Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A foodie with bum taste buds

Thankfully, my family has so far managed to avoid the rapidly spreading swine flu. Taking the kids to get their H1N1 vaccine was a hoot, let me tell you. I damaged my rotator cuff trying to physically restrain my five-year-old. She's freakishly strong, and I either need to start working out for next year's encore or I'll have to hire a bouncer.

We did recently have a house guest, one that wasn't invited and stayed entirely too long. It all started when Jonathan was teething (or so I thought). He was incredibly ornery, drooling like a camel, and barely touching his food. Days later, little bumps appeared around his mouth, a result of the drooling, I assumed. Then, Lillian started complaining about her tongue hurting. She thought she had bitten it, but the pain grew worse, as did the whining. I finally checked her tongue and this is what I found:
BLISTERS!!!!! My tongue started to hurt just looking at them. No, wait, my tongue had blisters on it too!!!! I'm never sharing food with these germy kids again. While we never developed the characteristic blisters on our hands and feet, we were diagnosed with an enterovirus, much like hand, foot, and mouth disease. Since Jonathan is the youngest and hasn't had much exposure to enteroviruses, he had the most severe symptoms. Lil was more tired and crabby than usual, but she felt alright otherwise. Adults have been exposed to many of these viruses, so their symptoms are generally mild. Often times, we show no symptoms at all. I just had a very sore tongue.

What was even worse than listening to Lilly whine that her tongue was going to fall off, was that food tasted like moldy drywall and coffee like pond water laced with furniture polish. Even after the blisters disappeared, I was left with a metallic taste in my mouth for days. I didn't cook for a week. The only meal that brought me any pleasure at all was soba noodles in a miso broth with sauted carrots, zucchini, and red peppers.

My tendency toward hypochondria led me to google 'taste loss' and I read all sorts of tragic tales about poor souls with permanently damaged taste buds. Thankfully, my taste buds are happy and healthy once again. Last night, I baked homemade bread and made cabbage with white bean soup.
QUIZ: What's better than the aroma of freshly baked bread and soup simmering on the stove? ANSWER: Tasting it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man's world.

Lately I've been spending money like a madwoman. I'm usually quite thrifty and not much of a consumer, but occasionally I go on these spending sprees like a desperate housewife. It's my husband's fault, really, because he made a comment about how nice it would be to have a comfortable reading chair. I proceeded to sell the Hitchcock table and benches we were storing in our living room, purchase new curtains, a mission style rocking chair, an antique mahogany desk, and a Morris chair from LLBean. Once you get started, it's hard to stop. I still need a chair for the desk and an area rug. Of course, now the room needs to be painted too. The good news is I purchased the curtains for 1/2 price at JCPenney, the rocking chair for $85 on craiglist, and desk for $130, but I paid full price for the LLBean chair. I sold the Hitchcock furniture for $900 and purchased all the above items with that money. I'm afraid the box (I mean, cave) is here to stay.

"But that is not all! Oh, no, that is not all," said the Cat In The Hat. I've purchased autumn clothes for Lillian, new clothes for myself (a reward for losing the baby weight and insurance to not gain it back), and Christmas presents for both kids. I purchased many of these things on etsy.com, which makes me feel slightly less guilty. Alan painted the kids' room with No-VOC paint ($$$) and now that the walls are so beautiful I've purchased artwork to hang. The artwork needs frames. It's a vicious cycle, but I'm having fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grilled vegetable salad with sweet poppyseed dressing

This recipe was OUT OF THIS WORLD!! I forgot how sweet and delicious grilled vegetables can be, especially eggplant and fresh corn. I found this scrumptious recipe on author Cynthia Lair's website Cookus Interruptus. She wrote a wonderful cookbook entitled Feeding the Whole Family, which gives smart tips on feeding your entire family the same dish, even babies as young as 6 months old. I DREAM about her yummy Emerald City Salad and have yet to be disappointed by one of her recipes. I highly recommend her Fried Brown Rice, Edamame Tofu Salad, Lemon Tahini Sauce, Rosemary Red Soup, Asian Noodle Salad, and French Lentils with sage. The only change I made to this recipe was adding grilled corn and serving it with smoked salmon. It was so fabulous!

