Thursday, August 27, 2009

Easy Now As Un, Deux, Trois!

Watch me do the can, can, canning of jam. Or the attempt thereof because, so far, the gathering of supplies has been a comedy of errors.

I helped facilitate a jam-making night last week and didn't bring my berries with because I wasn't sure how long it would take if we had more people than burners, blah blah blah. I could do it on my own later, right?

We already had a large stock pot that J bought when he had delusions of home-brewing...in an apartment...with children...and carpet everywhere. Are you laughing yet? Me too. Anyhow, I 'just' needed to get a circular cooling rack, or a square one small enough so that all my precious jam jars didn't shatter when I put them in the hot water bath.

I checked every store I could think of; Wal-Mart, Target, called HomeGoods and even Christmas Tree Shops which I've not set foot in even though it's just down the road. No dice. Seriously, what happens if someone wants to cool a pie or a small batch of cookies? Have small cooling racks gone the way of the walkman?

After picking raspberries at Tougas this morning, upping my jam varietals to two, I decided to spring for the canning pot at the Hardware store. An extra dozen jars and a lengthy conversation with the clerk (unheard of in NewEngland) I was on my way home to sterilize and smash my way to homemade jam.

As I was filling the pot up to the recommended 4.5 inch depth, I took out the crazy looking wire rack and realized that it's slotted perfectly to hold seven quart jars. Aparrently the description on the label that says "Our mini canner is perfect for making jams, jellys and salsas" was not in reference to the product on which the label was pasted.

Feeling a little in despair, I looked at my perfectly thawed strawberries and the fresh raspberries just begging to be made jamtastic, and gave them a quick apology while I called the hardware store to see if they carry the mini-canner.

No, no they do not.

Being a fan of instant gratification, I called the woman at whose house we made the jam to see if I could borrow the tray we used that night. Oh yeah, did I explain that I was shamelessly asking to borrow the rack from her microwave?! Yes, I'm that fixated.

About a half hour later, I was gleefully entering the kitchen and what do you know? The legs on the rack stick out just far enough that it wouldn't fit in my pot. I called a couple more stores to see if I could run out, be back, and make the jam in the two hours I had left before leaving to sit for a friend. Then I called Williams-Sonoma...of course they have one in stock. But the Natick Mall is 30 minutes away without traffic, so I'll have to pick it up. Wait...is that crazy? To buy a $15 cooling rack that I'm not even sure will fit, just to rig something together instead of doing it right?

Even I know when to call it a day. I re-packaged my berries, waved farewell to the newly sterilized jars in my dishwasher, trudged up the stairs and used my amazon gift card to order a canning rack appropriate for small jars which should be here in 3-5 days.

And on the 5th day, She made jam.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Young Man, Pick Yourself Off the Ground

**Caution: This is a rant.
Yesterday, at Davis Farmland, I had one of my first real Mama Bear moments. After two hours of fun in the sun and water, a pleasant lunch and some ice cream our time was winding down. I sent Henry back to the splash pad because it's a whole lot easier than wiping the sticky remains of his sweet treat from his little bod.


The aqua fun-land is divided into a large pad for the big kids with lots o' fun and a small pad for the little tykes that has a couple of simple geysers. Guess which pad caused the bigger ruckus yesterday?
I was changing Charlie's diaper in my lap so that I wouldn't be negligent in the supervision of my child and was visiting with three other mamas. I heard the tell-tale seal bark of a mother who was also seen flapping her arms like a woman trying to shoo a fox out of the hen house that meant somebody's child was causing a problem. I immediately stood up because I was pretty sure it was H.

I'm no innocent when it comes to the 'precocious' nature of my child. He's physical, but not mean, and he gets his feelings hurt easily. I saw a 4 or 5 year old boy who was sitting over a fountain of water and Henry standing over looking perturbed. He was gazing at the approaching woman like a deer in the headlights. With Charlie on my hip, I quickly asked what was going on as she yelled (and no, I'm not exaggerating, she was yelling) at H "What do you think you're doing?!"

