Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Fun Update III

Recently, we have done the following:
  • Have a lemonade stand (cookies for cancer?):  helped the local cat shelter
  • Make friendship bread starter and share--Sis says "no."
  • Party/activity in honor of Aunt Sis:  planted two memorial hydrangeas, which aren't happy with the heat
  • Go swimming at Y with friends:  Well, we went swimming by ourselves at the Y.  We'll go with Gommie
  • *Go to nature center:  for camp!
  • *Go to aquarium:  for camp!
  • *Go to bird festvial:  Such fun!  Loved the Eastern Screech Owl
  • Host a sleepover with friends:  went to a sleepover with several friends; had one sleepover last week and stayed up watching Minecraft videos and making fudge
Still to Do, Maybe:
  • *Beach trip in city--in August
  • *Putt-putt golf--maybe an indoor monster glow-in-the-dark one
  • *Baseball game--probably not
  • Go to outdoor concert--probably not
  • Have a barbecue (after bricking fire pit)
  • Raise butterflies--Nope, too late
  • Mario kart-athon
  • Movie night
  • Old tv show marathon (ours or theirs)
  • *Go to Renaissance festival--probably in September
  • *Go to zoo
  • Stargazing at observatory
  • *Biking--I'm thinking of trying biking
  • Try a new craft/art project/Make ice cube candles/make soap/Activity kit day:  all very similar.  Maybe.
  • Learn to cook weekly dinners
  • Learn how to work washer/dryer
  • Hang pictures.
  • Make popsicles/Make homemade virgin pina coladas--maybe make virgin pina colada popsicles?
  • Make blankets for cat shelter/Community service project (volunteer with cats?)--maybe
  • Learn a new game
  • Learn a new magic/card trick
  • *Go letterboxing or geocaching locally
  • Start afternoon tea party tradition ("Tea Tuesdays")/Practice making lemon curd and clotted cream--maybe just have one big tea party
  • Pajamas day
  • No electricity day
  • Kite flying
  • Wash car
  • Buy new couches?
  • Do nothing special

Done:


  • Meet friends at ice rink:  Yep, it's now a weekly event.
  • *Attend town festival in June/volunteer at historic house:  we did this before school was even out!
  • Family book club (we're reading Menagerie and also Redwall):  I started Menagerie over 4th of July weekend.  It was pretty good.  The kids haven't started Redwall yet.
  • Eat Dole Whip:  first night of summer, we got Dole Whip and Fluffernutter sundaes!
  • Make ice cream:  Strawberry Soda is great.  Peaches and Cream is great, too.
  • Picnic:  we had a deli picnic, but I hope to do something more sophisticated soon.
  • Watch some movie musicals:  we started by watching "Lost Broadway Treasures" and other compilations of famous songs.
  • Play in sprinkler:  and used it to make a slippery water slide!
  • *Go to culture festival (Scottish, Irish, Greek, etc.):  we loved the Greek festival food, as always!  
  • Decorate chalkboard for summer:  we started our own mini-drawings of Awesome Summer Things.
  • Celebrate 4th of July:  Yes, we did!
  • Celebrate Solstice:  they stayed up "all night," which was midnight for Sis and about an hour later for Bud.  I even played Mario Kart with them at midnight.
  • Celebrate Mama's birthday:  a weekend of take-out meals and movies!
  • Birthday party for kids:   Minions movie birthday party, with decorate-your-own-Minion jars and Minion cupcakes.
  • Learn how to clean bathrooms:  Bud earned a ticket for this already--on his own initiative!
  • Learn an ASL sign a day (or more)
  • Learn some computer coding using Scratch:  they have started making a cat draw stars around the earth.
  • Make shrub for 4th of July:  Bud and I really like it
  • Photos with public art around town ("benching," Bud called it)  We're about a third of the way done.






  • Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party:  for first one, the kids swam and tried "kiddy crack" (butter-cinnamon-sugar spread on graham crackers); they also like badminton, or "chaosminton" with several shuttlecocks.
  • Explore new music genres together ("Music Mondays"):  we started with the 80s, then Celtic (Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack), Broadway, jazz, and patriotic.  Not sure what this week will be.
  • Research places to go in England, etc:  I'm reading Susan Branch's book about falling in love with the English countryside
  • Purge and donate toys and books:  doing really well with this; lots of donations.  Kids prepping to have room makeovers.
  • Do a 1000 piece puzzle:  Bud and Mama are our puzzlers--they've done cupcakes, Broadway, London, New York, among others.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    This Week

    Now, for this week:

    • Sis is at animal camp while Bud is home.
    • It's going to be hot, so we're mostly hiding inside.
    • We have Mama's company picnic this week.
    • Bud has a Minecraft playdate with a potential friend we've been trying to introduce him to for ages.
    • Gommie comes on Friday!

    Saturday, July 25, 2015

    Summer Fun: A Day for Birds of Prey

    A barred owl (coincidentally, I believe
    I spotted one on our drive out there)
    Between morning kung fu and ice skating and an afternoon birthday party, also at the ice skating rink,  we headed to a special Birds of Prey festival sponsored by local wildlife rehabilitators, A Place Called Hope.  It was on the green of an old town, complete with meetinghouse, 1821 Academy, and 18th-century houses.  But we were most interested in the festival.  There were other animal charities--Audubon, Humane Society, a raccoon rescue group (I picked up a great crocheted raccoon scarf, like those old fox wraps!)--and lots of the usual kinds of crafts (something unusual--I picked up two make-your-own-tie-dyed-kite kits for the kids), plus a taco truck where we got a delicious lunch.

