Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Farm Pics: apricots, horses and monkeys

Katherine was so wonderful to allow us to come out to pick apricots this morning. She was even more wonderful to indulge the animal obsession and photo-taking habits of two monkeys and a PDawg. I have plenty of apricots for jam, a carton of cute little farm fresh chicken eggs, and some lovely pictures. I took a billion. I couldn't make a choice about which ones to post here, so I am posting a lot of them. I have faith in you that you can handle it, Blog.

The monkeys are expert apricot-pickers--anything within their reach was fair game whether is was green or not. Had to explain to Henry that we don't want the saggy-lookin' ones with holes in them.

The first thing Katherine did was show them her teeny chicks. How could they NOT love this place? She let them touch everything.

Horse, Hank. Hank, horse.

This little girl was in seventh heaven. She's never been this close to a horse before. Us city folk don't spend much time near them. Until now it's been horse books, horse video games, horse movies... She was almost shivering with excitement that she got to know this one so well.

Hank offering his toes to Shyla (sp?) who was a total toe-fiend. (She just wanted to sniff them though.) I told Katherine how it reminded me of how Addie used to crawl around the house when she was a toddler and lick the bottom of all our shoes. She didn't get that from me.

Both of her horses were such sweet, gentle animals. Perfect for the kids' first up-close horse experience. Both horses just stood patiently and let the kids love all over them.

This is one blissfully happy kiddo.

What are they laughing at? Horse toots. Katherine went in the barn to get the harness, and Gwen the horse gave them a little show. It's the joke that's always funny, I guess.

Hi, I'm Addie, and I hit model poses when nobody is looking. Fierce on the farm.

Slouchy, slightly nervous, but supremely excited Ad atop the first horse she's ever ridden.

Mom, can I have one? Yeah. Don't think she didn't ask. Henry told me on the way in that we need a chicken. I don't think our little outing did anything to curb their farm animal delusions. Gus and Cal barely fit in our backyard.

Our hostess, Katherine, leading Gwen. Ad = so happy.

Slightly more nervous than his slightly nervous sister. I'm glad he got up there. He had to stop about halfway and take a break, but he sat up there like a champ.

Ad, who couldn't click her tongue or get the horse to move. She tried though.

She feels a connection to animals. I sense it watching her, even when she's unsure. She also has a gentle little soul. It won't surprise me one bit if she ends up doing something animal-related.

What a great morning. Thanks Katherine! You should charge families for this kind of fun.

Be sure to check out Katherine's website to see her art. She's incredibly talented.

Not much else to say, except she made the kiddos' days. I love summer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nah nah nah nah... hey hey hey... GOODBYE

...to those old as funk running shoes I've been wearing. Peace out, sneaks. Au Revoir, SHIN PAIN. Here I was, posting this morning about how I was going to make those three-year old shoes last for a while longer, thinking I had to just suck it up, and E looked across the couch at me when he got up and said go get yourself some new shoes today.

Yee! New shoes! ::glee::

Shout out to my neighborhood running store, The Running Zone, which is also co-owned by a bunch of teachers and coaches from the school where I work. In the last month they've fit Gluten-free E, Mimi and Papa for new running shoes. Finally, it was my turn. I could tell from the first pair I tried on that I had been wearing a pair of dead shoes that were not doing me any favors. Yum. Support.

My left foot especially is a mild pronator (or would I say mildly pronates? ah, either way...), which explains the left leg inner leg pain I've been having lately from that inwardly-rolling ankle. I ended up going back to the first pair I tried on--some Saucony Progrid Guide 2s. I don't care one bit what brand they are, but they felt good from the minute I had them on. I think they're kinda cute too. Sporty Spice. I maybe sort of adore them. I can tell I'm going to be much happier and I stand a better chance of hanging in there for this half I've got my mind set on.

