April 30, 2023

we interrupt

Cold toast. Half-drunk coffee. Halted and then forgotten tasks. I find that most of my day consists of interruptions. Trying to sit down to lunch only to clean up spilled milk, my taco salad getting cold and wilted. Before my next bite, Soren starts rubbing his eyes, babbling and yawning, so I change his diaper, take him up to bed.
Back at the table, I sit down and the cat decides he wants back inside and begins to scratch at the door. Another few bites, and he coughs up a hairball. I've lost my appetite.

This is not always a bad thing (it certainly keeps life interesting), though I find it hard to concentrate much anymore. I used to be really good at it (if one can be "good" at these things), focusing on breath meditation, washing dishes without thinking about anything but washing, finishing a craft project. I love this quote by Karen Maezen Miller, which is taped above my sink:
Your attention is what spiritualizes things. Attention to the meal you cook, the clothes you wash. Attention is love. And that's transformative.

I'd love to regain my sense of focus and mindfulness regarding my day-to-day life. Being awake to the world, when changing a diaper, folding a blanket, wiping sticky little fingers, is what I'm working towards, which is why I haven't been blogging much. It's so easy to get caught up in the distractions and interruptions of an online life, when so much is happening all around me.

Do you ever feel that your online life is taking away from your real one?
In this vein of thought, I decided to go pick some flowers outside, just to reconnect with something "real". I think of John Lennon singing "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" but changing the lyrics to "life is happening while you're busy on the computer."

I don't want my life to pass by while I'm lost in cyberspace. Not trying to proselytize or make anyone feel bad here, just sharing the place I'm in at the moment. Blog life ebbs and flows for me, so I'm sure you'll be seeing more of my usual posts soon, like crafty things (I'm working on something) reviews and such (I do like reviewing things and giving stuff away!). Hoping you have a wonderful weekend...maybe off-line? :)

April 27, 2023

my inner compass was broken

On a whim I decided to take SoJo to the local zoo this morning. And by "zoo", I mean animal preserve with deer, goats, peacocks and a few wild ones thrown in. Not a big-time lions and tigers and polar bears zoo.
After a few days of cold rain, I HAD to get out of the house. We spent a few hours this morning (the kid gets up before 6am, so mornings are super-long) puddle jumping around the 'hood since the rain had ended and S had new rain boots to try out. Then mama thought, "we'll go to the zoo!" Since it's only at most, a half an hour away, I decided to do it, even though it was spur-of-the-moment and still overcast outside.
It took me over an hour to find the darned place! Mommy brain made me forget the directions at home, which I had written out (there were only 4 roads to take, back roads at that). I'm usually good at following my "inner compass" but not today. I had to call Mr. Geek and have him get me there, and then I got lost again! I should have followed what he told me, but then I saw a sign for the preserve and decided to follow that. Big mistake. After a detour and a near-crying spell, we found it.
We walked around and muddled through the arctic breezes blowing through the park.
I think there may have been 10 people there, including employees. I imagine most people were not as stupidly desperate as me and will wait until it gets warmer.

SoJo's favorite part, other than picking up rocks and trying to hurl them into the swan pond, was feeding the fish.
How cool that the zoo had a little playground? After sitting in the car and stroller, it was perfect for S to stretch his legs.
I didn't get too many photos, with how chilly it was. Plus I'm not one to sit and look through tons of photos of zoo animals from past visits to zoos in my life.
Our way out was about as traumatic as our way in. Turns out to exit the zoo, one must drive their vehicle ACROSS the creek. Not over the creek, via a bridge, but literally through it (I wish I had taken a photo). Excuse my abbreviated swearing, but WTF? After days of rain, there were a few inches covering the "road" and I'm not taking any chances being stranded in our Ford Focus with a toddler.

We stopped along the creek to throw rocks and for me to make up my mind to just drive down the entrance road (which had a Do Not Enter sign on it). Oh well, let the zoo police drag me away in chains. There will be no fording the Jordan Creek in my Ford. The whole experience has really made me appreciate the simple necessity and pleasure of a bridge.

