Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Peekin’ at the Peaks of Otter

Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a leisurely drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway up to the Peaks of Otter. When I was a kid, we’d go up there a few times a year. Since it was super hot out, it seemed like a pretty drive would be perfect to allow the boys to snooze and still give Bunny some new experiences and help her learn more about the area.

We cross 3000 foot mountains frequently back home going to the beach, but the drive is a means… on the Parkway it’s the point.

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It didn’t take too long for Bunny to understand why they’re called the Blue Ridge Mountains… that haze does beautiful things.

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Though we drove mostly, we did hop out for closer looks at views and a quick hike at Onion Mountain. I believe I said, “don’t step on anything green,” and “that’s poison ivy” about 75 times in 5 minutes. Perhaps it was 175 times. Bunny surely thought I was being over the top, but she has no clue how much poison ivy sucks, and I really don’t want to have to suffer that with her. She’s not a stoic person when it comes to bug bites or other itchies. :)

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We all got out to see the Lodge at Peaks of Otter… and you know I had to let them rock on this porch for a while! What you can’t tell from the photo is that it is BUGGY there. Lake Abbot makes the scenery just plain gorgeous, but, oh man… the gnats. Carter and Bunny were quick studies in Gnat Avoidance 101, but Cole wanted me to make it stop! Shoo, shoo! Mama, let’s go home!

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However, we did explore the lake area a little. I couldn’t let us be chased away by some silly gnats… at least not that quickly. My ancestors braved much more hardship—we can handle bugs that don’t even bite. ;)

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Bunny really liked these reeds by water’s edge… A frog was looking me right in the eye, and I poked it with a piece of grass. She and I both loved the multi-colored dragonflies skimming the water.

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A bit of a boggy creek runs under this bridge. Carter loved lying on his belly and just watching itty creepies and hoppies do their thing below.

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No matter where, a big expanse of grass begs you to run.

Ultimately, though, the bugs won.

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Who hates gnats?
I do, that’s who!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biscuitville: Check!

Oooh Baby.  Bunny has been initiated.

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I told her on the way home from the DRIVE THRU—making  it possible for Bun and me to enjoy biscuit goodness while not forcing the boys to also endure it--that it would be okay if she liked their sausage gravy biscuit more than mine… because I sure like it more.  She said she still loves the way I make ‘em, but yeah, theirs is “even better.”

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I can’t believe it’s already been a week and a day since we started our annual pilgrimage… as usual, a whirlwind.  It feels so odd to say it’ll be almost 2 more weeks until I am back home, yet I wonder it it won’t fly also.

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The kids have really been pretty good (knock wood!).  Sure, there are squabbles and meltdowns along the way, but hey, that happens at home.

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Popsicles are great on hot, humid days.  They’re a good bribe, too… usually.

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The Udvar-Hazy annex to the Air & Space museum is rad.  It’s also extremely air conditioned, which is almost as good as a nice cold popsicle when it’s 102 out and about 1500% humidity.

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Carter loved this place.  Really, all the kids did, but Carter was in what we call the Carter-Zone.  The air around him was charged with his excitement and curiosity.

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We were there for hours and hours because 1) it’s enormous and 2) we had to stop and read the explanations for so many things as our little scientist was insatiable.  What’s this?  Read me this one!

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This is Bun’s first-ever attempt at a hands-first, real-deal dive off a board.  That girl is a natural.  Sure, if I were an Olympic judge, I’d say there was a little over rotation, but damn, the kid can dive!  9.9 from the Mom-istan official, a rather totalitarian regime, but generous with her scoring.  :)

Speaking of, the Momistanian official needs to hit the sack.  As much as I am enjoying the cool breeze outside tonight, and the full moon, a shower and shut eye seems more prudent.  Ta ta!

Friday, June 25, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Little Bit of This, Then Northward We Go


But only a couple of hours north… the kids really want to see “the dinosaur museum.”

Monday, June 21, 2010


Incident involving bubbles (post clean up of bubble cascade on floor of cartoonish proportions).

Daniel, my 5 month old nephew.

Peeking to see if the ‘seeker’ is anywhere near him at Riverside Park.

I remember loving this caterpillar when I was a small girl.

Grubby boy.

Lazy afternoon visit to Confederate Cemetery.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fire flies: Check!


