Saturday, April 30, 2011

So Purty

Remember those little Asian conifers I planted in the blue planters? The card said that they produce pretty, light green leaves in spring.

Check it out. I think I love them.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Fireman Iain says: Ma'am, do you need any firefighting help on your birthday? Perhaps assistance with candles? Candles on a cake? A birthday cake?

That's right, party people. Today was Audrey's 2nd birthday. She walks, she talks, she'll soon learn to julienne fries. Or use the potty. One of the two.

Anyway, Iain wishes her a happy birthday, complete with puzzles and blocks and spelling toys. He knows her birthday will have those things, in fact, because he sent her some!

Gotta go. Fires to fight, people to save, strawberries to consume.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fight of the Century Part Two

We showed you round one some time ago. Now they are back with round two. Thanks to

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


We spent 2005-2006 at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Love Bates.

While there, our friend K gave me a tube of this lip gloss - transported all the way from the Berkeley Farmer's Market (lots of carbon miles on that little cylinder? Worth it!). I was hooked immediately.

It's smooth, it's moisturizing, it's not sticky, it rubs on easily. It's perfect. Except you get it at the Berkeley Farmer's Market.

Two years later, K sent me another care package. She's a good egg. But here we are. I hoarded my supply, never lost one, used it sparingly. Eventually, though, I began to run out.

But the difference between 2005 and 2011 is a big one, on teh interwebs. And these days one can order a generous (a profligate) supply with a simple click. I even splurged on a "Peppymint" for variety.

So. Happy. Lips. So. Deliciously. Moist.

Try it.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Last year I planted two peonies. This one, and this one. Bowl of Beauty and Peche, in case you're disinclined to click.

Today, two more. Monsieur Jules Elie and Laura Dessert. Jules Elie is bright pink, while Laura Dessert is yellow, cupped and frilly in the middle. Both are merely reddish stalks right now, but soon...

Also, we welcome a new raspberry: Chilcotin. With these additions, the path around the vegetable garden is partly framed, boasting four peonies, two blackberries, and a raspberry. Eventually, the idea is to have a living fence, with blooming, leafy, thorny, and tasty plants.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Good Day

Iain won three new toys today. Yes, we shower our child with gifts, spoiling him forever.




Please excuse my excitement. He has never, ever, before used the potty at home. Once, long ago at his school far away, he peed in the potty. ONCE. Since then? Nothing. At home? Nothing.

But Charles is persuasive. He lined up a bevy of Matchbox delights where Iain could see them, he sat the kid down and he filled him up with cranberry juice (good for urinary tract health!) (diluted, obvy - a hyper kid on the potty would be bad).

The result: three episodes of potty success in a single day. Iain is, so to speak, swimming in new vehicles.

Mom and Dad? Ecstatic. Absolutely thrilled.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Is How I Roll, Thanks!

Shaky cam strikes again. Seriously: motion sickness warning here.

And Now We Are Three

For his birthday last week, Iain received a scooter bike. No pedals, just a lightweight frame for a kid to push along and coast. Iain can't easily push along his own weight (muscles not up to his mass yet) but he can learn to balance on a moving vehicle.

Not that he's learned yet, of course. But he likes it.

Cracks in the sidewalk take a little consideration. Daddy and Iain had to have a conference about how to handle this challenge.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nothing But Net, People

We are some kind of busy around here, y'all.

Today, aka a whirlwind: Up at 515 to move Iain into the Big Bed for continued sleeping, then up again and out the door to jump the Jeep. Yesterday when I turned the key - nothing. So today we juiced up the battery, drove our 13-year-old beater over to a Goodyear center, and waited for the bill. $139.00, in case you're wondering. While we were out we bought Sudafed, gas, dog food, and two new pairs of jeans for Iain. And a Batman lunchbox (impulse buy).

Then, after a cup of tea, the zoo. We visited the baby elephant (Zuri), the carousel (Iain rode the peacock, while our friend Meg chose the tiger), and the silver-back gorilla, then headed up to fetch Papa, then back down the hill to give the cat his medicine.

