Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ennui

Isn't that a great word?  I learned it in 10th grade, when I was trying to learn all the vocabulary words that I could before taking the SATs.  That about sums it up:  a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction, boredom.  I've got all that, plus I'm really sad too. 

It is drizzling outside, and the girls are playing nicely downstairs, but I'm finding it hard to make myself do anything this afternoon.  The grey skies match my mood.  So far I've avoided dealing with all this loss by working really hard and pushing it way down under all the dust and laundry and weeds where I can't find it.  Today, it has surfaced, and I'm trying not to curl up in a fetal position and sob.

So far I've posted about the lovely friends that my girls have lost.  Now here is the post about MY peeps, some of the best women I've been privileged to hang with.

 
I've known T the longest, and she is my go-to-girl for how-to advice.  T helped me tile my bathroom floor (all the while battling morning sickness, which she didn't tell me about until later.)  She makes the most incredible birthday cakes, and if there's any tool you might need, she probably has it available to borrow.  She is an amazing artist, and is game to try any kind of craft with the kids that you might come up with.  Top all that with the fact that she is FUNNY and kind and a lot of fun to be around.

 
My friend K, is the sunniest and brightest person I know.  She is so laid back, that I've been able to dial back my OCD from her influence (see my recent post about the incidence of grungy hostessing.)  She is a story-teller supreme, and we are all waiting to see her first YA novel out in print.  I found K to be a kindred spirit in regards to sustainable living when I was beginning to despair of finding that in this small town.  Not only that, but we were both nursing 6 month old girls the day we first met...how often does that happen?  She is up for ANYTHING, ANY TIME, including crazy 40th birthday parties.


M is a beautiful and intelligent woman who shares the same professional calling in medicine as myself.  She is always seems so well put together and on top of the Mom thing AND the professional thing, that she has inspired me many a day when I thought I was failing at one or the other.  She is charming and energetic, and I always enjoy spending time with her.  She is also not afraid to break routine...and is known to try 200 foot long slip-n-slides while fully clothed.

Now there is just myself, S1, and S2 left here.  We all embraced in the library this morning when we met during drop off for the children's program.  "It seems so...lonely somehow," S2 commented.  "Alternate reality, " I agreed.  We sighed and departed.  We're all feeling this ennui.

I really should go do something productive to take my mind off things right now.  Maybe I'll tackle those curtains for the tree house.  S1 brought me fabric from her mother's house...it would only take a few straight seams...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taking a Walk

We have been having some lovely weather lately...temps in the 70's with low humidity.  It's almost unheard of for this part of the country in late July!  We've had the windows wide open with fresh breezes blowing through.  It's been really hard to not find SOME excuse to be outside nearly ALL the time!

The girls and I visited the zoo last week and the animals there were enjoying it (although the temps in the city were notable higher than here on our Ridge.)  The breezes were breezy enough over the weekend, that the girls tried out their new kites.


We decided to take a walk after dinner on Sunday evening.  JP took along his new camera, of which he is very proud.  He should be...it takes GREAT pictures!  We had a wonderful stroll.  BOTH girls held my hands...remarkable.  Have I ever mentioned what an idyllic place we live in?





Of course the girls could not resist climbing and then jumping on all of those hay bales (shhh...don't tell our neighbors!)


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer on the Ridge

Our summer has been so frightfully busy that I have been worried that I haven't accomplished enough of those important Summertime activities with the girls.  I'm probably more cognizant of it all than most summers because I am realizing that I will be seeing much less of the girls come Fall since they will both be away at school for the first time.

Thinking back, though, this busy summer hasn't been all a total wash.  Here's a list of some of the fun things we've done already:

 - Had cookouts or potlucks at the house with LOTS of people at least 4 or 5 times
 - Spent a week with old friends
 - Spent a week at the beach
 - L learned to ride her bike without training wheels
 - Afternoon at the pool
 - Day at the Museum
 - Day at the Zoo
 - water play at home in the kiddie pool and Kid Wash
 - Library Day Camp
 - Basketball Camp
 - Vacation Bible School
 - Watched Peeps hatch

Of course, we still have the Doctor & Dentist appointments, Vet appointments, and vehicle repairs to catch up on, and now Orthodontist appointments to attend.  The garden and flower beds need upkeep, and the chickens need constant care. The birds and butterflies need to be fed.  The laundry continues to get dirty, as does the house.  We've done all that too.

