Tuesday, July 31, 2012

a summer weekend

While there is no "typical" summer weekend, this past weekend we did things that were the perfect mix to me of what summer should be. We went to the "Farm Fair", which is the county fair where I grew up, about an hour from here. We saw pigs. We sweat like pigs. We watched kids in a pie-eating contest. And the hubby his boy went back and saw the tractor pulls. Nothing says summer like the fair.

After the fair, we met up with my extended family at my Aunt and Uncle's house, for a summer birthday party and to see my cousin and her little guy, who she calls "Q" on her blog. He's about 20 months and just as cute as a button. There was barbecue, and kids running around and playing, and cake and ice cream, and a screened in porch. Of course almost all the photos I took were of Q:

 Then on Sunday we spent the afternoon, after church, getting all the normal chores done that we had not done on Saturday! But to cap off a wonderful weekend, we went to the Summer Concert at one of our county parks. The concert shell is right on the Chesapeake Bay, and it was a gorgeous evening. We packed a picnic, and let the kids run and play. I love that they can make friends anywhere we go.
Now that is what a summer weekend is supposed to be. Sunday night I went to bed about as happy as I could be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

learning to do nothing

Today was the first day in a long time that there was nothing on our calendar. Nothing. And so, of course, I started dreaming up ideas to fill it up: Smithsonian visits, the zoo, local playgrounds, finding a beach, and so on and so on. My kids are teaching me a lesson today. They slept in (bliss!), had late breakfasts, lounged around watching a TV show in pajamas, and then proceeded to start in on daily fun: family room tents made of blankets and sheets, playing pet shop and making rabbit homes from our wooden blocks (for stuffed animal rabbits, not real ones!). They did so all morning.

Pretty soon, I realized that there was absolutely no interest in going anywhere. And thus we stayed. I opened the windows and turned off the air conditioning, to enjoy a clear day in the 80's, a wonderful break before tomorrow's forecasted 100F.  I finished a book I was reading, did some laundry and cleaned a bathroom. We had lunch. We spent an hour in the pool, and off to quiet time/nap time they went and are still. Breathe in. Breathe out.

"The years are short, the days are long." I've heard it along this parenting journey. And today I hope was a "long day" in my kids memories...long because it was filled with good, clean fun. With relaxing. With no schedules to meet, no errands that mommy must do now, no tasks that fill the hours. Just being. Being together. Being kids and enjoying summer.

A few weeks ago, I was pointed to an article on, "The 'busy' trap". I hope you will read it. It has reminded me of the life I want, for myself, for my children. For our family. It doesn't matter whether we live in a city, on a farm, in a suburb or in some exotic locale. We can live an authentic, joyful life right where we are. I am trying not to fall into the busy trap.

the pickle tree

About ten years ago, one of our friends admitted he had always presumed that pickles grew on trees...and thus begins a lifelong joke. Its just how things like that happen. Ask my sister-in-law about whittling a key sometime, and you will understand. For now, anytime we have new pickles, it must be asked whether they came from the pickle tree.

Alas, there is no tree. Our pickles started as lowly cucumber seeds (Arkansas Little Leaf H-19 Pickling Cucumbers from Southern Exposure), grew happily on the angled trellis made by hubby (which I blogged about ), were harvested last week as this:
 3 1/2 pounds of yummy cucumbers. Having never made pickles before, I decided to start with some refrigerator pickles. There are so many great pickle recipes online! Hubby requested sweet dills, and the little buddy loves his dill spears, the decision was made. So I sliced them up two ways, in spears and round slices, and sent them off to an ice-bath in the fridge for a few hours. I read that keeps them crispier, and it was easy, so why not?
 Then came the pickle making fun. I had enough for three pint jars of each type of pickle. My "recipe" if you call it that was loosely formed by all the various recipes online, for which I am very grateful! Here is what I did:
Dill Spears:  Place one smashed garlic clove and 1 tsp. dill seed in the bottom of each clean pint jar. Then cram as many pickle spears in as you can, and wedge another garlic clove in the top.  For the brine I combined 1 c. apple cider vinegar, 1 c. water, and 1 T pickling salt (found in the "salt" aisle at Walmart). Bring the brine to a boil, then pour over the pickles, leaving 1/4" headspace. Put lids and rings on jars, and cool to room temperature, then put them into the refrigerator. Shake once a day to mix. Start eating on day three!

Sweet dill slices:  Place 1 tsp. dill seed into each pint jar. Slice 1/4 of a large sweet (Vidalia-type) onion, mix together with the cucumber slices and pack tightly into each jar. For the brine, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1/8 cup pickling salt. Bring to a boil, and pour over the pickles, again leaving 1/4" headspace. Put lids and rings on jars, and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Shake once a day to mix. Start eating on day three!

Here are the kids at our taste test! I have to admit, I'm not usually a pickle-lover, but I do enjoy the sweet dills. And the kids, hubby, and grandpa are all devouring the rest. Glad there are more cucumbers to come!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

lake days

Last week we spent six days at Kerr Lake, in North Carolina, where we vacation every year with hubby's family. There are no words needed, as the photos tell the story:

Monday, July 9, 2012

a hot night at the carnival

The fireman's carnival. A summer tradition. Being hot is part of the tradition, too, and this year we did it in spades: it was 104 degrees at 7 pm when we arrived. By the time we left at 9:30pm, it was down to a balmy 94. The great thing was the carnival wasn't crowded! The kids, wearing their "ride all you want" wristbands, had a blast running from the exit of rides and funhouses and slides, to the entrance, over and over. Until we had most certainly gotten our money's worth. It is always a fun evening, and there is something entrancing and just inherently happy about walking around under the millions of neon lights, relaxing and enjoying the carnival together.