Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Adventures with Hard Cider

I have always had an interest, however passing, in brewing. Back in my study-abroad days, I was enrolled in microbiology… and not all of it was scary stuff. Some of it was really amazing and delicious! Cheese and beer. Worth the hype.

Now that I am more-or-less grounded once again (and happily so), I have wanted to attempt some sort of easy, non-risky fermenting. Perhaps you don’t share my fascination, but feeling the intoxicating effects of something I have fermented myself was a bucket list bullet point until now. Like Steve McQueen’s potato concoction at the Fourth of July party in The Great Escape, but tastier and with less burning.

What is the gateway homebrewed beverage? CIDER, my friends. Hard apple cider is the answer.

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It is hard to even call this a recipe, and others have given an even easier method (“leave the cider in your basement and forget about it for 2 weeks”). But here is what I did after some amount of actual research and a trip to our trusty local home brewing store for airlocks (about $2 each) and champagne yeast (about $1 for a packet that can handle 5 gallons). I procured my apple cider at Costco for a meager $4 per gallon. I haven’t seen it cheaper (and still preservative-free) anywhere else.

Homebrewed Hard Cider

Yield: About 1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon pasteurized, preservative-free apple cider
  • 2 cups white sugar (optional, for higher alcohol content and/or sweeter cider)
  • Champagne yeast

Directions:

  • Sterilize (or not) a clean glass jug (or other container that can accept an airlock (or not). Add 2 cups of sugar and enough champagne yeast to the jar. Add half of the cider, and swirl to dissolve the sugar. Add the rest of the cider (or until the jug is full with a bit of space for bubbles, as shown) and close with the sterilized (or not) airlock. If you don’t have an airlock and you don’t want to let any other microbes in, you can cover the top with a balloon, and just poke several holes to allow the air pressure in the jug to remain positive (so air only flows out). Apparently you can leave it loosely capped without an airlock too, but I understand it is best practice for the most predicable results.
  • Leave the cider at about room temp (or slightly cooler… 55-65 degrees) for 5-21 days. It will start to bubble and release CO2 through the airlock in a day or two. The shorter fermenting times will yield sweeter, slightly sparkling ciders with lower alcohol content. At a certain point, around the 14 day mark (depending on temp and sugar content), the yeast will have consumed all the sugar and the cider will be dry and still (not my favorite, but good for mixing with fresh cider). I think 7-11 days is a good fit for my general reference for sweeter cider and moderate alcohol content.
  • Whenever you decide to drink it, it should be cooled to help the yeast settle out, and then siphoned off directly into glasses or a secondary storage container to avoid drinking a lot of yeast. Alternatively, it could be bottled then with or without extra sugar to make it sparkling, but that sounds laborious and not as easy to get a buzz (safely) while so doing. You choose.

This is a fun process and my kids greatly enjoyed watching the airlock (as did I). Here is the airlock in action (it is sort of mesmerizing to watch the bubbles… when it really got going, a bubble escaped about every 7 seconds #nerdalert):

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Since I have been making my own cider, I have been saving some of the yeast that settles out as a starter for my next batch (obsessed much?). My new sorta-secret plan is to make a BIG batch of this for our annual Thanksgiving party. Homemade booze in bulk? Yes, please. And thank you!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Adventures with Sourdough (or, Meet my New Pet)

Hello there. I’m easing back into blogging by sharing with you my growing fascination with cultured foods. Today: homemade sourdough bread.

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First things first… allow me to introduce you to Maxwell, my sourdough starter:

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I must preface this next section by telling you that talking about Maxwell the Sourdough Starter embarrasses the pants off my 10 year old daughter. I can’t even talk about it with family members without eye rolls and groans, so imagine her plight when she one day realizes I am blogging about it. I have to laugh. Because this is the ninja girl in question who never ever does embarrassing things of her own (love you, honey!):

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Maxwell lives alternately in my fridge and on my counter. I like to imagine Maxwell is the microbial equivalent of a sheepdog. Here is a pet who earns its keep by performing work I couldn’t otherwise do alone. I have many skills, but converting sugar to tangy acid in a suspension of flour and water is just not one of them. And since I don’t have sheep, a sourdough starter just made more sense than a sheepdog. To each, his own…

I attempted to make my own sourdough starter some months ago when the local wild grapes were ripe, using a naturally-yeasty grape skin to inoculate my would-be starter. I gave it a week of regular feeding, then feared the worst when it was not rising much and smelled funny. Now, however, having successfully grown a store-bought dry starter (I purchased Sourdough Starter'>this one from Breadtopia on Amazon; affiliate link, FYI), it might have been fine and I just panicked as newbies are wont to do when faced with the unknown. I may try again with the wild starter next year, or I may not. Maxwell is enough to care for right now, and I’m not sure I need two pets.