Here are a few pics of some Summertime stuff on Poplar Ridge.

Tiger Swallowtails on my Butterfly Bushes!

Corn on the Cob from the garden!
Uncle Noah found a snake.


A huge storm rolls in over the barn.

Friday, July 26, 2013

J and her BFFs

It has been rough on all of - the turmoil and changes in the past year.  3 families of our best friends have left our little town, leaving it that much less shiny and fun.  Not only are these folks good people, but they were/are fun to be with, and have children the same ages as ours.


J's group of friends, "The Fab Four", spent many an hour over the past several years playing an assortment of games, and discussing all manner of personal girl things.  We had a reunion of sorts this summer, as one family returned for a visit, about a month before another family left for good.  The Fab Four spent the entire week together, and had a FAB time.

I mourn the loss of these friends for my growing daughter.  She is just entering her adolescence and having to forge new friendships to make it through.  I don't know the parents of these girls, maybe they are great people too...it's just a bit overwhelming all around.  

J has dealt with it by writing a book.  She secluded herself away for about 3 days, then read us her novella, complete with illustrations.


We watched "Stand By Me" recently during a downpour.  At the end of the movie, the main character finishes typing the story of his friendships during the summer of his 12th year.  He writes, "I've never had other friendships like those I had the summer when I was 12."  So true.  And yet...life goes on, it must.  This pain will lessen, and good things will come again.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh My!

The girls and I took advantage of the cooler, less humid weather on Thursday (as well as the discount tickets available through my work) and went to the city to visit the Zoo.  Bob the Gnome was unable to attend, but Ben came along to enjoy the day.










We walked and walked and walked (Ben generally rode in a pocket) until we were pooped.


As always, we finished off our trip with a stop at Rita's for Italian Ice.  So ends another great day in the Big City.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Taco Time

We have developed a routine of eating tacos just about every Wednesday evening over the past 10 years or so.  JP's family had a history of making tacos weekly or bi-weekly while he was growing up, and he had a hard time giving it up, so Taco Night continued on after we were married.  I posted a blog long ago about making the tortillas, you can read it here

Lately, we have made a real point of trying to eat healthier, and to consume less red meat.  That makes it a bit tricky to make tacos, which while the fresh veggies and homemade corn tortillas are uber healthy, the hamburger is not so much.  We had some really delicious fish tacos while on vacation at the beach, so we are trying to alternate our traditional tacos (using ground turkey) with fish tacos.  The first attempt, using Tilapia, was ok, but not great.  I tried again today using shrimp.

We just received our August/September issue of Cook's Country magazine last week, which included a recipe for California Fish Tacos.  I did a little bit of internet searching as well, and ended up combining several recipes, but these Shrimp Tacos turned out to be DELICIOUS!  There are several steps to making the various veggie condiments, but several of them could be made ahead to save time.

Here is the recipe for the pickled onions and slaw, that came from Cook's Country:

Pickled Onions

1 small red onion, halved & sliced thin
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed & sliced into thin rings
1 c white wine vinegar
2 T lime juice
1 T sugar
1 t salt

Combine onion and jalapenos in a medium bowl.  Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan.   Pour over the onion mixture.  Let set for at least 30 minutes.  (I would recommend draining them before serving, we ended up with really drippy tacos!)  *This can be made & refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.*

Cabbage

3 cups shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup pickling liquid from onions
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. *Do this step right before serving tacos so cabbage doesn't get soft.*

White Sauce (we adapted the Cook's Country recipe by seasoning it up)

1/2 c mayo
1/2 c sour cream
2 T lime juice
2 T milk
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 t ground cumin
black pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients.  *This can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.*

Shrimp

2 lbs shrimp
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
2 t garlic powder
2 T lime juice
2 T canola oil
hot sauce
salt
pepper

Place shrimp in a flat container and sprinkle remaining ingredients over them.  Toss well to mix, and allow to marinate for 20-30 minutes.  Grill over med-hi heat for 5 minutes until pink.

