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Feeling Green

April 25, 2016

We planted our vegetable garden last weekend!

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This is my most optimistic time of year—the time of year when I look out at the almost perfectly-squared off garden (we’re going for square foot gardening this year) and think of all the seeds unfurling there under the soil and I can almost see the bean plants and sugar snap peas fully grown, watching over the squares of luscious, green lettuces and bushes dripping with eggplants, carrots plunging deep into the ground below them, onion tops nodding in the breeze, and scents of parsley, sage, and cilantro wafting throughout it all.

I’m just like Pa in the Little House on the Prairie books we’ve been reading this spring.  I tell the boys, “This is it, boys.  Next year you’ll all have an orange for Christmas and two dresses to wear!”  If you’ve read any of the books, you’ll know that in the next chapter, seven months of blizzards begin and then hoards of grasshoppers come and then the prairie catches fire and then there are a bunch of tornadoes and next Christmas the family is cooking a Christmas dinner out of Pa’s worn-out shoes.  (Okay the last part doesn’t happen but everything else does.)

The plagues that rain down on my vegetable garden aren’t quite as Newbery-prize winning as Pa’s, but they do just as much damage: the slugs eat everything from the ground up, the birds take every last berry off our fruit bushes, the rabbits eat the remainder of the plants down to nothing, the raccoons pull anything they can out of the ground, and the deer come to finish off any leaf or seedling that the others accidentally left.

Last year we got ‘em, though.  Kevin built a fence.  It wasn’t the fence of my dreams I asked for—one that, you know, had any form of an entrance to it and one that didn’t have a giant roll of unused fencing still hanging off of one side of it, but it was a fence.  And for the first time ever, the vegetable garden actually had greenery in it through September!

The fence wasn’t the only thing that needed work, though.  I let Kevin pick all the vegetables to plant last year, and he planted about 20 nasturtiums, two pumpkins, and tomatoes even though our neighbor grows a bazillion tomatoes and gives them to us all summer.  Then Kevin got all excited when he saw something about the size of a baseball growing on a bush in July so he picked it, and we were down to just one pumpkin.

So this year Kevin rebuilt the fence while I stood next to him with my arms crossed and watched, and this fence has a gate that opens and closes and it has the exact right amount of fencing on it!  My only concern now is that to keep deer out you need to build a fence that is six feet high.  Our fence is not six feet high.  The deer around here don’t look like they’re great at math, though, so I think we’ll be okay.

Yep.  It’s going to be a bumper crop this year.  If things go well we might even get about $25 worth of vegetables out of our garden, and at this rate it will have paid itself off in 10 years or so.

I think Ma Ingalls puts it best when she says.  “Oh, Charles!”*

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftovers:
Lobster mac ‘n cheese
Teriyaki flank steak
Braciola
Lemon spaghetti
Roasted vegetables

*Hilarious to anyone who has recently read the books.  Probably pretty lame to anyone who hasn’t, but I wouldn’t know now would I?

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Four-to-the-T

April 18, 2016

For those significantly less cool than me, that title means “Forty.”

So, as I mentioned before, I turned 40 a little bit ago.  I feel kind of neutral about it.  Kevin says he’s throwing me a party in the summer, so my actual bday itself was quiet and sweet, full of lots of well-wishes and condolences. 

I did get a lot of consolation prizes, too, like my first ever adult purse.

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I’ve never been a purse person and am still not, so I am surprised at how many people have noticed and admired my purse now, especially considering it is usually underneath a pile of dirty beach buckets and shovels in the trunk of my car.

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I know it’s in there somewhere…

Seriously, I feel like the purse is some kind of celebrity and I’m just its underqualified bodyguard.

I also got a tree for my birthday, and I was so excited about getting this tree that I guess I might be grown up after all.

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During my birthday week I helped Leo pick out some dishes for me, to brighten up our glass cabinets in the kitchen.

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We’re gettin’ there!

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And since I already had my credit card out, I also helped Leo buy me a sweet apron with a chicken on it.  Back home, I sent him and his brothers downstairs to wrap it up so they could surprise me.  Ten minutes later, Leo came running upstairs.

