Sunday, December 19, 2010

Going, going, gone!

2010, that is. And, of course, it's not gone yet, but the way time has been flying by, it will be gone by the time I get this posted.

Lots of exciting things are happening.

First, Teal and her kids are visiting. We're having a ball (no big surprise there! But we miss Lelia). The girls love each other/hate each other/melt down/change clothes multiple times a day. The big boy is patient with his little cousin and plays knee hockey for hours everyday. The little boy loves his big cousin and "hockey baaaaall". He's happy and funny and cute. Such a little Mini-Murray! See Teal's fb page for excellent pictures of the fun.

In addition, we're in a frenzy trying to get Murray's practice up and running by January 3rd. There's a lot of details to sort - administrative, billing, supplies, as well as getting the actual location set up. And since Murray is still working full time, he's stretched pretty thin. Teal has been invaluable helping me get things sorted. Check out his site:

I don't have Christmas cards out yet. Maybe won't get them out this year. Easter cards, anyone? But I do have all but one of the Christmas packages in the mail. Whew!

With the practice engulfing us, I was not feeling the Christmas spirit but decorating our tree has turned things around. It's the silliest looking tree ever - as we were out cutting it Murray was looking for "a really small one...not too full" and only after we pulled it out of the bushes did we see how truly lopsided it was.  If I'd had more time/energy I'd have gone out and gotten a second one, but since I'm short on both we just decorated what we had and it turned out fantastic.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all from the Buttners!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A few of his favorite things

Yellow Wellies. 

Natty's old Disney Princess Roller-backpack

and his favorite of all....
Reading with Ta-Ta

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cooking a cow

Here's the thing: I was a near-vegetarian for 10 yrs. By that I mean I would eat meat if it was served to me, but I didn't buy it, order it or learn to cook it until my 30's.

I chose that lifestyle because of reasons that are still valid. Foremost, it takes 16 lbs of grain to make 1 lb of beef. That's a lot of food lost in the translation! And with so many people starving who could have eaten those 15 lbs of grain, it's a high price to pay for living on the top of the food chain. Additionally, have you ever seen/smelled a feed lot where cows live until they are slaughtered? I have. Gross. Not to mention my apprehension about overuse of antibiotics - any creature kept in such close quarters will be at high risk for disease so they are prophlactically fed antibiotics. Which contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not a good thing.

Now that I've almost talked myself back into being a vegetarian, I'll tell you about the copious amounts of meat we eat. Murray has a partner who raises 2 cows a year (and taps the maple trees on his property. Therefore his house qualifies as a farm and he can take some tax writeoffs - sounds like a lot of work to me but it makes him happy). We bought 1/2 a cow from him last year and boy is that a lot of meat! We still aren't done with it.
This year we planned to split the same amount with the Greaters (1/4 cow each), but we still somehow got the lion's share of the meat. It is great meat - no feed lots involved and I dream it's a smidge lower on the food chain because they're somewhat grass fed. Finally I've come to peace with cooking and eating it.

But therein lie's the rub: Cooking it. When you buy a 1/2 cow, you're not getting 300 lbs of T-bone steak. You get a few of those (if that's the way you choose to get it cut - that's another story for another time) but you also get lots of things you haven't ever cooked before. Here's a romantic metaphor that helps me wrap my head around it: Cooking our cow is a bit like shopping at the market in France - you learn to imaginatively cook what's available. Isn't that a nice way to look at a freezer full of frozen chunks of red meat?

To be honest, I was really thrown into the proverbial fire back when we moved to Cordova 6 yrs ago. The first fall there Murray went out hunting with the guys and, when they came back with the deer, I was expected to help butcher it - hel-ooo! Former vegetarian! Don't know a tenderloin from a chuck steak! (On the bright side, wild game answers my philosophical issues with red meat. And, honestly I grew up eating a lot of moose so I have a taste for it.) Thankfully, our veterinarian/great hunter-killer and his amazing chef wife were there to talk us through the first deer. Once it was in our freezer I muddled through cooking it. My take home tips: 1. stew is great. Cook almost anything long enough in enough red wine and it will taste good. 2. Roasts are our friends. Sure, they take a long time to cook, but it's time in the oven - not requiring anything from you. 3. Find some good cookbooks and use them.