We caught about 6 or 8 lightening bugs yesterday… some may or may not be free range inside right now. :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

{this moment::airport shenanigans}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adding to the list…

Bacon Biscuit

A good list grows.


I need some of that.  I know Bunny will enjoy it with me, and assume Cole, too.  They have fried chicken tenders, so maybe even Carter will eat there.  Score.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thank You, Teacher Sharon!


Yesterday Carter had his last day of class at his preschool.  Because we’re travelling, he will miss the official last day.  He loved school every day, and has come so far this year.

He brought Sharon a flower as a parting gift…

I’m sure his first teacher will have a special place in his memories for a long time to come.

Otter Pops: Check!


Love checking things off my fun-do list.  :)

Also, not on the list, but something I have been wanting to try for a long time: bubble pearl tea.  It’s really weird, but good.


Next week I hope to cross the T Room off that list.  :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Broccoli Slaw


I love cold food on warm and hot days!  Keeps me from sweating bullets in a hot kitchen, for one thing, and who really wants a piping hot meal when it’s in the 90s or 100s outside?  This slaw comes together quickly and grating vegetables is a good ‘helper' job’ for my 8 year old.

Broccoli Slaw

2 or 3 broccoli Stems, Grated Coarsely 
2 Cups Broccoli Florets, Chopped
1 Carrot, Grated
1/2 C Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Sugar or 1 Packet Splenda
2-3 dashes hot sauce (I use Tapatio)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Prep: In large bowl, combine Mayo, Vinegar, Sugar, Hot Sauce, Salt, and Pepper.  Mix in grated vegetables, coating well.  You can serve this right away, but it’s better if allowed to sit in the fridge, covered, for a few hours.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thanks, Miss F!


Thanks for a great year and all your hard work. Bunny has said how much she’ll miss you, and I know she means it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Fairy Garden Pot

Last day of school!  In just a few hours my big girl will be a 3rd grader.  Mainly, to her, that means she can use the ‘biggest kid’ playground at school next year, which has superior monkey bars.  :)

This year Bunny really wanted to make and give a personal gift.  Bunny loves creating and putting her all into a project, and this was a great outlet for her to show her love tangibly.  The girl is chock full of love, and by the end of every year, she loves her teacher as family.


We decided to make Fairy Gardens, inspired by THIS craft at Pink and Green Mama.  After gathering supplies and inventorying what we already had, we put the long Wednesday afternoon that minimum school day each week affords to good use.


These little wooden birdhouses were $1 at Michael’s, and though the inspiration piece had one house, Bun is a more is more kind of kid, and could make no less than two.  Really, she wanted to cram 3-4 houses in there, but I played Tim Gunn multiple times in this project, insisting she edit, edit, edit.  :)


Bunny painted this little figurine around Easter, but we agreed it was too cute to not include along with a sign made with a bit of paper and a toothpick.


Bunny’s little brothers also made their own bird houses, which we hung on the apricot tree.  All in all, this was a fun project, and a cute gift idea that didn’t involve a single cheesy apple.  :)

Goodbye, 2nd Grade!  Hello, Summer 2010!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Bunny’s Boxcar

Bun’s class read The Boxcar Children this spring, and enjoyed it so much they all wanted to make their own boxcar play houses. After hearing about it, she finally brought hers home a while ago, and it is a masterpiece, I think. :)


She included so many details, it’s hard to catch them upon first glance. The play house has a pool in the yard—complete with rooftop high dive!


If anyone needs a little help, there is a rescue ring by the pool, and—what else?!?—a little bunny to supervise.


In the running for favorite detail is this clothes line, with a wardrobe hung out to dry from a stand alone tree. My girl likes shirts with graphics on them—finally! Years ago she declared she would only wear plain tees, but that changed in this past year.


Inside the boxcar there is a book shelf, desk, stove with food on it, and (I think) a sofa bed. :)


Here’s the other contender for most favorite detail: the backyard! Look at that hammock!

There’s often not enough time for extended creative expression nowadays, what with all the must-learns being crammed in for the sake of test scores. Our school does a pretty good job of balancing it all, especially in the month after testing is done, when they finally exhale, accept they’ve done the best they can do, and let the kids’ minds roam free a little. Oh, where those minds do go!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Can almost taste it…

Summer looms. We’re in the days of “lasts” for the preschool and school-aged kids. Last day of Running Club: check. Last Brownie meeting: check. Last, last, last…

With ends come beginnings! Pool season has begun. We’re perpetually soggy now, with our 3-4 time a day habit. It’s an addiction now!


