Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Then and Now

Above, April 3. Yes, April 3, 2011. Snow on my garden. Underneath, little seedlings grew despite the weather. And now...

Ta Da! Check out the progress over the last 8 weeks:

The pea shoots reach up about 9 inches, almost to the netting. The lettuces are fully grown and I've begun to harvest them. Charles prefers a crunchier salad, but for me these tender baby leaves are divine.

Below, the spinach and Swiss chard. The spinach loves all the rain we've been getting, so it's going gangbusters. The chard took an incredible amount of time to germinate, but now things seem to be moving ahead. Slowly. Those plants are about the size of a quarter, so there's a ways to go before we'll be eating chard with dinner.

Salad, anyone? Purple leaves, speckled leaves, green leaves, I got whatever you like. Except crunchy. If I planted Romaine seeds I can't find them now. Oh, well.

Monday, May 30, 2011


9:53: "Oh my word! I have too much work to do."

From his darkened bedroom, almost 2 hours after bedtime.

And 3 minutes later: "BETTY BOOP!"

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Clouds wrapped around the skyscrapers on Thursday afternoon.

Saturday morning we rose, cleaned the apartments, gathered our luggage, chatted with the landlady, and sallied forth for brekkie.

Then the group split into three. My colleague led some people down to the Brooklyn Bridge while I peeled off two students for a walk to the Museum of Natural History. We trekked across the Park to Strawberry Fields and the Dakota, turned right up Central Park West, and popped into the darkest, coolest part of the trip. At some point, one student wondered about the A/C bill - it must be a whopper.

We enjoyed a planetarium show, toured the mineral exhibit and giggled at the fattie walrus in the room devoted to sea life. The Museum of Natural History is a bizarre place. Half of it appears to have been preserved in amber: placards under the minerals identified origins such as "USSR" and "West Germany." Uh...

But other parts (the planetarium, for instance) look brand-new. So maybe they're preserving the older exhibits for retro fun. In any case, it was great fun and (most importantly) very, very cool.

After that we caught a cab over to Butterfield's, bought snacks, and returned to the apartment to catch the Supershuttle.

JFK. All I have to say about that is that it will haunt my dreams until I die. The end.

But we made it back in one piece, sent all our charges home to a warm welcome from Mom and Dad, swam home through the rain, and collapsed into bed. It was a great trip, but of course I'm glad to be home.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New York, Next-To-Last-Day (5?)

Can't I just go to sleep and awake at home? I'm sooooo tired. BUT!

Yesterday we visited Ellis Island, walked by the New York Stock Exchange, drove past Ground Zero, ate lunch in SoHo, and dined at the Gramercy Tavern.*

Today we trekked to MoMA**, lunched at The Modern, visited with my old, old friend Joel, rose to the Top of the Rock, walked down to Grand Central Station (bought a chocolate croissant from a place called - I kid you not - "Hot and Crusty"), popped into Vosges chocolate for some chocolate-covered bacon, slurped a Frostee at 7-11, then ordered Indian food into the apartment and watched a Men in Black marathon. Other groups went to Strawberry fields and the Dakota, shopped (more), and ordered sushi OR went to a Mets game and ate foot-long Nathan's hot dogs.

Whew! One more day. One more day. One more day.

* Party of five, round table, middle of the room. A truly spectacular experience, and big props to the Gramercy Tavern for treating a group of 17-year-olds with the respect any client deserves. When I explained that we could not order any alcohol, the captain offered me a full menu of non-alcoholic cocktails, cider, and beer. So my students thoroughly enjoyed having proper drinks before dinner.

We ate an amuse (a goat cheese puff), then the spring tasting menu (vegetarian for one young man). It included soft-shell crab, rabbit, venison, and trout. We shared a cheese platter with five cheeses - Italian, French, English and two American (one from New York, the other from Vermont). There was a dessert amuse as well, a tiny evocation of strawberry shortcake. Then we chose dessert from a French toast option and a chocolate banana option. After that, mignonettes (chocolate truffles, tiny chocolate mousse tarts, and weensy teensy macarons with black cherry filling), coffee and tea, and as a last (last) gift little bags of cinnamon coffee cake "for breakfast."