I'm butchering a deer with Natty on my back in Cordova - she looks thrilled, doesn't she?
Now that we've moved on from venison to beef (although Murray sometimes gets venison from patients too) I've gotten a few dishes under my belt; some I've made so often I don't need a recipe, others I've only tried only once. Most things have been a success. I still love stew. Now that we have a grill, I've learned to grill steaks and hamburgers (not rocket science, but a new skill for me). Pot stickers are our family's favorite way to eat ground beef, but they're really fiddly so it's a special occasion food.  And roasts still rock, if I can preplan enough to thaw one. Truly, buying meat like this has been a great way to expand my recipe repertoire. Barbequed brisket anyone? It's delish!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A few of my favorite things

I am not a gadget person - the more stuff I have means more to lose/break/wash/pick up. However, there are some things that bring me glee and/or are just plain convenient. I'm sure we all have them, some wackier than others. These particular favorite things reflect that I'm in a home improvement phase:

My glue gun - I recently broke it out for Halloween and had so much fun with it, I'm looking for new projects. I glued all the petals onto Natty's Sunflower hat, then glued ribbon around it to hide the unsightly petal ends. My working theory is that anything you want to sew, you might want to try glue-gunning instead. As Alexa and I were getting Sebastian's costume together, she kept saying, "I'll just sew that hem, those dots, etc" and I would say, "Well, let me try glue gunning it instead." I'm not sure if my enthusiasm was wonderful or appalling, but it got the job done.
Since I don't have a sewing machine, I am getting a lot more done now that I stopped saying, "I should sew that" and am going nuts with the glue-gun. (Obviously, for things that actually must be sewn (and they do exist) - sew them. Beg, borrow or buy a machine and go for it. Or wait until your mother comes to visit and takes pity on you and your children! I am blessed to belong to a family of very talented seamstresses. I, on the other hand, can sew if I must - it was a part of growing up, like learning how to set the table - but I would never seek out an opportunity.)
Caution: the tip gets VERY hot (think about it: molten glue.) and children must be kept out of the vicinity when it's plugged in. That's both a plus and a minus.

My paint sprayer - I splurged and got one this summer for my painting frenzy. While it won't bring world peace, it's a pretty nifty tool. I painted 2 bed frames and 2 dressers in 2 days (more or less). Pretty close to instant gratification.
To be fair, there's a learning curve you've got to ride and even when you have the technique perfected (mostly), the small-time model I bought can't handle everything. For instance, after the first coat of primer I found out I needed to re-prime the beds with oil-based Kilz to stop the bleed-through and I didn't attempt that with the sprayer because thick paint clogs it. It also wastes a lot of paint, and the clean-up is pretty intense. Nonetheless, I'm a fan. It's so fast! So, power-tooley! It looks so official and Murray will take the kids away for vast tracts of time while I'm doing it! Nice.
My paint sprayer/terrorist outfit
Yes, that is a dishtowel on my head and a surgical gown I'm wearing. My fashion sense is keen, no?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The British came

We just had a visit with our dear friends from London. How often do people promise to come, but it just never works out - All the time, right?
So it was especially great to have friends make the long trek across the pond with THREE boys (almost 2, 4 and 6 - yikes!). Murray took the 10 days off and we let'er rip.

Mystic, Sturbridge Village, Boston, Hartford, feeding the chickens, leaf jumping, cricket, hikes, ticks, wine by the fire, lots of chocolate, chasing the chickens, a bit of running by the adults (not enough though) and Halloween! I'm totally exhausted - it's the happy kind of exhaustion with no regrets (but I do have a cold).

The kids had a great time too - Natty is right between Max and Zach and the 3 of them had their ups and downs, but the downs were minimal and the ups were long and frequent. Such a relief - one never knows how/if the pack will run, does one?

For sheer fun to watch though, the babies won the day. (that's what we called them as we were managing the 5 - "We've got the Babies, can you watch the Big Kids?")

Those little guys were just plain adorable together. Two blondie-blondie toddler boys, harassing the rooster, tripping over their own feet, having spitting contests - it was priceless.

Obviously, that's Sebastian in the Halloween post's picture with Natty and Sam. Alexa and I thought the combination of bee and lady bug was pretty awesome.
Truly, the pictures do not do the fabulous cuteness justice. When they toddled, the bouncy suits wobbled and the antennae bobbled and the moms laughed until they cried.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Onward fearless decorator

In the year + we have lived in this house, Murray and I have done quite a number of projects. Yet there are still a few spaces that make me growl with irritation when I walk past.   The Nesting Place said there are 2 things you need for a project: inspiration and motivation. For myself, I would add one more thing: I need a deadline.

