Thursday, July 30, 2009


Mr. Birthday Boy likes his steamed pudding. He likes it, ok? He waits with his fork and spoon at the ready:

But what's that condiment? Maple syrup? No. Icing? No. It's Lyle's (if you say that with a southern accent you can invoke Lyle Lovett, the greatest country songwriter evar and no, I don't want to hear your opinions about Dolly and Wayne and David or Hank - it's Lyle, y'all.) Golden Syrup. It's a British thing.

The pudding, when its moment arrived, came to the table bedecked with candles, all fluffy and celebratory. Mr. Birthday Boy loved it, and was ready, ready, ready.

So here's how you do the Lyle's thing. You stick your spoon in there, see, then you twirl it to get the syrup onto the spoon without little stringy syrup lines dropping off onto the table.

Then you drizzle the syrup onto your slice of steamed pudding. [It's a lot like a pancake, in texture and flavor, but looks like a small cake and is sliced that way.]

If you're lucky - I mean really lucky - just as you're eating your 3rd or 4th piece of pudding the Cupcake Fairy will appear:

And what's that she's carrying? Why, cupcakes, of course. In four fabulous flavor combinations (vanilla with chocolate icing, chocolate with chocolate icing, vanilla with vanilla icing, and chocolate with vanilla icing).

After that, you'll want to ask yourself: what are we going to do next year? Can this be topped?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Tricks

Iain climbed his first flight of stairs today under the close supervision of his father. In previous attempts, Iain had always turned back before even reaching the intermediate landing. This morning, however, the excitement of reaching the landing fueled his confidence for reaching the summit. Not even the wind of the fan at the top of the stairs could deter him. In order to refute the expected attack that it was a one-time fluke, Iain repeated the feat again moments later. Iain now has his sights set on ascending to the attic, once the attic door is open once again. When asked about plans for a future, unaided descent, Iain remained non-committal.

Master William Turns 4.0

Note the Grill-Man washing his hands. In mere moments, he would sear a pile of luscious little lamb chops.

In cooperation with his Lady, he'd contribute the chops to a meal designed to make my heart sing.

There were sauteed leeks:

And pan-roasted veggies:

And hot asparagus drizzed with olive oil:

And a steamed pudding! More on that later. In short, a birthday dinner to be proud of, and one suitable to celebrate a birthday so important.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Thinks I'm Growing


Breakfast was toast with jam, banana, strawberries, yoghurt, and a tiny smidge of frosted flakes. Oh, and milk.

Lunch was grilled cheese (made by Dad!), onion rings, banana, bread, and milk.

Snack was a peach, milk and cinnamon graham crackers (bunny shaped!) [I am informed that he *might* have had some flavor-ice, as well.]

Dinner was crackers and hummus, strawberries, and milk.

This child is 15 months old. 1.5. Months. Old.

I think he's growing. Like the Hulk, you know? And I think we should probably start stockpiling food.

Wow, Dude

Photography is not permitted in the Main Reading Room. So I borrowed this photo from our government.

As you can see, the room is kind of odd. The Library is closed stack, which means that they lock up the books. No browsing for interesting titles among the piles for researchers here. No, sir. You have to find what you want (Cuba - invasion - 1961!) on the computer, then submit a request slip, which is stamped, then wait 45 minutes (or 2 hours, or all day or NEVER, but I'm not bitter) for your item to arrive. And that's if what you want is just a basic book. If it's a manuscript, image, film, or other item, good luck.

But back to the Reading Room. You check your stuff downstairs, then climb up to the first floor to this room. You enter at the bottom of a five-story cylinder with a domed ceiling. To the left, a laptop area, to the right the Luddites. You pick a spot at the circular desks (with a little individual light and a little individual plug and a little brass plate with your desk number (!)) and commence reading, writing, or whatever.

Above you, watching with interest are statues of Mozart, Homer, Solon, and someone named "Kent." Also watching are hordes of tourists who peer down at us from the fourth level, pressing their noses to the glass barriers. It's creepy.

Today I've looked at photos of the dining rooms at Ellis Island and now I'm going to read New York Times articles about the bidding process for food service contracts there. It's fascinating stuff.

