Monday, April 30, 2012

Dig it ...


The kids are all into gardening.

Not really.

Mostly they're into going to the garden market, picking out plants they will forget about and that I will overwater, and buying cute little tools that will inevitably rust over the winter.

Not that I'm complaining. Much.

Spring is the time of year that, for a few lovely weeks, even I think we can turn over a new leaf.

One of the tools we picked up was a sweet little garden apron that will hold three tools (not to mention double as a holster for plastic guns once the garden bug has worked its way through their system).

It was so sweet and simple looking it made me think I could probably make one or two and give them as spring birthday presents.

For once, I was right ...



Kitchen towel*
Fabric scraps
Sewing machine

1. Fold kitchen towel in half, cut
2. Fold towel half so outside is facing in.
3. With fold facing top, sew around three open sides, leaving 3" at each corner near the top.
4. Turn right-side out and tuck fabric near opening for apron strings.
5. Take 36" length of fabric scrap (4"inches wide) fold right-sides inward and iron. Cut in half midway.
6. Sew one end and length of both pieces and turn right-side out.
7. Pin inside openings at top of apron, tuck in a loop of ribbon facing outward.
8. Sew closed on both sides.
9. Cut section of napkin twice as big as you want width of pocket. Fold outside in, sew around most of outside leaving enough to turn right-side out and pin to apron about two inches from the bottom.
10. Topstitch short ends of pocket
11. Topstitch lines three inches apart along pocket, leaving bottom edge open.

That's it. All you need are some tools and you're ready to kill grow plants.

*One towel and careful cutting of napkin will make two aprons

Friday, April 27, 2012

Learning how to park

I knew there had been an effort underway to get a dog park in our town -- I even dropped money in a dedicated collection jar at the Surley Cup on occasion -- but I wasn't aware that the park had actually gotten past the planning stages and into the oh-my-god-you-can-really-go-there-and-play stage.

Evidently it opened two years ago ... so ... yeah. I'm observant.

Anywhoo ... The pup and I went and checked it out yesterday.

What a great place!

Secure fencing. Separate areas for small and large dogs.


Lots of space. Lots of shade. 

Dog park

Water, waste bags available ... 

dog park

There's even toys for dogs and lawn chairs for their humanoids.

I don't know what this is for ...

air horn

Crowd control? Humor?

And of course, best of all, there's always new friends at the dog park.


But it turns out dogs need to have a park use tag in addition to the standard license, both available at Kinderhook Town Hall, to lawfully use the park.


Which ... after being scofflaws for about an hour ... we tried to obtain. (Town clerk had stepped out when we arrived ... so we'll try again another time, but I was given the helpful advice to "look for her white Hummer in the parking lot" to be sure she was available.)

One final note: You might want to learn how to park in case you are the first to arrive.

Please to be ignoring the orange clown car.  

Looks like *someone* doesn't know how to park at the dog park

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shhhhh ...

you are my oatmeal

"What do you want for breakfast, Champ? Yogurt? Granola?"

"Yeah. In a glass bowl, though. ... Hey, did you know that dad is getting you all new bowls for your birfday? He's getting the green ones to replace the ones what the dog broked."

"Hmmm. That's nice, honey. ... Hey ... wait ... is that the gift dad told you about on the condition that you'd keep it a secret."

"Yeah ... shhhhhhhh."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



I miss film.

A lot.

Ok not  a lot ... more like a little.

The expense of it is hard to justify in these times of technological want and excess.

But I'm not going to lament the advent of digital any more than I'll decry the death of newspapers.

Been there. Done That. Moving on.

I burn through film faster than money in my pocket.*** I'm no hypocrite. I'm hooked on digital.

Still, every once in a while, I find myself thinking about those lost days of excited anticipation.

The days of seeing how closely my memory from the viewfinder resembles the actuality developing in the darkroom.

In those moments of nostalgia, which are pretty frequent these days I'll admit, I may buy a roll of film at the pharmacy and dust off my old Nikon F series.