    An Eastern Screech Owl, looking like tree bark
    But the real draw were the birds.  The Eastern Screech, which I'd never seen in person, is so small.  And so was the American Kestrel, not pictured here, which they included in the presentation--tiny, for a falcon (apparently those tear-drop shadings by the eye are typical of falcons.)  I forget that owls can be that small--like the Saw Whet we saw in Block Island.  We also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk, which we often see near the river and even overhead.  It all brought back great memories of falconry lessons in England, various nature centers with rescued birds, and numerous Birds of Prey shows at Ren Faires and such.  Mama even inquired about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator (well, I inquired with her standing there.)  You take a class, pass a test, and then intern with a charity.  I hope she'd consider it--she'd love the birds (but probably not talking to the people so much!)

    And our very common Red-Tailed Hawk
    After the kids got ice cream treats, I headed to explore the Academy, which was open for visitors.  It had been an old school and is now an exhibition space of the local historical society.  The current show is about summer recreation and the tourist crowd that came to the CT shore before the hurricane of 1938.  There were some oppressive wool bathing suits and lovely white cotton dresses, since it was the thing to wear white for the summer (but not before Memorial Day or after Labor Day!) as proof that you were able to afford leisure time.  Even several straw hats and a discussion of the Straw Hat Day--men took off their felt bowlers on May 15 and wore straw until September 15, after which youths would snatch and stomp on any remaining straw hats.  There was even a Straw Hat riot when some unruly youths started snatching hats a few days before September 15 one year!  Who knew?

    It was a short but sweet visit.  We'll keep our eye out for other interesting fairs and festivals in the area (including the hot air balloon one in August!)



    Friday, July 24, 2015

    Inspiration

    As I mentioned in my summary post this morning, I've been doing some work in the garden.



    No, that's not it.

    That's one of those spaces companies plant and maintain seasonally to make their businesses more attractive . . . . though, it's usually with a single sad hosta surrounded by 6 feet of red mulch or bland white rocks.  But this company, on the corner of a busy town intersection, has done--or more specifically, hired a company to do--so much more.  Look!


    Lavender.  Echinacea.  Phlox (the tall kind.)  Day lilies.  Black-eyed susans.  And those are just the ones I can pinpoint.  It kinda reminds me of a cottage garden--bright, tall, all thrown in together (everything reminds me of England these days!  Oh, I'm having withdrawl from a 14 months ago--with perhaps 11 months til our next trip.)



    I love it!  I love that they did more than one sad hosta or some poor impatiens or petunias that will just wither.

    Sure, the plants are transplanted full grown, in full sun, and have professional year-round tending (weeding, watering, etc.)--meaning it's not something I can easily copy--but I love the look.  The photos look a little dirty or washed out in the full sun and my smartphone camera, but I loved it.

    I'll have to plant echinacea and black-eyed susans and tall phlox next year, too.

    Or just keep patronizing this business (which is a burger joint.)

    Slow Blog Week

    It's been a slow blog week, not because it's been a slow week but because it hasn't really been post-worthy.

    Let's see:

    • Bud is at oceanography camp this week and really likes it.  Yesterday, they took the research vessel out into the Sound and used the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) to look for specimens.  They saw a nettle fish or something and other creatures but no sharks.  On Tuesday, they had "bio-dredged" and picked up plankton, both winter and summer flounder (something about looking left or right), clams, mussels, etc.  On the days they aren't on the boat, they explore the museum.  He's hoping they'll see the seal show today.  Mama and I are talking about going there to see the butterflies.
    • Sis is at home this week.  She's spent a lot of it watching tv ("Saddle Club," "Switched at Birth," "Robin Hood" (BBC), and "Clone Wars") and playing Animal Crossing (mainly the two times I went to PT, where I am progressing slowly but surely.)  Last night she had a friend over for a sleepover.  They made fudge, ate pizza and chicken fingers, biked, played videogames, watched YouTube videos (Minecraft videos, Disney Princess videos, Pokemon videos), stayed up late, and then made breakfast this morning!
    • Mama is coming down off her getaway weekend hard, as she is in charge of camp driving for Bud (it's down by her office.)  And, well, being at home is nothing like sailing on a schooner in NY harbor at twilight.
    • I finished Go Set a Watchman and will post lots of thoughts on that sometime soon.  I liked it better than I expected to after all of the press and even reading the first 6 or so chapters.  
    • I crocheted some.
    • I had two social engagements this week:  I went to a Wildtree slow-cooker-meal-making party on Monday (where you bring some ingredients and pour in others to make 10 freezer container meals; really, it's mostly about the socializing) and I'll go to a birthday party tonight.  
    • I've been in the garden a bit in the last day or so, now that the heat has broken some.  83F is much better than 93F, especially when it starts off the day at 63F!  I have weeded the front garden a tiny bit, watered the shade garden by the sidewalk where we're trying to get caladiums and astilibes to join our hostas, tried to coax the hydrangeas back from heat exhaustion, and had my mower guy move the honeysuckle because it was completely taking over my lavender, which is unacceptable.  Oh, and the tree guy is going to trim the low branches, cut back the ivy, and check the cables (he came for an estimate and will be back in a month.)  It sounds like more work than it is, really.
    That's pretty much it, I think.  The weekend is equally unremarkable.  But that's okay.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    Today's Mandala

    Lily Sugar 'N Cream, various colors ( red, tangerine, yellow, sage green, light blue, and hot purple.). Granny square mandala pattern.