For example, did you know that food service companies had to supply (this was in 1908) an employee who was licensed and trained to operate an elevator? He had to work the kitchen elevator all day, every day and if it malfunctioned the liability rested with the catering company and with him. Also, all rye bread was sold in 2-pound loaves. Except when they used it to make sandwiches.

Ok, back to work.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Very Large Greenhouse (plus some outside stuff)

Last week I had an hour to kill before heading up to the bus stop, so I popped into the Botanic Garden. Like everything here, it's free, so I just breezed on in.

The garden takes up a funny little piece of land just at the bottom of Capitol Hill, and consists of a series of outdoor garden spaces and a large, multi-room greenhouse and exhibit space. One of the greenhouse areas holds orchids, another cacti, and a third has a child's garden whose roof is open to the sky.

There's a bamboo tunnel for running:

And an enormo-Sunflower sculpture:

And a little thatched cottage for playing Little House in the Garden, or Little House in DC, or whatever pioneer fantasy floats your wee boat:

And another tunnel, in case running under plants is really, really your thing:

Other parts of the greenhouse boast some beautiful specimens. This one lives outside and in, and is a double-petaled datura. I love the color, the shape, everything about it except the fact that datura is poisonous. It can also be useful, medicinally, but mostly it's poisonous.

On either side of the glass structure are exhibit spaces. One is a boring educational room (whatevs), while the other is an art gallery at the moment. They're showing sculptures titled "Flora: Growing Inspirations." The sculpture below is big enough to walk into (though you can't), and made of layers of wood.

This one is made of wire, and I guess it's intended to evoke an allium or maybe a seed pod. I dunno, but I like it.

Up close and personal. Perhaps it's an ode to bedsprings?

This one's witty: blue sage shoes. Nyuk, nyuk. I think you have to admire someone who makes sculpture playing off of a botanical, musical and culinary theme, though. And they're shoes!

I thought this lily was lovely and unique, until I saw it growing in Miriam's neighbor's yard. Doh.

The nice thing about working on the Hill this summer has been that if the fancy takes me (and mostly it hasn't, since I work all day in the library and then travel back in the fascinating social experiment known as The 36 Bus) I can spend 20 minutes in a museum for the price of a 3-block walk. That's nice.

I Has a New Trick (and Friends)

Check me out:

That's right! I was in the toy closet at Charlotte and Nora's house. But I can get out. Plus, being in the toy closet is fun, fun, fun. Like a buffet, except with less mayo.

I'm out!

Here's Nora. She likes to play with me. That's me in the background having a little McSnackersons.

And here's Charlotte. She takes good care of me. When we visited her pool, she showed me that it can be fun to submerge yourself in water and bob around. Who knew?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not Much To Look at, but the Books are Good

Yeah, what a dump. Right? Right?

This month, I've been learning about immigration history in a seminar at the Library of Congress. The building, as you can see, is a marble freakout. Seriously, even the loos are made of huge panels of white marble.

I'm learning a lot, not least the arcane and labyrinthine search methods devised by LoC catalogers. For example, did you know that if you search for "Moonshining" you'll get nothing? If you want to know about moonshine, you'll need to search "Distilling - illicit."

Obviously, this is a method to ensure full employment for librarians. Another example? Sure. Search for "Bay of Pigs" and you get nothing. The words you need are "Cuba - history - invasion - 1961." I'm not kidding.

This all assumes that one can find the Reading Room, of course. Given the maze of subterranean tunnels, the hallways to nowhere, and the tendency of academics to think while walking (instead of paying attention), it's a miracle any of us made it out of the lobby. But, somehow, we have. And tomorrow I resume my work for the last week of frantic lectures, reading, syllabus-writing, and general larnin'.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Aunt Miriam is Fun

She lets me play in the kitchen, with her baking stuff and other things, too. I bang, and measure, and bang stuff, and turn things upside-down, and bang on things. It's fun.

Jenny From the Block

While in New York, I implemented Step 4 of our New Toy Strategy. I don't remember what steps 1-3 were, but I think they related to the hippo pool and the toy telephone.

Anyway, at the Transit Museum in Grand Central Station, I bought Iain his name in letter-block train pieces and one New York subway car. Which one?

Obvy, I asked a local (Natalie) which train Jenny from the block rode. "Oh, the Six. 'On the 6,'" Oh, right. Duh. So that's the one I got. It happens, by fun coincidence, to say "Lexington," so that's just a dandy thing, too.

