Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Party!

After the turmoil of creating The Beaver Dam and Lodge, today was the day we got to enjoy it with our friends. We went to the local bouncy house place and then came back for cake, ice cream, and presents. It was tons of fun.

Max got the first (huge) piece of cake, topped with a beaver.

Luckily he didn't eat it all.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Beaver Dam and Lodge: A Cautionary Tale

I'm a bit of an overachiever, especially in the baking department. I guess it comes from working in a bakery during college, but every time I go to bake something I have to make it as perfect as possible. I have thrown away perfectly good tart shells, cakes, and cookies because they didn't meet my standards; they were a little too brown, a little lopsided, a little less than perfect.
Once I started baking birthday cakes for my kids it got worse. Don't get me wrong, I love baking a special cake for them every year, but just any old cake would not do for me. Oh no, these things almost require a structural engineer and always involve way too many batches of cake and frosting.
I started the trend when Max turned three and we had a dinosaur party. At the bakery I worked at they made a really cool volcano cake, and I just had to give it a try. It took about five layers of cake, tapered at the top, and lots of chocolate frosting. The thing even had raspberry jam lava flowing out of the top, and the three candles were inside the mouth of the volcano so it looked like it was on fire. And a new obsession was born (I wish I had a photo, but I can't find one. Tragic).
The next year we decided to do a race car birthday for Max's fourth birthday. I searched the Internet for weeks and found a design for a race car cake on a blog (I'd love to give them credit, but in searching again I haven't been able to find it). The cake called for rolled fondant, which I have since decided was created as a torture device, and the thing took me four days to bake and assemble. I almost threw it out the window more than once, but I was happy with the final results:

A few months later for Jack's birthday I made a robot that matched the sheets to his new big boy bed. Again, I went with fondant, and again I wondered why I'm into self abuse. Here's a photo of that one:

The next year Max had a space party and wanted a Saturn cake. This was the last time I did the fondant, and I actually was pretty happy with how it turned out, but the rings almost pushed me over the edge. All in all it was not my favorite, but not from lack of trying:

When Jack's birthday finally came around I had finally learned my lesson and ditched the fondant and made a teddy bear cake to go along with the Build-A-Bear Workshop party:

Because of my overachieving, I ask Max months in advance what he wants for his birthday cake each year so I have time to research it on the Internet and come up with a plan. This year when I asked him he said, as if it should be obvious, "A beaver dam and lodge." I said "What?" and he said, "You know, a beaver dam and lodge." At first I thought he was kidding, and as the weeks went by I kept asking him, hoping he would change his mind to something easy like Batman or the Transformers, but he wouldn't budge; it was a beaver dam and lodge or nothing.
I took it as a challenge. If I could form chocolate cake, frosting and fondant into a race car, I certainly could make a beaver dam and lodge. At first I thought I would actually make the dam and lodge out of cake, but then I gave up that idea and went with something (a little) easier. After five batches of cake, three and a half batches of frosting, and three hours of decorating, this is what I came up with:

I let Max choose the blue for the lake and the green for the trees, which is why they look like they are out of a Technicolor film from the fifties, but he was happy, which is always the point. At first we were going to dip the pretzels in chocolate to make the dam and lodge, but in the end we liked the way they looked on their own, and we thought the broken ends made them look like they had been gnawed on by beavers. Steve had the idea of putting the pretzels around the edge, which I think looks cool.
In the end, it's all about the boys. When I think back to the birthday parties I had as a kid, it's always the cake I remember, and I want them to have that experience too. So, every year until they don't want them anymore, I am going to make them an over the top, extravagant cake. I have set a precedent, and I only have myself to blame.

