I've been dying for peaches all summer. My dream was to visit Knott's Island on our way to the beach and cash in on some happy memories made when we lived in Norfolk. Months and months ago my friend Patience asked "what breathes, lives, grows for you?" and my reply was:
Ripe peaches ready to be picked in an orchard next to the sea hang on the tree, just for me.
(The cadence of that makes me think of loping down a dusty road toward the orchard and then pausing and settling into a hammock swung between peach trees, ahhhh.) But oh, alas! It was not to be. The orchard was closed to allow the peaches to ripen on the day we drove down (fortunately I had checked by phone) and there was bad weather brewing and not enough energy for a longer drive on the way home. I missed my peaches. Maybe next year? Problem is, I could not bring myself to buy peaches from a store until I had eaten some I picked myself, I wanted my first peach of the season to be the best peach of the season, so I was missing out big-time. Then I realized that I could go up to Crozet, with the kids. But what a hassle just for a few peaches! Hmmm, but there is also a nice spot for hiking and splashing in a little river. And what if a few friends came along? We could make a day of it! So my latest Monday Adventure was born, and in the end, only two families (my crew and Adam's) ended up going, but for the seven of us there was plenty of hot humid air, orchard gnats, sticky peach juice, and creek-dwelling crawdads. Bonus round: I ran into a friend I haven't seen in years in the orchard bathroom.
There are just too many cute photos to stick all in one post, so I put them in a "peaches & sugar" flickr set. I may submit the cover photo of Luke grinning while holding a peach to the Chiles photo contest, what do you think?
Yesterday we bid farewell to Dan's parents, who arrived late last week and spent the weekend here in Richmond. In between a little house shopping (for them, not us!) and a lot of take-out (I don't think we cooked all weekend!), we headed down to Belle Isle for a little hike on Sunday. It was all of our first visit to this gem of the James River park system. Time and temperaments were limited, so we didn't get to find a good spot to dabble our toes in the water, but I'm hoping for more adventures later. Highlights:
Pedestrian suspension bridge to the island under the Lee Bridge; kooky James River Parks sign. The kids loved hearing cars pass overhead on the highway.
Panoramic views of the river, and glimpses of the ways other people enjoy it, like sunbathers, kayakers, rafters, and remnants of a rock arrangement.
Chances to get some shots of kids and grandparents.
Wildflowers in bloom (and I saw a hummingbird sphinx moth, but missed getting its picture!)
Ice cream afterward at Bev's
All in all, a great Richmondy summer day. I totally want to go back for more exploring (and will probably go alone some time just for photos). Want more picss? Take a look at the Belle Isle set I put together on Flickr.
Father's Day Our 12th anniversary The June solstice AND Strangely Orange Snack Appreciation Day
More on SOSAD later, just in case you're wondering about that one.
Xander and I were up at the crack of dawn and started making a banner for Dan while we waited for his big brothers to wake up.
Can you tell that it says "Happy Father's Day!" behind all the scribbles? Reese did give a yellow scrawl off to the right of the exclamation point, but the rest are all Xander's work. He LOVES doodling.
Once Dan started to stir and all three boys went to pile on him in the big bed, I got some coffee started (big deal, we put away the pot because I gave up coffee cold turkey - will occasionally order a decaf out, but we no longer brew it in the house, so this was a FD treat) and then made eggs and sausage and pancakes while we figured out day out. There was some to-do on the porch at this point because it would appear that our beloved Ball of Death is, erm, dead. I'm intent on patching with duct tape. Stay tuned. Anyway, Dan had wanted to take the boys out for the morning (ooh, twist my arm, you want to leave me alone at home? Oh, if you insist...) so he did that and I toodled around here.
In the afternoon, we all weeded and trimmed the front yard, which now looks SO much better. There is nothing like family yard work, we all get a productive glow...and we all like using sharp objects to hack shrubs. Double score.
