Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Have a Leftie

My 3-year-old daughter has never shown any interest in coloring . . . until yesterday, when she picked up a crayon and covered an entire picture with little circles. And then turned the page over and covered the back of the paper with little circles. Using her left hand! I don't know whether my little girl inherited this trait from my mom (who is the only leftie on either side of the family) or is a mirror twin. I'm just happy she's putting pen to paper.

Artistic genius or obsessive-compulsive syndrome?

Dinner last night: rotisserie chicken, rice, zucchini, strawberry shortcake

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday's Five: Francesca

Welcome to my weekly feature, Friday's Five, in which I ask a fabulous blogger five random questions. Well, four random questions and an inquiry about dinner. I'm not Rachael Ray, people! I need ideas!

Today I'm talking with Francesca, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two beautiful children. Her warmth and friendliness shine through her writing, even in the comments that she leaves for others. She and a couple of her friends take turns posting on their blog, Three Bay B Chicks, and their different viewpoints result in snappy, hilarious, informative material. I particularly enjoy Francesca's humor, and look forward to her zany observations and the pictures she uses as supporting evidence.

1. How old are your children and do they have any pets? My son, Giancarlo, is three, and my daughter, Lucia, is one, going on twenty-one. We do not have any pets, unless you count our fish, which you probably shouldn't because I have a hard time keeping them alive. For quite a while now, I've been thinking about writing a post entitled "I'm No Jacques Cousteau," detailing my failure as an aquatic pet owner.

2. In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of raising children in a big city? Honestly, I think about the answer to this question all the time. There is a richness and unique diversity to the culture, food, and the things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area in California that you do not find elsewhere. However, these benefits are also coupled with the realities of crime, traffic, and the high cost of living. Do we want to live where we are currently forever? Probably not, but for now, life is pretty good.

3. I've been to San Francisco a couple of times, usually just passing through. What must-sees would you recommend for someone who's got a couple of days to explore the area? One of my blogging partners, Kacey, actually wrote a post on this exact topic for Michelle of Scribbit, who I believe you also featured recently. Michelle hosts a series on her site where she invites bloggers to write about the fun and interesting things to do in their part of the world. It is a great idea from one of the best bloggers around. You can read the post here. Of the recommendations that Kacey made, my favorite destinations included the California Academy of Sciences, the Randall Museum, and Ella's Restaurant. All these spots are fun for both adults and kids.

4. I try and fail miserably to write with humor—it's really the most difficult type of writing for me. I just love your sense of comedy, and I wonder how easy or difficult the writing process is for you? How can you say that you are not funny? I think you need to go back and re-read this post. It is now June and I still remember how hard I laughed when I first read it.

Setting that aside, a sincere thank you for your compliment. I am never sure if people who read our site will think that I am entertaining or completely off of my rocker. Writing posts that include humor is easier for me than sitting down and writing something serious. I have always been the girl who is quick to try to get a laugh in order to get someone's attention.

The writers in the blogosphere that should be admired are those who can be both funny and serious . . . like Michelle and like you. It is something that I aspire to.

5. Wait for it . . . what did you have for dinner last night?! I didn't. I was at a birthday party with my kids. In between serving food, manning the jumpy castle, and cleaning up, I didn't have a moment to eat. I hope to rectify this situation tonight with something great . . . just as long as my husband is cooking.

Thank you so much, Francesca! I feel your pain on the fish issue—I just rescued our Betta fish from an almost certain watery grave after my twins poured an entire canister of fish food into his bowl. Speaking of food . . . I hope you eat a good dinner tonight—we need you nice and healthy so you can keep entertaining us with your great blog!

See ya'll back here next Friday, when I'll sit down to interrogate another unsuspecting blogger.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


When we lived on a paved street with city water and cable TV, next to noisy neighbors and under bright streetlights, my two oldest daughters played in our backyard. It was the size of a postage stamp, but it was fenced and safe, with just enough space for a small swing set.

