Saturday, February 28, 2009

ATC Kids Swap

Today was the deadline for the Kids Artist Trading Cards Swap! Ours went out a little earlier in the week, since today was a busy day (more on that later), but I wanted to show what was done. These are Zack's creations entitled "Colorful" in a series one to six. They are watercolor (with some crayon too) on Bristol watercolor paper (cut to 2.5 x 3.5 inches). I almost wanted to make some myself (but I was using the time to cook dinner and clean the kitchen, and that was good too).

Look how tiny they are!
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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Zoo, blah blah blah

It feels like a day for sarcasm. But I'm uninspired. Sorry. I know people enjoy some sarcasm. I certainly do. But, everything I've got is more snarky than sarcastic. So, I'll just post about our birthday visit to the zoo. (These blooming branches are just prettiness from the zoo entrance to offset all the snarky thoughts I'm thinking.)

James took off work for Sammy's birthday and we went to the Austin zoo. I wasn't really enthused about this plan (after all, I wasn't exactly consulted when it was made). I had a really tight schedule for the week and this took a chunk of time I was planning on using to ignore the children and make myself crazy trying to get something done while they "played" (there, a teensy bit of sarcasm).

The trip turned out to be much more pleasant than that plan (and YES, it did put me behind).

The Austin Zoo is a rescue zoo. It isn't a big pretty zoo, but it's fun.

The Birthday Sammy rode with Daddy while Zack ran free. And climbed. There was a petting zoo with a feeding area and a separate petting area. Zack was too nervous to let the eager goats lick the food out of his hand, but he did tip the pieces onto the rail where they could reach them (my, goats, what long tongues you have!).

If you are thinking of going, I recommend it for a partial day activity. It was a really fun family time, very wholesome, educational, outdoorsy, animal-y, Austin-y and blah blah blah.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Crisis Averted

I ran out of applesauce.

This is a disaster of epic proportions around here. And probably a sign that I need a Mommy-Time-Out (which I really do). I was wracking my brain for when I could possibly get to the store when I thought, "I wonder if it's very hard to make applesauce." Well, I have to say: DUH. Not only is it not hard, it very easy.

I had three big organic apples. I peeled, cored and chopped them coarsely, then boiled them with 1/3. c water for eight minutes. Into the blender and out came applesauce - a little less than 2.5 cups. I feel a little silly not realizing how easy this was. On the other hand, I looked at the price of applesauce and I only barely broke even on the cost of buying organic applesauce. Tastes good, though!

Painting for ATC Kids Swap

We've been working on Zack's Artist Trading Cards for the Wise Craft Swap, which are due out this weekend. Zack was adamant that they be watercolors and "designs", not drawings. Meaning they are abstracts. They are neat, but not what I was expecting. I thought he would draw someTHING, make it a person or house or rainbow. After all, he's been on a kick of drawing "a house with solar panels".

But, he knew his own mind in this matter, so that's what he did! We'll be naming them next, then mailing them out this week. I hope to post pictures of the finished art once I have the titles, hee!

Then we'll be looking expectantly in our mailbox to receive some too!
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One year ago this lovely plant was a gift from James' parents upon Samuel's birth. We planted it without a lot of faith that it would thrive outside. When James was doing some yard cleanup this weekend, look what we found - it's blooming again!
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Zack photo feature

Zack: Happy, serious, mischievous. Gardening, cooking, riding, jumping. Not being still or quiet!
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Friday, February 20, 2009

card making time

After enjoying it lastweek, I decided to try the Color Throwdown challenge (CTD30) again this week. My "tangerine" turned out a lot softer than I realized, but the card was fun! The little cupcakes are "extra" from another project so I wanted to use them right away before they got lost in the scrapbooking scraps. The stamped "birthday wishes" is copper metallic ink, which is also on some of the distressed edges.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two - make that three! - random things:

1. Why is it that reading about, cooking and writing about really wholesome homemade food makes be crave Taco Bell?

2. Etsy (a website for buying and selling handmade goods and supplies) quote of the week: "Hedgehogs are the new Owls".

It's possible (likely?) that I'm the only one who thinks that's hilarious.

3. ARGH! I just hand-cut a stack of invitations only to find I put MARCH when I meant February for date to rsvp. I'm not redoing them! I'm not!

People will figure it out, right?

Sammy-food Making Time

Any babyfood makers out there?

