Sunday, October 31, 2010


For the last 2 nights, Iain's dreams have been fairly disturbing. He woke, screaming with fear or anger, at 6:40 each morning.

The subject of his nightmares? Being made to do things he does not wish to do. For example, 2 nights ago he woke up yelling, "I don't wanna go potty!!!!" while this morning it was "I don't wanna get out the bath! I want a bath! I no ready get out! I want bath time now!"

Is this genetics in action?

In other news, doesn't that pretty blue mug look nice in the kitchen window? It's full of cocoa.

And it's Iain-sized. He sees us drinking coffee and tea and he wants to "try it!" But he really can't handle a regular mug. Years ago we received these little demitasse cups as a gift, but have never used them.

Until now. Behold: Iain has his brekkie.

Looks just like a diner, huh? Mug of cocoa, waffle with butter and syrup, jammies. Wait. Jammies? Better than a diner, then.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Historical Yuks

Gotta love that "hatchet-faced nutmeg dealer." Best president, ever.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Tonight, Iain asked for a waffle for dinner. I reached into the freezer to pull out the last waffle (home made, but frozen in batches and toasted later - they're crispier that way). "No," he said, "I want a fresh one."

Oh, ok.

Last night, during bath time, Iain looked around and asked, "Where are all the green towels?" I guess the beige, grey, and brown towels were substandard.

It's just so strange to hear him express real preferences - stable over time and consistently chosen. More than just toddler capriciousness, he actually prefers things, and says so. Wasn't he a baby a year ago?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


No more cookies! I can't deal with another stick of butter or another cup of sugar. I'm done, done, done. Until next time.

But thanks to my students, I've tried out several new recipes, confirmed the fabulosity of my favorite cake book, and gotten a little better at making cookies that you can't play hockey with. A little better.

The dishes, though. The dishes have been...epic.

In other news, I'll be dressing as a baker for Halloween. Because, you know, that's what I've been all week. And I need a costume because when the middle schoolers parade through the hallways, I get to hand out candy. Seriously - this is the funnest job ever. It might even been the funnerest.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Monday, today, possibly tomorrow. Snow!

Sunday, I made sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and lemon shortbread.

Monday, I made a lemon pound cake and ginger spice cookies with ginger-orange cream cheese filling.

Tonight, I made peanut butter and chocolate chip blondies.

I'm never making another bet with my students!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Studio 360 Goes to Monticello

One of NPR's programs, Studio 360, visited Monticello recently. Their program offers a sense of why Jefferson is so complicated. It's 52 minutes long, but worth an hour of your time.

Garden Update

Last week - shorts and a dry sandbox. This week - snow. Go figure. I have butter softening on the counter, because I need to do some baking, y'all.

Here's the current garden status:

1. The raised beds are finished, and await paint. I got the primer, but then it started to rain. So I'm waiting for time + dry skies to prime. The paint itself? I picked five fabulous bright colors (orange, blue, purple, green, and bright yellow for the PVC-pipe-holder-bits), but Sherwin-Williams had no base. So I'm waiting for them to call and say they have the paint.

2. Once painted, the beds can go straight in, ready for their lasagna. Charles and Grandad got me peat moss, so the layers will start with wet cardboard and then move to alternating bits of peat moss and grass clippings (plus a bucket of cucumber peelings from last night). By March, that should be some delicious composty goodness. I'll add a bag of soil on top if necessary, and call it a day.

3. Friday, I ordered seed. It's lettuce seed, mostly, but a few peas are in there, a bit of chard, one carrot type (experimenting!), and one packet of spinach. The idea is to plant at least one entire bed with lettuce early (March?) and cover the bed with loosely-draped white landscape fabric. That'll keep it warm enough as the winter transitions to spring, but will also ensure an early crop of lettuce for moi. Then I'll just keep sowing all spring, for a cut-and-come-again bed that can supply our lettuce needs indefinitely. I got red-leafed lettuces, romaine, and butterhead. Plus spinach, because a girl needs her iron.