With the deadline of 3 boys and 2 adults coming for 10 days and the motivation of no sufficiently comfortable set-up for them, I took on one of my nemesis rooms. The "blue room" (aka the small playroom) opens off of the dining room and is part of a "loop" from the dining room, library, office, blue room and dining room again. I'm a big fan of household traffic loops when you have small children. But this one is not optimal and I wasn't too upset about breaking it by making the blue room into a guest bedroom (it has a bathroom attached) because, let's face it, there is plenty of room for kids to roam in this house. 
Here's what I was replacing: 

I wasn't particularly inspired, but felt that if I just got started, inspiration would strike. I initially planned to paint over the wall paper, but when I got out the trusty TSP to wash the walls, it became painfully clear that I should remove the paper. Which I really, really didn't want to do at first. Then I started and it peeled off in big strips and was hugely satisfying.  (Not to Natalie though. I had neglected to tell her of my plans and when she came home from school and saw what I had done, she burst into tears. And proceeded to weep every time she walked into the room for the next 3 days. Oh well, when she has her own house she can make her own decorating decisions. And she does have some input because she convinced me to paint it blue instead of green).

Unfortunately, removing the wall paper did leave behind the glue. Looking at that, I knew I had a job on my hands. I didn't know how to get it off, so I googled it and got a few techniques to try. First one: baking soda and water. It got the glue off all right, but really did a number on the underlying wall paint/stuff as well. It could be that the wall that I used it on was the external wall ("old house" plaster) and different than the others - it was the touchiest and the one I struggled with the most. Next up: vinegar and water. OK - just as good as the first, and didn't mangle the undercoat. Third option: Chomp, a wallpaper remover which I had had all along but hadn't bothered to try (?!?). I used it on a small, new wall, (so the experiment design had some flaws), but it was the best. They all required serious elbow grease but the Chomp will be my first choice next time. 

By now the clock was ticking. I started the project 10 days before the Thurs night I planned to have guests sleeping in the room - the walls were finally ready for paint perhaps... on Tuesday? Cleaned, spackled and primed. During that week we had house guests for 2 nights and on Tuesday we had to go pack our 1/2 of a cow - oh joy - so it's not like I was sitting around ignoring my glue splotched walls.

Paint choices - blue was the color that would make my weeping angel happy, and I'd had such good luck with my previous mixing, that I visited our paint storage shelf again. Not such instant success as before, but eventually, I found something I liked. Darker than I'd have thought, but I wanted it grown up, not a bright, child's playroom primary blue. Painting the room was quick, clean up a bit longer, and then it was time to pay a visit to Homegoods. 

Lamps, pillows, quilt - and a bit more, loaded in my car (I did this with both children on Wednesday night - that's what a deadline will do for you).

Here's the finished product. Except not quite finished. But good enough that I let our friends sleep there! Any ideas? Opinions?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween photos

Natty and Sam - quite a pair! 
Natalie the Sunflower with her two helpful bugs - Sam the Bee and Sebastian the Ladybug ("Ladybird" in English english)
Setting out, with Max the vampire and Rori the Monarch butterfly. Batman Zach, Hunter Ian and Superman Cal are already far ahead - they had no time for a photo shoot when candy was waiting!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Say again?

Last night, up-dating Murray on where to start reading in "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" Natty said, "We're at the part where Edmund goes into Narnia and meets the Witch and eats Chicken Delicious."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Halloween Preview

Natty had a Halloween Party today, which meant I had to make her costume early. At first I balked at such an idea, but I came around to it because I work for deadlines. With October 11 my deadline, I was glue-gunning ribbon to her hat this morning (when both kids were napping) rather than Halloween morning (when I will have a houseful of guests). Now I can put off finishing Sam's costume until the last minute! 

Can you tell what she is? Yes, a sunflower! And Sam will be a bee. Get it? a flower and a bee? She wanted to be a pair costume with him. But I think she's pretty cute on her own too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A successful furniture re-do

Trying to fill our house with furniture that a) fits us and b) is affordable is a daunting task. (Especially for someone who really doesn't like shopping!). So I go to tag sales and get stuff with potential - this works best when I bring my amazingly talented artistic home decorator friends along. I got this dresser at a tag sale in the spring and after I took all the hardware and the cabinet doors off, it sat looking like an eyesore in our barn for the summer.

I finally got around to working on it a few weeks ago when I primed a whole load of things with my new paint sprayer - nothing like new equipment to jump-start a project. 
Even though we have about 500 buckets of paint, I didn't have a color that I liked for this. However I was optimistic that I could mix a few colors I had to make one I wanted. I was rather nervous about it, but found two that were the same brand and finish and seemed like they might be the ticket. Then I read on line that you can mix paints with great abandon (brands, finishes, whatever) and have success so I was emboldened to pull out another color I thought might be needed to round it out.
Well, I was in such luck! Just dumping the first 2 colors together created the exact blue I was wanting. (I'm not a color perfectionist though so it's easy to make me happy). I love serendipity like that! The only problem was that I didn't have enough paint to spray it on with my new razzmatazz paint sprayer which guzzles paint. Thankfully I did have enough to get the whole thing covered - barely. 

