Friday, April 29, 2011

It's Nothin' But Norman this weekend!

Whew, if there is a festival or event in the state over the next three days, chances are it is here in Norman!  This is always a festival-y time of year, but this weekend might just take the cake.  Luckily, the weather is semi-cooperating.  As in, it's not cold or raining.  It IS astoundingly windy, but I guess we shouldn't complain too much.  Truly, there is so much going on this weekend that I'm just going to link you to the Norman Convention and Visitor's Bureau rather than add individual links.  Pardon my laziness!
It just so happened that my sweet hubby took Thursday and Friday off this week, so we get to start our weekend early.  Yesterday was golfing with the boys, but today he's ours!  We hit the May Fair Arts Festival at opening day, opening hour, and it's a good thing we did because the place was packed by the time we left!  The wind, as I said, was a bit much after a while but we still hit all the necessaries.  We played on an amazing seesaw hand built by the nicest old man ever.  We made art in the kid's art area, my daughter chose her colors for a tie-dye shirt ($5 people, you can't beat that), and we ooohhhhed and ahhhhed over the art.  This is such a fun and free-ish event.  Yes, you do have to pay for some of the kid's art projects, but the cost is minimal and they have such a good time.  I think their favorite part (besides the tie dye) was choosing their rock.  Let me explain: one of the jewelry booths had a bin of beautiful polished stones and they were $.25 each.  The kids loved digging through and choosing their "perfect" stone.  Um, totally worth 1/2 a dollar!

Tomorrow I hope to hit the 89er Day Parade and maybe the Norman Music Festival.  We  haven't been to either before but I hear they are great events.  There is also the Spring Art Market at the Jacobson House (an amazing place by the way).  They are going to have Indian tacos (practically an Oklahoma fair staple) and gourd dancing.  I don't know what the heck gourd dancing is but I love watching Native American dancing.  Brings tears to my eyes for a variety of reasons.  Mainly because motherhood has made me an emotional basket case, but that's for another post!
So, I'm hoping to get out and enjoy my town this weekend in all its glory.  And hopefully end up with happy and excited kids, or maybe exhausted and over-stimulated kids.  I guess we'll just wait and see!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Like Allen's previous three novels, this one is set in small-town North Carolina and features strong-willed women puzzling over family secrets.  If this novel could be summed up in one word, it would be sisterhood.  The bonds of friendship between the women in this book serve as the catalyst for the entire plot, and the follow the characters from generation to generation.  
Willa Jackson is tethered to her home town by an impossible sense of duty.  Her family was once the "royalty" of the small logging village but that ended when Willa's grandmother was a teenager.  Miserable in the shadow of her family's failure but unable to leave her aging grandmother, Willa stays incognito on the "tourist" side of town, where locals rarely go.  
Paxton Osgood is the girl everyone loves to hate.  Beautiful, rich, successful.  But behind the veneer, she is trapped: living in her parents' home, living her parents' life, in love with a man whom she suspects can never truly love her back.  
Willa and Paxton's grandmothers were best friends, but Willa and Paxton are virtual strangers.  This all changes the night Paxton's thin facade crumbles, and Willa finds herself rescuing Paxton from a dangerous situation.  As the women start to trust one another more, they uncover long buried secrets, secrets that tie them together and that their grandmothers had hoped would stay buried.
This book has a great and engaging story, with that trademark Allen hint of mysticism.  Although I thought that it started out a little more slow than her other books (usually they hook me from the first page), I still enjoyed it immensely and it became much more of a page-turner as the plot line unfolded.  Highly recommended, and I am already anticipating her next great story!




Monday, April 25, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays....

We have been going like crazy lately.  It seems like every day there are multiple activities.  I feel blessed to have a full life, but sometimes it is easy to forget to slow down and have a "free range" day. 

Today it is cold, damp, and grey in Oklahoma.  I'm thinking it is a perfect movie day!  So far, we have watched Shrek 3, lunched, and napped (which is a miracle for my daughter..God bless dark days).  After nap, I have big plans...Toy Story 3!  I'm not sure why today is thirds day but I'll go with it.  Maybe we'll just go ahead and get our jammies on.  Wait, better wait until at least 4 for that one!  I don't even have to cook dinner tonight thanks to the wonder of Easter leftovers. 