4. This week, we'll call our sprinkler guy and get him to drain and winterize the system. Then, in spring, he'll run little spray heads up into my raised beds, providing delicious water to my veggies.

In total, the beds represent 32 square feet of gardening space. According to the Square Foot Gardening method, that's plenty to feed us, plus some to share. I really believe in planting only what you like and will eat. In our case, a lot of lettuce, plenty of snow peas, and a moderate amount of cherry tomatoes, chard, spinach, bell peppers, and carrots will do just fine, thank you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Yeah, we had a wee party. Just 8 or 10 people, but it was a wine tasting, soo....



Anyway! I made shrimp salad (chopped shrimp with a sauce made of 2 heaping tablespoons of mayo, a generous pinch of kosher salt, the zest of a large lemon, half its juice, and fresh dill, scissored in) and served it in little bowls made of cucumber slices (must use my melonballer!), plus cheese, crackers, grapes, olives, nuts, and...right. Wine.

Other people brought a Thai salad (sticky rice plus cabbage and marinated beef! YUM!), a Caesar salad, fabulous little crab puffs, an amazing blue cheese (triple cream, duh), mascarpone with fresh rhubarb/strawberry sauce, and 5 or 6 or 8 bottles of Gewurztraminer.

I had a bit of shrimp left over, and since leftover shrimp stinks in God's nostrils, I made a dipping sauce. It was: 1 T of Chinese dark soy (in case you're new: this is a different product from Japanese soy, and entirely wonderful. Go get some.), 1 T unseasoned rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce, one teaspoon of sesame oil, and 2-3 teaspoons of local honey. Stir, stir, stir and you'll get a small amount of a sour, salty, sweet, spicy dipping sauce for shrimp. It's yum. Poof! No more extra shrimp.

Floating to bed, now...


This morning, Iain objected to our plan to go to the store. He was whining, and:

Charles: "Iain, I bet you could get Mommy to wait a while if you tell her you love her."
Charles: "Do you love Mommy?"
Iain: "I love trucks."


Just now, reading the Plan Toys catalog (which he loves) on the sofa:

Iain: "Ooo! A crane!"
Me: "Do you have that crane?"
Iain: "Yeah!"
Me: "Who gave it to you?"
Iain: "My uncle. Uncle Garner."
Me: "You know, Uncle Garner has a baby, too. Your cousin Audrey is his baby. Do you think Audrey needs a present from this book?"
Iain: "Yeah!"
Me: "What does she need?"
Iain: "Food!"
Me: "Oh?"
Iain: "She can come shopping with me."
Me: "To buy food?"
Iain: "MmYeah."

Ok. I was thinking more like a doll house, but food's always nice.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time To Get Out the Cookie Sheets?

I have a bet going with my students. Here's how it went down:

It was hot, y'all. HOT. For weeks! I was sweating in my twin sets, lecturing away with the lights out and the windows open. I hate to be hot.

Finally, I told the students I'd figured out that there wasn't ever going to be a winter. This whole storyline about skiing and mountains and cold weather was clearly a ruse. No matter what they said, the truth was that we were going to be puffing away in 80-degree sunshine all year.

My students found this amusing. In particular, the ones who are elite skiers thought it was funny. So I told them that since there was never going to be winter, they were obviously not really skiers. "Why are you here?" I asked. "Is it witness protection?" They said no, that they were actually an international super-spy ring. Sure, ok.

But anyway, then they made me a bet. They claim it will snow by Halloween. If it does, I have to make cookies for them. If it does not...they have to make cookies. So either way, the ravenous teenagers get cookies. And me, too.

I wasn't worried. Two days ago, it was 70. Today, it's 65. Tomorrow, 63. So is it likely we'll see snow next week? No! And yet...

