Friday, September 18, 2009

4 Very Hungry Caterpillars

Behold my garden. Okay, okay, I admit I am not the most conscientious gardener. The first garden I planted was in the spring of 2007. It seemed the more I weeded, the more desirable plants I killed- the canteloupe, the bean plans, and the entirely unsuccessful zuchinni . So my motto is "Less is more" with the Garden of Weedin'. It was really horrible at the end of August, so lately I've attempted to clean things up a bit. (Not that you would notice.)

Look at the top of the tomato cage in the middle of the picture. I know it's hard to see what plants are which, especially since a watermelon has no business mingling with a tomato plant, but apparently tomato plants are very desirable. There are no leaves left on the actual tomato plant! All the leaves you see in this picture are from the watermelon plant (or the beans, or basil, or peppers, or potatoes. Oh yes and some weeds). The light green stems at the top are leftovers from the caterpillars which have descended upon them.

Of course, when I showed the kids, they were very excited and came running to look; to pry them off the stems and play with them. I felt a little sorry for the bugs, but secretly I thought they were getting their just desserts after their large main course. One "small green leaf" indeed! I hope that night they had a tummyache. TSK!

These caterpillars are very hungry and very piggy. They have left droppings all over my garden. Excuse me, but my name is not Oswald; I'm not planting a separate tomato plant purely for the slug/caterpillar enjoyment.

They found 4 caterpillars and named them Felicity, Katrina, Matthew, and Maxwell. Only Katrina remained in the bucket though. Either they have crawled off in search of more plants to eat, or some bird found a plump and tasty supper. I'm torn- I do like caterpillars, and even more, butterflies. On the other hand, am I the one who should be breeding them?

Buckin' Bronco

This is the game Katrina picked for Family Night. For some reason, it's showing sideways.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to School

Matthew started school at the Spanish Schoolhouse this year. He just started on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. It's a Spanish Immersion preschool program. It's just like other preschools, but everything is in Spanish. We loved the preschool that the girls went to, but decided to try this one out for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, his new teacher decided to take a job with the public school at the last minute, so he has a substitute right now. But I think she's great. I love how everybody speaks in Spanish there, to the parents and siblings too. Max now knows to say "Hola" and "Adios" to people there when we go to pick Matthew up.

"C'mon Mom let's GO!" (It's hard to take a picture while holding a wiggling toddler)
Matthew is enjoying school a lot and tries to speak in Spanish at home too. Today he told me, "I think Dora speaks Spanish too." Most of the children in the class are not native Spanish speakers, although some of them are, as is the teacher, so the kids are learning together.

And since I never got around to it, here are the girls on their first day of school two weeks ago:

Katrina runs straight into her classroom without so much as a goodbye to her family.

Felicity outside Mrs. Watson's classroom door. She was pretty nervous to start 3rd grade.

You have to take a picture of these girls when they're getting along so nicely (okay, we're working on it...)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Chocolate, Strawberries, and Chocolate Strawberries

As many of you know, we like desserts around here. I thought I'd share some of our results.

One Friday when Mark was going to be working late and the children were bored, we decided to make a Fudge Covered Oreo Cake. It was even more amazing than it sounds, although not as pretty as it potentially could have been. (The perfectionist part of me has yet to emerge) Each child helped to contribute and they actually made most of it by themselves, although I was in charge of assembly.

To celebrate Napoleon's birthday in August, we made strawberry Napoleon pastries with phyllo dough, which was on a major sale at the grocery store. They were fun and different, but pretty messy and took a lot more work than I anticipated.

We have been having some sweet (as opposed to tart) strawberries lately and so we dipped some of them in chocolate, since everything's better in chocolate. This is by far the easiest dessert of the three, since it consists of microwaving chocolate chips and whipping cream, stirring 'til smooth, and dipping the strawberries. We put them on wax paper in the fridge and they disappeared rather quickly.

Can you do the can can, if you can than I can

The grocery store had a great sale on pears that were getting overripe. They were putting them in brown bags and selling the whole bag for $1.50. Each bag was about 4 lbs and I I bought 4 of them. (Is this starting to sound like a 3rd grade story problem?) So yes, I spent 6 bucks and this is what I did with my approximately 16 lbs of pears:

Not the pickles. My cousin made those from her overabundant cucumber crop and brought them when she came to dinner a couple weeks ago. I was very impressed and inspired, as with another cousin, who canned pears and pearsauce the week before. (Wow, that's a long caption)

Canning fruits and vegetables each fall was something I grew up doing, coming home from school in early autumn to find a sink full of cold water, bobbing with ripened, blanched fruit to peel. Sometimes I'd help with the coring or slipping the produce inside the jars. I'd bail out of the project after a half hour or so, leaving my mother to deal with the mess and another sibling to step in. This time I got to assume my mother's role, which always fills me with respect for her dedication to such projects. Matthew helped me out with the peeling, although we turned into a very sticky mess. I do not recommend mopping the kitchen floor the day before you embark on such a project, like I did.

