to find the Fairies plotting for her birthday. "And what are you three dears up to?" She asks (like she doesn't know)

"Up to?"
"Up to?"
"Up to?" They reply guiltily.

That's how I feel when Will calls while he's away on a trip. Because, let's be honest, I'm always up to something, but when he's gone I tend to go a little nutty on the projects. Last fall, was the 4 day bathroom overhaul. This winter I tackled (although didn't finish) the mudroom and now? Well, I've got a few different things on my "to-do" list for the week.

Project one involves the floors. When we moved in I really wanted to re-do the floors before we moved but between the kitchen and the shortened move in date, we weren't able to get it done then. And since we've neither had the time or inclination to do it ourselves, not the money to have it done.

The wood itself is in pretty good shape, but the finish is non-existent and the stain is blotchey and faded. I hate cleaning the floor because no matter how hard I scrub, they still look grotty. But a few weeks ago I tried rubbing some stain on part of the floor under the dining room table while I had the rugs airing out on the porch (that sounds faintly ridiculous, but my vacuum sucks so every so often I hang them over the railing and beat the crap out of them to get them clean) And wow, stain, huge difference.

So that's the plan. No polyurethane, no sanding, just stain. Not strictly kosher (although I did get some floor wax to seal it so I guess that's a little more by the book) but I really, really want to get rid of the splotchy, stainy look. So far I've got the living room done and it looks much better, in fact, it looks kinda awesome. If I can get these kids to sleep at a decent hour I'll move onto the dining room before I hit the sack tonight. And if I can figure out where I put my camera down last night when I was taking in process photos, I'll post some before and afters. But I promise, it looks good. (yay!)

What else is on the list? Well, there's the wheelbarrow full of lilitrope that I dug up out of a friends yard this evening (with permission of course) and the new flower bed at the front of the house, and the giant pile of mulch that doesn't seem to be getting any smaller no matter how many loads I move.

And then there's this (a Habitat find), which is totally ugly, but for which I have big plans.

I think.
If I can get the floors done.
And the plants in.
And I don't fall off the ladder.

Wish me luck.

April 12, 2010


So, guess what happens when you go away for five days, it's gloriously sunny for all that time and you have your sprinkler on a timer? Weeds.


The garden is OVERRUN with weeds. I spent half of Friday yanking out weeds and I still have some to pull. And that's just the vegetable garden.

On the up side, all that water and sun also brought up the parsnips and carrots in force and warmed up the soil enough that the kids and I set out two kinds of potatoes, sweet corn and popcorn (in seperate parts of the yard) and 16 bok choy plants that I planted in the seed started the day before we left and were already 4 inches tall when we got back.

My tomato seedlings are also going strong so in a few weeks we can add them to the patch. I see gallons of tomato sauce in our future since I started 24 tomato plants and almost all of them sprouted. I always seem to start too many tomato plants and then I can't bear to kill any so we have, over the years, had many summers with way, WAY too many tomatoes. But hopefully I have enough sense to stake them all this time, unlike in my first garden when they overtook an entire 4x8 foot bed in a giant tangled mass of tomato vines. That year I used an old screen door to dry, literally, hundreds of tomatoes (Sweet 100's really do make hundreds of tomatoes as it turns out). Humm, I wonder if I could coeruse Will into building me a dehydrator in the yard....

And in other news,

This is what a broody hen does when you try to take the (unfertalized you silly hen!) eggs out from under her. Although we are thinking of using her broodiness to our advantage. Watch this space...

And best of all, our dear friends Sean and Alicia welcomed their first baby, a girl name Arya Louise, into the world this weekend. Welcome to the family little girl. We love you already!

April 9, 2010

What Flavor is Vegan?

There is a snippet of lore in our family that never fails to make me laugh till my sides hurt. My husband, who is the subject of this much told tale, bears our laughs with good humor, in fact, I think he laughs these days as much as I do over it.

Will and I have known each other a long time. No, really, you think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. We met when I was 13 and he was 15... at the mall. He was helping his best friend pick out a gift for a girl who happened to be my best friend, so I was there to make the final call on the gift. (I wish I remembered what we chose. If I had to hazard a guess, it was probably a James Avery Charm, since we were nuts over them that year, but that's just a guess *edited to add - it was a Things Remembered ID bracelet. Man, you gotta love facebook for finding old friends who have better memories that you!*).

Actually, we met the year before that, although we didn't realize it until after we were married. I was "going out" with this guy named Stu Pendus (I kid you not) and was at his birthday party when I wandered out back where a cute boy was playing basketball. I flirted, he flirted (in that almost-a-teenager, awkward way, I'm sure) and then a decade or so later I married him. Not that we dated, or even knew each other that whole time, but still. I remember when he had his entire head shaved except for overly long bangs and he has a truly embarrassing faux Glamor Shot of a 13-year-old me. We keep each other entertained.

Anyhoo, after three years of living in different states and not having anything to do with each other, Will moved to Eugene, Oregon when I was a sophomore in college there. Now think about that. A 21 year old man moves from Dallas, Texas to Eugene, Oregon (right at the height of it's hippyness I might add. Before it was cool to be crunchy but when The Merry Pranksters were still alive and bumming around town and when people like Mason Williams showed up to teach a journalism class to play the kazoo - true story) All I can say is the guy was in culture shock (Will, not Mason Williams. I doubt much shocked Mason Williams) .