Then the issue was; what to do with the holes in the cabinet doors that used to be ugly laminated lattice? Well, I had just ordered some gorgeous fabric from fabricguru. So in a few quick minutes, I had them trimmed to fit and temporarily in. Ta-da! It's a great feeling to finish a job. 
The plan was to put it in a craft/office area for me. But Natty likes it too and doesn't have a good dresser so maybe she should have it. The tie-breaker might be moving it - Natty's room is upstairs, my office is downstairs and it's heavy.

I also painted a wardrobe for her dress-ups, but don't have the hardware on it so don't call that finished. 
And my big project is the kids room! Can't wait to show everyone how that turns out. We have a tree painted on the wall and one wall of moulding up. Now to install birdhouses (with doors that open so they can store treasures inside), put up the rest of the moulding and get a carpet. I can't wait!

Friday, September 24, 2010

If I haven't told you this before, I should have.

And I'm telling you now:

Lavender Essential Oil heals burns.

I mean it. I have a little vial by my stove and if I (or my children, husband or any friends) get burned, I dab some on. A friend who's been cooking professionally most of her life taught me this gem (all credit to Andra at Baja Taco).

First and foremost, it takes away the pain. Boom, gone. - like a miracle. Secondly, but less miraculously, it helps it heal. I say "less miraculously" only because most of my burns still blister, etc. But I think it goes faster and, very importantly, doesn't hurt.

The only caveat I would give is that it's very strong smelling stuff and you don't want to touch the food you're preparing with the hand you put it on until you've wiped if off and even then it lingers so be careful. In addition, if you taste food with that hand the smell of lavender will probably put you off eating it so use the other hand. I tend to burn my dominant hand (stands to reason) so I have to make this mistake once per application it seems. I hope you have a better memory.

You can buy it at most health food stores. Go now and get some, you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

crazy kids

Boy, all boy.

She helps shuck corn for dinner and was enthralled by the heart shape that this torn husk formed. 

Are you upside down? Or am I?

Swinging in the backyard

Monday, September 13, 2010


6:30 am, Buttner's kitchen. Mommy is filling the kettle for coffee.
This is my life. 

I'm the person who has always had to explain, "I actually like mornings a lot, unless someone talks to me. Then I'm grumpy."
Oh, how children change our lives.
Please forgive the blurry iPhone photo. Murray thought this scene was so great it needed to be documented and was laughing too hard to go get a real camera. I think it captures the morning feeling just right.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Procrastination, that thorn in my side

Here's what it got me... I lost my London blog (sob).

We had it on an account we let lapse (we meant to keep it up, but it was a low priority). And I wasn't to fussed about it because I assumed that everything on the Internet is there for all of eternity (which is why you shouldn't post incriminating photos of yourself - right?). Turns out that's not the case. (bigger sob).

It's gone, all gone.

It was our travelogue of our sabbatical - it was sporadic and loopy - it was my journal of a very special time. And I didn't even print out one page of it!

If any of you printed any of it out (Mom?) could I please, please, please have a copy?

I'll be fine. We still have photographs and memories.

But my memory is terrible and getting worse every day so that's cold comfort.

I know I'll be fine. My house burned down when I was 13 - that kind of prepares you for stuff like this.

It still sucks!

I'll sleep on it and be (mostly) over it in the morning.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


On every trip West, as I look down on Seattle's familiar water, Rainier and the Olympics in the background, I feel my lungs expand with fresh air. I'm coming into my country - the Pacific NorthWest is the gateway to Alaska. Seattle means a great time with Kris, Tsion, Janet, Tom, Emma and Ben - good times with good friends. I didn't try to do too much and that makes everyone happier.

After a restful, fun overnight we then board the plane to fly north up the coast. I crane my neck past my kids to seek out familiar landmarks on the gorgeous coastline. This flight I saw Lituya Bay clearly - I have great memories of exploring it on our crazy honeymoon sailing adventure. The mountain are high and white - and go on as far as I can see. As the hours pass the terrain becomes more and more familiar until it's like the palm of my hand. Over Prince William Sound, up Turnagain Arm, the Chugach Range! My heart lands back in my chest with a thump (even though I wasn't aware until now it was missing): I'm Home.

Many times the approach up the valleys I know so well, the wide turn over Fire Island and the final descent over Kincaid park brings me to tears. This flight I was too busy with the kids to cry, but I was glowing with joy. (In part simply to near the end of the flights with Sam!).

We had full flights, but thankfully my seat partners on both flights were patient - good thing because Sam was on fire. The boy fell asleep at hour 5 of the 5 1/2 hr flight. And I was happy for that much! Travelling with a one and a half yr old is such a workout. I plan on writing a "Travelling with Children" blog sometime with the lessons I've learned and tips that work for me, which hopefully will help others.

