Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Party for Jack

I should be sleeping.

My clothes are laid out, my water bottle is clean, the coffee maker is set to go. Oh, and I just set my alarm clock for the first time in months.

So in theory I suppose I am ready for tomorrow. But in reality I am still pretty much in denial about the whole thing. Can it really be the end of August already? I guess so. Sigh.

Anyways, my kids have pretty lame birthdays. February and March aren't exactly party months- especially if you live in a small house. After having attended several outdoor summer parties this season, Jack announced that he wanted to have his own little fiesta. He quickly schemed up his own party plans with balloons and cake and pinatas and s'mores and ALL OF HIS FRIENDS. Hmmm. Again, small house.

But we went for it, full steam ahead and I rallied up the troops, filled up the pool, scattered some toys around the yard and suddenly we had 14 kids and a big old bunch of parents and Jack's special request menu of potato salad and hotdogs and ice cream cones. I managed to talk Jack out of the pinata and the s'mores at least. And thank god I did not put any effort into the dessert menu because I would have been completely outdone by my friend Kristine's AMAZING chocolate cookies. (Kristine? Recipe, please?). As you probably already know I am a cookie aficionado and I don't go tossing around adjectives like AMAZING to describe any old cookie. They were melt in your mouth fudgy gooey chocolate chunky OH MY GOD type cookies. (Would it embarrass you if I called them orgasmic? I don't usually go tossing around that adjective either, but these cookies are a special case. Orgasmic I tell you!)

14 kids can produce an insane amount of energy. Wow. And especially the boy energy. Again, wow. It is a good thing we had plenty of those cookies to keep us grown ups going strong throughout the evening. And the keg of Ninkasi IPA was also helpful...

Um, where's my chocolate cookie?

Yep, that's it for pictures. Like I said, there was a lot of kid energy at this party. Not the best for taking in focus photos.

So I think we're good on kids' parties for awhile. Jack had a blast and our house did not get destroyed so I consider it a success. A loud success, but a success nonetheless. And we will just cross those February and March birthday bridges when they come.

For now I have bigger things to worry about. Like how the hell am I going to haul my weary carcass out of bed at 6:30 tomorrow morning? And how did it get to be the end of August already? And why is the summer so short?

And just how do I get ahold of some more of those chocolate cookies before tomorrow? They just might make the first day back at work a bit more palatable.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The End

Well, I guess it's time to say goodbye to summer. Goodbye to the suckiest summer ever in terms of weather, but one of the best summers EVER in terms of everything else.

Because this summer was all about the travel and the late night barbecues with friends. The popsicles, the campouts, the bountiful harvest (thanks to Lost Creek Organic Farm), late night salsa canning parties, adventures with the pressure cooker, and the playdates. And this summer we were all about the non-chaperoned playdate. You guys, we actually have friends who will take our kids for hours at a time in the name of playdates. Oh yes, it was a fun summer for playdates. A fun summer indeed.

I have a certain nostalgia for bikerides in the darkness on a warm summer evening after a few beers. Nothing says summer to me quite like that brief moment when you lose sight of the pavement and sail into the blackest of night, coasting along and hoping you remember your way as you blindly pedal forward.

And there were also swimming lessons. And a lot of time spent on the bleachers trying to keep Sawyer occupied while Jack learned to chicken-airplane-soldier.

He ran up to me excitedly after the first swim class to announce that there were bobbins! Just like on the sewing machine! Love that kid.

We continue to read a ton. Our shady back deck and cozy camping chairs make the perfect afternoon library, especially when a friend comes for dinner and brings a new book to add to our collection. I do wonder why I didn't start with the bigger kid books earlier.

We finished Runaway Ralph and now we're deep into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This has been my absolute favorite so far. I am loving the vivid imagery, the outlandish fantasy and the subversive morality. It surprises me how much Jack really understands. I feel like I've unlocked a little piece of his puzzle with this reading thing. Up next: Harry Potter. I know!!!

Also this summer I conquered the art of canning. Well, I at least overcame my fear of the pressure cooker and botulism and tainted canning lids to do up a big old batch of green beans with a friend. And after all of the washing and the trimming and the funneling and the pressure cooking I realized that we don't really like canned green beans much at all. Oh well, I still have my chest freezer and plenty more beans coming my way...

Do you ever wonder what to do with all of those cherry tomatoes?

I've been oven roasting ours and popping them into the freezer. Brent, who is the pickiest tomato eater of us all, declares that they are delicious. I'm hoping to use them in quiches and on pizzas this winter. I followed this easy recipe, in case you too have cherry tomatoes that need a destination.

If you stopped by my house this summer you probably walked away with a jar of blackberry jam. I'm not sure why it took me so long to come around to the idea of blackberry jam, but now that I've started making it I just can't seem to stop. It is so good. And easy. And with two blackberry pickers around to do the dirty work I've found myself making it on a daily basis. Oh yeah, it's that good.

Jack can do almost an entire batch by himself. He just needs help with the stove and the funnel. That's my boy!

Here is our very unscientific method for blackberry jam:

Pick a few cups of blackberries (5-6? It really doesn't matter)
Rinse the berries in a colander and then mash them in a saucepan.
Bring the pulverized berries to a low boil and stir in a bit of sugar (less is more! Maybe 1/2 cup?) and a couple of spoonfuls of pectin.
Stir in some water (say 1/2 cup?)
Let boil for a minute or so.
Pour into clean jars, top with a lid, and let them sit on the counter for a day.
Refrigerate, freeze, or give them away to lucky friends and family.

Also, blackberries really add some color to your smoothies. Observe:

And. AND! BLACKBERRY SYRUP! OMFG. You know how I feel about pancakes, so you can imagine that my enthusiasm for blackberry syrup is intense. Woah.

Anyway, my main reason for wanting to learn how to can was SALSA! Who doesn't love some garden salsa in the middle of January? Turns out- no shocker here- that canning is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. We did two different batches of salsa and I recommend this one. But probably you won't be leaving my house with a jar of salsa when you come to visit. Those tomatoes are a pain in the ass to peel.

And now we are going to attempt to cram in every last summery detail possible before next Monday rears its ugly head and hi ho hi ho and all that cheery back to work crap.

Let's start with some nekkid boys in the sprinkler.

I feel better now. And anyway, I still have this week to pick blueberries and swim in the lake and gaze at the summer stars.

(Hi ho hi ho)

Friday, August 12, 2011

24 Things to Do in Chico

24. Haul a herd of kids to Caper Acres and make them pose for the traditional Humpty Dumpty Wall Picture. Then decide to publish ONLY the most ridiculous one. (Is he an egg or a 1970's used car salesman? It's really hard to tell.)

23. Take a leisurely jog through Bidwell Park with your two kids packed into a single stroller and a bike across the top. Ha.

22. Loosen up on the rules and let your kids play video games (!! I know!!) with the big kids.

21. Visit the Chico Farmers' Market. Marvel at the low prices and the long growing season. Buy a bag of peaches and some tamales for lunch. Pick up a half flat of organic strawberries for only $12 to make freezer jam with your cousin. Kick yourself the entire drive home to Oregon for not buying a flat of those incredibly juicy organic peaches that could have been yours for $2 a pound.

20. Teach your cousin how to make freezer jam. Maybe this will make up for the fact that YOU FORGOT THE WEDDING PRESENT. Maybe.

19. Drive by Bidwell Mansion. Fondly recall the time you got dragged along on the tour as a child. Lament California's economic woes when you hear it is closing for good.

18. Get a "triple thick" milkshake from Big Al's. If you really want to sound like a tourist, accidentally call it Crazy Dan's. I recommend the chocolate.

17. Go to the local Winco Foods and become enthralled by the cleanliness and friendly people who work there. Eat free samples of a granola bar. Ogle the bulk foods. Admire the bakery. Cringe when you think of your own ghetto Winco back home.

(It should be noted that while visiting a grocery store as a tourist destination might seem strange to some, it is a known practice in my family. My uncle Bill always visits the local Costco when he travels. So there. Totally normal.)

16. Listen to classic rock. Why? Because in Chico you listen to classic rock. That's just the way it is.

15. Drink a vodka Crystal Light juice cocktail at five o'clock, following a longstanding Deinema tradition that I'm quite certain will endure. Why Crystal Light? Again, that's just how it is.

14. Eat shredded chicken tacos made by my uncle Jeff. Or if you are Brent, eat six tacos and then become self conscious about eating so many tacos that you then consider stealing a bowl of shredded chicken from the refrigerator and hiding out in the garage.

13. Drink the local beer.

12. Stock up on pistachios. In Chico the pistachios are BIGGER and EASIER TO OPEN!

11. Visit the brewery!

10. Oregon! REPRESENT!

9. But when you sign up for the tour, make sure you read the fine print. If you are not there ten minutes early, you lose your spot. We learned this the hard way and some members of our party had to stay behind and wait for us in the bar. Poor things.

8. Also, take them seriously when they warn you over and over again that there will be NO RESTROOMS AVAILABLE while on the tour. The 90 minute tour. That's a lot of minutes when you really have to pee.

(You might be able to sweet talk the tour guide into letting you through the secret restroom access passageway. Then it's on to the tasting room!)

7. Drink many, many little beers and enjoy the company of cousins you don't see often enough.

6. Bask in the sunshine, dive into the pool, appreciate the novelty of 90 degree days knowing full well that it's cold and raining back home in Eugene.

5. Pick up some mafiosos to take along to your cousin's wedding reception.

4. Watch them broker some shady deals with a crime boss. Note the cigar.

3. Eat, drink, and be merry.

2. Pose in your party dress.

(You see that invisible zipper? Oh no you don't. 'Cause it's invisible! Can I get a booyah?)

1. And then sit back and watch as your favorite cousin finds happily ever after.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Where do I even begin? I have about about fifty photos and just a few words because, hey, it's summertime and I have better things to do than sit around on the computer. Also, you have better things to do than sit around and read more than just a few words, am I right?

Look what came out of our garden!

And Jack's been at the sewing machine again. He made a mini Snoopy pillow for Sawyer because suddenly the kids have decided that they like each other. DID YOU HEAR THAT? They LIKE each other! It's amazing. You said it would happen and it finally did.

Do you see his thumb? This is what happens when thumbsuckers eat markers. (What are we going to do with this kid?)

We've spent these warm and sunny afternoons lounging around by the pool in the front yard, sharing popsicles and big bowls of popcorn with our friends and soaking in the summertime.

And we also roadtripped up to Portland to hang with our friends Peter and Simon. No sense in wasting water, is there?

On Wednesdays I get to be a soccer mom. It's more fun than it sounds, I assure you.

The veggie leftovers from the farm have been plentiful. Jack is totally into helping in the kitchen and so I put him to work for me. He grated and bagged up a big old bunch of zucchini for the freezer. He also helped me pack up a flat of tomatoes. This summer I have seen a side of him that inspires me as a mother. This summer I have seen Jack as the real person he has become, not just my kid. What I see is pretty amazing.

We are reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle. We sit on the deck in the afternoon shade and sip cool drinks. He always begs for just one more chapter and I always say yes.

And I've been sewing. This is Sawyer's new sunhat which he has steadfastly refused to model until I caught him unawares in his blueberry picking delirium.

As you can see there are lots of green berries left on the bushes. We picked 20 pounds this time, but we will be going back for more soon. Much, much more.

And we got our first egg from Daisy! It was the tiniest, daintiest little egg I'd ever seen and she's given us one each day since. It was Jack's idea to compare it to the blueberry for perspective. He is a budding photographer, I think.

This picture was taken just before Lulu jumped up on the table and ate her weight in blueberries while Jack and I were in the other room.

Sawyer discovered his beloved blanky in the washing machine and held a one-man sit in to protest. He calls it "mine bunky" and DOES NOT appreciate laundry day.

Afternoons at the lake...

I'm so glad summer finally came.

Remember when I told you about my dress? Well, I finally finished it, invisible zipper and all. Yeah, that's right, I said invisible zipper. Booyah! (Yeah, that's right, I said booyah.)

I also refused to be intimidated by collars and buttonholes any longer and made the boys some button up shirts.

No one will ever pose for me. Ever.

And now we head to California for my cousin's wedding and a long weekend of pools and parties and family and food and staying up way past your bedtime and all of those other magical summertime things that you remember from being a kid.

And that is that.