Iain finds the magnets freaky. But he likes throwing the trains at me. So that's something. Right?

Friday, July 24, 2009


Sorry to miss blogging yesterday. We had a dinner engagement.

But before you get all bitter, let me just explain. I had a headache, see. But I kept forgetting to medicate. I'd mean, to, right, but then I'd start some laundry or go to the loo, or need to change Iain's diaper, or whatever. And I'd forget the Advil.

Fast forward to our drive out to Reston, and the headache has assumed mass proportions. It's getting kind of ice-pick-in-my-eyeball, in fact. And, just for fun, there's a touch of nausea.

So when we arrived at the (lovely) home to meet the (lovely!) couple we're dining with. Their (adorable!) dog was adorable/adorable. But my head and tummy were getting worse and worse and worse and worse and...

I looked a the clock and realized that it was 6:10. No way to get back and hide in bed because of traffic. So it was time to come clean. I confessed that I was ill, that I didn't think I could eat anything, that I might need to go throw up in their (immaculate) bathroom. Not happy times.

And the worst part (aside from the sensation that I might hurl on the hummus, I mean)? The meal was perfect for moi! A spinach and feta pie, plus lamb and zucchini kabobs, plus a bulgur salad (a lot like cous-cous). Argh. I could smell it. I tasted it. Bad idea.

In the end, Iain and I lay down together in the guest room while they ate dinner and played a game. I was a completely worthless guest. I came back, went to bed, chewed 2 Dramamine, and passed out.

That's why I didn't blog.

Just in Case

Just in case you worried that the Pink Family had to struggle along with merely their multiple playrooms and their tiered Backyard of Fun, there's still more to admire.

For example, a luscious vegetable garden. With cherry tomatoes:

Some of which were reddening quite nicely:

And bell peppers:

And zucchini:

And (oddly shaped) cucumbers:

And snow peas:

And herbs:

I loved this garden. I miss my own garden. Hopefully, the mild temperatures and plentiful rain of the summer so far have helped it to grow. That way, when the hot weather hits in August, I'll be there to croon lovingly to my tomatoes and peppers while they store up the sugar. Yum!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's down the Wookey Hole?

Apparently, there will soon be a new witch: Yeah, yeah, we know that something else is found down the wookey hole, but maybe the new witch will have some way of cleaning that up.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Awesomely Anonymous

At 6:48am this morning, Delightful Debbie and her partner in crime, Nathan, welcomed their first child, a boy, into this crazy world. Consistent with their religious tradition, Little Cutie's name is still Top Secret (and will be for 7 more days).

But name or no name, we're thrilled to welcome Mr. Anon Y. Mouse into our circle of much-loved babies. He was 6lb. 7oz, born two weeks early in an easy labor. Here's hoping the rest of his babyhood goes as well.

The Best Backyard EVAR

As promised, a tour of the insanely insane Pink Family backyard. Let's start with a shot of the house. Note the porches. Two screened-in, one up one down. Two open, one up one down. Plus a deck to the right, plus (next post) a terraced garden.

Yeah. Me, too. (jealllous!)

But let's get to the important stuff. Mr. W built this playhouse for the Pink Baby and Cutie Pie. Himself. Built it.

Here's residence #1, on the right of the structure.

And on the left, another little house, with a twisty slide on top.

The two connect via an elevated walkway. That way, you can drop water balloons on boys' heads. There are three swings, too - two big girl swings and one baby swing (Iain says: Yay!). They hang from the undercarriage of the elevated walkway.

Did I mention that residence #1 has a skylight? Either that or the roof is unfinished. Six of one.

This is slide #2. It's red (the other is blue). It's straight (the other is twisty). See how Mr. W is all about choices?

The view of residence #1 from the elevated walkway. Note that the paint is blue, pink and purple. Very girly.

Below, the view from the upstairs deck.

And here's the girl for whom it was all begun. Of course, she has a little sister now. Between the two of them, I expect that these residences/slides/ swings are going to get a heck of a workout.

Soo....that's the bit for kids. Next stop on our tour: the garden.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Visit??

Benjamin! Iain can hardly wait. Of course, Benjamin no longer looks like this, because he's a big boy now. So we'll look forward to seeing him crawling and walking and calculating friction coefficients and grilling meat and whatever else Mom and Dad taught him this week.