    And cat.

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    Practice Makes Improvement

    My first:  Lion Brand Pastel Bon Bons, Crochet with Raymond's Granny Square mandala

    Same pattern as above, with colors reversed.  Both are starched with glue/water solution.
    Lion Brand Pastel Bon Bons, my misunderstanding of Wink's basic 12-round pattern, attached to a hoop with a single crochet stitch. 
    Lion Brand Bright Bon Bons, my misunderstanding of Wink's pattern


    The above mandala, after I realized my error and adapted it to an embroidery hoop (attaching using single crochet stitch.)


    Lily Sugar n'Cream various colors, correct reading of Wink's pattern (finished earlier today!)

    Summer Fun: Making Lemonade

    We always have lemonade stand on our summer to-do list and usually we get to it.  This year, we arranged to host the stand with our friends Miss B and her daughter J.  Daughter J volunteers for the local cat rescue and so we decided to donate all proceeds to that charity.  We chose a date, made brownies and rice krispie treats, secured supplies (including a new jug with an infuser, which handle broke within the hour, but the store took it back for a full refund), and announced in on FB, only to wake up that morning to one of the rainiest days forecasted.


    Still we watched and waited and the sun cleared late afternoon.  We rushed to set up the official stand (a gift from our neighbor Miss K, when her kids outgrew it), mixed up the lemonade--a pitcher of regular and a pitcher infused with defrosting raspberries--and, for two hours, we sold lemonade and treats.  Lots of our friends came by, alerted via FB, and supported the cat cause.  The kids had a great time . . . and raised $100!

    We've hosted several lemonade stands now and will probably have another one this summer.  So I don't forget, here are some tips:


    Beforehand

    • lemonade supplies--we used powdered mix with added fresh lemon slices and, this time, raspberries.  One year, we sold Zinger Punch--Sprite and a few Red Zinger teabags.   The grown-ups liked it.
    • pitchers--glass is risky. 
    • treats, if selling--brownies, cookies, rice krispie treats--in closed containers, because there will be flies
    • cups, napkins, paper towels
    • garbage bags
    • ice (morning of)
    • donation jar
    • singles or change, depending on your price points (we usually do $1 for everything--it is charity after all--and then we don't need coins or a price list.  Most people give more anyway.)
    • posters, esp if you are donating the proceeds (otherwise, passersby seem to recognize a lemonade stand without much of a sign.)
    • folding chairs for the grown ups (set way back--though, I'm usually talking to the parents of our customers)

    For the sale:
    • Bud really likes our special lemonade-stand gimmick:  a sugar rim!  We dip the lips of the cup in a little bit of lemonade and then into sugar.  Extra-good!  It's something special we can offer our customers.  (You'll need a dish of lemonade and a dish of sugar.)  He happily told everyone about it--and enjoyed making them.
    • The trick is that kids either overwhelm a customer or get distracted doing something else.  Remind them beforehand to greet each person and take his or her order with all their good manners.  And then I just sit back and let them handle it. (Well, I don't know how far back I get.  I usually chat with anybody.)
    • This year, in addition to posting it on FB, we tagged a number of friends in the area by name as soon as we opened--and all of the available ones stopped by, going out of their ways to come see us!  This was a special treat for us.  In fact, the majority of our customers were friends, not random strangers or even neighbors (boo on our two immediate neighbors who didn't come over, though they saw us clearly.)

    Afterwards:
    • Clean up (wipe down that lemonade stand!)
    • Disperse the leftovers.
    • Take out garbage and recycling.
    • Count the money and make the donation.
    • Post photos of the fun we had!

    -=-=-=-=-=-

    Our Standard Lemonade Stand Recipes

    Chocolate Chunk Oat Bars

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    ½ cup butter, softened
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon water
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 ½ cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips, divided

    Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 9” square baking pan.

    Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, water, and vanilla; beat until well blended.

    Stir in the flour mixture and oats; mix well. Stir in ½ cup chocolate chunks. Spread the dough in the pan with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle wit the remaining ½ cup chocolate chunks.

    Bake for about 30 minutes or just until the center feels firm. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Sesame Street Yummy Cookies: Baking with Kids



    Oatmeal Jam Bars

    1 cup all purpose flour
    1 cup quick-cooking oats
    2/3 cup packed brown sugar
    ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ cup butter
    1-10 oz. jar of preserve

    In a mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda.  Cut in butter til mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Reserve ½ cup of the flour mixture.  Press remaining flour mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan.  Spread with desired filling.  Sprinkle with reserved flour mixture.

    Bake in 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or til the top is golden.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Cut into bars.

    Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

    Hiding Out

    It's going to be 93F today, with a heat index somewhere above 100F.

    Which is much too hot for me.

    By about 30 degrees.

    It was 90 yesterday and pretty miserable with all the high humidity.

    So, we're staying indoors, with the AC adjusted to cope with the heat (it can only be set about 15 degrees cooler than the outside temp, which means a warm 78F inside--but we don't want to break the thing now.)  Which means not much moving and no turning on the oven.

