Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bedtime stories

When Isaac moved into Danny's room, probably about three months ago now, I was really unsure about how bedtime was going to go. Three or four nights of the week, bedtime is solely my duty, and I was very pessimistic about it! I figured the boys would keep each other awake way past bedtime, messing around, I'd have to go in every ten minutes and tell them to be quiet...

I really should have just been more optimistic. They dealt beautifully with it. I think one of the things that has seriously helped was instituting chapter book reading.

Our bedtime routine normally involved pajamas; brushing teeth; washing face and hands (and sometimes feet); two or three picture books out on the couch; and then I'd leave Danny, nurse Isaac to sleep in our room, come back for Danny and put him to bed. Oh yes, I also sang Wynken, Blynken and Nod to each before leaving the room (my dad used to sing it to us when we were little). was exhausting. I'm glad it's combined now! Now, after stories on the couch, Isaac nursed (which he quit doing only a week ago, but that's another post), then we go to the bedroom together, both get in bed, lights are turned off and nursery rhyme is sung. Then mommy excuses herself to go get the chapter book and flashlight. We read one or two chapters (somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes worth, depending on how late it is and how the behavior has been), and by the end, Isaac is often asleep and Danny might as well be. It's great. They very rarely "talk" much after I leave. Reading relaxes me, so I guess reason stands that it must be soothing to them, as well.

The first book we started off with was The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate Dicamillo.
When I was first reading this book, I was a little startled by the dark tone of the novel. The boys didn't seem to mind it whatsoever though; I repeatedly asked Danny if it was too scary, and he always answered no. We didn't have any nightmares or any crazy talk, so I kept on with it. I actually really enjoyed the book, so that was a bonus! Isaac still talks about the Princess Pea.

Then we moved on to James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.
I loved Roald Dahl immensely when I was young, so I was super excited to read one of his books. I almost bought a boxed set of them, then changed my mind for whatever reason, only to pull a box out of a shelf way up high in our closet and find it in there, along with many of my other old favorites! The boys also really liked this book. Dahl is as dark as Dicamillo was though, so I felt a little better about having read her book. I decided that when you think about it, lots of children's literature (and movies) feature death, dying, mild swearing...part of life that kids need to learn about, I suppose.

Then, we just finished The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary, last night.
I also liked Beverly Cleary's books a lot when I was young, though re-reading them as an adult wasn't nearly as exciting! I think this has by far been the boys favorite, which doesn't really surprise me, what with their love of all things on wheels. We'll be finishing the series of them, but I'm taking a breather with the next book!

Tonight we'll begin Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another by Roald Dahl.
As much as I loved Roald Dahl, I never actually read this book, so I'm excited for it. I had actually planned on starting Charlotte's Web, but never got my trip to Powell's in; plus we've read enough animal books for now and Christa's son loved Charlie--I'm sure Danny will, too, and I can't wait to listen to Danny and Andrew discuss it at preschool!

I've been amazed with Danny's ability to remember what's going on in the books as we progress through the chapters. I quiz him almost every night, and he almost always recalls what we read the previous night.

I've been waiting to start this tradition for quite awhile, and am so glad that the kids are at an age where we can start enjoying books together! I just hope it lasts long enough that we might read the Harry Potter series--I have a feeling by that point they may be tired of reading only one chapter a night with mom :)

Long Beach

Last weekend (as in a week ago, now!), we went to Long Beach for another clam tide and to see the family--my dad came into town to dig clams, and Brenda, Tom and Zellie went, so of course we had to go, too!

We had a lovely trip, as we usually do. Chris got two limits of clams AND a limit of oysters, Tom brought his spring salmon to share--I think the kids and I have more than exceeded our mercury levels for the next year!

Only an hour after we got there, my dad had to park the tractor back in the warehouse, and invited the kids all along for a ride:
That probably made Danny's entire trip, right there!

My grandma had bought another ping pong table (they had one quite awhile ago, she got rid of it, and has now decided that it would be good for my grandpa to have to play on--and hot damn, he's pretty good at ping pong!!). Chris and Tom played a lot; I tried to see if Danny could do it yet, it was hilarious how he "played"; Zeus had found yet another ball that he loves--I'm not sure what's wrong with him.

