Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Apricot jam is my favorite.

When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived right next door to us. 

We have always joked that my Mom was the only person on Earth crazy enough to live 60 yards from her in-laws.  Now, as an adult with a husband of my own, I can totally see that those jokes held more than a little bit of truth. 

Lucky for my Mom, she as one of the fortunate few who had a great relationship with her in-laws - we all know (or maybe are) people who can't sit through a holiday dinner with their in-laws, much less live 60 yards away for decades.  (I will plead the 5th on my own in-law situation. LOL) 

And lucky for my brothers and I, having Granny and Pop as our neighbors was any kid's dream come true.  We lived out in the country, away from everyone else - our "neighborhood" was our house and my grandparents' house.  We saw my Granny and Pop every single day.

Granny was our grandmother, our babysitter, and mostly our friend.  She always greeted us with a hug and a smile.  She was always happy to see one of "The Neighbors" coming up her front steps.  It was truly a heavenly way to grow up - raising kids takes a lot more people than just a mom and a dad, and how lucky we were to have a whole tribe right there to raise us.

I spent countless afternoons in the summer over there.  My Granny taught me to sew and paint, baked cookies with me, played dolls, let me help her with any little project that she was up to, listened to my problems, and usually made me a sandwich.

And in Granny's house, that was a PBJ with Apricot Jam. 

Apricot Jam is like a little blob of sunshine. 

It takes me right back to my Granny's kitchen on a hot summer afternoon. I can almost hear her voice and feel her cool skin on my face as she gave me a hug.

My Granny bought her jam at the store (though she did lots of other types of canning), but when I got my hands on these little beauties (21 pounds of them!) I knew exactly what I would do with them.

I made a bunch of different jams and jellies last canning season - various flavors of apricot, apple, cherry, plum, raspberry, blackberry and mango) and my house must be the nation's leading consumer of jams and jellies because supplies are dwindling. My girls eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches three times a day sometimes.  My Apricot Jam batch last year consisted of some "adult" flavors, like habanero and rosemary, which are dreamy with goat cheese on a pizza or as a glaze on chicken, but the few jars of "regular" PBJ-style apricot just wasn't enough. It was gone in no time.  I just love it.  I love it in the traditional PBJ, on toast, with cream cheese on a baguette, on thumbprint cookies, as a filling for a cake - everywhere. 

So I decided that I would turn all 21 pounds (okay, minus the ones that I made into a tart and the ones that the kids ate) into regular old Apricot Jam.

I spent all afternoon over the canner, jamming away.  This was my first canning project of the season. I love canning for the same reason that I love Apricot Jam -  jars rattling around in there remind me of countless afternoons spent with my Granny.  I don't mind pitting and chopping, as those were the jobs of my younger days with her.  I love the smell of steam and the sweat on my brow.  Nowadays, the sore feet and clean-up after an afternoon of canning seem like a small price to pay for the time I get to spend with her there in spirit.

And now I have a stash of sunshine to get me through the next year. 

10 pints of sweet, sticky sunshine. <3

Monday, May 20, 2013

Growing girls is a lot like growning tomatoes.

With summer just around the corner, we just spent our weekend getting our garden together.

I was so excited because we have almost three times more space than we did last summer! We use raised beds and a modified version of Square Foot Gardening.  I works so great! And it makes the unpleasant things about gardening (weeds, bad soil, etc.) must less unpleasant, which we can all get on board with.

I was also so excited because my girls are old enough to enjoy gardening with us.

I had visions of  sharing something so close to my heart with two happy kids and having a ton of fun.

Unfortunately, Square Foot Gardening does nothing to make the unpleasant parts of  parenting less unpleasant.

Apparently these two had different plans.

They cried and fought most of the time. Carly bit Hayden. Hayden pushed Carly. Repeatedly. They both whined and cried what felt like non-stop.  They had tantrum after tantrum.  Ugh. Instead of being fun and relaxing, it was mostly stressful and annoying.  I guess that I got carried away in my Good Old Fashioned Family Garden fantasy, and in true Clark Griswold fashion, my expectations far exceeded anything that the actual experience could have been.  Two small children with bad attitudes got the best of Clark this weekend.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't ALL bad.

I got the beginnings a really cool garden out of the deal.