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's in your fridge?

I just got home from the Farmer's Market and am mourning the loss of the bounty of summer. Don't get me wrong, I look forward to root vegetables and soup, but will miss the endless supply of melons and mangoes. The good news is, my beloved comice pear will make her return in a couple of months. Also, the leaves are about to change and sweaters will soon come out of the closet. Woo hoo!!

This is what's on the menu this week at our house.
Monday: Grilled vegetable salad with smoked salmon. Tuesday: Roasted brussels sprouts, bison, mushrooms & onions with raw alfredo sauce & PBu, inspired by Heather Eats Almond ButterWednesday: Edamame tofu salad with sesame chili dressingThursday: Raw zucchini noodles, basil, carrots, tomatoes & alfredo sauce and sweet potato french fries. Friday: We usually eat out on fridays, but Alan has to work, so I'll probably make whole wheat breakfast wraps with eggs, salsa, cheese, and organic italian sausage. Saturday: Vegetable chickpea curry with brown rice, with raita yogurt sauce.

Yes, I cleaned my fridge first and here's what's in it:

top shelf - mustard, pickles, ghee, jerk chicken spice, apple butter, white miso, green curry, walnuts, peanuts, brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, raspberries.

2nd shelf - chock full o nuts coffee, 1/2 & 1/2, Banilla yogurt, plain yogurt, yogurt tubes, salsa, sour cream, cottage cheese, almond milk,

middle shelf - eggs, saflower oil, yo baby yogurt, applesauce, organic green grapes, pineapple, marinara, left-over black bean zucchini quesadilla mixture, tiramisu.

cheese drawer - tofu, smoked salmon, dates, feta cheese, whole grain wraps.
shelf - spinach, bison, organic italian sausages.

produce drawers - carrots, potato, corn, eggplant, okra, cucumber, basil, boston lettuce, red pepper, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, portobellas, dill, brussels sprouts, lemons, cilantro, sugar snap peas, sweet potatoes, broccoli, minneolos, apples, limes, ginger.

other treats from the F. Mkt - plums, peaches, bananas, kiwi, chickpeas, onions, soba noodles, dark chocolate, date coconut rolls, edamame, frozen peaches, poppy seeds, cherry tomatoes.

What's in YOUR fridge? What are YOU eating this week? What's your new favorite food discovery?

Friday, September 11, 2009

10 years ago today

I made the best move of my life and married my sweet hubby, Alan. He is so kind, so generous, and makes me laugh every day. He also makes some beautiful babies, if I do say so myself :-)
Happy Anniversary, babe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

For the love of peanut butter

I have a hard time keeping the fridge stocked with peanut butter. I've had a passion for nut butters for as long as I can remember. My husband, Alan, often makes "poor man's dessert," which is a mixture of peanut butter and maple syrup or honey. Apples cut into little boats with peanut butter on top was a breakfast staple growing up, and I still eat almond butter with pink lady apples at least 3 times a week. I sometimes add a scoop to my green smoothies and always put some on my oatmeal.

As a child, I couldn't understand why my mom kept our peanut butter in the fridge while other families kept theirs on a shelf and enjoyed it at room temperature. Their peanut butter didn't have oil floating on the top, thanks to hydrogenated fats. My mom knew about hydrogenated fats before hydrogenated fats were uncool. We were also the only family I knew who ate whole grain bread. I don't mean soft wheat bread from the grocery store, I'm talking grainy, brown, frozen bread full of seeds. Thanks to whole grain bread and natural peanut butter, my brother says his lunch was never stolen in middle school.

I've been reading a lot of food blogs lately and kept hearing about PBu. It's a delicious concoction invented by Emily at Curly Top. It's so good there are no words to describe it, so I won't even try. Just buy yourself some natural peanut butter and plain almond milk and mix them together. Emily recommends 1 cup of pb and 2 cups of almond milk, but I like mine a little thicker. Try 1 cup of peanut butter mixed with 1 cup of almond milk and then thin it out if you'd like it thinner. You have to stir, stir, stir for a long time, until the two become one. If you're allergic to peanuts, try it with almond butter. I don't think it needs any sweetener, but add some if you'd like. Cinnamon works well too. You can use PBu on anything - oat bran, toast, salad, ice cream, you name it! It's heavenly!! It's much lower in fat than straight peanut butter, but it tastes just as decadent.