Saturday, it rained almost all day. Brenda and I managed to get the kids out for a trek through the woods, which I didn't bring my camera for; we planned on going back with the camera, b/c the kids all loved it so much and there were a million good photo-ops, but we never made it back. So we spent the rest of the day trashing the house,
letting Zeus lick clean the windows and walls,
and then going downtown and buying a ton of candy and ice cream. I didn't take pictures of that; I'm hoping I'll forget it happened! I like to think we sort of offset it by coming home and eating salmon, salad and sweet potatoes...

I guess someone felt sorry for us, b/c Sunday was gorgeous.

Chris and Tom didn't return from clam digging and oyster picking/shucking for quite a while, but we were able to be outside, and my mom stopped by for awhile.

Danny worked on digging like a dog:

These next pictures are all of the same iris in my grandma's yard. My grandma dug up these roots from an iris HER mom had in their yard in Yakima. I think my grandma said she planted it five years ago, and this is the first year it bloomed. She was very happy, it was very pretty. I'll have to dig up some of her roots in a few years!

And I finally remembered to take a picture of my grandparents with all of their great-grandchildren!

When Chris returned, we headed down to the beach, for some bike riding on the Discovery Trail, lunch, and flying kites and building sand forts. If you're ever in Long Beach, take bikes for the trail! It's beautiful; I can't wait until we finally get a bike for me, and a bike trailer and we can bike the whole thing (hopefully this summer?). I have to brag, the trail was my dad's baby while he was city manager in Long Beach--I heard a lot about it, and it's neat to see it finally completed.
And then the camera batteries died. That beach photo is the only one I got--at least I made it pretty good! Chris, Isaac and I all ended up getting slightly pink from our time on the beach, it was that nice. We didn't get home until late, and poor Chris cleaned clams until after 10 pm--while yours truly sat on the couch watching Desperate Housewives.

Hey, it's hard work, photographing the family weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lucia Falls

The weather was so beautiful yesterday and since I had nothing planned, I decided the boys and I should get outside for awhile. Danny and Isaac are suckers for picnics and waterfalls, so they were easily convinced.

I had actually initially planned on heading out for the Middle Lewis River Falls loop hike, but it turns out it was a bit more of a drive than I'd anticipated, out in the boonies, and I'll admit, being by myself, with a 2- and 4-year-old in the middle of the woods kinda freaks me out; I decided to save that little hike for a time when Chris is with us.

We settled for just Lucia Falls; we'd been there before, but not for a couple years. It's a nice easy walk, the waterfall is pretty, there's lots of picnicking areas AND it's only about ten minutes away. I think Danny will probably be making us go back.

Proof that they were excited:
Isaac kept clapping and yelling, "Yay, waterfall!" but I didn't manage to get it on camera. It was pretty cute though.

One of the cool things about Lucia Falls is that there are a ton of rocky areas to scrabble around on. We didn't do too much, since I was alone with two kids, plus we had Zeus and of course I had these terrifying images of one of my kids plunging into the river and I. cannot. hardly. swim. Being there with Chris will make the rocks a little more fun, or when the kids get older. Danny did really well climbing around, Isaac of course needed a bit of help. Zeus was a pain in the ass. :)

Danny tried really hard to get Zeus to pose for a picture...this is the best I got. See? Pain. Isaac's butt is all wet b/c he promptly fell down in some mud first thing when we got there.

We finally managed to get our "hike" started; the falls is less than a quarter mile from the parking lot, so you see it immediately and the kids were very hard to pull away from it. The trail forks from the falls/picnic area; we walked the portion along the river first (the southern part), then the trail went uphill (north) slightly and looped back to rejoin at the falls again.
Issac didn't make it much past this point--maybe 1/3 of a mile?! I always bring the Ergo along on these outings, so he got plopped in there, and was perfectly content to be carried the rest of the hike. 

Poor Danny--probably 3/4 through the hike (it's only a mile), he got very tired and would have probably liked his own Ergo.
He was a trooper though, and finished up for me. We had to walk to the car and get our lunch; Danny was happy to wait back where I could see him, on a tree stump.
We ate lunch and then I let Danny have the camera the rest of the trip:
Danny said about the above picture: "The forest floor is really dirty, Mama."
This is "some very soft moss."
I love the two tree pictures. Gives you an idea of the sense of awe a little kid must feel, being so tiny is such a big place. Danny told me about these pictures: "The trees were so pretty." Awww....
And then Danny tried to take a picture of me and Zeus; Zeus was still uncooperative. But this kind of gives you an idea of the belly starting to emerge :) 

We had a fun trip though, I'd recommend this as a good little picnic and hike site for kids. I'm even planning on taking my grandparents next time they're here!