I again asked what he did, I was literally less than 10 feet from him the entire time, and he'd been fine when I glanced at him 30 secons prior. I was informed that he'd kicked the other child. sigh. "Oh, Henry!" (there, now you know what H stands for).

But crazy mom doesn't stop there. In her floppy hat, arms akimbo, she adds loudly "He kicked him in the boaaaahls, actually! That's what he did!" Note; we're standing about three feet apart. She's clearly yelling.

Okay, a) crude talk for a playground b) I get it, your child is victimized. My child is evil. Please note that the offended child was not crying, whimpering or otherwise appearing injured and looked as surprised as H that his mother was acting like a loon as she hauled him from his spread eagle position of possession on the geyser.

There is a right and a wrong way to address someone else's child, and the way she was doing it was not it. I'm all about someone redirecting a child if the parent isn't immediately available. But you don't yell at someone else's kid, a stranger's kid at that. I've had to peel another kid off Henry before and you just do it, smiling wryly at the apologetic parent is always a plus. Because, guess what? Four year-old boys sometimes kick each other! Is it okay? No. Is it a federal offense, punishable by up to to ten years in prison, or one session of your banshee ass? No.

Floppy Hat next bellowed loudly "You need to come over here and apologize, is what you need to do!" Wait. Is she talking to my child? The one that I'm quite clearly taking by the arm to lead off the splashpad? With iron resolve to be mature, I turned to her and smiled saying "Excuse me! He has a mother. I'm it. I've got it from here. But, thanks." Translation; Step. Off. Bitch.

That boy's mom robbed him of an apology, because I was too busy explaining to H in a calm manner of unknown origin that kicking was never a nice option, and it would be no way to make that boy his friend. Crying "But, I don't want him to not be a friend! I asked him to move and he kept saying no!"

H changed and our lunch gathered up, I said good-bye to our friends and headed to the car. I restrained myself from leaning over to floppy hat indeterminate age mom/grandma and whispering "I'm sorry you're a bitch." There, I apologized.

I am a big proponent of it taking a village, but that village is not self-appointed. As parents, we choose the people with whom we surround ourselves and our children so that they can have consistent modeling and parenting. We are not the YMCA and you, Ms Cow, are not one of my people.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why did I not see this commercial before our little Cape (mis)adventure?!

Monday, August 24, 2009

My. Endless Love.

As I enter my thirties, I realized I've spent the entire last decade with my husband. I've been thinking a lot about that 20 year-old girl I was when I met him. I was fresh out of my first real relationship, one that's frankly embarassing to look back on in all of it's feverish first-love intensity; completely undeserving of my devotion was he, as he was a total knob. Mad Dog and Manischewitz were the closest I'd come to appreciating wine and that boy's brew of choice was Keystone Ice. Yep, it was a quality time fo' sho'. The time in your life when you think the definition of Twue Wuv is to love what your partner loves, period.

Then I spotted that cute boy (J) at the club fair before school started and felt the warming in the belly that comes when you look at someone and think 'I want to know him!' As luck would have it, he was in my 8am class so, for once, I didn't hit the snooze and I wasn't afraid to let my smart and sassy side out because he was quiet, but wickedly smaht. The yin to my yang. Even better, he lived in the dorm below me, so there was ample opportunity to accidentally-on-purpose walk to classes together and chat him up without being super obvious. Well, there would have been, if one of my defining characteristics was not to be super obvious.

Looking back, I can't pinpoint the specific time in our (J's and I) relationship when I sat back and sighed and let the real me, faults and all, shine through but it happened and he still loved me. Oh, is that love? I was fiercely opinionated and independent, outgoing and loved to be the center of attention. And he let me be.

College came to a close, I graduated and waited for his old butt to finish as he'd taken time from school to be an Airborne Ranger in the Army; a fact that failed to impress me on our first 'date' when he showed me the article in a magazine during a Halloween party in his dorm about his unit, as I was sure he was pulling my leg.

I started my career as a Child Welfare social worker and during his senior year we got married, then came medical school, the birth of H, residency, the birth of C and here we are.

