Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Saturday mornings are hard around here right now. Almost since Gabi was first born, Papi and I have had an agreement: He sleeps in Saturday mornings, and I sleep in Sunday mornings. That worked out fine for quite awhile, but over the past few months its working out less well for me. There's something about a Saturday morning that makes it different from the weekdays, even when it shouldn't be. The kids just seem to do their best to aggravate me, purposefully.

I don't know if its that the kids know Papi is in bed and it makes them act up more since he won't be involved in the discipline, or if its towards the end of a busy week and they're just more wound up in general, or if I'm annoyed that he's in the bedroom sleeping so soundly while I'm dealing with them. Whatever it is, its three hours of yuck every week.

Then Sunday rolls around and its my day to lay in bed, blissfully alone. You think that works out for me? Yeah, not so much. Gabi knows that if she sneaks into the room through the bathroom (it has two doors) that Papi won't be able to tell she's inside - laying in bed next to me whispering insistently "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy get up. Get up Mommy" and repeat x 50. Then I convince her to leave, which she does for just enough time for me to fall back asleep before she's back again. If I call Papi into the room it turns into a crying fit and then I might as well just get up already.

This Sunday was the same as usual, except instead of just getting up to hang out around the house, I got up and went for a run. Gabi was hysterical on my way out the door, but by the time I got home 50 minutes later all was well. I felt great, refreshed by the exercise and alone time, and the kids were perfectly happy playing with dad. This might have to be my new "sleeping in" on Sundays. It doesn't mean I sure won't miss the bed though!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday, Take 2

This is our muffin tin meal from last Monday - we're having a Memorial Day BBQ today with the family that will decidedly NOT be served in muffin tins, so here's what was on the menu last week:

Clockwise from top center: Chicken nuggets, ketchup for dipping, Popchips (air popped potato chips), apple sauce, wafer cookies, and green peas.
 This one went over better, although again the kiddos didn't really like the wafer cookies, and they didn't like the popchips. I don't get that one - those chips are filled with potato salty goodness - but to each his own. At least they left the least healthy options on the tray. They are still loving the concept though; they were so excited for lunch! I think it might be a way to get them into eating new things; if I can harness that excitement into giving something new a try then lunch served in muffin tins is totally worth it.

My daughter Gabi used to be an adventurous eater; she'd at least try anything we put in front of her. As she's gotten a bit older she's gotten a LOT more picky; now she will more likely than not refuse to try anything new. Unfortunately that attitude is rubbing off on her little brother Buddy, especially since she tends to make a big show of turning down food. Just imagine "its sooo yucky", "bleagh", "NO WAY". After that display, I figure we've only got a 40/60 chance of him even trying the offending food, let alone liking it. The only thing we've got going for us right now is his huge appetite; sometimes he's just hungry enough to ignore big sis!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Wilder Life

I just finished reading The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure and I really enjoyed it. I picked it up without knowing all that much about it (the author re-read the Little House on the Prairie series as an adult and it set her off onto a kind of Little House pilgrimage) and it was quite a rewarding read. She weaves Laura Ingalls Wilder's history (and Laura's daughter Rose's) into her own story, first of a child reading the books, and then as an adult re-visiting them. Along the way, she comes across some deep insights about Laura, and about the specific culture of Little House fans (and the sometimes surprising divisions between partisans of the book and TV series.).

I was a Little House book fan growing up. I had all of the books, and they were well loved. I read voraciously as a child, all the time, up late at night, at the dinner table, at any break in class. The Little House books were my comfort food, the stories I turned to time and time again when I was between new books, or just needing to visit with an old friend. Of course, I haven't read any of the books in at least 20 years, and somehow I don't even have any of them tucked away in my little stash of childhood books. Even so, as I read The Wilder Life I found myself recalling everything about the series; anytime Wendy mentioned an illustration I could see it perfectly, and all of the little details seemed completely familiar. The feelings she described as a child, I had. I wanted to be Laura, to live that pioneer life out on the prairie, to live in that 'simpler' time. On childhood camping trips I would pretend we were setting up camp after a long, dusty day on the trail - I even have vague memories of pretending our old Volkswagen station wagon (and later, the upgrade to a Volvo sedan) were covered wagons. I'm sure I patted the hood a time or two, for a job well done pulling the wagon that day.

Even as I read and reminisced, however, I felt like something was missing. Near the end of the book, I realized what it was. A big part of my fondness for the series was for the book Farmer Boy, about the childhood of Laura's future husband Almanzo. When Wendy begins to talk about it, and decides to visit the family farm in New York, its as an afterthought; she wants to follow her journey all the way to its end. She comes to the conclusion that the book didn't leave much of an impression on her as a child because the life it depicted was too perfect; everything goes right for the Wilder family, its all good times and plenty. Reading that, I realized that that was exactly why I had liked it (and re-read it) so much. My childhood was not filled with good times and plenty; things went wrong a lot, and we didn't always have a lot of food, and we weren't as poor as we could have been, but we sure weren't well off. I identified with Laura, but sometimes it seemed a little too close to home, while reading about Almanzo's life was comforting. Here was a family where a child could feel safe and secure. That's getting a little heavy, but I appreciate that The Wilder Life took me to a place I didn't expect to go.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer's almost here - time for a to-do list!

Summertime is approaching (more slowly in this part of the world, but oh well) and its the time of year when I get motivated to fix up the house and get projects done. We have a few big parties every summer, so that's usually the impetus to get moving. Here's what I'd like to get done this summer:

  • Finish the kitchen remodel! This means sand and paint the cabinets and doors, install new hardware, and paint the windowsill and sink back splash. This project has been underway for over two years, and its about damn time it got finished. It still seems kind of impossible to finish though - I mean, just the thought of debating cabinet hinges with my husband exhausts me.