Homemade mayo

I have been planning on making this mayonnaise recipe for a very long time now. It's from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. I've been trying to avoid soy as much as possible (though it's in virtually everything...disgusting), because of its estrogenic effects. Most mayo (think Best Foods or Kraft or any store brand) is made from soy oil. There are quite a few olive oil and canola oil ones on the market now, but I think they taste weird--reminiscent of Miracle Whip, which I hate--and they're expensive.

The Sally Fallon recipe calls for olive oil, but she says that if you find the olive oil taste too strong, that sunflower oil is a good substitute. A couple months back, I finally remembered to order sunflower oil from Azure; this bottle was $6.65 from Azure and I believe it was $11.99 at Fred Meyer's, which is why I kept waiting to order it from Azure! took me two months to finally make the mayo. The only reason it finally got done was due to my being incredibly antsy and anxious on Monday before our ultrasound--I always get nervous before any of these appointments, even my monthly meet-up with our midwives, like magically the baby inside me will have disappeared or something. Cleaning and cooking take care of my nervous energy

Anyhow, the mayo finally got made and I am so glad it did because it is the best mayonnaise I have ever tasted. And now when Danny and Isaac peel their mayo slathered bread off their sandwiches and eat it plain, I'm not cringing thinking about soy and they're not complaining of the taste. And it took a whole, oh, ten minutes, maybe. I can't wait for Chris to taste it, it hasn't passed his test yet, but I'm pretty certain it will :)

The recipe:
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp of dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (I used store bought, but will squeeze my own in the future)
  • 1 Tbsp whey (optional; I'll talk about it below)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil or expeller pressed sunflower oil, or a combination (I did 1/2 c. of each)
  • generous pinch of sea salt

In your food processor, place all ingredients except the oils; process until well blended, about 30 seconds.

Slowly stream in oils with the motor running, until thickened and well incorporated. Taste and check seasonings. You my need more salt and/or lemon juice.
Isn't it pretty and yellow? I had to place it on something white to show the effect from the nice pastured eggs we get. It's almost as yellow as our butter (which was surprising--the Organic Valley butter was on sale at Fred Meyer's and is so bright and pretty; their package says it's pasture fed, so I guess they're telling the truth).

The addition of whey gives a bit of a "fermented" spin to the mayo, adding beneficial enzymes and increasing nutrient content. It also stretches the shelf life from about two weeks to several months! Whey is super easy to make, too: simply purchase a quart of yogurt (preferably as fresh as possible), line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and let the whey drip out, at room temperature (or the fridge is fine, too, if that grosses you out), into a glass container, for about 24 hours. Make sure and cover the whole thing if it's out on the counter so that flies can't get into it. Give it a good, gentle squeeze to get any residual whey. The leftover yogurt is often called "yogurt cheese" and can be used in a plethora of ways (cream cheese substitute is what we've mostly done). I've found the yogurt cheese to only keep for a couple weeks; the whey however will last several months, and can be used in other fermenting recipes. Sally Fallon has a lot more info in her book; the Laurel's Kitchen books also have recipes to use yogurt cheese.

Happy sandwiches!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


It's amazing, but sometimes Danny and Isaac actually wear and play with the things I've made for them.

For about a month (last month), they were crazy into playing "kings". When they play "kings", they wear the felted birthday crowns I made for each of their last birthdays, have me tie the playsilks I dyed for Valentine's Day on them like capes, and then have me make scepters out of these crazy giant pipe cleaner things my grandma bought for them. 

This particular day, "kings" got a little too crazy while I was making dinner, and it was beautiful out, so I sent them outside to play, where they chased each other in circles for a good half-hour.

And, most of the time, the scepters end up being guns. These children to do not actually own a toy gun. I don't know what it is that makes them create guns out of everything: swords, food, scepters, wands, sticks--Isaac's recent favorite is to stick a crayon perpendicularly into a wad of clay, with the clay being the barrel, and the crayon, the handle.

You can tell in these last two pictures they are saying, "Shoot, shoot", which is what they say, instead of bam, boom, bang or what have you that you'd normally associate with shooting. Reminds me of The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, a movie my sis and I still love, in which the dog says, "Bark, bark" instead of actually making the noise...
Yes, they're shooting at me, and yes, they were both admonished NOT to shoot at people. To which they turn and shoot at Zeus. And then I say, "Not Zeus, either! Go find the cats!" Hahaha...of course I leave out the part about the cats :)

Seeds starts

Garden time has started.