    Bud is actually at camp this week--oceanography camp at the local maritime center.  They'll be out on the Sound taking specimens later in the week.  But not today, thankfully--can you imagine bobbing in a stopped boat in 93F temps?   Actually, many of my readers can; the kids up here, however, would not be used to that (and even I remember getting slightly queasy on a rocking boat in the full TX sunshine!  No wonder Pop would go fishing at 5 am or whatever early hour it was.)

    I love that he can go to that kind of camp.  There are so many to choose from--next week Sis has animal lovers' camp at a nature center (with rabbits!  Though, we don't know if she'll get to work with the rabbits); later, Bud has Minecraft redstone circuitry (if I have that right) camp.  Others have sailing or Legos or lacrosse or history (American colonial, that is) or build-a-Roman-city, and myriad other choices . . . we just had camp.  You know:  tents, campfires, s'mores, singing, swimming, tie-dye, hikes.

    I'd be ready to go to either kind of camp.  But not in this heat.  I'm hoping not to have to step foot outside!

    Saturday, July 18, 2015

    Summer Fun: Party Weekend

    Friday:  The Friday Night Dance Party hosted by our dear old church friends included a sleepover this week.  Sis knew immediately that she wanted to go, but Bud had never slept over anywhere  because most of his friends are girls and don't invite him (want to get me started about societal gender norms in the under-10 set?)   But this was a great opportunity to try:  it was gender-mixed, his sister would be there, and he is very comfortable at our friends' house, having been there now pretty much every Friday for a month.  So they both packed up and we headed out.

    First he was going to leave Mr. Big at home and so gave him several goodbye hugs.  Then he decided to put Mr. Big in the car just for the ride over.  And gave him several hugs when we got there.  We got out, carried everything into the house (gear and snacks and a homemade mac and cheese contribution to dinner), and . . . he asked if he could go get Mr. Big.  Of course.  If that's what it takes for your first sleepover, I get it.  My dad will tell you:  I took my pink floral satin blankie everywhere, even college, which my dad had been teasing about for years; in fact, it's still under the bed in a box somewhere, but it's no longer at the top of the list of things I would save in a fire.  Mr. Big is.  And Amy and Shirt.  And the photographs/computer hard drives.  (Things . . . after people and pets.)

    And they had a great night!  I stayed for awhile to help with dinner, but mainly to chat with the other moms.  The kids had lightsaber battles, crocodile battles in the pool, and apparently spent the evening sculpting chandeliers out of glow sticks!  I'm told that Bud didn't go to sleep until after 2:30 a.m. and was up again at 6:30 a.m.  No wonder he is sound asleep on the couch right now, after a morning at kung fu!  (I'm writing this in sections; that was from 1:30 pm Saturday.  He slept till 6, despite a few attempts to wake him and feed him.  He's going to be up all night.)

    Meanwhile, Mama headed away for some much deserved R&R.  She's having a great adventure and will be home Sunday afternoon.  She's been texting me periodically with great photos.  I'm so glad she's having fun.  I think it's the first non-family, overnight thing she's done since she went to Miami on a business trip when the kids were, what, two?  That's eight years of all us all the time.  And we almost had to kick her out of the house!  I hope it becomes a more frequent occurrence.

    Saturday afternoon found us gearing up for social event #2.  We had a little block party with the neighbors.  I took white bean dip, spinach pesto salad, and brownies and sat in a chair in the hot afternoon sun going in and out, chatting with people I was happy to get to know.  I knew the organizing neighbor but not some of the others, though we wave and I knew their names.  The neighbor across the street's daughter will be a kindergartener at our school and the mom is starting a Daisy troop, so we had lots to discuss.   Bud slept through the whole thing (and because he's 10 and I was two doors down, I let him sleep in the house by himself, with us checking on him once in awhile), while Sis sat with us when she wasn't chasing the chickens around.  These are the chickens she helped babysit when said neighbor was out of town last week--Sis loved locking them up at night and was great at sneaking up on them so they didn't come out of their hut.  We called her the "chicken whisperer."

    Tomorrow we have another party--a birthday party/housewarming event for someone I've known in passing for years.  We'll go over midday and stay awhile (especially because it's going to be hot in CT tomorrow--near 90F--which is too warm for me.)  I'm not sure exactly what I'll take to share.  I have another batch of bean dip and spinach salad, so maybe that.  Sis also talked about making Snickerdoodles, if it's not too hot to turn on the oven.

    A busy social weekend . . . so it's probably good that Mama is off on her own.  I laughed that she doesn't socialize 9 out of 10 times, introvert that she is, and that only seems to make her more popular in her elusiveness!  I joked that I figured I was social enough for both of us.  (Besides, though I didn't say it, I save her 1/10 socializing for big events like Applepalooza.)

    For me, I'm wiped but happy.

    Friday, July 17, 2015

    Summer Fun: Day Camp

    We've been day-camping in the backyard thanks to the very mild weather recently (59F yesterday morning!)  I like to sketch and sip on raspberry shrub at our table while the kids do whatever floats their fancy.  They made origami ninja throwing stars today and then stalked me all over the backyard.  They liked to see if they can follow me without being seen--our yard has lots of rocks and bushes to hide behind.  Yesterday, we just sat talking, reading, and spitting cherry pits as far as possible (I realized that I'm terrible at that.)  We can see and hear the birds and bees, admire the flowers along the rock wall, wave at neighbors on the sidewalk . . . who knows what the days will bring, but you can bet, if the weather isn't too hot or bugs too bad, this is where we'll spend some time. 