Build tacos with warm tortillas, shrimp, onions, cabbage, and chopped tomatoes (avocado chunks would be nice too), and top with white sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

So there you have it:  healthy and flavorful shrimp tacos 8 hours in-land from the beach!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekend Excitement

It has been another full weekend, and it is not over yet.  I am in the thick of canning beans.  I picked over 30 lbs of green and wax beans from the garden in the past week.  I have 27 pints finished, and have about 7 quarts to go.  There is also zucchini bread in the oven - also from our garden harvest.

The jars on the left are Dilly Beans, the ones on
the right are just canned beans
Yesterday morning, while folding laundry during a rainstorm, I suddenly heard an enormous BOOM, and at the same time, felt the house shake and saw a column of orange and red fire in my parents' yard.  Lightening struck a walnut tree about 150 yards from their house.  It threw bits of bark all the way up to their driveway!  Surprisingly, it did not look burnt, but simply as if  someone had carefully stripped a line of bark off for 30 feet of length.


After the rain, I took a few photos of the garden, which looks lush and gorgeous.


Two varieties of Winter Squash
We will soon have corn on the cob to eat!


Broccoli

 
J is growing this lovely cantaloupe

Onions

 
I never got around to finishing the Murphy bed that my dad built using wood from the oak that fell in our woods 2 winters ago.  He finally stained and varnished it last week so that he could get it out of his woodshop.  It looks absolutely gorgeous!  Once the thunderstorm passed, and the rain eased off, JP, my dad and I loaded the bed onto a trailer, and steadied it while JP pulled it down to the front french doors with his lawn tractor.  We managed to ease it into the house, and get it placed in the guest bedroom.  It is still not functional, as it needs to be anchored into the wall first.

Now my dad plans to start work on shelving units that attach on either side of the bed.  This will enable us to move the dresser out of the guest room as well, and move our exercise equipment in at some point.  For now, if you come to visit overnight, you will have to bunk up with the girls on the twin trundle beds in their play room.

This weekend, we also had to say "goodbye" to another family of our dear friends.  It is heartbreaking and maddening, and the whole situation is so unjust, that it is hard to know how to feel or respond.  I've found that I do best staying REALLY busy, and I've managed to do just that all weekend.

That about covers all of the excitement for the weekend.  We are rapidly moving into a new week, which I'm sure will be filled with excitement of its own. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rough Nights

We had friends over Saturday evening for dinner. They stayed late to watch a movie with us, and spent the night. The older 4 children wanted to sleep in the tree house, but we are having typical summer weather lately: hot and HUMID! Although it cooled off after the sun went down, and we opened up the windows of the tree house - with 4 kids just BREATHING in there, it was hotter than Hades inside. One child made it until about 10:45, and then he came in to recover in the air conditioning. L made it until 2 AM, when she wandered in with her tiny flashlight, and the 2 oldest lasted until 6:30 or so...it made for some grumpy kids on Sunday afternoon - at least in our house!

We discovered on Sunday morning, that the pullets had an even worse night in the Egg Cart'n. One of the white pullets was attacked by something that tore the skin and feathers off his neck. No predator could possibly get into their enclosure except for a weasel, so we are assuming that it was something larger (cat, raccoon, possum?) that reached in through the wire. He seems perfectly fine now. He eats, drinks, and acts like a normal chicken, but looks awful. I sprayed him with my magic Vetricyn spray last night. I'm hoping he heals up well like the hens did, and doesn't end up with some kind of nasty infection!


This picture makes it easy to see why we are
convinced that the injured pullet is our
tiny rooster.

I must go back though, to our Saturday evening get together, and mention something amazing. JP and I were running behind on Saturday - JP was having trouble with the mower, and it took me longer to get everything done than I had planned. In any case, we were making great headway in the kitchen, although dinner wasn't quite ready at the intended time. Our friends showed up and we were still unshowered, and in our dirty clothes - sweaty and nasty. The girls' bedroom was a mess, as I had stripped their beds, but hadn't remade them. Bless them, our friends are beautiful people, and didn't mind, but this is BIG TIME for me.