Whew, I did not realize how welcome a day of nothing was until it actually arrived.  My daughter has had some intense behavior problems lately and I am suddenly wondering if our cram-packed schedule has something to do with it.  Man, I hope so 'cuz after this I'm pretty much out of options!  I think we have all reached the end of our patience and deserve a day off.  So, the next time it rains, put on those jammies or sweats, get the remote, and have a day of rest!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Love Your Mother...Earth

Today, in addition to being Good Friday, it is Earth Day.  I don't know why, but it makes sense to me that they share time.  While reflecting on the cross and w hat it means to be a Christian, we can consider the ways in which we can be good stewards of this planet that God so lovingly made for us.  Of course, times are busy and money is tight and the baby needs changing and life is banging on your door, so here are my "lazy mama's" tips for some greener living!

Recycle: yep, it's a no brainer if your city has curbside pickup.  I read once that in our progressive town curbside recycling participation is about 30%.  That's craziness!  You're paying for it anyway, you may as well use it.  I just wish they'd take the cardboard, why not the cardboard, Norman?

Reusable grocery bags:  Another no brainer for me really.  I hated having an entire cabinet filled with plastic bags.  Yes, you can use them for a few things, but not in the massive quantities in which they seem to enter the house.  For about $.99 you can get a good quality reusable bag at just about any grocery store and most stores (Target, Aldi, sometimes Homeland) will give you a small credit for bringing your own bag.  I toss mine on the delicate cycle of the laundry every so often so they don't get yucky. 

Farmers' Markets:  yes, I can't say it enough, I LOVE the farmers' market.  There is something about giving my children cash to hand over to the people who actually grew the food that I find so nostalgic and satisfying.  Some of the food there is a bit more expensive, but some of it is way cheaper.  Plus, cute kiddos are almost always offered free samples!  I can't tell you how many times I have convinced my daughter to eat something completely different by saying "But this is the vegetable YOU picked out at the farmers' market."  Ours has the added bonus of an amazing demonstration garden, also with some edibles, and amazing gardeners to answer questions, give tours, or offer a cold drink of water on a hot day.  It's a beautiful thing, truly. 

Along the "buy local" lines, I also shop at the Oklahoma Food Co-Op.  In all honesty, the food is significantly more expensive.  I don't buy everything from this site, but I do get all of my ground beef here.  Watch Food, Inc. or do even a quick Google search on ground beef and you'll quickly see why.  Really, I just want to feed my family food that is what it says it is, and is made in a reasonably humane and careful way.   Also, at least one farmer always has a sell on beef and you get a discount if you buy in bulk, like 10 lbs or more.

Cloth diapering: Yes, it seems pretty radical and is not for everyone!  I tried it with my daughter and it just wasn't happening.  She was cranky, I was cranky, it just wasn't worth it.  But I gave it another shot with my son and has been a great experience.  He no longer has the terrible diaper rash that he used to and frankly, I think he looks adorable in the fun colors FuzziBunz makes.  Yes, there are nights when I think "I do not want to wash a load of friggin' diapers!"  So then we use disposables the next day.  I'm not too picky about it.  But overall, it hasn't been much different.  It's not like I'm scrubbing them on the porch, they go in the laundry and come out clean just like everything else.  Of course, it helps that my son has little rock hard poops that can easily be rolled into the toilet.  I probably wouldn't be as happy about the whole process if I had to actually scrub the dang things.  Okay, I'll stop talking about poop now.  It's surprising how much time poop can occupy in the brain of a mother of two, for one reason or another.  Okay, now I'm done!

Finally, I'm trying to grow some veggies again this year.  Usually, this does not work out great for me but I keep trying.  There is some virtue in that sort of optimism, right?  Since we no longer have a dog, I am attempting tomatoes and cucumbers in the back yard.  For some reason I have pretty good success with bell peppers in my front flower bed.  I suspect that the neighbors think it's weird but I'm okay with that! 

So that's it, easy and cheap green tips!  Enjoy Earth Day, Easter, and this beautiful time of year.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dyeing eggs with toddlers, the good times just keep comin'

Holy controlled chaos, every year I think it will be better!  This year wasn't actually soooo bad, but I do learn a little bit each time. 
Semi-crunchy mommy that I am, I decided this year to try making some dyes from berries.
Luckily, my crunchiness goes only so far and I had a kit of Paws too!  The berry dye worked okay, but the colors were not nearly as bright and it took a lot longer.  My daughter did had great fun though squeezing the berries to get all of their juice out!  If you're interested, I sort of followed the same rules as the Paws tablets.  I tossed a couple of tablespoons of vinegar on them, then added hot water.  Why hot, you say?  I don't know, it sounded like a good idea at the time!
So, I boiled the eggs, then burned my fingers getting them out.  Note to self, don't use your large pasta pot to cook the eggs if you plan on making spaghetti for dinner within the hour.
Then, it was time for the fizzy, bubbly dyes!