Now, on to some important other stuff. One of the running blogs I read regularly for inspiration is Chic Runner. She's hosting a big fatty giveaway right now to Zensah for $75, and I get an extra entry if I link to it from here. So go check her site out, and check out Zensah because they are pretty bomb diggity. I'd like to win something so I can sport it like a total poser when I truck on out and hit the pavement in my new kicks.

While you're feeling click-happy, click on over to The Only Thing I Know to read her post entitled P.S. Santa Claus isn't really real. I just about dropped over dead in my socks when I read it, it was so hilarious. She's a great writer too. E just took the boy to see Transformers, so I could relate.

Right now at my house, there's a lot of this going on:

Morning Run & Classy Neighbors

I'll get right to it:
<--------Check out the sign I saw on my run this morning. This was adorning the side of somebody's giant military-esque truck parked on the street. 100% pure awesome. Stay classy, Sacramento.

P.S. I did NOT lean on this truck. Draw your own conclusions.

About that run. Yeah, I got up at 6:30 this morning and knocked one out. "Knocked one out" is a rather loose term I like to use that means "rolled out of bed grumpy and slow, put on shoes and slogged through 3 slow miles." I know I've mentioned it before, but no matter how enamored I feel with running at any particular moment, it's beyond me to get out of bed and run first thing in the morning. I don't know what it is about me, but I'm like a shivering baby bird when I wake up every day--all disoriented and kind of shaky and it won't take much for my whole world to fall apart.

I guess I can't really claim to be much of a BA because I got it done so early today; it was kind of by default because I woke up at 6 and couldn't sleep. Either way, it's done. It's supposed to be 105 degrees today (was 110 yesterday) so the earlier, the better. I liked being out there so early. Lots of other runners, a nice cool breeze, birds... I like birds. Not at 1 AM when they've been screeching outside our bedroom window lately, but on the running trail, sure. I'd say it was 99% beautiful out there this morning--a lovely landscape marred only by the smell of sick along the last stretch of the trail just before I turned back into the neighborhood. I don't like to smell anything while I'm running, let alone someone's Friday night gone bad, warming in the sun.

I'm never sure of the etiquette on the trail when passing other runners. I think there needs to be some kind of unspoken code like there is on the motorcycle--I don't want to stop and make new friends or do a big flamboyant HELLO! with jazz hands, but it would be nice to do that cool guy head nod or just a two finger lift or something. As it stands now, I generally smile when I run by and try to make eye contact, but I'd say it's only successfully returned about half the time. Sometimes I get the Really? look, and I also get the I'm going to just ignore you, you stupid teenager avoidance a lot too. Hey people of the world:

I'M THIRTY FREAKING YEARS OLD. I'M NOT A STUPID KID. It could be argued that I'm a stupid adult, but that's neither here nor there. I slowed myself down today on purpose--I've been running to a podcast that's somewhere around 155 BPM, but with my shin pain I was running too fast then having to stop and walk all the time. Today I dropped it to 148 BPM which felt really slow, but it allowed me to keep a really consistent pace and not walk at all. Somehow I miscalculated my route, so I ended my 3 miles about a half mile from home. I think I might do that again, only next time it will be on purpose. The walk home was so peaceful and enjoyable that early in the day.

Reasons I should be running in the morning: I'd get it out of the way, it's cool, I don't need as much water, the trails are more populated with both nature and people, sprinklers are going if I do get hot, it would get me up and moving much earlier.

Reasons not to run in the morning: I am lazy.

Not much of a pro/con list. But that one con is just sooooo true, and so powerful.

The gel insoles were pretty good. Not a complete fix. I still had a lot of lower leg pain, but the ball and heel of my feet felt much better. I'm going to see how I feel by tonight. I really need new shoes. I'm going to pay the bills today so I can see if there's any way. I really can't be running in something that's making me hurt. Amazing how much running shoes are like pointe shoes--who knew. There's a lot to be said for the proper fit, and using dead shoes will just get you trouble. But I do remember how much better life got for me once I discovered my Chacott Veronese 25Cs, so hopefully there's a running shoe out there that fits me just as perfectly.