The kids, who seem to lack nerve endings in their epidermis, have been dipping in for weeks, but I admit it: I am a cold water wimp. Everyone except Cole teases me about how I enter the pool. Step by step I tip toe in, then if the water is not warm enough, I generally chicken out before that cold water hits my stomach. I can’t stand that feeling. It’s pretty bad when your 4 year-old is coaching you on how to enter the pool. :)

However, we were gifted some second-hand solar rings, and they may not have awesome reviews on Amazon, but for FREE, and honestly only about 10 minutes of work each day (5 to remove, 5 to replace), we really can see they’ve helped warm the pool to a very enjoyable temperature. No more ‘old lady entry’ into the pool for me. ;)


Also, I don’t have anyone in my arms in the water for the first time in years and years! Carter was surprised I can swim! The last time I could get in the pool and swim without constantly holding a child I was pregnant with Carter, crazy as that is to say. It’s been so liberating, enjoying the water as much as my kids. Fun is good.

Carter is becoming a real swimmer, finally. Playing games with him and slowly helping him push his comfort zone has been so rewarding, and, again – fun. Seeing Bunny and him playing and racing and diving is joy.

Cole is still anxious in the ‘big water’ and prefers to stay on the steps. He’ll need more time, but, at his own pace, he will progress through the season. Meanwhile, he does his thing, and sometimes sneaks inside for a little snack…


… I couldn’t help but laugh from deep in my belly when I walked in to check on him and found this scene. He was drenched with sweet, sticky juice, and happy as ever. My happy, happy, boy.

I have been in the mood to set easy goals. A fun-do list. Our days are often littered with the mundane dos of household hunting and gathering, and those lists clutter my mind: what to cook, when to be someplace, what I should not forget to pack… it’s easy to forget to plan for the good stuff, the stuff that transforms all the must-dos into stepping stones on a great adventure rather than an endless treadmill of routine-routine-routine.

A working fun-do list:

Have a bonfire at the beach (check!)
Have another bonfire at the beach
Paint a living room wall yellow
Dinner outside twice a week
Plant tomatoes (check!)
See a beach sunset
Lie outside on a blanket with my kids and look at stars
Catch fire flies (check!)
Pick berries with my kids (partial check!)
Weekend hikes once a month—at least!
Finish my cookbook cookin’ project
Take Bunny to the T Room (check!)
Hula hoop (learn how)
Midnight swim
Breakfast outside
Go Camping
Otter Pops, many, many Otter Pops (check, and many more to come)
Lots of twilight walks around the block
Plaster of Paris sand casting on beach

That seems like a nice start.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Broccoli Soup


Oh, I love this soup! Since I’m suffering no shortage of fresh broccoli from my CSA share, it’s a staple for lunch, sometimes all alone, sometimes with a sammich. :) I based my recipe on THIS one from Soule Mama, but as she did with her own recipe, I have changed and altered “my” way enough in the past year or so that I feel okay sharing here. It’s a very basic, forgiving recipe. You can cream it after pureeing, but it’s equally delicious without the cream. I tend to leave out the cream, and add a splash of half and half to a bowl after reheating a serving so that I don’t need to be careful of curdling. Fresh broccoli is great, but frozen works very well, too. I like chicken broth, but vegetable broth would be a nice vegan alternative… I imagine soy milk would also work well in place of the dairy. I’ve also put grated cheese on top for a nice change of pace.

You can see where I am going here! You almost can NOT mess up this soup – UNLESS you add too much broth or water to it. It’s best when it’s thick. Believe me on this. I made it watery once and it was no bueno. Other than that: foolproof!

Broccoli Soup

2 lbs Broccoli Florets
1 Qt Chicken Broth
1-2 Leeks, depending on size, chopped
2 large potatoes, skinned and chopped
1/4 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/8 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/3 C Half and Half or Cream

Prep: Place all ingredients except Half & Half or Cream in large pot. If necessary add a little water to JUST BARELY cover ingredients, and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook 45 mins or until potatoes mash easily with spoon. Remove from heat and blend/puree using whatever you have (I like my immersion blender). If using cream, you can stir in now, or add to each bowl when serving (it helps to delay adding the dairy if you’ll be reheating a serving at a time over the next few days just to reduce the ‘fuss quotient’).