It's Sammy-food making time at my house. Sometimes I do a bit of it every couple days, but this is the operation if I do it all at once (start merry-go-round music audio and jerky fast film video):

Peel and cut carrots (or winter squash, or sweet potatoes) in half. Add water, cover and microwave several minutes until tender. Meanwhile, boil peas in one pot and green beans in another. Grind 1 cup of grains (I use 1/4c. scoop each of millet, quinoa, cracked wheat and oats) in a coffee grinder (one I don't use for coffee). Move cooked peas to the blender (a Vita-Mix, I love that thing!), with a few set aside for finger foods. Boil two cups of water in the now free pot and stir in grains. Simmer on low ten minutes. Meanwhile, mix half yogurt and half applesauce and portion out into bowls. Add cooked green beans to the Vita-Mix (a few set aside for finger foods) and puree with the peas. Mix green veggies with cooked cereal. Portion some into bowls and store the rest half in fridge and half in freezer. Puree carrots, mix with cereal, portion some into bowls and store half in fridge and half in freezer. Cut any soft fruits and veggies I have around into finger foods and portion into bowls. Voila! Baby food for a week and more in the freezer!

By the time I cook, puree, portion and store the food and clean up my two pots and one plate (and the Vita-Mix, but that doesn't count because the almost non-existent cleanup time is the best thing about that particular appliance) it takes me about an hour (or more if I'm reading blogs in between!).

I do like making Sammy's food. Sometimes it is a hassle, but it's something easy I can do to add more homemade to our lives. I like not thinking I have to have something industrially processed and prepackaged. I like being able to use organics for less money and cutting down on the packaging for the little baby portions. I DO buy baby food - I keep some bought food in our bag in case - I'm definitely not opposed to it. But this is something that fits into our lives right now and once I get a rhythm going, it goes pretty quickly. There are some cookbooks about this out there, so I'm not the only one! Anyone with tips to share?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Whoo hoo!

Look at the very pretty tags my sister sent me! Aren't they awesome?? What a nice surprise it was to have these arrive in the mail. I'll have a hard time not hoarding these, so if you get one you'll know it's a sign of great honor!
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Parsley anyone??

The parsley needed a serious haircut. It was threatening to take over the garden and encroaching on the swiss chard and the lettuce! I had to wield the clippers with Zack jumping up and down next to me and Sammy falling off my hip, but I managed to give the other rows some breathing room.

The amount of parsley harvested borders on the ridiculous. Even if I made a big batch of tabbouleh, this is a ton of parsley. That "vase" in the picture is actually a large water pitcher and it's more than full.

So... any local peeps want some parsley?? It's a really healthy food and all that! Plus, it's pretty.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Valentine's Bunny

Zack decided that if he put his boots out, Valentine's presents would appear in them. He has put boots out for stockings at Christmas before, so I guess it made sense to him. He talked about setting out his boots for presents the day before: "And it will be pink stuff and hearts because pink and hearts are for Valentine's Day. And CANDY." We brushed this off, not planning to fill his boots with candy.

Early Saturday morning he came into our room while we were sleeping and asked if he could get our boots; we groggily agreed. He came back to say everything was ready! We dragged ourselves out of bed to find our boots where the Christmas tree lived such a short time ago. Zack had taken all his school Valentines and mailed cards and spread them out in our boots. We re-opened them in turn, but in the end it was clear he was still keeping all of them!

Good thing Sammy had his own mail to eat.

We all dressed in red and went to a Valentine's brunch hosted by two couples from our church. We were so matchy and cute that I thought we should get some pictures... but the second we got home Zack was intent on going geocaching with his daddy so he abruptly changed clothes and I only got a red picture of Sammy and I. Apparently, this is the appropriate attire for geocaching:
Note that he is wearing camo boots, camo pants, a camo shirt, a camo stocking cap AND a camo hat on top of that. Too bad he forgot his camo socks.

