Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Loving This

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh Nom, Nom, ZZZZzzzzzz

The other day Charles served Iain his dinner, then sat down to read while the kiddo ate.

But after a while he thought, "'s kind of quiet back there."

Well, yes. Because Iain ate his dinner, then put his head down and went straight to sleep, ketchup-face and all.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tomato Freakout 2011

Lots and lots of little, tiny tomatoes. The larger ones are tastier, but the smaller ones are available in glorious profusion.

Meanwhile, in carrot-land:

That's the entire harvest. Let me give you some perspective on size:

Yeah. I did something wrong, obvy. Better luck next time. Care for a tomato?

Thursday, August 25, 2011



[We are sitting at the table, eating dessert. Mother baked fresh brownies and served them with vanilla ice cream.]

Iain [coming out of the bedroom after the end of an episode of Busytown]: "Can I have more Busytown?"
Charles: "Come try this"
Iain: "Oh, ok."

[He eats all of Charles' dessert.]

Charles: "Iain, did you enjoy that brownie and ice cream?"
Iain: "Uh, huh."
Charles: "What do you say to Grammy?"

[Looong pause]

Iain [looking at his grandmother across the table]: "Can I have some of yours?"


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Fence

Above, the fence before. Our dilemma was this: how can we justify a new fence? We hated the color and the toothy look. But the previous owners installed this fence and it's only about 2 years old. To rip out a practically-new fence seems wasteful and profligate. What to do?

Our solution was a face lift for the fence. We asked Dylan the Fence Guru to add trim to the top, sort of like adding crown moulding to a new condo. On the inside, that's all you see (above). But on the outside he added a few strips of trim to add some depth to the fence and to give it a flatter, more square appearance.

Above, you can see the extra trim and the way it makes the fence look more like our house - a low, prairie bungalow. Below, a closeup of the trim Dylan added. You can see that it's basically just a mask over the original fence.

Then we turned to the side yard. Recall that our yard is shaped like an "L." Behind the house is the short end of that "L," and Charles suggested making it into a private garden. Eventually, we plan to install a hot tub on the concrete pad back there. But even before that, making this portion of the yard private (ie, fenced and gated) allows us to keep the dogs back there. Dogs in nook = no poop in the main yard. Hallelujah!

Above, the pergola in progress, with part of the previous fence removed. Those are the steps down to the basement.

What replaced all that? Below, the pergola and fence to the side yard. I took these photos tonight at dusk (in an excess of zeal to get them to you) so it looks darker than it does in bright sunshine.

We employed the ever-useful interwebs to find a fence design. Then Dylan modified it for our bizarre, wonky space (No two panels are exactly alike because the space was all tilty, turny, wide and narrow and it had to parallel the garage and the house and the fence. Poor Dylan!).

Eventually, we plan to plant some interesting things back there (like maybe hops to climb the pergola?). In the short term, the dogs have a private space away from the street. We thought they might bark less, but in fact they're so irritated at being separated from the sidewalk that they bark to get back inside almost immediately. Hmph.

Below, the fence proper. Stained to match the roof of our front porch, the fence is much, much darker than it was. We had to go dark in order to neutralize the incredibly red stain already on the fence. But dark has its virtues. This fence will absorb (and thus, radiate) more heat in winter, keeping the trees happier. It also looks a lot better against the red of our brick house and the sage green of the trim paint.
And I like the way the trees pop against it, too. At first, Iain didn't like it and said so. Repeatedly. But now he likes to point out "my new fence."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


So I'm on the phone with Miriam, chatting about the day's events.


She starts screaming and freaking out and the house is apparently shaking. It's a four-story house, y'all. That's a lot to shake.

Once outside, once the world again stabilized, things calmed down. But she commented, "I'm so glad I don't live in California." Yes, I think that would be a bad idea, given how much she really, really hated that earthquake.

5.9. Centered in Virginia. You don't experience that every day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"I Say Interesting Things"

So announced Iain tonight.

Anyway, tonight was the annual block party. Somehow, I found myself part of the Triumvirate of Deciders last week. As a result I spent this afternoon shaping hamburger patties and making cucumber pickles (sunomono) for the crowd. My co-conspirators brought sausages, condiments, tables, chairs, linens, paperware, and a PA system complete with a real, live crooner. He sang Sinatra and Jimmy Buffet, so you can't beat that.

And sure enough, at 6 o'clock people began to come out of their houses and join us for grilled meat (courtesy of Charles, who cooked off about 60 hamburgers and hotdogs), assorted salads, fruit and chips. My neighbor used the PA system to get people to sign an emergency contact list and to think about whether they want to petition City Hall for a residential parking zone.

Even Iain got in on the action. He played trucks, trucks, trucks with three little boys from our 'hood, and I think he might even get a playdate with one of them next week.