    Thursday, July 16, 2015

    Hydrangeas in Memoriam


    I think I got the idea about planting memorial hydrangeas in honor of Aunt Sis while sitting in a drive-thru waiting for our food to be brought out to the curb.  I even hopped out and took a picture of the glorious pink and lavender blooms right outside my driver-side window.

    Later, I snapped a picture of a town bench, with the idyllic white picket fence and hydrangeas.  Funny, I imagine I can see the sea through the slats--why do we associate hydrangeas with the seaside?  They're all over many coastal towns in New England.

    In fact, once I started looking at hydrangeas, they were everywhere.  They're mostly blue here in CT, because our acidic soil creates blue blossoms, though some hard-working gardeners must add alkaline treatments to their soil to get the pink or purple ones.  It's the blue ones I think of when I think of the sea.

    And that's when I knew I wanted to plant some hydrangeas for Aunt Sis.  Not that she had hydrangeas--I can't really remember seeing them in Texas at all--but she liked colors and blossoms and had some plants in her own yard, though nothing as formal as a garden.  And she loved the ocean.  We also took her to Mystic, proverbial New England on the water, and so I even think of her up here by the sea.

    And so, Mama picked up two hydrangeas, the last of the nursery's stock, on Tuesday, which was Aunt Sis's birthday, and today we planted them, in morning sun and afternoon shade, as suggested, along our rock wall and visible from my kitchen window.  

    They look a little forlorn and exhausted now, but I have high hopes for beautiful blossoms next year, in time for her birthday.




    Summer Fun: Birthday Questions 2015

    It's been quite a long time since we've done these, but I thought we should revive the biannual tradition.  I've put recent likes (within the last year or so) in parentheses.  Some previous posts are, n regression: fall 2012, Jan 2012, July 2011, Feb 2011, July 2010, July 2009, April 2008, and this related one and this)

    I haven't gotten Mama's answers yet--she doesn't like to be asked about herself--but I thought I'd post before I lost another year.


    Sis (she did most of the typing):
    Book:  39 Clues series, Wings of Fire series, Menagerie series (American Girl books, Little House on the Prairie series, biographies, Horrible Histories books)
    TV show: "Switched at Birth," "Robin Hood"doctor who (BBC),
    Movie: Minions (Frozen, The Hobbit trilogy)
    Musical:  Les Miz, Wicked
    Song:  Riptide" blank space (Katy Perry, "Let it Go," Taylor Swift)
    Color:pink
    Number: 77
    Food: popeyes fried chicken
    Animals: bunny horse
    Dessert: chocolate
    Restaurant: popeyes
    Toy/Thing:  Amy, Shirt, Minecraft, splatoon (Zoo Tycoon)
    Things to Do:  ice skating, baking, draw and color, read
    Place to go: my room
    Saying/Words: n/a
    Job When I Grow Up:  vet
       
    ·   
    B
    Bud:
    Books:  Hyrule Historia, Inheritance cycle, Menagerie series, Scratch 2.0 (Percy Jackson series, biographies, Horrible Histories books)
    TV show:  "Doctor Who," "Clone Wars," "Phineas and Ferb"
    Movie:  How to Train Your Dragon 2, Star Wars 2, Battle of Five Armies (Lego Movie, The Hobbit trilogy)
    Musical:  Phantom of the Opera, Les Miz, Wicked
    Song: "Revolting" from Matilda (Piano Guys)
    Color: blue
    Number: 46
    Food:  sushi
    Animals: penguin
    Dessert:  homemade ice cream
    Restaurant:  Sushi Momo
    Toy/Thing:  Wii, Mr. Big, Scratch programming, magic card tricks, Smash brothers, Legend of Zelda games, (Legos, Minecraft)
    Things to do:  kung fu, Scratch, read, Smash Brothers
    Place to go:  London
    Saying/Words:  n/a
    Job When I Grow Up:  actor, coder
    ·      
    Mommy:
    Book:  Outlander, historical mysteries (again!), (last year:  History of Food in 100 Recipes, Clarissa Dickson Wright's book on food history, Michael Wood's Story of England)
    TV show:  "Outlander," "Agents of SHIELD," "Agent Carter," "Vikings," "Parenthood" ("Battlestar Galactica" (new), "Sherlock," "Elementary," "Supernatural," "Downton Abbey")
    Movie:  Marvel movies, (Frozen)
    Musical:  Fun Home (Wicked)
    Song: "Ring of Keys" from Fun Home, "Fight Song" ("Defying Gravity," "Cups," "Let it Go," Piano Guys)
    Color:  purple
    Number:  12
    Food:  pizza, raspberry shrub, homemade soda,
    Animals:  cats, panda, otter, hedgehog, koalas
    Dessert:  homemade ice cream
    Restaurant:  not so much
    Toy/Thing:  yarn, micro pens, my smartphone
    To Do:  crochet mandalas, Zentangle (crochet, blog, bake, juggle, read, cross stitch)
    Place to go:  looking forward to Comic Con, Block Island, returning to UK, etc.
    Saying/Words:  metta meditation
    Job When I Grow Up:  hospice chaplain

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015

    Today

    I miss her, especially today on her birthday.