It used to be that I would have to clean the house before we would have any company. Everything would be done beforehand, and despite the stress and nerves ahead of time, when visitors arrived, I would be clean and pressed and everything would be in order. I started discovering, especially after having kids, that it wasn't necessary, and sometimes not even reasonable to do this EVERY time before having people over. I started letting things slide. It has finally gotten to the point that if things are somewhat orderly before my friends arrive, and the food is pretty close to being taken care of, I'm good. Sometimes I haven't managed to brush my teeth or put on make-up, but I have NEVER been so dirty while entertaining before!

You know what? It did not lessen in any way the enjoyment we had spending time with our dear friends this weekend. It also gives you an idea of how wonderful our group of friends is, and how painful it is to see them leave our little town.

I'm pretty proud of myself that I could entertain without feeling completely guilty and inadequate about the state of my home or my personal hygiene (or lack thereof!) I've come a long way...my therapist would be amazed!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bob & Ben Go to The Big City

The girls attended their first day of the Library Summer Program yesterday.  As always, they had a great time.  They came home with hollowed out potato-faces with radishes planted for hair, a worm farm, and little gnomes, who are meant to accompany them on adventures this summer.  Our family's gnome is named Ben, our friend C named her gnome Bob.

Bob and Ben travelled with us to the Big City today to visit the Natural History Museum.  This was a first not only for the gnomes, but for C as well.


First, Bob & Ben discovered the Dinos

Bob & Ben met a Grizzly Bear!



The gnomes found some mushrooms that
they thought might be nice to live in.
 
They rode in a boat, and were the only
ones who didn't get seasick.

Bob & Ben discovered a playground just their size.
The girls were sad that they couldn't play there!

They cooled off in a fountain.

The gnomes had a chat with some parakeets.



Finally, Bob & Ben ate some ice cream
before heading home.

 I think that everyone, gnomes included, had a fun day in the City!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Surprises

My garden grew by leaps and bounds in the week that we were on vacation.  I returned to find all of this lovely broccoli ready to harvest.  That is a first...no broccoli to speak of in years past!


On Sunday, J brought in this itty bitty egg, just a tad larger than a robin egg.  (And no, it's not from the pullets yet!)


Speaking of the pullets, they are almost completely feathered out at this point.  Not surprisingly, they are all different looking!  3 of them look exactly like our Barred Rock hens.  Two of them are completely black - legs, beaks, eyes and all.  I guess that there is a Black Wyandotte variety that looks similar, so we'll have to wait and see if they develop the rose comb of a Wyandotte. 



Of the two white chicks, one is already obviously a cockerel, and the other has a single black feather on its back.



There is no end to the interesting things we find around here!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Vacation


We've been away for the past week.  We drove many hours to Cape May Point, NJ for a vacation with JP's sister and brother-in-law.  Between rain and riptides, we were unable to get in the water for the first 2 days.  After that, we managed bike rides or beach trips in between rain showers.  One rainy day, we visited the nearby Air Museum.  JP's sister offered to take the girls to the zoo one morning so that JP and I could have a morning to ourselves.  We decided to go out to watch "Superman", while it poured into the open windows of our van.  Our wi-fi went out on the first day, so despite my intentions, I was unable to blog from the beach house.  Because of traffic, the 7-8 hour drive home actually took us 11 hours.

Overall, it was a nice time away.  We had fun, even though it was a bit different than we had planned.  We returned to knee high grass in the yard and 6 loads of laundry.  We also brought home about 35 lbs of sweet cherries, that are now cooling in 21 quart jars on the kitchen counter.  The dogs, cats and chickens all did well in our absence.  Tomorrow we must return with a jolt to reality.  Sigh...how can the time fly by so quickly?

J & L at the Air Museum




We watched fireworks from Sunset Beach after the
sun went down.

The whole fam-damily at Cape May Point