The moral of the story: Aim Low.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kalamata & Garlic Tapenade

I went to my book group last night, and can I just say, I love my book group. I love them so much, in fact, that even though I had an insanely busy day yesterday, I took the time to make one of my new favorite things to share with them at our meeting. I had this amazing Kalamata & Garlic Tapenade at my sister Liz's house at Christmas, but since it was made by her neighbors, she had no idea how to make it. Steve loved it even more than I did, so I got online and tried to find a recipe. The first one I found was just okay, but I found a second one, and combined the two, and hit it right on. I had many of my beloved book group members ask me for the recipe last night, so here it is. I like making the crostini from whole grain bread toasted on a grill pan brushed with olive oil so it doesn't get too greasy. Enjoy.

Kalamata Olive & Garlic Tapenade

1/4 cup olive oil
14 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 cups Kalamata olives, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons capers, drained

Dash red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Dash freshly ground pepper

1 loaf fresh whole grain bread or baguette, sliced and toasted

Finely mince garlic in a food processor. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Pulse olives, capers, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor until finely chopped and then add to garlic and heat until garlic is lightly browned, approximately 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and spoon tapenade onto whole grain bread slices or crostini. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Look Who's Six!

It's Max's sixth birthday today, and I am so glad he came into my life. He has endless enthusiasm, an amazing mind, and is super sweet. Here's some proof:

He's six, and he woke up at six. He dragged himself out of bed to open presents, and he actually hadn't even opened his eyes up yet when he started on the first one.

Max was a little more awake once he opened his Rubik's Cube. Yes, that's right, he actually wanted a Rubik's Cube. I think everyone else in the free world is trying to get rid of the one they bought in the 80's.

Max's Birthday Breakfast Menu: Crepes with Nutella and Bananas, Scrambled Eggs, Strawberry Yogurt, and Milk.

Max's favorite exclamation these days is "Yes!" He says it whenever he's excited about something, and it's what he said when I asked him how it feels to be six.
It's not really a Birthday Breakfast until someone gets Nutella on their pajama top.

Happy Birthday Max!
I'm So Glad You Were Born Six Years Ago Today!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ray of Light

The other day I came home and had a little reminder that I married the right guy. Steve had put a Madonna mix on his iPod, and I love that he loves her as much as I do. My favorite Madonna song is "Ray of Light", which always reminds me of Steve because we bought this album at the Virgin Megastore in Piccadilly Circus when we lived in London. It reminds me of living in the city; it's a song full of energy and possibilities. There's a few songs that really take me back to a specific time in my life, and this is one of them. Enjoy.

<a href="">Madonna - Ray Of Light (Video)</a>

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blackbird, Fly

Just lately I have been made aware of some friends that are going through some of the hardest things you can imagine. I won't go into the details, but they have all been on my mind over the last couple of days. My life has been truly blessed, but some of the greatest blessings have been the deepest, darkest moments I have had to live through. I think of a lot of things when I'm going through hard times personally; I love what Kahlil Gibran said of Joy and Sorrow, and there's lots of other religious writings that help make sense of the suffering we all go through, but for some reason my favorite thing to think of when I feel truly that I've hit rock bottom is the song "Blackbird" by the Beatles. (Sorry the video is cheesy, but it's the only one on YouTube I could find with the original song).

This song always reminds me that sometimes the lowest points in our lives are actually the springboard to the highest, and we all have the ability to rise out of the ashes, even when things feel hopeless. I hope my friends who are going through so much right now can feel this, and that they will know my thoughts are with them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One Sick Puppy

Last weekend Max had strep throat, and now this weekend Jack has a viral infection, complete with white spots on the back of his throat and a fever of 103 (he's "Hot blooded, Hot Blooded"). We decided to all take the day off and hang out at home, so it is now 2:07 PM and we are all in our pajamas, sitting in bed, watching Curious George (but only Jack is sporting the wet washcloth on his head). Good times.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Clothing Kismet

Maybe I'm materialistic, but sometimes a great clothing purchase can really make my day.