We did have a fun family Valentine's dinner - barbeque chicken pizza, on which Zack individually place each piece of cheese, and these strawberry parfaits (the ice cream is just strawberries, milk and sugar, made fresh in my most beloved kitchen appliance, the Vita-Mix). Zack approved and Sammy got to eat the strawberries. It was his introduction to berries and he was crazy about them. He laughed out loud and ran his ankles around in frantic delighted circles!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Green Garlic

Last weekend one of our farm stand items was green garlic. The little hand-drawn sign advertised to "eat it all!" so we decided to try it. I had never heard of this food, but according to the green garlic entry here, it's just young fresh garlic before the greens have died back and the cloves have matured. It is very much like big green onions, though the greens have more thickness and moisture too them. The flavor is very pleasant and mild (compared to regular garlic - it was still very fragrant).
Our first meal with this was Penne with Ricotta and Green Garlic Sauce, which I found here. We were not overly impressed with this. The parsley was from the garden and may have been a bit overgrown because my boys thought it was too papery-chewy. I thought the flavor was a bit flat. I added the zest and juice of a lemon, which helped, but no one was clamoring for the leftovers.

So, I did what I do with leftover pasta - made pastizzio! Pastizzio seems to be a bit varied according to who is describing it. At our favorite Greek place, it's a tall block with all the flavors of lasagna, plus feta cheese, and made with penne instead of layered noodles. This was the only picture I found that came close to what we're used to; everything else seemed to have a wide range of definitions of this food. But the point is, when I have leftover pasta, I use ground meat, red sauce, and cheese plus whatever related veggies I have (mushrooms, olives, spinach, etc). I mix them all in a skillet then bake until browned and bubbly. It's a lot like lasagna but without the hassle. The real benefit is that I can call it Greek Food, which means I can serve it with hummus and tabouli, two of my favorite foods. The green garlic and ricotta in this pasta were ideal for pastizzio and made a subtle but delicious difference from our usual combination.

Finally, I took the rest of the green garlic and made Green Garlic and Potato Soup. It may not look it from the picture, but this was the winner! Very homey, comforting, and good.

Green Garlic and Potato Soup
3 stalks green garlic, white and green pieces, chopped
1 T butter
5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-4 c chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c milk
1/4 c sour cream

In a large saucepan, saute the green garlic in butter until tender and beginning to brown. Add stock, potatoes, salt and pepper. Boil until potatoes are soft. Mash potatoes slightly, leaving a thicker soup and some chunks of potato intact. (Can hold at this point until ready to serve.)
Remove from heat and add milk and sour cream. Serve with parmesean and/or parsley for Garnish!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sammy photo feature

Sammy: Not walking, even if he's holding Mommy's fingertips, but laughing and exploring.

Yesterday: Warm, sunny, beautiful (unlike today, but no complaints!)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Date Night!

We had such a lovely time on our Belated-Anniversary-Early-Valentine's-Thursday-Night Date! We went to our favorite fancy restaurant, Hudson's On The Bend, and had their characteristically imaginative and delicious food. It's definitely a special occasion place, not the sort of price point we go for often, so it was our entire entertainment for the evening, which doubled as two dates.

There was a fun, tasty little amuse bouche of the chef's selection, a bite size wild boar tostada. I didn't get all the flourishy details and we ate it right up without even a picture. I wanted to take a picture later as the next table got theirs, but James wouldn't let me. I think I was pushing my luck taking pictures of our own food, but I couldn't resist! After all, talk about Garnish!

My appetizer was wild rice crepes stuffed with wild mushrooms and ricotta topped with jumbo lump blue crab, lemon saffron creme and beet coulis. I chose it because I've been on a mushroom kick and it did not disappoint! I don't particularly enjoy rice (I know, I know) but the crepes were very good. I was surprised the beet coulis didn't have a stronger, sweeter taste, but it did all blend together very nicely. James had a salad of ruby red grapefruit and avocado on local Bibb lettuce with Pure Luck feta dressing and fresh pomegranate. He said it was just the taste he was looking for. I forgot to taste it, which was a shame because I was interested in the local goats' milk cheese.

For my entree I had the cilantro pesto stuffed pheasant breast on mole sauce with a pheasant confit tamale topped with white chocolate tomatillo sauce. I don't know that I've had pheasant before but it was mild and the cilantro pesto and the mole really shone. I loved the tamale as well. James had the masa encrusted antelope with green chile gravy. The knife that accompanied his meal looked like something Daniel Boone would use, and considering all the wild ingredients in the food there, appropriately so!

Both of our entrees came with ancho chile Shiner Bock mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables - yellow pepper, a tender halved brussel sprout, fresh green beans and turnips. The potatoes were great, but the veggies were really extraordinary - very sweet and tasty.

