The Walking Game: Leveling Up

Mica is now nine months old, and she has celebrated this milestone by starting in on that time-honored variant of the Walking Game: Walking Between Two People. (Pictures by Nathan — thanks, sweetie!)




Oh my goodness, but she loves this game. She loves it when she sturdily walks four feet, she loves it when she topples over into our hands, she loves it when she veers off course and has to be pulled back from running off to find her fortune. Every time she takes a few steps on her own she looks up at us with a huge smile on her face — a smile that promises that soon, very soon, she will be fully mobile and independent, and no one will be able to hold her back. (Cue ominous but somehow still cute music here.)


Suminagashi is still good fun, but I’ve been feeling a lack in my life. This lack can best be summed up with the phrase “marbling on fabric.” I have nothing against paper — dead useful stuff, that — but can you sew with it? Not very easily.

As it happened, I actually had a marbling kit on my shelf, one of those things picked up a long time ago and never used. It looked slightly more complicated than suminagashi, with things like mordant and size, and I just hadn’t made it happen.

Now I have, and it turns out to be still pretty easy. What’s better, both Ryan (not unexpected) and Nathan (hallelujah!) gave it a whirl as well. Nathan’s creation is on the top left, and Ryan’s on the bottom left.


This is, as with all good crafts, only the tip of the iceberg. I have two books from the library now to tempt me into doing more.

Posted in Making. 1 Comment »

It’s That Time Again…

Time to add a load of compost to the garden beds! I love this job — it’s good strong work, the beds look great afterwards, and all that rich black dirt makes my fingers itch to plant things. It’s only mildly more challenging with a baby, depending on how worried one is about the baby tasting some dirt. (Answer: not very.)


The boys like me doing this job too, because they get to “help” as much as they want. Sometimes they do in fact help a bit, although I have to say that my shovel is vastly more effective than their trowels. But more importantly they get to play in dirt. From the way they get into it, one would think there were no other piles of dirt on the property for them to play in. (Not true.)



Nathan came in from a hard hour of dirt play with his hands absolutely black, gave them a quick rinse in the sink (just enough to make them muddy, as Dave pointed out) and then tried to pick up Mica. Who’d just had a bath to scrub her own blackness off. She looks grumpy in the picture, but that isn’t because she’s the first baby in the history of the world to be mad about getting dirty — it’s just that she was tired and we made her stand still for a photo shoot.


And now I’ve finally planted some carrots and greens, a few pea seeds (in hopes of a trellis to come soon, but that’s another story), and mulched the strawberry beds. Spring is really one of my favorite seasons.


When I was a kid Easter was mainly about coloring eggs, and then searching for said eggs. And candy, yes — the prospect of a basket full of candy awaiting one in the morning was not something to ignore. But still, the eggs were a major feature.



This year I boiled a dozen eggs and prepped for the dye event. But I was astonished when I mentioned coloring eggs to one of the neighbor kids, and she had no idea what I was talking about. “We buy our eggs from the store,” she told me dubiously. “They’re already colored.” I think I eventually managed to get across that I was talking about real eggs, not plastic ones, but she still looked uncertain. “Do they have candy in them?” she asked.

That is what it’s all about nowadays — plastic eggs with candy in them. To be fair, I’d already planned to do a hunt with treat-filled plastic eggs, but this was in response to an experience we had last year. The same neighbor kids asked if we were going to a big egg hunt put on by one of the local stores, so I decided to take the boys. The kids were divided into age groups and set loose at a signal, in roped-off areas of grass strewn with plastic eggs. (No actual hunting, here; the eggs were just lying around.) It was a little off-putting to me — the big crowd of people, the playing up of prize tickets inside some of the eggs, etc. But what really drove the nail in the coffin for me was the behavior of the parents. I figured that in any group of kids, some of them would be quicker and greedier, and it would be the parents’ job to keep them behaving well, maybe tell them to let some of the smaller kids get a few eggs as well. No such thing: half the adults went in there with their kids, urging them on, some of them even grabbing eggs to throw into their kid’s bag.