THEN, it was time for the moment the boys had hotly anticipated all weekend. Strangely Orange Snack Appreciation Day. What? Never heard of it? That's because this was only the second annual observance of SOSAD anywhere in the world. Terry Border is a quirky guy who makes quirky characters out of stuff like spoons and food and wire. Go look at his blog, please. Really, go! Anyway, last year he got the idea to make up his own holiday celebrating vibrantly colored food - specifically, orange food. I loved the idea but totally forgot to do anything last June 21. This year I was ready. During a hectic family grocery trip yesterday we all searched for orange foods. I'm sure we could have done more (hmm, carrots? peppers? pumpkin?) but we were pretty happy with our haul of snack foods. We don't eat things like Cheetos very often, which makes this holiday truly special, exciting, and celebratory. I arranged everything and brought little glasses for an orange soda toast, and we said a few words in honor of the brilliant foods, clinked our cups, and enjoyed a holiday picnic on the front lawn between our pruned and weeded flower beds.
For more pics of the festivities, including the unicycle that rode by (no kidding!), visit the SOSAD flickr set.
Lessee...so we had a yummy lamb dinner, one of Dan's favorites, which included a mint sauce made from mint I clipped right before dinner from our garden. The other major garden contribution: chives, parsley, and rosemary, in which I rolled goat cheese. We spread it on hot toasted French bread, and it was AMAZING. We also have a lovely crop of peas and beans coming in, hooray!
Dan and Griff had a post-little-kid-bedtime ice cream date. I'm off to watch some TV with Dan in the last remaining minutes of our anniversary. Ahhh, what a full day!
...the first ice cream truck purchase of the year!
Our old neighborhood was relatively snubbed by the local frozen goodie pusher last summer, so the boys and I are psyched that this year, we seem to be on a street in heavy rotation. This truck came by at *just* the right post-dinner moment and we all ran for the curb to flag the driver down. What's more, we managed to score 4 treats for about $7, a lot cheaper than those gelato scalpers in Short Pump!
Here's Xander getting a taste of Griff's rocket pop, Reese's cherry-banana, and Dan's ice cream sandwich.
Hoo, boy, do we ever have an enthusiastic crew of egg-dyers here! Last year I think Griff was the only one *really* into it. This year Reese was totally gung-ho and re-dyed the same three eggs over and over again. That is, I think he was re-dying the same eggs. I never saw a dyed egg go back into a cup, but he always seemed to have one or more eggs going, in the same cups, and at the end only three eggs (one orange, one yellow, one red) could be positively IDed as Reese's creations. Everybody's got their own style, no?
Speaking of which, Xander is a big fan of the wax resist method. He painstakingly applied crayon to a couple of eggs before we dyed them, and the end result was charming. Griff and I worked on sticker art: he applied stickers to dried dyed eggs, and I applied stickers to plain eggs in order to get interesting shapes (similar to wax resist) after drying and peeling.
The haul: 3 dozen masterpieces. Hope everybody likes hard boiled eggs!
The weather turned a bit chilly but the skies were perfectly blue and the light had a quality to it that was like sun through honey. We supped at our place on Saturday with the Allen-Shorts and I attempted to get some pics of Ruby and Griffin while they bounced on Hop balls - no easy feat, as you can see. On Sunday the Hardy boys/man and I walked/biked/strollered the mile to Ellwood's for breakfast and a few groceries. The trip included not only pear blossoms galore, but also a sighting of a fun bus and an impromptu double diaper change that introduced us to the Ellwood's restrooms, complete with altered sign. We brought pastries back to eat on the side porch - the first time we've actually used that porch for more than bug hunting. That afternoon Griffin and Reese and I met up with Kyle, Johannah, and Brody at the Carillon tot lot. Sum for the weekend: no work, lots of play, and that's the way it sometimes should be!
I think I owe this idea to Joost Elffers, originally. We've had his calendars on our kitchen bulletin board for years, and somewhere along the line I realized that he had bruised bananas in order to make the spots on giraffes. It hadn't occurred to me that you could bruise a banana on purpose, or for art's sake.