Now that we live off a dirt road in the woods, my 11- and 9-year-old have no interest in venturing beyond the lawn. I guess they've been conditioned to stay close to the house. The twins, however, were only a few months old when we moved to our rambling home surrounded by birch trees. They don't know any other life.

They chase each other through the tall grass and alders.

They run up the hill into the woods.

They grab the zip line and swing down into the backyard . . .

. . . without a care in the world.

Dinner last night: mac and cheese

Monday, June 22, 2009

So Much to Talk About, So Little to Say

Normally, I'm up and blogging before the rest of the household awakens, but it's summer. The girls are all home, so there's no need to make an early breakfast before school or prepare sack lunches or run around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get my older daughters out of bed, force clean socks onto their feet, and comb through their hair before pushing them out the door. Now that they're on summer vacay, they'd sleep in until 10:00 if I let them. Even my twin toddlers are snoozing until almost 9:00. Nine o'clock! IN THE MORNING!

When blogging is the only reason for getting up at o'dark thirty, blogging loses. Sleep wins. 

Unfortunately, my kids resent any time I spend on the computer during daylight hours. They get downright snippy if I sit for even a second to check e-mail. Forget about trying to post something on Ye Olde Blogg.

While I haven't been able to write at all, I have been taking tons of pictures! Sadly for you, they're all of flowers. And soccer. Oh, my goodness, the soccer. Nobody prepared me for the price of competitive soccer. And I'm not even talking about the astronomical fees. I'm talking about the sacrifice of time—the three practices a week and the one, two, sometimes three games a week. My eldest daughter couldn't have been a couch potato—oh, no, she had to go and inherit her dad's athleticism and love for sports.

Had I rolled my fat butt out of bed at a decent hour last week or not been driving my 11-year-old all over town for soccer practice and games, I'm sure I would have blogged some great posts with fabulous photography. 

I would have written a spectacular piece in honor of Father's Day, instead of forgetting to get cards for my husband, father, and stepdad. Oh, and my father-in-law. I forgot him, too.

I would have posted a photographic essay about summer solstice with great pics of Alaskan scenery at midnight, but we did not take our annual trip to Fairbanks for the longest day of the year. I got nothin' for you.

Had I been thinking, I would have made a cute little video clip of the twins playing "office" with the old-fashioned phone we keep in a drawer for when the electricity goes out. Reading glasses perched on the ends of their noses! Pencils clutched in their pudgy little fingers! Nonsensical chattering! You had to be there.

There also would have been an amazing Before and After story about our flooring. You think you don't care about the magic that a professional cleaner worked on the extremely gross carpet covering our stairs, but my creative post would have made you care.

Okay. So I don't have pictures to go with any of those imaginary posts, those posts that would have been the very best I've ever written, those posts that would have attracted a literary agent to my blog in wonder and amazement. But I do have this photo:

Count your blessings. It could have been a picture of my stained carpet.

Dinner last night: big salad with sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and chunks of grilled chicken

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Report from the Rock Garden

I love a good rock garden. You can ask my mother and she'll tell you I loved my grandmother's so much that I fell several feet off a high wooden staircase into her rock garden. I was knocked unconscious and ended up with horrible black eyes. My mom received judgmental stares at the grocery store for weeks, as my bruised and cut face caused strangers to gasp in horror. To this day, I sport a dent in my forehead that reminds me every time I look in the mirror the lengths to which I'll go to spend time in a rock garden.

Nowadays, I'm a little safer about how I enter the yard and I'm slowly but surely putting in perennials throughout our property. I'm developing a rock garden proper at the front corner of the house and trying to border the back yard with Alaskan foliage. A couple weeks ago I showed you the arctic poppies, forget-me-nots, and mystery tree that have blossomed. This week, I've got a new batch of lovelies that are showing up.

