31 July 2009

The Gang

I'm totally in love with this picture of my mother sitting on the front porch with her siblings. She's the younger girl in the picture. To the left, her older sister. The two boys in stripes are her two brothers.

The third boy, the one with the gun . . . honestly, mom has no idea who he is.

30 July 2009

There Will Be Bows

Today I got out a little bag of ribbon and barrettes and finished five new bows for my girls. Last year, (and it's an odd coincidence that it was exactly today a year ago) I made a pile of them:

School was starting and I wanted the girls to have bows to put in their hair because (despite my gender-neutral brainwashing) they like that kind of thing.

I think the bill came to $7.50 for all 12 that you see in the picture. It was something like $2 for a 12 pack of hair clips and a total of $5.50 for all the ribbons to make the bows. I'm quite sure that I was able to start and finish this project (meaning all 12 bows) in a single afternoon. Frugalein definitely and happily approved.

29 July 2009


While we were out of town back in June, temperatures 'round here went way up and the cilantro bolted (which it will do when the soil reaches 75˚ F). I knew there was really nothing to be done, which explains why nothing is exactly what I did.

Then, last week while we were yet again out of town, I read a very cheeky NYT food-blog article which contained the following fascinating statement:

Cilantro is . . . the first to bolt, and once in the throes its leaves turn wispy and scant, leaving you wanting. You can cut the flowers back a couple times (and eat them) but the plant will never produce much foliage again. Instead cilantro re-bolts quickly a couple times before suddenly deciding to shrivel up and die. I just let the cilantro do its thing, then eat the precious seeds; when still green, their citrus grassiness is better than the leaves ever were.

The very first day we were back I pulled a few little herb-buds off our bolted cilantro. They were delicious, yes, in very deed rivaling the tastiness of the plant's leaves.

But of course, such deliciousness is short-lived. Don't even think about using them unless they're really still quite green. If you can't get them early you might as well let them continue on their way toward coriander-hood. The in-between stage is sadly bitter and unpleasant.

27 July 2009

Dandelion and Hibiscus

She didn't like the way the weedy-grass felt on her toes. That's why she's standing on moss covered bricks.

26 July 2009

Summer's Lease

It's my favorite line from a sonnet that I otherwise don't much care for:

summer's lease hath all too short a date

And it's true. We're back from the last big trip we will make this season. Daylilies are nearly spent. Sunflowers, zinnia, and the gigantic hibiscus are all in bloom. School starts up again in three weeks. I feel as if fall is rushing toward us.

That's no tragedy, of course. I love fall. It's my favorite season of all of them, actually. But this summer has been something else. There have been fantastic day trips, lazy pool-side afternoons, never a dull moment in the garden, and all-around good friends & family time. I honestly don't want it to end.

24 July 2009


Today we went on a trail ride. Here's part of our group, ready to depart.

I had never been on a horse before. I had only ever touched one once and that was 10 years ago. It completely terrified me. I'm not given to terror or anything, so it now seems strange to me that on that occasion I felt so afraid.

Matthew's only fear was that Dandelion wouldn't make it more than a minute on the horse, but she did fine. All of us, I think, enjoyed the ride quite a lot and we got to give the horses treats in the end.

And nobody got their fingers bitten off, so that's so much the better.

23 July 2009

Down By the Harbor

I guess if I were to imagine a bunch of guys gutting fish down by the waterfront, I probably wouldn't imagine much more than a pocket knife. That, and an overturned bucket to sit on. But today we ambled by the harbor to watched the boats come and go. There we found a crowd watching this guy fillet his catch of the day.

Take a look at that setup! He's got a chest freezer, stainless steel workspace with a sink and a hardwood chopping block. You can see a bunch of spray-bottle cleaners there, bottled water and a big cooler too. It's all so sanitary, or at least those spray-bottles make me think it must be. All in all, it's the grandest gutting station I've ever seen.

22 July 2009

The Trouble With the Beach is the Beach

Recently, we have enjoyed daily excursions to the beach. Matthew has a 2-person boat that's proven itself lake (if not sea) worthy on trips to and from the lighthouse on the pier. We've built our share of castles and dug out plenty of tide pools in which to watch the lake water swirl. Typical beach fun. We would be all set to have more fun just like it, except for one little hiccup.