When I put a banana in Griff's snack box, I take a blunt, skinny object (like a closed ball-point pen or the end of a spoon) and "write" on the banana. Sometimes it's a smiley face or heart, sometimes it's a message. I can barely see the impression I've made, but by snack time, it will have darkened into a clearly visible banana-bruise image. I'm not much of a lunchbox-note mom, so this is a nice way of giving him a little love from home while he's at school!
Visited with the Hardys on Nov 2 to drink in a little more autumn goodness and snag a few apples in the deal, too. We got pink ladies and crisp air and gorgeous foliage...and an impromptu hillside afternoon with the Sherlip-Brozna family! As I was heading down the hill to start picking, I saw a family picnicing and thought, gee, that guy looks kindof like Anthony...no...yeah...sortof...and that woman is wearing Corinna's scarf...huh...oh! Andres and Griff had both been grumbly five year olds and both perked up and had a great time together. Reese and Lola were also happy to see each other and got to work digging up dinosaur bones.
So, on Sunday, Griff and I were checking out the produce in the new Whole Foods, discussing how much gas is used to drive apples to us from Washington versus West Virginia and the merits of buying peanuts in the shell now in a plastic bag versus waiting until next week and planning to have a cloth bag available...when I spotted them. Huge ivory globes resting on a shelf above brown semi-local chicken eggs, nestled in straw like the chicken eggs...but what were they?
Ostrich eggs. Yes, really.
I reached up and took one down to show Griffin. It was heavier than I had expected - my brain considered it produce, not an egg. So did Griffin. He lit up, "it's one of those melons!" he said, referring to a sprite melon we had purchased at Ellwood's last week. Same color, same shape, same size. Uncanny. But not a sprite melon. I told him it was an egg, and asked, what kind of a bird might lay an egg that big? "A crane?" Interesting choice, and really, doesn't it seem more likely that we'd have crane (or egret or heron) eggs in VA? But nope. Ostrich. From California (I'm assuming from a farm that raises them primarily for meat/leather).
We put it back, but it set my wheels to churning. What do you do with an ostrich egg? Boil, scramble, use them in an omelet, apparently. Hmmm. This reminded me of a favorite Seuss story of mine, which Griff also loves, Scrambled Eggs Super! Time for a storybook meal?
I was getting really excited and laying my plans (no pun intended), which included a price check on the object of my desire, since I had read reports of $10 eggs and wasn't sure it was worth a Hamilton, huge volume or no. So, you wanna know what Whole Foods charges for a Californian ostrich egg? Penny change on your Jackson, $19.99. Is it worth it? If it's entertainment as well as food, is it worth TWENTY bucks? If Griff, Reese, and I went to a matinee, it we'd pay $20 even, just for tix. I'm pondering what experiences we deem worth paying for, and why...and still feeling really tempted by that egg.
1) Ideas for a top-quality website or brick & mortar location for printing photo notecards? I'm considering opening an Etsy storefront that would include cards made from some of my photos. I've used Shutterfly for printing cards in the past, but would like cards of better quality, without the printer's logo on them, and hopefully at lower cost.
2) Friendship bread recipes that don't use pre-packaged, artificial ingredients such as instant pudding? Starting with Reese's birthday, I'm trying to do more from-scratch baking, limiting packaged mixes to those with easily identifiable (and pronounceable ;)) ingredients. Last week I inherited some sourdough starter; tomorrow is day 10, baking day, and I'd like a great cinnamon swirl bread or coffee cake recipe, please. I'm sure the pudding version is tasty but there's something cognitively dissonant to me in tending homemade yeast, only to combine it with Jell-O.
Oh, and anybody want either a bag of sourdough starter (Aug 20 will be the next divide/bake date) or a loaf of bread?
3) Any takers for partially-used toilettries? We sometimes end up with bottles of bath gel or the like that have been used only a handful of times but aren't getting any love around here. Organizations like Good Will won't take 'em. I'm halfway considering starting a community freebie box on the playground after preschool this year, lol. Right now there's a nearly full bottle of Pure & Natural grapefruit bath gel sitting neglected on my bathroom counter. Ideas for how to unload it?