There were smelly people and naked people and a guy who rode a unicycle around campus in a hot pink unitard and a silver cape. The Rainbow people came into town and took up all the parking spaces with their crazy cars and a man named Frog sat on a corner and asked everyone who walked by if they had read The World's Funniest Jokebook (and woe to anyone who answered no).

So on the day of our story, my future husband, still fresh out of Texas and reeling slightly from the shock that was Western Oregon, walked into a coffee shop with my father. The coffee shop was well known for it's excellent bagels, interesting cream cheese flavors and damn good muffins. Will scanned the case, looking for something good and pointed at one of the muffins. Turning to my dad he asked,

"What flavor is vegan?"

Now I wasn't there, but legend has it that the entire shop went silent. And I can just imagine the reaction of a bunch of 20 something granola kids (I can say that, I was one!) when a tall drink of water with a southern accent asked such a question. He's lucky he got out of there with his leather shoes unharmed.

As you can imagine, anytime the words "vegan" and "baking" appeared in the same sentence in our family it has been met with laughter and cringes, never serious consideration. Until I read this recipe over at The Kitchn and found my mouth watering at the descriptions.

It's good folks.

In fact, I may never bake a non-vegan cupcake again. And that's big because I love to bake cupcakes of all kinds. But seriously, these are some of the yummiest cupcakes I've come across. I think they might just be my new go-to cake recipe of choice.

So now we know what flavor vegan is - yummy.

Just one note, I used a mini-cupcake pan which made the perfect sized treat in my humble opinion, but this recipe makes a lot of mini-cupcakes. Because I didn't want to have 60 delicious cupcakes hanging around the house at one time, I froze half the batter, in the pan, and later popped them in the oven - still frozen - at the same temperature. Worked like a charm.

Also, who needs cupcake liners when you can just cut squares of parchment. Duh.

April 6, 2010

When in Orlando

Well, we could hardly come all this way and not go see the princesses....

Post From My iPhone

April 5, 2010

Away she goes

And I totally cried through the whole thing....


Post From My iPhone


They say you're born with your family but you get to choose your friends. Well, I've got a pretty fantastic family but I've also got some outstanding friends.

It's 2:30 in the morning and I'm standing in the courtyard of Kennedy Space Center, waiting to take a bus out to watch an old friend take her first flight into space.Yeah, 2:30. With the kids...

Evelyn is sitting next to me in a nest of borrowed hotel blankets watching a movie on an iPhone. Briton and Will are inside buying flip flops because apparently, 7 year olds can't always be trusted to put on their shoes before leaving a hotel.

It all seems a little sureal. Dottie has been training for this since Briton was about one and it doesn't seem that long ago that she, her husband Jason and I were all young teachers in our first jobs. Hanging out on the weekends in their rented apartment our our dinky little house. Now we have three kids between us and live half a country apart not to mention the whole astronaut thing.

On board with her is Briton's Flat Stanley (which, if you have kids, or friends with kids, or kids with kids, you probably know about) that she generously offered to carry into space with her. With any luck well get a picture sometime in the next 14 days of him floating around in the shuttle. Briton is hoping next time it will be him that rides along (which doesn't surprise me since until two years ago he was SURE Auntie Dottie and Uncle Jason lived on the space station. )

Time to board. (the bus, I mean)

Go Discovery!

-- Post From My iPhone

April 2, 2010

Little Bits

The vegetable garden, well really both the vegetable and flower gardens, are slowly making progress. Over the past two days I've planted about 40 day lilies. Some that I dug up off of a hill behind our house that, if last summer is any example, will be covered with vines soon, choking out the flowers. Some were given to me by a neighbor who had dug them out last fall and stored them over the winter. The peonies are starting to leaf out (when the dog leaves them alone for a few days) and I have a flat of nasturtium seedlings ready to go out in the garden tomorrow before we leave on our vacation.

But as much as I'm looking forward to having flowers out the ying yong this summer, I'm a vegetable girl and so seeing tiny little carrot seedlings gives me a thrill that no amount of Camellia or tulip buds can. What can I say, I must have been a farmer in a past life.

Well, maybe not because I'm still struggling with when to plant what here in Virginia. I've spent most of my adult life (and a good chunk of my childhood) in rainy, temperate places and so when it comes to starting seeds and setting out young plants I am a little at a loss. This winter I read a Virginia vegetable gardening primer cover to cover and dutifully transcribed the dates to start sends indoors and out for each of the plants I wanted in the garden this year. And then we had the snowstorm and I thought everything would shift a little and worried my seedlings would be ready too early. But alas, it's pretty much full on early summer here (mid to high 80's every day) despite the long and late winter storms and my eeny little plants seem behind.

A few weeks ago we set out the broccoli seedlings and seeded the carrots, beets, parsnips and some early lettuce. The broccoli is plodding along and the shallot bulbs and lettuce starts given by a friend are providing some green in the otherwise barren landscape of the vegetable patch. The lettuce seedlings came up not long after but the root vegetable had made no appearance what so ever. I started to wonder if the birds had been snacking away on our seeds when I caught Evelyn hopping down the middle of one of the beds (sigh, this is gardening with a three year old I suppose) and discovered that she had trod on some tiny little beet plants. Crappy that she stepped on them but yay! they were finally coming up! And when I got down on my hands and knees and looked really really hard I saw some teeny carrot seedlings as well.

This weekend we leave for a five day trip to Florida. While I'm gone the tomato seedlings and cucumber plants should come up in the little mini greenhouse in the mudroom and the potato sets should arrive from the seed company. We've got a timer on the hose and beautiful weather ahead for when we are gone so, fingers crossed, by the time we are back it should be looking like a real garden.