The only hilarious bit was the whenever we asked about the bathroom, someone insisted on leading us to it rather than telling us where it was. I went last, and I said "Will you take me to The Room That Cannot Be Named?" Our captain hardly blinked. He just said, "Of course, Madam."

** I'd just like to say that the photography exhibit at MoMA is extremely disturbing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New York, Day 3(ish)

Today we visited the Tenement Museum. It's on Orchard Street, but here's a tip: when you cross Allen and get to Orchard: turn left. Not right. Right will result in walking an extra six blocks, desperately trying to call for directions (busy signal!) and hoping they don't cancel your reservation.

BUT, once you finally locate the correct place...the tour's great. Just as interesting as I remember from our half-day there in 2009. I think the students enjoyed themselves, but next time I'll know not to feed them an amazing lunch in Chinatown right before the tour. Zzzzzz....

[Wok-fried short ribs with sauteed garlic chips!!!]

Also, but earlier, we visited St. Pat's. Who could resist student demands to shop? Not me. But who wants to shop in mid-town? Not me.

Solution: the grownups basked in the cool, dark pleasures of the cathedral.

Tomorrow morning: Ellis Island. And after that, anything's possible. Maybe SoHo, maybe MoMA, maybe an outing where all four letters are capitalized.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And today, the Met

I've never been to the Metropolitan Museum before.

I know. Family from New York, numerous trips to New York for pleasure and business, many opportunities to visit and even one moment when I walked into the lobby with Dr. Culver yet I never closed the deal.

So today, with the help of my students, I finally managed to visit the Met. The girls joined me (we had a long lunch) and we passed the boys on the way out. They recommended we visit the third/fourth floor of the American wing to see the colonial rooms. Apparently, my taller student bonked his head (more than once) on the ceiling. It's low.

I also managed to get a nice, fuzzy cell-phone shot of a Tiffany window. That was one of the more colorful, and larger items on display. Like the British Museum, the building basically holds a bizarre mixture of ancient Babylonian textile fragments, jewel-encrusted snuff boxes, masks from Cameroon, and shiny portraits of women wearing elaborate dresses.

I liked it.

There's a ladies room on the ground floor of the American Wing. I overheard one young woman saying to another, "Like, I hate it when my highlights get all, like, brassy." Indeed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Yawk!

While Iain splashed around at the texture table (and endured yet another biting incident), I escorted 13 students to New York with two of my colleagues.

And aside from a little snafu with the transportation from JFK to the UES, it's been a great success. A lovely brownstone to stay in, a hearty meal (no, really: burgers, fries, onion rings, and for the male students cheesecake. Just roll me back to the apartment...), a bouquet of flowers and bagels for tomorrow.

See you at the Met!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fun in the Cafeteria

Yesterday, Iain attended the very first of my school's carnivals. It's a new tradition established by this year's seniors.

He sat still for face painting (a yellow lightning bolt), made a bracelet at the Pride Alliance table, pinned the tail on a lion (our mascot), threw a ball with the Latin Club, requested and received a balloon dragon, picked up three little balsa-wood gliders from the Make Club, and made a T-shirt with his name on it. That last item included the fun of using spritzer paint, so it's a little Breakin' Two: Electric Boogaloo.

But the food was the thing, as with all such events. The lines for cotton candy and popcorn proved too long. Still. Iain ate: a strawberry, a lollipop, a cupcake, and a freshly-made crepe with nutella and blueberries (mmmm...French Club).