I tried this skirt on at Anthropologie over the summer and loved it, but couldn't quite handle the price. I waited, and waited for it to go on sale, and then they ran out of it at the local store. So I went online, where they still had it, and I waited and waited, and then it finally went on sale. Unfortunately I had also made Steve a pact that I wouldn't buy any non-essentials until I go on my annual Girls Trip in May, which is chuck full of non-essential purchases. I told him about it, but said I wasn't going to get it because of the pact, but the next day he called me from work and told me I should get it for the upcoming wedding we're going to. I hesitated, because of the pact and all, but about 10 seconds later I was back on Anthropologie's website, credit card in hand. I was pretty sad when I saw that they had sold out of my size since the previous night, so I called the store. It helps to have my good friend from college, Jen, working at my local Anthropologie, and she got right on it. Within 15 minutes she had located it in Colorado and was having it sent to me, free of charge.

Some things were just meant to be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Able To Beat The Potty With A Single Flush

At 3 1/2 + years, Jack has finally started to use the big boy potty on his own. Do you know what this means? This means I will never have to buy another one of those humongous boxes of diapers at Costco. Ever.

This is even better than getting rid of the car seat.

When he walks into the room we say " Da, da, da da... Captain Underpants: Able To Go Potty All On His Own". He does a really good superhero impression when we do it, but he won't do it for the camera, so I had to catch him during Martha Speaks.

I know you can't see them, but you'll have to take my word for it, there's underpants under that shirt.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Living the Life of a Rock Star Wife

Well, today it happened. Steve's first CD, Mild Violence, is available to be purchased on iTunes (to check it out, open iTunes and put Steve Ricks Mild Violence into the search field). Pretty soon he'll be on his European Tour, partying with groupies, and going through rehab. A small price to pay for success.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's Swellagant!

I never fail to be amazed by the hipness of the local high school radio station. Not only is it commercial free, but they play about 80% fantastic music. And it's run by high school students.
I was reminded of it's coolness the other day while driving to the gym and hearing David Byrne's version of "Don't Fence Me In," which I first heard oh so many years ago on the album Red, Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter. Cha-cha had this album when we were roomates and I absolutely loved it. Here's a video of "Don't Fence Me In" that shows you what I mean:

Then, after being reminded of this fantastic and somewhat obscure album, I recalled my favorite track on it, "Well Did You Evah!" by Iggy Pop and Deborah Harry. Here's another video to show you why I love Debbie Harry so:

Needless to say, these songs were downloaded from iTunes immediately.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change Has Come To America

March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Who Knew HBO Could Be So Giving

Look what I found on HBO's website last night. That's right, the season 2 premiere of Flight of the Conchords.

Now I have one more week to decide if I need to upgrade my cable. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy (Belated) Birthday Janell

I forgot that yesterday was my friend Janell's birthday, and I blame it on the fact that she is out of town on a fabulous cruise with her husband (and no kids). But, better late then never, here's some of the things that make Janell one of my favorite people:
  • She's ultra calm and has amazing patience. I am totally high strung, and she is a great yin to my yang.
  • She's so much fun to travel with because she's always up for anything and doesn't tire on marathon days of shopping.
  • She is always willing to help me with just about anything, like watching kids, trying to find the elusive blacksplash tile, pack and move, paint endless woodwork in our first house (while pregnant), just to name a few.
  • Unlike me, she knows how to shut down her brain and just go for things. She ran a marathon a couple of years ago, which I totally admire, and she is amazing at yoga. I totally let things like this psych me out, and she doesn't. I hope she can rub off on me and teach me to be better than this some day.
The happiest of birthdays to Janell, but being stuck on a boat in Mexico with your husband and no kids pretty much ensures that one!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Guiltiest of the Guilty Pleasures

I blame my American Idol addiction on Max. I think he has only ever watched one episode, but I got totally hooked on the show when I was pregnant with him. My friend Alison had told me about Pop Idol in the UK and how popular it had become when we were on a trip in New York City a month or so before American Idol's first season. I thought it seemed a bit silly and a little too much like Star Search, and then didn't give it a second thought. Then, a few months later, stricken with incredibly bad morning sickness that lasted late into the night, I caught an episode. It just happened to be the episode where Kelly Clarkson sang Aretha Franklin's "Respect" for the first time, and I remembered thinking through the extreme nausea "Man, that girl can sing." Here's a little video to jog your memory:

I ended up watching the rest of the season, and that was it for me.