Lunch at Finn's (French dip...mmm), home for quiet time (Don't be ridiculous! Of course Iain didn't nap. But I graded for half an hour so I consider it a success), out to the park to fly a kite (not very successful due to inconsistent windage), back home for dinner, back out to give the cat his medicine (again), to Barnes and Noble for magazines and books (stop me before I sin again!), and finally home for good.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Monday, we attended a seder.

Years ago, my mother made a wonderful pan of stewed dried fruit, nuts, and spices. Hank and I waited until other guests strolled into the dining room, then scarfed up the entire bowl. We're bad children.

Anyway, I never, ever get the name of that dish (haroset) right. I always mix it up, just as I do with the Jewish donuts Mother made one year (donuts: sufganiyot. I usually call them Afikomen, which is the matzoh you hide during the seder. Completely different, obvy.).

So when we received an invitation, what did I volunteer to bring? Tsimmes. Because I thought I was saying haroset. But by the time I realized that - as usual - I'd said the wrong thing, it seemed like the best choice just to make the tsimmes. And haroset.

We did. Both. And it was Megan to the rescue in both dishes.

For the haroset, Mother ground dried cherries and apricots with raw almonds and cran-pomegranate juice. It was pretty good, but then she said "You don't have any Garam Masala, do you?" Why yes. Yes, I do. Thanks, Megan!

Then I had to make the haroset. Crap. You see what I just did? I meant the tsimmes. Gah.

Tsimmes is just roasted root veggies. I chopped sweet potatoes, carrots, white potatoes (waxy) and a half of a sweet onion into a large roasting pan. Fresh thyme, olive oil, a handful of dried cranberries (tsimmes is traditionally slightly sweet), a generous sprinkle of kosher salt, and a handful of pine nuts and voila! would be so much better with a little kick. What if...I got down the Turkish spices Megan sent me after her trip to Istanbul? What if I ground white pepper, coriander seeds, and a little Kofte Bahari?

Megan sent a little spice grinder. Did I say that? All inclusive gifts, these. So I ground everything, then added olive oil because the book on Indian cooking she sent (!) talked about making spice-infused oil.

Tossed together, roasted at 430 for 45 minutes, it was truly delicious. We sailed confidently into the vegetarian seder with our offerings, and everyone enjoyed them.

The end.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

More Kitchen

Bookshelves! Full of cookbooks but also gardening books because it turns out I don't have enough cookbooks to fill the shelf. Hmmm....

Finished (Almost)

Yay! Pop up vent! Proper cooktop that works on all four burners! Plug where I can use it! Flat countertop with usable space! Lots of exclamation points!

There are two things missing. One cabinet needs someplace where you can fit in your fingers (like, to open it). The floor under the bar needs a few spots of polyurethane wiped off with solvent. Otherwise, it's done. Wheee!

In other news, our house guests arrived. They're currently making trouble with Iain, which is their wont.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Getting There

We wanted a countertop from IKEA. Maple, light glaze, big enough to cut to size. But IKEA is a fickle mistress. Between the time we picked out a color and the time we wanted it (about 3 weeks), the item disappeared from the warehouse. Boo.

So Chris had to build a countertop for us. That pushed back the timing by a day or two, but the results are pretty wonderful. He glued strips of maple together, then cut to size (note the angle - that's to accommodate the fridge doors), then sanded and finished in place.

All I have to say about that is: sawdust. OMG. Sweeping, mopping, never getting it from the crevices. Gah.

But when the cooktop went in I started to think, "This could be ok."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kitchen, Part 2

Uh, Mom. Mom? Where's the island?

Oops! It's gone.

Tonight we drove past Highland High and Iain said, "That's my building." "That's Highland High School, honey." "Yes. I will go to Hillannn Hi ummm...when I'm three."

Also, he demanded "Pancakes in a restaurant." So I took him up to the Blue Plate where he consumed a pancake (in the shape of a teddy bear head) and a side of bacon.