We didn't have room for dessert, but they sent us with a boxed "wild turtle", a chocolate dipped caramel pecan pie petit four, which we haven't eaten yet. I'm sure looking forward to it.

Overall, a delicious meal and great company. Happy Ten Year Anniversary to us!!

p.s. By request, I've added links to some of the foodie terms and local foods and ingredients!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

card making time

I got inspired by my sister's Etsy shop and made my Valentine's card for James. I tried out the Color Throwdown weekly challenge colors while I was at it. We are going out tonight for a belated-anniversary-early-Valentines dinner date, so I am planning on giving it to him right away.

True to form, I finished it minutes before it was time to get dressed for our date!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Gym

For the record, I did not even want to go to the gym today. I needed to go to the grocery store today.

But on Monday's visit Zack was taken in by the giant indoor playscape and begged to go back and play. He's his mother's son and really likes to have a bunch of other people to play with, so I could relate to his desire to go. Plus, he gets to play on a tunnels-slides-nets style playscape and I get to work out instead of sitting at McDonalds? That's a win for everyone.

I would have preferred a class but I checked out the class schedule and there were none that suited me. Oh, well, I thought, I can always swim laps. I got busy getting ready to go, so that we could get it done before Sammy's nap time. I got into my suit and threw on a plain pink sweatshirt over it in addition to my gym shorts. Because we really did HAVE to go to the grocery, I decided to get together my stuff to shower and dress at the gym, enabling us to go straight to the grocery afterwards. I had to do a bit of running around to get together some travel size products and I didn't have some of the things I needed so I finally just grabbed my way too big travel roll of EVERYTHING and threw it all in. After all, it was getting later by the minute. I had too much stuff, but at 9:15, I was loaded up and ready to load the children in their carseats.

On Monday I had discovered my gym card wasn't in its usual spot and had had to use my drivers license for them to look me up. I figured I do a quick search and find my card for today. Fifteen minutes and all the obvious locations later, I still had no gym card. I gave up and went to get out my drivers license, but it wasn't there. Arg! I had sent it with James the night before so that he could renew my library card. I ran upstairs to his nightstand thinking to find it, but couldn't. I called his cell. I called his work phone. I texted him. Finally he called back to say "Oops, it's still in my wallet..." So another fifteen minutes had passed and I had no gym card and no drivers license. ARGH! It seemed ridiculous to drive all the way over there, so I went back to searching for my gym card. This time I would do a hard target search of every console, seatback pocket, glove box and gym bag!

Fifteen more minutes and I gave up on my hard target search.

But after the kids had waited in the car all this time, and I had gone to all the trouble to pack up a weekend's worth of travel gear just to take a shower at the gym, I was not to be deterred. I proceeded to drive all the way to James' office and back to retrieve my drivers licence. When I arrived at the gym, I realized I had no towel. "Well," I thought, "I have this sweatshirt. I'll just use it for a towel."

My entire gym experience was just off. There was a section of the pool area under construction so that it janky looking. One of the lanelines in the lap pool was missing. There were no kickboards (there used to be a zillion of them!). I rubbed a big section of my ankle raw doing drills wearing swim fins. When I went to shower, I vividly recalled why I don't usually bother to try to shower and dress at the gym: there is nowhere in the shower to hang anything and the shower walls themselve are about seven feet high. My huge weekend kit turned out to be better than something little since I was able to brace it and stand on my tiptoes and get it barely hung up on the mystifyingly tall shower wall. It got soaking wet in the needle spray of the shower and later fell onto the nasty floor. My body wash was old and stinky (ewww!) and I went back over my shower with shampoo trying to get off the remaining old stinky scent. I dried off on my sweatshirt and managed to dry off my weekend kit only to have someone fire up the shower next to me and somehow soak everything in my separate stall anew. I had forgotten they don't have a hairdryer, so I pointed the handdryer at my head as best I could and got the bulk of the water not soaked up by my sweatshirt out of my hair so I could drag my kids through the grocery store. By the time I left, my faithful sweatshirt was dripping wet.

But, I think the crowning moment came as we were entering the gym to start with. I was just thinking I was glad to have something I could use as a towel when:
Me, with a sigh: Man. This is just sillly.

Zack: It is silly, Mommy. Do you know what is the silly part, Mommy?

Me, thinking it was the hour and a half in the car trying to get to the gym: No, tell me. What's the silly part?

