Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weekend Things

I was hoping to go to the beach again this past weekend, but an overnight houseguest necessitated houseguest-level cleaning and kept us close to home on Saturday. I started the day with a morning walk with Z.

I am ridiculously excited about this--peaches! On our very own tree! About 30 of them, for the first time ever, all starting to ripen. We each ate one of the first harvest Friday. Heaven!

I haven't seen any monarch caterpillars yet this season, and I'm getting worried about them.

Z and I did find these other caterpillars on some milkweed plants. Z thinks they're swallowtails. I took the caterpillar book back to the library, so I can't check. We were going to bring some of the leaves inside, but we forgot to come back later with a jar.

With the weekend's wonderful sun and a bounty of cherry tomatoes coming out of the garden, I solar-cooked and froze our first (and second) batch of pasta sauce (more on solar-cooking tomatoes here).

And I made this recipe for blackberry-blue-corn tamales, which I've been waiting to make, since I discovered it just after blackberry season last year. I was a little bit disappointed in the results ("Why did you make this with playdough?" E asked). It was definitely not an "worth waiting a year for" good, nor a "get all skun up picking blackberries" good. But on Sunday, I ate one cold with plain sour cream, and I liked it so much better. I think sitting in the fridge overnight improved the texture, and the flavors of the blackberries came through better cold, without the strongly flavored cream.

Sunday morning, I made this dress. C and I have a couple of weddings to go to this fall, and I thought I'd try to get it done in time for those, even though it's not very fallish. I was going to make it for Ireland, but that never happened. It turns out that maybe it's not quite the dress for me. If I were to make it again, I would use a dark (ahem, slimming) color, skip the pockets, which were a huge pain and also add width to the hip area, where I don't need any extra help, and make it about three or five inches longer. I do love those blue poppies, though.

The rest of the day, we spent a friend's island in the middle of a lake.

We get invited there once every summer, and the boys love the boating, swinging, fishing, and swimming.

M got to try his hand piloting a sunfish on his own.

And Z was in heaven trawling for fish. At the end of the day, he paddled back to the landing in a kayak, which he had tried last summer, only to spin in circles and necessitate towing by a canoe, but this year he made it the whole way, keeping in a straight line, and keeping up with C and me in our canoe.

Monday, August 26, 2013


So, yeah, it happened last week.

I turned 40.

It's one of those things you know will happen to you some day, but you don't really believe it until it does, kind of like having kids, getting wrinkles, or owning a minivan.* 

With all the hecticness that is life--working, rushing kids off to camp, doing homework, trying to maintain some semblance of household order (you know about life's hecticness, yes?)--I haven't taken much time to reflect on being 40. But it did occur to me, sometime on the actual day, that I'm going to die. 

Of course, I've always known that, haven't I? It just suddenly became real for the first time. Not that I'm dwelling on my mortality--hopefully I'm not even halfway there, yet--but it's just kind of out there now.

I always like to go to the beach on my birthday, but with my vacation time squeezed to the breaking point, I couldn't take the day off. So we did what I've been wanting to do for a long time.

We picked E and Z up from day camp (M was still at sleep-away camp), grabbed some sandwiches at the deli, and headed to the beach for a dinner picnic.

It was a beautiful, warm night, with a nice offshore breeze that made it pleasant for swimming and beach-combing and lying about doing not much at all.

So, it wasn't the MG Midget I asked for, but it was a pretty nice birthday.

*I don't actually own a minivan--yet.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Sunday, on our way home from camping, we stopped to pick up Thai food, and from the parking lot of the restaurant, spied this pair of sun dogs flanking the sun.

Later that evening, as we sat down on the deck to eat, we could still see one sun dog (the other one blocked by the house), and part of a halo around the sun (and, possibly, as second halo around that one).

And above that, an upside-down rainbow.

From The Cloud Collector's Handbook, we learned that the rainbow smile is actually a circumzenithal arc. All three phenomena occur when sunlight is refracted through ice crystals of high, thin clouds. My meteorologist friend says he's only every seen one circumzenital arc, so we're pretty lucky to have been smiled down upon by this rainbow.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Poem a Day

I like poetry, really I do. I just sometimes have a hard time sitting down and reading it. After a few lines, my mind wanders. After a few poems, everything wanders. But, really, I want to be a better person, a more refined person, a more poetic person. I want to read and appreciate and understand poetry, and infuse my own work with some of what makes poetry great.

So I got the idea to read a poem out loud at dinnertime each night. Poetry is meant to be read out loud anyway, isn't it? It sounds so much better that way. In Ireland, our director began each morning meeting reading us a poem by an Irish writer, and it was so pleasant and calming and centering, that I decided to bring a bit of that home to our family.

I've had The Poet's Guide to the Birds for about three or four years now, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I had read three or four poems out of it. It is now our dinner poem book. After our thank-you at the beginning of the meal ("Let's thank the farmer, the gardener, the cook, Mother Earth and Father Sun), and the oh-so-brief moment of silence that follows, I read a poem. After the first couple of days, when M complained, "That didn't rhyme,"the boys have really gotten into it, competing over who gets to choose which bird to read that night (all of the poems are indexed by bird). 