Oh. Hm. That's unexpected. I guess I'll need to break out the boots. And the cookie sheets. Snickerdoodles? Chocolate chip? Peanut butter? Shortbread? So many options.

In other news, tonight Iain and I had this conversation:

"What are you going to dream about tonight?"
"Really? What kind of food?"
"Grilled cheese."
"Oh, ok."


!!!Parent/Teacher Conferences

OMG! Home-made peach jam!!!

EDIT: And apples fresh off a backyard tree!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Into the Void

Tomorrow: my first parent/teacher conferences.

Well, not my first. My first as the teacher.

We had our reallytruly first parent/teacher conference this afternoon - with Iain's teacher.

She provided a surprising level of detail for a kid who's 2.5. There was a personalized report sheet - language skills, potty training, interaction with other kids, listening, independence and motor skills (both gross and fine).

Then we talked about Iain's proclivities. He likes to open up his jam sandwich and pull out the jam for eating and smearing. This they discourage. He likes to drop his grapes all over the floor. They feel he ought to pick up his messes. He feels that his messes are someone else's problem. Etc. etc.

It was interesting. About a month ago, Charles had a chat with Iain's teacher about napping. Among other things, he told her that sometimes one has to be forceful. As in: he's 2. If he wants out of the cot during nap, order him back in.

She tried it. And - shock - it worked. So she's been "providing lots of direction" to him in other ways, too. And guess what? That's working! It turns out that sometimes when you want a toddler to do something you have to really make your point with a serious tone of voice.

Tomorrow I get to sit on the other side of the table.

Monday, October 18, 2010

If It Ain't One Thing...

For the first few weeks of school, Iain struggled to settle down. He refused to nap. Because he didn't nap, he was a disruptive element during Quiet Time, forcing the teachers to skip their breaks and keeping other kids awake.

All this has passed. He naps regularly now, for a solid 2 hours. His teacher says this is Murphy's Law of naptime - the minute you complain to the parents the kid starts napping like magic.

For us, though? He's become quite a handful. Crying when he doesn't get his way, demanding ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and snack!), deconstructing the bathroom (toilet paper in the shower! Towels in the toilet bowl! Trash upended!), tossing his toys over the baby gate when not pulling out entire dresser drawers or strewing every single wet wipe we own onto the floors. And then there's his wake up call: "Maaaammaaaa! I poooped!"

Calgon, take me away.

Stay tuned for more photos of my raised beds. I've pretty much decided to paint them this weekend, and the supports for my PVC bed covers have been (cleverly) attached by Charles and Grandad. So within a week or so, I should be able to display a fantastically beautiful little garden, all ready for spring planting.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SuperGranDad to the Rescue!

What I learned in Kentucky: if your soil is bad, don't garden in it! Just build a box, toss in good soil, and pretend everything's all right.

Iain's Grandad is visiting. He arrived (by train!) late last night and in less than 24 hours turned what you see above into a potential urban farm.

Ok, maybe not quite that much. BUT, he helped to make real my dream of raised beds. This morning (after Iain enlivened brunch at The Dodo by vomiting! Joy!) we toddled over to Home Depot for a little hardware action.

Mmm...power tools...

The result you see above. 2x12 boards, cut into lengths of 4 and 2 feet. Grandad suggested we use a kind of bracket used in floor joists and other such things:

So the box is thick (strong) and held together with 8 screws (strong). It'll be deep enough for carrots, if I ever want to plant them, and it's deep enough to hold the blueberry bushes I bought last spring. We measured the space and decided on 4 beds, each narrow enough to reach across but each long enough for 8 square feet portions (I like Square Foot Gardening - no weeding and lots of yum!)
Note the changing leaves. This morning I cut back our neighbor's pyracantha and guess what I saw? No, guess! Her turban squash has grown up into the tree, and there are 3 large squash hanging like ripe fruit, ten feet in the air. Whee! Also, our neighbor's Red Delicious apple tree is speckled with gorgeous orbs. Must go over there and help her out.