But this entry is about our trip in Alaska. In one word: Awesome (Natty's new favorite descriptor). Good times with family and great hiking. I wanted to do a hike every day and I almost made it. Sunday we did Williwaw Lakes (turns out it's 14 miles. Longer than I planned on, but gorgeous every step and we saw a magnificent bull moose at a comfortable viewing distance which was icing on the cake).
Monday, Christina, Sharyl and I did Crow Pass! Which we used to do every year, but which I haven't done since I got married I think. That is appalling. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. So it had to be done. The river was very high and very cold (of course. It was a glacier 15 minutes before we stepped into it - but it always shocks me just how cold cold can be). Unfortunately I did something wrong with my food intake and got miserably ill so it took us 9 hrs - much longer than we'd hoped for.  But I was intensely happy to do it - even sick as a dog I was happy I was there.

On Tuesday I took a rest day. Walked with Jana and again with Christina and the boys. The kids had such a great time together. There was a lot of good cousin time... which is one of the major points of the trip.

Wednesday we took Natalie and Mom to Whittier so Thurs, Fri and Sat it was just Sam and I. Sunday Murray came - back in CT he had been battling Lyme Disease all week and, as if that wasn't enough, had been swamped at work. He was as miserable as I have ever known him to be. I felt terrible for him. (but not terrible enough to leave Alaska to come home! He did have the option not to come though.) We met him at the airport and flew to Cordova together. Had a fabulous visit there - slept on the Nerka in the harbor, breakfast at the Coho, fish tacos at Baja Taco...just like old times.

The the real traveling began. Back to Anchorage, then to Portland, overnight in Eugene, continue on to see Dad and Connie at their new place in Sutherlin- That was terrific. Back up to Eugene and in the car at 4:30 am to drive to Portland.

Where we proceeded to miss our flight. Crazy. First time ever. We both read the ticket wrong. Or something. Anyway, we were eating breakfast when our plan boarded and we missed it. Deep breath. Rally, Team Buttner!

Turns out we had perfect, one day family vacation. We both had friends in Portland whom it would have been fun to call, but we were tapped out and needed some family time. We went to Saturday Market, rented bikes, stopped by Powell's Books, chilled in the hotel room - it turned into such a good thing.

The next morning more hilarity happened. Turns out the flight was overbooked and there was only one seat available. Murray took Sam on and Natty and I were rerouted through Dallas. Yuck. But they offered us travel vouchers so that took the sting out of the wound. (And Murray even pointed out that it was our mistake in the first place, so they really didn't need to give us vouchers, but they did anyway. How nice! I was so kicking him behind the counter). The plane pulled out, Natty and I sadly waved goodbye then headed off for a cup of coffee and our new gate. 5 minutes down the concourse, Murray calls and says someone on the flight is sick and they're pulling back into the gate! Not to revel in someone else's misfortune, but I was really hoping we could get on. And sure enough, 2 people got off, and when the ticket agent saw us there, she said we could get on instead - woohoo! And we should keep the checks. (Because it turns out, they had given us checks, not travel vouchers.) So we got home together and made money on the trip.

And the best part for  me? Murray sat with Sam.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mystic in the rain

'Twas a wet and miserable day - we were all going stir crazy and decided to go to the coast. An afternoon at Mystic Seaport was just the ticket for the rainy day blues. We think rain and boats go together like peanut butter and jam, so the weather didn't deter us. Not to mention we started going to Mystic in the dead of winter when it was freezing cold and very few exhibits were open which makes Mystic in the summer seem action packed even on a rainy day.

We also took a detour on the way down to visit a big Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop....we're getting a bit closer to the kitchen renovation project and I like to check out all interesting options. The kids were patient - and we got Natty a fun game which made it worthwhile to her.

Mudpuddle joy for Sam! I think this is his first real mudpuddle experience. Note to Mom: Buy galoshes for him.  He loved it. He's actually dancing in it in this photo. He could've stayed here all day, but there was more fun to be had.

We watched a play - and then Natty got to participate! She was The Rain in a storm.
Hilarious incident with Natty when we were looking for a dinner spot:  a cool looking women's clothing store caught my eye, and I turned the stroller to go in. Natty stopped me though, "Mom, you have plenty of clothes, you don't need any more. We're very blessed. Come on, lets find dinner." What a dose of my own medicine. 

We had dinner in Mystic town, dessert at the Drawbridge Ice Cream Shop and drove home in a thunderstorm. Sam was exhausted and slept soundly in the car as soon as I handed him Lambie. A great day out - Hurrah for fabulous interactive museums.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Girlfriends....right up there with booze and chocolate.