Upon coming down to the kitchen this morning, I thought about peeking at the doves, then thought, "no, it's Saturday, they probably have a different way of doing things on weekends."
Um...yeah. Somehow I think the dove "work week" is a touch different from mine.
This is exciting, though - I was sitting here, enjoying a quiet house (Xander is napping, Dan has taken G/R out for a half hour or so), sipping my decaf coffee and reading about cinnamon, which led to laurel, which led to bay leaves and avocado, which led to reading about true berries and false berries (follow my Wiki path, I dare you). In the midst of my botanical education, I noticed two things:
1. the chipmunk that lives near our air conditioner had come up on the deck/windows to say hello
2. the doves changed shifts! I had been hoping to see this but wasn't sure what time they switch off. At 9:49 AM the male landed on the porch railing, waited while the female gathered her groggy self and flew off, then he settled onto the nest. I'm ecstatic.
Yesterday I had to have a very stern talk with Griffin about the importance of leaving the doves alone and not purposefully disrupting them. Twice in a day he went outside and poked his hand into the basil. I think he's testing out what happens when he does this, with that 5 y/o need to see it happen, rather than taking somebody else's word for it. Well, Reese saw this and decided that it's fun to scare the birds, and the two of them were keeping the poor papa off his nest. I banned further porch play for the afternoon and explained to Griffin that the eggs must be kept "dove temperature" by the mother or father dove so that the babies inside will grow until they're ready to hatch. The only way to keep them dove temperature is for a dove to sit on them. If that does not happen, the baby doves can die.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Boy, does it ever feel like parenting from the trenches when you hear "...or it can DIE" coming out of your mouth.
Huh, I'm having major deja vu about the porch, the Wiki, the blogging in the morning room. Will have to read past posts.
I'll leave you with an assortment of tidbits from Wikipedia:
true cinnamon, Cinnamonum zeylanicum, is native to Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
supposedly, 100% of the ground cinnamon sold in the US is Cassia, Cinnamonum aromaticum. I checked the stuff I sprinkled on my toast this morning - Saigon Cinnamon, which is probably C. loureiroi. I'm wondering where I can buy the real deal. Apparently sticks of Cassia will break your coffee grinder, while true cinnamon crumbles easily.
the cinnamons are members of the Lauraceae family, which also includes bay laurel, avocado, and sassafras
bay laurel - the bay leaves used in cooking - is the same plant used in the ancient Greek laurel wreaths
baccalaureate = laurel berry. I was awarded a laurel berry for my studies in psychology. You?
avocados are a true botanical berry - a fruit which has seeds and pulp produced from a single ovary
blueberries = false berries. The scamps! False advertising!
strawberries = accessory fruit.
avocado = Nahuatl ahuacatl = testicle. And apparently people wishing to maintain a chaste image do NOT buy avocados. I've been eating them like there's no tomorrow. What does that say about me? Yikes!
ahuacamolli = avocado soup/sauce
the original Advocaat (which is now a creamy egg/sugar/brandy liqueur) was made from avocado. Ahuacatl sounds like the Spanish word for lawyer, abogado, and henceforth the liqueur was known as "lawyer" in many languages.
Ahh, a plethora of relatively useless bits of information.
I'm feeling inspired to start an avocado tree. I never did that as a kid.
This rare treat kept Griff busy for a while at the graduation. It caught his eye at Linens -n- Things yesterday and since I myself have a soft spot for lollipops, I gave in. Imagining the mess that an everlasting sucker like that could produce, however, I told him we'd save it for the outdoor grad ceremony. He has a memory like an elephant and didn't take long to ask for the promised treat. By the way, July 20 is National Lollipop Day. No joke.
FD&C blue no. 1 (brilliant blue FCF) is derived from coal tar and apparently daily consumption in the US is ~16 mg per person. I'm wondering how much blue food that comes out to? How much blue dye in, say, a handful of M&Ms? In general I like Michael Pollan's advice not to eat anything that your great-great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food - occasional lollipop treats aside. ;)