Wednesday, July 31, 2013

my may

Mason has been saying his name for months, but he outright refuses to say the last syllable. He says plenty of multi-syllable words and even brief three or four word sentences and phrases. But when Wyatt of Super Why (Mason's only and favorite show) says, "Say your name" at the beginning of every episode, Mason turns to me with a beatific grin, points to himself, and exclaims, "May!" and no amount of coaxing can get him to add the "son".

I find this situation ironic. Before my ongoing trials of infertility and pregnancy losses, I always thought I'd have a May baby. I wanted a May baby, for no other reason than May is one of my favorite months. Well, years of heartache have taught me that I am not one of those women who can decide when her children will be born. Instead of giving me that May baby I always thought I'd have, the Lord gave me a September baby, who calls himself May.

The definition has changed, but in a sense, I still got my May baby.

Monday, July 29, 2013

berry picking

Is there a better seasonal activity for a toddler that benefits the whole family than berry picking?

We ventured to Butler's Orchard on Saturday to catch the end of blueberry season and pick blackberries. What fun! And Mason was actually super helpful! Although he ate his way through the blueberry patch, some of the berries he picked ended up in his bucket. We fared better with his help in the blackberry patch (although these berries were harder for him to pull from the bush, so he didn't get quite as many)--they were too tart for his taste, so we yielded nearly 100% in the bucket from his picking.

This was our first time at Butler's Orchard and it was fabulous. We rode on a trailer pulled by a tractor to the blueberry patch, much to Mason's delight. There were all kinds of free, fun activities for him, including these giant slides that we slid down using burlap sacks.

And the best part of all outings involving berry picking? The warm cobbler with vanilla ice cream that evening. As my friend, who engaged in a similar outing with her family recently, said, "I think all berry picking should end in cobbler. Yum."

I concur!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

creative container gardening

I walked past a home only a few blocks away from mine and saw the most adorable container garden in the front. The vintage wooden wine boxes sprouting herbs and vegetables carefully arranged on a wooden pallet caught my eye.

Then I noticed the tomato growing out of a cinder block!

And then, and perhaps my favorite container of all, I noticed that the gardener had split a globe into two pieces and used them to hold herbs. You can see one half of the globe on the right side of the photo below. The other half is behind the wooden pallet.

This garden is neat and tidy and perfectly arranged with a creative use of containers and stands. It brings me joy just to look at it!

What are the most creative garden containers you've used or seen? In my hometown (which is Small Town, USA), it is not at all unusual to see discarded toilets with flowers growing from the bowl and tank adorning front yards. (And then of course that yard gets selected as the "yard of the week" in the small town newspaper, with the toilet's picture right on the front page. I promise I am NOT kidding.) I think I prefer the globe and the cinder block.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

in bloom

Finally, the stinky plant at the U.S. Botanic Garden has bloomed!

Mason and I strolled to see the plant yesterday morning. But it didn't stink at all, which I found a little disappointing. (I overhead someone saying that the fumes are worst around midnight. And there were mobs of people there, so perhaps the plant's scent was overpowered by the crowds.)

Mason was bored. He kept signing "all done" and saying "Go!" He had no idea what a huge deal it is to see this plant in bloom!

However, one day, when Mason is older and he's fallen in love with this book, I'll pull out these pictures and tell him the story of how we waited for days and then went in search of the big stink, when he was almost two.

Monday, July 22, 2013

in the kitchen

I'm making and delivering meals this week for four families with new babies. Yes, four--two today and two on Thursday. Several friends delivered babies around the same time and well, they need to eat, so I'll spend a little extra time in the kitchen this week.

The two families today (plus me, Brad, and Mason) will enjoy my friend's scrumptious taco lasagna with all the fixings, salad, fruit, and dessert. Thursday's families (plus me, Brad, and Mason) will eat Once a Month Mom's chicken penne rustica (with some veggies mixed in), salad, bread, and dessert. Tripling each recipe must be easier than making an entirely different meal for each family, right?

I've learned a few things over the years about making and delivering meals for families who need them. I always provide food in containers that I don't need back. The last thing I want to do is give a busy new mom yet another task by washing my dishes and finding the time to return them to me (let alone remembering to do it). I used to spend a small fortune on Gladware, but then I realized that it's totally unnecessary! If I simply pay attention to what's around me, I have plenty of reusable/disposable containers from the food that Brad, Mason, and I consume.

Here are some of the containers I'm using for the two recipients of Monday's dinner.

  • Two foil pans for the taco lasagna (Yes, I bought these at some point, but these pans have been used several times for my own freezer cooking.)
  • Several take-out containers and lunch meat containers to hold salads and the chopped tomatoes and avacados for the taco lasagna
  • Two small glass jars (that formerly held sun-dried tomatoes) for the salad dressing
  • Yogurt containers to hold sliced, fresh fruit
I still need to find something to hold dessert, which will be, Lord willing, cheesecake, but I'm sure I can find something. I have a large plastic container that once held a rotisserie chicken from Costco--I think it's tall enough to hold 4-6 slices of cheesecake without squashing them.

I've found that yogurt containers are versatile and I can stuff all sorts of food in them: soup, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, rice, fruit. etc. I also save lids from big boxes of paper (or at least, I used to when I worked in an office). Box lids help to safely transport hot dishes (like taco lasagna) that I can't stuff into a bag. 

What are your tricks when providing meals for others? Which food containers are your favorite to reuse? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

palisades park

I have a new favorite DC gem: Palisades Park, a combination play/spray ground, with a water slide!

Mason seriously had the time of his life on that water slide. I could barely pull him away to go home.

The playground has a Native American theme, with all sorts of structures to go in and climb on.

Of course, like EVERY playground we've been to, the equipment has some openings very high up that could be dangerous for toddlers. Mason understands not to go near the holes, but I worry that too many big kids will be rowdy up there around him and accidentally knock him down or worse, off!

This fenced in play area also includes swings, decent shade, and a parking lot--yes, easy parking in the city!

If I hadn't seen it myself, I would think that this park was too good to be true. But it's real, I promise!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

water lilies

Well, the stinky plant has yet to bloom, but over the weekend, Mason and I admired blossoms of a different sort.

We went to the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, although, we didn't spend much time at the actual festival. Mason loved running between the ponds.

These lilies were certainly something to see! I'm excited to return, when it's a little less crowded.

Friday, July 12, 2013

because I need more stink in my life

one stink posing in front of another
The U.S. Botanic Garden's titan arum, better known as a stinky or corpse plant, is set to bloom tomorrow or Sunday. This is a big deal. Read here to find out why.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

chicken trick

I've seen this tip all over the Internet for a while now, but I've been hesitant to try it because it kind of grossed me out. But I finally did it and now I'm a huge fan. Put your leftover roasted chicken (skin and bones removed) in the food processor to make chicken salad.

It's so easy and it takes about 30 seconds or 10-15 pulses to get your leftover chicken the perfect consistency for chicken salad. I will never make chicken salad any other way again. Speaking of chicken salad, here's my new favorite recipe. I love using plain, nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayonaise, and if you are like my husband and detest celery, substitute it with apples instead--even better flavor without losing the crunch!

Now, if I could only find a trick or tool to pluck that roasted bird for me. Removing a bird's bones and skin has got to be one of the worst cooking preparation tasks ever, which is why I normally sacrifice some flavor and cheat by using boneless, skinless chicken breasts for everything.

Have you tried chicken in the food processor yet? What did you think?

Monday, July 8, 2013

summer bucket list

Mason and I (and on the weekends, Brad, too) are doing a pretty good job of partaking in outdoor activities now that it's blazing hot. Thus far, we've picked strawberries, visited Watkins Regional Park and the National Arboretum, watched airplanes at Gravelly Point, swam at Rosedale and Cheverly pools, played in the fountains/water at Canal Park, Yards Park, and the Joseph H. Cole spray park, rode the National Mall's carousel, watched fireworks on the National Mall, and we've been to the zoo multiple times.

However, summer is just gearing up, and we still have some warm weather musts, including the following:

What are your summer musts? Local readers, am I missing any of the DC metro area's hidden gems?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

simple sauce

There's nothing like fresh, crisp, green vegetables grilled or sauteed and dressed with olive oil, a touch of lemon, cracked black pepper, and sea salt. Even picky Mason has gotten better about eating them that way. But this "dressing" that a friend suggested causes Mason to not only gobble up green veggies, but to ask for more!

Here you go:

Mix equal parts soy sauce, white vinegar, brown sugar, and sesame seeds. Pour the dressing over the veggies. For a large batch, I use one tablespoon of each ingredient. For a small batch, I recommend one teaspoon.

That's it! Super easy and super yummy. Enjoy!

Monday, July 1, 2013

summer readers

I joined Mason in participating in the DC Public Library's summer reading program--this year they have a special track for adults! Mason got a free book when he signed up for the program, and another free book when he completed it a week later. Adults have to complete a simple form for each book read. Each form constitutes one entry into a drawing for a Kindle Fire. The more books I complete, the better chance I have of winning!

What are you reading this summer? Is anyone else participating in a summer reading program of any kind? What are your incentives for completing it?