Imagine 4 of these. I'll be using the lasagna method (read all about it) to fill the beds this fall, then planting in spring. Lasagna works like this: a layer of wet cardboard, a layer of peat moss, a layer of grass clippings, rinse, repeat. It attracts worms and basically composts into nice soil by spring. And it's handy, since you need someplace to put all those leaves, anyway. You can literally chuck your kitchen scraps straight in, if you're feeling saucy.

I'm still mulling whether to build a green bean trellis or just get a tuteur from the garden center and consider it garden architecture.

You can't see it now, but before these go down for good we're attaching brackets to hold short lengths of PVC piping. They'll hold up landscape fabric so that in early spring I can plant seedlings without worrying about late snows. It's like a cold frame, but easier. I can't wait for early lettuce. Mmm...lettuce. Must.Order.Seeds!!!

I'm also considering painting them. Perhaps orange? Something that will contrast with the green of the grass and the plants. What do you think? Rainbow?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Running, Working, Talking on the Phone

This morning, downstairs, Iain ran through the hallway to the den. He ran. Not his special, patented fast-toddle, but real running. He's 2.5 and that's the first time I've really seen him run.

Meanwhile, his verbal skills remain interesting, if not exceptional. Last night he walked around with an old digital kitchen timer, holding it to his cheek. "No, I won't be home," he said, "I have to work." Then he took up his broom and walked around the living room sweeping and saying, "I'm working. I'm busy working!"

Mom and Dad, of course, are *actually* busy working. Last week was a madhouse of service projects, lectures, discussions and activities plus soccer games and socializing. This week is parent/teacher conferencing, both for my students and Iain. Joy!

So today we're taking it easy. Oh, wait. We're not. We went to the store (Halloween candy!), Charles is killing the Vinca (it's a family trait to have awesome plant-killing skills), and I've been changing all the sheets, doing the laundry, and tidying the kitchen. That bag? What bag? Oh, the bag of grading I brought home? Not now. I'm too busy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tractor! [And Brine Shrimp]

I forgot to mention the number one attraction of the Salt Lake Marina parking lot: a tractor. It was pretty neat, actually, and since the place was deserted Iain got a close-up look. Mrs. C. helped him out, and I'm sure her upstate Kentucky tractor experience helped.

Then it was time to head down to the beach. Iain led the way, with his staff bringing up the rear (as is fitting). Once there, though, we noticed a strange sort of sludge all along the waterline. Below, see Miriam's cutie sneakers and the gritty kitty quality of the sand.

What is that stuff? And why does it smell like rotting fish? Or decomposing brains? Or half-composted guts? Or pickled dinosaur toenails???

That's not sand. Not. Sand. In fact, I think it's

When we first moved here I heard a reference to "brine shrimp." I asked Lawrence, "Can you eat them?" and he looked at me funny. Now I know why.

Gross, y'all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Father and Son at the Salt Lake

Above, Charles and Iain walking along the (grody) edge of the lake. Iain was totally engrossed with the water, and seemed unaware of the stench. He kept asking, "Is this Tiki Beach?" [for those of you who do not mumble lines from The Backyardigans in your sleep, that's a line from an episode devoted to surfing.]

It was an overcast day. In his navy and denim, Iain looked fairly cute in person. On camera? He's 17:
Seriously, how big does he look in that picture? It's like he went from 2.5 to fully grown in one morning. He still has that toddler face, though. The one that says, "Wha??"

Monday, October 11, 2010


Desk - Music and Sound Design from Aaron Trinder Film:Motion:Music on Vimeo.

Can't Take Her Anywhere

Miriam comes to visit. Here's the day-by-day breakdown:

Evening 1: At the airport, I see the father and grandfather of one of my students. We walk to dinner, and on the way a car passes. I hear "Oy!" It's a group of my students, yelling their hellos as they pass.