It turned out to be a lot more work than I remembered. Besides standing on the hard tile for hours upon end, filling the August kitchen with steam, and getting mushy sticky pear substance over every last inch of my body, I didn't realize that I also nearly poisoned myself and the boys in the process. I don't have a canner, just a tall stockpot. I put a bunch of butter knives on the bottom to serve as a rack and put the jars inside, filling it with water up to the neck. However, that was about a millimeter from the top of the pot, so when it came to a boil, of course water spilled over and it extinguished the gas fire on the stove. At this point, I was collapsed on the couch reading stories whilst waiting for the sealing process, so it wasn't until I developed an acute headache and noticed the strong smell of natural gas that I realized this. It took awhile to get it all done, but it sure gave me a feeling of accomplishment. We made some delicious pearsauce and sploosh (spiced peach/pear mush) with the leftovers.

And as for the math... I try not to think about it. An 8 oz can of pears is about $1. I would have spent about $14 for this amount of canned pears. Subtracting my $6 of produce cost, I made about $4 an hour- not counting cleanup. But these will be much yummier.

Sports Shorts

With Mark's great sports background, you would think that our children would be much more athletic. However, he's not around all that much during the week and so they have to learn from me- not exactly recruit material. I'm somewhat aversive to playing sports, being uncoordinated and injury prone. Could it have anything to do with getting not one but TWO black eyes from two brothers' thrown bat and pop fly in the early 80s? We don't play a lot of ball around here. The girls are participating in city league soccer, and there is the occasional basketball game in the neighborhood. Their best opportunities are with relatives.
Felicity with her game face on. She's left handed, but we discovered she's better at batting right.

Whenever we stay at Bruchelle's, we end up playing baseball. They have a great backyard for it, and the evenings are really nice in Utah in the summertime. It's a terrific chance for my children to get more sports exposure. Bruce always pitches, and his boys are really good at hitting and jumping the fence to get the balls batted over.

Bruce pitches to Buggle while Thys and Matthew wait on deck and in the hole.

Katrina really improved her RBI this game, even in a skirt.

Max and Clyn fielding without gloves. I think Max has plenty of padding, but what about Clyn's piano future?

Bruce shoos Max from the mound. For never reading my blog, Bruce sure gets lots of exposure on it. What a waste!

Even Michelle and Mika are fielding, which is pretty amazing since Michelle is 8 months pregnant.

We came home and Matthew wanted to play baseball with Mark for alone time. Unfortunately, it was 105 degrees outside, but they still had a great time. Maybe there's hope yet for the M kids.

Happy Birthday, Kurt!

Major Wastage

Mark gave me a new shower head for Mother's Day this year. It may seem like an odd gift, but I really enjoy a good shower. After all, hot water is therapeutic. The bright brass one we had before had some great power, but I still wanted one with a removable head. The new one has 2 heads, which is nice, but even with all of the water coming out of one nozzle, there's still not the terrific power we had with the old one. I'm not sure why this is, although I have suspicions that this might be due to new mandates about low-flow water fixtures, to save water. This seems odd to me, since the showers at the gym are very powerful, and since I'm not paying the water bill there, seems like people are not motivated to turn it off. Is the city the one who should be making these decisions?

Before I complain further, I should note here that I am a terrific advocate of saving time, money, space, and resources. (When you have lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 kids, you are forever thinking about saving space). Our garbage can, for our family of 6, is only half full (or is it half empty?) when we drag it out to the curb each week, along with the 2 recycling bins as well. We turn off the a/c or heat when we go on vacation in our gas-efficient vehicles, and throw produce that's gone rotten into our garden. I love the energy saving lightbulbs, especially when I discover that the light was left on in the garage all night long. Not that I should have to defend myself, or if anyone doesn't do these things, that there's anything wrong with it.

But I am so sick of the preaching about "going green." Absolutely do we reap what we sow, and that means there are natural results from dumping toxic waste or being wasteful in general. -I don't think we want a toxic planet. However, can I please make my own decisions about how long my shower is? Is it okay with you, celebrity who has no credentials other than fame, if I keep my washer & dryer until they break? Do you have to talk about it on kids' shows constantly so my children are preaching to me too? Because we're happy to pick up litter and to be responsible, but it's a little hypocritical for you, celebrity with your multiple luxury homes and private jets, to talk about saving resources for the future generations. You're taking all of the fun of it, government agencies, to mandate it all and fining people who don't (the horror!) recycle. I am happy to learn of new ways to save energy, and I would love it if I could opt out of all this paper coming from school, credit card companies, and marketing gimmicks. I just wish we didn't have to talk about it All. The. Time.

Not to mention, I love my shower to be strong and powerful. When it's not, it just requires me to be in there longer just to rinse off. So I end up spending extra time as well as water. Which doesn't end up being green or fun.