Sunday, November 10, 2013

Slide Show

I'm learning to create slide shows using all kinds of Apple programs.  These are not the old slide shows from when I was small.  Countless Sunday evenings my grandmother would visit for dinner and my father would take out the old slide projector and line up each slide just right so that we could view and review the last few weeks of our lives again in pictures.  It was always so much fun.  I'll never forget my Uncle John's slide show when he photographed my Aunt Doris slicing a banana and then showed it in reverse order so that the banana went back together.  I was about 8 or 9 and I remember laughing so hard!
These days slide shows are much easier to create.   Choose pictures, upload, set to music, edit, delete, and show.  My husband created a fantastic one from our California trip last year that we've watched over and over again.  It takes us back in time and gives us back those days if just for a moment.  We see the moments when we all posed, when we were lost in wonder at the geysers in Yellowstone, when we were enjoying meals together, when we were having fun.
Life - not so much.  These days are speeding by.  I haven't blogged since August when I started my new job. I've thought of so many things I was going to write, like Take Your Vitamins, because it's full speed ahead in August and September getting the kids back to school.  Like Catch Your Breath, because when I'm watching the boys round second in fall baseball, I'm reminded of how I feel when I've run the race of the day and I'm so relieved to get home and take a breath.  And Gear Up because the holidays are approaching.  But I can't even catch up because the days are "advancing" by and I wish I could change the transition time, the duration, like I can on Power Point.  I wish I could edit out all the moments when I'm not my best, when I forgot the 'camera' was on and the kids were listening and I snapped a little to quickly at the spilled milk and the story of forgotten homework or a poor test grade.  I wish I could go back and crop the picture that reveals a little too much of my bad side and my bad hair day, and I hope the kids don't remember those moments.  I hope they remember a mom who always had time for them and listened when they told a story, the Whole story.  A mom who put down and turned off the cell phone, instead of trying to listen and text at the same time and doesn't look up, and says "I'm listening- I just have to do one thing more."  Forget the crime of texting and driving, how about texting and listening.  Instead I try to multitask and say I could never get it done without doing it all at once, but I'm not doing well at all.
In my new classroom we are learning to do small things well.  Lucy Calkins talks about the Small Moments and just focusing on one when we write our stories.  I'm learning as I'm teaching it.  We focus on just capital letters in one assignment, just word wall words in another, and maybe by February we'll do it all a little better.  We'll remember to use capitals and periods and adjectives in our writing.  We can go back and edit and review and make it 'look pretty.'
The year is already a quarter of the way done.  The first graders I'm with have already lost teeth, lost some of the baby-fat I saw in their first pictures of the school year.  Four of the six people in this house are in new schools, high school, middle school, Catholic School.  The slide show keeps advancing.  I want to go back the way my father could and see the days again and say, "Wait, can you go back?  Zoom in, right there, who was that at the party?"  "What were we eating?"  "What were we laughing so hard about?" He was always very patient with the slide show.  He would take his time and my grandmother would tell stories about each person in the pictures and bring us up to date with any news about cousins and aunts and all the people in the pictures.  Maybe that's the lure of SportsCenter in this house, you get to rewatch and review everything in sports all day long.  Real life, not so much.
Matt just got home from a Boy Scout camping trip that consisted of  three days, two nights and two states.  When we were waiting for him to get home last night, my husband said, "We'll never get the whole story.  We've missed so much."  We'll never hear the play by play of his days away from us.  We'll never know what his life was like those three days, the driving, the conversation, the people, the views, the hiking, the pitching of the tent, the cooking, the sleeping, the camping.  We'll get snippets of his days and a few weeks from now he'll say, "Oh yeah, I never told you this... I forgot about this..."  We'll get the cropped story, the slide show version and that's ok.  But I'll be sure to put my cell phone away and listen, because there is no replay on those days.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Secret Garden Bath

Back to Design!  How fun is that?  I wish I had a degree in design of some kind because it really is a science.   There is so much to know, so much to figure out, so much to SHOP FOR (heeheeheehee;)!  So I've been all over, on line and in person, in stores and outlets, in warehouses and other people's basements!  It's kind of ridiculous.  But now the contractor is here and things are progressing...
Here is the before shot and all the goodies that are going in...

for some reason I can't find the real before pictures.  I thought I took them to send in to Nate, but I can't find them now.  So these will have to do.