I kept my love of American Idol a secret for a long time. I just couldn't come out of the AI closet to my friends in fear they would mock me. In fact, I mocked myself on more than one occasion, but still, there I was, three days a week following the competition like my life depended on it. It got so bad in fact, that during one of the seasons Steve and I were back on a trip to New York City and while I was sitting on the plane I was horrified when I remembered I had forgotten to record it, and that we weren't going to see the results show. (I mean, come on, I was sad about missing the results show. That's when you know you have a problem).
So, once we arrived in the city and were taking a cab to our hotel I was still feeling a little distraught when we stopped at a light on Park Avenue and I turned and looked into the window of one of the amazing apartment buildings and I saw someone watching it in their posh living room. I was overjoyed for two reasons, 1) we were almost to our hotel and I could still catch the end of the show, and 2) I realized that everyone, even people on Park Avenue, watch this show, so it was time to stop being ashamed. We reached our hotel in time to see the last five minutes of the show (and the only part that matters anyway), and I finally felt free to cry from the window of our high rise hotel "I LOVE AMERICAN IDOL, AND I DON'T CARE WHO KNOWS IT." And then we went out to dinner.
Now that they milk the auditions for weeks and weeks before the actual competition starts, I lose a bit of patience with the whole American Idol process, but I find it a fine time to catch up on my blog, do tile research, and hang out with Steve, with a few amusing things to keep us laughing. But by the end of the season, I am going to be here, every Tuesday and Wednesday night, wasting hours of my life watching this thing, and being so glad when May rolls around and I have my life back again. Truly, this whole American Idol thing is a blessing and a curse.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When The Tile Gods Close A Door, They Open A Really Cool Website

So, I think I really did find the tile from the Caesarstone website gallery today at a tile showroom. This showroom also had the Interstyle tile, and it was cool, but I also found this tile from Mirage Tile, but it was a mere $52.73 a sq. ft., which might as well be $75 a square foot as far as I'm concerned. I guess I'll have to let the cool backsplash from the Caesarstone website go. I think I'll survive.
The positive side of this sad news is that through all this research I've found a great website called modwalls that has the coolest tile at really great prices. If you go for their Brio glass mosaic tile you're only spending $4.25 - $4.50 per sq. ft. and their highest end glass tile is only $21.50 per square foot. I've ordered a bunch of samples that should be coming soon, so I'll let you know what I think. Be sure to check out their gallery and the new idea I have for the tile in our master bath:

I think we'll go for a less intense blue, but I still love the look; not too busy, very linear, minimal, and modern. If we decide we can't do this, we'll probably go for the Brio in a similar color. One way or another, I will have great tile.

Now I just have to figure out the whole kitchen faucet thing.

To Karbon or not to Karbon. That is the question.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Orla Kiely at Target. That's Right, Target.

I don't think I've ever mentioned it before, but I am an Orla Kiely fanatic. I discovered her when my cool friend Alison, who lives in London, introduced me to her uber-cool handbags. And then I found the clothes, and now, thanks to Mirjam, I have discovered she is creating a new line of housewares for Target. Here's some of the goods:

Believe you me, even if it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna get that apron. And those melamine plates. And that tiered serving dish. And the place mats. Some restraint may be in order. But why?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Tile Plot Thickens...

