Sunday, May 31, 2009

At the Pool

Sammy is just getting used to the idea of the chilly (well, chilly compared to a bath) water. He keeps trying to escape! He's curious about the pool, but also wants to crawl around on the cement and explore. After a little crawling, he's back to see what this pool thing is all about... and then he's off again.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Just what have I been writing about lately? This is it. These are the words I use, the things I repeat. Fun to see. Check out , which will take your site or text and make it into text art. Play with the layout, words, colors, font... whatever you like and make your own!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer Shake-down

The week has flown by, and it's gotten me thinking of our Memorial Day activities - it was a day full of summer fun! We went to a great park (Old Settler's Park - this is the best link I could find and it's not great) in Round Rock, Tx near my hubby's parents and they set up a fun grill-out picnic for us and another family. Zack's uncle showed him his whole tackle box and several of us fished - one even caught something (but we threw it back).

It was a fun day, but full of little start of summer work-out-the-kinks moments. Zack stepped in the lake up to his calf with one foot. We said, well, change into your Crocs. He brought one Croc and left the other other on the stairs at home. Guess we're just lucky it was the correct foot, as he was seen playing on the nearby playscape like this!

Sammy kept acting like he might walk, though he didn't yet. He sure did like the grass between his toes, though.

(The chair tipped over immediately after this picture!)

We brought all our stuff to go to the attached aquatic center, an extra cool city pool with water slides and other great water play, but time got away from us and Sammy was much too tired. James' parents offered to take him to their house to nap while we swam, so we made all the arrangements for that and headed off to the waterpark. When we arrived, there was a line snaking around the parking lot of those waiting to get in. The pool was at capacity, so they would only let one person in when one person left. As we were discovering that the area in which we were most interested was closed for construction and deciding what to do, they had a "contamination incident" and shut down everything for "at least" half an hour. Yikes. We went to the grandparens' house to pick up Sammy, who wasn't asleep yet, and headed home.

It was a very fun day, despite the setbacks. But we did forget to put sunscreen on the tops of our feet! Isn't that just how it goes when you're trying to get your summer groove back?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chilled Soup

Are you down with the chilled soups?

For a while now, soup has been a big standard in my diet. It definitely started when I was expecting Sammy, but it didn't end after he was born. The summer's arrival had me stymied about my lunches - I missed my soups, but who can eat hot soup after stepping in from the heat?

So now, I am trying some cold soups. So far, James is rather suspicious of the cold soup. I may have to reel him in with some sweet versions. Zack won't care if it's "cold" and "soup" - if it's sweet and fruity, I know he'll be interested!

Today's was chilled avocado cucumber soup. I was making it just for me, so I tried to make it spicy but it turned out mild. Still, it was delicious!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009


So far, there are two things Sammy is afraid of: Umbrellas and Bowling. To display the great danger these things pose to him, he screams and his whole body shakes, then he buries his face in my shoulder.

Last weekend we walked down to a neighbors house for a birthday party. It was raining but it just seemed too silly to drive two houses, so we grabbed the umbrellas and headed out. It took me a while to understand what was so terrifying, but popping it up and down confirmed it.

Then, last night Zack desperately wanted to go bowling (he pretty much always desperately wants to go bowling). We headed out after dinner for one quick game. Sammy was getting tired, but we figured that the excitement of the bowling alley would carry him through. Little did we know that seeing the ball return and the throws down the lane would be a terribly frightening scene to him!

Today as I was working in the kitchen, and Sammy was laughing at the sound of the Vita-mix (that's our very loud, industrial-strength blender), I remembered that Zack was terrified of the sound of the blender. Back then, it was a much quieter blender, even . It occurs to me that in the many, many ways my kids have been so similar to one another, this is a quirky little difference. And it inspired me to capture even this face, as part of the story:
Because once time passes, the little details are gone from my often-addled brain (I did get some strange looks from passers-by for taking this photo!)

p.s. Was that too sad a note to end on?? Here's a shot from later in the evening:

Thursday, May 21, 2009


These caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly love our parsley. Since we have plenty, we let them eat as much as they want.