Ad's in the next room watching TV like it's going out of style--on her first official day off, I'm letting her gorge on Nickelodeon. I'm enjoying the morning, planning my meals for the week, making our weekly schedule (nerd alert!), making a grocery list for dinners and the 4th, and celebrating the fact that my exercise is one hundred percent finished for the day. After a week of calorie-watching laziness, I'm resuming my SparkPeople-monitored food journaling. I have a refrigerator full of farmers market fruits and veg, so it shouldn't be too difficult to eat some healthy, unprocessed goodies. Might even go out to Katherine's sometime in the next few days and pick apricots for more jammy goodness. We shall see.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Staying inside on a hot Sunday.

Doopty doo... Once again, not much to report. This guarantees to fascinate, but we spent the morning sleeping in until 10:00, munching cereal, cleaning the front of the house and the kitchen, hosing off the hot pups outside, and then making jam. When I opened the front door to get the paper this morning, it was already 95 outside. Hooo-wee! This afternoon we're going to swim for a bit, order pizza, and then hang out for a FroYo extravaganza with ML/B&C. I will make sure I take some more pics tonight because I know all the kids will be cute together. Until then, I leave you with four measly pictures of what we've been up to all day.

Blackberry Jam!

All lined up, just after I burned my hand trying to tighten the lids. I'm kind of OCD about the lids because I don't want any bacterial issues. What you probably don't realize if you've never made jam before is that it involves all kinds of boiling and sanitizing (also in boiling water), so everything is about a thousand degrees and you need to work fast... hard to do and not end up burning yourself.

Berries are SO much easier for jam than large, pitted fruits. No boiling, no peeling, no food processor-ing, just SMASHING! I wish I'd gotten E to take a pic. It was like that episode of I Love Lucy where she's smashing grapes. I didn't do it with my toes though--sorry to disappoint. Just the bottom of a big plastic cup and my hands.

The legendary Cars-underwear head and foot-stand.

Bud and Ad, staying cool inside when it's 106 outside. Bleh.

Why did I decided to make jam today?


Two Books, Two Reviews

Not that anyone was asking. Then again, nobody was asking about anything on this blurg and this is post number 232. Scheez. My thoughts on two books I finished in the recent past:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants is a book I successfully judged by its cover one day at Borders when I was feeling a little high on book smell. Sequins! Unlike many of my previous book/cover judges, this one turned out to be pretty good.

The book is structured as a frame story, which means that the main story is told through another related, yet different plot line--like the movie Titanic--a story within a story. The book follows an elderly man in a nursing home, remembering his life as a young man who, after some tragic circumstances, inadvertently runs away with the circus. As you can imagine, the circus was filled with some colorful characters--and I mean that in every sense of the word. His flashbacks show a man struggling to grow up, deal with his own losses, and fit quickly in to the bizarre world of the Depression-era circus.

The author researched the circuses of the era extensively, and my favorite parts of the story are those that have their basis in true circus lore (there was an author's note at the end of the novel). It was honestly also interesting just to see how that all worked--the circus trains and freak shows of yesteryear, peppered with lively characters and occasional bawdiness. The novel also includes an elephant who plays a major role in the plot--in fact, she was one of my favorite characters, though her communication was limited to eyes, ears, and body language. I also found the scenes in the nursing home to be poignant and sweet; the main character Jacob, lamenting his aging body, the gentle interaction of an understanding nurse (reminded me in a way, of the nurse in HBO's Wit) and the lonely, bland life that some people end up living in those places in their last years.

It wasn't sad though--don't get me wrong--the story was compelling, a bit racy, funny, and it left me with a smile. Without giving anything away or trying to get too technical on you, I will say that my one complaint about it was that it seemed to employ deus ex machina, which means that there was an all-too-quick resolution to one of the main conflicts in the novel, a love triangle, at the end. This generally bothers me because it seems like an author leads me down a path, only to resolve the issue quickly and with little effort. I felt like I could have kept reading, that she didn't need to wrap it up so quickly. But that's my only complaint. It held my attention and it was light enough fare for summer.