Leo: Mommy!  We wrapped the chicken for you, Mom!  We wrapped the chicken!
Me: Shhh!  It’s supposed to be a surprise.  You’re not supposed to tell me what it is!
Leo: But I didn’t!  I didn’t say “dress!”  You don’t know it’s a chicken dress!

So here I am, cooking breakfast in my new chicken dress.

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Minutes later we were all around the breakfast table, eating birthday sprinkle chocolate chip pancakes, and Leo started up this chant:

I say “Old Mc,” you say, “Rachel!”  Old Mc!…

Say it.  I dare you.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Tofu miso “steaks”
Glass noodles with vegetables
Corn on the cob
Fresh fruit

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A Whole lot of Nothing

April 11, 2016

At the end of last week I took the boys up to Whidbey with some of the family.  I left Kevin at home because he’s not a huge fan of Whidbey weekends.  He says, “There’s just nothing to do there!”  I balk.  Nothing to do?  Nothing to do??!  There’s EVERYTHING to do at Whidbey!  Just look at all the things we did without him last week.

We dug holes:

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Who doesn’t love digging holes?

We collected shells and stuff and glued them on frames (then secretly threw them away the next morning when they started smelling like dying whale breath):

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We made tide pool art that didn’t smell like dying whale breath:

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We had an Easter egg hunt just because.

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We moved logs around.

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Like, a lot of logs.

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We swam in 50 degree water:

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We accessorized:

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We fussed over sea stars we found in shallow water, moving them to deeper water:

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We helped two sea stars fall in love:

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Things progressed quickly…

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The best moments aren’t even pictured here, like the giant grass man the kids built out of mounds of freshly mown grass.  Or when we had to wait 45 minutes for the ferry, so I burped the ABC’s for the kids.  Or when we were playing a board game and Rocco wondered, “I wonder where all the Storm Trooper pieces went” and the next minute we were trying to extract a Storm Trooper piece from Grammy’s dog’s mouth. 

When the kids had gone to bed on Friday night and we ladies sat around a table playing Balderdash, my dad walked into the house carrying two giant tubs of random pens, about 8 assorted notepads, and a pound of rubber bands.  We had seen him carrying random assortments of stuff into the house all weekend and I began wondering if he was just trying to mess with us to see if we noticed or if he was actually going to do something with his collection of office supplies.  Either option is a real possibility with my dad. 

Anyway, seeing as how we were in the middle of a game of Balderdash, we all wrote down our guesses for what Dad was doing with the pens, paper, and rubber bands.  These were the options:

a) He is going to test the pens
b) He is going to see if any of us want to take some of the supplies for ourselves
c) He is going to make spit wad slingshots using the pens and rubber bands; the paper is ammo. 

Then we sat there giggling and watching and giggling some more until WHAM-O, my sister got hit in the back of the head with a hunk of paper shot from a pen-and-rubber band catapult.  BOO-YAH, that was MY GUESS, I’ll take my two points nana nana boo boo.

Okay, it didn’t happen exactly like that.  It turns out my dad was just testing the pens, and the rubber bands were to group the working pens in bunches like “permanent” and “white board markers” when he was done.  But once he heard about our little game, he did make a very wicked slingshot and nailed a couple of us with paper bullets.  I’m not saying we didn’t deserve it, either.

So Kevin thinks there’s nothing to do at Whidbey.  I say to him: fine, stay home.  That just means there will be more nothing for us.  Nana nana boo boo to you, too.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chili
Chicken noodle soup
Buttermilk biscuits
Mocha semifreddo

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Stayin’ Alive

April 10, 2016

A friend walked into my house last week and saw vases with bouquets everywhere and she asked, “Woah, who died?”

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I explained that my computer died.  That’s why I didn’t blog last week; not because I stopped loving you.

The flowers, however, were not for my recently deceased computer but for me.  I turned 40.  I understand if some of you (hi Renee) maybe thought I died of old age or something last week and that’s why I didn’t blog, but no.  I am alive.

I will write you a proper blog post once I get the mess from spring break cleaned up.

