Sunday, June 28, 2009


Yesterday was the Great American Backyard Campout, and because we Engels does what we's told, this is where I woke up this morning:

It was the first night of my entire life spent out of doors. And friends, I won't lie. I've been more comfortable. The ground was harder than I ever imagined a lawn could be. I kept hearing imaginary and possibly not imaginary creatures stalking around. And Dash is a notorious bed (and now tent) hog. But still, it was big fun to hang out with him in the tent, flashlights bouncing around, stories read over and over. I assumed he'd awake to pee at 2am and that would be the end of that, but he finally dropped off to sleep at 11pm (I know, mother of the year) and didn't stir until I could stand it no longer and tried to sneak out at 6:30am--waking all the tent inhabitants in the process.

But I'm definitely going to do it again. Possibly with an air mattress next time.

And because I apparently will not rest until people start calling me Ma Ingalls, we breakfasted on homemade bread, baked the night before, and the saucy jam which was less runny than I worried and really pretty tasty.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ball Jars, II

Here's what I did with the extra Ball jars.

Boo Ya! Mini-terrariums!

I bought some Irish moss as a hopefully kill-proof solution for Aunty Jen's terrarium (RIP).

I love that there's a dinosaur and a gnome in there, coexisting peacefully. As far as I can tell. Who knows what happens when I'm not looking.

Anyway, I had a ton of moss left over so I decided to make some wee little versions that Josh & I could bring to work. Dash got one for his room, too.

Josh & Dash got dinosaurs in theirs because dinosaurs are manly. I understand that no number of dinosaurs (or even lasers and cowboys and power tools) would man up a little jam jar full of moss. But I try.

Mine has a little sheep.

Not exactly sure what I'm going to do with the goose.

I still have 3/4 of the flat of moss left. If I know you in real life you're probably going to be receiving a terrarium soon. Along with some strawberry sauce. It may be a confusing day for you.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Oh, nothing. Just made some jam. From berries I picked. And hulled. And mashed. And boiled. And skimmed. And then put into jars that I sterilized. And then boiled again. And then waited for the "pop." And then heard the "pop." And then decorated with puffy fabric strawberries.

If you are one of our seven nearest and dearest, a jar of jam is coming to you soon. It's a little runny, but it still tastes pretty great. Or at least that's what you'll tell me. Because making jam is a fucking production.

[edited to add: OK, I'm calling it strawberry sauce. Put it on your ice cream. Or pancakes. Or just eat it with a spoon. I'm done crying about it.]

Fifteen cups of strawberries waiting to be cleaned.

Halfway there.

The recipe says 13 c. strawberries and 6 c. of sugar. I did 15 c. of strawberries and 5 c. of sugar. Maybe that's why they didn't quite set up? Also, the recipe said I'd get ten jars, but I only got eight. I bought a pack of twelve Ball jars. You can bet I have some plans for the remaining four.

You can kinda see the boiling pan of jar lids, funnel and canning tongs in the background. The other two burners were boiling a giant roasting pan full of jars. I could have performed surgery in my kitchen with the level of sterility I was rocking.

Filled and awaiting their final boil.

Final boil.

Hello, cuties.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

We had such a lovely, chill Father's Day. Scrambled eggs and bacon, lots of prezzies, then a bbq with the family. Awesome. Happy Father's Day, Super Dad. We love you!

I made these Super Engels. Even as I was painting them I had absolutely no idea why. But I couldn't resist. I got the blank dolls from this awesome Etsy seller.

They have capes. Because they're Super Engels.

Josh also got a couple of t-shirts, a couple of books (one on tying knots, which is his new passion--I don't ask--and another of letters from children to Obama called, Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country), and, the piece de resistance, a Legos X-Wing.

Later we headed over to a family BBQ. I made cupcakes and, more importantly, cupcake picks. The Dada one, you see, is an advertisement for an exhibition on Dadaism. But I'm using it to mean "Dad." Because I'm funny. And clever.

Dash & I did a lot of playing tag and chasing bubbles. We tried hide & seek, but a carpenter bee found me in the rose bushes so that was the end of that.

I hope he knows how lucky he is to be able to call them Daddy & Grandpa.

Postscript: Dash may or may not have broken my nose this morning when he came barreling out from behind the curtains to scare us. The cracking sound was fairly terrifying, but I'm too chicken to go to the docor. I may go in the morning. If he did break my nose, I will for sure never let him live it down.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pickin' Berries

Earlier this year I made a list of stuff I absolutely couldn't live without doing this Summer. It's not even officially Summer yet (tomorrow is Solstice) and we're already kicking that list's ass.