So, out of desperation, I resorted to calling Caesarstone to get the info on the cool green kitchen backsplash from the gallery on their website, and when I told the customer service lady that I had a weird question, She stopped me right there and said "You mean the green mosaic tile, right?" I was amazed, and said yeah, that's it exactly, and why didn't I do this earlier. And then she says "Yeah, but I can't tell you who makes it." What? Of course, I asked why, and she gave me some line about they have a lot of products by a lot of manufacturers in their gallery, and they don't want to misrepresent them. She was nice enough to say that it is a glass tile, and that if I did a Google search for glass tile I might find something. I asked her if she could give me a little more of a hint. She said maybe I could Google green glass tile, then look under images. Oooh, the intrigue. I have to say, to her credit, she gave all this veiled information with a audible smile, so I wasn't too bothered by it, as bizzare as it was.
So, after a few Google searches I found this picture, and I think I have it:

Turns out it's a company called Interstyle Ceramic & Glass. Of course, they're in Canada. There was a local place listed that sold it, but I called them and talked to some tile installation guy that didn't know what I was talking about, but he said he would have someone get back to me. I'm not holding my breath. I also called Interstyle directly, but got put on indefinite hold waiting for a sales rep, so I haven't confirmed this for sure, but I think I may have found my tile. Now I'm just hoping it isn't $75 a sq. ft. like the stuff I love from Heath Ceramics. Call me a dreamer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Case of the Mysterious Backsplash Tile

As I mentioned before, I am on an obsessive quest to find cool tile for our new house. I found this picture online and fell in love with the backsplash tile immediately, so I have been hunting high and low for it.

No matter how many Google searches I try, I still come up with nothing. I got the picture from the Cesarstone website, and I am just about to give them a call and see if they know where it came from. If anyone else has ideas, let me know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Blast From The Past

On New Year's Eve Mirjam's son Liam was singing "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow, and I thought to myself, "How is it I don't have this song on my iPod?" Steve and I went to buy it and remembered a couple of other gems by Bow Wow Wow, including this one. Ever since I downloaded it I have listened to it about five times a day.

Thank you, Liam.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Famous Triple Layer Chocolate Cake

One of the best gifts I ever received was The Best Recipe Cookbook from my friend Janell for Christmas oh, so many years ago. If you don't know it, you should; it was compiled by Cooks Illustrated Magazine and they came up with what they think is the best recipe for just about everything. There are also a whole slew of other editions, but the first is still my favorite.
A few years ago I started baking all birthday cakes from scratch because I just couldn't see paying good money for one of those nasty Crisco frosting monsrosities from the grocery store and most bakeries. I found the recipe for the Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake (pg. 476), and it has become the standard for all birthdays and special occasions. I made one for my brother-in-law Dan and his fiancee Linsdsay when they came to visit the other day, and I have had a new wave requests for recipe, so here it is:

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

12 tablespoons ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Hershey's
2 teaspoons instant espresso or instant coffee
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe of Chocolate Butter Frosting

1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour two 8'' round cake pans.
2. Beat butter in a bowl of electric mixer set at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. Gradually sprinkle in sugar; beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating 1 full minute after each addition.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and instant espresso in medium bowl. Combine milk and vanilla in measuring cup. With mixer on lowest speed, add about one third of the dry ingredients to batter, followed immediately by about one third of milk mixture. Mix until ingredients are are almost incorporated into batter. Repeat process twice more. When batter appears blended, stop mixer and scrape bowl sides with rubber spatula. Return mixer to low speed; beat until batter looks satiny, about 15 seconds longer.
4. Divide batter evenly between pans. With rubber spatula, spread batter to pan sides and smooth top. Bake cakes until they feel firm in the center when lightly pressed and skewer comes out clean or with just a crumb or two adhering, 23 to 30 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks; cool for 10 minutes. Run knife around the perimeter of each pan, invert cakes onto racks, reinvert onto additional racks and cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Butter Frosting

1/3 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1. In a mixing bowl beat butter until fluffy. Whisk powdered sugar and cocoa together in a separate bowl. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar mixture to the butter, beating well. Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla.
2. Slowly beat in the remaining powdered sugar mixture. Beat in additional milk if needed (you'll need to) to reach spreading consistency. Will frost two 8" cake rounds.