My recommendation: Check it out from the library. I don't think it's one you'll want to treasure forever, but it's definitely worth a read, and you'll most likely enjoy reading it.


Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy

The second book I bought purely because of its beautiful cover that day was Light a Penny Candle. I actually finished this one first, and it's quite longer. I enjoyed this book as well, yet it was completely different.

Penny Candle had a different quality to it--it's more of a grand, sweeping historical novel. Like Gone With the Wind, it follows its main characters through their coming of age, wars, marriages, births, and losses. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's on par with GWTW, but I enjoyed reading something like this that I could stick with for a while. The novel chronicles the lives of two young girls who ended up meeting because one was sent to live with the other in Ireland during the bombings of London in World War II. They remain bonded even after Elizabeth moves back to London, and they maintain a connection through letters to each other.

This novel draws on the epistolary genre, which means a novel that is written in letters. The girls, and eventually--women, write to each other to keep in contact. Through these letters you learn alternately more about their true feelings and less. The book does a good job capturing the struggle we all face with the split between how we represent ourselves to others and the true nature of our most private battles. The book deals with regret, choices, illness of family members--both physical and mental, romance, inner strength, and to a degree, Fate with a capital F. One thing that I personally connected with was the novel's focus on how and why we get married. The two main characters, Elizabeth and Aisling, each marry for different reasons and with different results. Through their happiness and their failures, we're able to see how expectation doesn't always meet reality.

Again, i enjoyed the window this book gave into the time period. Generally, that's not enough to capture my attention, and this book had a plot that kept me interested as well. The contrast between life in "civilized" England during the war and its shabby neighbor, Ireland, was well-described. Light a Penny Candle was a satisfying read: long enough to feel like the full depth of each character's life could be explored. Many of the characters in this novel were secondary to the story, and kind of one-dimensional, however, the connection of the two friends was enough to hold my interest and also more than enough to move the story along. I enjoyed reading this one as well.

My recommendation: Again, check it out from a library or buy it used. Good book. Worth a read. Not necessarily one you need to make space for on the library shelf.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland

We stopped by the farmers' market with Mimi and Aunt Karen this morning after some early morning soccer games. While the monkeys and I were waiting for them to show up, I noticed a long line forming at a berry vendor. I didn't even know what he was selling, but I thought it would be best to get in line first and ask questions later. In my experience at the farmers' market, the line forms where there's something good to be had.

I ended up with oodles of blackberries, so tomorrow--before I even attempt to pick/peel/make jam from my peaches--I'll be teaching myself blackberry jam. I tend to think lately about the PDA when I hear about blackberries, not those purple-black globes, ripe with their magenta juice. I love berries--any kind. I'm kind of excited to try another kind of jam tomorrow. Like I said yesterday, it should be a glorious mess. This is assuming I don't eat them all before the morning.

Addie and I were walking around the farmers' market remembering a book I read to her a lot when she was little, Jamberry by Bruce Degen. It's one of those board books that I admittedly tired of eventually, but it's really fun to say and it has all kinds of great rhymes. I used to totally move that one to the top of the stack. I distinctly remember reading it to Ad when she was a little teeny Roo, not this big almost-second grader who was walking with me this morning, and who tells her own stories now like a seasoned pro.

I've been putting off posting all day because I don't really have anything wonderful or interesting or funny to talk about; it's been a pretty lazy Saturday. First the monkeys took a two hour nap while we watched TV and then I passed out for three hours myself. I also didn't want to end up writing about LOST again (ha!), but I can tell you that it's taking over our summer and I'm totally okay with that. It's nice to have something really meaty to watch on TV, when the rest of my TV time is spent filling up the vacuous holes between episodes of such intellectual fare as Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List and So You Think You Can Dance. I'm not knocking my reality TV love, but I'm enjoying using my mind-grapes too. (AND it's still scaring the bejesus out of me.)