The blog I keep returning to again and again is Heather Eats Almond Butter. In fact, Heather was the first person I noticed using PBu in her recipes. She lost over 100 pounds ten years ago eating a healthy diet. She's beautiful and witty and has learned over the years which foods make her body happy. She and her husband created a recipe they call Marinutta, which is a combination of marinara sauce, peanut butter, and ground flax seeds. AMAZING! We ate ours with some roasted brussels sprouts, ground bison, carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Heather eats hers on broccoli.

Man, I love food. Like Julia Child, I'd rather go food shopping than dress shopping any day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Into Everything

"Into everything" doesn't even begin to describe the extent of the mayhem my 13-month old son commits on a daily basis. My daughter was just taking her first steps at this age, but Jonathan has been walking for 3 months. Our house looks like it's been burglarized 90% of the time. Jonathan loves sharp objects, outlets, electrical cords, toilets, you name it. Without fail, when I open the dishwasher, he'll pull out the sharpest knife he can find. He's also been known to take a plate out of the dishwasher and throw it over his shoulder. If anything is left within arms reach, he pulls it to the floor. Paperwork, dishes, toys, clothes, etc. I have to be very careful when the bath is filling with water, because once he fell in head first with his clothes on. He takes his own diapers off, dirty ones, so he must at all times be wearing a pair of pants. He drops items in the toilet, so the seat has to be down at all times. There are so many new rules in our house, just to prevent brother from hurting himself. He can open the oven door by hanging on the handle. If you try to shut a door, better check for little fingers first. Don't leave the back door open, or Jonathan will escape and make a bee line for the deck stairs. He has no concept of falling and repeatedly tries to dive off the bed. The other day at the playground he reached under a friend's stroller and pulled out an aerosol can of bug spray. The good news is, he wears himself out every day. He naps consistently. He smiles almost constantly. He's funny and sweet and everything I dreamed having a son would be.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Lillian started her first day of Kindergarten last Monday! It's been a wonderful change, for both her and for me. She THRIVES on the structure and routines that school provides, which is something I've always known, but haven't had much luck implementing at home. We're fortunate enough to be in a fantastic school system and even more fortunate to be able to walk to and from school every day. Oakhurst Elementary, "One of the best little schools in the world," is a beautifully renovated school, originally built in 1915, with a lovely outdoor classroom. It's an Expeditionary Learning School, which is the primary reason we moved to Decatur. The Expeditionary Learning model emphasizes active learning and teaching, with all subjects being integrated into a semester-long expedition. You can read more about Expeditionary Learning Principles here. After 5 years of one-on-one time with Lil, I now have one-on-one time with Jonathan. We practiced kissing while sister was at school this week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


My baby lost a baby tooth. My first baby, that is. She's not even 5 1/2 and about two months ago we noticed her loose tooth. Last Friday, just as we were packing the van to go to the lake, she came running down the hall yelling, "My tooth fell out!" Then, she started to cry because of the blood and the fact that her mouth felt different. Change is hard. Hard for her mommy too because her first born suddenly looks a year or two older. Luckily, the tooth fairy planned ahead, ordering a tooth fairy bracelet kit months ago. Lil was thrilled when she woke up at 2:00 in the morning and found a lovely box wrapped in a bow from the tooth fairy. She could barely contain herself, whispering, "Mommy, I KNEW the tooth fairy would find me here! I just KNEW IT!"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My etsy wish list

I could spend hours on etsy.com. Actually, I DO spend hours on etsy.com. I love supporting artists and using handmade items to cozy up my home. This month I've gone a little overboard ordering two pillows and two photographs. It's almost worth getting a job to support my habit. But if I got a job, I wouldn't have nearly as much time to peruse etsy. So, you see my conundrum. For now, please excuse me while I drool.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our very crowded bed

Where are my husband and I supposed to sleep when THIS happens? My family has been playing a game of musical beds since baby Jonathan came along. During the day, he naps in our room in a play yard so Lil can play in their bedroom. At night, the kids start out sharing their room, Jonathan in his crib and Lilly in her twin bed. On most nights, Lillian winds up in our bed without us even realizing it. The dog sometimes sleeps in the living room, often on the couch she's not supposed to be on, but other times winds up on our bed as well. I then nurse the baby around 4 or 5 in the morning, put him back in his crib, and crawl into Lillian's twin bed, grateful for what seems like a VAST amount of personal space.