Dandelion can't help getting coated in sand each time we go down to the shore . . . not that I mind. I mean sure, there's some pretty intense clean up called for there, but if she was fine with it, I would be too. Trouble is, she isn't fine with it.

The sand on her legs in the picture is so thick it makes her look like she's wearing those thick Miss America swimsuit competition pantyhose. Not the best look, but if she didn't care, neither would I. Trouble is, she does care.

This is how she gets herself into such a state: Dandelion can't resist the water, but the lake is too cold for her to last in there for very long. Freezing cold and soaking wet, she retreats to the sun-warmed sand a little way from the water. There she'll lie down, roll around a little, make sand angels, whatever it takes to speed up the warming process.

And now it is time for some math.

wet kid + sand = sand-coated kid
sand-coated + Dandelion = Irreconcilable Differences

She told me today that from now on she only wants to go to beaches without sand (whatever those are). I'd like to see Dandelion work things out. This is just a rough patch, after all. She'll get over it. She's too young to swear off beaches forever.

20 July 2009

Berry Pickin'

Today we picked blueberries at Stephenson's Farm.

Ripe berries practically fall off the bush when touched. Because the ripe ones fall off easily, you really have to have your hands free and use both of them to gather the berries that taste best. That's why they encourage you to tie the berry bucket around your waist like this:

There were 18 people in our group today, and we picked in excess of 75 lbs of berries. Oh the treats we will make.

If anyone has a favorite blueberry recipe, I'd love to hear about it.

19 July 2009

Tripple Birthday

This is going to be a really big day . . . three birthdays in one.

Joe is my brother, a house-renovating, code-crunching, treat-baking, ball-playing, wise-cracking super guy--and he's the marrying kind, too.

Sam is my nephew. He's Star's age and loves sports and rockets and paper air planes and anything that's fun (and a few things that aren't) (don't ask me what that means).

For little Anna, this is birthday number one. She's such a lovely little girl.

17 July 2009


Last week I met a mom at the park. This happens to me a lot, actually.

She and I chatted about mom stuff. Then she got stung by a bee. It was down in the clover under her feet, flitting from one clover to the next. Then, probably, she nearly stepped on it and it got scared and it stung her.

Yesterday, in the same clover field where that mom-from-last-week got stung, I saw a chubby little guy get stung on the foot too. He was tossing a ball around with a friend, but the bee sting shut that right down.

Today I saw the mom who got stung at the park again. I asked about her bee sting, and you know what? She said that not two days after the bee sting at the park the same thing happened again in her own back yard.

I've got bees in my yard too. See?

Mostly, I plain forget that these little fuzzy pollinators hurt people because I'm too busy trying to take a picture of them. But, anyway, respect the bee, people! Bee stings hurt like holy hell (and that's a quote).

16 July 2009

She Made Me Breakfast

The other day, too early for anybody's business, I heard Star crashing and banging around in the kitchen. I was still in bed and that was the point.

Star's all of six years old. Already she deeply believes that the way to someone's heart is through their stomach, so long as that stomach is still in bed. She's a real sweetheart.

And she's all of six. No matter how unbelievably thoughtful it is to make mommy breakfast in bed for no special reason whatsoever, still the fact remained that Star was in there without any adult supervision. I got out of bed, hugged my sweet girl and suggested that we have a breakfast picnic on the porch instead.

Maybe some of you will wonder why I shut down such a lovely gesture. So, if you have one of those inquiring minds my guess is that:

1. there's someone else cleaning up after you
2. you've never actually tried breakfast in bed


3. you have a radically higher tolerance for messes than I do

She was disappointed at first, but she took it well and in the end she pulled it off nicely I thought.

It's a good thing we opted for the porch. Two minutes after I took this picture, breakfast took a turn that was so messy I had to give myself a gold star for a successful intervention and redirection. Yeah. I'd take a front porch picnic over breakfast in bed any day. No contest.

