How to explain the behavior of oil in the ocean, brought to you by Target.
I think decorations like this in a fast food restaurant are supposed to fill patrons with assurance that they have made a wise nutritional decision, thereby assuring return visits. Instead, it fills me with skepticism, wondering why they have to surround me with "good for you" messages, suspicious that it's yet another deployment of psychological trickery in order to build business.
It was cute, though.
And these are getting ready for a big kindness adventure.
We ventured for the first time to Spring Valley Orchard near Charlottesville to check out their cherry trees. Getting to the orchard involves a good half hour or more of driving on little back roads, but it was so worth it, and the roads seem to keep away the crowds. Caitlin (my sister) and Curious George (the first grade's stuffed monkey) joined us. The cherries were delicious.
Scenes from a truffle party (and item from the Sabot auction) led by Holly Timberline and hosted by Kathryn Gammino in her beautiful home. We worked in teams of two, creating a flavored ganache, using different combinations of chocolates and various liquors and concentrates like espresso, raspberry liqueur, and hazelnut liqueur. After the chocolate cooled, we rolled our ganache in various toppings like chopped pistachio or cocoa powder. Each woman brought home a dozen assorted truffles. YUM.
Holly instructs us on proper technique for preparing the ganache emulsion.
Kathryn and kids heating cream; Christy and Erin inspecting their emulsion.
Shannon and Kathryn's mother-in-law (whose name I have forgotten, shamefully) look on while Zoe spreads flavored ganache in a pan to cool; Sarah hams it up while stirring our perfect emulsion (go team!).
Christy and Erin consider whether their flavoring is quite potent enough; every one enjoys wine and a spring evening while waiting for the ganache to cool.
Truffle-making gets messy...
Chopping candied orange peel and feeling elated as we finish the job.
It's still September, nevermind what the post date says. I'm working like a dilligent half-assed archaeologist, digging through resized photos (mantra: if it was important enough to resize, I must have intended to blog it) in a near-futile effort to reconstruct something resembling a storyline from 4 months ago. I would say my memory's not what it used to be, except that it's exactly what it used to be, and therein lies the problem.
I've always been a person who forgets things until the photos are developed, and then goes, "oh, yeah, Dan's parents visited us in April. Or at least the historical record indicates as much." Because really, while I know they visited us, I'd be hard-pressed to pin a month on it in my memory. Don't judge.
The historical record also seems to indicate that we dined together at Cracker Barrel, where Griffin and Rodger worked intently together on a logic puzzle, the identity of which lies beyond the grasp of the family's best historians.
The record indicates that this was the day of the legendary roast Baa III: the wrath of lamb. Ok, there was no wrath. There was, however, rack of lamb. As well as the rest of it. And again, my memory being what it is, I knew that the Hardys had attended with us but could not recall the month. This is the beauty of EXIF data. So long as you can hover a mouse, your memories will never be lost to you.
Doesn't that lamb look tasty? It was. I'm much better at remembering flavors and textures than names and dates.
Other highlights included:
More children than you can shake a stick at. (I'll wait while you get a stick and try. Can't do it, can you?)
Luke bonking his head. Ok, more like a lowlight. But I liked the parental consolation in the photo and I'm pretty sure Luke has recovered from this trauma enough for me to make light of it. (Adam? Sarah? Too early?)
(Whoa, I hadn't seen Adam without a full beard in a while.)
Snow day #2 for Richmond Public Schools and Sabot, and we're all a little stir crazy, especially since we can't do much with Xander, who is sicker instead of better. 102.5 temperature today, his cough is junkier, and he was acting alternately whiny and listless. Fortunately, Dan had the afternoon off, so one parent took the older boys out for shopping and a treat while the other took Xander to the doctor. Griff and I needed something "chocolatey" for our word of the day, so I got the shopping team. Dan and Xander returned from their trip to the doc with a pneumonia diagnosis, sore bum (Ceftriaxone shot - Xander, not Dan), antibiotic prescription, nebulizer mask, and vials of albuterol. I'm glad we made the call when we did, because it looks like we could easily have repeated last year's ER visit.
Now I just have to figure out how to get a two-year-old to cooperate with nebulizer treatments. I hope that's the most of my worries in the next few days.
It snowed all day Saturday, laying down 10-12" all around the city. It's unusual for Richmond to get two snowfalls this big in one winter.