Someone told me about the whisk trick a couple of years ago.  I wish I remembered who, they deserve a medal.  You have to be a mechanical genius to work that stupid, flimsy wire loopy thing.  My husband loves it.  Whatever, give me the whisk any day!  Actually, most of the time I give up on all of it and use my fingers.  This year, we bought the "marble" Paws kit.  Turns out, it's pretty much the same stuff but with marbling instructions.  Still, it was a nice effect.  The only problem was, you need veg. oil for the marbling effect and all I had was extra virgin olive oil, which is about 600 times more expensive.  So, if you want to marble, get the right stuff! 
My husband also used a white crayon to draw designs and the kids' names on the eggs.  He gets pretty into these things (presentation man and all).  It was cute and the kids loved seeing things "magically" appear on their eggs.  My baby boy lost interest pretty early and roamed off to find something to "crash" but my daughter loved picking the colors (pink of course) and dictating to hubby what to draw on the eggs "I want the cow jumping over the moon Daddy."  No simple requests for that one!
Overall, the eggs came out great and with minimal mess.  Especially the marbled ones, they were by far my favorite.  So, here's my tips on egg dyeing with little ones:

1) It's a two person job, enlist a husband, grandma, or friend.  You will need someone keep the kids from eating the tablets or dyeing your dog pink.
2) Read the instructions and make sure you have everything you need (clearly this is the one that I struggle with).
3) Spread newspaper, or go outside, or spread newspaper outside.  I find it's also a good just-before-bath activity.
4) Don't worry about them being just so, kids have more fun when you're having fun.

So, that's all.  Happy Easter!!!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Girls' Day, With a Twist

Today, thanks to the wonders of my church's Mother's Day Out program, I get to spend the day with just my daughter doing girl things.  Sometimes we shop, sometimes we go to the amazing (free) art classes at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art , sometimes we get pedicures, you get the idea.  Today, we tried something a little different and unexpected. 

We had tacos.  From a truck.  On the side of the road.  Just me, my blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter, and about 10 Mexican men in jean and work boots, guzzling brightly colored sodas in large glass bottles and talking animatedly in their native language.  If it wasn't for the wind, it would have been glorious!  The food was great (a little spicy for a three-year-old), the atmosphere was authentic, and it was fun to just do something so out of the ordinary for us.  My daughter seemed to like it, until we got home and she still demanded her "regular" lunch.  Hmmm....we really are in a rut! 

Street food is just not something that you often see in suburban Oklahoma, but I'm interested to see that it's making huge headway.  There are a couple of other taco trucks in our town and Big Truck Tacos in Oklahoma City has a pretty evangelical following.  I haven't tried it but once people go there they seem practically possessed by the wonder of the place.  What the heck are they putting in those burritos???? 

Overall I'd say it was an experience worth having, and I'm thrilled to be giving my lunch money to an individual hand-making fresh food, rather than the corporate monolith that is your typical fast-food restaurant.  We will certainly try it again, although maybe on a less windy day!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pushing the Envelope

I'm a schedule-keeper.  Pretty much anyone who knows me well could tell you exactly what my children and myself are doing based solely on the time and the day of the week.  Part of that is my natural personality type.  Another part is that my daughter was a difficult baby and I found that by doing the same things, the same way, at the same time I could avoid many meltdowns and conflicts.  Put her to bed at 6:45...problem.  Put her to bed at 7:30...problem.  Put her to bed at 7...no problem.  Unfortunately this isn't working as well as it once did but that's not really my point!
So, this past weekend my children both did things that were waaaayyyyy off of my schedule. 
My daughter went to a birthday party.  An hour before her "magic" bedtime.  In Dallas, an hour away from my sister's house and three hours away from mine (not including Saturday night traffic).  It was my older niece's party and she really wanted my daughter to attend.  She went, she partied, she drank pink lemonade, and came home with my mother in time for church the next morning.  Yes, she was slightly wild-eyed from the excitement and the lack of sleep, but she had a blast and has been talking about it ever since. 
The very same day my son went to a car show with my husband and my father.  My dad builds old cars as a hobby and car shows are for him, a pretty big deal.  And this was the biggest show of the year, like the Oscars for car guys.  My dad and husband listened patiently and slightly blankly as I repeated the need for a diaper bag, sunscreen, lovey, organic bunny snacks, being home by an appropriate nap time, etc.  I think they even hit at least half of those requests.  However, nap time consisted of the poor boy finally passing out on Daddy's shoulder for a while as my dad and husband continued their tour.  When asked if he had fun, my son yelled "YES!!!" and has been shouting "car show" repeatedly ever since. 
Neither of these situations were handled exactly the way that I would have.  But, they had fun, they had experiences that do not come around very often, and the best part....they got to do it all while I was blissfully at work!

