Archive | June, 2010

Father’s Day

20 Jun

My dad lives a long ways away–Deming, New Mexico.  He and my mom are originally Midwesterners, but have fashioned themselves into true South Westerners–wearing turquoise, decorating with pottery, landscaping with cacti.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve been with my dad on this day.  It’s turned into a phone-call/send-a-tower-of-goodies-from-Harry-and-David sort of holiday.  BTW, the Harry and David thing is no small feat; my dad is diabetic and the folks at H and D LOVE to put sweets into their gifties!  Anyway, in lieu of actually being with Dad today, I want to share a favorite childhood memory.

I grew up in Iowa in the 60s.  Mom was a stay-at-home mom, typical of the time.  Dad worked as a printer for a company called Matt Parrott and Sons.  He started there in high school as an apprentice–they called them “printer’s devils”–and worked there until he retired.  He had a suede leather sort-of bomber-style jacket. (I can visualize it, but having a hard time describing it…)  Every day he’d come home at 4:30pm and my sister and I would go running to search the pockets of that jacket.  There was a candy vending machine at work, and every day he’d bring a candy bar for my sister and I.  Most often, it was a mallow cup–like Reeces cups, but instead of peanut butter, there was a flow-y marshmallow cream in the center….mmmm!  He didn’t make a lot of money, but brought us treats anyway.  I still love those mallow cups, and every now and then I find one, usually in a hardware or lumber store.  Go figure.

Mr. 15 made his dad breakfast this morning and now they’re off fishing with the neighbor and his son.  I’m sure they’re farting, scratching and telling wild stories–not exactly the Hallmark version of the day, but you know they’re all having exactly the day they want!  A bunch of manly men doing manly things.  Mr. 15 and I went shopping earlier this week.  He carefully selected cards for his dad and step-dad, as well as gifts he knew each would appreciate.  He went as far as to get a 12-pack of Coke for step-dad, even though Mr. 15 HATES Coke, and claims that it burns his eyes just to look at it!  He carried it out of the store himself–further sacrifice for the perfect gift!

I’m planning one of DH’s favorite meals to celebrate his part in Mr. 15’s life.  Chicken is marinating in tequila, lime, cilantro, garlic and jalepenos.  It will be grilled and shredded into soft chicken tacos with cilantro, lettuce, green onions and tomatillo salsa.  The cilantro, garlic, lettuce and green onions all come from this year’s garden; the tomatillo salsa from last year’s.  The mint is going crazy right now (as mint does) so, Mojitos will be a refreshing accompaniment to the tacos.  DH has been working all day in the heat and wind at the Greenhouse.  I think this dinner will be just the thing to relax him into the evening.

Here’s the Mojito recipe–they’re the best thing to do with that abundance of mint, IMHO, with or without the rum:

In an 8-10 oz. glass, combine 20 rinsed fresh mint leaves (each about 1 1/2 inches long) and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  With a wooden spoon (or muddler), pound mint leaves with sugar to coarsely crush.  Add 4-5 tablespoons light rum, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice; mix well.  Fill glass with with ice cubes, and 4-6 tablespoons chilled soda water (I prefer using lime or lemon-lime soda).  Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.  Makes one serving, but easily multiplied up to a pitcher–which I highly recommend–you’ll want more than one!

Gardening: The enemies

17 Jun

Today I found the first of what will be many tomato hornworms.  He was munching away on one of my heirloom tomatoes: the Pineapple.  I’ve heard a lot about how fabulous this tomato is and this is the first year I’m trying them.  I am SO not letting a greedy, insatiable tomato hornworm rob ME of that or really ANY other tomato.  I’ve battled with these nasty larvae for years.  I try to garden as organically as I can, so my extermination method is (euww) to hand pick them, lay them on the ground, cover them with something flat (an old shingle works great for this), and then squish them. (Once again–euwww!)  One year, as I was reaching for it, the hornworm rared up on his back feet and hissed at me!  Yes!  I was not imagining–it hissed!  Totally upping the oooogy-factor.  These days, I break off the end of the tomato branch the worm is munching on, so I never have to touch the worm at ALL.  Bleh.  They are hard to see, blending in with the color of the tomato plants, but fairly easy to find, due to the damage they create–branches completely denuded of leaves.  (CC image by naturegirl78 via compfight.com)

The other big enemy that has shown up in the last week is the squash bug.  They somehow smell the fragrance of the squash blossoms and show up for dinner.  They are sucking insects and can suck an entire plant dry overnight–destroying any thoughts you might have had for zucchini bread!  The way they move can be best described as scuttling–which is what gets me–yuk!  But again, I’m determined to save my crop in as organic a way as possible, so I’ve learned to snatch them off, toss them on the ground and squish them with my shoe.  If I don’t find the eggs and I end up with a hatch, stronger methods are needed.  I start with diatomaceous earth–the tiny sharp shells of little sea creatures that will slice up the soft bellies of the bugs and dry them out (muahahaha!); and if that doesn’t work, I move on to Sevin dust.  So far, (knock wood) the snatch and squish is working….for now anyway.  (Image from University of Minnesota)

BTW, aren’t the wanted “posters” cool?  I made them with Big Huge Lab’s Trading Card Maker!  They’re super easy-peasy and fun!  Big Huge Labs has lots of groovy apps you can use to play with images!