This week was not an good one. It started off OK, small errors of judgement/memory here and there, but not enough to get upset about. But then I had a shift on L&D that made my whole attitude sour. I didn't do anything Wrong, but I sure didn't do anything Right. I left with a bad taste in my head, and couldn't shake it. I have this sweet gig at the hospital where they call if they need someone and I work from 3 am to 7 am. It is perfect for me: I don't have to get childcare (although Murray has a busy morning with the kids until I get home) and I simply adjust to the early morning by drinking more coffee. I'm tired, but not non-functionally tired - as I am if I work all night.

And this morning was technically even better than usual because Marmee took Natalie so I just had Sam - but I just couldn't shake my frustration. I haven't been treating my usual cyclical angst and exhaustion appropriately and have been snappy with the kids and Mur, avoiding exercise, not reaching out to friends and letting the house chores crush my spirit and energy. Not good, any of it. So misery has been building and this seriously kicked it up a notch.

Enter: Girlfriend power. I am blessed with many fantastic Girlfriends, but this week two in particular came through for me. Wednesday, when I was still reverberating with acute frustration my friend "Wild Woman" Maria called to ask if I wanted to come with her to pick of 5 cases (5 cases) of mangos at an Indian grocery store. Since one of my great joys is going to ethnic grocery stores I jumped at it. Not to mention, I needed the distraction, my kids adore Maria and I knew I could use an extra adult because my patience was thin, due to my own internal turmoil. Long story short: we had an awesome time. I have found a grocery store kindred spirit - someone else who buys stuff that looks intriguing  even though she doesn't know how to cook and/or eat it. In addition, I got to verbally process, Natty and Sam had a good adventure and we got delicious mangoes (and samosas, and chutneys, and lychees....)!

But my lack of competence was still eating at me. Thankfully the next day I had planned to go see a dear, dear friend from Whitworth, Court, who was visiting her mom in Newport. The ride there was a doozy. I turned the wrong way out of the driveway, realized I'd forgotten the beach stuff after driving 15 minutes, got into a big fight with Natty and missed my exit. Aaaaargh! To top it off, when we arrive at the cafe where we're going to meet Court, Natty admits in a small voice that she forgot her shoes. Oh, great. My daughter is barefoot in Newport, RI. Now I look the the harried, tired and incompetent mother that I am.

Court arrived, I got the children some food and we sat at a table chitchatting when I finally just said, "Oh Court, I've had the week from hell." and started crying. Bless her, she is a true Girlfriend. She just put her hand on my arm, kept feeding Sam and distracting Natty until I got myself back together. Then she gently listened, asked the right questions and gave great (and hilarious) commentary as we gathered the kids up and made our way to the beach.

Where we had a perfect time. I love doing things with Girlfriends because they help me be a better mom - mostly by easing the strain. She watched Sam while I took Natty to the bathroom. And protected Natty's sandcastle from Sam's destructive tendencies. And did countless other small things without making me feel like she was doing me favors - it's just who she is.

Total bonus: we saw these 3 amazing women - all grey-haired, athletic and low-key - wade into the surf, (with all the boogie boarders and other human flotsam careening around) and take off swimming into the ocean. They swam out until we could just barely see their caps, and swam laps between the outer buoys for a long time. Then they swam back in and gracefully walked back up the beach, gathered up their bags and went off - chatting all the while. That, to me, is beauty.

I'm still bummed about my work performance. When you only work 1 shift a week (at that) there's no chance to go back the next day and hit a home run. I derive a hefty amount of my self-satisfaction - if not self-worth - from doing a job well and it rankles. On the flip side, I realized that maybe it's time to leave in-patient maternal child health. I like the outpatient work I do now and it's easier on the family to have a set schedule that doesn't involve exhaustion.

The frivolously good news in my life is that I finally got my hands on "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". The luxury of a engrossing read is in my near future.

And so it goes. Another day in the life....made infinitely better by my amazing, wonderful and totally rock solid Girlfriends.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Weekend

The whole point of the huge TV and Cable extravaganza was to facilitate a get-together with Murray's New Years crowd. I call them that because they are a bunch of friends who have been gathering every New Years since they were at college together.  There are a few of us spouses (I think I'm the newest and I've been coming for 8 yrs) whom the core group absorbed without a hitch. Over the years the numbers have doubled - the younger generation ranges from 14 years to 17 months. The kids are a whole other marvelous community - big kids watching out for little, inevitable melodramas and every year a fantastic play - produced and directed by the big kids and incorporating the little ones when they are old enough.