Here's where it lives on our fridge, reminding us of all the fun on deck:

Today we checked off berry picking. We went to Underwood Farms again, this time with Davey, Lis Ana & their mommies in tow. We love it more with each visit.

Dash enjoyed the ponies better this year ...

...than last.

The hay pyramid just never gets old.

"I am the prince of the castle!"

His tractor skills are much, much better than his Legoland car skills (scroll down). Maybe we should look into 4-H.

It was a little chilly and I was just in a skirt and wife-beater, so Dash helpfully lent me his nana & insisted I carry him around. I was nicely warmed up soon after.

They just love a train ride, huh?

We were too hard at work in the fields to take any pictures of the actual picking of berries. Although I wish someone had thought to snap one of me trying to pick strawberries with Dash on my hip. Seriously. All 36 lbs. of him. While trying to bend over. That's a story I can't wait to tell to his prom date.

Anyway, here's the haul. I have big plans for homemade jam on fresh-baked bread. You'll be the first to know when that happens.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Star Wars School Pictures

More Advice from Mama

1. If you don't have the time or inclination to read a whole book (as a temporary condition--if you haven't got time to read a book as a matter of fact we'll need to have a different conversation), read the New Yorker.

2. Put an onion in the fridge for a day or two before you need to chop it. Keeps the tears to a minimum. I don't know why.

3. Buy fresh packs of boxers, undershirts and socks every six months. And for each new item in, one should go out.

4. There is no shame in brownies from a mix.

5. Drink good coffee. It's a lot more expensive, but it's nice to greet each day with a small luxury.

6. Say yes as much as possible. To things that seem hard. And maybe not that fun. And that could result in a big mess. Yes is almost always more fun than no.

7. Except for drugs. Then, Just Say No. (Is that still funny in the future?)

8. Don't start smoking. Because you'll just have to stop, and it's really hard, and you'll get fat.

9. When I was a teenager and suffering from a complete lack of self esteem, my dad wouldn't let me eat ice cream out of the carton. He insisted it be decanted into a bowl from the set of good china. He said I could eat from the carton once I realized that I was worth the fancy stuff. What he meant was this: eating ice cream out of the carton (or Chinese food out of the takeout containers, or pizza off a paper towel) is a fun indulgence. But only if we know we're making a choice, not if we think we aren't worth dirtying a dish for. So, use the good china. As much as possible. Unless you don't feel like it.

10. You're never too old to enjoy a fresh box of crayons and a pad of thick paper.

11. Throw lots of parties and invite people you don't know very well. It's only awkward for a few minutes.

12. Growing your own vegetables is really incredibly satisfying. More than you'd expect.

13. As is baking your own bread.

14. Lots of people love making their own pizza. I don't really think it's worth the effort.

15. Go to Europe, alone, when you are between the ages of 19 and 23. Go for as long as you can. We'll pay for the first three months.

16. Once a year, skip out on school or work and stay home alone and play music, loud, and learn something new. How to use that camera that's always set on "auto." How to make a perfect steak. How to twirl a drumstick. Doesn't matter what. It's the sense of achievement you're after.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Tomten

Dash & I have been reading The Tomten lately before bed. It's the story of a little red-hatted gnome who takes care of all of the residents on a farm at night. He speaks a silent language that only animals & children can understand. In the book, the Tomten visits the sleeping children in their room, just to check on them.

Well. That was exactly the perfect way to scare the shit out of Dash. We literally had to make a phone call to the Tomten to ask him not to pay any more visits to Dash's room while he's sleeping.

Dash is so funny about the things that scare him (and the list is long). Although he makes it very clear that he wants no part of Santa or the Tomten or the monsters in There's a Nightmare In My Closet, he becomes simultaneously obsessed. He does this delicate dance between repulsion and embrace. He can't stop reading about the things that scare him, and even insists on bringing the books to bed with him. But then we have to make late-night calls to assorted mythological creatures to explain to them that, although we know they are kind and generous and protective, Dash would rather they stay outside his room while he sleeps.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Pup Tent

We recently bought a copy of the absolutely stunning pop-up version of Peter Pan, illustrated by Robert Sabuda. I don't know how we established our little ritual of reading a few pages each evening, after dinner, outside on a blanket, but we did and it's just the perfect way to end a day.

So, never one to pass up an opportunity to gild the lily, I made us a little tent for reading. Or drawing. Or napping. Or lolling. So far it's a hit.

(The fabric is all from Joann's summer seersucker line. I got it on sale for $1.99/yard and I needed 9 yards.)