I managed to keep Lil out of our bed for a few years, but when I was pregnant and overwhelmed at the prospect of the sleepless nights that lay ahead of me, I decided there was NO WAY I was going to sleep train my four-year-old AGAIN. I spent the first 10 months of her life trying to get the child to sleep more than 3 hours in a row and then spent the next 10 months trying to get her to fall asleep without me present in the room. She quit napping a year or two before most kids and has required less sleep than the average child since day one. Even when she's very tired, it takes her a long time to wind down. She's quite skilled at negotiating how much time we will spend tucking her in at night and relentless with her seemingly endless bedtime requests. "Tonight you're going to cuddle with me for two minutes, rub my back for five, and then lay with me for 2 minutes." I turn this nightly routine into a math lesson so as to not lose my mind. When my shift is over she whispers, "Now get Daddy. Get me five buddies. Leave the hall light on and don't close the door all the way!" If she gets up to use the bathroom, she isn't satisfied until someone tucks her in again and gives her more buddies. She then spends 20 minutes or so bossing her stuffed animals around. One night, rubbing her eyes sleepily she moaned, "I hate sleeping," confirming what I'd suspected since birth. When her friends were transitioning to 'big kid beds,' I tried for a few nights to do the same, but after escorting her back to her own bed countless times, often kicking, screaming, and collapsing in a heap (her, not me), back in the crib she went. I kept her there until she was over four years old and she'd probably still be there today if it weren't for her brother's arrival. I'm also too cheap to buy a second crib. 

During my last trimester of pregnancy, the beginning of last summer, Lilly seemed to sense my need for physical space, and in true spirited-child fashion, that made her even more determined to invade it. No matter how close she got, the baby remained physically closer, and she was determined to protect her territory. Her visits became even more regular when I made the mistake of warning her that I might go into labor in the middle of the night. Once Jonathan was born, he slept in a co-sleeper attached to our bed. Lil didn't want to miss anything and she certainly didn't want to be left out. 

So, this is how it happened. I like to think of myself as persistent, but I have nothing on my first-born child. While Alan doesn't love having a child in our bed, he certainly isn't about to have his sleep interrupted trying to correct it. She's going to start Kindergarten in the fall and we figure she won't be in our bed FOREVER. At some point, she will roll her eyes at the thought of sleeping with her embarrassing, out-of-touch parental units. I'm not terribly eager for that time to come. Having a child sleep in our bed HAS to be less annoying than living with a teenager will inevitably be. 

Having a second child with a completely different personality than the first has given me some perspective as well. Jonathan has no interest in sleeping in our bed. Even when he's teething and miserable, he seems to prefer tossing and turning in his crib. From the beginning, he has gone down for naps easily and seemed to enjoy sleeping more than his sister. He isn't a nursing connoisseur and only does so for the calories. In many ways, Jonathan is an easier baby than Lil was, but in other ways, he's not. Lil never put anything in her mouth, and he isn't satisfied until he has mouthed every piece of bark on the playground. Lil wasn't fond of outlets, power cords, or slamming doors. She didn't walk at 10 months and she was much more cautious than her rambunctious brother. 

I'm now keenly aware that life flies by in seconds. In ten years, the dog may still be in our bed, but I'm pretty certain there will be room for me on the left.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

procrastination street

I've never thought of myself as a procrastinator since I'm not the type to pull an all-nighter before a paper is due. Sleep has always been too important to me, so I usually finish around 9pm the night before. I do have a tendency to let projects pile up and then crank them out at one sitting. Since I haven't blogged in such a long time, I actually have a lot to share. It's been an eventful month!

doggie kisses

Did I mention we have a new dog? We adopted her from our friend, Nicole, who is moving to Chile. She's approximately two years old and is a mix of beagle and yellow lab. CJ is wonderful with the kids and is as sweet as she can be. We are lucky to have her join our family.

