Making A Mess of the Place

Well, we’re home alright.  Good thing I pushed so hard to get everything relatively clean before we left because no sooner did we get in the door than all the suitcases and bags exploded all over.  Not only that, but Emily and Neve got their teacher assignments and supply lists for school (hello $200 worth of stuff….as if we can all afford it) so yesterday we spent the day all over town acquiring said accoutrements of kindergarten and 4th grade.  And while we were at it, we replenished our food supply, which was dangerously close to becoming extinct.  So now there are exploded bags and suitcases and boxes of stuff from Sam’s Club and Target.  I have a big job ahead of me today, if this weather induced dizzy spell (impending rain equals sinus pressure equals dizziness and crapitude) allows it.

And speaking of exploding, my garden is doing its best impression of The Blob That Ate Everything. The gourd and pumpkin plants spilled out of the raised bed, into the grass and across the lawn at an alarming rate while we were gone, and now it threatens mankind itself.  Well…….it has at least made us rethink where to plant it next year.  We have plans to clear out the trees behind the house right down tho the stream.  Most of them are those awful scrub pines that seem to fall if you look at them cross – eyed and just never look nice anyway.  There are a few wild dogwoods and even what looks like a big beech tree (can’t tell through the aforementioned crappy pine thicket) that we will save, and Emily is happy that I discovered several sweet gum trees as well.  But mostly it will open up a large amount of land that I think I should be able to claim part of for a proper pumpkin / squash garden.

The good news is that my short time in New England sparked a creative burst and I have had idea after idea since.  I have plans for the craft room, plans for Emily’s room, plans for the pumpkin room (the dining room, which we don;t use as a dining room, but it’s painted a pumpkin color and that’s how we refer to it now to avoid confusion)……etc.  Then there’s the clothing ideas for the girls……with fall around the corner my creative energy is ready to bust loose and take over the place.  Too bad I have no money!!!!  I need paint and fabric.  BAD.

Vacation, Summed Up (lots of pictures)

First let me say that vacations always fly by way too quickly.  Even still it seemed like last week came and went in nothing more than a short blur, despite having done so much.  It was a mixed bag, both in terms of what we did and how it all went, and I did learn some important lessons about traveling with my family (hint – there’s a reason to only do it once a year).

The week started off by taking the girls (Maddie included – she agreed to put up with a lot of tense moments in order to join us for this trip) to Knickerson Beach on the South Shore of Long Island.  It was a great day for the beach – sunny but not too bright, and very breezy by the water.  That meant I could hang back in a beach chair and enjoy the sound and smell of the beach without having to go into the water and still be comfortable.  The girls ventured into the waves accompanied by my sister – in – law (she totally gets props for making this trip worthwhile for me and the kids – thanks L!!!!).  By the time we were ready to head out it was getting very windy and we all got pretty well sandblasted.

We also all got a lot more sun than I would have liked.  I’ll be taking my sister in law’s advice and buying some L’Oreal Ombrelle, a Canadian sunscreen that you can’t get here, but works a whole lot better than the crap we have here in the US.

The next day we headed to NYC to see the Museum of Natural History.  The subway was an interesting experience with all the kids – Oona kept wanting to grab and put her mouth on the poles (YUCK!!!) and Maddie looked a little freaked out by all the various creaky noises the train makes as it rockets from stop to stop.  However, with only one minor hiccup we made it to where we were going easily (thanks again to my enterprising SIL!!) and got right into the museum.  Unfortunately, it was tough getting Emily and Neve interested in the displays.  They seemed somewhat fascinated by the fact that the animals were taxidermy and therefore had once been alive, but we had some minor meltdowns until we decided to break for lunch in the cafeteria.  Neve did however seem to really like the bones:

We brought yummy sandwiches and bottled water but upon entering the cafeteria my husband made a beeline to the food counter, thanks to a sign that read No Outside Food Allowed. And even though the rest of us were willing to risk it, he made some snarky comment about our lack of preparation and bought possibly the most expensive chicken nuggets and fries on the planet.  Neve ate part of what must have been like a $10 burger and we packed up and tried to do as much of the rest of the museum as we could before the girls completely fell apart.

The girls liked the giant clamshell.