And a day or two later I'm back at the drugstore counter with my spent roll and scant hope for a little of that old-time magic.

More film.

It's not the magic I remember, exactly. But it's still got a little spark.

*** Just learned from PetaPixel, that Fuji is planning to increase it's film prices next month. Now's the time to stock up if you'd like to wallow in nostalgia.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not just women's work

strings and things

Every parent waits in abject fear for the dreaded question: "Where do babies come from."

Dreaded because most of us, having gone through the process ourselves, mentally conjure a pretty graphic scene. And let's face it, our kids are pretty squeamish about kissing let alone ... well. ... you know. 

So, today, on the way home from school, after counting how many chickens had been hatched in the schoolhouse incubator -- an annual rite of spring education -- I'm pretty sure that's the question I was asked.

Only it was asked in such a way that made me foolishly think I could handle it ...

"Mom? Who makes babies?"

Oh ... wow! I thought, seizing the opportunity:

"People! People make babies!"

Silence. He was skeptical.

No. Really. They do. People make babies. (As if repeating myself would bolster my case.)

Really? Who made you?

My mother! 

And who made her?

Her mother?

Who was that?

You didn't get to meet her, sadly.

His squinty eyes said: Prove it.

Now I was scared: Did he want pictures, or was it something more esoteric?

The physical answers I could handle. Was he trying to access the spiritual answer? I pictured the argument I had with his sister once over whether in fact "God brought spring," as she had decided from a quilting of random conversations she'd had with our evangelical babysitter.

I didn't relish having another tearful argument over fervent beliefs. 


They grow babies in their bellies. 

His eyes widened. He knew I was right: He'd witnessed the growing bellies of his friends' mommies' at preschool, and the eventual day they appeared at drop-off all flat-tummied and toting a newborn.

"But how do they get in there," he asked.

"Mommies have eggs in their bodies and babies grow from eggs that have been fertilized by daddies."

It's pretty simple, really: girls have eggs and boys have sperm. And when they mix together babies can grow.

I'd gone too far.

So ..... the girls at preschool have eggs, too?

And I have ....

Yes, yes, but don't tell them you know. It could get complicated. Like the we're-going-to-get-some-angry-phone-calls kind of complicated.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just so you know ...

Your REAL FRIENDS will never tell you ...

1. You look horrible: Do something with your hair. Try a flatiron or something. And how about wearing makeup someplace other than the imaginary twitter-facebook-flickr world you live in?

2. Would it kill you to smile?


That's why the universe gave us mothers and strange people who talk to us on the street.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two-word Tuesday ...


Tourist desert.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to obliterate hundreds of years of tradition in 45 minutes (including prep time)

version of jan hagel cookies

These would be Jan Hagel Cookies, a traditional Dutch cookie made by pressing dough into a pan, shellacing it with egg white and covering it with a layer of slivered almonds.

They WOULD be if we'd made them correctly.

See, we attended a Dutch baking class this week at The House of History, where the lovely and talented educators walked us through the process of making three kinds of traditional cookies: Jan Hagels, Dutch wafer cookies and sweet pretzels.

The Jan Hagels were our favorites so we tried to recreate them at home.

The recipe is as follows:


1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 egg (separated)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar; add egg yolk.
Add flour and cinnamon and mix well.
Spread batter onto baking dish or pan, press evenly.
Brush top with egg white.
Sprinkle layer of almonds.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Cut into rectangles, squares or triangles.

Of course we got this:

version of jan hagel cookies

Which, by the laws that govern tradition, will serve as evidence of our crimes. We didn't press our batter thin enough, and our almonds were pulverized not slivered.

(I'd have shown you a picture of the ones we made at the class, but we ate them all.)

Oh well.

They still taste delicious.

They even made us want to try our hand at wrecking other traditional Dutch recipes.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hop to it

Homemade Easter ornaments

Easter is just around the corner, but there's still time to make it a craftacular success. (I gagged a little forming that sentence.)