I'm sitting and drinking a chilled glass of Bridlewood Viognier, listening to my babes sleep and getting ready to knit some more socks. Did that 20 year-old girl think she'd be an at-home mom? Not in a million years. Could she imagine a time when she'd worship at the gates of heavy red wines? Could I have foreseen that I'd be completely content in a relationship with a man that is my partner and makes me happy, but upon whom I do not rely for my happiness? I think it's what I always hoped, but I wouldn't have been able to define it.

We will be a success of residency, unlike many that end in divorce, because more than loving each other, we are content to be our own people. We appreciate what the other person is and we make the most of what we have right now.

Oh yeah, and we make sure to have sex a lot.
All you mamas of boys; check out my review of the next installment of the Daniel X series, Watch the Skies on Knitty Reviews.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Play My Music In The Sun

Where have I been?!

Usually on top of all that is odd and must-be-followed in Hollywood, it was completely off my radar that Joaquin Phoenix and brother-in-law Casey Affleck may be setting up one of the biggest hoaxes since, well, ever! Tonight I was watching my Netflix copy of Two Lovers (which was, by the way, fantastic) and saw in the Special Features only a brief blurb of an interview with a scruff-tastic Phoenix professing this to be his last film. WHAT?!!

I immediately dropped the remote and got my google on to find that the web lines have been buzzing with concerns, prophesies and, most dangerously I think, by-proxy diagnoses, since February when he held this bizarre interview on Letterman:



But there's hope; his Two Lovers co-star Paltrow had this to say about it:
Hopefully Sundance will shed some light on all of this next year. Either it's the best orchestrated hoax we've ever seen, or this is one crash and burn that will all be caught on tape...no black box required.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dark Places: A Novel Dark Places: A Novel by Gillian Flynn


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dark Places is a novel that flashes from the present to the early 1980's as Libby tries to piece together the horrific crime scene of her family's murder. The only child (and the youngest in her family at the tender age of seven) to escape what was billed as The Satan Sacrifice of Kinakee Kansans'; the murder of her mother and sisters by her brother Ben, following which she was interviewed by child psychologists, therapists, attorneys, etc and formed memories of the evening that didn't jive with the sequence of events.

Now a woman in her thirties, and deeply cynical, she begins retracing the steps of her family that led up to that evening by contacting those thought to be involved, her dead-beat dad and 'fans' of her brother, members of "The Kill Club", who desperately believe that Ben is innocent.

Libby finds that she's less able to toe the party line that she has for the last 20+ years as she discovers evidence that was not entered and facts that don't support her brother's conviction. The narration by Ben and their mother Patty are particularly chilling because it just kept hammering home that they loved each other. The reader learns early on that the family was struggling financially with the debt collector's breathing down Patty's neck due mainly to the gambling and poor decisions of her ex-husband, who has driven her ancestral farm into the ground. Additionally, Ben was always make to feel by his fly-by-night father that he wasn't manly enough, and left something to be desired or something to prove.

When a bad girl comes to town, Ben is instantly flattered that she likes him, and falls in with a dangerous crowd, drug-use, satanic rituals and other dangerous behaviors.

I will not spoil, because there are a couple of twists that were very unexpected, and this is one murder mystery that NOBODY will solve from the first paragraph.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

...On Blueberry Hill

With the wealth of you-pick farms around, there's bound to be a wealth of berries in our house during the summer, and you can't freeze 'em all! I tried a Blueberry Buckle recipe from my daily Martha Stewart emails that was really good. Then I got a facebook comment talking about blueberry bars...do tell, said I!
I got the following recipe from my sister-in-law's mom and they are phenomenal! It was under an hour from ingredient prep to fork in my mouth...yum!




Blueberry Bars a la Nancy Friesen

1 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 c. oats
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 c. blueberries
1/4 c. sugar

Mix all ingredients except berries and 1/4 c. sugar with a pastry blender or two forks until crumbly in texture, and press half into a buttered 9 inch baking dish. Cover first layer with the berries and sprinkle the 1/4 c. sugar on top. Press second half of crumble mixture and bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes until brown and bubbly. Nancy suggests making extra and freezing them for a rainy day.
I may add some cinnamon the next time I make them, in the crust...yummy!
*Update: I made them several more times, using half whole-wheat flour and about two tablespoons of sugar, and they were still every bit as good!
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grandiose Ridiculosity



Recently I went to Newport to tour the mansions with some girlfriends. I had been to Newport once before, and admired the homes in the passing blur of the driver's seat, but this time, I was going to get up close and personal.