We made sure to see the big dinosaurs and the Easter Island head from Night at the Museum but by then it was late afternoon and clearly my children had had enough.  SO we navigated the NYC bus system (very nice buses!!! It felt good to be on a transit vehicle again.  And I might add that just about everyone offered me their seat since I was holding Oona.  New Yorkers rock) and found our way to Jeckyll & Hyde, a creepy theme restaurant on 7th Ave.  This was a definite highlight of the whole week for the kids.  It was very dark, there was a lot of entertaining talking statues, and there were actors mingling with diners.  Emily and Neve were greatly amused by the butler who kept talking to them and dusting everyone.  Maddie and EMily and I wandered around to check the place out and get a better view of the band on stage, which our table was seated next to:

Clearly she was in her element.

Then it was off to Connecticut the next morning.  We had plans to meet up with my brother and have lunch and tour Gillette Castle in East Haddam before heading up to Mystic Seaport.  My brother looked great, as you can plainly see.

The castle (and the drive to it) was beautiful.

The best part was having my brother there.  It helped displace some of the inner family tension that was going on and it led to some fantastically funny Neve moments.  You see, on the way to the castle she had found the neck pillow that Paul had brought along.  In fact, here’s a picture of her wearing it:

So we’re in the van and Neve puts this thing on and says, You know what uncle KB?  I’m all grown up now and these are my boobs! and she grabs onto the pillow for emphasis.  And all the way to the castle, we’re hearing about how she has boobs now, and when we get there and get out of the van, Paul tells her to leave her “boobs” behind.  I can’t, papa.  They’re REAL!

But wait!  It gets better!

We start off to tour the castle, and Neve keeps mentioning how her “boobs” are hurting her neck, and how she needs to “feed” someone, which inevitably (at least in my family, I guess) leads to her saying Where’s the baby?  It’s boobie – sucking time!  Who’s hungry??? All of which of course gets her some big uncomfortable laughs, which just goads her on more.  And then came the best moment of all.  There we all were, having a rest on a beautiful little bench in the shade, facing the castle.  It’s peaceful and there’s a gentle breeze.  A little old lady is sitting on the bench next to us, and I can see her smiling at the girls.  But at one point she decides to butt in to the conversation by looking at Neve, and with a not quite polite but not quite rude tone of voice and says What is around your neck????

NO sooner did Neve’s mouth open up when Maddie’s hand went over it and my brother said, trying not to laugh, It’s a decorative pillow.

I’m feeling like this poor woman must think we’re all crazy because we’re all chortling with suppressed laughter.  And then Neve says But uncle KB don’t you mean those are my boobies??????

And then we ran for the van.  Good times, good times.

It was great seeing my bro – he’s fun to be around and my kids clearly love him to tears.  It was tough to leave, but Mystic awaited.  And let me tell you – that was my one true day of vacation.  The one and only day I was happily enjoying time with my family and not feeling bad.  It was paradise for me, and how could it not be?  It was my slice of New England for the summer.

Unfortunately it rained on us all day.  But not before we got to tour the big old fishing and whaling ships and take a ride on a horse drawn carriage.  The girls were mostly interested in the zillions of jellyfish.

Seriously.  I have never seen so many jellyfish so far north before.  Tons.

As for the rest of the stuff at Mystic……well, this pretty well sums it up for my  kids:

It didn’t matter.  I loved it and dragged them to everything with me.  Like the cool old house, where Maddie spied some old school knitting!!!!!

And the children’s area where Neve conjured up Deadliest Catch for me:

And of course the goofy photo – op:

We capped off the day by having a girls – only swim at the hotel pool (Paul doesn’t swim, so he stayed with a sleepy Oona) and a room service dinner.  I was very, very sad to leave Connecticut, and it was even harder when the GPS showed that from our hotel in Mystic it was only about 70 miles to the Martha’s Vineyard ferry at Wood’s Hole, MA.  So sad!!!

The last two days we stayed on Long Island, and again it was dear Sister in Law to the rescue!  We did a girls only trip to the mall (insert huge 13 year old Maddie smile here – we even tried on wedding dresses at the Jessica McClintock store!) and a girls only trip to see Old Westbury gardens, which were stunning!  We saw 3 wedding parties while we were there and lots of geese and little bunnies.  Emily loved it.  Neve was ambivalent, but cooperative anyway.  She mentioned to one of the brides maids that we passed by that she saw a “real” bride.  To which the girl replied without missing a beat: So where’s the fake one?

Just lovely.  If you’re ever out the Island, I totally recommend checking it out!