Xander took a four-hour nap (!!) and we let the kids stay up a little late to watch The Wizard of Ox, complete with popcorn. Reese opted out of the movie (but not the popcorn) but Griff and Xander were absolutely transfixed. Xander seems to think the movie is about Toto, though, and kept asking us to explain what was happening to the dog.
On Sunday Griff explored the yard, throwing snow in the air, throwing himself at the snow, leaving a network of tracks everywhere he went.
Reese, as per his usual, preferred to stay snug and warm inside.
We kept Xander inside, much to his chagrin, because he has the cold the rest of us had last week, and his cough doesn't sound good. He's also a little feverish. It stinks to tell an enthusiastic child that they can't go play in the snow.
The birds benefited from my remembering to fill the feeders on Friday. I benefited from their visits for food and from the snowy and melting surroundings.
I saw a blue jay, mockingbird, lots of chickadees and song sparrows and juncos, a pair of cardinals, a European starling, a tufted titmouse, one hairy woodpecker, and a redtailed hawk that swooped over the yard and scared everybody away for a moment.
Dan often takes the boys out to Barnes & Noble on the weekend to get a treat in the cafe and read books and play with trains in the children's section. Today B&N had to come to us, chocolate milk, coffee, train table, books, and all:
Tomorrow, snow day! RPS and Sabot are both closed. Happy February.
Not usually a big fan of the place, but they have REAL Necco conversation hearts. Not blue raspberry flavored, not sparkly, not Brach's adulteration of the confection. The real deal, taste-of-my-childhood, hard-as-rocks, minty, chalky little hearts with puzzling sayings stamped on them. I can die happy now. (Look, the horrid blue raspberry debacle was that bad, seriously.)
The kids were over the moon to get to explore the candy racks, can you tell?
Last year we went to Carter Mountain twice; the first time was on my birthday, and the second was a couple of weeks later, and on that second trip we ran into friends and ended up sitting on the hillside, enjoying some wine and apple cider donuts, chatting while the kids all enjoyed themselves and got covered in red Virginia clay dust. It was such an idyllic situation that I decided then and there that my new birthday tradition would be to throw an annual picnic at the orchard (preferably NOT on a harvest festival day, so crowded!), invite people who rock, and spend an afternoon soaking up the company of good friends, letting the kids run, eating delicious things, enjoying blue October skies, and picking apples.
We got it all but the blue skies. (Dan says the month's motto should be "October: You never know." I'm offended on October's behalf.) I planned things at the last minute and scheduled our picnic for a weekday, and that day turned out to be cloudy and FREEZING cold, but we still had a lovely gathering of Charlottesville and Richmond friends, huddled together for warmth and sharing extra clothing (THANK YOU to the friends who loaned my pitifully underprepared family jackets and jeans). We eschewed our packed cold sandwiches in favor of barbecue, warm donuts, and hot cider before heading into the Jonagold trees.
A few photo highlights are below and the rest are in the apples & sunshine album. The kids were especially fun to watch - it turned into a reunion of the beach bunch. This group really enjoys each other, it's so sweet. And LOOK! Reese got into the group-photo action, of his own accord! I've never seen a better bunch of Virginia clay-stained thumbs.
Dan Hardy - snuggly Sara & Jess
Adam Short - birthday cake circle
all others by yours truly or as noted in album
A sign outside our studio room greets all who enter:
Inside the "cafe" a menu is posted between the windows. Customers have a choice of hot chocolate, cappuccino, grande (not sure if this modifies one of the other options), strawberry lemonade, and shortbread cookies.
My brothers and I tried to sell garden produce by the side of the road. Do today's kids open an espresso stand?
Griff had a fantastic idea today after school: go to Krispy Kreme! Or, as Reese would say, Krismy Kreme. This is not just a donut run, it's an event, which at a bare minimum includes supervising the production of the 4pm batch of hot, fresh, raised donuts. We're all geeked out over the proof box; the boys want to be there for the exact moment when the first rack hit dumps the dough from the warm rising chamber into the hot oil. I'm a big fan of the extruder that precedes these delights, but the boys are either uninterested in machines that squirt dough, or my height gives me a better view than theirs. Trust me, kids, it's cool.
For me the culmination of this ritual is eating one of the donuts straight off the production line, warm and gooey. The kids almost always pick one of the other flavors from the case, though. Today's choices: a halloween skull for Griff and a jack-o-lantern for Reese. (We bought extra glazed for Dan and Xander.)
Reese was adorable in a Krispy Kreme paper hat but wouldn't let me snap a photo, so you'll have to content yourself with another of Griff, instead: