October 31, 2014

ROAR!

happy halloween 2014

Boy oh boy do we have our hands full this year. Little Smith came up with the costume ideas all on his own, and I kept thinking how sweet and innocent he was that he still wanted to be animals, instead of something scary or commercial... then as soon as he got on his tiger gear, he started growling and proclaiming (in an oddly menacing voice), 'I see a delicious zebra!'... followed by abruptly tackling his baby sister to the ground. I think we are in for a very long day of tricks, treats, and probably a few tears!


Happy Halloween to all!

*see our past kiddo's halloweens 2013, 2012, and 2011 :) 

October 26, 2014

The Children's Garden

children's garden at berkshire botanical

Gardening is an activity we really love to do as a family. We aren't experts (my mother and her friend Cindy are our green thumb gurus, and we are lucky to have them!), but James and I have learned a lot in the years since we scored our little plot in the community garden, and the kids have never known a summer without seeds and dirt under their fingernails.

Watching my little boy take pride in growing his own food and flowers has deepened my own appreciation. Each year he understands more, and this past summer we decided to set aside one of our beds for him to plant his very own butterfly garden (as he is a lover of butterflies). He worked hard to care for it, watering and weeding, and was so pleased with himself. He also has his own good quality children's tools, it might seem like a silly luxury but he gets that they are important, and they also help him do some legitimate digging. Of course if given the choice, his favorite chore is still picking (aka eating!).

One of the highlights of our visit to the fall festival at the botanical center in my hometown was the children's garden. They have done such a nice job with this magical space; a 'wishing' tree, herbs, flowers, and veggies everywhere, large slate boards with buckets of water and paintbrushes to make 'water drawings', interactive solar fountains, baskets of found treasures hidden in the woods, chickens, and so much more. Everything is at a scale that feels appropriate for little people, but nothing is patronizing or made to feel 'kid only'. It's a place that certainly appeals to adults, but is geared towards touching, climbing, learning, and discovering. 

Little Smith was thrilled to investigate (Roo was about thirty seconds from passing out for her afternoon nap, but otherwise would have been psyched too). I'm brainstorming on more ways and spaces to engage them both in the next growing season. A few plans to keep my mind in the light as we head into the darkness of winter.

October 24, 2014

Stuffed Squash with Rice and Mushrooms


We didn't grow any winter squash in our garden this year, but every trip to the market for the last few weeks has been met with pleas from a certain three year old to 'adopt' a pumpkin, or something that resembles one. We are overrun with an array of 'friends', all thoughtfully named... and then eaten. I'm not sure if this is the vegetarian version of compassionate consumption, but we're enjoying our squash! 

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Wild Rice and Mushrooms: makes four squash halves, plus some extra stuffing (you'll want it!)
  • 2 large acorn squash
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice (about one cup uncooked typically)
  • 2-3 handfuls cremini mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbs chopped and toasted almonds
  • 1 tbs fresh sage, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 6 tbs butter, plus more for roasting squash
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425. Chop squash in half the short way, trim off the pointy bit so that all halves sit flat. Scoop out seeds, etc. Lay all four squash halves on a heavy baking tray and rub with butter (more tastes better, surprise surprise!). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the wild rice according to directions and set aside (also usually takes about 40 minutes, convenient right?).

Reduce oven heat to 350. Heat a large frying pan (I like cast iron) over medium heat. Add 3 tbs butter until melted, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute, stirring, a minute or two until softened, but not browned. 

Add the herbs, a pinch of salt, and the mushrooms. Saute, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender, adding a bit of extra butter as needed (the mushrooms will look dry at first, then release liquid, and then that liquid will get reabsorbed... this took about 10 minutes for me, but will vary depending on mushrooms, pan, and heat).

Add toasted almonds and then rice and 2 tbs butter. Saute, mixing, for a minute or two and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Spoon the rice mixture into the squash halves. I like to mound them pretty high and warm any leftover rice for people to add to their dishes at will. Dot the top of each squash with a small dollop of butter, cover the whole tray with tinfoil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until hot.


This makes for a festive fall dinner alongside some veggie (or meaty if you like) sausages and a green salad. I wish we could have photographed Little Smith enjoying his 'acorn bowl', which felt very special, but the light was not in our favor. We deconstructed Roo's and served her rice and chunks of squash without the skin. James put in a vote for doubling the recipe. Sometimes one squash half is just not enough. This is a meal that definitely pleases our whole family. Now to tackle all of those lingering pumpkins!

Balloon Bob and 41


Pushing or foregoing naps is always a risky proposition with kids. I constantly find myself balancing the rewards of any outing against those risks of the disruption to our schedule, but I've discovered that I am much more willing to upturn a good nap routine with the second child than I was with the first (and I can only imagine this increases with each additional kid... because hello, we can't all just sit around and wait for the baby to wake up, can we? We can't!). 

This tenuous border between fun and exhaustion often means everything is super-perfect-happy-great, followed by epic melt-down-drama-nightmares, causing us (momentarily)  to regret  any attempt at an adventure. Our visit to the Harvest Festival was no exception to this pattern, and the final unraveling all circled around 'Balloon Bob'.

We learned the hard way that once you suggest the possibility of a balloon animal to a 3 and 3/4 year old, there is just no turning back. We also discovered that while balloon artists may have many impressive skills, time management is not necessarily one of them. After nearly an hour in line and countless popped balloons (I could seriously feel my nerves rising with every explosion!), a whole bunch of tears, and a very tired baby, Little Smith finally got to make his request for a 'blue spider'. The body was whipped and twisted together in pretty fast time, but the legs (oh the legs!). James quickly assessed how much time we were looking at for an eight legged spider, counted the kids in the line behind us, and amended our balloon to an abbreviated 'four legged spider'. Everyone was grateful!

I thought this balloon creature looked like a grasshopper, but Little Smith was adamant that it was a 'breviated spider, and he was totally smitten with that thing. Roo wanted to grab it too, cue the melt-downs... and then they both passed out in the car on the way home, with our four legged spider sandwiched between them. It later deflated by my mom's wood stove, and yeah, a few more tears may have been shed. Highs and lows, highs and lows :)

See all our Harvest Festival joy here

October 22, 2014

Harvest Lunch


Every fall we get excited to head out to my mom's, in western Massachusetts, for the local Harvest Festival. It's always a good time to take part in the various activities they have for kids, grab some hometown food and beer, shop some crafts, and listen to live music. The festival has gotten bigger, and more commercial since my own childhood, but there are still lots of the old stand-by's represented, like the pumpkin toss, hay jump, and pocket lady (always my favorite, and I love that James snapped a covert picture of me pilfering a pocket... I did give that prize to the kids- honest!).

This year we waited out a rainy morning, and arrived just in time to order up some warm lunch. Little Smith got the most enormous potato pancake loaded with apple sauce, it seemed the perfect indulgence for a fall fair. I would have loved a little sour cream on there too, but the boy could not be convinced.


We finished up our food sitting on the grass and listening to some music. The kids are in a dancing phase right now, but in typical Smith fashion it's very understated... the subtle synchronized bobbing makes me laugh.  I also tried my best to give hula hoop instruction, which is far more challenging than I remember. Scary!

*And don't worry, there is plenty more of this festival to share (otherwise known as, I took way too many pictures and am having an editing crisis... so check back for more photos of pumpkins, hay mazes, my cute family, and that most unfortunate hat choice for myself... you've been warned!). 

See our Harvest Festival fun though the years here

October 20, 2014

Frost


We woke this morning to chilly toes and the smell of winter in the air. The kids drew pictures on the frost covered glass while the sun rose, and I dug out my heavy sweaters and noted only four pairs of socks free of holes. Another shift on the way; always a reminder of the bittersweet passing of time, yet also the promise of a clean slate and fresh possibilities. I wonder how I would find any rhythm if I lived somewhere without such distinct seasons. The weather provides so much of my life's structure, it's the datum against which I measure every move and change. 

We've been celebrating a warm October, with all the freedom and ease that 70 degree days bring... but this new cold does feel just about right. I needed the slower pace; dark evenings spent reading, working, and cooking, instead of capturing every last minute of daylight, scraping together careless meals, and then racing to make bedtime. I'm hoping the children feel the change as well, and stay cozy in their beds just a little longer so we can all get some more sleep. Wishful thinking!

October 14, 2014

Details C10.01

after lunch free play fall dresser work and warm breezes groggy mornings dusty mantle sunday lunch at her perch working piles (his, her's, and mine) family fun daily collections

I've been thinking a lot about balance, an enviable state that I never seem to be any good at reaching. We've been pushing any semblance of balance in our household to its absolute limit. It seems there's much to say about being a stay-at-home parent, a work-at-home parent, a parent who chooses to identify as stay-at-home (for a whole variety of reasons; personal, practical, political), but does also do outside work. However seeing as we are passing by 2AM, and I will likely get my first wake-up call in a mere three hours, for now I will just say that I feel like I have the best, and the worst, of both worlds. 

James and I are scrambling equally to stay on top of everything, juggle the basic household chores, and take good care of the babes... and we do talk about balance.It sounds good, but I'm not even certain it's something we are striving for right now. Maybe not all phases of life are supposed to feel balanced. Maybe there are years, or decades, that swing to one extreme before ultimately correcting. 

I was feeling really low last week, and a colleague, who also has two small children, took me aside to ask how I was able to look and sound so pulled together when he was tearing his hair out. It was such a shock, and a much needed sprinkle of flattery. It's amazing how critical we can be of ourselves, and also how much impact a few generous words can have. 

We are working more deliberately in our own family these days, to be kind to ourselves and one another. Pushing our limits might be worthwhile, but it does also mean cutting a good bit of slack in all directions. 

Thanks so much to those of you who continue to visit me here, share in a few words and pictures, and offer so much encouragement, advice, and support in the comments here and via email. And with that, good night!