All week it rained, so the most impressive thing about the carnival was the way they handled adversity. Electric bull? No problem - put it in the gym. Likewise the huge, slide-enhanced bouncey castles and the velcro wall. In the middle school lobby the jazz band played while games and tables filled the cafeteria. It's all so Utah - torrential rains can't get these folks down. They just make an alternate plan and keep on truckin'.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Undies and MREs

Undie Watch: Day 3
  • Tomorrow will be Day 4 of wearing undies to school. It's all very exciting.
  • So far, no accidents at school. Charles correctly surmised that Iain is not so much potty training as refusing to potty at all while at school.
  • This presents a minor problem when, as happened Monday and Tuesday, he decides to potty in his pants the moment he arrives home.
  • BUT! I have hope. Today I made him go before we left school. He did (standing!), we departed, and at home things were fine.
  • So we have a long way to go, but every day without a diaper is a triumph.
Meanwhile, at school I fed my students MREs. Actually, "fed" is a misleading word. I demonstrated the MRE technology and they observed with limited tasting.

For example, they willingly sampled the Skittles and M&Ms, sniffed and gingerly sipped the apple cider, Chocolate Hazelnut Cocoa, and cappucino (yes, MREs come with cappucino). They ate beef jerky, granola bars, cookies, muffin tops, and power bars.

But they did not, would not, absolutely could not eat the main course. There's something about the hot entree in an MRE that smells like cat food. I don't know what it is, but the mystery ingredient makes everyone pull back like a skittish horse. Nostrils flaring, they say, "Uh, no." And who can blame them?

It was cool, though. They were fascinated by the heating element, the diversity of the packets, and the way MREs try to provide the familiar and the comforting (chicken noodle soup!) for people who need a taste of home.

So big thanks to my FIL, who made it possible. And in case the Army's paying attention: the BBQ ribs were revolting. Really, truly bad. But the meatballs were ok, and the vegetarian lasagna's just fine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Top of the World

My friend Gary made it to the top of the world today. Way to go Gary!
You can read the story of his adventure so far at his blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Drum Roll, Please

Today Iain wore undies to school.

All day.

No accidents. No change of clothes, no diaper (I think - they may have put one on him during nap).

It's all pretty exciting.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garden Progress

We ruminated on the question of a tree all winter. Should be bite the (financial) bullet and buy a Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar? They grow so slowly, and require such careful training, that they cost the moon. Like, a lot.

But that was for 7 or 8 foot tall specimens. I realized, at some point, that our fence is 6 feet tall. So a spiny, skeletal tree 8 feet tall might look kinda...strange. Also, it's a small yard. One thing we admire about the WBAC is that it's a lot of drama in a relatively small volume.

So last week I just leapt. There was a smallish specimen available for a reasonable price and I had a Groupon. Who could resist such a combination?

Ain't she purty?

In other news, spring has brought her characteristic neon green to everything. The grass, shrubs, and trees are bursting with new growth, all of it practically glowing. Charles put together the umbrella last weekend and today Iain ate brekkie under it - two brekkies if we're being precise.

I've also begun to dig out the grass along the fence line. The idea is to plant the four foundation items (two fruit trees we planted last fall plus the WBAC and a clumping bamboo I have yet to buy), then plant a small number of attractive shrubs underneath and along the fence. Granite boulders to line the edge will help keep everything tidy.

Doing it all by hand, though: wow. Tough work. Thank goodness I have my trusty new wheelbarrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Nap at Grandma's House

He's not asleep right now (only 10:19! Why sleep?), but this afternoon he made a little nest on Grandma's sofa and off he went to slumberland.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Product Testing

You may have heard about my new helmet. It's for biking. I'm a biker.

But we take our gear seriously. So I had to do a little product testing. Upside down check? Yes! Tickle check? Yes!!

I think we can call this helmet a success. It's a keeper.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Seismic Change

Hi. See how everything's bathed in sunlight? That's because I got the best birthday present ever. Evar.


Welcome to my orbit, Grandparental Units. Here, we eat jam on everything, refuse to nap, and demand constant play. I hope you're ready.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Safety First

Remember the video of Iain wobbling, listing, and tilting as he rolled down the sidewalk? That kid needs a helmet.