I dribbled sausage juice on my shirt, of course.

But stay tuned! The fence is complete and tomorrow I will photograph it after Iain's morning playdate and before his afternoon playdate. His social calendar might require us to hire a secretary.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Garden - August

Above, the late-summer garden. Note the empty spaces.

The Herbs are great. Curly parsley, sage, thyme, lemon verbena, tarragon, and rosemary all thrived this year. The blueberries seem kind of meh, but I'm not sure what the problem is and I'm waiting and seeing on that.

These are the blue planters from the backyard. With help from Iain's Nana, I replanted them in early July and they're thriving. It's a big improvement on the conifers I planted in spring (they died, so that can't be called a success).

But the veggie garden as a whole is about 50/50 this year. The herbs, tomatoes, lettuce and edible peas (snow/Sugar Snap) worked well. Lettuce was a huge success, in fact. But the summer was a challenge, partly because I didn't really know what to plant for hot weather. I put in some cucumbers and bell pepper plants, but they grew without setting any fruit. And you know what happened to the carrots. Ahem.

For next year, I need to figure out what to plant for hot days and when to plant it. I'm thinking bush beans and maybe even melons. I avoided those this year because they take up so much room. But it would seem that I have plenty of space. So.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tomatoes! (But No Carrots)

So the carrot experience: not a success. It was my first time growing carrots, and while I know they didn't have any trouble penetrating the soil (raised beds!), something must have gone wrong.

The cherry tomatoes are doing great, though. They're covered in tomatoes, many ripening, and some have already gone to their reward (in my belly). All the rain we've gotten this summer really helped, but I also attribute some success to the seedlings we bought. They're heirlooms grown from seed by the local community garden. In other words: grown by someone other than me.

So far, the herbs, tomatoes, and peas (sugar and snow) have been a great success. Oh, and the AMAZING incredible lettuce, too. Spinach, chard, and carrots are a bust. The bell pepper plants are doing well, but I'm not harvesting anything. So we'll have to wait for a verdict in that case.

There are big changes afoot in our garden, though. Stay tuned for photos.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Father-Son Bonding

Watching a little video on the handheld device.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Toddlers Are The Strange

Sooo...I look out the dining room window and see my neighbor walking with two of his children. The four-year-old girl has pretty blond hair and is (of course) wearing pink.

But who's that with her? Shorter, brown-er....

It's her brother. He's 2. And he's wearing a monkey costume. It's 948am, but he has on brown plush jammies (or is it a Halloween costume?) with a life-sized banana sewn on by the head.

Good morning, monkey.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Vocabulary Update

Me: "Poopy Caca."
Iain: "No."
Me: "No?"
Iain: "Stinky Caca."
Me: "Oh."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

At the Vet

Lo, what's this I see before me? It's a bill from our Kentucky vet. 2 dogs, a few shots, and some flea goo. Price: $603 and change. Yes. Six Hundred and Three DOLLARS plus some loose coins.

Compare that to today.

I called yesterday to ask for an appointment. Our dogs have been vet-less for a year (healthy!) and they needed shots. Mother, KP, the mother of one of my wonderful students - all recommended the same vet. And when I called, they said, "Oh we have plenty of time tomorrow. Come at 230."

Well ok, then.

I arrived at 2:25, filled out one short piece of paper, and walked into an exam room at 228. Yes, they were busy, but that wasn't a problem. Oh, and it was bright and clean. We saw a funny tech ("I'm afraid she needs her anal glands expressed. I know you hoped for that when you awoke this morning" elicited "Oh, that's what we have 'interns' for" with a wicked grin. I like that girl!), then a very pleasant vet, and we got all this:
  • Four shots for Juno
  • One shot for Boris
  • Those glands (Juno)
  • Nails trimmed (Juno) [And they did a good job, unlike the KY vet who always made Juno bleed. No wonder she won't let me trim her nails!]
  • A physical exam for both dogs
  • A bottle of very, very gentle shampoo for Mr. Stinky Bobo
  • A bag of high-fiber food for Mr. Fattie Bobo (125 pounds!!!!!) (!!) (!)
Price? Are you sitting down?


Riiiiiight. We're pretty happy. Except for Bobo, who's just a porker. In case you're wondering, Juno remains 32.2, down slightly but within the 2-pound range she's maintained her entire life. When the vet asked about any health problems we were all, "Uh...arthritis. She's 13." And I remembered that in California our beloved, wonderful vet didn't even know we had a second dog. He only ever saw our Ridgeback (long since gone to the Great Pork Chop In The Sky). Juno never got sick and the techs did her shots so he was unaware of her existence.

Anyway. The vet: wonderful. Us: happy. Boris: 125!!!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


So Iain was watching Mighty Machines.

The episode ended and Charles said, "Time to go read stories in bed." But Iain wanted more.