Book Review #1

I love to read.  I love to write.  It's probably pretty natural then that I love to write book reviews.  If you are ever in Moore, OK you can pick up a copy of the Moore Monthly and likely read one of my reviews.  So, from time to time here I will post some book reviews.  They may not all be "mommy books" (I do have a little bit of a life outside of motherhood) but they will likely be books that mommies will enjoy.  So, here goes:

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond.

I believe my fellow mommy blogger friend is the one who first told me about the Pioneer Woman but I'm not really sure.  You know how some things just seem to have always been a part of your life?  Well, rarely a day goes by anymore that I don't check up on her blog and see what's new out there at the cattle ranch.  Oh my goodness, the photographs alone are worth the trip.  Not to mention the great recipies.  Not to mention the hilarious stories.  And, the cowboys, ah, the cowboys...
Ooops, back to the book.  This is the story of her life-changing, lightning bolt, whirlwind romance with a slow-talking, hard working cowboy.  After living the single gal life on the West Coast, she decides to stop back briefly in her Oklahoma home town before heading to law school in Chicago.  One night, she meets Marlborough Man in a smoky bar and the rest is history.  Sounds cliche, right?  Actually, there is waaaayyy more to it than that but I don't want to ruin the story.  Truly, this to me was an almost universal story of how life throws you unexpected game-changes and how you deal with them.  Making the decision to re-write her entire life plan is painful and delicious, and she writes of her experiences with such honesty and humor that you feel drawn into the story.    Anyone who has experienced the transition from that irrational, obsessive first flush of new love to the deeper, stronger, but more difficult day to day marathan of sharing a life with someone will see a bit of themselves in this story.  It is about believing completely in one other person.  What this woman did was a true leap of faith and she is brutally, hilariously honest about the good times and bad that this leap has brought her.  She is someone you want to have a chat with over a cup of coffee, or at least read about and root for.  This book was a true delight and I was a little sad when it ended.     

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Supervised Visitation

We have a dog.  His name is Achilles and he is a nine-year-old Siberian Husky.  He is beautiful, cuddly, and full of character.  A few years ago he was selected as Rachael Ray's pet of the month and was featured on her website for several weeks.  He is very loved and well cared for.  We have had him since he was six weeks old.  He has never been abused, neglected, or treated poorly in any way.  He used to occupy a cozy bed in our room and a prime spot on our Christmas cards.  He lives with my parents now because last September, while my husband was away on business, he bit my beautiful baby on the face. 

Sorry, didn't mean to shock you.

So here's the situation:  My son loves Achilles.  Always  has.  As a matter of fact, he can't leave him alone.  As soon as he was able to walk, he was after that dog.  He loved to "pat" Achilles, get right in his face, try to ride him, you name it.  I always joked that it was a good thing Achilles was such a good dog.  The only time I had ever seen him show any aggression was years ago, when I was approached by a shady looking man at Riverside Park in my hometown.  My sweet puppy bared his teeth, growled, and suddenly looked like his close cousin the wolf.  Shady man quickly departed and Achilles got a pat on the head and an extra treat. 