All you need are some balloons, some cotton string or crochet yarn, watered down glue, tissue paper, glitter and grosgrain ribbons.

And 24 hours of drying time.

It's the same basic principal as this project. ...


Except when you're done popping the balloon and fishing out all the latex remnants, you cut a little window in the orb.


We then decoupaged some shredded tissue paper inside our eggs and sprinkled the outside with glitter the dog had located and managed to spread liberally throughout the house one afternoon in our absence.


egg nest

Once that is dry (hairdryer will work if pressed for time) use a glue gun to affix ribbon around the opening. (Rickrack works best, but I didn't have any so we just used grosgrain.)


Fill the egg with paper grass, a toy or candy and your kids will think the Easter Bunny outdid herself.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Boy, friend

And so it begins.

boy friend not boyfriend

A boy. 

They'd exchanged phone numbers at school. Ittybit promised to call later that night.

Which she did. After dinner and before homework.

It was a big deal. ...

To me.

The telephone was my first, tenuous, connection to independence. It offered my mind a mode of transportation and a mechanism for planning that started simply enough with a single universal question: "What are you doing?" followed by the closed-circle response: "Nothing. What are you doing?"

Boy? Girl? It didn't matter who was hanging on the line, it only mattered that the line existed and that it connected me to a disembodied voice.

For the primary school set -- too young for Twitter and Facebook -- Alexander Graham Bell's invention as relevant as ever.

The rules of communication haven't changed much, either.

"Smile when you talk," I tell her. "They may not be able to see you, but they will be able to hear the smile in your voice.

"Remember to be polite: tell whoever answers your name; ask if you may speak to your friend; always say please and thank you."

Phone etiquette isn't innate. It takes practice, and recently we'd been having our share of practice.

Still, I couldn't listen as she dialed the boy's number and waiting for someone to answer.

I clanked around the kitchen, trying to buffer the exchange.

It reminded me ... a little too much ... of my own first phone call to a boy.

I had been in second grade, too.  I didn't even know to be nervous. He was, after all, a friend I spoke to each day. A boy whose name happened to line up next to mine in the alphabet, as did his chair in our teacher's similarly ordered classroom.

To be able to continue the conversation at home, after school, is a strange magic not dissimilar to running into your first-grade teacher at the supermarket and feeling as if your world had been turned inside out. The first time it happens it's disorienting.

Some of that was happening as I ran through my the script I'd practiced.

Hello, I am … , may I speak to … ?


The boy's mother wasn't impressed. Her voice, quick and sharp, told me all I needed to know about my mistake. And she wasn't going to let her son talk to any girl so forward at the age of eight.

More than three decades later, I have to wonder if David Sedaris' witty and scathing review of an elementary school nativity play wherein he writes: “6-year-old Shannon Burke just barely manages to pass herself off as a virgin,” could have been inspired by a similar experience.

Honestly, though, I hadn't thought of that moment until this one, in which my daughter was chirping away into the handset asking a boy questions I didn't get a chance to ask.

What are you doing?”

My stomach tightened even more as she charged my way with the phone.

Ok, I'm going to get my mom and you put your mom on the phone, too.”

I stretch a tight smile across my face, holding the phone and waiting for a stranger's voice to come on the line.

This is awkward.

Hello? Her smile is stretched, too. I can hear it.

Hi,” I inject a small laugh into my voice for effect. “I think our kids are interested in setting up a play date.”

Without much fanfare we set a date and exchange information. And within a few days a boy from school is playing in the backyard with our daughter, collecting specimens of rare weeds and putting them in an old umbrella for some convoluted purpose.

A broken bumper shoot is a typical centrifuge for whatever pseudoscience my daughter has devised.

Together they battle a rising wind and a meddling brother until the boy's mother comes to collect him a couple of hours later.

By all accounts it was a success. Plans are made to play some more another day.

He climbs into the car, she bounds into the house.

The phone is ringing.

I'll get it,” she hollers.

I open my mouth to holler back, but stop mid objection. It's probably for her, anyway.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012