15 July 2009

Linda's Mystery

My neighbor is a fantastic gardener. She seems to know everything about plants and seeds and weeds and all-around lawn care.

But . . . she doesn't know the name of this plant.

And of course, neither do I. Do you? Until I can figure out what they're called, I've named them Linda's Mystery.

She gave me the seeds for it last fall, and here they are growing in my yard where there was nothing but weeds last year.

14 July 2009

Spice it Up

Quite by accident, after living on my own and "cooking" for myself for three years, I bumbled my way into one of the most basic and obvious herbal combinations imaginable: garlic and oregano. It was like magic in my mouth. My taste buds did a little dance, not unlike what cavemen must have done around their primordial fires. After that first discovery there was really no turning back.

The best thing about spices is what they can do for a dish that isn't much of anything without them. An example? Split-pea soup. Here's a variation on Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything. The result isn't soupy unless you add a whole lot more water.

Split Peas with Mixed Spices

1.5 c green split peas
4+ c water (or stock of one kind or another)
1/4 t cayenne
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t black pepper
salt to taste

1 T minced ginger
1 T minced garlic

Put everything except the ginger and garlic in a large enough pot and bring to a boil. Cover and cook, keeping the water level high enough so that it doesn't burn or stick. This will take the better part of 45 minutes. When the lentils are nearly done add in ginger and garlic. Serve over basmati rice.

13 July 2009

That's Neighborly

I found this note taped to my door early this spring. The rear license plate had been dangling from the right hand bolt back there for weeks for one very simple reason. The left hand bolt was made of plastic and had broken off. It attached from the inside and seemed impossible to remove or replace. For months the plate had stayed in place just fine because I found an ill-fitting nut and used acrylic glue to keep it stuck to the broken bolt. Problem solved . . . until it got so cold that the glue cracked.

I waited for a nice, temperate day early in the spring and glued it again. It's been fine ever since.

But it sure was nice of Linda to offer a solution. Good neighbors are one of the great things about #970.

12 July 2009

In der Heidelberger Hauptstrasse

March, 2002. I was living in Heidelberg, Germany and my younger sisters came for a visit. We went to lots of nearby places, and one day we decided to visit the Hauptstrasse--the pedestrian shopping zone in the center of town.

Suz stopped to have her picture taken with the statue of Herr Bunsen, of bunsen burner fame. No, seriously.

Barb was highly impressed by these donation kiosks, which were all over the place. So convenient. This one is for clothing and shoes. Just drop your old things off.

We were also impressed by the elephant.

Yes, an elephant.

Bye bye, elephant.

11 July 2009

Kraus House

Look where I went today . . .

In my neighborhood (it took us all of 10 minutes to get there - wouldn' ta taken that long but I took a wrong turn) there is an amazing Frank Loyd Wright house, which he designed in 1951 for Russell and Ruth Kraus at Ebsworth Park.

Here's the floor plan.
The Kraus's wanted a Usonian house--these were designs Wright intended to be affordable, accessible works of art for middle class people to live in. Though the Usonians were rarely affordable (this one being no exception) the Kraus House is certainly a work of art--Russell and Ruth saw to that. They insisted on following Wright's design with meticulous accuracy. If a change was thought necessary, they first had it approved in writing by Wright. Because they had no children, the Kraus House was only ever gently used and it's owners were able to leave it to the County.

The house is an excellent showcase of Wright's late aesthetic. The intersecting parallelograms in the design, the cantilevered roof, seemingly unsupported glass corners, open living space, as well as the building's horizontality and harmonious situation within the landscape are all typical of Wright's designs. Walking through that house is like walking through a pictorial summary of major developments of Wright's career.

Although Matthew and I were properly fascinated by all of this, Dandelion was not. Because she was too bored to bare it any longer, we ducked out of the brief video of the house's history so that she could run around. Here she is, playing on the steps behind the tool shed.

I was also able to persuade her to go stand by the other end of the house by the master bedroom, which she obligingly did until it began to rain.

The tour of the interior was excellent and informative. We were permitted to walk the surrounding grounds and to go into every room in the house. Our guide seemed to have a story for every nook and cranny in the place. I enjoyed every bit of it.