It has been almost 2 months since I rehydrated the unassuming packet of starter, fed it daily, watched it, smelled it, prayed that it would bubble, faithfully fed it more trusting that eventually it would rise, hoped it would double in bulk after a feeding, was disappointed when it got hoochy, gave it a time out in the fridge (to develop a more sour taste), and prayed some more that it would eventually mature. You know, sometimes all you have to do is wait. And wait. And wait.

{{ The short story on starter care and feeding is that, each day, you mix equal weights of starter, water and all purpose flour. You mix it up, and let it sit. It will bubble and rise, and maybe produce a yellowy liquid called hooch. When it is done rising (has “eaten” all the food), it deflates and you do it again. You need to discard, share, or use the excess starter (usually half) so as to not have it multiply exponentially. When you want to use it, you just keep more around until you have the volume called for in your recipe (you have to plan ahead!), then save and feed some to keep around and use the rest. If you aren’t making bread all the time, you can keep the starter in the fridge and just pull it out to warm up, divide, feed, start to rise, then re-refrigerate for another week. Once mature, it is pretty hearty. It could go longer than a week without a feeding in the fridge, and isn’t going to die the moment you let it get hoochy. You can even dry then freeze some of it as insurance in case starter negligence is a real fear. It's really not as scary as I thought when I first got into this alternative lifestyle. }}

Finally, one glorious day after several weeks of feeding, dividing and waiting, Maxwell actually got puffy and bubbly and I knew that THE DAY HAD ARRIVED. It was time to attempt to actually make some sourdough bread.

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I used a recipe from the ever-inspiring King Arthur Flour website for my first go at it: Extra Tangy Sourdough Bread. Except I didn’t make it extra tangy (I omitted the citric acid). It was worth the wait! Definitely as good as store bought sourdough… same distinctive tangy flavor. I am too lazy after all that waiting to reprint the recipe, but I can tell it is going to be a standby. You should definitely check it out if you are interested in a basic sourdough and you have a starter. If you know me in real life and live close enough, I’d be glad to share my starter so you can have your own adventures with sourdough. I suppose the goal, eventually, is to make sourdough bread at home that is even better than store bought sourdough bread, but this still felt like a real win in a world of infinite opportunities to fail.

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There are recipes everywhere for authentic sourdough foods… bread, waffles, buns, English muffins, popovers, biscuits, pretzels, and even cake (!). I really enjoy BREAD, so I haven’t branched out yet. Maxwell and I are just getting to know one another, and I don’t want to jump the gun on a risky recipe and add any extra awkwardness into the mix. I am not in a hurry, and I don’t get the impression Maxwell is either. These loaves took me three days from starter to finish, and I am OK with that. I have since made some more loaves whereby I cut a couple corners to make it fit into my schedule, and, as anyone else might have foreseen, it was not as successful. Back to square one: follow directions :) Also, plan when to start based on when you need to sleep. It just makes sense…

Coming up soon thanks to my obsession with fermenting will be Adventures in Brewing! Hard cider… easier than you think…

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Paralyzing Heartbreak

This has been a bad week by anyone's definition. Last Wednesday morning, my lungs started feeling a little strange. By 5 PM I was feeling very ill, and the next day I couldn't get off the couch. It seems to be a case of classic seasonal influenza with all the toppings - chest congestion, fever, chills, profuse sweating, headache, fatigue, body aches and loss of appetite. On Friday, I developed a whopper cough and a sore throat, but still had to get a kid to a routine checkup at the doctor’s office. It feels miraculous that that even happened. I have been more or less (mostly more) miserable ever since, especially since I have hardly slept in 5 days. If you haven’t already, please go get a flu shot.

