Thursday, July 31, 2014

Squash It

This is the giant zucchini my friend Laura gave me from her garden the other night---as photographed AFTER I grated SIX CUPS of zucchini shreds off the skinny end. (I wish I'd photographed/weighed it before I started grating.)

Please note the cupcake there for scale. It is not a mini cupcake. That is a full-sized cupcake.

When I went to pick up the Giant Zucchini at Laura's house, she answered her door cradling the zucchini like a baby and rocking it in her arms. In truth, it was larger than a baby. At least a newborn baby.

After grating six cups of zucchini, freezing four and using two right away for a recipe, I had to stop and wrap up the zucchini for the time being. I ran out of time! Therefore, my to-do list has included the item "grate more zucchini" on it for the last two days. I just hope I can finish before it starts to get mushy/floppy/yucky. At this rate I feel like I'll be grating the Giant Zucchini until Christmas.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Odds & Ends

Ready for a whole bunch of random? I hope so. Here are some of the things occupying my thoughts lately:

So, it's July. I assume you're making the Pioneer Woman's famous iced coffee concentrate recipe on the regular. (Personally, I like to ignore the whole "concentrate" part and just drink it straight over a ton of ice with a little half-and-half at the top.) I make and drink it all summer. It's famous for a reason.
Awhile back I just happened to stumble upon this article about hip-opening yoga poses on I hate yoga, but I've been doing them immediately after my runs ever since. (I only do seven of them, but that's plenty.) I'm terrible at them, but they have absolutely cured my running hip ailments--even better than avoiding wheat and sugar did during the Whole30). If I skip them, my hips flare up. If I do them, I have no pain--at ALL--during or after runs. Amazeballs!!
This week my daughters and I are babysitting our friends' hermit crabs while the family goes on vacation. I am praying--PRAYING--that this horror that happened to my friend Rita when her son got a hermit crab a few years back does not happen while our friends are gone. Even more so, I am praying the hermit crabs do not DIE while we are pet-sitting. 
I made this recipe for dinner last night, only I added some shredded leftover rotisserie chicken to the veggie-pesto mix. SO DELISH. Incredibly good. Make it. Today.

You guys. Look at these cute J. Crew pants my Internet-friend Erika just got (on super-sale right now, btw--use the 40% off code). Doesn't Erika look fab? SHE JUST GAVE BIRTH, LIKE, TWO SECONDS AGO. Not kidding. The pants are adorable. You might want to size up, they seem to run a little small. I will have to lose my current (annual) extra seven or eight lazy-pounds before they fit me. But so cute.
So, as everyone knows, in the fall I will begin working as a special ed assistant at my girls' school on a full-day schedule. This means I'll be running around school and the playground and the bus-loading area for 7.5 hours a day rather than the mere three I did last winter/spring--interacting with, managing, and helping children with autism and/or other neuro-behavioral special needs.

This also means that, while I could get away with pretty much anything when I was only there for three hours last year, some footwear upgrades need to happen this year if I'm going to be able to do my job from 8 to 3:30 each day. This job is active and challenging, and it requires casual clothes/shoes you can really move in.

My workhorse footwear in fall-winter-early spring is a pair of dark-brown tall riding boots, but last year (before the job) when my old pair bit the dust, I replaced them with a heeled pair. That's not gonna work this year. I need a new pair of flat-heeled (no more than an inch), traditional riding-style, knee-height boots that fit narrow calves, zip on the side, don't have a bunch of buckles and embellishments, and are cut straight across the top of the shaft (not curved down like cowboy boots). Boots that'll work on the daily, with skinny jeans and leggings tucked in as well as with dresses and tights if needed. Boots that are comfortable, look good, and let me run around at school all day.

What say you, Internets? Any ideas here? Go spendy for boots that will literally last a lifetime, or continue my habit of buying low- to mid-range cheapies that die every few years? Any current faves? Feel free to email me if you can't or don't want to comment here.

Oh--and I also need some sort of cute/cool (maybe retro-style?) sneaker that looks good with skinny jeans. Maybe something along these lines? Or maybe just some classic Vans?


Let's face it: athletic shoes with skinny jeans = not a good look. But you can't wear boots every day, especially when it's 80 degrees in September, so..... help a girl out. Ideas?