  • Add an exterior outlet to the front porch area that's tied in to the porch light, and then string decorative lights along the porch ceiling. Theoretically this could be a snap - shut off the power, splice in a wire and attach an outdoor outlet, but of course there is the whole choosing the lights thing. . .and the whole getting a free moment thing. I guess that might be a hamper on every bullet point on this list.

  • Build the chicken coop, so its ready for occupancy next spring. This is something we can work on little by little. The first step is just to clear the wood out of the woodshed (yes, we have an actual woodshed that will become the coop), and then we can move forward with the floor, walls and sleeping area. I also want to use as much salvage material as possible, so getting an early start on this project will help with that.

  • Paint the porch chair, the picnic table and chairs, and the patio side table. This will be a 1-day project. We just need to agree on colors, buy the paint, and get it done. It would be nice to knock this one off first so that we could start the summer with a spiffed up patio.

  • Plant, tend, and harvest vegetables from the garden. So I'm already underway on this one, but every year I start strong and then taper off as the summer goes on. This is more of a midsummer task when I start to lose interest in watering and weeding.

  • Go to a U-Pick strawberry patch, pick a bunch, and put up strawberry preserves. What a fun adventure to do with the kids - they'll love to go into a field of strawberries and help fill a basket. The canning could be fun too, as long as I don't go overboard. The last time I canned strawberry preserves was probably 7 years ago, and I had so many berries I was canning for 12 hours. Hence no more canning for 7 years! I think I've blocked the worst part out now, so I'm ready to try again.

  • Have a garage sale and get rid of some of the baby things we don't need anymore. I'm sure craigslist is more efficient, and I can probably make more money that way, but I do love having garage sales. My husband, on the other hand, really does not, so we'll see if this one happens.

That's about enough of a list - its pretty comprehensive - I'll try to check off items as they get completed this summer, and we'll see where I end up at the end of September (summer starts in July here, and lasts through September). Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This Week in the Garden

I thought I'd put up a few pictures of the little garden babies - and in doing so I think I've identified the Mr. Mystery seedlings! But first, here's a look at the turnip seedlings:
After I took this shot I took advantage of the nice weather and thinned the seedlings out so they had more breathing room - I'll have to thin them again later but next time I should be able to get a few turnip greens to eat - this time they were just too tiny to bother with.

So here is a picture of Mr. Mystery:

Mr. Mystery

I think THIS mystery is solved! Looking at the sprout towards the rear, it looks to me like these little guys are cilantro seedlings. Gabi must have dumped the extra cilantro seeds into this raised bed after we sowed some in the greens bowl on the patio. So case closed! Or is it . . . ?

As I was photographing this bed, I noticed yet another mystery seedling:

SeƱor Misterio
So here we go again - that big guy in the middle of the picture is another mystery plant. It LOOKS like it's some kind of squash sprout, like maybe a zucchini? I guess I'll have to wait and see, at least until it gets a few more leaves. I have absolutely no idea where ONE squash seed would come from though. I didn't even have any in this bed last year.

Finally, here's a photo of something that's making me very happy:
Baby Strawberries!
I can't wait until the first ones are ripe! Last year the squirrels got too many of the strawberries - this time I'll have to come up with some defense, because I don't want that happening again. Our lab might have to start sleeping outside!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Take 1!

So yesterday we tried out the Muffin Tin Monday concept here at la Casa Chica. I first heard of the idea when I stumbled across the Muffin Tin Mom blog recently - Gabi happened by as I was checking it out and immediately wanted to try it, et voila!

It was a huge hit with Gabi; she loved it all, the muffin tin, the food in it, the fact that it had a cute name. Poor little Buddy was down with the idea at first, but he's fighting a stomach bug so he wasn't soo into the eating part. Here's what lunch looked like:

Clockwise from the top left we had turkey meatballs, plain fiore pasta, banana slices, little wafer cookies, dried fruit mix, and plantain chips. Its a little bland, but that was intentional (see stomach bug, above).
I'm sure we'll be revisiting this again next week . . . I'm not sure I'm up for two theme meals a day (muffin tins and meatless Mondays) but who knows? Maybe I should search the web to see what other themes are out there for other days of the week - somebody's gotta be doing Fishy Fridays, right?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Growing things

It's time for another go-round with the garden . . . about 6 years ago I had the best vegetable growing experience ever (for me) but since then we moved to a new house with not the best micro-climate, and its been all downhill since then. Each spring I set out to have a great edible garden, and by midsummer its a mostly neglected, struggling little patch of meh. I do fine with ornamentals, perennial veggies, and even potted tomatoes on the patio but those annual veggies stump me every time. I can't even get a decent zucchini crop out of my yard!

Well, this year will be different! (yeah, let's see). So far I've gotten into the ground:
  • sugar snap peas
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • something else that for the life of me I can't remember now (seriously!)
  • Mixed greens
  • cilantro
Everything is sprouting (even Mr. Mystery) so here's hoping! Now if we could only get above 60 degrees. . .

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oops, off to a rocky start. . .

I wanted to get off to a good start here, but just after the last post an old friend of mine from college passed away, and it knocked me off my feet for a bit - more than I would have anticipated. He died suddenly, of a heart attack, and it pushed a sort of reset button in me; the 'oh yes, you really MUST cherish those dear to you' button. Its something that slips away sometimes in the day to day. The good that came out of his passing, however, was that I reconnected with one of my dearest friends with whom I'd fallen out of contact. Dave would be happy about that, I'm sure.

Otherwise I have a million projects floating around in my head, both major and minor. Hopefully I'll figure out a way to get some of them going (or finish the other million floating around the house, uncompleted).