So there you are – our week in short.  I have about 300 pictures and wish I could go back to New England right this second!  But school starts in 2 weeks (absolutely ridiculous!) and now I must focus on getting everyone and everything school ready and ready for fall.  Yes, I said it.  F-A-L-L.  It’s coming sooner than you think.  And I want to be ready for it this year.  This house needs a major organization re-do.  But I’ll still be in New England in my mind anyway.


Overwhelmed Much?

I may be reaching the critical “I can’t keep up with all of this on my own” point.  Good thing vacation is near.

The weeds have completely choked out the herb garden, the veggies are so overproducing I may never eat meat again, the hanging baskets are dead.  And we’re not going to discuss the kids’ rooms.   I’ll be completely redoing Emily’s room soon – different everything and clearing it out totally – as soon as I have the go ahead from the boss (I’m guessing it should be okay to do right around when she’s ready to leave for college).   The great laundry mountains continue to defy me with their awesome size, and the fur has kicked up with a vengeance now that the temperature outside has risen to nuclear.  I gave Emily chores – including dishes – but that doesn’t seem to be working so well.  Despite all of my efforts it takes her up to 8 hours to wash one small sink full of dishes.  And then I usually have to re-wash them anyway.

All this frustration is definitely taking its toll – my will power and ability to avoid McGriddles has been severely depleted.  So sinful.  SO very bad for me.  But soooo yummy.

Anyway I’ve gotten some sewing projects done that I’m pretty happy with and the baby is doing great.  She’s now saying mama, dada, kitty cat, puppy dog, uh-oh, no, ow, and peekaboo. She’s 25th percentile for her height and 50th for her weight.  Little chunky monkey baby!

And then there’s Neve, who’s also doing great, except that she greeted the nurse at her well – child check-up by saying “I don’t want to see you pull out anything sharp.”

When Life Hands You Lemons…..

…you try not to smother your spouse in his sleep.

It’s been pretty stormy outside the last, well, month, so it’s been hard to get outside and run some energy out of these kids.  And my garden…..well it has exploded, between the squash and the weeds, I just can’t keep up.

We’ve been stuck inside for what feels like the whole summer so far, and I feel bad because school starts up again in 5 weeks.  !!!!!  I can’t believe it’s possible.  We did get a brief respite  – if not from the rain then from the monotony – on the 4th when we spent the day with friends.  I even made the girls festive shirred dresses:

I’m pretty proud.  It took me awhile to finish them because the tensioner on my bobbin casing is missing a screw so I can’t get proper tension on the elastic thread.  I had to zig zag with the machine and then hand thread the elastic through all 12 rows of shirring on both dresses.  But it wasn’t so bad….and it came out well and they were pleased.  (The fabric is called “Red, White and Bold” and it is made by Moda)

The 4th was fun, as I was saying.  We spent the day with our friends, whose children happen to be the same ages as mine and they love playing together.  I planted my face into some horribly- bad – for – you dip (Velveeta plus salsa plus black beans all melted together) and I swear I could have licked the darn bowl.  It rained pretty much all day but the babies fell asleep at the same time and the men folk were in the garage doing men stuff so us gals drank a bottle of wine and got to talk smack for awhile.  It was lovely! ANd even though we got rained on, we still managed to see the fireworks.  I think we found our new 4th of July tradition!

But on to lemons.

After our fab 4th we had Sunday dinner here with my family.  My uncle and grandmother are visiting (my hotel got sold!!!!  For $69k!!!!!!!!  I am so happy that someone is going to do something with it!!!!!!!) so we invited everyone to come over and I fed them some beef & broccoli lo mein and egg rolls.  I made the lo mein, but ordered the rolls.  And I made a yummy lime chiffon cake.  mmmmmmmm.  But I digress.  A good time was had by all, and I look forward to spending more time with the family before grandma heads back north.  Maddie’s back with us again, trying to help me stay sane.  And I need all the help I can get right now!!!  Gas prices, as you all know, still suck.  The economy still sucks.  So we’re stuck home.  And it’s rainy.  And stormy.  And my children are restless. And the worst part of all…….NO TV.  Yes, you read that right.  We are without tv right now.  Oh sure, we get a few crappy local stations that play nothing any of us ever watches.  Otherwise, nada. No Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network. Oh yeah, we’re suffering.  I think Maddie may be re-thinking the whole “staying here” thing.