    Sunday, July 12, 2015

    Summer Fun: Our Awesome Mural

    "Awesome Summer Things" so far.

    Turning 10....

    ....is hard work.

    Saturday, July 11, 2015

    Summer Fun Update II

    It's about this time each summer that I realize we won't do the rest of the things on the list.  We did the easiest or most fun stuff first and now we're just kind of coasting.  But, in case I really need some ideas, here's the to-do list, if we like.
    • *Beach trip in city
    • *Putt-putt golf
    • *Baseball game
    • Party/activity in honor of Aunt Sis
    • Go swimming at Y with friends
    • Go to outdoor concert
    • Have a barbecue (after bricking fire pit)
    • Raise butterflies
    • Have a lemonade stand (cookies for cancer?)
    • Mario kart-athon
    • Movie night
    • Old tv show marathon (ours or theirs)
    • *Go to Renaissance festival
    • *Go to zoo
    • Stargazing at observatory
    • *Biking
    • *Go to nature center
    • *Go to aquarium
    • *Go to bird festvial
    • Try a new craft/art project
    • Learn to cook weekly dinners
    • Make ice cube candles
    • Make soap
    • Activity kit day
    • Host a sleepover with friends.  
    • Learn how to work washer/dryer
    • Make popsicles.
    • Hang pictures.
    • Make friendship bread starter and share--Sis says "no."
    • Make homemade virgin pina coladas
    • Make blankets for cat shelter
    • Learn a new game
    • Learn a new magic/card trick
    • *Go letterboxing or geocaching locally
    • Start afternoon tea party tradition ("Tea Tuesdays")
    • Practice making lemon curd and clotted cream
    • Pajamas day
    • No electricity day
    • Kite flying
    • Wash car
    • Buy new couches?
    • Community service project (volunteer with cats?)
    • Do nothing special

    And this is why it's mid-July and we're tired already:


    • Meet friends at ice rink:  Yep, it's now a weekly event.
    • *Attend town festival in June/volunteer at historic house:  we did this before school was even out!
    • Family book club (we're reading Menagerie and also Redwall):  I started Menagerie over 4th of July weekend.  It was pretty good.  The kids haven't started Redwall yet.
    • Eat Dole Whip:  first night of summer, we got Dole Whip and Fluffernutter sundaes!
    • Make ice cream:  Strawberry Soda is great.  Peaches and Cream is great, too.
    • Picnic:  we had a deli picnic, but I hope to do something more sophisticated soon.
    • Watch some movie musicals:  we started by watching "Lost Broadway Treasures" and other compilations of famous songs.
    • Play in sprinkler:  and used it to make a slippery water slide!
    • *Go to culture festival (Scottish, Irish, Greek, etc.):  we loved the Greek festival food, as always!  
    • Decorate chalkboard for summer:  we started our own mini-drawings of Awesome Summer Things.
    • Celebrate 4th of July:  Yes, we did!
    • Celebrate Solstice:  they stayed up "all night," which was midnight for Sis and about an hour later for Bud.  I even played Mario Kart with them at midnight.
    • Celebrate Mama's birthday:  a weekend of take-out meals and movies!
    • Birthday party for kids:   Minions movie birthday party, with decorate-your-own-Minion jars and Minion cupcakes.
    • Learn how to clean bathrooms:  Bud earned a ticket for this already--on his own initiative!
    • Learn an ASL sign a day (or more)
    • Learn some computer coding using Scratch:  they have started making a cat draw stars around the earth.
    • Make shrub for 4th of July:  Bud and I really like it
    • Photos with public art around town ("benching," Bud called it)  We're about a third of the way done.


    • Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party:  for first one, the kids swam and tried "kiddy crack" (butter-cinnamon-sugar spread on graham crackers); they also like badminton, or "chaosminton" with several shuttlecocks.
    • Explore new music genres together ("Music Mondays"):  we started with the 80s, then Celtic (Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack), Broadway, jazz, and patriotic.  Not sure what this week will be.
    • Research places to go in England, etc:  I'm reading Susan Branch's book about falling in love with the English countryside
    • Purge and donate toys and books:  doing really well with this; lots of donations.  Kids prepping to have room makeovers.
    • Do a 1000 piece puzzle:  Bud and Mama are our puzzlers--they've done cupcakes, Broadway, London, New York, among others.

    • Rambling Reflections

      Lots of realizations this week:

      Mama and I have been parents longer than we were together alone--ten years of each now, more if you count pregnancy, which is kinda limbo.

      And then, if you count them separately, we've been parenting for 20 years!

      I'm a better person for having kids, in all ways . . . except physically, I suppose.   But as much as that dominates, I wouldn't change a thing.  Seriously.  Children are like egg to a stock:  clarifying.  Priorities.  Values.  Desires.  Strengths.  Weaknesses.  I've never been so aware of my faults, but, if honest, I can see what I'm good at, too; on a good day, I try accept both with equanimity, and try to extend it to everyone.   I spend so much time pondering big and little questions, that I have more answers, but more questions, than I ever did.  I'm more connected to everything and everyone around me and see a much bigger picture.  I don't think this is just a result of age, but perhaps of having more in common with all the parents out there.  Of course, I'm more sensitive and vulnerable with all of this awareness of connection.   I think I enjoy happiness more but suffer through disappointments and sadnesses a little more tenderly.   Who was it who said that having children is like having a giant open wound?  (It wasn't this piece, which I like.  Motherhood definitely makes me more sentimental and nostalgic.  Corny would be the word.) I worry about death--my own, theirs, anybody's, more than I was ever conscious of mortality before.  Maybe that's what draws me to hospice.  Motherhood takes me so much out of myself, but at the same time, has me thinking about my thoughts and actions all the time; it's an odd combination of altruism and narcissism.  Same with the kids.  I think more about everyone's kids, and everyone as a child, but at the end of it, it is only my children . . . .