First the floor inspiration!  (JK - these are the floors at the Phillies game.  Everyone who walks in this bathroom, says, "Wow these look like grass!  Look, the tile looks just like glass."  Now it has taken me years to get over the "Look,-there's-an-airplane" thing, that horrible speech-petrifying syndrome that affects all new moms until their kids are about 10, when we point out Everything That Moves, like trains, planes, and cows, and I'm still tempted to do it at outdoor bars with grownup adults who know what an airplane looks like, but I'm always amused when we do it still over lots of things that are perfectly obvious.  Anyway... I digress.  And I am not doing a baseball bathroom.)

So here is the floor tile.  We are going to try to install it ourselves - DIY - difficult, icky, yucky!
This is the sink I found at Restore for $90 complete with faucets!  I Love Restore!  It has some hidden gems that you have to search for, but they are there!  If you are in the mood for a Teal bath, they have a teal pedestal sink and matching tile to go for dirt cheap.  Go ahead - go for it!  I should've taken pictures.
The base.

 The sink which now occupies significant space in our bedroom.

Annie reading in a perfectly sunny spot having taken the cushions off the lounge chairs that they were designed for, while I work, work, work!

The retro faucets!

A towel hook bar from Target on clearance because I have given up on towel bars.  They are not as useful or functional.

Then we found ourselves down in Delaware in every design maiden's haven - Interior Alternative.  The outlet for everything Waverly and beyond.  I have never regretted one purchase here AND we got everything 40-50% off!  Yeah!  Off their outlet prices!

They have everything you can imagine!

This is the one Annie found for our girls bathroom Shower Curtain.  Not quite what I had in mind but it works.  And at $5.25 a yard, I'm very happy!

Rows of glorious fabric!
We got it home and were all excited...until...

We found this old tile under the floor boards in the bathroom.  
IT is almost a PERFECT match!  Du-do-du-do-du-do-du-do!  Love finding old stuff in the walls, just wish it was money!
Weird? right, because this is the 3rd time this has happened: Once in the living room with navy blue walls, once in my room with pale blue walls, and now with the tile! It just makes me realize the house is speaking to me, or at least Annie cause she's the one who picked it out!
These are the wall sconces.  Much bigger in person than the website picture, but we are going to make it work.  Plus a few items from Amazon.com, really great deals on toilets, mirrors, and hooks, etc., to make it all work.  
Now you may be thinking that this is all a bit too feminine.  The round bath, the curvy sink, the little pale blue polka dots but that's the deal.  But this is the ultimate in women's liberation, you know.  This bath will be shared not by my husband and I, no, but my daughter and I.  Yes, we have a Women's bath, and a Men's bath.  The way God intended.  Women's liberation has come a long way, even in France, where they no longer use Mademoiselle!  But not so far as to make this momma want to clean up after the men.  They can manage that just fine on their own, thank you very much.  Or is it the opposite?  That true women's libbers really want to have their own space?  I don't know - all I know is we are all just fine with this arrangement.  No one wants to see the other's "Junk".  I tease my male hairdresser that it's not really fair to his girlfriend that he knows all our secrets.  And there should be a few secrets - our Secret Garden.  That's what we'll call it - our Secret Garden Bath.
So we'll be putting it all together, with the new tub.  However, I've been overruled and we are getting The Tub reglazed.  All my hard work, all those days in the heat, all that time scrubbing all the nasties out, and we have decided that to get it glazed is the best option... so stay tuned.  There's more fun to come!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back Roads