Zack, shaking his head sadly: The silly part is that your shirt is really too jammie-y to wear.
Again I say, Sheesh!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book on Food Chains

I finally finished The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I say finally because it seems to take me forever to finish anything, but also because it really was quite long and took a bit of discipline to get through. If that sounds like a poor endorsement, though, it isn't meant to be. I really enjoyed reading this: some of it was eye-opening and some thought provoking but all of it was a good read.

The author traces four meals from their source in nature or agriculture all the way to his table, reporting on the details of how it is produced along the way: the Industrial Meal, the Industrial-Organic Meal, the Organic Meal, and the Hunted-Gathered Meal. When Mommy Town recommended this book to me, she said, "somehow Pollan makes the agricultural history of corn page-turning stuff. (Corn is sort of the villain of the book.)" Corn does indeed play a disturbingly prominent role in the industrial food chain, the one most of us eat from most of the time. Pollan concludes that if we are what we eat (and from a carbon standpoint we are) then we are "corn walking". How sinister that is is left to the reader, but it made me see processed food differently. It also sheds light on the transition of Organic from a movement to a market niche. Again, the conclusion of whether this is a bad thing or not is left open, but much information is shared along the way.

Pollan is a journalist and writes with an investigative bent, but the purpose of the investigation is philosophical and the prose is at times lofty. Some phrases are beautiful; some take a second reading to process. There is one small section where the philosophy didn't connect with me at all, but I think that had more to do with our different world views. Overall, I appreciated the expansion of world view that this book afforded and I definitely recommend it, hopefully minus the library fines I racked up finishing it!

Monday, February 09, 2009


Austin is overdue some rain, so we were very glad to see it today. It's been overcast for a few days, teasing us with the idea of rain, but last night some water actually fell from the sky. More is promised in the next few days.

Since it was a rainy day my stir-crazy kids and my stir-crazy self had a little trouble getting our bearings today. We're all healthy after being sick too long and I'm finally able to step outside without being bowled over by the blast of cedar pollen. Getting out and about this weekend was so lovely. Being stuck inside today caused the great cranky monster to rear its ugly head. You think I'm talking about the kids? Um, yeah. Let's go with that.

So, instead we went to the gym for yoga. Zack and Sammy got to play in a big padded room and I got a little peace and stretching. Good all around. And now I'm in the mood to scrapbook, so my post on a recently finished (!) book will have to wait until tomorrow.

More rain, please!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Farm Day

We spent some time today checking out a couple of farms around Austin. I had been looking at the Local Harvest website for information on community supported agriculture, a interest that began for me with the book Food Politics (still only half-way through it, but it's an eye-opener) and this article, an open letter to the then-unchosen next president from the New York Times (or check out the extended audio interview from NPR).

In looking on the Local Harvest website I was excited to see a farm just two and a half miles from downtown, Boggy Creek Farm. They have harvest days on Wednesdays and Saturdays so we decided to go check it out. It's right in east Austin, in the midst of an eclectic and in some places run-down neighborhood. The fields are smallish (for a farm - much bigger than our little garden spot!) and in separate sections. We walked around from one to another, letting Zack run around, checking out the crops, and generally enjoying the warm, overcast day.

The chicken coop had quite a lot of birds, but by the time we got to the market stand, they didn't have any eggs. We did buy a little fresh produce. I wanted some goat's milk (local, from Pure Luck Farm and Dairy in Dripping Springs), but I think James was worried it would be a little wonky, so we passed on that for this time. Hopefully I'll manage to make something interesting enough with our purchases to report on it later!

Next, we checked out Johnson's Backyard Garden, a slightly larger operation a littler further out of town. A friend of mine subscribes to their weekly half-bushel box of seasonal produce and loves it. I've been on the waiting list, but according to their website they expect to be able to add subscribers for spring. We wanted to see the area before we decided. They have 20 acres and larger equipment, but it's a small, local operation. The produce that my friend has shared with me in the past has always been excellent and varied. It's a little bit of pressure to figure out how to fix whatever arrives, but it's exciting too. I need to talk to James, but I think we're going to do it.

After all that, James wanted to drive through the area looking at land for sale and wishing. So we did, and ended up in Lockhardt for barbecue lunch: no sauce, no plates, no forks. I guess I'm not a barbecue purist, because I missed the sauce, but the food was good. Clearly, my boys enjoyed it!