I didn't take any chances with the ride home and stuck to the main roads. Right now I'm enjoying So's naptime, sipping hot coffee and typing. With warm, dry feet. Ah, the simple pleasures--including bridges.

April 26, 2023

radishes and rainy days

I've been in a funk lately and haven't felt like posting much, or at least much that is interesting to me or you. Have you had weeks like this? Some of it's the spring weather and wanting to be outside as much as possible, hence the lack of my online presence. Today it's rainy, so we're just hanging out at home, chewing on blankets.
In lieu of cruising blogs, I finished up my radish embroidery this morning, which I started yesterday at work using some found fabric and embroidery floss remnants.
I just free-handed it, like I was making a line drawing with pencils (don't hate me). I'm pleased with how it turned out, since often when I just wing it, I'm disappointed in the results.
For some reason I've been obsessed with radishes lately. I made a silhouette one to hang on the wall by the steps, though it more resembles a beet. See, the freehand thing doesn't always work out.
I just planted some radish seeds in the garden too! Their crunchy, spiciness is great in salads or just with a sprinkling of salt.

I love love love this sewn one at fawn+forest, despite the (intentional?) mis-matched seams.
And how cool is this Japanese radish fabric from Etsy.
Not typical radish colors, but still pretty. I could see it as a girls' pillow case dress. I think navy blue is such a fresh color for this season.

I ended up hanging my embroidery in the kitchen, next to my wall-mounted onion/potato bin.
Just a little something to make me happy when I'm picking out onions for dinner.

April 20, 2023

lego habitats at the philadelphia zoo

We're planning a trip to the Philly Zoo next month with friends, and I really want to see Sean Kenney's Creatures of Habitat exhibition featuring endangered and threatened species built (amazingly!) out of Legos.
It runs until October 31st, if you happen to be in the Philadelphia area this summer.

If you happen to live in Eastern Pennsylvania or New Jersey and are into Legos, come visit the Allentown Art Museum, where I work, on May 16th when Sean Kenney himself will be speaking about his Lego addiction, er, career. He's going to transform our community gallery into some kind of interactive sculpture, so I'm told. Should be fun!

April 19, 2023

important work

I often wonder what moms do all day. I for one feel like I'm constantly feeding, wiping, changing diapers, doing laundry and cooking from dawn to after dusk, and if it wasn't such necessary work, I'd probably go nuts, feeling like my wheels are spinning day after day. I keep reminding myself that this IS important work, even though it may seem like drudgery in the moment. I also wonder how many bloggers keep up with their blogs during the day along with minding the kids and keeping the house in check. And I just have one kid to watch!

Here's what I did on Friday, which is a pretty typical day for me.