If, that is, I am still alive by then.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Egg in the hole
Roasted asparagus
Chocolate peanut butter chip cookies

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Keep Easter With You…

March 29, 2016

Okay, I did get some nice, non-shifty-eyed photos from Easter, too, so I thought I’d throw some your way.

On our way to church Rocco looked at the parking lot strewn with plastic eggs for later and said, “It’s not really an Easter egg hunt, right?  It’s more of an Easter egg grab.”  Mr. Literal strikes again.

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This is how a rock star collects eggs.

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(She looked a little less excited when she opened her eggs later to find nothing but fruit flavored tootsie rolls and some costume jewelry sized for adult fingers.)

The sun peeked out for the first time in months at the end of the egg grab.  Some dealt with it better than others.

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Dying eggs: which “kid” looks a little too excited here?

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Seriously, it looks like he dyed and went to heaven.

*pause for laughter*

And the real deal: Easter morning, with eggs actually hidden and filled with dove chocolates, Cadbury eggs, jelly beans, the works!

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Then Easter turned into an impromptu photo shoot for my littlest niece, Shelby.  I forgot how fun it is to take pictures of two-year-olds!

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I’d like to give a special thanks to Grammy’s dog, Rasta, for donating the doggy slobber that made the ball shine so beautifully in those pictures.

On Sunday afternoon the kids all went for a drive, of course.

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My dad always has some new kind of toy at these things, and this year it was two of these virtual reality goggles.  They were fun to try out, but it was even more fun for everyone in the room watching the goons wearing them and randomly jerking their heads around like a couple of robot chickens.

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Bleep blorp you probably had to be there.

And to end, just a lovely picture of my niece sittin’ pretty.

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I miss you already, Easter 2016!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ham & chicken crepes (another traditional post-Easter meal, in an attempt to use up some of the ham)
Salad with apples, gorgonzola, and candied pecans
Triple chocolate mousse

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Easter Report

March 28, 2016

The problem with trying to photograph children during an Easter egg hunt: shifty eyes:

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And another problem:

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That’s a bunch of shifty-eyed, photo bombing kids I’ve got there.  (That bottom picture is one of my favorites and is definitely going in the scrapbook.)

Easter was too fun to try to summarize this year.  All five of “us kids” went to my parents’ house with all ten of their grandkids, and I haven’t laughed so hard since I sat down and read a year’s worth of my own blog.  Ha!

I will share a couple of my favorite memories, though, like on Saturday when we dyed eggs and most of us were finished within 2 to 10 minutes of beginning, but Vincenzo and his uncle spent over an hour dying three specially chosen eggs, dipping them in every color, scratching some of the dye off, mixing colors, and creating brand new colors that would probably be named “brownarrhea” and “blomit.”

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Seriously, they decorated these eggs for so long they were no longer safe for consumption—they were very room temp.  Fortunately, we found someone who was happy to take them in.

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My other favorite was on Easter afternoon, when Leo was in the living room showing Kevin and Uncle Mark how he can show a “fast ten” by holding up two hands’ worth of fingers super fast.  I thought I heard Kevin tell Leo he could teach him how to do a fast eleven, and sure enough on the way home, Leo piped up from the backseat: “Want to see my fast eleven?  But first I’m going to have to take my pants off…”

I snapped this little gem on Easter evening, after a long weekend of hunting and gathering candy from all over yards, houses, and church parking lots.

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He is risen…and now he is lying down in a pile of chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, and plastic grass, and he’s not feeling so great.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
My favorite entrée of the year and the one everyone else hates the most:
Baked potatoes and creamed eggs.  YUUUUMMMM!
Roasted broccoli
Fruit salad

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His Royal Highness

March 25, 2016

Vincenzo won “Principal for a Day” at his school, so we hit up the Goodwill for a royal blue velvet suit jacket, dug his one shirt with buttons out of his closet, set him on our front steps and voila!

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Principal Vincenzo.  He didn’t have many plans as principal; a random free recess for one class or another, some reading time for himself, and the request that people refer to him as Your Royal Highness for the day.  He’s a simple man.

We headed to school early to get a picture with the school’s actual principal:

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Well, at least one of them looks the part!

WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST:
Huevos rancheros

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