After Zack got a bug house at Easter, he moved roly-polys in and out of it for quite some time before he found a caterpillar in the parsley trimmings that were headed for the compost. Then I found another tiny one in the parsely arangement I was keeping on the counter. So, he kept them, feeding them fresh parsley every day or so.

I hate to admit it, but the caterpillars took some abuse. Between Zack forgetting to freshen their parsley and Sammy getting his hands on the house and shaking it, I'm surprised they survived at all. In fact, when one made a chrysalis (we've learned that moths make cocoons and butterflies make chrysalises - and that's even the right plural, I checked!) , I thought maybe he was just giving up on life and nothing would ever emerge! But, soon the other one followed suit.

Today when we left for the library, the two chrysalises looked just like the day before. But when we got home, this lovely butterfly was fluttering about the bug house! We turned him out into the sunny sky and he flew off to find some flowers. We were a little sad to see him go so quickly, but I don't think butterflies live very long... maybe he'll be back to make some more caterpillars on our parsley!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lemme at it

Sammy was longing for that big boy bike the whole time we were out playing... so as soon as Zack hopped off of it, he knew his chance had come. But what to do? Run the pedals with his hands? Pull on the handlebars? No, no - put those new climbing skills to use:
That's the ticket!
Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Have you heard of a clothing swap party? I hadn't, but now that I've been to one, I'm a fan! Two of my friends had one this past weekend with about a dozen girls in attendance (by girls, I mean us. Don't tell me I'm too old to be a girl). It was so much fun.

I brought two very full bags of clothing... and left with two less-full but much more attractive clothing! We had a grand array - two long garment racks plus two couches and the mantle full of dresses and blouses, shelves of sweaters, rows of shoes, a few purses (and one belt I snatched up), and pants, pants pants. The (very large) dining table was full of pants four pairs deep! People brought as much as they wanted (or their friends sent with them). We chatted and snacked for a while, then it was shopping time. James asked me if we took turns. Took turns - HA. It was busy bees, searching through, grabbing, and trying on, taking what didn't work to the next person and having them try it because it was too long or whatever. Our lovely host had bedrooms set up for people to go change, but I couldn't stand to be away from the action. There were long mirrors and lots of second 0pinions on what looked great.

I'm psyched about the great stuff I got - even a well-fitting pair of jeans (plus three blouses, three sweaters, three sleeveless tops, a skirt, a pair of shorts, a pair of capris, a cami and a belt). Score! The atmosphere was really fun. I wondered how sizes would work, but of course it wasn't a problem. Most of us are moms and have been up and down through a few sizes, so there was a varied selection. And at the end of the night there were probably six big boxes of clothes left to donate to Safe Place.

They are having another party in the fall - I'm already excited!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Triathlon Training

Some of you have very kindly asked me how my training is going, which I really appreciate. It's going very well, considering I'm less than three weeks from the triathlon and I've been training for less than two weeks. It doesn't feel like two weeks - it feels like for always, like I picked back up right where I left off training two years ago, when I was pregnant with Sammy.

Triathlon has been a journey for me, one with a deeper meaning than just a workout. It started with the 2003 season, the year before I had Zack. At the time, I had no interest in outdoor exercise (there are mosquitoes and sun and heat out there! And if there aren't, there's cold wind or rain! Yuck, right?), had never broken a bone or run in any kind of race (at least not as an adult). I knew nothing of the sport and little of any aspect of it. Now, I've run eight or so triathlons, done several running races, taken on some nice group rides and open water swims, participated in two years of group training programs, mentored in two years of group training programs, and coached a friend through preparation and completion of her first tri. I've broken two bones in the process and have run tris a little pregnant and very pregnant. Overall, I've developed an enduring love for triathlon. Triathlon has been my boot camp for being a mom of boys, my motivation to get out there, and a witness to what the most unlikely person can do through a bit of determination and a load of divine sustaining and protection.

Many, many people have said, with few shocked blinks, "Wow, you do triathlons? Gosh, if you can do it, surely I can!" They check themselves, not meaning to give insult, and start to apologize but I always take it as a great compliment. The unlikely athlete is a better witness than the natural talent!