Jonathan is walking!

Sunday night, on his grandmother's birthday, Jonathan took his first steps. He had spent the day acting very needy, wanting to be held more than usual. It's as if he knew he was about to walk away from me. Unlike Lillian, who didn't take a single step until 13 months old and then waited another month to try again, Jonathan is looking to run a marathon at 10 months old. He has always preferred standing to sitting and was much happier once he could crawl. He looks longingly at toddlers like he's studying their every move. He's so very proud.

Dining room table

As if the dollhouse weren't enough, Aunt Helen and Uncle Jim gave us their 'old' dining room table. It's gorgeous, functional, and easy to clean. We don't have an eat-in kitchen so we eat every meal in our dining room and our old table and benches were small and awkward. I love, love, love the new table and now have plenty of room to make artwork and create scrapbooks with Lil. Check out my beautiful Aunts sitting around my beautiful dining room table.

the dollhouse in all its glory

Last week, my mom, Aunt Helen, Aunt Jessica, and Uncle Jim came for a lovely visit and they came bearing gifts. Uncle Jim has been working on this dollhouse for Lillian for over 2 years and it looks JUST like our house, inside and out. He and Helen made most of the accessories by hand, including a piano, a crib, a tv (with a picture of orphan Annie on the screen) and a grandfather clock. There are even photographs of our family hanging on the walls. Hardwood floors, real wood siding, and sandpaper that looks exactly like roof shingles. You've never seen anything like it. When it's lit up at night, it looks absolutely magnificent. I imagine our grandchildren will treasure this dollhouse as much as we do. Thank you Aunt Helen and Uncle Jim!

St. George Island

We went on our first vacation in 6 years (Lil just turned 5, so you do the math). She was a terrible traveler for the first couple of years of her life and would scream for hours on end - even on short trips to the mountains. We also went from 2 salaries to 1 and didn't feel we had the cash for any big trips. Before you feel too sorry for us, I should point out that we spend a lot of time in the mountains and at Lake Chatuge with Alan's family, which is always lovely. But, as for a vacation to a new place that we plan and save money for, we haven't been on one since our trip to Scotland and England in 2003. 

So, we went to St. George Island, which is near Apalachicola, Florida in the gulf. It's a barrier island, 28 miles long and 2 miles wide, with a beautiful state park on one end. The beach was clean, the water clear, and the island quite private. We rented a house on the beach and got off-season rates because we went the last week in April and stayed Sunday through Thursday instead of a weekend. We spent hours walking up and down the beach and watching Lil build sandcastles. 

Alan's sister, Teresa, and her boyfriend, John, were able to join us for 3 nights. This allowed Alan and I to take a walk on the beach at night while they watched the sleeping kids. 
That's something I miss very much and completely took for granted before having kids - going on long walks together, without having to hire a babysitter. Teresa and John also helped cook, clean, and play with the kids, which made me feel like I was on vacation. Together we cooked a delicious seafood boil and also enjoyed fresh grouper one night. 

St. George Island has turned me into a beach person. I came back a more calm, joyful, and well-balanced person. I like this new person and I want her to stay.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jonathan's first green smoothie

Jonathan thoroughly enjoyed his first green smoothie, which I made with an orange, green grapes, pear, kale, and a banana. Check out that green mustache! It does a mama's heart good.

Siblings - what a gift!

Lil and Jonathan now play together. She runs back and forth down the hall and he scrambles to crawl after her. His eyes light up when we pick sister up from school. Jonathan is a treasure to us all and I believe he's the most important gift we could have given Lillian. Watching their relationship develop is one of the most beautiful things I've witnessed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Be gone concrete block

My very talented father-in-law, Ken, built and installed a new step for my birthday. The old concrete block was quite treacherous and not very inviting. Now I can actually wheel Jonathan down the new step in his stroller without the fear of it toppling over. Ken also helped Alan install new FLOR carpet tiles in our laundry room the very same day. Thank you so much, Ken!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homemade baby food