During that same interval, we had some minor car trouble, I got to clean up my 3 year old's steamy salami vomit (sorry for the visual), and I received an urgent meal request for a new mom at our parish (organizing care is my volunteer "job", and there is currently no one to cover for me). I have been overwhelmed.

But you know, even as unpleasant as that has been, I would repeat this same week forever if it would change what happened yesterday. You see, yesterday we went to Mass with our family, and we had to simultaneously say hello and goodbye to a beautiful nephew we never got to know in this life. The shock is still hanging in the air. Stillborn. I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering his mom and dad must be experiencing. The loss of a child is said to be one of the most excruciating and traumatic losses a person can experience. I fully believe it is.

I have experienced some death in my life, but nothing so intimate, so crushing to hope and expectation, as the nearness I feel right now. Losing a long anticipated child before he breathes, before he opens his eyes, before his parents get to tell him how much he is loved... As it turns out, grief doesn't come in a neat package, with the weight carefully tallied in pounds and kilograms on the front. Grief is boundless. I understand so much better now that grief cannot be shared, only carried side by side. My cross to carry in this season is the helplessness to shoulder theirs, or even to understand it.

I think my point in writing this post is to acknowledge that this tragic loss happened. I am deeply affected. The beautiful little boy I saw yesterday will always be a part of our family... His mom and dad will carry him around in their hearts every day as long as they live. And yet, we all have to actually go on living. There is no other option. I need to acknowledge his life here before I can to continue to write about inconsequential things like sewing, refinishing furniture, and baked goods in the future. Because, really, those things are nice, but we'd do without them in a second if we could have prevented those we love deeply from experiencing this sort of paralyzing heartbreak. The reality is - often to our deep heartache - that we can't bargain for a different future no matter how much we’d give... It's not within our ability. But we can choose life and hope and joy even in the long shadow of death and sorrow. We can keep loving these grieving parents every day through prayer and action. We can choose to let a hard-purchased strength going forward in this life be part of the legacy of a sweet baby who we will finally get to know when it's our turn to go Home.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

On Hobos, Hipsters, and Being Charitable to Yourself

True story… Yesterday, we decided to pack up dinner and head to a park to eat and play. The park we intended to visit was cordoned off when we arrived for construction, so we switched plans and instead went to a different local park. This other park was not nearly as nice, or as large, but still had some fun features and the kids were excited to play (and hungry). So my husband and I sat down and chatted while watching them, and also made mental notes of the other park-goers. Lots of drinking, obscene music, odd characters milling about. It was not the most family-friendly park, as it turns out.

A totally different park than the one in this story.

At this point, my husband stood up and counted heads. “Just keeping an eye on the hobos leering at our kids. Or maybe they’re hipsters. I have trouble telling them apart.” I laughed, and we decided that we would now use hobo and hipster interchangeably as the situation dictates. We collected the kids and parceled out dinner. Kid #2 promptly dropped her heavily beketchuped hot dog in the dirt and wood chips. My husband had brought 2 for himself, so he gave her one of his. About 30 seconds later, a disheveled 40-something hipster stumbled over and asked, “Got any food I could have?” My husband, with no hesitation, said, “Sure. Here’s half my hot dog.” “Thanks.” The guy plopped down next to kid #3 (obliviously eating his own 2 hot dogs) and ate. He then got up clumsily and mused aloud, “I may have had too much to drink,” and proceeded to weave his way over to a grassy area where he either tripped or passed out. Regardless, the end result was him laying in the grass for a short time, not moving. I was worried we should call someone (the police?) to check on him, but he started moving and was not being ill, so we left it at that. There were enough people around that we figured someone would seek help if needed. We finished eating, then continued on to our regularly scheduled evening plan. It was a very odd experience in our sheltered life.

I was thinking about it later and marveling at my husband’s generosity to this stranger, after his generosity to our own kid. I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t been there, but he reacted so quickly and altruistically ended up with a fraction of his planned dinner… he officially qualifies as a hero. My hero. I was struck by the fact that this guy needed food… he didn’t ask for money… but nourishment, a basic human need. Didn’t matter that this guy was likely suffering the consequences of his own decisions… he still needed food.