As I mentioned in the title of this post, this is a Triple Layer Chocolate Cake. I started making it three layers rather than two because the cake is pretty dense and doesn't rise that much, so I always thought the ones with just two layers looked a little wimpy. I just make 1 1/2 recipe of both the cake and the frosting to accommodate a third layer. It still tastes as great, no matter how many layers are involved.
The frosting is actually not from The Best Recipe, but rather from the good old Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. That's right, the one everyone gets for their wedding with the red and white checkerboard cover that looks like a picnic tablecloth. In my experience, it can't be beat, except they give you the option to use margarine instead of butter. Oh, please. Isn't this the whole reason to bake a homemade cake, to avoid that slick, chemical aftertaste? Enjoy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Little Road Trip with Gwenyth, Mario, Mark and Claudia

The other night I was watching PBS and happened upon the show Spain On The Road Again with Gwenyth Paltrow, Mario Batali, actress Claudia Bassols, and food writer Mark Bittman. I tuned in while Mario Batali was chipping golf balls into a swimming pool in the hills of Majorca and Gwenyth was sitting sipping tea poolside, mocking him. It was the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. I had no idea that GP, as Batali calls her, could be so hilarious, and watching these two banter could be so entertaining. Needless to say, I was hooked, and now I must see the rest of the series. If you love food and travel as much as I do, you'll want to take the trip along with us.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My New Mantra

For a variety of reasons, I have been stressing a lot lately. Mostly because of this whole house building thing, but also because I've been sick, I've missed yoga, I have two kids, I'm naturally high-strung; you know, life in general.
I was feeling this way when I was looking through my iPhoto library the other day to find the Molly Call painting for my post a couple of days ago, and I came across another poster I took a picture of at Mirjams:

I've always admired this poster hanging in her kitchen, and I finally asked her what the story behind it was. She told me that is a poster that was plastered all over England during World War II, and I thought that was genius, that amidst of the chaos of war, someone had the brilliant idea to tell people not to worry and live their lives.
Well, it made me feel a little foolish that I am fretting over such trivial things, but the sentiment remains the same. Get over it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Our Ibiza - Chapter 9: Miles of Tiles

If you ever want to feel like your head is going to explode (which I'm sure you long for constantly) go to a humongus tile warhouse and look at displays and samples. I did today, and my head is still spinning.
Good thing I pretty much know what I want, because when you get in one of these places and see things like this...

...and all of a sudden you think you've always wanted a claw foot tub encrusted with silver tile paired with ornate mosaic floors...

...and a backsplash of exotic birds.

Well, just for a minute maybe.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Worry, Spite, Doubt, Uncertainty...and Regret

In early December every year there is a local artist's bazaar that I have heard about but hadn't been to before. I have always wanted to go because I had heard that there is a lot of original art for sale by local artists, and I love having one of a kind art all over my house. This year Steve and I went to check things out, and I saw a lot I wanted to buy, but there was this painting in particular by an artist named Molly Call that I really, really, really wanted. I have seen her paintings before, and I love her look, it feels like a modern interpretation of Toulouse-Lautrec's poster art. This particular painting had a woman with long, dark hair holding a fork with the word "worry" on it, and then in the pit of her stomach there were other words like "spite", "uncertainty", "fret", and "woe," all emotions I unfortunately give into way too often. The thing that was really great and somewhat haunting about the piece was the look on the woman's face; a look I could totally relate to, the look of how I feel when I stuff myself full with these negative emotions to the point where I feel sick. Here is a couple of photos:

Because it wasn't cheap and Christmas was coming with all it's expenses, I decided not to go for it. We've met the artist and her husband through mutual friends, so I thought I could possibly get it later if by some chance it didn't sell.
The next day I was still thinking about how much I loved it, and decided to go back and get it as a little surprise Christmas gift for Steve and I. When I got there I looked right where it was the day before, and it was gone. I was pretty devastated because I had decided it was definitely coming home with me, but I tried to look at the bright side since I had at least saved the money. But really what I felt was some major regret.
A few days later I was talking to Mirjam on her birthday and was telling her the story of the painting that got away. All of a sudden, in the middle of my story, her face dropped and she asked me what the painting looked like. As it turns out, her husband Ethan had bought her the very same painting and given it to her that morning for her Birthday. I always knew Ethan had great taste. I have to admit that I did feel a little pang of jealousy that she gets this amazing painting, but I'm so happy someone great got it, and someone who's house I'm at often to admire it. And I learned next time I'm at the artist's bazaar to act on my impulses. I don't need to add regret to the list in the pit of my stomach.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Coconut

The other day, while listening to a Magic Tree House audiobook about Hawaii, Jack asked me how they make coconut milk in the story. I told him it came from inside a coconut, and he asked if we could get one. I told him I would look for one next time I was at the store. A couple of days later at Sunflower Farmer's Market I saw one, and they were less than two bucks, so I brought one home.
I asked Steve to get the milk out, and he got a screwdriver and dug it into one of the holes at the top and poured the liquid into a cup. We all tasted it, but since it tasted like watery coconuts, so no one was really crazy about it. The last time I had fresh coconut was when we were in Rome in the summer and they had street vendors selling fresh coconut pieces all over the city. I loved the tiered stands they sold them on that had water running down them like fountains.
We cracked our coconut open, and I was reminded how amazing a coconut looks inside. Here's some photos:

I love it when the boys remind me of the amazing things that I don't take the time to notice in my everyday life, and I just hope I'm teaching them as much as they're teaching me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Oh, To Sleep So Well...

Jack used to have a habit of collecting every tiny toy he could in bed with him, which included That Green Surfer Guy We Got At The Nicklecade. Now, he's taken to collecting books, lots and lots of books, to look at while he's falling asleep. I love to see him learning to read, and his love of books, but I had to crack up the other night when I went in to turn off his light and saw this:

I know it looks like he's still reading, but he was totally asleep, so much so that when I pulled the book out of his hands, they lowered like they were on hydraulics and then he rolled over and we didn't hear from him until (early in) the morning. If only I could bottle that kind of sleep and sell it on the open market, I'd be a billionaire.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Max, Budding Photographer

Max and Jack both got these Little Tikes Digital Cameras for Christmas from my parents. Actually, I suggested them to my parents because they were over 50% off at Target the day after Thanksgiving, so I called my parents and told them they should get them, and so I actually bought them, wrapped them, gave them to my parents who directly handed them to Max and Jack, so really, they were from me, just financed by my parents.
Anyway, I wasn't sure how they would go over. I read some reviews of them online after I bought them and a lot of people complained about the picture quality and other little things, but I thought, hey, it's a camera for kids, and it was cheap. And I was glad that Max would not be trying to steal my camera, which is literally held together with tape to fix a loose battery connection.
When Max opened his, he was in awe that he could take 1,000 pictures with it, and he loved that there was a counter that showed up on the screen to tally each shot up to 1,000. He spent the rest of the next few days taking as many photos as he could, and finally got to over 300 before we decided to download them and check them out. I was surprised and what I found. Of course there were mostly blurry, indecipherable shots, but there were some cool ones. Check them out:

Cousin Rachel. I think this is a beautiful shot of her, and nice to see a candid photo that captures her softer side.

Some one's dancing feet.

A close-up of Uncle Doug.

Shadows of the pergola over Liz's deck. It's cool to see that Max thought this was interesting enough to take a picture of. Actually, he took about five pictures of it from different angles.

A close up of my smiling face. I think this is the most natural smile I've ever had in a photo.

Getting all arty with a moving picture of the TV.

And, of course, we need to remember Max is five, so a photo of the candy that I kept telling him he couldn't eat any more of. Taking a picture of it is the next best thing to eating.

So, the quality isn't stellar, but I love to see Max's vision of what is important to take photos of and how people relax and act like themselves when there's a kid behind the camera. I can't wait to see his next 1,000.