Day 2: We go for coffee. As we pull into the cafe, we see a friend in the parking lot, walking her poodle. Later, we go for a walk and run into one of my students and her mother.

Day 3: Croissants at Tulie. At the next table is a young woman who works up the hill at Mazza, and to whom I once gave the phone number of a shy friend. Sitting at the window of my students. She's doing her Calculus homework.

Day 4: We go for brunch. Entering as we leave: Susan from Iain's camp. We join the throng to say hello, because she's wonderful.

Last night, after Miriam flew away, Charles and I walked Iain to the park. On the way back we saw our neighbor across the street and our neighbor around the corner (who also works with me).

This is a small town, y'all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

For Future Reference - Waffles

Iain at the Great Salt Lake

This morning when Charles suggested that we "replenish our waffle supply," I was willing. But ther recipe..the recipe...

For a while I was making waffles so much that I could whip up a batch without thinking. But we stopped making waffles during The Heat Nightmare, and now that it's cool again my brain is focused on things like how to decorate the house for Halloween.*

So I had to Google the recipe. Bad times. Annoyed Mama. In order to avoid such problems in future, here's the basic recipe:

2 cups flour, 2T sugar, 1T baking powder, 1/2t salt, mix in a bowl. In a large measuring cup: 1 and 3/4 cups milk, 1T vanilla extract, 6T vegetable oil, 2 large eggs and the zest of one large orange or two small ones. Add orange extract if you can find it (!) (Grr!). Mix the two with your whisk, then cook in 1/3 cup measures in the waffle iron.


*We wondered whether Salt Lake would celebrate Halloween. Some places are much, much more interested in Halloween than others. But this week (ok, the second week of October - 2 full weeks before Halloween) houses all over the 'hood have been colonized by giant spiders. Their yards are graveyards ("Susan - worked to death"). One house even has a man tied to the stake, kindling bunched at his feet. There are witches, stocks, skeletons, bats, black cats, pumpkins and webs galore. So we bought a large pumpkin today. Because I don't want to be That House.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

How It Goes

Here's what we do. We watch The Age of Innocence. Happily, Boris saves us from becoming too wrapped up in the plot by producing noxious...never mind. We have this conversation:

M: "When is this?"
F: "The 1890s, I think."
M: "Can't be. Look at the phone."
F: "The phone was around!"
M: "No!"

[consult teh interwebs: Bell publicly demonstrated his phone in 1876, but no one can tell us when most people had one or when you could call New York from Chicago, as the young Ted Archer does.]

M: "Ok, what about those cars? That's not 1890s."
F: "Yeah, but look at the hemlines. Not the teens!"
M: "But the cars!"
F: "But the costumes!"

[consult teh interwebs: Cars were developed in Europe by men like Benz as early as the 1860s, so it's possible. But they don't look like those cars. An IMDB message board suggests that they might be French cars from the 1900s, but then what about those hemlines??]

[consult teh interwebs again: Some sources say that Newland Archer goes to Paris with Ted 25 or 26 years after Ellen leaves New York. That was about 1873, so 26 years later would be...1899! But Ted says he's sailing on the RMS Mauretania, which first sailed in...1906! Good heavens.]

M: "Well, it's Scorsese."
F: "Yeah."
M: "Maybe he was just not that accurate."
F: "Yeah, maybe it was more about the story."
M: "Just how accurate was Gangs of New York?"
F: "Uh....not at all. Not in the least."

End scene.

Woman Cannot Live on (Decliiiiiicious) Bread Alone

But T-Rex can! Iain's dinosaurs want you to know that Jim Lahey's bread is the best thing ever. It's no-knead bread, but it's about ten times better than what I was making before. We mixed up a batch (Miriam brought her book ALL THE WAY FROM DC!), baked it in my Le Creuset pan in a hot oven (475F) and voila!