So just a little recap of our summer... Yes, there are EXACTLY four weeks left.  Four Tuesday mornings from now the kids will be back in school.  At least JJ and I will be.. the other kids get until Thursday.  LUU-cky!  I am going back soon too... well, more about that later.
So what to do?  Plan your next four weeks - every single day.  What will you do?  It's entirely up to you.  I started my calendar last week and I still have some blanks to fill in but I'm going to accomplish as much as I can.  We have two days scheduled for Out and About Stuff, cleaning closets, shopping for floor tiles, etc., and two days of Away Stuff, going to the beach, going to Grounds for Sculpture, visiting Daddy at work for lunch, and one Home Day, wear pajamas all day and just do nothing, sweet-summery nothing.  Hopefully those coincide with the Rainy Days!
If you don't know where to begin, look up your State Parks.  There are lots of things to do out there.  Even looking a good old fashioned map and finding a little watering hole would be great.  Pack a chair, a fishing rod, and a sandwich and you're good to go.   Go to your library on the way - Librarians always know where to direct you and they can give you a good read for when the fish aren't biting.
Here's another great site National Recreation Trails.  We found one so close to home we can ride bikes there.  You never know what's right around the bend.
Here are the picks I took:
Isn't this amazing?  Apparently it was an ice house back in the day.

The main house, newly renovated.  The funny thing is, I used to ride my bike here when I was in high school  and it was all overgrown and hidden and I felt I'd found a secret garden house.  So cool.

When I peeked in this crack in the door I half expected to find someone looking at me!


Great old kitchen in Cook's Blue - the color they believed kept flies away!

Picture a part out here in 1890...

Marble slab step.

Through the window.

Easy to find and enjoy!

On our summer travels this year we've been taking a lot of back roads, either to avoid traffic or find a little off beat path.  Usually to avoid traffic.  But we've been surprised when we are back there on the back roads, little old farm houses, a park with paths and lakes and streams, all kinds of stuff.   When we see that Detour sign, and we're forced to make alternate routes, we feel that sense of dread like we may never get home, that our destination is just too far away.  But then we see little reminders that there is no rush.  That the journey is a good one and we'll get where we're going, even if it's a little longer, a little slower.
In our busy lives we feel the same way when the job doesn't come through, when the kids get sick, when we get sick.  When someone has hurt us or something has struck us, a fire, a catastrophe, an accident.  Yet sometimes these are just reminders to look at the Back Roads, follow the detours and we'll find our way to our destination, our dream job, our dream house, our dream, even if it's not the path we imagined - it may look more like a trail that goes no where.  But slow down a little, the signs say.  Look up and around.   Sometimes we have to go back to go forward.  Just around the bend. Pearl Jam has a great song "Around the Bend."  There's a Sun Around the Bend.  And it might be closer than you think.

Monday, August 5, 2013


This is the first summer in a long time that I've had a real garden.  I still remember our first 'home' where I had a small flower garden outside our back door.  It was next to the driveway, a little raised bed made with stone that matched the house we were renting in Ridgewood.  I planted Zinnias and Tomatoes.  Almost 18 years ago.

Anyway, this summer I was not expecting much.  I mean my expectations were really low.  I just figured I'd stick some stuff in the ground and keep visiting farmer's markets and kind of faking it.  But now I'm so happy to announce the birth of our first... Watermelon!  It's real too!  A Sugar Baby Watermelon.  8 pounds, 6 ounces.  I think.  Not ready to eat yet, but it will be soon!

Honestly I feel like a new mom.  Well not quite but this was a complete surprise.  I planted the garden in a little patch on the side of our house where I know there is a lot of sun.  It's also cheating a little because the sprinkler system hits here every morning around 5am.  So I was able to ignore this garden when we were on vacation or busy or whatever.  It just kind of did it's own thing.  Which is why when I looked outside the border created, under the gutter that served as a border, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this:

Goof balls!

And there'll be tomatoes!

And more watermelon!

And is anything more beautiful in the world than a perfect Morning Glory!

More babies!
Until everything ripens, I'm visiting the farmer's market.  Here's the loot from Saturday:
Yes, I guess there are farms that grow Donuts!  There must be something healthy about them because they are Apple Cider donuts - serving of fruit?  Now that's a market I can invest in.