To see the house you have to make an appointment and it costs $10 for grown ups, half that for kids under 12. They have all kinds of events coming up. See for yourself at their site.

09 July 2009


In the fall, it will be three years since the girls and I took a brief trip to London. While we were there, I took this picture, riding the carousel in the London Zoo.

Since I rode with them and the carousel was in motion the background blurred nicely. I was really happy with how the picture turned out. Whenever possible, this is the way I prefer to take pictures of carousel rides. Since our kids are, well, kids, there will always be another chance. Here they are, on a much more recent carousel ride at Grant's Farm.

08 July 2009


It's been a long day, so why don't you take a seat? The porch is cool and I have lemonade inside. There's another chair for me. I'll sit with you and we can have a nice long chat.

The chairs are comfy too. You'll like them. I bought the set months ago at that little shop down the road--Recycled Rose. That's the one. But they had no cushions. I looked for some that fit right, but couldn't find any so I made these. It took me a while to finish them, but I'm so glad I did. I used the fabric from my bus stop friend and I'm really happy with them. So tell me, how have you been?

07 July 2009

Pie and Serendipity

I made apple pie on the fourth of July, which means that we didn't get to actually eat apple pie until the fifth. My recipe is definitely better a day later.

And then, a day after the day after the fourth, I decided it was time to go to Serendipity, an ice creamery not far from our house. I noticed recently that Serendipity will be participating in the Art of Food event coming up this month on the 25th. We'll be out of town then, but we're not out of town now! With the thrill of the possible alive in my mind, I loaded the kids into the car.

Turns out their ice cream is wonderful, homemade, and creative. Star & Dandelion both got sprinkles on their scoops. They had Blow Pop (bubble gum flavored with crushed lollipop in it) and Cookie Monster (a fruity blue ice cream with cookie dough mixed in). Aunt Terra got chocolate peanut butter but passed on the sprinkles. As for me, Ginger caught my eye. Could it be, I thought, could it really be ginger? I asked to try some--I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to a whole scoop. But that one taste was perfect. It had all the complexity of the hot/spicy/sweet root herb that I have come to love in savory dishes. Blended with ice cream, it was nothing short of divine.

I've since learned that a lot of ice cream makers have this flavor. I didn't know, and discovering it for myself was nothing short of serendipity.

A Variation on My Aunt's Apple Pie Recipe:

3 lbs Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored, sliced
1-1.5 c sugar (depending on tartness of the apples)
1 t cinnamon

Mix all this together. Let it sit for an hour before it goes into the pie crust

3 c flour
1 t salt
3/4 c canola oil
6 T water

Preheat oven 350˚ F. Mix crust ingredients together until uniformly combined and it forms dough that can be rolled out. Add more flour or water/oil if needed to achieve the right consistency. Divide into two balls and roll out between sheets of wax paper. Transfer the first to the pie pan. (I always bake mine in a rather large round cake pan because I don't own a pie pan, believe it or not). Add the apples & all juices from the cinnamon and sugar. Cover with the second rolled-out half of the crust recipe. Make it pretty if you know how and feel like doing it, though it will taste just as good without embellishment. Place pie onto a cookie sheet and bake ~ 90 minutes (should any juices overflow, the cookie sheet will save you a horrific amount of clean up). If the top begins to brown excessively you can cover it with foil, but I never have had this happen.

Remove from oven, wait a full day, and then . . . at long last . . . enjoy.

06 July 2009

Sitting on Art

While doing my daily check-in on the blogs I follow, I read Joe's post about Citygarden, a new sculpture park in the heart of downtown. His post has it all--video, pictures, and this closing line "Citygarden had the magical affect of making me look up and admire the city's skyline - something I actually can't remember doing on Market Street before."

That is the stuff envy is made of, at least if you're me. For it's part, envy is the stuff plans are made of. I took a quick peek at a map, got the girls into their swimsuits, packed a picnic lunch, and we were off.