These Sitka roses greet me each morning when I look out the window. I can see them from my computer chair, and they remind me to limit my time on the Internet. 

They're not nearly as fragrant as "real" roses,
but I think they're just as pretty in their own sweet way.

When my neighbor, Peg, handed me a bunch of pots of green leaves, she called them day lilies. But this sure looks like an iris to me. Maybe an iris is a day lily. Or maybe this purple sweetie was just hiding out in the mix, since she was smaller than the rest yet the first to bloom. Or maybe I'm wrong and this isn't an iris at all. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what the others look like.

I always assumed pansies were annuals, but
evidently some types of pansies are perennial. Yay!

Then there's the love–hate relationship I've got going with my strawberry patch . . . they look so full of promise at this stage, don't they? We shall see if they deliver on those promises.

Dinner last night: grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, chocolate cake

Monday, June 15, 2009

Water Babies

When the temperature at our airport hit 80° last week, that was it. My husband dragged out the pool from its big bin next to the shed and began the two-day process of setting it up, filling it with water, adjusting the chlorine level, and keeping the girls back with threats of flogging by an organic carrot until the pool was completely ready for swimmers.

Big sister leads the way.

No fear!

Well, maybe a little fear.

That last picture looks bad, but let me assure you that she jumped in completely voluntarily. The scared expression shows how my kid works through her trepidation, which is basically "Watch me suck it up and leap!" 

Besides, if my tiny Michael Phelps was traumatized by jumping into the swimming pool, would she then spend the rest of the day and all night with these on?

Ready at a moment's notice to go swimming again.

Dinner last night: steak and veggie stir fry

Friday, June 12, 2009

Alaska Zoo

While the title of this post could just as easily describe life inside the walls of my house, it's also a hint of where we went this week. A pretty obvious hint.

I only take my girls to the zoo once a year. My thinking is that they will appreciate the experience more if it is rare and special. I call it the Chuck E. Cheese Principal. Kids who go to Chuck E. Cheese all the time don't think it's that fun of a place. Their parents spend over $50 on pizza and tokens, and are rewarded with the sweet voices of their little ones complaining, "Again?!?" My girls are allowed to go once every 6 to 8 months, and they love the loud, colorful, germ factory. But I digress. Back to the zoo . . . we usually visit in the spring to avoid the mosquitoes and crowds. This year, however, we ended up going in June. 

I'm going to be honest with you. I am not a big zoo person. But even I enjoy the Alaska Zoo. You can walk through it in an hour, unless you want to take your time—then two hours, tops. The nicely groomed gravel paths guide you past lots of pretty flowers and lookout stations to animals that are housed in their natural habitats. 

I appreciate all the foliage and space for the animals, even though it means that in more than 10 years I have yet to get a clear view of the tiger.

No, that is not my 3-year-old sticking her head into the tiger's cage.

She's just reaching for a plant. Don't ask me why.
It's there. Behind a fence. Must touch it.

Uh-oh. Now the other twin is getting in on the action. Better put down the camera and avert disaster.

My girls' favorite exhibit is the seal and otter pool. It was closed last year, and maybe even the year before,  while they rebuilt the viewing platform and made various improvements. You can stand down underground and look in through the water as the harbor seals swim around.

The zoo is filled with lots of animals that you would find throughout Alaska, like muskox . . . 

. . . and mountain goats . . .

. . . and polar bears.

And brown bears and black bears and porcupines and moose and caribou and foxes. I could go on and I could post a ton of pictures, but we'd be here all day. I'm getting bored with all the animal talk. This is why I am not a good zoo person.

One creature that appears in every zoo in every state across this great nation is the llama. Alaska is no exception. We have llamas in our zoo. And, Lord have mercy, they're ugly. I don't like 'em and I don't trust 'em. There's a malevolent look in their eye, like they're planning to spit their gross mucus on you no matter how quietly you try to tiptoe past. They make me nervous. 

Shaved llamas. Is there anything more repulsive?