      And despite all of the stress and work children are, which can wear on the connection between their parents, Mama and I are a stronger, better couple now.  Sure, we don't do as much alone or talk together of many other things besides the kids or family matters, but our sense of love, our knowledge of our strengths and weakness, our support of such, and our respect for each other has grown enormously because we are tried and challenged (and tired), together and individually, everyday in ways that wouldn't have happened.  And we know enough to recognize that and appreciate it.

      It's good to remember this now--a decade in, two digits--because everyone keeps telling me how much adolescence messes with both the adolescents and their parents.   The emotions are so powerful and overwhelming as they leave behind aspects of childhood and are confused and saddened by it, as are we.  But just as she walks away to the bus for camp without looking back, she comes home and hugs on her beloved stuffed bunny Amy; it's the limbo between childhood and adulthood.  I see it already, would delay it if I could, though probably not really because I know it's necessary.  And I take it so personally, already feel a little left behind alone, which is not the way to go.  Good thing we have some time before it's full blown.

      There are good things, too.  They understand more, appreciate more, do more, know more. They are old enough to try things we like to do, like travel, eating out, going to Broadway, reading certain books and see certain films--we can share more of ourselves with them now; let's face it, babies and toddlers and preschoolers are rather limited that way (fun in others, of course, but infanthood was not ever my favorite part.)   Now, they remember the stories we tell and the things we do.  And they like some of it!  Which, of course, is a way of their getting to know and remember us, some kind of salve against the inevitable.

      Of course, the new stories, activities, skills, experiences go both ways.  They expand our world just as they deepen our appreciation of it.  Ice skating, horses, kung fu, Legos, video games, violin, piano, cello, sushi, sci-fi/fantasy (yes, as much as we raised them to be geeks, they push us further into it with their own obsessions)--I can go on and on.  There is an essay about being friends with your children, one of many on either side of the debate, by Mama Eve, that notes, "I try to be an example of the friend I want my children to be to others, and also of the kind of person I want my children to be friends with."  The exciting bit about tweendom and adolescence, with all of its downs, is the upside of getting to know them better as they get to know themselves.  If the last ten years are anything to go on, the next ten years are going to be amazing, though I'll admit to some bias.  

      All of which is a rambling (and corny) way of saying "happy birthday" to Sis and Bud and that we are so grateful and blessed to have you.


      Mandala Mayhem


      I did 12 rounds on this one before I realized I'd been reading the pattern incorrectly.  So I pulled it out down to the purple round (here, before the red outer round) and will stiffen or mount it.  And then try again to read the pattern correctly!  No worries.  I think the fun for me right now is in stitching of it, not in the completed project, so I don't mind pulling out rows, just like that ripple afghan earlier.

      Happy Birthday to My Minions!



      Summer Fun: Camp

      Sis has been at Girl Scout horseback riding day camp all week.  And she LOVES it.  She proudly wears her pants, boots, and bandana that mark her as one of the horse girls to the bus stop each morning.  And this year, it being her second, she is in the experienced rider group, which is smaller than the beginner.  And she is with her favorite horse from last year, Tucker.  Everyday, she proclaims horseback riding "awesome!"  

      And she likes the tie-dye and the gimp, both clear signs that summer camp is upon us.

      The rest of camp has been more so-so.  Twice already they haven't been able to swim--once because they were down a lifeguard and once because a girl in an earlier class fouled the pool.  Hopefully, today, both of those problems are taken care of.  Also, she was supposed to take a letter boxing mini-course, but the instructor wasn't there--so she got thrown in the sports group instead, which was a disappointment.  But those are minor annoyances compared to being with the horses three hours a day.




      Thursday, July 9, 2015

      Mandala Making

      It's stress-relieving to crochet and, for whatever reason, I'm tense this week.  PMS?  Third full week of summer?  Too hot and muggy?  Sure.  But if you were to come poke me right now, I'd bite your finger.

      But crocheting is a form of meditation for me and so I made two today, both based on Wink's 12-round basic mandala pattern, though I didn't do nearly that many rounds (nor are my stitches as tight, or yarn as thick, as hers; still, I like the effect.)  One is drying (I used a Mod Podge solution to stiffen it and am waiting to see if it works as well as white glue and water.  Photo later.) and the other is very small, only 3 rounds plus a round of single crochet stitches around the embroidery hoop.  I think it's pretty--I'll be giving it away to a friend who is having surgery tomorrow (good luck, friend! And happy healing!)  I like the purples but wonder if the crochet-to-hoop ratio isn't right.  I'll have to play with it.  But I'm very pleased with it, especially as it's the very first.


      Just looking at the photo makes me feel less pissy, and that's no small accomplishment.