Well, it actually started a month or so ago, theoretically, but the greens I planted (Lacinato kale,  Savoy spinach and a type of lettuce I can't remember) are only just now peeking through, and only three of 20-some sugar pea seeds have decided to make an appearance. We had all this nice warm weather, which was then followed by a few frosts and quite a bit of rain.

It's a learning lesson, every year :)

So though my garden is going, I've been disappointed in myself that I had failed to do any seed starts. We don't have a ton of space for it in the house; I don't feel like spending the money on fluorescent lights and propagation mats and convincing Chris to clear out space for me in the garage; and, like the previous post mentioned, things have been busy.

I have missed the boat on doing seed starts of the cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts--pretty much all the things kids hate), b/c they like the cooler weather of late spring/early summer (cool for the Pacific NW, that is) and can be set out within the next few weeks. But today I realized, "Duh. Look at a calendar..." Six weeks from today is May 22nd: the perfect time of year for our area to start setting out the hot weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes--all the stuff people like when they think about gardening!). I say "six weeks" b/c that's the number the seed packets and seed purveyors give you for deciding when to sow your starts indoors: six weeks before your average last frost date. I surveyed multiple website and gardening books and came up with a range of "last frost" dates for my area, ranging from mid-May to end of May. The 22nd sounds perfect to me :)

I started off only planning to do seed starts of cukes and squashes today, and while googling to find how deep to plant cucumbers, came across the info that transplanting members of the cucurbit family (which includes cucumbers, winter and summer squashes, pumpkins...) is not a good idea! Apparently they do not like their roots disturbed, which is why most instructions are to sow them directly into the ground. However, a few websites said that for areas with shorter growing seasons, doing starts only 3-4 weeks before the last frost date would allow you a head start, but not allow the roots to get so large that they'll be easily disturbed. SO...with that info, I decided I will still do the starts, but not until the end of April. (As a side note: Courtney, I only have six of the Japanese climbing cucumber seeds. I'll just start them all, and if I have extra, they're yours!)

Today, in the end, I started red chili peppers, apple green eggplant, three varieties of cherry tomatoes (Sungold, Blondkopfchen and chocolate cherry), Japanese Trifele black tomatoes (these failed last year), and Jaune Flammee tomatoes. I also learned that ALL of these starts should be done in 3-inch diameter pots--something I have failed to do in the past. Smaller pots lead to leggy plants and poor transplanting success. Huh. Sounds familiar. Guess egg cartons weren't cutting it :) They should all also be transplanted into bigger pots when they get the first full set of leaves, then be moved to their permanent place outside when it warms up. I wish I could just follow directions instead of messing up for three years in a row *sigh*
I'm totally not holding my breath for any of those starts, but you know the fact that this year since I am not depending on them, that this is when they'll all do fabulous.

Now on the garden to-do list: replant sugar peas and sow a row of carrots within the next week.

And WSU's extension website looks like it's a fabulous source. I mean, I'm probably a bit biased, being a third-generation Coug and granddaughter of an extension research professor, but the "Gardening" link looks like some info I need to be reading. Everything from fruit plants, to vegetable gardens, to organic gardening, to master gardening program info...the list goes on. Beat that UW.

And, because I find blog posts w/o pictures kind of boring, here are some of the kids playing in the garden. They've really been enjoying having over half of the garden to dig holes, find worms, make construction sites, etc. This particular day, Danny refused to set foot in the garden b/c he was wearing sandals and didn't want dirt in them, so he played around the perimeter. Isaac refused to get off his bike, b/c he was waiting to load it in the car.

And Zeus is just funny:

And just to prove that some of my garden doesn't look awful:

All of the greens you can see in that picture overwintered--kale is the tall stuff in the back, and carrots are the closer, smaller greens. The kale was probably only a couple inches high in the beginning of January, but we had so much warm weather that it shot up, and we've had fresh kale. It's a bit tougher than the nice brand new stuff, and slightly more bitter, but not bad by any means. The carrots are still itty-bitty, but hey, I guess it's a bit of a head start. I thinned them out a couple weeks ago and the boys ate all of the tiny ones I pulled out! (Which, btw, you should cut the tops to thin them out, so you don't disturb the roots, but I couldn't leave them to rot in the ground when my children wanted to eat them so badly...)

And the raspberry beds look beautiful:

Yay for spring!