Friday, October 30, 2009

The most amazing thing

The most amazing thing about this area is that you can be at the beach and then in mere minutes, be in the woods. Treasures found: two horseshoe crab shells (they molt the shells when they're outgrown) and an enormous piece of driftwood that was a perfect springboard.


Reflections upon leaves

These photos are from our recent trip to the Ipswich River wildlife sanctuary. The largest Audubon site in Massachusetts, this sanctuary offers over ten miles of trails winding through 2,265 acres, mainly wetlands.

The sanctuary's most famous feature is the Rockery, a project commissioned by Thomas Proctor, a wealthy landowner. Designed by Japanese landscape architect, Shintare Anamete, work on the Rockery began in 1902. Anamete stayed on the site during the entire nine-year construction period, overseeing every detail. (From Of Fantasies and Footpaths: Seven Landscapes to Enjoy With Children by Maryann Alberts Malarkey) Enormous boulders, brought in by cart and horse from miles away, form tunnels, ledges, overhangs, and many, many opportunities for excited little guys to climb, clamber, and explore. We had to pry the kiddos away.

Fall color at Ipswich River. Glorious. You don't need to trek to a sanctuary to see the leaves. Color is everywhere. I've had to remind myself to pay attention because I'm gawking as I drive down the highways.

The reflections of the trees shimmering in the many ponds were almost literally enchanting.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kitchen and food thoughts

The kitchen renovation is crawling along. More demo than anything else. And, of course, constantly thinking and rethinking choices. Here it is as it stands now. Note the lovely duct tape flooring. Chic, yes? A touch of the unexpected.

We removed the sagging kitchen desk and the old peninsula. The desk was a miracle of old houses. It was only supported on one side and totally unsupported on the other so it had been gradually sagging. I don't know how it survived these past decades. The duct tape covers the spaces where asbestos flooring has been revealed. So far, the renovation suffers from a severe case of the domino effect. We can't have the flooring removed until all the cabinets and pantries have been demolished. We can't demolish the cabinets until we've decided on the new cabinet layout, the cabinet maker, etc. etc.

So basically, until the spring, we'll be living with duct-tape patched flooring. The glamorous life in a vintage house.

For now, we moved the peninsula against the wall and laid the old counter on top. It's just extra counter space. We brought up an IKEA office cabinet for extra storage. The drawers are very, very useful, but its surface is not food safe. We've purchased some very inexpensive IKEA butcher block countertops to replace the worn, laminate counters. These will only be a stopgap measure, but the old counters simply won't do. The counter's metal-rimmed inserts let crumbs fall through into the drawers and gruck accumulates along the metal. Gross!

Interestingly enough, we've been cooking very well in this makeshift kitchen. Last night, fried eggplant and homemade pizza (with homemade dough). Thin crust pizza with pepperoni, fried eggplant, and lots of cheese...mmmm...made an excellent leftover lunch too. Tonight, garlic lemon tilapia and baked bay scallops with stuffing, asparagus, and baguettes. Tomorrow is beef bourgignon.

Tomorrow we're off on a day trip for cider donuts, a fall delicacy here, and more apples and possibly free range eggs. And hiking. And leaf peeping.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cupcake showdown (Austin versus Boston)

I've had a request for some fall photos. We haven't gone leaf peeping yet (though fall color is everywhere). So instead, I offer this photo of another fall sight. Sugar! Pre-Halloween goodies.

Delicious cupcakes from Sugar bakery in West Roxbury ( Hiding off-camera was the grown-up cupcake: mocha raspberry. Mmmm...

How did they compare to...say...Austin's Hey Cupcake! ( Well, Hey Cupcake has that cool retro vibe going for it. I mean, enormous cupcakes dealt from vintage metal Airstream trailers. What's more fun/funky/Austin weird?

But the one day that I brought my kiddos to Hey Cupcake! turned out to be a disappointment. We were celebrating a minor something. My son protested that he preferred Central Market cupcakes, but we were right by Hey Cupcake! I'd heard about how delicious they were so we stopped to buy some. At $2.50 a pop, they fell into the splurge category, but the cupcake was certainly Texas-sized, an enormous cupcake practically dwarfed by its mountainous crown of frosting.

They were too large. Too sweet. Too much. The frosting was overpowering, and its slick, oily feel was eventually nauseating. I ate most of mine and regretted it. My eldest was both disappointed by the cupcake and vindicated by our opinions.

So I was hesitant to try Sugar cupcakes. My experience with specialty cupcakes hadn't been the best. However, my husband was in the store to pick up some Italian bread, and he brought home these beauties. And oh my! What a difference. First of all, the size was appropriate. Massachusetts-sized perhaps. The price was a bit over $2 each ($12.50 for four cupcakes and a giant loaf of delicious Italian bread plus tax). The children eagerly gobbled their cupcakes. When asked who thought these were the best cupcakes, hands shot up in the air and frosting-smeared lips screamed, "Me!!!" The verdict was unanimous.

The grown-up cupcake. Oh my. The delicately mocha-flavored icing with the generous smattering of coconut. The lightness of the cake. The perfectly sweet dollop of raspberry hiding in the middle. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Thumbs up from us all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pine sap removers that work

I'd meant to post days ago. But time passed, and I didn't. As it's useful stuff, I thought better late than never.

(Other blog subjects that I'd meant to post, but didn't include our trip to the farm, our trip to Arnold Arboretum, and our culinary adventures with peaches and applesauce. Oh well. This just means I'm too busy living life to blog, right? Or just too tired after long days of living life with three children.)

Anyway. After much internet research, we came up with these candidates for pine sap removal.

These are (from left to right) hand sanitizer, non-acetone nail polish remover, and rubbing alcohol.

And after extensive testing of the first two (haven't gotten to the rubbing alcohol yet), I'll say that non-acetone nail polish remover works fantastically. You pour a little onto a clean cloth, dab it generously on the sap, and scrub it off. Then you wash off the area with water. You have to keep moving to a clean area on your cloth because the sap sticks to the cloth. Other than that, it really does work well. I got my hood almost entirely clean in a bit less than an hour.

The hand sanitizer. Well. I tried it on the windows. I glopped the sanitizer directly on the glass, waited a while, and then scrubbed. It worked okay, but the glass didn't come clean as easily as I'd hoped. Now...this was after a long time of working on the hood so my fingers may just have been tired. Or perhaps the hand sanitizer is just not as effective. I keep planning to head back out to the car to finish taking off the sap marks, but a combination of busy schedule and weather have conspired to keep me from it.

It's Friday night, and do you know where your kids are?

It has started. Well. That's being a little overly dramatic. Tonight marks the very first night that a child of mine has gone on his own to an open social function. He has, of course, been dropped off at many a playdate or birthday party. However, this time, he is at a party that's open to all fifth graders in my town.


So it starts. The nights of staying up wondering how your child is doing and when he/she is coming home. Okay. Tonight he's coming home at nine o'clock, brought home by a friend's mom.'s the first step. A big first step. Tonight there's a dj with music and dancing and foosball and pool. Whew!

I hope he has fun. I hope he remembers the values with which he was raised. I hope he doesn't get bullied. I don't he doesn't feel pressured into doing something he isn't ready to do. I hope he doesn't feel he has to get a girlfriend. I hope he just enjoys hanging out with his friends, making new friends, and savoring that first little nip of freedom and responsibility.

A fairly heavy load to be putting on a fifth-grade get-together, right? Right.

I'm already picturing the time when Lucy sneaks into the fifth-grade shindig with Claire. I can see her now. They grow up so fast.