      Wednesday, July 8, 2015

      Summer Fun: We Scream for Homemade

      I think we might remember this as the summer of homemade ice cream.  We started with Strawberry Soda Ice Cream for 4th of July weekend.  As we were polishing it off, I realized that the base would work well with any fruit, just substitute the correct fruit-flavored soda or use cream soda.  So, yesterday we made Peaches and Cream Ice Cream.   MMMMMmmmmm!!!  Just as good.  And so easy (if you have an ice cream maker, that is.  Haven't tried it in a roly ball yet.)

      A few tips:

      • you can use an equal amount of fresh fruit;
      • if using frozen, be sure to let it defrost fully, so it's juicy and tender--this helps spread the flavor;
      • cut or mash fruit into tiny pieces both to spread around the flavor and to avoid hard frozen chunks (unless you like those);
      • though the original recipe doesn't say to, I put the mixture back in the freezer for awhile to make it nice and cold--that way, it freezes faster and my ice cream maker doesn't work as hard.
      And some ideas, beyond strawberry and peach:
      • Pina colada:  small chunks of pineapple with coconut milk substituted for the half and half (or whipping cream--I'll have to try both!)
      • Chocolate-cherry:  cherry soda, bits of cherries (frozen or fresh), and chocolate chips
      • Mango-pineapple:  bits of mango (frozen or fresh), mango nectar to substitute for soda, coconut milk for the half and half (or whipping cream)
      • Orange creamsicle:  orange soda and bits of mandarin oranges
      • Melba:  cream soda, bits of peaches and raspberries, perhaps some Torani raspberry syrup
      • Coke or Root Beer Float:  use Coke or Root beer for soda and just forget the fruit!
      • really, the possibilities are endless, all with the same base recipe . . . .
      So you can bet we'll be trying a batch regularly!


      Mommy Hungry's Homemade Fruit-Soda Ice Cream
      Adapted from the Strawberry Soda Ice Cream recipe by Laura Duckworth in Food Network Magazine.

      1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
      1 1/2 cups half-and-half
      3/4 cup fruit-flavored soda or cream soda
      1/2 cup whipping cream
      1 cup frozen or fresh fruit, defrosted and mashed (I use a very generous 1 cup)


      Whisk the condensed milk, half-and-half, flavored soda, cream and fruit in a medium bowl.  Place in freezer for 30-60 minutes until mixture is chilled. Churn in ice cream maker, according to manufacturer's instructions.  Eat right away or freeze in airtight container until firm, at least 2 hours.

      Cosplay Cowl


      It's 5 feet of chunky Lion Brand Hometown in v-stitch, only ch 17, I think, then whipstitched together.  It's going to be great with my costume. . . . if I get the nerve to cosplay with the big girls and boys at Comic Con!

      Tuesday, July 7, 2015

      Odds and Ends

      Today, I finished a smallish granny square with the last bits of five different Lion Brand homespun skeins, from the inside out (approximately three rounds each, repeating the pattern, until I ran out, so some are only 1 or 2 rounds):





      • Amethyst (I think)
      • Coral Reef
      • Barrington
      • Ambrosia
      • Mimosa
      • then a bit of Amethyst, Coral Reef and finish with Barrington

      Back in the Swing of Things

      I started physical therapy last week.  And even my beloved, favorite therapist was impressed, though perhaps that's not the right word (stunned, maybe), with how things have not recovered.  I can't even suck in my stomach.  While daily pain has pretty much gone away (right around week 12 or 13), there is still such incredible weakness that is, in turn, knotting up my back, glutes, SI, and even hip muscles; they're in a constant state of stressed.  Which is why, after exertion or just in the evenings, I don my brace--I quite literally can't hold myself up anymore.  I was starting to think I was just being wimpy or that it was all in my head.  But it's not.

      She spent the whole time working her knuckle into my SI area and I was sure I'd be bruised.  So tight.    She says to put on my brace when I need it because otherwise I'll hurt something.  No wonder neither my surgeon nor physiatrist want me to lift more than 10-15 lbs ever again (risk of incisional hernia) and delayed allowing me to start physical therapy.   For now, I'm doing 2--that's 2--pelvic tilts and just a few attempts at tummy sucking (while breathing out--because I had been using my diaphragm to move my abdomen!)  And I'm walking 7-15 minutes, as able, a few times a day.

      Recently, someone said they couldn't believe how limited I still was.  Ouch.  Major surgery will do that.  It's not called "major" for nothing.   And I've been told by more than one doctor that I make a lot of scar tissue, have healing issues, and low muscle tone.  It could take a year for me to get back to my old normal.   Am I surprised?  Sometimes.  So no wonder someone else might be.

      Still, I see it as progress.  I only take pain pills occasionally and then only the Tylenol with codeine, which is on the low end of my pain pill scale.  And I'm doing more than ever since the surgery--under optimal circumstances, this includes short driving, eating in restaurants, pushing a grocery cart, unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher, doing laundry, playing piano for 15+ minutes, extended sitting (like a movie),  walking around stores, hour-long car rides.  Mama and the kids do or help me do everything else; after all this time, especially since they're older, we have a good system in place.   It makes things easier during this next phase of post-surgery recovery.  What's that cliche about a marathon not a spring?  Not that a running metaphor really works for me, but still. . . . slow and steady . . . maybe next week I can do 4 pelvic tilts!