Anyway, so back to baby boy.  My husband had been away on business for about a week and a half.  Achilles always did tend to get nervous when the "alpha dog" was gone, often not eating well and patrolling the house.  To make matters worse, my son often liked to pull his tail, touch his feet, and generally do little things that Achilles probably did not like.  I should have known.  I should have known.  It's easy to say that now.  So, the three of us (my daughter, son, and myself) were playing in my daughter's room.  My son toddled off toward our bedroom.  We have a glass door to the outside in there and he liked to look out the window.  So, after a few seconds I slowly got up to follow him.  Suddenly, I heard growling and barking.  In the nano-second it took to get there, I found my son curled up on his back near the dog's bed and Achilles over him making noise.  To this day I don't really know if he was still growling or whining or what.  In a fog, I grabbed his collar and put him outside.  I picked up my son and realized that he had several pure white scratches covering the right side of his face.  I think by this point I was muttering "Oh my God!"  My daughter was yelling "What did Achilles do to Brother?" and at some point, she peed her pants.  I took my son to the changing table, examined hus face, called the doctor, and told my daughter to put her shoes on so that we could take a trip to the doctor.  At some point, I came to my senses, ran to the neighbors with my now screaming and bleeding baby, and told them what had happened.  They took over from there.  The husband got my son and myself into our car while the wife stayed with my daughter.
You get priority service when you run into the ER with a baby who has bitten by a dog.  Somehow, they knew we were coming.  I still don't know, maybe my neighbor called, maybe I did.  The next two hours were terrifying and painful, from watching them seal up my hysterical baby's wounds, to trying to explain what had happened to various people, including my frightened, angry, and confused husband who must have felt so awful being so far away during this madness.
My mom arrived by dawn the next morning.  My husband cut his trip early and came home two days later, with the instructions that "that dog" better be long gone by the time he got home.  My sweet husband had turned into full "protect the family from rabid beast" mode.  I think we would all have been less frightened, betrayed, and angry if it had been a strange dog, but the fact that my son was assaulted by our beloved pet is something we are still all dealing with.  For days I kept waiting for DHS or animal control or someone to knock on my door, with their forms and their judgement.  I went from wanting the dog put down, to worrying that someone would come and tell me that he had to be put down. 

My son is fine now.  He still has some small scars which people tell me are not so noticable, but I see them every time I look at him.  He still loves Achilles.  I don't think either of them has any memory of the incident.  I assume what happened is my son startled him while he was sleeping.  He was likely frightened and cornered and reacted instinctly.  I don't think he is a bad dog or that he meant to hurt my son.  The wounds were fairly surface deep and not nearly as bad as it could have been.  That being said, I will likely never fully trust him again and if (IF) he ever does come back to live with us full-time, he will probably be much more of an outside dog.  For now, we are trying a "supervised visit" while my parents are staying with us for the weekend.  I like having him back but I can tell that things will never be the same with us.

Oh my goodness, I'm sorry for rambling for so long.  As you can likely tell, it is still a very raw issue for me.  My chest if pumping and my hands are shaking just typing this "book."  I don't intend to make people frightened of their dogs but I do want it stressed that any dog is still at heart an animal, acting on instict and likely to react aggresively if frightened, hurt, or cornered.  I of course had heard to never leave a child alone with a dog and I basically followed that rule but I also had let myself get to complacent with my own beloved pet.  I will always feel guilty about that.  I will raise my children to love and respect dogs.  I will also never again leave a small child along in a dog's presence, any dog, even for one second.  It's hard as parents sometimes to walk the tightrope between being vigilent and protective, and giving your children the freedom to explore and grow on their own.  Sorry, I know this is a little heavy for a sunny Saturday!    

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pork cutlets with tomato sauce

I have a problem with pork.  Unless I Crock-Pot it, it often turns out semi-dry and flavorless.  Recently, I saw Rachael Ray cook pork an entirely new way (to me anyway) and I decided to try it.  The tomato sauce here is also inspired by my good friend "Ray Rachael" as my daughter calls her.  She makes lots of sauces with fresh grape tomatoes and I'm hooked on them!  They are tangy and sweet at the same time, and make a nice fresh change from canned tomatoes.  Little tip though, when smashing the tomatoes, be very, very, very careful!  Trust me, being "spit" at by molten tomato is no fun.  So inspired by RR, here is my winner, winner, pork dinner:

1 small pork tenderloin (appx. 1lb)
1/2 C flour (I use whole wheat)
1/4 C grated parm.
Dash of pepper and some herbs de provence
2-3T olive oil

Trim pork of any fat or connective tissue.  Slice into 1" thick slices.  Cover with parchment paper and gently pound until about twice the width and half the thickness.  Dredge cutlets in flour/cheese mixture and shake off excess.  This will give them a nice coating without all of the mess of egg washes, dipping and repeating of an actual batter coating.  Heat a large skillet on medium-high and cook cutlets in batches (don't crowd the pan) just a couple of minutes on each side, until browned.  These little guys are so thin they shouldn't take long to cook.  When cooked, transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.  When all pork is cooked, you can make the sauce in the same pan:

1-2 T extra olive oil plus a bit of butter
6-8 green onions, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried
2T flour (I used the flour/cheese mixture from dredging the pork)
3/4 C chicken stock (I didn't really measure this, just guessed.  You may need more but it's better to start with less.)
Pepper

Turn heat to medium-low and add extra oil and butter.  Toss in veggies (I wait a few minutes on the garlic as it burns easily).  Toss veggies around a few minutes, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low).  This allows the tomatoes to steam and burst.  Uncover and GENTLY smash tomatoes with a potato masher or the edge of a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir around for a few minutes.  Add chicken stock, return heat to medium-high and gently bubble for several minutes or until sauce is the consistency you want.  Add more stock if it gets too thick.  Season with pepper, if you like it extra spicy you can add red pepper flakes or a fresh chili with the veggies in the beginning. 

I served this with simple steamed broccoli (fresh from the farmers' market) and brown rice.  Props to Hubby for the awesome plate presentation!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tea Time

My daughter is three.  She loves tea.  Very few humans can spend more than 20 minutes in our house without finding themselves perched precariously on one of her tiny chairs.  She will serve you "tea" in a pink plastic cup with matching saucer, the teapot singing "It's a Small World" with each tilt of its handle.  If you are lucky, you will also get a plate of snacks, such as plastic grapes, pickles, maybe even a turkey leg.  If there are more than two for tea, she will gladly drag an extra tiny chair from her brother's room.  And my son, well, he's just along for the ride.  He has grown to enjoy these forcible tea parties but has learned to put his own rowdy boy stamp on the event.  He will loudly slurp his designated cup of air, slam in down onto the table, and then toss it against the wall while shouting "Crash!"  Maybe he was a Wild West cowboy in a past life.  If he is feeling particularly energetic, he will clear the whole table in one fail swoop, with lots of shouting and laughing.  Of course, this sends my daughter into hysterics, but he's not really concerned about that.  That's what you get for inviting him to the party!
Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly benevolent, I'll serve them real animal crackers and fruit-flavored tea or juice.  They are always thrilled with this and there is not nearly so much "crashing." 
We have gone to a lot of tea  parties this year and each was certainly a fun and special treat.  But, she still seems thrilled with her own little table filled with a stuffed turtle, a couple of bears, maybe a baby doll or two, and even a rowdy baby brother.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cows, clay, and cousins

I am not a country girl.  I like the idea of it in many ways, a simpler lifestyle, kids being raised in the good ol' outdoors, growing your own food and learning to fix and make things yourself.  But, I also like sidewalks, coffee shops, boutique restaurants, quick 911 service, and about 1,000 other things that are probably tricky to come by in the country.  Luckily for us, my sister-in-law and her husband live in the country.  Not too far away from civilization, just enough to get a small glimpse of it. 
Last week we went there for a birthday party and it struck me as fortunate that my kids get to glimpse this way of life that is in many ways different from their own.  They live down a dirt road on land that my brother-in-law grew up on.  There are cows directly behind their back yard and in the winter, they need to be fed and cared for.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, whatever, my brother-in-law and nephew leave family functions or anything else to go "feed."  The kids like to say hi to the cattle and one day, they will be invited to help in the feeding of them when we are out for a visit.  I will be terrified of this but will let them go anyway.  What an opportunity!
In addition to cattle, my sister-in-law has a pottery studio that also doubles as a shop for tractors, 4 wheelers, and miscellaneous "country" stuff.  She gave each of my children their very own ball of clay to take home and "create" with.  When the masterpieces are created, we will take them back to the shop where they will be glazed and fired.
And the best part of the visit for my baby boy?  Playing basketball with his cousin, who at 14 years old is easily 6'4".  You know, they grow them that way in the country...it's all the beef and corn and walking 5 miles uphill to the bus stop!
Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives and working down the "to do" list that it's hard to remember to stop and spend some time just hanging out, picking wildflowers and waving at cows.  It's easier to remember to do that in the country.  I am thankful that my kids will grow up with a place where they can be "country kids" at least for the afternoon.  And, I'm thankful that at the end of the afternoon, we can hit the Starbucks on our way back to suburbia!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm International!!!

