Sunday, June 29, 2008

Strawberries, Finally!

Every year our family looks forward to picking strawberries at Biringer Farms in Marysville. There is nothing quite like having a tractor tow you in a cart out to a field of ripe, red, fragrant strawberries and then being able to pick your own for a very reasonable price. No one can resisting popping a few of the sweet little guys into their mouths for a "quality-control" sample. My kids usually end up with quite a few berries in their stomachs while they're out in the fields, so the free fiber is another benefit.

Local strawberries have been behind schedule this year because of the cold spring, so we were overjoyed when the farm's Berry Line recording indicated that the ripening had begun. We picked two flats that totaled about 24 lbs., most of which the hubby and the kids will slice and freeze to make batches of delicious freezer jam throughout the year.

We also took a few cups to make the strawberry glaze pie in the photo. The pie crust doesn't look very pretty because I was too impatient to let the homemade dough chill long enough before rolling it out, but it was delicious all the same. You'll have to take my word for it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Slip, Slide, Repeat

Some time this summer my inner child will be tempted to purchase a(nother) Slip 'N Slide for my kids. Should this happen, I hope my grown-up brain will put my inner child into the Time Out corner until it comes to its senses.

We have blown through two Slip 'N Slides during the past few summers. Here are some reasons why I don't want another one:
  • The inflatable walls that are supposed to catch you at the end of the slide usually puncture after the very first use, creating a very interesting potential for grass burns on the chest and face.
  • You have to spend a few minutes setting it up by staking it to the ground and attaching your garden hose. After that, my kids enjoy it for about five minutes and then go on to other things.
  • Then after they're done using it, you have to remove the stakes and find a place to stash the sucker, unless you cherish a soggy mud strip in your back yard and puncture marks in the vinyl from the dog's claws.
  • My cheapskate nature has serious issues with the concept of paying good money for a piece of plastic that you wet down.
And the number one reason (drumroll): There is a weight limit on these suckers and guess who exceeds this limit? Why can't they make them sturdier to hold higher weights? Who do they think purchase these things, a bunch of supermodels?

So this summer, my deprived children will have to make do with Super Soaker water guns, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, bug vacuums, neighborhood parks, bikes and the old-fashioned sprinkler. I think we'll live.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day One of Summer Vacation

Today is the first day of summer vacation for my kids, ages 11 and 7.

As most stay-at-home parents, I usually view summer vacations with a mixture of relief and dread. It's a relief to take a break from the hectic school schedule of homework and activities. However, this means I am now the supervisor and source of entertainment for two kids whose idea of fun is many hours of Wii and Teen Disney. So I schedule them for camps and lessons and we go to the pools, the beaches, the parks, the zoos, the museums and any other fun and enriching place I can think of. I also try to keep them occupied by having them do housekeeping. (A Swiffer duster in the right hands can be so much fun!) Every summer I feel like Julie McCoy on the Love Boat, except no one tips me at the end of the cruise.

If I were one of those overachieving, adoring parents whose spawn could do no wrong, I would brag that my children are "verbally gifted" and "analytically vocal." As it stands, they bicker. Some people can ignore the sound of bickering, but to me, it's like listening to a thousand dirty fingernails screech down a chalkboard while a swarm of bees hover over my head. So at least once a week during summer vacation, I lose it and yell at my kids to stop yelling at each other. Where's Supernanny when you need her?

Anyway, Day One has gone smoothly so far. The kids shocked me this morning by sleeping in, having a healthy breakfast and cleaning their rooms. They went outside and played and got fresh air. They went grocery shopping with me and were helpful. They made homemade cards for some friends' upcoming birthday parties.

They're being good. Too good. Something is up. I'm keep you posted.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the dads and father-figures out there! For his special day, my husband wanted to go to Chinatown for a dim sum lunch and to tour the newly remodeled and expanded Wing Luke Asian Museum. Lunch was delicious and the museum tour was fascinating. Will have to blog about that later.