He found the remote control, pressed the right button, and started the next episode.

We were so impressed we let him watch it. Then he ran to his bedroom and grabbed a pillow.

Then he disappeared again and this time he appeared in the living room dragging his Queen-sized duvet (apparently pulled off the bed and tugged all the way through the house - that's gonna be covered in dog hair. Yum.).

Charles said, "That's very impressive, Iain."

Iain said, "Yes, yes it is."


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Veggie Tart

That's a giraffe. No reason. Just a giraffe.

Anyway. The other day I needed a savory pie for a party. I knew there would be a ton of vegetarians at said party. What to do, what to do?

Here's what I did. Be advised: it's not hard, but it's not exactly easy.

And as an aside, what is it with food blogs and recipes claiming things are easy? The basics of this are pretty...basic. But cooking isn't easy because nothing's ever quite right. Here's an example: I like to make tarts because pie can be kind of thick. It's just too much sometimes, right?

Except that my tart pan exceeds the diameter of store-bought pie crust. Get down off your high horse. I tried for at least ten years to make my own pie crust. I'm convinced that it's like mutant powers - you've got 'em or you don't. I don't. So I buy crust at the grocery and make the filling.

Anyway, the crusts don't fit my pan. They're smaller. So to make this tart I had to layer two crusts, then use my rolling pin (rarely employed, for the obvious reason) to flatten and expand them so I could line the pan. Annoying. This is what I mean: cooking isn't "easy" even when it's easy.

Back to veggie tart. Here's what you do:

  • One box of pie crust (2 crusts)
  • Two large egg yolks
  • One cup of whole milk
  • a head of broccoli about the size of a man's fist
  • 1/4 of a bell pepper, preferably red for color
  • a smallish piece of salty, dry cheese (I used gruyere), grated to make about half a cup or a little more
  • a box of sliced mushrooms
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Preheat to 350 F
  • Lay one crust on top of the other. Roll them out so they fit your pan. What? Your pan is normal and you only need one crust? I resent you. Anyway, line your tart pan with crust, whichever way works for you.
  • Prick the crust with a fork all over the bottom. Put it into the oven and bake (empty) for 15 minutes. Take it out and let it cool off while you mess with the fillings.
  • Sautee the mushrooms until they are very brown. To do this, heat them in a skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of butter. Keep the heat medium or medium low and stir occasionally. It will take about 20 minutes, but they will become beautifully brown. Take them off the heat and set them aside.
  • Break the broccoli into really tiny pieces. What you want are little florets the size of your fingernail. They have to cook in the tart, so they can't be too big.
  • Chop the bell pepper into 1/4 inch cubes. Think of them as confetti - it's for color and sweetness and they need to be weensy.
  • Ok, now custard. Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it's steaming. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks till they are thoroughly smooth and shiny - no lumpy bits.
  • When the milk is hot, whisk with your dominant hand and add a tiny, tiny amount of the hot milk while whisking constantly. Add a little more, and when you've mixed in about a quarter cup or so your eggs are up to temp. Pour the bowl (eggs plus milk) into the saucepan of hot milk and stir, stir, stir. This is a basic custard but you have to be patient and wait (and stir!) while it thickens. It'll take like 10 minutes, solid. Maybe a little more. You know you're good when you run your finger across the back of the spoon and it leaves a clear trail. Off the heat!
  • Now go get that tart shell you baked. It's still in the pan.
  • Lay the mushrooms on the bottom, spreading them around evenly. Top with the cheese. Then lay the broccoli on the tart. I like to make circles like a French tart. Finally, sprinkle the bell pepper over everything.
  • Now gently pour on your thickened custard. It won't be that thick.
  • Put the tart back into your oven (still 350) and bake for 30-45 minutes. You're just looking for the custard to set, so keep an eye out after half an hour. This depends a little on your tart shell, so the timing is going to vary.
You can salt and pepper this as you like, and add herbs if you wish. I think the gruyere adds enough salt, plus I salt the mushrooms to help them release their water while sautéing. So that's enough for me, but do what you like.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Why I Need New Boots

On our hike to Timpanogos Cave, this happened about 3/4 of the way up. Yes, it's hot. That flapping noise coming from my feet? Very elegant.

When I started looking more closely, I discovered more than one problem. Seems like it might be time for new boots, huh? I bought these (or, I should say that Charles bought them for me) more than 10 years ago. I lovelovelovelovelove them because they fit my feet perfectly.

I wore them to walk in England in 2007, I wore them to climb a mountain (a small mountain but still) in New Zealand in 2004, I trusted them to get me to school safe, warm, and dry despite eight inches of snow one morning last fall.

But - no matter their long and devoted service - I think it might be time to say goodbye.

[Iain sneezes in the car]
Grammy: "Gesundheit!"
Iain: "No! I'm Iain!"