Dinner last night: pizza

You might also be interested in visiting the Anchorage Museum.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Bogey Isn't Something You Wipe from Your Nose

For those who were surprised when I mentioned Alaska's warm temperatures, I'm about to blow your mind. We have golf courses.

They may not be designed by Arnold Palmer and they don't overlook the ocean, but tee times are booked solid from May through September. You'll have a tough time finding a more devoted golfer than the linksman who plays within Alaska's borders. Our golfers brave the rain, put up with laughable grass conditions, wait while moose stroll across the green, and then kick aside the bear scat so they can make a clear shot.

We even have golf carts!

Alaskan trees make for a pretty backdrop, but forget about finding your ball if it lands in the woods.

Guys aren't happy until they break something. My brother-in-law, quite inadvertently, made a shot that not only hit that tiny chain fence but snapped a link right in two. Nice drive!

Dinner last night: chicken tikka masala

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend Over

For those of you who mentally picture Alaskan residents as parka-clad Eskimos ice-fishing outside their igloos, let me just say, "76." As in degrees. Yesterday afternoon.

The weather was beautiful all weekend so we basically lived outside for two days, grilling and playing and occasionally working in the yard, with several breaks to run my eldest daughter to the soccer field. Her team participated in their first tournament of the summer this past weekend.

Fancy Pants Footwork

Dinner last night: sloppy joes, corn on the cob, rootbeer floats

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday's Five: Michelle

Welcome to my weekly feature, Friday's Five, in which I ask a fabulous blogger five random questions. 

I'm excited to be visiting this week with Michelle from ScribbitI first found her site after googling for help with some blogging problem I was experiencing. She is a well-known blogger and most of you probably already read her online magazine. This fellow Alaskan is the mother of four, an artsy-crafty marvel, and a prolific writer. She posts daily, hosts a monthly writing contest, and offers lots of giveaways. Michelle spoke on How We Communicate: FAQs for Beginning Bloggers at BlogHer last year and recently published her e-book of tips for bloggers, Blogging in Pink: A Woman's Guide.

1. How old are your children and what kind of fashions are they into? Grace (15) [is into] her Twilight t-shirt and the seafoam green flutter-sleeve dress she sewed for the dance last weekend. Not together :) I've been teaching her to sew with that old "if you sew it I'll pay for the material and pattern" carrot.

Spencer (12) goes strictly with jeans and t-shirts. Usually the same pair of jeans every day unless I forcibly rip them off his body and stick them in the machine. He tends to be the kind who has a favorite and sticks with it.

David (10) is all about baseball so he wears his little league uniform everywhere right now. I usually make him take off the pants, but if left on his own, he'd wear the whole ensemble: hat, mitt, shirt, pants 24/7.

Lillian (7) likes frilly dresses despite being a bit of a tomboy and keeping up with her older brothers. She's an odd mix of digging for worms and digging the dresses. Her birthday is on Sunday and she's getting a couple more to wear.

2. From your experience, what is the best and the worst thing about living in Alaska? I suppose it's all in your perspective. Worst thing? The isolation and dark winters. But then I suppose that isolation and darkness contributes to a lot of the great things about our state. Maybe instead I'd say the worst thing is that I can't grow fruit trees. I've always dreamed of having a house with apricot, peach, and cherry trees where I can just pluck what I want right there. The best thing is that it's a great place to raise a family. Economically and socially and educationally.

3. You've mentioned on your blog that you are planning a trip to India. What are you most looking forward to on this adventure? I'll be seeing quite a bit, [because] we're going to visit my parents who have been there for two years and they travel quite a bit. Dehli, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Chennai (Madras), Mombai (Bombay), Vizak, Hyderbad, even Sri Lanka and Nepal—they visit it all so it's a matter of how much can we cram in in two weeks. Oh and Goa. If you're a fan of the Jason Bourne movies, when he's in India he's living in Goa and it's a gorgeous resort town with beautiful beaches that I'd like to see.