The kids got right into the fountains and stayed there for most of our visit. Eventually, Star needed to refuel. Here she is sitting on Jonathan Clarke's 2006 Lifestyle.

Later, we moved on to Tom Claassen's 2004 Untitled (Two Rabbits).

The whole experience was fantastic for the kids, who explored Citygarden in the most tactile way possible--splashing in the pools and fountains and climbing all over the art--none of which was in any way discouraged.

And of course, it was profoundly pleasant for me. I went there with one Sister-in-Law in tow and ran into another soon-to-be while we were there. We sat in the shade together talking while the girls paddled about making friends in a nearby pool.

Often, envy ruins it's objects--spoils them because the envied thing can't live up to the anticipation or the desiring of it. Not so with Citygarden. Maybe it was running into Katy, having grown-ups to talk to, or the nice weather. Or, maybe it was just Citygarden. Being there was wonderful--far and away better than I had imagined it would be.

05 July 2009

Recently, At the Reptile House

We spent a very rainy 4th of July morning at the St. Louis Zoo, scurrying from one covered spot to the next.

We took shelter in the Reptile House for a good deal of time that morning. Here's Matthew, making the exhibit come alive for the girls.

From where I was sitting, watching my family I had a nice view of the atrium.

As a work of architecture, I really like the Reptile House. It's one of the oldest buildings at the zoo. I wanted to find out more about it's history so I checked the zoo's website. Turns out that the Reptile House is exactly as old as #970. Both were built in 1927.

The zoo structures built during this period incorporated animal figures into the low-relief sculptures ornamenting the building's facade. Creepy, perhaps, but also didactic in a charming sort of way.

03 July 2009

It's a Race

Matthew and Dandelion, racing behind our push-mower.

A little more than a year ago, Frugalein and Grünelein clasped hands in teary-eyed delight when we purchased that push-mower. Here's why:

1. A push-mower costs a whole lot less than a gas-powered mower. Frugalein loved the price tag. Grünelein felt smug that (at least when it comes to lawn care), polluters had to pay for their wastefulness.

2. A push-mower consumes no fuel, emits no waste. Frugalein loved that she wouldn't have to spend yet more money to operate it. Grünelein loved that it had no carbon footprint whatsoever.

3. Although we could have bought a bagging attachment, we decided against it. Frugalein loves not buying things. And if time is money, then Frugalein thought not spending time bagging was cool. For her part, Grünelein was elated. Bagging lawn clippings is an environmental no-no for more reasons than I care to reiterate.

Our neighbors thought we were crazy with our little rotary blade mower, and watched with some interest for the first few weeks we had it. At about this time last year, one of them asked if he could give it a try. He agreed that it was surprisingly easy to push--seeing as they weigh less because they are mechanically simpler (and aren't filled with gasoline).

Frugalein and Grünelein can say what they like about the mower, but for what it's worth, here's my take:

1. I love that it doesn't make our yard smell like a gas station.
2. I love that it doesn't vibrate crazy-like while in use. It simply is not fun to hold the handle of a gas-powered lawn mower while it's running.
3. Motorized mowers are way too loud. The push mower is nearly silent.
4. I love that I never have to go buy gas to put in the tank.
5. Motorized mowers produce grass dust that coats you while you work. The push mower doesn't even come close, not even if you run behind it like Matthew does.

02 July 2009

Daylilies, Doing Their Thing


My cousin's wife, Kris, is amazing. She made these lovely tiaras for my girls, and since I don't do anything remotely like this, it knocks my socks clean off. She also teaches hula-hoop fitness, runs, gardens, bakes, and (phew!) that's just the stuff she blogs about.

Anyway, Thanks Kris, we love the tiaras.

01 July 2009


We have lived here for nearly two years, professing to love art all the while, and yet today was our first trip to Laumeier Sculpture Park. Our original purpose was to see if we could find the inspiration for a project Star made in Art class at school.

Find it indeed. It's enormous. How could anyone miss it?

We made our way through most of the park, which appears to ramble on forever. It's well cared for, too (a tough combination). The girls had a fun time with this one, Alpha by Beverly Pepper.

Here are Star and Dandelion on the inside.