Okay, so my cousin lives in Brazil (love you Christy)!  BUT, my blog is now also being viewed in the UK, Denmark, and France!  For that I say:

Mange Tak
Cheers!
Merci beaucoup
Muito obrigado

Friday, April 8, 2011

Potting Project

As a child, I really loved playing with "helicopters" in the Spring.  You know, those little maple seeds that twirl and fall everywhere when there is a maple nearby.  In addition to playing with them, I really liked to plant the seeds in little pots and grow baby trees.  As a matter of fact, nearly every tree in my parents' back yard started out in a tiny cup by me 25-ish years ago.  There used to be more, but my mom has recently been on the losing end of her ongoing fight with the power company tree trimmers.  I'm pretty sure she's on some tree hugger, environmental activist/terrorist list.  I am, of course, exaggerating.  Slightly. 

So, yesterday on a lazy afternoon, I got to idea to share the experience with my own kids.  There is a humongo maple tree in our front yard and Hubby occasionally says it may need to be cut down some day.  That is, unless his mother in law-decides to camp in it in protest! Anyway, I guess I'd better start on some replacement maples just in case.  Each kiddo picked out their pot.
Then they apparently decided it was break time.  Surprisingly, my daughter chose the smaller pot!  Then we went on a search for the perfect helicopter.  They are very excited about growing baby  helicopters.  Maybe I should have explained this better!  Oh well, they'll figure it out.  Or else be hugely disappointed. 

They were actually great about filling their pots with dirt, using their little fingers to bore a hole, and dropping in their little seed.  My son managed to unearth his about 37 times so we'll have to wait and see how tough those little seeds are.    My daughter thinks hers needs to go in the rock garden.
I think Hubby w ill veto that.  Actually, my plan (if they grow) is to buy larger pots to paint and give them away as Mother's Day presents.  You know, tree-lover Grandma and all.  First, we have to wait and see if the little guys actually grow.  Stay tuned for an update!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Veggie Quiche

I don't know about you but my kids will eat anything nestled in eggs and surrounded by pastry.  What a great way to sneak in the veggies!  In April in Oklahoma, there is not a hug selection of local veggies at the farmer's market but they do have a couple of my favorites: green onions and asparagus.  I paired this with some mushrooms from J&M Farms (an Oklahoma-based business), and some Braums (another Oklahoma business) eggs.  So the ham is from Target, whatever, I'm not Barbara Kingsolver but at least I'm trying!  So, here is my recipe for Spring on a plate! 

1 small bunch thin asparagus, washed, trimmed of woody ends, and cut into 2 inch pieces
4-5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
4 green onions, chopped
2T butter, spread, or olive oil
6 large eggs
1/2 C milk
4 oz. feta cheese
Several slices chopped deli  ham
Sea salt, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley
1 deep dish frozen pie shell

Saute veggies in butter/oil until tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. 

Meanwhile, whip eggs with milk.  Add cheese, parsley, ham, and seasonings. 

Fill pie crust with veggie mixture, then egg mixture.  If necessary, use a spoon or spatula to evenly spread mixture.  Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.  Serve warm, room temperature, whatever floats your boat!  This is what my "friend" Rachael Ray would call a BLD (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).  Yummity, yum!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fancy Fun!

Last night our local library hosted a Fancy Nancy Tea Party.  For the occasion, my daughter donned her Fancy Nancy dress, her pink feather boa, her tiara, her "magic" wand, and about a dozen butterfly clips.  We clearly were not going to miss an opportunity to over-accessorize!  Oh, and did I mention Frenchy the dog?  And the ruffly socks?  And the sparkly shoes?  So, or course, the first thing we had to do when we arrived was hit the dress-up area, just to make sure we had enough "stuff" draped over us!
Then, it was time to sample some delectable (that's a fancy word for yummy), tea sandwiches.  A little coloring, a sip of juice in a princess cup (pinky raised of course), and it was time for dancing with a REAL ballerina!

I'm not sure if she's having a good time, what do you think?  Finally, it was off to make a ribbon tiara and a ring.  'Cuz we didn't have enough accessories, don't you know!  Overall, I think she would rate the event spectacular (that's a fancy word for really, really, really good)/

I love my library!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hats off to the Chef!