7:00/7:30am--woken up by SoJo when Mr. Geek brings him upstairs so he can shower and get dressed before work. S wakes up around 6am and the Mister gets up with him and so generously lets me sleep in.
7:30/8:00--eat breakfast (usually cold cereal or toast), give Sojo something to drink or feed him if he didn't want to eat for Mr. Geek. Pour a cup of coffee for myself.
8:00--Put on Sesame Street for Sojo, check email, clean up breakfast, feed Oscar the cat.
8:30--S wants me to play or hold him. Sometimes he'll watch the entire hour of Sesame Street, other times he wants my full attention.
9:00--shower and/or get dressed while S plays in his bedroom or the playroom
9:15/9:30--put in a load of laundry, start pizza dough in the bread machine, put seedlings outside, mix dye bath to dye a white shirt that I don't like and dunk shirt in it.
9:30--walk with S to the park. Stop to pick up every rock or stick on the sidewalk. Then play at the park, including in the giant sand box. I couldn't help it today, since they had just filled it with new, fresh sand and it was a huge sand mountain. Laugh while he rolls around in the sand and try not to think of the effort it will take to clean him off later.
10:45--walk home from the park, again stopping to pick up every rock, stick or odd item in the street. Console S when the neighbor's dog is not outside for him to say "hello" to.
11:00--hang wash out on the line while S plays in our sandbox. Since he's already sandy, it's ok. Put another load in the washer.
11:15--start lunch. Saute leeks and mushrooms for pizza, wash/prep a salad, roll out dough. S pushes cars around the kitchen and in the mudroom while I work.
12:00--Set table, finish salad, serve lunch to Mr. Geek, S, myself, and a guest who works with the mister. Eat lunch.
1:00--Mr. Geek puts S to bed before going back to work. I then have to go upstairs to get him to sleep, as he keeps crying for Mommy.
1:15--clean up lunch, put away perishables, rinse out dyed shirt.
1:30--Go online, write a blog post, check email, get distracted by too many blogs and websites to focus.
2:15--Wash dishes. Rinse out dyed shirt. Should have let it soak longer but was too eager to see the results. Throw in a load of diapers in the washer. Clean the bathroom and pick up around the house. Work a few minutes on an ongoing craft project.
3:00--S wakes up. Change diaper, bring laundry down from upstairs. Build a train track and play with S for a while. Do some coloring with him.
3:45--Go out in the backyard with S. Fill up some pans of water for him to play in. Gather trucks to use with it.
4:00--Go to neighbor's house with S to feed his cat while he's out of town. Play on his wonderful old wooden swing hanging from an oak tree, and run around his lush yard.
4:40--Mr. Geek comes home and plays with S while I make dinner--leftover pizza and salad.
5:30--Clean up dishes, sweep kitchen.
6:00--Mr. Geek, S and I take a walk down to the train tracks and around town. Throw rocks into the creek.
7:00--Get S ready for bed, give him some milk, brush teeth, read stories, sing "Mommy's Song" to him. Put on my pajamas.
7:30--Pick up toys, bring seedlings inside since it's going to be near freezing tonight, scoop cat litter
8:00--Brew hot tea, then flop down on the couch and watch Mad Men DVD. Most evenings I'd go online for a bit or watch something on TV.
10:15--Yoga stretches, wash face, brush teeth,
10:45--Go to bed.

I'm not quite sure why I felt the need to compile this exhaustive list--maybe to validate what I do all day, not just to others but to myself. It's so easy for people to think that when you stay at home with your children that you just park them in front of the TV and go online. Which is so not the case, at least for most of the day. :). I don't know about you, but I have to keep telling myself that what I'm doing is the best, most important work in the world, raising children and keeping a good home. Back to another week of important work!

April 16, 2023

Friday Feast: Mushroom Leek Pizza

I happened upon a copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks at the local library and found a recipe for pizza in it.
To be honest, the cookbook was not to my liking, since we rarely have meat in our house and of course cowboys need their meat and cholesterol. The book has some nice anecdotes in it, though I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is over the Pioneer Woman anyway. But that's another post.

There was a recipe for Potato Leek pizza that I wanted to try. Instead I used mushrooms because I don't have a mandolin to cut the potatoes paper-thin, and didn't want to worry about an overcooked pizza with raw potatoes on top. I used smoked Gouda and cheddar cheeses instead of the goat cheese, because that's one of the few foods that I dislike. I also modified the crust by adding some Parmesan cheese, flax meal and herbs.

Mushroom Leek Pizza (makes 3 pizzas)
Pizza dough
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flax meal (optional)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt

Mushroom/Leek Topping
4 leeks, chopped and washed well to remove sand
2 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp white wine
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (or other cheese that you like)