Lastly: I just texted my BFF, who is up north on vacay and suffering cabin-regret and needs cheering up, this photo of me in her hand-me-down skirt because she's been waiting to see me in it. I told her to ignore the post-workout, just-put-it-in-a-bun, flat hair and the extra 8 lbs., and the skirt looks not so bad, right? I'm gonna give it a good home, aren't I?

(Listen, I know this is the most boring outfit in the universe. I know.)

This is what passes for entertainment in our lives these days. Texting horrible quality photos of ourselves in each other's clothes while trying to look passably groomed for taking the kids to tae kwon do in an hour (well, that would be just me), and messages pleading for rescue from mosquitoes, headaches, PMS, and uncomfy cabins in the wilderness (her). God, sometimes I love technology.

Carry on, you all!

Monday, July 21, 2014

SAHM Summer Days

As I type this in our joint office/playroom, four kids (two of mine and two others) are busily building with Legos and organizing some sort of toy war behind my back. In approximately 25 minutes, we are going to sunscreen everyone up and put on our swimsuits, in order to get to the pool by opening time with our picnic lunch slung over my shoulder. Yes, we were just there, less than 24 hours ago (and then a couple of days before that, and the day before, and the day before...), but we have a predicted heat index of 102 degrees today, so of course--the pool.

This little scenario is pretty much how things have been going down around here since coming home from family "vacation" earlier in July: hours at the pool with friends, soaking up the sun; playdates; picnics. Throw in a week of morning volleyball "camp," twice-weekly tae kwon do classes, a few visits to the popcorn cart at our town square, a few ice cream cones here and there, a field trip or two, some gloriously hot and sunny runs--and you've got my summer in a (large) nutshell.

Every now and then I think about the fact that I'm becoming a FT working mom in September, and the panic of sending the kiddos back to school (I seriously HATE the end of summer each year and think that there ought to be some sort of 12-step recovery group for moms like me) is magnified by the panic of working 7.5+ hours a day after 10 years of being mostly home running the household. Then I remember that a.) I get to be "with" my kidlets all day at this job; and b.) I can do anything, really--and realize that it'll be fine. Give me the month of September to flounder and freak out and be really, really tired, and then I'll settle into a kick-ass routine and all will be well, I am sure.

The littles are getting so big. Genevieve just lost another tooth (in the middle of the night; she dreamed that someone had given her something crunchy to eat, then woke up to find a tooth rolling around in her mouth), both girls have measurably grown this summer, and I'm starting to plan the second birthday party of the summer--with a space theme for my little junior astronomer.

Pass the sunscreen, yo. We're off to the pool.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Can't Complain About Much These Days*

Christopher's been traveling for business, so I've been on solo-parenting duty this week. While some days have no doubt been long--on Tuesday I woke up at six a.m. and between errands, housecleaning, childcare, and kids' activities I didn't stop moving until after my daughters' baths at 7 p.m., at which point I lamented that it was still 45 minutes until their bedtime, oy--most of our days and hours have been fantastic. The weather's been perfect, it's that glorious nearly-midsummer time when everything's bright and green and lush and flowery, and it's too soon to think about fall, so you can truly immerse yourself in it and enjoy it. (We're only just a bit over one third into summer break where I live, thank God.)

I was just sitting here thinking about what our day looks like tomorrow. Yes, we have some chores and an errand or two--the necessities of life. But we've also been invited to pick raspberries at a friend's patch, and we've planned a lunch picnic at the pool with friends, and after the pool we've got our CSA-share pick-up at the farm (where we'll also cut flowers and/or pick sugar snap peas if available), and after that the girls and I are going to make popcorn for dinner and watch a movie. It's the perfect day. The only way it could get any better is if a magical fairy appeared and did my vacuuming for me, and also if tomorrow someone invented (and delivered to me) a safe and affordable pill that allows a person to eat as much ice cream, cookies, Cheetos, and candy as she wants while remaining fit, slim, and healthy.

Since those last two things aren't going to happen, I think I'll go back to focusing on the perfect summer Friday.

And did I mention, everyone was right, who told me that seven (nearly eight) and ten are great, great ages, that it would truly surprise me, that how great it is would help ease my chronic nostalgia for those long-lost toddler and baby years? They were so right. Eight (nearly) and ten are fantastic for hanging out with, filling four full all-girl days with, listening to the radio with, walking along living life with. I love my (nearly) eight and ten. Life is good, you all.

And that's it for tonight, friends. Enjoy your Friday and your summer weekend ahead.