It's been really nice to read and listen to the poems, and it slows me down a bit (I tend to gobble my food--which I've done ever since M was a baby and I had about five seconds in which to eat a meal--and then sit drumming my fingers for the next hour-plus it takes those boys to eat the most basic of meals). I hope we'll keep it going for some time, even after we read through all the birds.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Camping Weekend

We had to take M to camp in Western Maine on Sunday, so we decided to make a trip of it and went camping near Grafton Notch State Park. C and I had been there together once before, on our first wedding anniversary thirteen years ago.

Since our last trip there, a sweet little campground has sprung up right outside the park--one that does not come equipped with swimming pools and tennis courts and mini golf like most of the other campgrounds in the area--and we were able to get a last-minute camp site, with our very own river-front property.

 (I'm going to pretend the soft focus in those two pictures is intentional, but I think it's just a really dirty lens).

We headed up Friday night, after work and grocery shopping and packing the car and eating take-out burritos, and arrived in time to set up the tent in the dark.

But it was warm and not raining and not at all buggy, so, despite a few splintering poles (on the list for next summer: new tent), we were set up and snuggled in our sleeping bags in no time.

The park is famous for its deep, narrow gorges carved by boulder-logged streams flowing beneath the glaciers.

And it offered plenty of opportunity for dare-devil boys to shimmy up and down.

At one point, I asked C to show a little restraint after he went past a guard rail to the edge of a cliff. "Mama doesn't want Papa to explore," he grumped.

We climbed to Table Rock, up the steep side. My blood was pounding on the climb up, but with a 90-year-old man ahead of us, and a family with five tiny kids behind us, I had no choice but to soldier on.

Z, of course, had to get as close to the edge as possible.

The view was pretty spectacular.

Well worth the climb.


On the (much easier) hike down, I had to stop and photograph these shamrocks, now that Ireland is in my blood. (Of course, I only saw one tiny shamrock plant, about one-tenth this size in all of Ireland).

See that chunk of rock up there, right below the patch of blue sky? That's where we were.

Later, we did some exploring downstream of Screw Auger Falls.

We came to a place where you had to cross above a waterfall, and I chose to sit down and watch everyone else enjoy themselves.

After several attempts at getting E to stop leaping across the falls, I gave up and took pictures instead.

Z, who is much more sensible cautious, like his mother, crossed upstream (let the record show that Z is only more cautious when it comes to water crossings and very little else).

We also went to the granite slides at Step Falls, but I didn't think sliding down streams into pools of water would be too good for the camera, so I left it behind.

As an early birthday celebration, I whipped up this Mexican Chocolate Cake the night before we left.

 As nice as it would be to have a husband who baked cakes, I guess I'll settle for the blackberries he picked on top.

Sunday we dropped M at his camp (where he took off to join the fray with nary a backward glance at his parents), and headed home to decampress and return reluctantly to regular life.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Trying Something New

Last December, when my sister visited me, she crocheted a bunch of beach stones for me. My original plan had been for us to crochet them together, but it turns out that a couple of weeks before Christmas is not the ideal time for me to take up a new hobby.

I picked up a few stones off of the beach on Great Blasket Island and decided that now, finally, I would learn to crochet and cover them with lace. I did once crochet a hat for C, but I never really understood what was happening. Knitting I get––stitch by stitch, row by row––but crochet can do all kinds of crazy circular things that make my head spin. This past weekend, though, I finally got out my (tiny, tiny) crochet hook, a brand new skein of lace-weight yarn, and a photocopied sheet of crochet stitches. After many, many false starts, I finally put together something that sort of resembled the pattern, and I began to understand what was happening––or should be happening––beneath my fingers. I hope to get it figured out soon––I think these would make great gifts (who wouldn't want a lace-covered rock?). I just need a little more time, patience, and some decent task lighting (and maybe one of those giant magnifying glasses old people use for reading).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Beach Day

In exchange for not going to the beach last weekend, the boys had to agree to go to the beach this past weekend, without complaint. (Seriously, who complains about going to the beach? I am not related to these children.)

Before we left, though, we invented a new game: water-balloon baseball.

We had a gloriously sunny day, but with a strong on-shore breeze it was a little chilly.

It's a strange feeling to be shivering in a sweatshirt while your feet are scorching on hot sand.

I also heard that recent northwest winds had pushed any warm water we might have had out to sea.

We forged ahead valiantly despite the cold air and water, swimming, playing, reading, writing, drawing, walking, building shelters, and watching terns. All in all, a brilliant beach day.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

After the Rain

Last Friday, it rained.

It rained and it rained and it rained.

Water poured out the sky as if we had all been transported to the base of some great waterfall.

It rained like it might never stop raining.

But by nighttime it did stop.

And in the morning, the world shimmied off the last glistening drops, 

Like a great animal emerging from a pool.

And as the sun seared the fog from the land, 

the day promised to be that day.

That one perfect day you wait for through all the gray and dark and cold days starting in November.

That day you start to think is just a myth, when you realize that summer is really just a lot of rain and biting insects.

But the sun shone from a sky of perfect, cloudless blue.

And a breeze blew, lifting away any lingering dampness, and driving away the bugs.

And the day really was that day. And it was worth the wait.

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