Where is this story going??

It was then that I realized just how uncharitable I was being to myself lately. I had been feeling truly down in the dumps about my seeming lack of progress on arbitrary home improvement goals I had set for myself, irritated that I haven’t blogged more this summer, disappointed by my continuing slow back rehabilitation, annoyed by my lack of fitness, and frustrated that I didn’t have the energy to adequately entertain my end-of-summer-crazy kids to stave off normal sibling bickering. Problems of my own creation. I was treating myself like an utter failure, unworthy of affection and respect, because I wasn’t meeting my own expectations. I was beating myself up over what? Minutiae in the grand scheme of living. Self-respect is a basic human need too, and I was withholding that on the grounds that I didn’t deserve it.

I am NOT a failure of a human being. Going forward, I will be more generous to my internal hobo, just asking for food to get through today’s ordeals. It doesn’t matter what tomorrow looks like, I still need to love myself today, even if I feel like a disheveled, out-of-control mess. And so do you. We deserve it.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I Corinthians 13:4-8

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Real Life + Berries + Homemade Vanilla Yogurt

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Berry season! Strawberry season. I am writing this post while eating that very bowl of homemade vanilla yogurt (recipe below) covered with homemade strawberry jam. I used the jam recipe offered in the Craftsy class I took last year, Jam and Marmalade the Blue Chair Way*. So good. I am an old pro at the yogurt by now, but for the jam I still had to refer to the class material, just to make sure I knew what I was doing. The two and a half batches of jam I made have turned out perfectly, and it would be a complete and utter success this year if only I would stop giving it away! I love too many people, and I feel compelled to show that by feeding them something I have made myself. But I knew this ahead of time so I froze a couple batches of Michigan strawberries (picked by my kids) to make more jam when the weather isn’t so sticky (we don’t have AC).

The funny thing about all this berry-picking and jam business is, my kids are not jam eaters. I started them out all wrong by making peanut butter and honey sandwiches, so they were never exposed to jam during their small formative years. The 3 year old sometimes gets jam since he forgets to protest, but he’s not excited about it. I try not to feel bad, and console myself that there will be more of this delicious jam for me. Until they hit the age of reason and ravenous appetites. But then, they can help with the jamming so it will all even out in the end.

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Serviceberries. Have you heard of them? They are also called Saskatoon berries or (my favorite) juneberries. They grow on trees, and look a bit like blueberries and taste a cross between blueberries and cherries. The seeds have an almond taste too, which apparently enhances jams made from them. They are not sold commercially for reasons unknown to me, though I think they can sometimes be found seasonally at farmers markets. Their season is very short (a week or two?), so they are a rare treat.

We have 3 downy serviceberry trees at the new house, though I didn’t give them much thought until I was taking some packages out to the mailbox and noticed the ripe berries as I walked under them. I knew they were edible so I ate one, and it was surprisingly sweet. I did a little research to learn more about how to preserve them, then went out with a bucket to pick what was ripe that I could also reach with a step ladder. I picked the amount you can see above (3-4 cups?), and had planned to pick more later in the week when more had ripened and I had more time. But I never did have more time (preparing the house to host a baby shower, while trying not to overdo it with a recovering back), and that ended up being my entire harvest. Real life happens and sometimes we have to sacrifice the wants for the needs, you know? The rest of the berries went to birds, rabbits and deer (I saw them all out there eating the fallen ones on the driveway). Apparently everybody likes them :) I washed and froze them individually on a sheet pan, and they are in the freezer now awaiting a future of hopeful jamming too. Juneberry jam… it sounds so nice and homey, doesn’t it?