Making baby food is simple, inexpensive, and tastes SO much better than the store-bought variety. The best book on the subject is Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It's the kind of book you'll use for years, long after your child is chowing down on choking hazards. I still depend on one jar of Earth's Best baby food for lunch, but Jonathan's breakfast usually revolves around whole milk yogurt and his dinner around Super Baby Porridge. There are many things you can add to these dishes depending on your baby's age, such as pureed fruits, vegetables, tofu, hard boiled egg yolk, wheat germ, vitamin drops, etc. Super Baby Porridge, which the hallmark of the Super Baby Food diet, is made by boiling ground whole grains and legumes for 10 minutes. The porridge in the picture will last 3 days and was made with brown rice, millet, oatmeal, and lentils. The frozen, organic, sweet potato puree pictured is incredibly tasty and only takes a minute to defrost in the microwave. I try to keep fresh seasonal fruit on hand and puree it in my Tribest Personal Blender as needed.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Something from nothing

I didn't have a plan for dinner Saturday night, but I threw a few things together and wound up with a dish that tasted better than any take-out. OK, I'm not really that creative, so I followed a recipe from Cynthia Lair's website, Cookus Interruptus. If you haven't read Cynthia's book, Feeding the Whole Family, you must do so NOW. Her Emerald City Salad one of my all-time favorite dishes. I just happened to have all the ingredients for her Fried Rice recipe and Lemon Tahini Sauce. Together they were absolutely scrumptious on top of a mound of spinach. The Fried Rice is made with brown rice, currants, cashews, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, ghee (or butter), frozen peas and green onions. Instead of store-bought tahini, which I didn't have, I toasted some sesame seeds and pureed them with olive oil, which is all tahini is. Who knew?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where have the past five years gone?

Lillian's fifth birthday was last Saturday and we invited 12 of her closest friends to our home to celebrate, sans parents. Brave? So I'm told. The truth is I didn't have it in me to plan two parties again this year; one for the parents and another for the children. I didn't even clean the house before the infiltration. Four-year-olds are pretty easy to please: cheese pizza, fruit, crackers, cupcakes, goodie bags and sunshine. I'm always hopeful about that last one, but you never know what to expect at the beginning of March. God answered my secret prayers and delivered a sunny day in the mid-70s, just 5 days after the winter storm of 2009. The party was a huge success, thanks in large part to the help of my mother-in-law. I took for granted how difficult it would be to host a party while carrying baby Jonathan in a sling. I'm happy to report that all twelve children went home happy, well-fed, and with no discernible scars. You can spot Lil by the red orphan Annie dress she's wearing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jonathan's first snow

It's a rare occurrence indeed, but when the snow actually does fall in Atlanta, there's nothing quite like it. Kids scamper around the neighborhood in their rain boots and fleece jackets, catching snow flakes on their tongues. Nobody owns snowsuits, except maybe avid skiers, and you'd be hard pressed to find a pair of long underwear south of the Mason-Dixon line. I have friends who don't even own an ice scraper. The only snow plows and ice trucks that exist are located at the airport. When there's even a mention of snow in the forecast, people hoard bread and milk like it's Y2K. 

My daughter will be five years old on Saturday and she's only experienced snow four times in her life, including today, and two of those times were while visiting her grandparents in Kentucky and North Carolina. The snow absolutely blew baby Jonathan's mind today. Heck, the snow even blew MY mind and I moved here from Chicago. The best thing about snow in Atlanta is that nobody expects you to go out in it. Except, of course, your children. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mmmmmm, swoop swap

Yesterday I participated in my first soup swap, or "swoop swap," as my daughter kept referring to it. Six moms from Lillian's school each made a huge batch of homemade, vegetarian soup, enough to fill five 32 oz. containers. I made a Red Rosemary soup with beets and lentils, which has become a staple in our household. Check out the delicious bounty I came home with after swapping soup: vegetarian chili, two-bean soup, fava beans and rice soup, roasted tomatoes (which can be used as a pasta sauce or a soup), and green velvet soup. Yummo! I doubt any of us spent over $15 on our soup and we each got five or six main dishes out of it. Anybody up for a casserole swap?

Friday, February 20, 2009

My, what a little paint can do!