*[Edited to add: Favorite song of the summer, by the way. That Oh Honey has an odd band name but a very catchy  tune, am I right?] 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Embrace the Waves

My BFF took my kids to the pool yesterday while I did all the usual post-vacation reorganizing/restocking/recovery, and when she came by to drop them off afterward, positively oozing sunshine and heat and tan skin and the smell of blue water, she burst in the door and skipped right over saying hello and instead simply cried, "Oh my gosh I just want summer to NEVER END. I cannot stand the thought of summer ever ending!"

And I was like, hey, didn't I just basically say that very thing on my blog?

I know I just did, but I'm back to say it again and post a few more snapshots of this luscious, glowy, summer life I've got going on here, this life I want to bottle up or freeze-frame or whatever it is you do in your dreams when you desperately want time to stop.

I've been spending summer running under skies like this:

and, on other days, walking under skies like this:

Spending the whole afternoon at the pool with children, and coming home with hair that looks like it:

Cutting more than two inches off my hair and getting it chopped blunt in the back so I can best embrace natural wave and leave the flatiron untouched:

Soaking up sun and chlorine like it's a job:

And taking my kidlets to the beach to dig in the sand and eat sandwiches by the lake:

Of course we've also done our fair share of supporting the economy with regular Target runs for sand toys and pool snacks and spare pairs of sunglasses. We've watched cartoons in the a.m. and practiced tae kwon do at night. We've blown bubbles and made elaborate chalk drawings that covered the entire driveway. We've trimmed the bushes and pulled weeds, ridden bikes and done chores, slurped Popsicles and eaten cupcakes iced to look like watermelon. Our hair has gotten lighter and our shoulders have gotten too much sun.

And I'm happy to say that I finally completed my years-long quest for the perfect summer maxi skirt, by scoring a $14.99 version from the Target GIRLS' DEPARTMENT. Girls' sizes: the perfect antidote to the too-short-for-apparently-all-women's-maxi-skirts dilemma! Brilliant! I couldn't be happier. (Credit where credit is due: this was my friend's Laura's solution for me, after I flagrantly coveted her 10-year-old daughter's skirt one day in June. Thank you, Laura!)

It feels like we've done a lot and simultaneously nothing at all; time is moving so fast that it makes my heart hurt.

Soak it up, my friends. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Second Month Starting Line

Ahhhhhh. We are one month into summer vacation and things are humming along so sunnily and busily that I have neglected you all once again.

Despite a June flood (which seems to have become an annual event in these parts, yikes), by and large we've had good sunny summer weather. Or maybe I just forget the cool and rainy days as soon as they've passed, blinded and distracted by the beloved sunshine once it's here. Either way, summer is the best. It's so good that I find myself panicking a little bit, at times, about the fact that it won't last forever, won't even last very long. Summer here is so short that sometimes I feel like it's a strictly rationed drug.

We just got back from a family vacation (all moms know that I use that last word loosely, but that's fine) to Upper Michigan, where after a chilly start (we're talking temps in the 50s and 60s with cold 20+ mph winds), we thankfully ended up with some perfect 70-80 degree beach weather. Unfortunately I forgot my phone the day it turned 75 degrees and we spent the afternoon making sand castles and soaking up the sun on the shore, so I don't have any pictures of that day, as warm and blissful as it was.

I do have photos of the day it was so cold on the shores of Lake Superior that my girls wore fleeces and sweatshirts with hoods pulled up:

We went for all-girl early-morning walks around the block, after snapping dim photos of pre-breakfast novel-reading and silly selfies before anyone else in the house was awake:

We saw waterfalls and bought homemade peanut-butter-and-jam brownies from the bakery of the monks of the St. John's Monastery, up in the wooded hills by the lake.

We ate ice cream and watched a small-town 4th of July parade and stayed up suuuuuuuuper late for fireworks (omg what in the actual hell, why do fireworks START at nearly 11 p.m. up there??).

And now, 18 hours round-trip driving later, we're back. And as soon as I finish doing the mountain of post-vacay laundry and restocking the fridge with fresh fruit and milk, I'll be back to my usual summer-SAHM routine of farm-share pick-up, pool afternoons, kids' activities and summer "field trips." (On Thursday we're volunteering at a Twin Cities anti-hunger organization with a group of our fellow-moms-and-kids friends.)

It's all good. It's summer, after all.