This year I feel so much less rusty than I rightly should, having taken last season off. I hadn't been working out except for a very occasional swim or yoga class (to attempt to justify paying for my gym membership!). Now, it feels like I've stepped back in right where I left off. I keep surprising myself that I'm slower than previous race paces, which is a bit silly. Of course I'm slower! The great thing is that I'm functioning on any kind of similar level at all. And I'm back to enjoying it so much, and being able to do activities that involve the family (which was actually my whole goal to start with).

So far, I've done three swims, three bikes and two runs. If you'd like to see what I'm doing to prepare, there's a play-by-play of my workouts at the bottom of the left column. I'd love to find some workout partners; the only downside of my current training is that I'm a bit lonely on it. I miss my workout groups. I could have joined one, if I'd started much sooner and if I weren't working with very specific scheduling limitations. Think you could be interested in triathlon? Let me know.

But, family fun is good too - yesterday we went out to Decker Lake and I rode the (probable - it isn't posted yet) race course. It was a really fun time. The boys played a little, then checked in on me on the section of course that has no shoulder (which didn't work out very well, but we'll know that for next time), then fished for an hour or so while I arrived back and joined them. We came home to grill burgers and veggies for dinner and eat out on the picnic table. What could be better than that?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Tricky Baby

Last week we were over at a friend's house for lunch and a playdate. I was sitting at the counter with Sammy playing on the floor beside me. A couple of minutes went by when I realized I wasn't hearing him anymore. I thought he'd gone into the hall but all the doors were closed, so I figured he was getting into things in their dining room or office. Nope. He must have gone into the living room to again pull a pile of papers off a side table and onto the head of our friend's baby. Nope. So I made the circut again, and then a third time. Now, I try not to panic, but really, where could he be and why wasn't he making any sounds? A vision of him under a bed somewhere soundlessly choking on one of the big brothers' marbles flashed through my mind. I enlisted my friend's help to look for him. WHERE WAS HE?????

Finally, we opened the bathroom door. There he was, at the top of a two-step stepstool, playing in the sink. He couldn't even climb ONE step of a stepstool yesterday! He had gone in and closed the door behind him -all the better to get enough buffer time to pull things off the counter, learn to climb a stepstool and make a water mess. At least the toilet lid was closed.

Today, as I was typing this story, I let Zack borrow my camera to take a few pictures. He took sixty-three. I didn't even take that many pictures on my honeymoon. When he came to show them to me I saw this one. What is Sammy doing in that picture? What does he have? Hey, that's my purse! Uh, I've got to go now...
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Favorite: Misto

I have another favorite cooking item to show you!

I love my little Misto oil-sprayer. You add your oil of choice, pump the cap to build up pressure, and get an aerosol-like fine mist for all your oil-spraying needs. It is easy to use, works very well, and contains no "grain alcohol, soy lecithin and propellant" that the purchased can of spray contains. (And if it matters to you, that common brand of spray is produced by ConAgra, who can't seem to make a pot pie without including Salmonella and thinks they'll just ship them that way and you can deal with the problem yourself.)

I spray pans to make them non-stick, of course, but I have two other uses for you:

First, I recently tried the trick Keri recommends: when I don't have the time (or calorie budget) for soft-frying my tortillas for enchiladas, I can spray both sides with the oil spray, stack them up and heat them in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It works very nicely!

My final tip for use of the oil sprayer (which works with the regular spray as well) is for air-popped popcorn. Using a sprayer is a great way to get a very thin, even coating of oil on all the popped kernels so that salt will stick to them! Just spray and salt as the popcorn tumbles out of the popper into your bowl. This makes a very tasty and not soggy or greasy popcorn. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Remember these?

I really thought they were seed pods. And I didn't think they could be the result of a wasp, as Susan suggested in the comments, but guess what? They are!

This is called Oak Apple Gall and is an abnormal growth that happens when a wasp lays its eggs on the tree. I saw three on the top of a little oak sappling on a training run. Between seeing that they were from an oak and the information Susan gave me, I was able to find out the full story. Thanks, Susan!

I'd like to take Zack to show him the little tree, but we tried to get out on a run together, me with the jogging stroller and him on his bike, and it didn't work at all. Or rather, it worked fine if I wanted to walk briskly for .7 miles and then poop out (not exactly my plan). Maybe a family walk with a stop-off for swinging on the swings halfway there would be better, eh?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Green stuff is pretty

This arrangement was the result of sticking all the trimmings from an overgrown, going-to-seed, leggy oregano plant into a vase. Oh yeah, I stuck some carrot tops in there too! This was all scraps that would otherwise have gone in the brush recycle or the compost with the lower leaves removed.