Our kitchen is still tiny, but painting the walls and cabinets has completely transformed the space. As you can see in the before picture, the walls had been long-neglected and looked suspiciously like dingy primer. They're now a lovely, bright, cheerful shade of yellow. The cabinets had previously been painted with garage floor paint and were filthy and roughly textured. Alan and his dad sanded the cabinets, primed them a couple of times, and painted them with three coats of creamy white paint. It was the first time Alan didn't complain about the small size of our kitchen and lack of cabinets.

It took us a few months to finally frame a few photographs and accessorize, but we're finally in the home stretch. My parents are going to buy me a magnetic spice rack for my birthday and I'd like to hang a chalk board for the kids below the photograph of the tomatoes. Next project: the laundry room. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We miss you, old friend

One year ago today we said goodbye to our sweet dog, Simon. He was 17 years old and had spent 16 of those years with my husband, Alan. When we first met, Al and I would take him on long walks around Candler Park and without fail, Simon would cut in front of me and suddenly stop, apparently trying to trip me. The rivalry grew fierce when he had to give up his spot in the passenger seat of the pickup truck. He didn't hold a grudge for long and we eventually bonded, but Alan would forever remain his favorite.

When I was pregnant with our first child, I heard about a couple who had to find their dog a new home because their baby was allergic to him. I asked Alan what we would do if that happened to us and in a matter-of-fact tone he responded, "I'm sure we'll find a good home for the baby." Lucky for our daughter that wasn't the case and for the next four years Simon and Lilly were like siblings. Sister would pull her big brother's hair and he would take all the blame. Her first word wasn't Dada or Mama, it was Baba, which is apparently baby talk for dog. We, too, started referring to Simon as Baba and he began responding to it. As Lil's speech developed, his nickname changed to Doe Doe, then Dohg Dohg, then Fighme. 

I took the little things for granted. It used to irritate me when he'd rub up against my leg and leave a patch of dog hair on my freshly washed pants. Now I celebrate when I find bits of his hair in unexpected places. It was impossible to cook with him standing right under me in our tiny kitchen, but he was the only one who helped me mop the floor after dinner. I long to hear his footsteps, the way his toe nails would click, click, click on the hardwood floors. I miss knowing there was always someone to come home to. We miss you, old friend, dog hair and all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why would I want the toy when I can have the box?

Today Lillian announced that she wanted to make a boat. After choosing from the plethora of boxes in our attic, she and her Daddy got down to work. The boat soon morphed into a plane, but in the end they determined that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be the ONLY vehicle that could fulfill all their needs.

Boxes are the best!  When I was Lil's age, I made a house out of a refrigerator box, complete with windows and a porch, and spent weeks playing in it. Why Would I Want The Toy, When I Can Have The Box? is one of my favorite parenting books. It outlines 101 ways to spend time with your children without spending any money. The author, Rex Bowlby, describes buying an expensive, flashing, beeping toy for his son's third birthday, only to watch him spend the entire day making a robot out of the box the toy came in. I don't think the book was written with the Voluntary Simplicity movement in mind, but it's the best book I've found about living simply with children. 

I'm so pleased to have a lead on a large wardrobe box. We may be building a bungalow box in the near future, complete with craftsman windows and a cozy front porch. 

Jonathan makes his move.

Last night, my dear friend Kenzi and I went for a walk with the babies. It's so great catching up with mama friends, especially those you were friends with long before either of you had children. Kenzi's beautiful daughter, Millie, was born just a few weeks after Jonathan and we often joke that they're meant for one another. Jonathan seems to have a similar idea. She's also the little sister Lillian still dreams about. 

Our banging wall

The Creative Family, by Amanda Blake Soule, is a beautiful book full of simple, imaginative, thoughtful ways to connect with your children. I first discovered the author when I happened upon her blog last year and it soon became one of my favorite places to visit. Thanks to Mrs. Soule, we now delight in building fairy houses, have a semi-regular family drawing time, and have gone questing through our neighborhood. Our latest endeavor is creating a banging wall, or a wall of sound. Grab a stick or a wooden spoon and either create some music or take your frustrations out on some pans. Mrs. Soule's banging wall is truly a treasure to behold and ours is, well, a little bit white trash, but Lillian really likes it. It's also a great way to reuse pots and pans that are past their prime. Just a warning, if you have crabby neighbors, you may want to build your banging wall in a discreet place so they're left wondering where in the world all the racket is coming from.