Occasionally, I take off my mommy hat and put on the librarian hat.  Yesterday was just such a day.  Unfortunately, because our library is open until 6pm on Sundays, this means that I get home long after our early-bird dinner.  Typically I will prepare something in the Crock Pot, or make sure we have plenty of leftovers so that Hubby has something to feed himself and the kids.  For some reason, I dropped the ball yesterday and informed Hubby that he was in charge of feeding the munchkins.  I did pick up some burger and dog buns on my morning milk run because (like most men), my husband considers himself King of the Grill. 
In true "extreme man" fashion, this is what he prepared (for himself, and two very small children):
6 hamburger patties
16 (yes, 16) hot dogs
Stuffed mushrooms

Whew, talk about a wild hair!  The man grilled everything grill-able in the fridge and then decided to whip up a new recipe.  I did give him the "make sure they eat some sort of veggie" instructions but I was thinking along the lines of frozen peas, not a semi-gourmet and super tasty veggie dish.  And, for bonus points, he chopped up the mushroom stems and "hid" them in the burger patties along with onions, garlic, and fresh parsley.  Hmmm...has he secretly been reading Jessica Seinfeld?
I wish I had taken a picture of these little beauties.  Truly, he is a master of presentation.  Whereas I just flop the food on a plate, Hubby carefully arranges and garnishes.  Here is an example, this is a ham and cheese crepe from my Valentine's Day breakfast.  Notice the parsley garnish and strawberry fan:
This from a man who has no less than 4 motorcycle boots laying about the house at any given time!

Anyway, he said I could share the mushroom recipe, so here goes:

1 package button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
1 slice stale sourdough (or other good quality bread), chopped finely in food processor.
1 T melted butter (apparently my husband used bacon grease, something he likes to hide into his recipies and then giggle when I go on about how tasty it is...do what you like)
1/8 onion or shallot, finely chopped
1t herbs de provence
1t Greek seasoning (Greek seasoning typically has spearmint, oregano, garlic and sea salt)
Good handful mix of grated parm and crumbled feta cheese
Equally good handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
Dash of salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients and stuff into mushrooms.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.  Or, if for some reason, you too think these go with burgers then just place on an oven-safe dish and pop right onto a covered grill with the burgers.  I wish I had taken a picture of these little beauties before I scarfed them down.  They even went really well with the hot dogs.  I love a grilled hot dog.  It pretty much goes against everything I stand for food-wise but man, it tastes good!  Mmmm.....

And, lest I be accused of shameless bragging: I assure you that I could write an equally lengthy post on the many aggravating things this man does.  The boots are only the beginning.  But, I choose to focus on the positive, it makes life a lot more fun!  So go out and grill yourself some burgers, dogs, and 'shrooms!



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sring has sprung in the Great Plains!

For the second time!  Let's hope it stays this time.  What an awesome weekend of events here in Norman. 

Yesterday we did a quick trip to the Medieval Fair here in Norman.  It was such a beautiful day and a great experience for my older daughter.  The baby, not so much.  But, then again, he's been sick.  I think as the kids get older this will be a must-do annual outing.  My favorite was seeing the "craftsmen" do traditional things the traditional way, like blacksmithing.  There's something for everyone here, from Indian tacos (which is always a head scratcher), to jousting and other medieval sports, to some truly crazy, beautiful, baudy, outrageous, you-name-it costumes.  It's an experience that's for sure.  If you live near Norman, the fair will go on through Sunday the 3rd.

Yesteday was a great day for finally planting.  We picked cucumber (my daughter's favorite), heirloom tomatos, red bell peppers, rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley, and lots and lots of petunias.  My garden looks and smells great!  Yes, my veggies always die a slow and pitiful death, usually after producing little to no produce, but I don't think about that in April.  I think about how this year, by gosh, they are going to flourish.  Isn't that wonderfully  optimistic of me?

And, my personal signal of Spring:the Norman Farmer's Market, which I LOVE.  What a great way to teach your kids that food doesn't come pre-packaged and sterilized on grocery store shelves.  I love the experience of having my kids pick out a vegetable then hand cash to the farmer who grew that very same vegetable.  There is not much local produce yet, but they have a great selection of plants, from flowers to veggies and herbs.  The market is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 8-12 through October.  Go see those farmers and tell them thank you for their hard work and dedication!

Next on the agenda: cleaning our beautiful church!  So it wasn't glamorous, but if you concentrate really, really, really, really hard, there is something spirital about cleaning the baseboards in God's house.  Plus, we got to eat cheap pizza with college students, a  bittersweet nostalgic experience for for a 32 year-old mommy with a purse full of snacky snacks and coupons.

Finally, Girls' Night Out tonight with some spectacular ladies!  Mmmmm....can't wait for two hours away from kids where we will, hmmmm, probably discuss kids!  Once a mom, always a mom! 

What a great weekend!  What great weather!  Get out and enjoy the sunshine!!!  Was that enough exclamation points for you?