Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Different Easter

Our Easter celebration was all jumbly this year. Little Tarquin was sick with something that had him throwing up all day, poor guy; he was so looking forward to wearing his new little vest and tie to church. While the rest of the family attended church, Tarquin lay on the cold floor by me, wanting me to sing Easter hymns over and over while I potted up the last tomatoes. I really don’t understand that floor thing. He’s not the first of our children to prefer lying on the floor while sick. Tarquin wouldn’t even let me put a blanket down first – the couple of times I tried to move him onto one, he weakly got up and moved to a new patch of floor, so I finally negotiated a pillow and let him be.

033 Everyone else – I don’t know what I said to make them all laugh, but look at the Patriarch looking at me like he’s a little concerned for my sanity!

It just so happened that Easter was also the Patriarch’s birthday this year. I asked him, “Has that ever happened to you before?” Not that I didn’t believe his “no” answer, but I googled it and the last time that happened was in 1859! He had a birthday request list up on the fridge (we do this with both gift ideas and desired menu for the day), and a couple of days before his birthday he took a Sharpie, lined out a few gift ideas, and inserted “4. Sleep  5. Sleep”. Poor guy. So when they got home from church, he did a couple of errands, opened his gifts, and went to bed at something like 4pm.


He’s showing us his reggae birthday shoes here – he does his own shopping and we all pretend we bought the stuff – but this was cool: he found this pair of Nikes on sale, but they were just the black with the red and yellow logo. After thinking about it awhile, he found a webbed Jamaican-color belt and took it into the shoe repair guy we use, who stitched them to both sides of the shoes. Love that!

He requested his favorite carrot cake, and we made a double batch to send cupcakes for our church’s potluck Sunday (fortunately the theme was “Sunday Brunch”). His favorite is from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, called “Ginger Carrot Cupcakes” with “Orange Cream Cheese Frosting”. We haven’t successfully converted it to gluten-free yet, but I’ll post if we do, because this is such a yummy recipe. He only likes a tiny bit of frosting


But that worked well, as we then had enough to pipe the cupcakes:

013 Clara and Sophia did the little gumpaste carrots

He requested Brown Stew Fish for his birthday dinner and slept right through dinner, so Sophia and I made it the next evening with the assistance of our new BFF on youtube (Tracy, I’m talkin’ about you). Love being able to just pause and chop, see just how the item is supposed to look, etc:


The Patriarch was perfectly satisfied with this rendition of Brown Stew Fish, so I’m happy – my previous forays into Jamaican cooking haven’t been quite as successful. Sophia has a fish soup that he likes, too, but mostly the Patriarch does his own Jamaican food.

And happily, Tarquin is all the way back to better by now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Sunshine Means Garden Progress

Much of today was taken up by this and that, but at about 4 I was finally able to get outside, and had a productive time.

Transplanted out some nice starts: Chard, the “Glory of Enkhuizen” cabbages, “Blushed Icy Oak” lettuce, and parsley. Good thing, too, as some of these were rapidly approaching root-bound. Also direct seeded beets and scallions, plus did some bed topping up.

The hauling of dirt and compost for the bed topping had my back screaming at me after a few hours to go inside. I started gathering up all of my tools and stepped on the rake, and just like in a movie, whomp it smacked me in the forehead! I’m hoping for some green/purple/yellow Easter looking bruises by Sunday.

Does anyone sense a minor theme running through my blog and gather that I’m something of a klutz?!!?

Friday, April 15, 2011

It’s Just Not Natural.

Letter just came in the mail today – Nigel made the Dean’s List again, for the fourth term out of the five he’s attended his community college.

I distinctly remember birthing the boy, or I’d start to wonder if he was adopted . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Tiny Bit of Progress

Well, at least I did some weeding and got the rest of the broccoli planted . . . and then the wheelbarrow and I fell off a board and put an annoying end to my gardening day. Ugh. Sorry for the whine, but to lose several hours of the only dry day forecast ahead is so frustrating!!!

OK. Better now. Sorry.

Pulled back the plastic to water the broccoli planted out last week – they’re doing really well with more space to breathe:


For comparison, here are their buddies planted indoors on the same day, but still under the grow lights until today:


Thankful to at least have gotten them out, and again, more room under the grow lights for potting up tomatoes.

Tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday I’ll shift focus to painting and polyurethaning the loft unit and getting the tomatoes potted up. We’re on Spring Break from homeschool this week, so it’s great timing for a couple of big projects like that.

Building the Loft Bed

I won’t be all coy about this project . . . The Patriarch and his friend were really productive yesterday and got the basic bones of the loft bed up:


These are wonderful plans, again from Ana White, found here, and again inspired by a Pottery Barn item, seen here. We’re planning a slight modification to put the larger bookshelf to the outside of the unit, thereby creating more space in Nigel’s study area and also giving Gareth a “nightstand” area on the top of the bookshelf.