The adults have the house party system down to a comfortable science. We had 17 people staying here for 4 days and it was great. They are the easiest and funnest group to host. The dynamic was slightly different than at New Years because we're at a parental farmhouse in Vermont, where Caleb's parents are the absentee hosts. Therefore the organization (esp of food) is egalitarian. However, since this was at our house and I cannot relinquish control of the kitchen, the meals were for the weekend organized more or less to my plan. I would characterize my style as relaxed despotism. Which works well with a crowd of helpful hands and I felt everyone was fed and happy most of the time.

We did eat well. Here are the highlights: grilled fish tacos, a curry feast, blue cheese hamburgers, gazpacho, sourdough pancakes/waffles and a strawberry cream birthday cake. The first-comers also enjoyed a pavlova - of course. (This is my summer of Pavlovas. I'm obsessed.)

It was great to see our house live up to it's potential. It absorbed the numbers admirably. I never felt like I was tripping over people and every family had their own nook. It helped that the weather was gorgeous and we'd borrowed the mother of all Slip and Slides.

There was soccer (both World Cup and live games),

 evening bonfires, swimming in a neighbor's pool, a death march to the Buttner's pool, a 4th of July town event in Woodstock, Natty's lemonade stand,

 a production of The Wizard of Oz, a pinata,

and lots of running by the adults (in fact, I went running every day - which no doubt was a contributing factor to my enjoyment of the entire weekend).

The culminating event was a half birthday party for Natty (also my birthday). I made a pinata with the "help" of the kids, we had a cookout and the strawberry cream cake. The crowd gave me lovely silverware  - so we will no longer run out of forks when we host more than 8 people! And we actually read the Declaration of Independence which was pretty cool.

It was a fabulous time. We're all exhausted and the weather has taken a turn for the hot so we're hunkered down inside, cleaning and lounging. Recuperating from the party and planning the next.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jungle love

My garden has exploded. In a good way. It truly is a jungle. I planted in the spirit of "Square Foot Gardening" even though I hadn't bothered to read the book - I figured it meant just pack it in. And it's worked so far! One of the benefits of this gardening method is lack of weeds - there's simply no room for them. On the other hand, the swiss chard seeds I planted just before I put in the rest of the starts hasn't had a chance to grow either. Oh well, our Farmer's Market will fill in the veggie gaps we have.
Another casualty was the broccoli - each of my 6 plants had a small head when I noticed caterpillar worms on them. I struggled mightily with those buggers last year and I'm not fighting that battle this year - not with the rest of my garden flourishing and space being at such a premium. So the other night we had a delicious pasta primavera with zucchini, basil and the first/last broccoli from the garden.

Just for reference, this is the garden May 20, just after I planted it:

In addition to being being a fertile ground for plants, it seems I've created a haven for woodland animal babies. Two weeks ago I went out to check on it and startled a fawn sleeping in the grass in the U. I had to open up one side of my garden fence to let it out and then I was worried about how it was going to get through our outer fence to find it's mother. Since I haven't seen it since I assume it did eventually find her. 

Today when I was visiting my garden a bunny exploded from one side, so I went to look at the fence and, low and behold, there were 4 baby bunnies sticking their noses out of their nest next to the wooden raised beds (but inside the wire fence). Sigh. I'm not going to do anything cruel, but I am worried about how much of the veggies will make it to my family. Strangely enough, even with a totally ineffective fence, I don't see any signs of damage to any of the plants. We'll see how long that lasts with a hungry momma bunny and Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter to feed. (Or maybe it's Thumper and his family, since Bambi was already there.)

This is a picture of the nest in the grass. Note the downy grey fur layer. They were out of the hole when I first came upon them, and then must have ducked back in by the time I came back with Natalie and the camera. 

And now, some cute pictures of the kids:
Sam loves feeding the chickens. "Chickie" is one of his words now. He'll bring the metal dish to the nearest adult, then toddle to the door where we keep the food, point and yell to get in and get the food. The chickens seem to like him quite a bit too. Natalie's robot family.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cheery ramblings

Like everyone who spends time on the internet, I get sucked into blog-reading. I read the blogs I like, then link to the blogs they like, and on it goes.

So here's something I've discovered - or rather re-discovered. I like positive people. I feel better, lighter and more able to take on the world when I read up-beat things. Even though there's a corner of my heart that's rolling its eyes, the rest of me is sitting up straighter.

It's like having inspirational quotes tacked around the house. Which I used to think was impossibly cheesy, but I swallowed my pride and resolved to hang some months ago. Murray even printed a pile out for me for Christmas - how sweet! (Obviously, the first one needs to be about the evils of procrastination. I'll get on that tomorrow).

Another side effect of these cheery, friendly blogs is that they make me want to be more of that kind of friend. I know I'm not usually a ray of sunshine. I'm more the friend you vent with/to. Because I know how to vent, baby. Which is valuable and important and, please, don't hold back next time we talk! But I want people to walk away feeling empowered after we've chatted. So constructive venting is the order of the day.