I have a good looking "hired man"...
There was wine in the evening. (Yes, I was drinking wine from a pint Mason Jar.  Judge me if you'd like.  I drink out of one when we are outside because: a) I want a super-sized wine, b)if I drop it or the dogs or kids knock it over and the jar breaks, I have a bunch and don't care, c)drinking wine from plastic is gross, d) I want a super-sized wine. So there. Judge away. LOL)

These (dirty) little troublemakers even had a glimmer of fun here and there. (They were SO dirty. They looked like they had come directly from the sewers on Les Mis.  Their bathwater was black on both evenings.)

In between temper-tantrums and sibling rivalry, they even got some bike riding in.

The garden is still a work in progress.  When you are on a limited budget and doing it all yourselves, sometimes progress feels slow. Sometimes it feels like everything just looks torn up and messy. It takes time for things to green up and grow.  You feel a little defeated. But then you kind of have a minute where you look around and say, "Wow, we are really getting somewhere! This isn't so bad after all...."
In reality, parenting is a lot like building and growing my garden. They are whining and crying and fighting and you want to pull your hair out.  Listening to one try to micro-manage the other's every little move grates on your nerves.  Breaking up one more sisterly argument just might send you running right out the front door.  Cleaning up mess after mess and listening to tantrum after tantrum puts a kink in your plans.
It feels like you are screwing it up.  A lot. 
Growing girls is hard.  
It requires super-human patience and unwavering commitment.
And then, somewhere in all of it, somethinggood happens and you look around and for a split second, you go, "Wait. There it is. We are going to be okay."
After the weekend we have had, I need that moment.  Please let today be my day.  LOL
Good thing they are cute.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Secret World of "Cake"

My big girl is growing up so fast.

She is so smart and beautiful.  And grown up.

Sometimes it is hard to believe how big she is - other times it is hard to believe that she is only three. 

The day she was born, I looked into those big blue eyes and said to my mom, "This is an old soul." Flash forward to not quite three and a half years later, and I swear she is three going on thirty.

She has always had a great imagination.  Starting at around 13 or 14 moths old, she has been serving us pretend food and drinks, giving us pretend money or presents, calling us the names of princesses or other cartoon characters, and last summer she even had a little imaginary caterpillar.

But now that she is older, her imagination is REALLY running wild.

She has her own secret little world. 

And I am loving every second of it.

The other day, she told me about her new "friend" - a little girl named "Cake".  Cake has a very detailed background story, 100% created by Hayden. 

(Blogger is acting up and won't let me put a video here, so just click the link.  She is too dang cute not to see.)

Garrett and I get a kick out of the matter of fact way that she describes Cake and her family and her world, as if every word of it were true and it is just the way that it is. 

Hayden and Cake, taking on the world, one wild story at a time.

I love this big girl to bits and pieces.

Monday, May 13, 2013

13 Things I Learned in Paris

1. In Paris, there are beautiful and amazing things everywhere.


2. There are a ton of interesting people all over the place.

And these are just a couple of the millions of strange folks we came in contact with.  The whole world is crawling with them.

3. Poop happens. 
He sat in something.  It was gross.  He didn't think it was funny - especially when I took his picture. 
Hey, it's not my fault that you sat in poop, Big Guy. LOL
4. I am so funny.

Well, at least I think so.
5. In Paris, there is good food. Like a ton of it. Everywhere.

5. When a waiter asks you if you want a "large wine" in French, you will probably end up with an entire bottle of wine all to yourself.  Which really isn't that bad of a problem to have.
Also, that was a really big pizza, wasn't it?
6. My husband the beer snob is a beer snob in France, too.


7. Just because something looks familiar on the outside doesn't mean it is familiar on the inside.
That Coke has no ice.  Not a single cube. 
And the latte? Not exactly what Garrett was expecting either. 
Very strange.
8. A call home is kind of bittersweet.

10. This guy looks a lot like Zach Galafinakis.
Thank heavens for the horse mane.
11. The Mona Lisa is very small.
Like the size of a poster.  And people sure do love it. 
12. I enjoy the heck out of my husband's company, even after all these years.


13. No matter how beautiful Paris is, no matter how much fun I had, no matter what I did or saw, coming home to these little faces was the sweetest part.