I needed some decoration for the serving table at our Mother's Day brunch for our class at church. I hadn't prepared (of course), so I made do with this and finished it off with some reused raffia. James said it looked a bit like a jar of weeds, but I thought it looked pretty! And I got some compliments on it.

Give it a try!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Plot

Yesterday was such a Monday's Monday.

I'd love to tell you about our lovely weekend but I'm kinda past it now. Suffice it to say that there was some very nice times with my sweet boys.

Today, something else entirely is on my mind and unfortunately for you, I am going to tell you what it is: one baby cannot possibly produce this much poo.

We must somehow have someone else's allotment. Someone, somewhere, has invented a method to re-route the contents of their baby's dirty diapers into my baby's diaper (or rather, OUT of my baby's diaper). That person will soon be a zillionaire while I and all the other victims are up to our elbows in mess and wipes, attempting to disinfect while more is busily arriving from the culprits' diapers. It's diabolical, I tell you.

And disgusting.

It has to be a plot, I'm sure of it. It has nothing to do with the vast quantities my child consumes and everything to do with the conspiracy against me, which today included a nursery helper putting a size too small diaper on the boy. I didn't know it, but while I was making an emergency stop at the store to stock up on size 4, he was wearing a size 2.

I've already dealt with the clothes and furniture, but I'd better go work on the carpet. Enjoy your giant piles of money, evil diaper-rerouter-inventor.

(Yes, that's a rib he's chewing on.)

Saturday, May 09, 2009


I've been putting off thinking about triathlon for far too long now. I skipped the entire season last year - Sammy was so young, I was nursing around the clock, and it just didn't feel like a fit. I really didn't miss it at all. But this year, I do. Even this year, though, our life has felt so full and complicated that I put off considering it, and now we're down the the wire for my race of choice, the Danskin Triathlon.

The event is in four and a half weeks. That's really soon. In the past I have had an organized plan for at least the eleven weeks before. I have always had a workout group I was attending or helping with, or at least a partner. But now, with just a month left, there's no time for any of that. I just need to make a choice and do it. Pull the trigger, so to speak.

Ok, I'm in.

(I even registered!)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Get that boy a haircut!

Thank goodness I finally got this child a haircut! The poor ragamuffin child was looking scraggly and my little trims were not sufficient.

We went to Cool Cuts 4 Kids and the setup made it so easy. Not only was there a baby-sized seat with a seat belt, it was in a little car with a steering wheel he could turn. And then the entire fun car setup was facing a screen playing Elmo Talks to Babies. I can't think of a better use of Elmo. Sammy sat still almost the whole time.
Mr. Handsome was still enjoying the car, even when the haircut was done!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Pioneer Farms

On Saturday we went out to Pioneer Farms, a living history farm, for their May Day festival. We saw sheep shearing, wool spinning, some pioneer music, a cute Charlotte's Web play, a blacksmith, and gunfights. I wanted to see cheese-making (well, of course I did!) but we ran out of time before the Biscuit Brothers, who film their show at Pioneer Farms, were scheduled and we had to hot-foot it back to the main stage for that.

Most of the demonstrations were of only mild interest to Zack and of course beyond Sammy, but it was neat to see and we enjoyed being out and doing something (on what would have otherwise been for us a sluggish day with Daddy out of town). Zack liked the fire in the blacksmith hut, and was very excited to be given a pounded nail which he declared his sword. For those in Austin, if you are thinking of going be forewarned that there is an admission charge, and it's a bit on the high side. We could have made much more learning and exploring out of it than we did, but it was a good outing.

The highlight of the day was the Biscuit Brothers concert. Zack sang along and followed every move in every song - he was more participatory than I've ever seen him, even more than at our church's monthly kids' productions (that he LOVES). He cornered the Brothers after the show with expectations that they would remember him from the last concert that he attended; they didn't, but that didn't stop Zack from talking their ears off. As our friend said as we bumped our strollers out of the farms, "Well, I give the Biscuit Brothers points for accessibility!"

