Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Get Your Greens

Bert, he's a funny kid. He loves to eat spinach straight from the garden but won't touch it when it is on his plate at supper time. Peas are fantastic raw, only so-so cooked. So these days, we basically let him eat as much raw out of the garden as he wants and don't worry too much when his plate looks a little light on the veggies.

Here's our jolly little green giant, helping out with the cabbage and peas that are coming on.

He acts like it is the best magic trick ever for Keith and I to pop open a pea pod for him, and he's starting to get the hang of it himself.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Playing with Daddy

Father's Day turned out to be a second version of the Mother's Day agenda: a picnic and a park. We decided to do a breakfast picnic and a park closer to home, since the weather looked a bit iffy. So it was simple, bagels and fruit and coffee, milk for Bert. A couple of donuts from the farmers' market. Leftover Cheerios for the ducks, water shoes and a change of clothes for creek walking (and creek falling), and a couple of hours just to relax and enjoy each other's company with none of the chores about the house whispering that we should attend to them.

Bliss is a blue-sprinkled donut...

The family sign of concentration: tongue sticking out!

------ break for a wardrobe change ------

Accessorizing with sunglasses found on a park bench

The next couple photos are pretty amazing to me. Keith showed him once how to put his hands and feet on the "rocks" and he had it, no help necessary.

And let us not forget the inherent entertainment in a big stick!

A great day, hands down.

On Dads

I have been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by strong male figures throughout my whole life. Not just my dad, but a brother I count as one of my best friends; three grandfathers who are so different from one another but who have all been incredibly generous with their time, resources, knowledge and experience; and uncles who show over and over again the value of lending a hand and hard work.

But it's Father's Day, so let's take a little closer look at my dad, who wants to know what's up with the abbreviation when I write "Dad" instead of "Daddy." He's a man who has always had a lot on his plate (the debate rages over what constitutes "too much") and has to be ten hours from home to actually relax. He is among the smartest people I know, though he will tell you he can't do algebra, and he is the hardest worker I can think of. It's amazing how the things my brother and I thought were ridiculous expectations growing up turned out to be some of the most important shapers of our character. Some of my favorite Daddy-isms would have to be:

     • Do as I say, not as I do.
     • Don't make it harder than it has to be.
     • Do it right the first time.

For all his demands of us, Daddy was the one to give it to our whims: puppies and horses, motorcycles and rifles. He has always been a very in-the-moment kind of person, which sometimes still runs counter to my plan-oriented nature and difficulty switching gears (mental gears, but now that I think of it, the lesson on driving stick shift didn't go so well either). He sees the value in everything, deeming what I would consider junk as rusty gold and calling it our inheritance. He's also really amazing at seeing the value in people and extending his help and his knowledge again and again.

Daddy is a great people person. It's rare to go anywhere with him without bumping into someone he knows. Even on vacations several hours from home this happens. He can talk so long with anybody we even had a little rhyme about it as kids:

Just sittin' in the car
While Daddy talks and talks.
He knows just where we are
But still he talks and talks.
We try so hard to be patient
But sometimes it gets pretty boring.
By the time he comes back
We'll probably all be snoring!

Daddy is a great story teller too. He has stories from growing up and his college days that crack me up every time he tells them.

Keith likes to tell me I'm a lot like my dad, usually meaning that I can be stubborn and get a certain tone to my voice. Those things are true, but I'd like to think that I'm the hard worker he raised me to be, someone who is open to adventure, and who sees value where others haven't thought to look as well.


Speaking of Keith, I can't let Father's Day pass without talking about him. Keith was always on board with having a family, but I think he really worried that he wouldn't enjoy the baby stage. It was amazing to watch him soak up every moment along the way with Bert and find that every stage has been fun so far. I know he looks forward to watching both these boys play sports, but I am so grateful that he has been incredibly involved since the moment Bert arrived. He doesn't give a second thought to coming home from a long day at work and spending the evening playing with Bert, taking him on bike rides or walks through the park. His patience astounds me and even though I'm the one here with Bert all day, I definitely can learn something about parenting from Keith.  He is such an essential part of raising these boys into good men, and it's a big responsibility but he tackles it the way he does everything else: honestly, head-on, and with a good dose of humor. I couldn't be happier with the partner I have in him and the support he gives me every day is what keeps me going.


Let's not forget a more-than-honorable mention to my brother, who chose to become a dad when he didn't have to, and never looked back even when it didn't all work out the way he planned. I couldn't be prouder of the  man he is today, and the great parent he is to the most fun and exuberant girl I have ever met. He is like my dad, one of those all-in, in-the-moment guys, and still able to keep the big picture of what an important job it is to raise a child.

So here's to all the dads out there, and all the men who have helped to shape my life into what it is today. Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rain, Rain, Come To Stay

When we started looking for a house, we emphasized to our realtor that room for a garden was an absolute must. Although our garden still feels small in terms of what I was raised around, I am continually amazed at how much food we can produce in such a small area.