Nom, nom, nom. Soooo good.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Visit From Miriam

Thin posting this weekend (my weekend started yesterday!) because we're enjoying a visit from Mrs. C.

She caught this shot (including the seldom-photographed The Mom) as we left school. Iain played hard, and his shirt shows it. Please note that The Mom switched from her across-the-body, holds-a-ton, lots-of-zippers handbag to Italian Leatha for the visit. That's the kind of special treatment reserved for Mrs. C.

In other news, this week's flavored soda is Meyer Lemon. Last week was Ginger-Lime. I purchased lemongrass today, as well, so there might be a second batch of soda (for comparison, of course) in a couple of days. That is, if I have time in between lipstick shopping and making bread.

Kees kees.

Monday, October 04, 2010


I picked Iain up from school and we had this conversation:

Iain: "I shared!"
Me: "That's great. What did you share?"
Iain: "Trucks!"
Me: "With whom did you share trucks?"
Iain: "With a monkey."
Me: "Oh, really? Did this monkey have a name?"
Iain: "Yes. Uncle Garner."
Me: hysterical laughter

On the plus side, he seems like he's getting the idea about "who" and "what." On the negative side, Uncle Garner is not a monkey.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What to do on Saturday

My hands, post Play-do

What to do, what to do...after all, it's sunny, beautiful, and forecast to be 90 degrees. Yes, 90. [In fact, it got to be 92 on Saturday, but who's counting?]

So, of course, on such a day (doubtless the very last day of warmth before fall, right? RIGHT?), one should soak up the lingering whiff of summer. Go to the park. Take a swim. Wear shorts. Bask in the pleasures of toasty skin and shimmering surfaces.

Or not.

You could, like us, dissolve into a flurry of activity, ignoring the weather until 6pm. You could:
  • Sweep the floors
  • do the dishes (twice)
  • do the laundry
  • install a new garage door opener
  • buy libations for an upcoming visit
  • grocery shop
  • make a pot roast (not very summery)
  • change the sheets
  • put away old laundry
  • tidy the closets
  • Mount the new mailbox next to the front door
  • wipe down the cabinets, inside and out
  • make Play-Do from scratch (urgh)
  • upload photos, caption all 66 of them, and then discover that the captions failed to register in the system
  • send a birthday gift to your favorite 3 year old
  • cut back all the vegetation near the sandbox, including an entire tree, chop it all into pieces and load up the yard waste bin
  • break down heads of lettuce into pre-made salad fixings
  • pick up all doggie waste in the yard
  • re-locate most of the tools into the furnace room, arranging them on the peg board for ease of use
It was quite a day. We had to take a short nap (not Iain, of course. Don't be ridiculous!) At the end, finally, we took advantage of the nice weather to walk with Iain up to the park. He was so exhausted by our busy day that he fell asleep in the BOB on the way home and slept right through the relocation to his bed.

Tomorrow? 81, but with rain coming. Monday: 72. Tuesday through Thursday: 65. And the rain that begins tomorrow will stay with us all week. So I think fall has finally fallen, and we're in for some sweater weather. I'm ready.

Seriously - food coloring made me look like Lady MacBeth

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Did I Mention the Neighbors?

My neighbor Linda is a master gardener. She's lived in her house since she was a girl, and somehow her tiny lot (just the same size as ours and most everyone else in the city) contains corn, beans, raspberries, apricots, pears, apples, blackberries, currants, squash, greens, tomatoes...who knows what else? Oh, and flowers, of course. She was the first person on the block to dig up her yard, she tells me, and go low-water.

So yesterday she came over with a couple of bags. What you see is a portion of the loot. I am roasting the heirlooms in the oven, and the squash will probably go the same way (with some cracked pepper and thyme from my garden). But the pears can be eaten fresh and whole, just like these cherry tomatoes.

Best of all, she told Charles that we have to come and get more before it's too late. Aye, aye, Ma'am! I'll be right over.

Who wants to come visit? No fighting!