The end result is that I decided not to go back, and told the kids we’d do our own plastic egg hunt. With rules, darn it, like that everyone gets a certain number of eggs and then stops so the little guys can have some too. I can’t decide if that’s an over-reaction or not, but it seemed to work.

It worked so well, in fact, and the process of cracking open eggs to get candy was apparently so enjoyable, that we did it three times. That was enough for me.

Posted in Kids. 3 Comments »

Just A Picture


Pretend Birthday Cake – and Frosting

I don’t seem to post much about food lately. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying new recipes — of course I am, and some, such as the Oven Roasted Broccoli, are even very good, eaten up by my family with far more interest than broccoli usually is in this house. The Cheese Stuffed Breadsticks were also surprisingly good for not too much work, although they needed a brushing of salty garlic butter in the middle, I thought. But usually, even if I like the recipe, I just add a link to my sidebar and move on with my life.

But today was different. Today I had a frosting revelation.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward cake. And over the years I’ve gradually begun to define more specifically my issues with it, helped largely by the fact that my brother makes truly awesome cakes. I think the trouble was that I’d eaten too many store-bought cakes in my life, and come to the conclusion that those somehow defined cake. Point number one: cakes should be moist, fluffy things (we’re talking about standard cakes here, not flourless ones, which I consider an entirely separate category) with good enough flavor that they’re worth eating without frosting. Pete makes those; and now, occasionally, I have made them too. I made one just today from a recipe online that I thought was actually quite worthwhile, considering that it wasn’t chocolate, although next time I might add some orange zest.

But point number two has been the sticky one: frosting. There is simply, in my clearly not humble opinion, not much one can do with buttercream. It is what it is, and what it is to me (I’m sure there are those who disagree, and I forgive you) is greasy in the mouth and almost always too sweet. Other frostings have done better for me, but they usually aren’t quite what I’m looking for — since we can’t use cream, whipped cream versions are out, as is cream cheese, and the various cooked icings I’ve tried are ok but not stunning. The closest thing I’ve found to true frosting love has been some kind of ganache (made with coconut milk), and they’re usually not sweet enough for the kids and a bit heavy to boot.

So today, when Ryan asked for a cake for a pretend birthday party, and specified that he wanted a “normal” cake (the last chocolate one I made was not very sweet and I think he remembers), I knew I needed something different. Not knowing where to start, I just googled “not buttercream frosting.” And this is what I got.

It’s good. Yes, there’s butter and sugar, but there’s also a roux made from flour and milk. Does it sound dubious? It did to me too, but I took a chance and am oh so glad. Tonight, by only making a third of the cake recipe and a quarter of the frosting, I came up with a dessert that our family and two neighbor kids could finish in a night, and I actually really enjoyed my piece. (I would have enjoyed it even more had I not allowed all four kids to decorate the cake first with sprinkles. What, did I think they would gently shake them on? Why shake when you can pour?)

I think I am slowly, very slowly, being converted to liking cake.

New Things – Piano


I’ve had two offers of pianos from family members, but turned them both down, largely due to space constraints. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted a piano in the house; given a dedicated music room, I’d be happy to throw in a marimba, too. It’s just that it seemed like such a big piece of furniture, and our living room is largely taken up by the rope swing.

But with Nathan trying out a piano lesson, it seemed like we’d have to bite the bullet and get something. I was picturing a keyboard — not too big, maybe with a folding stand so it could be put away. Even more importantly, it would a headphone jack and a volume control. My violin and I (Ryan lasted a month on the violin and then decided it wasn’t for him) have been banished to the sewing room by the entire family.

Nathan’s teacher, however, was dubious. Keyboards didn’t have the same feel as pianos; they didn’t even always have the same number of keys. Dave started to look into the matter. In the midst of researching it, he discovered that a friend of his had a digital piano he wanted to get rid of: full-size, good quality, with weighted keys and a built-in metronome and pedals and that all-important volume control. And it was right here in town to boot. We couldn’t pass it up.

It’s smaller than a real piano, but not by much. It isn’t quite what I was picturing, but we squeezed it in and have been having fun playing with it.


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