We all know the essentials for plants to grow: soil, sun, water. The soil and sun haven't been a problem, but when we have dry spells, using the hose and watering our plants from the borough water supply never sits well with me. Besides the fact that the water is treated with all kinds of chemicals and is considered pretty hard water, we have to pay for all those gallons running out of the hose, which certainly cuts down on the cost-benefit of having a garden.

The first year we had a garden, we did invest in a rain barrel from a local hardware store. We never rigged up a very efficient system for filling it, just setting it under the overhang of the garage and catching what we could (it has a roughly 4 to 5 square foot top with a screen in the middle for the water to run into). It was usually enough to fill the watering can out from for hanging baskets and potted plants, and occasionally after a big storm, we could run the soaker hose from it. It didn't really put a dent in our mid-summer water needs though.

At the end of April, the borough commission that I am a member of sponsored a rain barrel workshop. For $40, participants were able to see a presentation on making and using a rain barrel, and the importance of water conservation, as well as come home with their own barrel made out of a retrofitted 55-gallon plastic food grade barrel (the ones for the workshop actually came from a local Coca-Cola bottling facility). Keith was the first person signed up.

It took us a little while to actually get around to setting up our new rain barrel, because we had to get supplies to connect it to our downspout at the back of the house. Keith came up with a really great system to utilize both barrels, and to handle overflow.

First he placed some cinder blocks under the barrel to create more water pressure utilizing gravity. Because the patio is several feet higher than the garden, and the barrel is up on the blocks, the soaker hose is really effective.

Once the height of the barrel was established, Keith used his reciprocating saw to cut the downspout.

Then he used a flexible piece of spouting to connect the downspout to the opening in the barrel. The green "receiver," the red-handled spout at the bottom of the barrel, and the brass overflow nozzle at the top were provided through the workshop.

In an ironic move, he used the hose to put some water in the barrel because it was a really windy day and we didn't want it to blow away.

Then, in an inspired moment, he brought our store-bought barrel up to the patio and used a piece of hose to direct any overflow from the white barrel into the tan one. We had a few tenths of an inch of rain between when I took the picture above and the one below, and the barrel started filling up.

Keith's one remaining concern was that small debris from the roof would get in the barrel and be hard to clean out. We found this little mesh bag from one of Bert's toys that could easily be cinched around the spout into the barrel to catch anything. You could also use a small piece of screen or an old pantyhose.

In the heat wave we had the other week, we did decide to water a lot of the garden. Mostly we fill the watering can or use the soaker hose because there is not enough pressure to produce an actual spray from the hose.

With the storms that passed through the end of last week, both barrels are full to the brim. There is also a hose from the second barrel that passes back into the pipe that the downspout originally went into (situated behind the barrels), so any overflow is diverted away from the house and out into the yard. Though you can't tell from these pictures, the barrels are only collecting rain from the roof over the laundry room. Maybe this photo will orient you a bit: the barrels sit to the left, directly in front of the downspout. 

The laundry room is only about 6 1/2' x 13', so it doesn't take a lot of surface area to collect enough to rain to fill up both barrels, which total approximately 100 gallons.

I'm not looking forward to the hot, dry weather of summer (especially with this growing belly!) but at least we have our garden water needs covered.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This and That

Just a few random photos of the little man and what he's up to for you to enjoy this afternoon!

Building with his great-grandpop...

Watching the Memorial Day parade here in town...

Checking out a little bird that must have fallen out of its nest...

He has really been enjoying walks around the block, bike rides with Keith, and just being outside to play and explore. On the hottest days last week, he was thrilled to be in his pool, and got a huge kick out of going down his slide and splashing into the water. He is all the entertainment we need lately!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A-Tisket, A-Tasket

...six vintage locker baskets.

I had been hunting around online for some kind of metal bin or basket for the shelf in our laundry room. I saw a few things I liked, but they all seemed a bit pricey. Then my friend Claudia, peruser of all things vintage, old, antique, and otherwise interesting, sent me a text that a store near her had a stack of vintage locker baskets. The size was right, I could get the six I wanted, and the price was reasonable, so I jumped on it. Well, I asked her to jump on it and she kindly went and got them for me.

Six fit nicely on the longest side of the shelf, and Claudia was able to get consecutive numbers, which makes my orderly self very happy.

Now we've managed to corral those odd-ball things that get stashed in the laundry room into matching bins that are a manageable size to get on and off this high shelf.

And though we definitely still have a ways to go in here, these are a major improvement over the previous situation.

The new baskets had the added benefit of spurring me on to sort out everything that was on that shelf and in the brown cabinet  you see below and determine if it really belonged in the laundry room. And, surprise surprise, many things really belonged in the garage or the basement. The sorting, putting away, and discarding actually allowed us to move that cabinet out of the laundry room entirely, freeing up even more floor space.

Two of the baskets are still empty, and I'm not sure what will end up in them yet (but I have no doubt they will get filled eventually). My long term goal is to move most of the things out of our coat closet into this room, leaving the closet free for more toys and games since it is in the middle of our living space. There are plenty of hooks back here for seasonal coats and jackets, and out-of-season things can go to the cedar closet upstairs. So that's the goal and eventually we'll get there. Still have to pick that paint color though...
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