I made the dough in a bread machine, so that's how I'll explain the recipe. If you want to make it by hand, check out the Pioneer Woman's recipe.
Step 1
Put the lukewarm water and olive oil into the bread machine pan, then add the flour, salt, Parmesan, herbs. Make a little well in the top of the mixture to add the yeast, then turn the machine on to the dough setting. On my machine, this will take an hour and a half, so give yourself enough time before your anticipated lunch or dinner time.
Step 2
When the dough is done, let it sit in the machine to stay warm while you saute the mushrooms in the butter.
Add your cleaned, chopped leeks to the pan. I tend to chop them first, then soak them in water so the sand runs to the bottom.
Then I lift them out of the water and rinse them again in a strainer and shake them dry.
Step 3
When the leeks and mushrooms are browned, add the white wine, salt and pepper and cook until much of the wine is evaporated. Preheat the oven to 500 degree and shred the cheeses as you wait for the wine to evaporate. Or drink a ginger beer.
Step 4
Assemble the pizzas! Spray your cooking sheets or pizza pans, then I sprinkle with corn meal.
Cut the dough into 3 sections, or 2 or 4, depending on the size of the pans and how large/small you want the pizzas. I then stretch the pizza by holding it and letting its weight pull itself down.
I rotate it as I go. I'm certainly not good at throwing it in the air, and with all the time that goes into this, I don't want to have to throw it away when it falls on the floor.

Then stretch it onto a pan.
I'll admit that this can be tricky, especially since it's hard to get my edges thinned out. But that's ok, since this is a rustic pizza. And just ignore that hole--it will heal itself in the oven!
Step 5
Divide the leek/mushroom mixture among the pizzas, top with cheese and bake for 8-12 minutes or until browned and the cheese is bubbly.
Enjoy with a salad, a beer, or even cold the next day.

April 13, 2023

blueberry mango coffee cake

For my birthday today, I decided to forgo the traditional cake since we've been overloaded with cakes for both Easter, SoJo's recent birthday, and my niece's birthday over the weekend. And I'm plum out of powdered sugar, so no frosting.

I've been wanting to make something out of the spice kitchen cookbook (from tsp spices) that my dear friend Amy and super-cook sent to me last month (thanks Amy!).
It's a nice book, though pretty light on the food photos, which is what I like in a cookbook. I prefer seeing what my dish might/should look like before making it.

I strolled the pages and came across the Blueberry Coffee Cake.
Since my best friend Shana is coming over to visit me on my birthday, I thought a coffee cake would be a nice treat. Too bad she's avoiding coffee due to her pregnancy. I still may have to have a pot myself.

I had some frozen blueberries, but not a full cup, like the recipe calls for, I added some chopped mango too.

Blueberry Mango Coffee Cake (adapted from the spice kitchen)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour + 1 tbsp
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used yogurt)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup mango (or use all blueberries)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup chopped walnuts
Grease and flour an 8" round or square pan, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. In another bowl, mix flour (minus that extra 1 tbsp), baking soda, baking powder, salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk or yogurt into the creamed butter. Mix until combined. Toss blueberries and mango with the extra tbsp of flour, then add into the batter.
For the crumb topping, combine dark brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and walnuts. In the cake pan, pour half of the batter into the bottom, then layer half of the topping. Add the rest of the batter, then layer the remaining topping. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.
Enjoy with coffee or tea.

et tu brutus?

I'm brushing up on my Latin for this post. My mom, amateur hairdresser she is, attempted to give Sojo a haircut under my direction. Shorter! I cried, tiring of the bangs hanging in his eyes and sweating up his forehead.
After last week's 90 degree temperatures, I foresaw a summer of damp hair clinging to his forehead. Truthfully, it would probably drive me nuts more than it would him.
This boy has got some head of hair. Mothers of daughters are always expressing mild jealousy at his thick mop head, as well as his natural highlights, which I've been told (jealous-ly, again) one cannot get from a bottle. I've had to cut his hair no less than 7 times since he was about 9 months old--it just grows that fast. It's exhausting, I tell you, since he HATES haircuts. Buzzers, scissors, just say the words and he's whining.

Well, I should have stopped before I said "shorter" to my mom.
Every time I look at him, I think he's channeling Mia Farrow from Rosemary's Baby.
No, I didn't say "the devil baby" from that movie. :)

Or he's just rockin' a Julius Caesar cut with those bangs. At least by the time we go on vacation, it will have grown in a bit. I had wanted to buzz it down to about an inch long, but like I said, he's terrified Mr. Geek's hair buzzer. It's also a bit uneven in the front from all the scooching around he does, trying to avoid a haircut.

So did I go to short? Or am I just not used to seeing him without bangs?
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