I had to convince him to try the little puffs of whipped cream on the pancake. "It's like pudding!" That didn't work at first, but once he tried it he was all over that cream.

The bacon came on its own plate, and when it arrived he said "BACON!" and the table behind him burst into laughter. Then they ordered a BLT, a bacon cheeseburger, and a plate of sweet potato wedges. Mmm...bacon.

So this is what our new island looked like, at first. Three boxes, one on its side (covering the hole in the ground so little boys don't get all up in there).

More pictures of the island as it developed. Coming soon...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kitchen Island, Part One

Above and below, a series of photos of our old kitchen island. Here's the logic of the new island:
  • Our cooktop was really only useful on the right side. The left is a grill (see below) and the grill doesn't get hot enough to actually cook anything.
  • We researched the cooktop. Turns out it gets terrible reviews everywhere. Ours is 11 or 12 years old, but even the new ones have exactly the same problems ours has. The central vent sucks the flame sideways, the burners are all low-BTU, the grill side can't sear, etc., etc.
  • Replacing the grill side with burners costs hundreds of dollars. And if we did that we'd have...a newer crappy cooktop! Not a good option.
  • But if we replace the cooktop entirely, and get another with a central vent, our choices are 3. Yes, 3.
  • Buying a regular cooktop with a popup vent costs the same amount, but you have a lot more choices. But wait!
  • Blue tile means if you want to tear out the cooktop and put in a new one plus 2-inches of vent, you need to break up the tile and replace the countertop.
  • Oh, wait. The island isn't quite big enough for the vent. So you need to pop out the island cabinet by a couple of inches.
At this point, don't you think the best option is to replace the island? You're building a new cabinet, replacing the countertop, and replacing the appliances. Might as well just go whole hog. Mmm...bacon.

When we talked to our new bestie, Chris, about doing all this work, he started making suggestions. How about undermounting the garbage can? How about a bookshelf on the end of the island? how about self-closing drawers?

Yes! Yes, and yes. Plus a pot-lid holder, mounted pot racks on the wall, and changing the one outlet on the island from underneath the bar (as in: by your knees) to on the side (where you can actually plug something in! Imagine!).

What you see here is no more. It was gone Monday. So stay tuned for photos of the process, then of the finished product. Tomorrow.

Because it's not yet done. Not quite. Almost!

Anyway, say goodbye to the existing island. And get ready for the new island complete with a maple countertop, fully-functional gas range, popup vent, and lovely little bookshelf to hold my cookbooks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Big Changes

Wow. Not just a new kitchen island (Not done yet - pictures to come. Don't be greedy!), but house guests, then new neighbors (Very Special Neighbors), and a big whopping holiday.

Iain's ready. Not tanned or rested, but ready. So are the dogs:

Pillow sharing. A canine tradition in this house since 1998.

Everything else plugs right along. I had to postpone my Civil Rights lecture because my throat is sore. So we watched LBJ be all...Johnson-y instead.* For some reason, my students were particularly struck by the size of LBJ's ears.

The garden grows. It's 60 degrees here, sunny right now but calling for rain tonight. So those tiny seedlings in my raised bed should be happy as can be. This weekend I'm planting carrots and maybe shopping for some more herbs. Oh, and planting nasturtium seeds. I need to call our sprinkler guy, too, and get some irrigation for the beds.

All in all, much to do.

*Example: Images of Johnson picking up beagles by their ears, standing ULTRA-CLOSE to people, and showing off his gall bladder removal scar. That Johnson, he was a funny guy. When he wasn't bombing stuff.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring and Snow

Yep, snow. These pictures are 2 weeks ago (late March - I'll save you the counting), but the same thing appeared yesterday. Today it's all melting off the roofs and all you hear outside is dripping water.

But spring cannot be denied. She is coming, y'all, and fast. My neighbor's tulips are up though not yet open. Above, the Japanese maple wants to spread some leaves and below the small ornamental cherries don't care about a little snow. Pfft!

Even the roses are getting in on the action. They've got leaves emerging and pretty soon they'll realize we killed all that awful vinca. When they do? Growth-city, people. The whole bed belongs to them, now.