When we were sitting in the car on the drive up, someone made the comment that the amazing thing about them was that they were summer homes. I heard the scratch of a record screeching to a halt. WHAT?! These giant estates were constructed with the knowledge that they would only be used eight to ten weeks a year?!

I'm glad I understood that from the get-go, because it made me see the homes in a whole new light. While you can't help but be sucked in by their splendor and all the minute detail, it's hard to not have in the back of your mind "This is an utterly disgusting display of wealth and frivolity!"

From the wall panels that were not silver leaf but platinum, yes platinum, to the service entrance circular drive that is invisible from upper floors due to a massive wisteria, viewing these homes was an exercise in vascillating between utter awe and mild indigestion when thinking of all the work and money that went into maintaining them.

Some of the families spent as much as $300,000 in order to entertain for a single 'season'.

I was disappointed that we weren't able to look at the servant's quarters, but the self-led audio tour was great, full of fun facts and optional detours. We only got through two of the homes and plan to return to see three more with our tickets.

I also learned the fun fact that Mark Twain coined the phrase the gilded age in reference to these grand estates and their budgetless summer fun; and he did not intend it as a compliment.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Great (Es)Cape

The fam and I decided to head to The Cape after waking up on one of the first really gorgeous days of the summer. Wait, did I forget to say that the day was also a Saturday, and we didn't get our butts in gear until about 9:30-10?

Well, for all you locals, you're sniggering into your hands thinking about a) the traffic and b) the fact that they CLOSE beaches after a certain number of cars are allowed in.

Oh, can you tell where this story is going? Yep, you guessed it; After subjecting the kiddos to the drive (which really was fine until the last 5 miles before the Bourne Bridge) and ourselves to a terse meal at a classic Cape eatery with Classic New England customer service (read: mean people who you are paying to be mean to you) we arrived at Sandyneck Beach in Sandwich (the oldest town on Cape Cod) only to be turned away.

I looked at the late teens-early twenties employee, and said "What?! Are you kidding?" (silent shake of the head) "What do I do now?" (laissez faire shrug of the shoulders) "Where should we go?!" (Finally, a verbal response: "Um, away. From here.")

So, we decided to head to the next beach Lonely Planet told us to, and halfway there H started crying about swimming in the pool "at my apartment" and wanting ice cream. Since we'd passed the Sandwich Ice Cream shop (that makes their own Ice Cream Sandwiches...yum!) on our way in, we headed back that way. Of course, when we pulled in the lot, H was asleep but we got him a treat just in case he woke up, and arrived home to unload the car and walk the .1 mile to our complex's pool.



Ahhhh...so glad we drove for 3+ hours when we could have stayed home to swim then hit Beezer's for cones afterward. But where's the adventure in that?

Smile! You're on Candid Camera!






Have you seen a cuter one year-old?


Or a sweeter big brother?

Do you want to capture the moments when your kids are their most angelic...or just the most them? Michele of mQn photography has an amazing eye for the candid moments that make a family click.

She not only does beautiful work, but she's incredibly reasonably priced and you get to keep your digital images on a photo cd that she prepares for you! Her website has tons of samples of her work, and I think you'll like what you see!

The above are some photos from my first session with her, and I did a later shoot with her at the park while the kids romped around and had a ball.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Automoblox


Do you have a hard time finding the right toy for everyone when the plethora of holidays, birthday parties and other gift-giving occasions arrive? Sure, there are age guidelines on the box, but they're not always easy to find, and even if a toy is geared for 3+, would a 6 year-old like it? I first heard of ebeanstalk, a website dedicated to selecting good, safe baby toys, when my sister-in-law sent two gifts in a row to H and Charlie from it. The presents were a hit, and also came with a little card explaining what each toy did to aid in development (i.e. sensory stimulation, fine or gross motor development).