I’ve got art projects to keep the kids distracted.  It works, but only to a point.  It’s also messy and hard to supervise when you’ve got a grouchy teething wriggly baby who wants to get into everything.  Point is, we’re doing what we can, but it’s awfully quiet and grumpy around here.  Tv is a crutch, no doubt about it.  I’ve realized that we don’t actually watch it all day, but if it’s not on for background noise and distraction then things can get real uneasy real fast.  Maybe it’s just that it’s our routine and we rely on that routine to keep us structured and productive.  Without it we feel rather aimless and without anchor.  Amazing what a difference a noisy box with pictures can make!  I can’t even seem to get into a good knitting rhythm when it’s so quiet.  Even so, I managed this:

Emily’s socks are done, and I have already gotten about an inch into the next pair I am working on.  These ones are for me (good thing, too, what with all the frustrated energy I am knitting into them!) and they are going to be another pair of the Jaywalkers socks by Grumperina in Socks That Rock, in a colorway called “Little Bunny Foo Foo”.  It’s a chocolate and pink mix.  Hooray!

Hello Delicious

Ok, I haven’t been knitting lately.  I caught the sewing bug so I’ve been drowning myself in fabric.  But I promise I will be working on some wooly projects shortly.

I’ve also been doing some more cooking and baking.  With the prices of everything going up up and up, we’ve been taking a closer look at our spending and trying to decide where we can cut back and budget better.  Step one for me was simply to not go anywhere.  If we stay home and find ways to entertain ourselves at home then we are using less gas.

We also bought a large plastic container with a locking lid so that we can more effectively compost.  We’ve been only doing a half – assed job of it lately, but the less garbage we produce, the less garbage bags we use……you know.  Plus more compost equals nice garden.  Speaking of which, check it out:

Have you ever seen such huge squash leaves???  And let me tell you, we are squashing it up big time.  I may have to take up canning.

I have also discovered some nice little tomatoes growing in that should be ripening up nicely soon, and there are some lovely flowers popping up:

I have also planted some cucumbers and lovely little flowers that my neighbor brought over.  I have the best neighbors!!!!

But back to cooking.  I want to eat as cheaply as possible, but I really like to have a wide variety of foods.  Let’s face it – hot dogs and spaghetti are nice and economical but they get old REAL fast.  So I sat down with my trusty Cooking Light magazines and came up with a bunch of simple and flavorful “peasant meals” of various origins.  I have a great list of quick and easy curries I want to try but I’ve been waiting for Paul to be out of town again because he doesn’t like curry.  (Crazy, right???  I mean, who doesn’t like curry?????)  BUt he does enjoy Cuban food a lot.  SO when I found a Venezuelan variation on Black Beans and Rice, I knew I had to try it.  The best part is  how few ingredients there are in it.  I didn’t have any black beans but I already had the rice and seasonings, so I just bought beans and some plantains and a lime.  And this was the result:

Can you say YUMMY???  Everyone loved it (even the picky kids!!!) and there was enough leftover for a whole other meal, possibly TWO!  In fact we’ll be finishing it off tonight along with the Hoisin Chicken Buns I’ll be whipping up (thank you again to Cooking Light!)

And then there was the pie.  We got some blueberries at Sam’s Club so I turned them into this:\

So while I did great with the beans and rice (no fat, thank you very much) I have been overdoing it on the pie.  I need to do double the yoga now.  But hey, it’s worth it.  The way I see it, what’s summer without a blueberry pie?

With any luck I’ll manage to find a whole heaping mess of cheap meals that everyone will love and our grocery costs will decrease.  That’s the goal.  We are suffering from lack of swimming, but as I’ve said before I just can’t justify the cost of the pool here too often.  It’s too bad there’s no pool here at home – we’d have a blast this summer without ever leaving our back yard!  I just have to find other ways to keep the kids busy.  They have an awful lot of energy and I have a hard time getting them to burn it off properly.  Mostly they fight and drive me crazy.  We will go on vacation this summer for a week – up to NY to see the in – laws.  I can’t wait to get these kids out of state for awhile and do some fun things with them.  Locked up inside in front of the tv is no way for kids to spend summer vacation.  Especially Neve, since she’s starting school this fall.

In the meantime I’m cleaning the house, trying to de-clutter and make things more efficient, and having cuddle time with the cutest baby ever.