Luckily, Nana sent him a little birthday present intended to ensure his safety. Tonight we applied it to a Nutcase helmet. As you can see, it's an 8-ball theme. Inside the lining reads "I love my brain."

We do, too.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Potty Nightmares

Monday: Iain wakes, strips off his diaper, pees on the bed, pees on the floor next to the changing table, then walks to the babygate and calls out to his father "Daddy! I have to go potty!"

Tuesday: Iain potties at school, earning an M&M at home. He then produces "the world's tiniest poop" for Grandma, earning a toy truck.

Wednesday: Epic potty battle as Iain claims he needs to go, then gets up and announces that he needs a diaper so he can poop in it.

Thursday: All quiet on the potty front until bedtime. He goes to bed. He gets up and says he needs to potty. Nothing. Back to bed. Up again. Nothing. Each time, he attempts to convince us that he should be allowed to sleep in our bed. Ha.

On the one hand, all this is massive progress. He actually potties in the potty almost every day.

BUT. He seems to consider the potty useful on two fronts:
  • It's a novelty. You wouldn't want to do it all the time, but once a day or so it's amusing.
  • It's a great way to get some candy or a new toy. If the nutso parents decide this is the new standard for toy delivery, fine.
Our next challenge will be to convince him that the potty is a substitute for diapers. In other words: abandon the diapers entirely. Right now he thinks that's hilarious.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

I love spring

The sun is shining. Today the mercury rose to 60 degrees F, tomorrow the same, Friday 74! My garden grows, Iain can play outside and in 2 days my students will take their AP exam.

In short: a good month, May.

At the dinner table tonight, Iain said, "I'm going to be a chicken."

Monday, May 02, 2011

Germination Station

OK, I admit it. Not the prettiest pea growing setup I've ever seen. But this is only my second try and it's no uglier than last time (2 years ago, a trio of bamboo stakes. The problem with those was no horizontal support. The peas couldn't get up the stakes and kept flopping over.). I doubt it will really do the trick, but we'll see.

In other news, volunteer flowers! Who knew? I'm planning to plant the poo right out of this side bed, now that I know there are bulbs in there. Hyacinth, daffodil, tulip and maybe lily are going in next fall.

Germination continues apace. Above, pea shoots. They're about an inch and a half high now, growing fast with all the rain and sun we've had. Is that confusing? Weather here is a weird, weird thing. It may rain, then hail, then snow, then sleet, then the sun comes out and it's 60 degrees. The plants - Utah born - just shrug.

Last but not least, the carpet of lettuce. I'm emulating Kate's big beds full of leaves. They made me drool. I sprinkled seed a few weeks ago, but it took a while to get any germination (too cold). Now everything's growing, and I re-seeded a week ago. My fingers are crossed that in three weeks I'll have something fresh to munch on.

But we already ate from the garden. Tonight's stir-fried bell peppers benefitted from a sprinkle of curly parsley and lemon thyme - grown by me!

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Above, the herb plants in situ. This is the bed anchored by two blueberry bushes. They're still little sticks, though, so you can't really see them in the photo. All around them I planted: nasturtium, rosemary, curly parsley, cilantro, tarragon, lemon verbena, sage, Greek oregano (haven't tried it? Try it!), and two variegated lemon thyme plants. I love thyme.

Here's that Greek oregano. Regular Italian oregano is great, I agree. And for pizza or red sauce that's the thing. But Greek oregano has a special flavor you simply cannot get otherwise. And in a spice paste, on chicken, and with flatbreads (in other words: pizza ain't all Italian), it's amazing.

Oh, lemon verbena, how I love you. You grow so big, you smell so good, you flavor my ice cream so subtly. I adore you. Kees kees.

Lots of lettuce and pea sprouts, so far surviving a freak cold snap (29 degrees F!!). Fingers crossed that they continue to thrive. Our apple and pear trees are leafing out, too, so spring is ready to rumble.