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And the last sort of berries in my life right now… wild black raspberries. I was made aware of the existence of these berries along nearby trails by the previous lady of this house, and was told by other wild black raspberry experts (my in-laws) that they should probably be ripe sometime in July. Today, being July 2, seemed like a good day to go back and check if any of the hard, green-white berries I had seen several weeks ago had matured into anything remotely edible. So I dragged my unhappy, screaming 3 year old with me since he could not be trusted on his own at the house for 30 minutes, unlike his older and more trustworthy siblings. We walked the short distance to the woods, passed through a narrow poison-ivy-infested footpath, and were spit out onto an airy paved walkway. The very instant we passed some berries at his eye level, he returned from Hyde to Jekyll and started gleefully plucking the ripe berries anywhere he could reach. He was surprisingly good at only going for the black ones, so I let him go at his own pace while I walked ahead a bit. Every now and then he would call to me, “How you doin’ over dere, mom?” “Great. How are you doing, AJ?” “Great! I pick dem all!!” And so we walked for 15 minutes trying to find the most productive plants before we had to turn around and head home. We had only picked about a cup total since they were just starting to ripen and not many were fully black yet, but never were berries picked with more satisfaction. I also kept an eye out for clusters of wild grape… I will need to try again making wild grape jelly after a major fail last year (so big it went undocumented here).

When we got home, I washed up the boy to prevent him from getting poison ivy… he had walked near some, and that was too close for my comfort (I have a phobia despite never having had it myself)… and then I let him play with the big kids while I took a quick shower. I came downstairs and caught him red-handed. And red-faced. He proudly declared, “I eat dem all!” He had, indeed, eaten every single berry. So, no wild black raspberries to show for our expedition, but he did have fun, and get himself over a nasty tantrum, and also managed to eat some fruit. Real life.

I will go back soon, preferably alone and wearing pants and bugspray, and try to forage for more. I want to apprentice myself to my mother-in-law and learn how to make black raspberry jelly. It is a family favorite, and it would be so nice to be able to put some up for the year (and to give away) if I can collect enough fruit. We shall see what there is to be had.

As promised…

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Crockpot Vanilla Yogurt

Yield: 1 gallon and 1 pint

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 oz vanilla or plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

  • Pour the milk into a large stockpot, and heat over high heat until a thermometer reads 170 F. Turn heat to low. Remove it from the heat when it reaches 185 F.
  • Allow the milk to cool to 115 F. You can just let it sit, or cool it in a water bath. Make sure that it does not go below 105 F. When it hits 115 F, add the other ingredients and thoroughly mix with a whisk.
  • At this point you can culture the yogurt in any container(s) you like. I like to pour it into canning jars (8-6 oz works well) with a loosely sealed lid ( I always use the plastic lids shown above, available here*) to make portions convenient for grab’n’go, or use a larger plastic container for simplicity and space efficiency. Regardless, the container(s) should be loosely covered and kept at 115 F for the next 6-8 hours.
  • I use a turkey roaster as a water bath, filling it to above the yogurt line on the container(s) with hot water. Once the water bath is at the right temp, I turn it off and cover the roaster lid with a towel. I use a probe thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature, and turn on the roaster for short intervals to heat it back up, if necessary. My thermometer (from Ikea, like this one) beeps when the set temp is reached, so I can be sure I am not going to accidentally heat it up too much.
  • At the 6 hour mark, test a small spoonful of the warm yogurt to see if it the right consistency and tastes tangy enough for you. Too runny? Too bland? Let it go another hour, then test again. Keep going until it is right.
  • Store yogurt, tightly covered, in the fridge. It will keep longer than it will last before you eat it all :) Be sure to save 4 oz for your next batch!

*Affiliate links: If you purchase something through a link here, there is a possibility that I will be monetarily compensated. I only promote products that I use and love myself, and any compensation earned via affiliate links will go straight to my fabric fund. So I can buy, you know, a fat quarter or something :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Home and Garden

I have been having so much fun watching the garden grow… picture taking has been sporadic, but I think I have documented most of the perennials as they bloom (for my own future reference and enjoyment).

The dramatic poppies bloomed and faded over a week ago, about when the strawberries started to be pickable and some yellow flowers were starting (still going), but I have no idea what they are (do you? leave me a comment!). I have picked and frozen over 2 pounds of strawberries from our garden (probably for jam), but they are really winding down and I don’t expect much more.

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The back rose bush is going strong, though the heavy rains have been knocking off petals right and left. There is another rose of unknown color by the front porch, but I think our brutal winter has depressed it mightily, since it has no buds at all and just looks stunted and sad.

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The lilies have started blooming in places, and one swath of them is completely covered in garden snails. I had to look closer… I have never seen anything like that before.