I was intrigued when I got the first email from them saying that they need help from moms like me to pick the toys. I already knew that I liked their site content and was excited to be part of their test panel.


The toy they sent is called Automoblox Minis 3-pack (T9, S9 and C9) from Manhattan Toy, who makes great developmental toys. Packaged in a sleek rectangular box, you slide out the inner portion and I found my first positive: no plastic twine encasing every inch of the toy making it a nightmare for parents in the opening process.


The automoblox are wooden cars that are made to be interchangeable, so that three cars can be made into several different ones by simply pulling them apart (they're hooked together by two color coded male/female plugs). For instance, H's set came with a red, green and blue car. Each of them came apart into 2-3 pieces plus the tires and plastic bubble, which looks like the top of a car, are interchangeable and color-coded as well. H is just at the age where color identification is important, and he was able to see the 'right' way to put the cars back together because all the plugs, tops and tires matched. (The set also comes with four black tires)




This toy is marked for 3+, and I felt like it was a really appropriate guideline. The tires come off easily, which is great because it wasn't frustrating for him to pull any of the pieces apart, but they also don't come off so easily that it falls apart as you're rolling it across the carpet. For this reason, though, it's a toy that will be played with out of reach from my 14 month-old. There is a choking hazard warning on the box for small parts.



There were no weird plastic-y smells, and the wooden bodies had some fun details such as drilled out holes where the head and tail-lights will be. The body is made of German beech wood that's triple coated in a non-toxic lacquer so even though your pre-school may be beyond sticking things in their mouths it's just as important that their toys be toxin-free.


The set we were sent can be found for just under $30, and I would absolutely spend the money on it as a gift for Christmas or a birthday. H was occupied for THREE HOURS while Charlie napped...he is a pretty good kid when it comes to entertaining himself, but these three cars kept him busy the whole time! There are also larger toys that come in a single pack. At the very least, we'll be getting the other mini sets (the m9, X9-X and A9-S) so that there are more parts to interchange with.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gather 'Round Y'All!

It seems like every time I turn around, I'm getting another email to join a social networking site. So far, I've briefly had, but never used and later cancelled, a mySpace account, am obsessed with maintaining a facebook profile and all the fun that goes with it, and tweet occasionally.

When I got the notice from MomCentral about a new site called Gather.com, I was wondering what was different about it. I'm not big on have 1,000 different sites to maintain, but I was intrigued by this one.

My main focus in using Facebook has been to reconnect with friends from the past, and keeping up with what they're doing now. But what if you want to start looking for others who share your interests, views, challenges and dilemmas? Sure, there's meetup.com, but that's all about getting together in person. What if you just want a quick message board, or ways to chat with people all over the country? Trying to go green on a budget and need cleaning solutions? Want a quick recipe, or ways to cope with your crazy toddler while cloth diapering your infant? How about discussing the newest in thriller fiction, or terrace gardening?

Gather.com has created a vibrant and diverse social networking community where you can meet some amazing people who are, you guessed it, gathered together around shared interests and unique passions. Gather hosts thousands upon thousands of groups and conversations on topics ranging from how to cope with your rambunctious toddler to creating a thriving organic garden; from books that you’ll want to stay awake all night reading to the latest pilates moves; and from cooking without recipes to taking the challenge of creating movie reviews in Haiku (tougher than you’d think!).

Does this still sound like it might be something you've already got an account with? Well, here comes the difference...wait for it...

On Gather you earn points for the content you contribute to the site, which can be redeemed for gift cards to stores like Home Depot, Gap, and Target, and even for PayPal cash. In an effort to encourage a free-flow of ideas, the more recipes, tips, stories and advice you share with others in the community, the more points you earn. Now that’s a great incentive!

*I wrote this review while participating in a blog and giveaway campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Gather. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Cross-posted at Sexandtheknitty

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Congratulations to Heidi for winning the AllModernBaby contest! I hope you enjoy your new baby clothes!