I'm a little nervous about the whole thing—there's a lot that is pretty shocking about India. My sister was there last January and said the smell knocks you off your feet, but my parents have said that if you can get past the things that shock (children begging in the street, the smell, the chaos and crowds), it's the most beautiful place and they love it. I'm looking forward to meeting many of the friends they've made over there and seeing the places they've come to love.

4. Your e-book offers so much helpful information to bloggers, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is currently (or even considering) writing a blog. What are the pros and cons of putting all your material together and then offering it as a free e-book? Well, I did it mostly for me, so that's a selfish reason right there. I wanted to see if I could ever write a book, so compiling some of my previous posts and then organizing it and adding more material to flesh it out into a full book made me feel that yes, I can actually produce enough words in cohesion to make up a book.

I suppose some people would say I was foolish to offer it for free but I really do like helping out other bloggers and there were so many people who helped me when I was starting that it seemed natural to just put it up there as a bonus. Plus, if I can show that it's been well received and popular then maybe it will help me down the road when I write a "real" book.

5. What did you have for dinner last night? Hamburgers on the grill. And tonight it was homemade pizza. I've been rather lazy at cooking lately and have fallen back on the old standbys this week.

Thank you, Michelle! When you referenced Jason Bourne, I knew immediately what you were talking about—I remember that beautiful beach at the end of The Bourne Identity. I didn't know it was India, though. We look forward to lots of pictures and posts about your travels when you return from your vacay. By the way, I'm the one who should be apologizing for lazy cooking . . . tonight, it's tuna melts and tomato soup AGAIN.

And for all the other lazy cooks out there, get off your duff next Friday and come back here for another edition of Friday's Five. I tell ya, it's food for the soul. Have a great weekend, friends!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Evening

A couple of years ago, my husband bought a large basketball hoop for the driveway. I thought it was an extravagant purchase, because who's going to play on it? It's just going to sit there, all big and ugly and in the way. The girls certainly don't care about bouncing balls and shooting hoops.

When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. 

There's always that one kid in every family who's got to lie down right in the middle of a game. 

Oh. I guess it's just my family.

My daughter, the Pilates instructor.

Dinner last night: tacos

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Year of the Funky

It's my birthday. I've got some great women in my life who knew that this year, more than ever, I needed a reminder that my forties can be fun and fabulous and, doggone it, I've still got it going on.

An early birthday present from my mom,
for trompin' through break-up in style.

My mother-in-law gave me this colorful bag to hold all my necessities, like a makeup stick to cover up the circles under my eyes and an extra pair of underpants in case I wet myself while laughing. Or sneezing.

My daughters couldn't care less that it's my birthday, but they've given me the best gift of all: a daily reminder that life is full of wonder, joy, and opportunities to learn.

Happy birthday to me . . . and MANY more!

Dinner last night: meatless spaghetti, corn, garlic bread

Last year's thoughts on my birthday:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gardening Rules, Weeding Drools

My neighbor, Peg, is a master gardener. I'm talking a gardener extraordinaire. A gardening guru, if you will. Her yard is so spectacular that I've found myself visiting her quite often, seeking advice on what kind of perennials to put in the lackluster rock garden that I'm trying to create at the front of my house. I suspect she's tired of me always showing up at the fence whenever she's outside, because a couple of weeks ago she gifted me with a ton of starts. It's probably her nice way of getting some time to herself. It's working, because I've stayed busy transplanting and watering and weeding and cussing out the alders that keep creeping into my garden.

This arctic poppy opened the very next day after I put it into the ground!

I'm so grateful for the hardy forget-me-not.
Despite their name, I forget to take care of them properly,
but they keep showing up year after year.

I have no clue what to call this
fragrant, blossoming tree that shades my yard.

Looks like I'll be harassing Peg today.

Dinner last night: big green salad with grilled chicken