Today’s Best Toys – Shiny Things And Glue

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New Starts

I love gardening in such a mild climate. I love that at the end of autumn, when most of my outdoor work involves pruning and yanking out old plants to throw in the compost pile, there are still a few things to bring that “seedling happiness” to my little dirt-under-the-fingernails heart.

There’s the garlic, for starters — one and three quarters beds full of both hardneck…

…and softneck…

…because, as everyone knows, there is simply no such thing as too much garlic. (Actually I’ve been wondering if I shouldn’t have planted more.)

Then there are the brussel sprouts. This year the only sprouts I’ve gotten came from the one plant I overwintered, and so all of my plants will be overwintered for next year. Ryan helped me plant these (or “tuck them in” as he likes to term it), and other than having very specific opinions about where to put them, which were inevitably different from my own, he made an excellent helper. He likes to point that out, too. “I’m a helper!” he says, jabbing the trowel into the dirt six feet away from where I’d carefully laid out my plants. “Yes, you are,” I tell him, handing him a recently unearthed weed to plant there.

Last but not at all least — the pea plants are coming up. Tiny little shoots of snap peas and shelling peas, they don’t look like much at the moment. But if previous years are any guide, they’ll grow slowly over the winter and then take off next spring in a mad, sprawling attempt to dominate the garden. This time I planted sixteen feet of shelling peas. That ought to keep Nathan happy.

And now to wait until spring…

A Little Thanksgiving

Long, slow weekends are never quite so long and slow now that we share them with small children. Nevertheless we did our best over Thanksgiving, and it was pretty darn nice.

For starters, we reintroduced the kids to football. Thanksgiving may be the one time a year that they see football (sorry, Dad), and so it’s important that they get their full annual dose. This year Ryan hung out and watched the game with his grandpa more than Nathan did. Sometimes he really seemed to get into it. And most importantly, we taught them both to say “Go, Irish!” on the night of the most critical game.

Nathan spent more time hanging out with Dave, working on his laptop. Dave has been looking into programming workbenches for young kids, and Nathan is a very good test subject.

Both of the boys have seemed rather fascinated by their uncle Peter when they’ve met him. I’m not sure why — maybe it’s because, even in a world filled with big people, he seems especially towering. Maybe it’s because he’s kind of quiet. Maybe they recognize a hidden depth to his personality, or maybe he just sits still on the couch enough to be an easy target. In any case, Ryan tried particularly hard to attach to him this time around. He spent a lot of time next to his uncle, sometimes engaged in long, meandering conversations (the kind that don’t actually require much response, conveniently), and sometimes helping him read his book.

We had a beautifully crisp, cold day to go see the salmon running, something that I can’t remember ever doing before. On the way there we tried to explain to the kids the significance of what we were about to see: the salmon being born in streams, making their way to the ocean, living there for years before finally coming all the way back up the streams in order to lay their own eggs. They listened quietly until I added, as an afterthought “And then they die.” “No,” Ryan told me immediately. “Mothers lay their eggs and then they can’t die.” (He’s pretty sensitive right now to the idea of babies being without their mothers.)

He may have revised his opinion once he saw the dead fish in the water; I’m not sure. They enjoyed seeing the fish swimming upstream, but I don’t think they were as impressed as the adults, all of whom probably had more sympathy for the effort. Nathan liked me reading the signs to him, Ryan liked digging in a patch of sand he found, and both of them liked running through the cold, wet forest.

My photography efforts were horribly biased toward my own children, and pretty slim on the other people that we got to enjoy. But I did get a couple shots of our first ever visit with Mazey. She is, I think I may be forgiven for saying, pretty exceptionally cute. Nathan loved her and wanted to hold her in his lap, which Mazey was way too active for. Ryan was fascinated by her too, but mainly expressed that by trying to push her around. This is pretty typical for him right now. He has a while to go yet before he understands how to woo women.

Beads

Dave and I have different strengths. I was reminded of this yet again this morning, while I was listening to him give Nathan an impromptu lesson on our household network layout. Together they examined the firewall and wireless router, and then traced the network cables all the way from Dave’s computer to the external fiber optic cable. It was pretty awesome.

Awesome in an entirely different way was my most recent contribution to the kids’ lives: beads.

I’ve only gotten these out once before. For each of them I tied an initial bead onto the end of a string, and then tied a big blunt needle onto the other end. I put out several kinds of beads in containers and let them at it. That was a fun activity. Nathan even strung enough beads to get a necklace, with the addition of a magnetic clasp. (I need to use stronger string, though; Ryan broke the necklace within a day.)

A Bow Bag

Completed: one very simple, cute little bag using the Wipster Bow Bag Tutorial. Done in some dressy fabrics from my stash, it’s big enough to hold not only my wallet and keys, but more importantly my knitting.

I know, I know… I’m not really a knitter. But Suzanne took me to her knitting group one evening this summer, and apparently some part of my brain believes that I am a knitter, because between now and then I’ve started three knitting projects. (And even completed one.) Why fight it?

Popcorn

I’ve planted a lot of random things in our garden during the four short years we’ve been living here. I’m not just talking about the twelve varieties of carrots (in four different colors!) either. I’m talking about things like quinoa, poppies (for the seed), and strawberry spinach.

Some experiments have worked out. The White Satin carrots are now among my favorite, and the strawberry spinach, although it didn’t exactly flourish, was very tasty. Others experiments have either failed to grow (like the poppies) or failed to make me want to grow them (like the pepperoncini).

But one of our best experiments has been the popcorn. Before we tried it, I never would have believed that the variety of popcorn you pop would make a difference. It does, though — there’s a nutty richness to the Early Pink popcorn that we grow which really set it apart from what we get at the store. It does take up a bit of room, and I learned the hard way this year that it shouldn’t be planted too close to our sweet corn. But I love harvesting it; it’s one of the last things from our summer garden, having dried on the stalks before I take it off. The kernels are hard, with a lovely rose blush. We store the ears for a while, testing them every once in a while to see if they’ve reached the right stage for popping. And then we have the pleasure of being able to pop our own home-grown popcorn.

Puddles

It was a good walk.