This whole part of the project took a short day – they got started around 11 am and quit before 5 pm, and it is very, very sturdy. Look underneath the bed part (and there you’ll see the other modification, which is we flipped the center support vertically for more stability):


They’re going to work on the bookshelf sections Saturday – I can hardly wait to see this come together!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April Birthday Girl

It has always been so hard to connect Clara with her actual age. She is such an internally directed young lady, and always has been, that she’s always seemed older than she is. While we were driving around the other day, for example, she was reading “Antigone” by Sophocles just for the fun of it. I did that, too, but at seventeen, not fourteen. She is reserved, loving, and very determined, and the latter is not one of those mommy-code-words for stubborn :-).

She recently turned fifteen. For her birthday she wanted to go poke around in Forever 21 at the local mall. It’s a good place to get sewing ideas and sometimes a piece of clothing. All of we-girls like much of what they do with their mannequins, the accessories and color combinations (although only in-store; the website is horrible). While she mostly just picked up ideas, she did find a little short sweater in a very muted pink. She’s not much of a pink girl, but this is so muted as to be a neutral. So many cute shirts and dresses this year don’t really meet our family’s modesty standard, but paired with a little spring sweater are entirely appropriate. So this is a fun window shopping year. Lots of tucks and feminine fabrics and touches. Clara in general has more streamlined and tailored tastes but adds small feminine details for her own style.

Tried to get pictures on Sophia’s cell phone while shopping, but that didn’t work too well!

She had asked to make her own cake, as she finds the baking of it fun, so again back to the incomparable Dorie Greenspan for her “Black and White Chocolate Cake”. The frosting didn’t turn out quite right this time around, although it has done well for Clara in the past:


That looks really yellow, at least on my monitor, but in real life was an elegant black and white.

Sophia made Clara’s requested Cauliflower and Mushroom Risotto and I made her requested pasta dish that, being a family invention, has no name other than “That Pasta Thing We Made Up”.



Greetings from grandparents

And one more just because:


A Break In the Rain . . .

Means some progress in the garden! Nigel helped by topping up the bed where the peas were at last planted. I know this is late, but last year we harvested into autumn without succumbing to enation, so we have a pretty pea-favorable microclimate in our backyard. The first bed of broccoli got transplanted out and covered under plastic:


Our first year’s harvest of broccoli was radically better than the second, and I suspect that was due to my keeping the starts covered during the day much longer the first year. This year will tell, hopefully with another bountiful crop.

I also transplanted out a bed of lettuce starts just to get some more real estate under the grow lights:


Beyond that small bed you see the kale, then the leek bed. Carrots will go in the other half of the kale bed. The leeks are loving the relentless rain we’ve been having. Growing instructions for leeks say something like, “keep well watered after transplanting”, so my timing was fortunate!

Now I’ll have space to pot up the tomatoes before they’re hopelessly rootbound, whew. Spring since gardening means perpetually racing to keep up, and the little starts need attention every day. But this isn’t complaining – it is so satisfying a work!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Project Big Reveal!

I still need to find some baskets that fit in the lower shelves, but otherwise it’s done. These beds are now for Nigel and Gareth, but a loft bed is next up, then there will be some re-arranging, stay tuned. The plans for these came from the most excellent Ana White at "Knock Off Wood" and were inspired by this bed unit at Pottery Barn.



There is open storage under the mattresses where we intend to store our suitcases, filled with the boys’ out of season clothes.

I told Nigel and Gareth to choose a bright, fun color for the inside of the corner storage space, but they misunderstood and Nigel chose a blue and Gareth chose pumpkin . . . oh well! The cubby is painted both:


Along with storage baskets, we’ll get a couple of clamp-on lamps. Previous to this they’d had an IKEA “Robin” trundle, but that piece started falling apart almost immediately, so I’m so thrilled they have an upgrade. We have such a great Patriarch around here!

Friday, April 1, 2011

It Would Be Tedious

If I weren’t liking it so much. Paint layer one, dry, paint layer two, dry, paint layer three (I did mention how much I dislike Behr’s “Ultra” paint and primer in one, didn’t I?), dry, polyurethane layer one, dry, polyurethane layer two, dry, then a third layer of polyurethane on those surfaces most likely to be scratched. Check.

One zone gets bright orange and bright blue. Still on layers two and one, respectively.

But hard to dislike this. Well, except for the neck aches from painting/poly-ing upside down and sideways. Hope to have the whole thing finished super soon!

And in other news, still raining . . . the little lettuces and broccolis and chards need to get out and the peas STILL aren’t planted. If the weather doesn’t break soon, I’ll just have to get out there and get drenched. The tomato seedlings must be potted up, and I’ve simply run out of space under the growing lights, hence the desperate need for eviction of the cool crop seedlings.