Ready to slice...
It's not too late to plant.  August is perfect for planting lettuce seeds, herbs and lots of good stuff you can harvest well into October.  It's nice to have your fingernails caked in mud but then to eat your very own fruits of your labor!  No matter what else in life seems out of control or beyond our control, plant something and  yield great returns.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coming along, coming along

First of all, it's August 1st.  AHHHG-ust 1st.  That's the way my aunt from Maine used to say it.  Really, AHHG-ust.   And it's true.  We all kind of go, AHHH!  because...(dont' say it! we ban the s-word in summer)  but really we shouldn't do that.  No.  There are exactly 4.5 weeks of SUMMER left and more... c'mon people... it's ok... take a deep breath.
A friend of mine used to say "Every day in June is like a Friday, every day in July is like Saturday, and every day in August is like a Sunday..."  Alas, it is true, but it's not September yet, so brace yourself for the last 4 Awesome weeks of August.  Pretend someone just walked in your office and said "I'm granting you four weeks of vacation!"  What would you do?  Well, for one thing you can get started on that Summer Bucket List.  Really, let's go people... time's a wasting...

The one thing I absolutely Have to do before this week ends is get my Tub Clean. It's not a Bucket List, it's a TUB List.  It's been a Process.  I looked up what to do to get those old rubbery adhesive decals out and found "Goof Off."  Now the name sounds innocuous, so I asked my husband to pick some up at the hardware store, but it is not Innocuous.  It's actually pretty bad stuff.  So I became determined not to use it, even though I didn't take it back to the hardware store yet.
First I realized it had Acetone in it, which is also in nail polish remover, so I grabbed the acetone-free kind and got to work.

Then, as I was rubbing away with the rubber gloves that my ever-so-thoughtful-husband got me even though I didn't ask him, the rubber latex whatever worked like an eraser to take off the adhesive once the acetone had gotten into it.  Then I had the ingenious idea to use an actual eraser to scrub it off.

That worked too.  However, the next day I started to clean all the gobbledy-goock out and the hot, boiling water I used did make the adhesive less sticky.  So I started scraping with an ever-green wooden popsicle stick from my kids art supplies! Yes, chemicals be damned!  This actually worked the best and brought the most self-satisfied grin across my face as my elbow grease and determination got all that yucky goo off there!  It took a lot of work.  So we have about 9 decals off and 5 to go.

 It's coming along, coming along...

And maybe, just maybe someday I'll have this! (I think maybe I need to tack this over the tub as I work.)
Just like Summer...it's just coming along - not over yet! and we'll keep working at it till we have that perfect summer day when we get to do everything we want... sleep late, drink coffee outside with a blue sky all around, lounge on a beach chair or deck chair or chaise lounger with our feet up and a book too, wear our bathing suit til it hurts, get a hot tan without trying, (you know that not-so-good tan that feels so good when you get between the crisp white sheets of your bed that lets you know you had a little too much sun today...) eat something fresh from a garden, water ourselves or our children or our plants, eat a perfect salad for lunch, drink a really refreshing ice water that hits the spot like only it can in summer, drink some wine before dinner, and have fish tacos for supper...walk around the block and check out everyone else's gardens, weedy as they may be, because it's summer:  lazy, hazy days of summer!  Even if you didn't get to yet, you have plenty of time...  34 days to go by my count.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Fare