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The daylilies are just starting, both the invasive orange type and the more controlled yellow ones. Forgive the black and white… the orange lily just wasn’t popping with a reddish brick wall behind it.

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And there are other little happy things everywhere:

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And a few not-so-happy things that are showing the real damage from such an unrelenting winter… with trees now in full foliage, it is clear that the grafted rose of sharon tree that was blooming so beautifully when we first saw the house last August is 75% dead. And there are is a large leaf-bare side to a front maple as well. Not pictured is some badly wind blighted holly and a few other unidentified bushes and trees that just had a little too much winter for their own good.

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While wandering with my camera after the rain, I even found one little (big) bat sleeping in the tree.

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As to the “home” part of this… Here is one of the doors I was thinking about painting (possibly red)… I am supposed to be resting and not over exerting my back, but when I have time and feel up to it, I have been slowly slowly scraping off the peeling paint in preparation for repainting. Sometimes I just can’t help myself… so… I mean to say… it’s almost ready to be painted. Which means it is looking terrible and of course I want to paint it. Right now. And then considering the house as a whole… the shutters are currently an orangey peach. I am gunning for eye-pleasing contrast, and thinking classic colonial black might just be the ticket. But then the (ample) trim might need to be painted white from the current gray… it’s getting complicated…

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There’s no place like home!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Listing to the Left (or, My Month in Bullet Points)

I had written a whole whiny blog post about this over a week ago, but it turns out that just writing it and ruminating for a while was enough to get the angst and frustration out of my system. The bullet points?

  • I hurt my back a couple weeks ago (almost right after my last blog post).
  • I was in heaps of pain.
  • I am now doing physical therapy for a bulging disc in my lower back as well as sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

I wasn’t feeling very happy or articulate the week it happened which has led to more blog silence than I had hoped when I so optimistically laid out our summer plans. I was, however, able to sketch out a picture which, I feel, accurately captured my mood as well as that of the people who have the good fortune to call me mom.

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I’ve sold my art before, people. True story.  This was a masterful self portrait. #unappreciatedinmyowntime

A few weeks into rehabbing my back, I am feeling much better but I am certainly not pain-free. But then, I wasn’t pain-free before this most recent excruciating occurrence. I had been having more and more frequent events (caused by participating in such activities as lifting things, bending, and sleeping) that caused postural crookedness, stiffness, and back pain. I still wake up every day with back pain. I am happy that, at least now, I am doing something about it. At the tender age of 33, I have a lot of life left to live, and only one back to see me through. So… fixing ‘er up is a good investment.

The sticky part is that, while I am convalescing, I can’t lift things (or people). I have decided that I will limit my lifting of anything heavier than… oh, let’s just say… my sewing machine :) And, since I have been told to spend several hours of every day (and every night) lying on my back with my legs elevated, I have also solicited a lengthy list of summer reading material from people I respect. I am several books into that list at present, and am enjoying it:

  • The Client, by John Grisham (a re-read for me, but it was on hand before the requested library books were available)
  • The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (excellent, and interestingly written from the point of view of a man who was also injured and recovering while flat on his back)
  • The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander (simply fascinating; still in progress, but the gritty reality of crushing icepack and survival-against-all-odds is inspiring)

Lots of resting is not to say that I can’t still do most everyday tasks at this point in life, since I have no tiny baby to care for (just a tantrum-prone 3 year old and 3 big kids who can do almost everything for themselves). I still go grocery shopping and cook and take the kids places, but I need to be reasonable with my activity. Which means I have had to shelve basically all of my home improvement plans for now. I had wanted to do a few projects after school was out but before a baby shower that will be at my house next weekend, but that was clearly just not going to happen. I am supposing that mid to late July might be a good time to think about picking up where I left off, and in the meantime I am dreaming of what else I want to do:

  • Paint the entry and stairs and hallway. And all the interior trim I have not yet painted (there’s a lot).
  • Caulk the exterior and the sunroom (winter will be back before we know it!).
  • Re-color the grout in the kitchen/hall/sunroom/bathrooms. Painstaking and tedius hands-and-knees work, but it will be worth it at some point.
  • Paint the exterior doors and shutters. I was initially thinking of doing a faux wood finish, but (after thoroughly considering the wear-and-tear of 4 kids with varying degrees of proficiency on bicycles) I am currently pondering red doors and black shutters. Classic colonial. Still not sure what I will do about the garage door. And I might replace the current falling-apart-injection-molded-ill-fitting shutters with DIY correctly-sized board-and-batten ones with authentic-looking hardware. So, the jury is still out and maybe some more thinking is a good thing.
  • Renovate the sunroom bathroom. Remove a couple defunct cabinets and counter and put in a full closet with doors for towels, sunscreen and other pool items. Replace the sink/counter/cabinet with something nicer. Paint the bathroom.
  • Repair the fallen and loose tiles in the pool, and fix the damaged pool coping. Learning that pools can be spelled W-O-R-K if you don’t have piles of M-O-N-E-Y.

Of the things I can do without guilt or fear of hurting myself, there is also quite a lot to keep my upright daylit hours busy:

  • I just helped my parents stage their rental house (the one I grew up in) to hopefully sell it.
  • I made strawberry jam.
  • I am planning to continue to work on making custom window treatments for the whole house - I just finished up and installed 4 curtain panels for the boys’ room.
  • I made some baby gifts for my new niece or nephew due October-ish.
  • I have a small cushion reupholstery project to finish for a friend before school starts.
  • The list goes on.

So… there you have it. A moment in the life of a recovering person who stinks at doing nothing. I will report back, hopefully soon, of the things that are occupying my mind and hours. It is still summer, after all, and I intend to enjoy it…

Friday, June 6, 2014

Wheeeee!!! It’s the Last Day of School!!!

Today is the last day of school. It’s not even a half day. It’s like… *mental math fail*… a quarter day. We will say goodbye to the school at 10:30 AM and go straight to Dairy Queen (lunch be darned!) to celebrate the start of our collective easy breezy summer freedom.

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Yesterday there were raisins stuck to the floor, a broken attic fan to deal with, home improvement clutter all over the kitchen and school papers strewn through out the house from classroom cleanup. I was sweaty, sore, and crabby. But today… today is the start of something new. SOMETHING WONDERFUL!!!

My 4 children and I will do so many fun things every day, they will ALL be asleep each night before their precious heads hit the pillow. I believe.

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We will search out every free local activity, museum, and park and enjoy each and every one of them without getting hurt at all.

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I will take the kids to the public library every week where they will select educational grade-appropriate reading material and the occasion rainy-day documentary while being complement-worthy quiet and keeping their hands and feet and teeth to themselves.

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We will hit up the produce market like a well oiled machine with no need to discipline anybody mid-citrus aisle. We will go strawberry picking and no one will fall in the mud or declare that they “just… can’t… hold it…” the moment we park. Also the trip will be faster than going alone because they will all be so helpful!

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We will take daily walks for fresh air and exercise while gathering wild black raspberries and singing songs in rounds and we won’t even encounter any poison ivy (or dinosaurs).

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My 3 year old will potty train himself in 2 days and be able to handle a four hour roadtrip with only one pee break, and that singular stop will happen at an impeccably clean gas station, but he will still decide not to crawl on the floor or lick the partition wall… on principal.

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We will have quiet rest times every day from 1-3 PM. Swimming will happen only after mom has had a sufficient nap.

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I will teach the kids to sew and cook and make their own lunches. They will all listen intently to my instructions and I will not have to treat any burns or clean up any hidden messes from anyone sneaking the cooling baked goods.

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We might even decide that we don’t actually need to avoid biohazard indoor play areas and we will absolutely not get some sort of nasty stomach bug that will ravage the extended family vacation. No way.

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It will always be sunny but no one will ever get sunburned, and the mosquitos will turn into rainbows and unicorns.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Verily, friends, I will be banging on the locked school doors come early-July begging them to take my children back early. However, right now, I am still under the beautiful warm-weather-induced delusion that is, actually, SUMMER. You know? Where the living is easy?

Don’t you dare  tell me anything to the contrary today OR SO HELP ME I WILL TURN THIS BLOG AROUND SO FAST YOUR HEAD WILL SPIN!!!

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Happy Summer “Vacation” to all you fellow moms of school-agers out there! Get earplugs. And rum. Godspeed!