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Future Bike Mechanic

We had one cool morning this week before the heat returned, and Zack and I spent it on the front drive, with him riding his bike up and down. When one of his training wheels was wobbly, I got a wrench to tighten it and Zack decided he needed to do some work on his bike.

He did the only thing he knew how to do, which was tighten (and thus also loosen) the nut on his training wheels. That gave him the brilliant idea that he would just take those training wheels right off. He did it, all himself, and pushed his bike up and down the sidewalk. I convinced him to get on and let me hold it up while he rode a little. After five minutes of that, he was ready to put the training wheels right back on!

We had a bit of angst when he couldn't remember how to get it back together, but it only took a few nudges from Mom and he managed it. (Thank goodness I thought to take note of what order the washer was in before he had it all apart.)

Meanwhile, I was on the phone hearing a report from a friend who had done her first triathlon over the weekend (Congrats, Raegan, you triathlete!). The bike work and the tri report... well they made me anxious to get back out on my bike too. Surely I can work some workouts into our schedules??

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Review: Made from Scratch

The book Made from Scratch, by Jenna Woginrich, also the writer of blog Cold Antler Farm, was a fun little read.

It may have just been my recent obsession, but I thought the first chapter, on her adventures starting to keep chickens, was the best. I did enjoy the overall premise, which was on homesteading for the newbie. Jenna talks the reader through various subjects related to a homemade and sustainable life with anecdotes of her own efforts. She includes the expected subjects of gardening and farm animals, but also antiquing, playing an instrument, and having working pets.

I'm not quite sure how we discovered this book. My mom had reserved it from the library, but when it came in she didn't remember looking for it herself and thought I had chosen it. I hadn't heard of it, but it did sound like something that fit my recent interest in learning more homemade skills. Although neither of us remembered hearing of it, we picked it up and read the first chapter out loud (hey, you never outgrow being read to!). We really enjoyed the chapter, but after that it had a little less punch.

I think the narrative style would have been a better fit for a narrative oranization to the book. The book was organized by subject, and it did follow an emotional development, but the lack of chronology was a bit distracting. The author moved from Tennesee to northern Iowa to start her homesteading, but the progression of the book doesn't parallel the move and development.
There are small sections concluding each subject giving basic instructions for getting started and although the information is fine, it repeats some of that discussed in the narrative; I didn't care for the division of each subject into separate sections.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, mostly because of the interest of listening to a young woman share her passion for getting into how to do old things.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Final Trip Sewing Project

Alright, people, surely more than just Julie could have ventured a guess on this odd looking item! Her list sounded a lot like James' guesses, but here's the answer: it's a hot dish carrier! My mom has one of these she's been using for years. I tend to take a hot dish in the car for potlucks, food deliveries, small group meetings, etc. And when I was home and remembered how handy hers was, we decided to use this very cute fabric to make one for me!

This is made of two layers of fabric plus cotton batting and quilted on the machine. The handles and all the edges are done with bias binding (purchased prefolded), which also made the spot for the drawstrings. It is made for a 9x13" dish, but other sizes fit nicely (that's a round dish in the photo). Now, what hot dish can I take where??

Oh, I meant to mention - I had never used bias binding before (yes, I know I have those little quilts started and quilts are finished with binding... but I'm better at starting things than finishing them). I found it to be really really easy. Even around the curves, it wasn't hard to make work. I used an all-machine method that was basically a single-line straight stitch and it was on. I have already almost forgotten than I was intimidated by learning how to do this!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Any Guesses?

Here's another project we did while I was in Tucson. We loved that tote fabric so much that we decided to use it again.

James couldn't figure out what it was. Can't say that I blame him, but I'm very excited about this little item!

Curious? I'll be back tomorrow with the full description!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Stroller Tote Tutorial

I made a tutorial for the Stroller Tote!

This is designed for a mostly-beginner - someone who knows how to use the sewing machine to sew straight lines with a seam allowance. I didn't explain basics like pinning or pressing - not that there is much to explain, but when I'm a complete beginner at something I like to read something that tells me what people are talking about. If that's you, check out Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol of Angry Chicken (which I plan to review after one more sewing project).

Check it out, try it and let me know how it goes!

Stroller Tote Tutorial from