We have done a lot this week.  Cutting grass, painting a room, clearing out the basement, (well, not clearing out, but at least clearing off the floor)  Today we treated ourselves to brunch with all the change we've been finding doing all this work.  Grand total: $36.10.  Anyway we went out to eat at the Pop Shop in Collingswood and it was SO. GOOD.  Smore French Toast, Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Oreo Pancakes, and I had the Veggie Rollo Omelet.   I asked for the salsa on the side and I'm so glad I did.  Not because it wasn't good, no, but because this way I could savor the lime-y-good-ness-soaked-tomatoes and peppers and whatever else made it so.good.  It got me thinking of the myriad ways we can make a salsa.  Too many to count.  Which leads me to the topic of this blog.
Summer afternoons are hot, sticky, slimy, tiresome.  We wish we lived in Europe so we could take a siesta, a long cool nap under the shade of a tree, maybe with a little sangria to induce a summer dream coma.  But we don't.  We're either working or taking care of kids or running around like hot chickens.  We don't want to think about cooking.  Anything.  So I think I have the perfect antidote.  Summer fare: Salsa and tea.
First the tea.  Tea can be made of anything really.  Tea is just soaking something in water to extract its essential-est goodness.  
Tea:any of various infusions prepared from the leaves, flowers, etc., of other plants, and used as beverages or medicines.  
Bags are easy.  Pick them up at the grocer and top with hot water.  Let it steep and you can pour over ice.  You can also fill a big jug with tea bags and water and let it sit in the sun.  Every summer my mother would buy a new SunTea jug at the grocery store - think 1970s avocado lime funky lettering on the side and you've got the picture.  It was like her summer project and she was very proud of it.  I'm trying to be a bit more homemade.  You can use tea leaves, but you can also use mint leaves or lemon balm leaves or pineapple mint or any leaves that sound good to you.    We have something growing in the backyard that I think is chamomile and I'm going to try them in my tea.  Then there are dandelion leaves?  I don't know.  I have to look that one up.  And then there's fruit.  You can use strawberries, blueberries, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches, etc.  Vanilla?  Orange flower extract?  Almond?  Maple syrup?  Honey? Cinnamon?  They are all healthy and SO. GOOD.  There are also recipes out there for Bubble Tea, made with Tapioca and Milk.  It's a Taiwanese drink that sounds pretty good. And you can blend a little of everything to see what marvelous infusions you can conjure up.  

So the blending gets us back to the Salsa.  Just like the tea, salsa can be made from anything.  It's just a sauce that contains chopped up ingredients.  I don't know if I love salsa or the lime and salt that are essential to every good salsa.  Regardless, I've been playing around with all kinds and I'll keep playing.  Here's the playlist so far:
Corn-Black Bean-Tomato-Lime-Salt
Avocado-Black Bean-Tomato-Lime-Salt
Clams-Tomato-Red Pepper
Garbanzo-Avocado-Red Pepper
Mango-Black Bean-Roasted Red Pepper-Lime-Salt

I'm trying to stay away from tomato for now, because in a few weeks we are going to have more tomatoes from the garden than I know what to do with!   But they are quite acidic and today at the Home Depot, the salesperson started talking about how all our diets are so acidic it's influenced the types of countertops that are available?  Really?  I was so stuck on what he was saying, I didn't pay attention to what he said about the new kinds of countertops!  Maybe that Quartz is better than Granite now, because the finish isn't damaged by the acid?!  Anyway...

I want to try fruit salsas too.  Mint and maybe peaches and strawberries? with lime and sugar instead of salt?
Here is a link to another favorite blogger site called Top With Cinnamon.  This girl is amazing, I think she's 16 and from England and her photographs of food are as good as her food.  She has a recipe for Apricot Salsa, that also has tomato in it, and she mentions having had Pineapple Salsa too.  Hmmm.  I could try that.

Anyway, all those leftovers in the back of the fridge are getting put to use tonight.  Just blend a couple together, squirt with a lime and salt and you've got a salsa.  Usually the salsa gets put on some type of cracker or chip.  Tortilla, pita, crostini, a toasted baguette.  But really it can go on pasta or rice too.  Toss it with couscous or quinoa.  It can also be a spread to kick up a grilled cheese sandwich, a salad, or a quesadilla, as in Izy's recipe.  If you find you've made too much, blend it up in a blender and whola! it's Gazpacho!  Tomorrow night's dinner too! Do the Salsa! And then cooking won't seem so laborious and looming.