For Father's Day, my husband received cute gifts that the kids made in school and a bottle of Glenlivet scotch from me. That made him happy. Also, I sent my dad a Costco gift card, which is what he asks for. Father's Day is such a different animal from Mother's Day. There are no bombardment of ads for floral arrangements, cutesy stuffed animals or restaurant brunches. I sometimes wonder if men feel left out because their day of recognition arrives with less fanfare, but I doubt it. I've yet to meet a man who genuinely enjoys receiving a Precious Moments figurine or being taken to a restaurant crowded with every other family in town.

I saw a hilarious clip of The Simpsons with a Father's Day theme, posted on Jezebel, a truly awesome Web site. Lisa Simpson creates for her dad a heartfelt book that portrays them as father and daughter unicorns. Homer mocks it and sets Lisa off on a spree of anger. If you like The Simpsons, you know how funny it is to watch Lisa get angry. If you don't like The Simpsons, well, I feel for you but I still think the clip's pretty funny. Click here for the laughs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Colder Than a Siberian Witch

It's been pretty cold and rainy here the past few weeks. Windy conditions with temps in the 50s and 60s. While that's considered almost balmy for Western Washington, usually by June we can count on putting on shorts. Right now, we're still dressed in Gortex and fleece. As my husband is fond of saying, "It's colder than a witch's tit." Having never gauged the temperature on one of those, I'll take his word on it.

According to this morning's Seattle Times article, we are now colder than parts of Siberia. That about says it all, doesn't it?

But it's not all doom and gloom. I'm trying be positive: Think of the money I'm saving on sunscreen and air-conditioning! I can keep my pale jiggly legs covered in jeans for a little while longer! My grass is staying green and watered! Um, that's about it for the positive aspects. I let you know if I think of more.

I'm so proud of myself for staying zen about all this weather. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to turn up the thermostat on my heater and take a hot shower.

(Photo Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yoshitomo Nara

Someone has captured my inner child and his name is Yoshitomo Nara. Of course, anyone who knows my 7-year-old daughter, Miss Thang, would swear that this is actually her, but since she's becoming more like me every day (poor thing), I'll just say he's captured both of us.

Nara is a Tokyo-based artist whose paintings, drawings and sculptures are heavily influenced by Japanese anime, poetry, graffiti and punk rock. His children and animals start off looking innocent enough, but upon close inspection one notices the wary eyes, tight lips and defensive poses. Some have cigarettes hanging out of their mouths while others will offer up an expletive. Are they up to something evil? Do they represent the darker side in all of us? Are they here to kick our butts? I'm not sure what they mean, but they resonate with me and I find them endearing. Yes, I bet a psychoanalyst would have a field day with that.

Since prices on his artwork fall into the "If-you-have-to-ask-it's-out-of-your-league" category, I will probably never own a piece of my inner child's portrait. However, I did pick up Oh! My God! I Miss You! a boxed set of 30 postcards featuring some of his kids and animals. They're beautifully printed on heavy stock. I love them so much I doubt I'll ever share them with anyone. Instead, I shall hoard them for myself and continue to send out the bargain-priced Hallmark stuff. And if anyone has a problem with that, I will give them this face:

Top: Missing in Action, 1999, acrylic on canvas
Bottom: Pyromaniac, 1999, acrylic and colored pencil on paper

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back to the '80s

We've been offline the past few days due to technical issues. What happened is that we tried to reset something on our wireless router which messed it up and then we couldn't bypass it to hook up directly to our DSL modem, and yadda, yadda, yadda ... you've been there before.

Thankfully we didn't miss out on anything crucial but the cyber-isolation was disconcerting for me. I didn't realize how much I rely on the Internet to communicate with friends, do banking, get the news and entertain myself. On Sunday I was stuck in the house with three 11-year-old boys playing musical instruments at top decibels and when I went to my computer to escape, I remembered I was offline and felt very, very alone.

Watching my son try to deal with it all was most amusing. His class has been studying early American pioneers, so when he asked me how he would get along without the Internet I told him to pretend he was one of the pioneers. He took me seriously.

Yesterday, he stared at the computer, signed loudly and said, "It's like living in the '80s."