Most of my current blogs are related to mommy, food and decorating issues. Here is a link to the funniest mommy post I've read so far. The decorating ones are new for me. I started reading them when we bought the house in order to get my head into the game. Not that I'll ever be Susy Q. Homemaker, but it is helpful to read people who are waaaay into it and have all kinds of lovely ideas (and are also positive, cheery folks - why are home decorators so chirpy? It's good energy for me though. I know it is).

And now, I must go get my World Cup fix for the night.

Friday, June 11, 2010

In the zone

It's here, operational and the games have begun. The cable guy spent some quality time at the house yesterday - thank goodness he knew what he was doing because it involved lots of new wire from a pole on the street. The Kleppners arrived in time to  test the watching experience last night - important to get the kinks worked out before kick off. We're still fine-tuning some seating/kid control/drinks tables issues. And laying ground rules like: Sam does not get to touch the remote. Ever.
But, as of half time of the first game, I think everyone is pleased.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The end of the world as I know it

This is a picture of one of my mantels. My favorite one, in fact, because I have scattered along the top of it some of my found objects. The glass bottles were found in old trash heaps behind this house and our previous house, the exquisite bird's nest was resting on our lawn early one morning and the big shell I found in Bermuda. I'm not a big "finder" so these things represent something of a triumph for me. Of observation, recognizing beauty and holding on to some things that gives me joy.

However, I think I'm going to have to relinquish this mantel for the big  flat screen TV which will be connected to the cable that is coming tomorrow morning. Yes, gentle readers, the Buttners are getting a TV. And not only a TV, but cable to go with it.

But it's for a good cause! Wait for it.........World Cup 2010.

Now, I'm no Luddite, but there are technological advances that I don't want to intimately participate in. Cable TV belongs in hotel rooms and other vaca spots. I've always had a bit of pride that we are odd enough not to have TV and cable. Now, in one fell swoop my (perhaps misplaced) feelings of superiority have evaporated.

The truth is though, even if I wanted to (and yes, I'm excited about a few shows) I still don't have the time to watch it. Can I pay $29.95 a month for extra time to sit and watch Food Network? Does that come with the package? "300 channels and 2 extra hours a day" My house is already teetering on the edge of chaos without an additional time suck. However, apprehensions aside, it will be a trip to see how the arrival of ESPN et al. changes our life.

Since we have it, everyone is invited to our house to watch the World Cup - June 11-July 13. It's going to be a great time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Strawberry fields forever

Sam and I went strawberry picking yesterday - first day of the season at Buell's Orchard! We got the email courtesy of Rebecca and knew we just had to fit it in. Unfortunately, they close at noon, so going after kindergarten couldn't happen. I would have to go while Natty was at school. This was a little sad for 2 reasons: 1) Natty would love to go.  2) I'd have to fit it in between Sam's nap and when she arrives home from school. 

There is a trick to getting stuff done with children. Some people (the organized, and/or energetic ones) excel at this. I have gotten better and better but still find it easier to go without most things than motivate to get the kid/kids in the car - with my wallet, keys and sundry necessities and in enough time to make our "must-do" appointments. 

Must-Do: be at the house at 11:20 to meet Natalie's bus. This is crucial and I worry excessively about missing it. "What if's" abound in my mind. I don't perform well under time pressure. Once I left my purse in the cart in the parking lot of TJ Maxx, worried about rushing back to meet the bus. I've forgotten crucial groceries as I zip through the store. Best not to push it. 

Strawberries though? On a sunny morning when it's supposed to rain for the next 3 days, then we're out of town, etc, etc? There are moments you simply must rise to. 

Thankfully, Sam woke up at quarter to 10 and we were in the car and moving by 10. When we arrived, I was so glad we had come. There weren't many people there, the sunshine was perfect and the strawberries were amazing. Big, red, sweet and warm from the sun. Strawberry fiend Sam loved it. He was on my back in the Ergo and hung out happily while I picked for a scant 20 min and filled 4 pint boxes + a little extra. 

In addition to the sweet, sweet strawberries, I had fun memories of last year, when I came to the same field with Natty, then 4, and Sam who was just 5 months old. Juggling the baby on the front and the 4 year old was hilarious. Remembering what joy Natty got and what a great little picker she is, I resolved to bring her back as soon as I can. Or we'll come peach picking - I spotted the fuzzy green peaches on the trees. And ultimately, we got our strawberries and got home in time to pick up Natty. (No more phone calls from Phil the bus driver via the school office!)

Berries in the field - beautiful

Berries in my basket - delicious