I'm debating right now about going to an improv master class tomorrow that's put on by the contemporary company I was dancing with last year, CORE Dance Collective. It should be amazing, and improv is my favorite thing to do, but it's been a year since I've taken class. A year. Wow. I stopped going when things got hard between me and E and we separated and then I didn't want to be there and have to answer questions or to feel like I was bringing my drama with me. I miss it, but then I'm a little unsure about if tomorrow is the right time to go back. My shins are still hurting in a big way, so I haven't been running for a while. Maybe I will do that instead if it's a nice morning.

I have made one very, very important decision though, and I'd like to share it with you:

I'm living like it's summer for the rest of my life.

Okay, not really. I wish though.

Friday, June 26, 2009


My peaches, let me show you them.

It's almost the Fourth of July, which means it's almost time to pick these lil' beauties. Which means it's almost time for me to go all grandma on everybody I know and make peach jam. It's okay. It goes with the crocheting. I'm a granny livin' in a 30 year old's body. I make some ROCKIN' PEACH JAM too. So look out, family. Some jam is coming your way. Maybe some cobbler too.

My poor, poor peach tree is saggin' like my post-baby body parts. It's pretty much on the ground, but I don't want to touch it because there are branches that have split and I want to let the fruit ripen as long as it can before I pick it.

This happens every year. Every year I look out in the backyard and think I should totally thin the fruit so those branches don't break again this year and every year I go nah, I cut the tree way back last year, so it should be fine and then it's June and my sad little Charlie Brown peach tree stands broken, weeping, and covered in ants that can easily run up its branches because they're dragging on the ground.

I have two cases of jam jars in the garage, just waiting. I love making jam, but it makes a MESS! Hey, maybe that has more to do with the jam maker than the jam, I know. What I should have said is when I make jam, like any household/artistic/construction project I undertake, I make a HUGE MESS EVERYWHERE. Boiling fruit and sugar makes a mean epoxy too. Just try cleaning that up after it hardens because you're not a "details person" and you missed it. Good times.

I'm not making anyone want my jam, talking about ants, and how messy I can be, am I? Don't worry. My jam is as legit as it is rockin'. Don't want any extra protein courtesy of my ant friends, or any botulism courtesy of my bacterial friends. I run a clean operation around here.

I'm sitting around in a quiet house tonight--Hank has been trying for three days to scrape together $10 so he could go buy another Transformer--so tonight E took the monkeys to Toys R Us and to pick up sushi for the two of us for dinner. Wasn't that sweet? He's such a good dad. We got some good career news for him today too--I will be posting about that, but not for a while. Sit tight. Anyway, we're all in a good mood today.

I spent a little bit of time in the backyard right after they left because I don't have any pics of the peach tree... is that bizarre of me? I just love this time of year. I love the smell of a freshly watered garden, I love laying in the backyard to read and getting in the kiddie pool with the kiddos, and seeing what grows. It's sort of taking my mind off of the SHIN PAIN I'm currently experiencing. Freaking shins. Can't afford new running shoes for a while, so I bought some insoles and arch supports... cheap fix... we'll see if that works or not. Sigh.

I started reading The Thorn Birds this afternoon. I like it, but I'm not really far enough into it to make any kind of judgment. I will be posting a review of the book I just finished, Water for Elephants, sometime in the next few days.

I love our backyard after the sun goes behind the trees and house to our West. It ain't so great before that. Try blistering. But right now, it's shaded, cool, and Cal and Guster-muster are out enjoying the grass and chewing all over each other's faces. Goofy dogs.

Gus won't hold still--he just wants to lick the camera if I get too close, and he weighs about 400 pounds. Calvin managed to pose for a few. I really hope I'm not making anybody go oh great, a a DOG POST. I promise to resume my normal rambling tomorrow, and not to go all wacky on you.

At least, not that kind of wacky.