Music is making the man

9 Jun

I went with Mr. 15 to his saxophone lesson today.  He’s very serious about his music and is currently talking double major: composition and saxophone for college.  He owns three saxes–two altos and a soprano–and has another alto (for jazz) and an oboe borrowed from CHS for the summer.  He’s teaching himself the oboe because he’s looked into college requirements for admission to a composition program and found he needs to have a wider background in instruments.  Music has become his passion and has provided him with a sharp focus for his future.  Plus–the part that fills my heart and squeezes tears from my eyes–it brings him JOY.  There’s nothing more wonderful than the joy that dances across his face when he’s talking about his favorite composers (John Mackey is one), or sharing music that his music groups have already played/will be playing (scroll to hear the music) or anticipating future years’ guest artists for The Best of the West Festival.  He has his music when he needs a place safe from inevitable teen angst.  He’s too big for a mom’s kiss to mend his hurts; I’m glad he has something that helps.  Sigh….they grow up so fast…I’m proud of the young man who used to be my little boy.  Yup–I’m a lucky mom.

Immersion

7 Jun

Right now I’m sitting on my front porch with my laptop…and Mr. 15–who chose to be out here with me–I’m a lucky mom!  It’s a lovely evening.  The triple-digit heat of today has been swallowed by the evening.  A thunderstorm and its lightning lurks just north of here.  Mr. 15 is flicking bugs attracted to the light of my screen so I can see what I’m doing.  Crickets and night birds are singing in one ear, and Pendulum’s new album: Immersion is playing in my other ear.  Mr. 15 and I are sharing his iPod.  He has immersed me in a fabulous variety of music I would never think to listen to, and has a great feel for what I’ll like.  I love this connection with him.  His iPod holds thrash metal, ska, pop, concert and marching band selections, and more–some of which he doesn’t share because he knows I won’t like it.  We have an entire summer stretching out in front of us for more evenings on the porch and ice cream on hot afternoons, and granola for breakfast.  Ahhhhh…immersed in summer!

Breakfast with Grandma

3 Jun

Yesterday, I made the first batch of granola for the summer.  I absolutely love a bowl of cold cereal on warm summer mornings.  No fuss, easy to fix, completely portable for dining al fresco. 

It’s funny how simple things like a bowl of cereal can bring up old memories, huh?  When I was a little girl, I lived on Dawson Street in a town in Iowa, and my grandparents lived right across the street.  In the summers, I’d walk across the street to have breakfast with Grandma in the breakfast nook of her kitchen.  It was always a bowl of Corn Flakes with milk, and sometimes sliced bananas.  I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember her smile and flowered aprons trimmed in rick-rack. 

The granola recipe was a gift from an MGMS parent a few years ago, I’ve been making it ever since.  I shop a natural foods store for the ingredients:

3 1/2 cups rolled oats (NOT quick-cook)

1/2 cup raw, shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/4 cup each: flax seeds and sesame seeds

1 cup walnuts

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup shelled, roasted and salted sunflower seeds

1 cup large-flake coconut

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix that all together; then in a small pan, bring 1 cup honey and 4 tablespoons coconut oil to a boil.  (Once it starts boiling, it can boil over very quickly–beware!)  Remove from heat and add 1/4 teaspoons each: vanilla, orange extract, almond extract.  Pour over the oats and nuts mixture  and stir to coat.  Spread in a roasting pan and bake in a 300 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, stiring every 10 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool.  Continue to stir every so often as it cools to prevent sticking.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

I’ve altered the spices–adding ginger and nutmeg.  You can add a cup of dried fruit.  You can leave out nuts you don’t like or add something you’d prefer.  It’s so good, Mr. 15 prefers it over store-bought cereal!  It’s great with milk, it’s fabulous with almond milk.  (My new favorite substitute for milk in cereal or coffee–nom!)  It’s also quite lovely with yogurt and fresh fruit: parfait-style.

I enjoyed my bowl with almond milk on my front porch today, and thought about Grandma.

The Library Goddess Recommends…

1 Jun

Books in verse.  They’re approachable–not too many words on a page.  They’re a gateway to prose novels, a gateway to an appreciation of language and author’s craft.  My favorite author to suggest to students and adults alike in this category?  Helen Frost.  She spins compelling tales in what seems to be effortless free verse.  Most of these compelled me to have a tissue to dab at my tears.  I’m a bit of a sap for a good story.

I just finished Crossing Stones.  Two families in a 1917 small town affected by war and women’s sufferage, told in a verse that mimics the stream and crossing stones that separate and yet binds them together.  This is the fourth Frost book I’ve read.  I savor the author’s notes at the end with the explanation of where each story comes from and the poetic form created to tell it.  Crossing Stones didn’t disappoint….I’ll let you read that explanation and the others yourself…

The book that introduced me to Frost was The Braid–the story of two sisters being forced to leave their native Scotland in 1850, but one decides to stay.  In the night before they are to leave, she braids her sister’s hair into her own.  She cuts the braid off, keeping half and leaving the other half for her sister.  As the story progresses, each sister’s life is braided into the other’s even though separated by an ocean.  Each sister tells her side in turn, each poem braided into the next.  A beautiful book. 

I then read Diamond Willow; my favorite of these four.  Diamond Willow is a girl coming of age in a small Alaskan town.  Named for a tree, she feels most at home with the family’s sled dogs and insists on mushing solo to her grandparents’ house.  This solo trip results in tragedy and the discovery of a secret.  The poems are in the shape of a diamond with a darker center, mimicking the diamond willow itself.  The larger, outer poem is what Willow projects to the world, and the smaller dark center reflects her inner thoughts.

Spinning Through the Universe tells the stories behind the scenes of a fifth grade class.  Each child writes his or her life in a different poetic form–appropriate to each child’s triumphs or challenges in the first half, and in acrostics in the second half. (With one exception)  The teacher starts things off, wondering why this child sleeps in class, that one seems withdrawn and so on.  Each child reveals their own answer, opening your eyes to the complicated interwoven lives present in any classroom.

I have some other favorite books in verse by different authors I’ll share later.  For now, trot off to your library or bookstore and find a Helen Frost to curl up with this summer.

All images taken from amazon.com.