Monthly Archives: June 2014

river city visit

I took the three older children to my mother’s house for the weekend, where they had a blast playing with their cousin and spending lots of time jumping in the river and swimming.  The weather was perfect–warm with a breeze.  I loved watching my girls jumping (over and over), confidently and with so much joy, into the river.

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They are now in France with my mother and I miss them.

our little man is growing up

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In the last month Steven has changed so much in subtle ways that only a mama (or daddy) would know, but the changes were big at the same time. He has been my pickiest eater, with a diet of mostly nuts, crackers, popcorn and yoghourt, and occasionally some granola or a fruit smoothie. We always offer him whatever we are eating for a meal, but he would never eat it, would not even taste it. This month, though, he has tried and eaten a comparatively huge variety of things: fish (which he loved, fried), strawberries (lukewarm), blueberries (dislike, though he will often eat frozen ones), mulberries (loved), eggs, green beans, etc. If he sees his siblings enjoying any kind of food he wants to try it and usually gives the same reaction they have about the food (yum!). It is heartwarming to see a child start to eat–good food.

Steven’s vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds too. He is repeating so much of what he hears, loves reading books, and pointing out things with words he knows (“moon, mama, moon”). He is speaking in sentences, though most of us cannot understand but one or two words of the sentence (“uh nah nit nah nah hoouuuch” means “I wanna sit on the couch”). And, after hearing his sisters often singing from the Frozen soundtrack, he even broke into song the other day playing blocks, “Let it go, let it go . . .”. He loves to count stairs, fingers, birds “two, ree, four, two, ree, four”. It is awfully cute and really amazing. I have always been awestruck by the way children learn language–so fascinating.

His personality has also developed a lot. He is quite a little flirt (look at all those smiles), and has very definite opinions about some things, and can be mischievous now too. He loves to play, loves his siblings, and loves his daddy. He adores Hythe, and when Hythe is lagging behind on a walk to the bus stop, Steven gestures at him and calls “Hythe, Hythe” until he catches up. He does the same thing for Tucker (the dog), and will get quite upset if he does not catch up quickly.

He is a sweet baby, and he is still a baby even though he will be two at the end of this month. A week from Friday I leave for Europe for 11 days, and will leave Hythe and Steven at home with daddy. That is the longest I have been away from any of my children. And, while I know William is perfectly capable of taking wonderful care of them, I am going to miss them very much, and I am sad about missing those little changes that happen so quickly in an almost-two year old.

We are lucky to be this little guys parents–and to be parents to his awesome siblings!

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In the garden

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The garden is coming along. We planted pumpkins and winter squash this week. We’ve had a few evenings spent in the garden as a family–weeding, planting, racing through the potatoes, stomping on the onions (Steven). I love having small helpers in the garden. Then games in the grass after getting the garden work done.

The squash is coming along nicely. I haven’t had a good squash crop in years because I have not been diligent about picking off the insect pests (squash bug and borer). I may have succeeded this year, which means we are going to be flooded with squash for a while. I need to make a new bed for the walking onions. They are ready to “walk” to a new spot.

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The big garden

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The old, wilder garden

I am from where most of the potatoes that are commercially grown in NC are from, so we ate a lot of potatoes growing up. We would even glean the potato field by our house when I was little. My brother has a deep and abiding love for potatoes (especially mashed), but while I do like potatoes a lot, I am not quite so enamored. However, we planted about 5 different varieties of potatoes and I am very excited about new potatoes, I can nearly taste them. But, the only ones I found were about the size of a dime. Few more weeks . . . .

The larkspur is blooming and we are eating the few sour cherries on the little tree. Steven diverted from his normal diet of nuts and crackers to eat one. I think he really liked it!

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feeding the family

I have come to realize over the last year or so that one of my main jobs in life now is to feed 6 humans (myself included). For most of my life, I have taken the task of preparing meals for granted. It never seemed very difficult to get good, healthy meals together, and I like to cook. But, I have never had to feed so many mouths for this many consecutive days (sure, I’ve cooked for up to 30 people at a time, but that’s only once a year or so). It has started to occasionally feel overwhelming. I get up and make breakfast and pack lunches for William and the girls, then make another breakfast for the rest of us. Then, there are snacks to prepare (make sure they are healthy and won’t rot their delicate teeth), and lunches for the remaining three of us, and finally, supper. All the children have their particular likes and dislikes with regard to food, so it is challenging to get food out that is healthy and will be enjoyed by all. I have refused to be a short order cook, and we require them to eat what is served or nothing (though we do cave and offer (home canned) applesauce to anyone on any given night). However, the resultant grumbling and gags when my meal is not to their liking makes the experience quite a bit less enjoyable.

This past month I have also had to make a lot of slow-cooker meals. These are great, if I am prepared, because the meal is ready when we all get home 30 minutes before bedtime after swim lessons and there is no waiting for mom to get the meal out. Whew! But, a couple of times, I am not prepared and the meal for that night is cheese toast and apple slices. One night last week, we came home at 7:00 to find the outlet I had plugged the slow cooker in had been turned off and the soup was cold and raw. Luckily, I had a box of mac and cheese (organic!) in the pantry. The kids had that — I had a glass of wine.

I guess all of this is to say I have been in a cooking slump for some time. I feel that my repertoire consists of 3 to 4 meals that the little ones will tolerate (beans and rice, stir fry, quiche, and pasta). Luckily, there are a lot of variations to these meals so I don’t feel too stuck. But, the enjoyment of making and eating new things has been curbed.

I even won an on-line cooking class (yes, there is such a thing), and for the 2 weeks that I “took” this class, I was culinarily inspired because I got an email from the teacher every morning at 7 a.m. which reminded me I had to cook for my family that day. Thankfully, there were a few recipes in the class that I knew I wanted to make, and a couple were hits — one or two, failures.

So, I am looking forward to some change this summer. Summer vegetables and fruit from the garden will be inspiring for me and our children — we have loads of potatoes coming on, and the kids like most summer vegetables (but not tomatoes or eggplant). I also feel good when they are eating lots of fruit and vegetables (not just pasta). Roasted okra, mashed potatoes, sauteed squash, and watermelon or berries for dessert. Perfect! Also, school is out (June 12!!) and the schedule is more relaxed, which will hopefully mean that the children can help me more in the kitchen and I won’t feel rushed to get meals ready (in order to get to school, bed, lessons, etc. on time). I am also going to use a few new cookbooks I got this year, Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perlman, and The Four Seasons Farm Gardeners Cookbook (I can never remember the name of it, but it is good, and has great garden advice to boot) by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman. I have made a few things from each of these books and they are great. Even my children have liked most of them!

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So, this has been a long post, but please share any tips or advice on inspired cooking and cooking for kids.