Recipe for Mango Black Bean Salsa

1 whole mango, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed
1 red pepper, roasted and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (use scissors to cut up about 1 tbsp.)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
juice of 1 lime

Toss ingredients gently together and serve with fresh out of the oven tortilla chips.  (Even the bag chips can be heated up for extra deliciousness!)

Simple Tea

6 bags Green tea
2 tsp. honey
8 mint leaves
Cover with hot, almost boiling, water.  Pour over 4 glasses of ice.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Consolation Prizes

I have been praying for a really, really long time for something and it seems like it will never come!  I know that It wasn't meant to be and all that stuff, and that there's Something better down the road, and that where God closes a window, he opens a door, but sometimes I'm just like, Dude, where's the door?  I'm human. Shut the Front Door!
But God does have a sense of humor.  I think last year I blogged about running shortly after my brother's funeral and crying and not knowing where to go, to stop by a friends or keep running home and then I looked down the street and saw this great Chair!  I'm like Cool chair, and I stopped crying and got myself together.  God was like, Get it together, I have great things in store for you, starting with this great Chair!  I ran home, got in my car and as I turned the corner, someone Else was lifting the Chair into the back of his car.  I'm like, Dude, that's my chair!  But the chair had served its purpose for me and I easily let it go, laughing to myself.
God sends me Consolation Prizes like this all the time.  Yesterday while running I was thinking of a lattice I want to make for the garden out of sticks.  I saw this idea up in Massachusetts in a garden and my garden needs one, so it has been on my mind.  So I'm running and I'm thinking about sticks and then I look up and there are a pile of Sticks!  And they are exactly the right diameter and length for my lattice thing.  God's like, Look how quickly I answered that prayer!  And I'm like, Wow, Thanks, God!  (The sticks were still there when I went back to get them.  Go figure.)
So this week I got two other consolation prizes.  I can almost hear the voice of Robin Williams in my head, saying, "AND FOR YOUR CONSOLATION PRIZE.. WE HAVE..." like I'm on Let's Make a Deal and Monty Hall is up there with a microphone...
Anyway, my consolation prizes usually have to do with decor.  So here's what I found:
A practically new overstuffed white chair IN THE TRASH!  Only it get's better!

There were two!  The slipcovers slipped off and we washed them and they came up really nice.  There is a big paw print right smack dab in the middle of one cushion, but I like it.  I feel like I know the dog everytime I sit down.  Practically new.  Good prize, right?
Then we started planning our bathroom renovation and there was no way we could get a new clawfoot tub but I REALLY wanted one.  So for the first time ever I got on Craigslist and did some research.  I found a few but nothing looked promising.  I went on ReStore's website and they had one listed for a few days but it seemed like a lot of trouble. When I went back to Craigslist, there was a tub but no pictures but it was right in my hometown, less than a mile from my house.  Without going into the whole long story, this was delivered to our house last night:

I love it!  Needs a little work, has a lot of Character, but I'm sure it will clean up nice.  Cool clawfeet, right?
The chairs cleaned up too.  I added these cushions so the kids can sit here in wet swimsuits.  Plus we needed a little color.

I added the accessories... I'd been saving these little San Pelegrino bottles (Can you decorate a whole room around a label on an old glass water bottle?) and why is it that in summer we always need napkins?
The bench underneath needs work too.  I'm going to try something I saw on pinterest, where you take off the rushing and use fabric or webbing to make the seat.  I'll let you know about the progress.
So, I've taken my mind off of my other as-yet-seemingly-un-answered prayers and I'm focusing on the good stuff. Monty Hall had some good consolation prizes behind all those doors.  I'm just praying God shows me the way to the right door that will answer my Real Prayer.
In all seriousness, I know that God doesn't send us sticks to answer our prayers and I am praying very seriously for a lot of special people right now that God answers their prayers and for their health and happiness.  My need is trivial in comparison to theirs.  There is some heavy-duty praying going on all around, I'm certain.  My Real Prayer today that everyone finds some Consolation, whether it's a prize or just some peace.   I hope you find some too.