Iain wanted to make footprints in the snow. And he did. Here's hoping that next year he accepts the idea of boots. He'd get a lot more outside time if he'd adopt the whole "warm gear" approach.

In other news, today we bought him some Thomas the Tank Engine underwear. Because hope springs eternal. And what's the point of having an awesome washer and dryer if we can't pee in the bed now and then? Seriously.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Pro-Science, Anti-Woo, Animated Poetic Rant

Potentially NSFW:
If you have ten minutes and a tolerance for a bit of bad language, I recommend checking out this animated adaptation of a Tim Minchin poem.
The link will take you to the Boing Boing article where I found this. Thanks Cory Doctorow and Boing Boing for standing up for science.
(Note: this may be not safe for work in some workplaces and I recommend headphones if others are around to overhear and potentially take offense. The language and poetic imagery may not be appropriate for children.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

10:44 PM and All is Not Quiet

We're watching Mad Men on Netflix.

Charles leans over and says "Are we hearing your son snoring through the wall?"

Uh, that would be affirmatory, Cap'n.


Deep in the Middle of the Dark, Dark Woods...

I walked in and found Iain and Daddy making a tent. Apparently, they were pretending to be Kipper and Tiger, and inside the tent they were "reading" a book.

It goes, "Deep in the middle of the dark, dark woods...there lived a terrible tremendous, horrible horrendous..." and then someone says "Squeak!" and you have to go find out if there's a monster outside the tent.

After Daddy wore out, I took a turn, sitting under the tent, holding the "torch" (a cylinder piece of Iain's block set) and pretending to be really, really scared. Occasionally, I said "Do you think there are bears in these woods?" and Iain replied "I shouldn't think so."

Good times.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

More Lunch

Like a bento, except on a plate. Mozzarella flowers, mandarin oranges, red grapes, a butter and jam sandwich (four berry jam, naturally), banana yogurt and a small pile of carrot sticks.

You'll want to discard those carrot sticks right away. They're "YUCK!" Also, they ruin the concentric circles of your lunch.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Germination, people! I saw three tiny seedlings today. Lettuce, here I come.

In other news, I was showing Iain the mail. There was a letter for Daddy and I pointed out our last name. Then I pointed to a piece of Iain's artwork from school. "See," I said, "how the name we all share is here, but it shows your name here and Daddy's name here?"


"Iain, Daddy's a [Smith], and so am I, and so are you."



"You're a nutnut."

What could I say to that?

GERMINATION!! I took some photos Sunday morning in the snow, so stay tuned. We've got lilac buds forming, green leaves unfurling, and the lawns are perking up all over the place.

And while we're on the subject of change...a new kitchen island will appear on Monday. The cooktop and vent arrived last week, the cabinetry, countertop, and hardware (pot lid holder! Undermounted trash!) go in next week. Joy.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Planted at Last

Done, done, and done. Iain accompanied me to Millcreek Gardens today and we snapped up 6 specimens of dwarf Norway spruce. They will grow (slowly) to about three times the current size, and can be trimmed in any way we like. So we can bonsai them or just shape them to suit the space.

They're characterized by the small, mounded habit and also by the fact that they pop out with gorgeous, bright green leaves in spring. They're about ready to do so now, and what appear to be brown spots are actually new leaves forming.

While at Millcreek, I couldn't resist two of these. They're Mariken Maidenhair Tree, also known as dwarf gingko. They're a deciduous conifer, so they will grow bright green, gingko-shaped leaves, stay small, turn yellow in fall, and drop their leaves for winter. Our garden plan calls for bamboo and conifers as anchor plantings (along with the 2 fruit trees I already planted) and small shrubs as accents. So these two are the first of the shrubs.

Last, and smallest, I tucked two 4" pots of variegated lemon thyme into my herb bed. It was 70F today, but tonight it's going to snow and tomorrow the high is forecast to be in the 40s. So only cold-hardy herbs until May. But still: edibles!