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Fried Chicken

Time for another recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I’m attempting to cook every one of her recipes (in the book, not her site!) by the end of the summer.
Considering all the crazy things I have made in my life, maybe it’s kooky that I’ve never-ever-ever made fried chicken. Perhaps once a year or so we buy that bucket, but it’s simply not a food I think much about… however, my youngest child discovered a deep passion for fried chicken recently at a beach bonfore/picnic when we brought the ‘bucket' chicken’. Little dude yelped with pleasure as he ate the drumstick I was helping hold for him with such gusto that he bit my finger harder than I have ever felt in my life. Then I yelped, but not with pleasure!
Clearly it was time to try out Pioneer Woman’s recipe, which I had been eyeing for a while. As with all her recipes, it was super simple. For all I know this is the way everyone except my mom makes fried chicken (‘cuz I never saw her do it the few times she made it), but the genius step was adding 1/4 c buttermilk to the seasoned flour mixture and stirring it only until there were sporadic clumps throughout… those clumps, when adhered to the chicken and fried up made for great texture and general awesomeness. Paul’s only semi-complaint was that he thought it needed more spice—but we like things a bit on the spicy side here. :)
Overall, it’s a definite thumbs up. Sadly, this is one the ‘book only’ recipes, and not available on her site. Darn!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

What You Make of It

I knew the odds were against it. 70% against, according to Weather Underground… Since it’d been raining on and off all week, I knew two things: being cooped up was not working out for us, and if I didn’t stretch my legs and take out the BOB for a spin, I was going to be a cranky camper.

70% chance… but only at some point in the day… I didn’t want to kick myself when, at day’s end, I’d squandered hours of possible outside time. When that dang witching hour was upon us all, and no one was feeling right because of a profound deficiency of outside time.

What the heck? We’re not made of sugar, and I have the rain fly for the BOB. I’m going to just make this happen, ill advised as it may be.

I loaded all the stuff we might need and pushed the boys to drop Carter off at school, then play in the adjacent park with Cole.

The walk there was pretty nice – blue sky and puffy clouds. Birds chirped. Moods were high.

Drop off went fine. Then, as we latched the gate to exit the play area, I felt it. Yep, it was starting to rain. Now, this has been a weird spring, and all that week we’d had short showers. No biggie, I decided. We’ll find cover and wait it out if need be.

Shockingly, we had the run of the playground after about one minute. Other moms swooped their kids away, and it was utterly quiet.

Except for the pattering noise, and this guy.


I climbed up to a covered area on the play structure, while Cole had a blast. It was a light sprinkle.


Then, all of a sudden, the sprinkle became, oh.. a DOWNPOUR.

C’mon Dude. Let’s have a picnic over there. I gestured to a bit of a shelter.

It was pretty pleasant! Quiet patter-patter, and some wonderful company.


And look: it was a bone fide picnic!


See? Ant! Proof of a picnic by anyone’s rules, I say.

Eventually we nibbled away all our snacks, yet the rain refused to move on. In fact, it began to monsoon. Cole was beginning to look a little droopy-eyed, so I loaded him up, snug and dry(ish) into the BOB under the rain fly.


It’s been a good while since he was in there like that, and he didn’t like it at first. However, I explained that he had to let it be to stay dry, and he only kicked the edge by his toes undone a few times before he realized I was not budging on this matter.

I pushed him a couple of miles that way, figuring I may as well make use of my waterproof shell and enjoy what outside time we could get—though I s’pose Cole was technically inside. :)

When it was close enough to dismissal time, we went back to preschool, changed Cole into dry duds, and hung out for a while painting and poaching some of their snack. They’re so nice to accommodate Cole that way. He felt like such a big kid with his plate and cup!


Wouldn’t you know it? The sky was back to blue by the time Carter’s class was over. We all layered down, and the rain fly was stowed… and both the boys were lulled to sleep.


Sometimes you just have to go ahead and give things a go, even when the odds are not in your favor. You might have a pretty good time. Just pack that rain fly—in case. :)


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