Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can Do Attitude

Our house was like a frickin' Birdseye food processing plant today. Fortunately, it was only a delightful 99 degrees instead of the dreadful forecasted 102. In fact the heat wasn't so bad at all. I just pretended that heat and humidity were a vacation in the Caribbean...a vacation where those Commies in Cuba kidnap you and force you to work in the kitchen for twelve hour shifts.

Actually, I was canning because this is a Bean Year. Canning beans always keeps the cupboards full for a couple of years so I don't have to do it annually. This year I planted an extra row knowing I was going to can. Not sure why I did that - one 25 foot row is plenty for all my bean needs. Two full rows is enough to feed an army, and a Communist army at that!

So this morning I started by picking beans. When I had filled the sink I knew I had enough. Those aren't floating beans; that sink is packed full!

So I set to work snipping with my little helpers for about 90 seconds and then I had to banish them from the kitchen.

After that I worked solo until my hands became arthritic and then I made Mac do a bowl. My goal was to do one canner full, but after filling 20 jars, I still had a whole bowl left.

So I did another 10 jars as well. That's 60 cups of beans! Not to mention I gave a grocery bag full to the neighbor and I had only picked 2/3's of the beans. Hello methane gas production! We celebrated our bounty by having fresh beans for dinner!

There will be no more bean canning this year even though we still have tons of beans. Fortunately, Farmer Google seems to think my Kentucky bush beans will do just fine as shell beans. I have never done shell beans, so this is quite exciting. It's like I am on vacation and I won the lottery, too!

Also on the day's list of activities: processing 14 pounds of blueberries.

I made one batch of jam, and would have made another, but trolls ate the extra bag of sugar that I thought was in the pantry. That always seems to happen to me when making jam. I did get a gallon on cookie sheets in the freezer.

Despite what I say, mostly I really like canning. It makes me feel like Martha Stewart and Laura Ingalls Wilder all rolled into one. Although, there is a little part of me that feels like I am just few months away from killing my whole family with botulism.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Vacation Fun

We got home from the beach Thursday around noon, which was just enough time to do a few loads of laundry and then head back out for our next adventure. We were headed to Clackamas Lake at the foot of Mt. Hood, but we had to leave super early Friday morning because we didn't have reservations.

We got a (not so great) site without any problems and the kids immediately set to work trying to get as dirty as possible.

That first day the kids rode bikes around the camp and we drove over to Timothy Lake as well, about two miles away.

Megan did some pretty serious swimming, but Liam was more content to hang out and watch. I don't blame him - that water is COLD!

Saturday was my big day and I finished my first 50 mile race!

I basically didn't move the rest of the day!

Sunday we took one last stroll down the campground boardwalk to Clackamas Lake (more like a bloated river than a lake, but still quite scenic).

Then one more dip in Timothy Lake (well, for Megan at least) before heading home. Two nights at the beach, two nights camping, plus an endurance accomplishment and my vacation wasn't even half over! This week's agenda is pretty dull compared to that, though. We are just trying to beat the heat - hard to do when the day gets to 105! We hit the splashpark Monday and A.C. Gilbert house Tuesday (does the A.C. stand for air conditioning?? Man in was nice in there) and today the kids were in the kiddie pool at our house by 9 am. I wanted to get some yard work done this week, but who can stand to be outside??

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Vacation

The Smith posse is enjoying summer break this week and last, at least as much as we can in this heat.

Last Tuesday we headed out to Lincoln City after scoring an awesome invite to spend two nights at Auntie Sharon's beach house (thanks Auntie Sharon!!)

While there we got to bond with our new cousin Deacon (second cousin actually).

Once again, Liam was fascinated with all things Baby. Megan mostly just wanted to read his books. Megan did love playing with Sharon's dog Lily. Sorry Honey, you ain't gettin' a dog!

While at the beach we built the requisite castles, despite the giant destructive forces of hurricane Liam.

I took a nice run up to the top of that funny knobby thing in the middle of the picture (only 30 minutes round trip - doesn't it look so much farther??).

And the breezy weather made for some good kite flying.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kids Crafts Suck

Megan loves to do art projects. They are very messy and require a lot of involvement by me, but because I am an Awesome Mom who wants to stimulate my child's learning and development (and make her stop whining), I am frequently gettin' crafty with my budding Picasso.

This weekend's project came straight from the pages of Highlights Magazine. Megan was flipping through the pages and then looked up at me with excitement. "Oh! Mom, can we make this?" How could I say no?!

So we gathered all the necessary supplies. I was even fortunate enough to have three "chenille sticks" in my craft supply cupboard. Chenille Sticks?? I am very anti-smoking, but WTF is a "chenille stick" and since when did it replace "pipe cleaner"?

So for the next half hour or so Megan shaped her masterpiece. But she didn't have enough dexterity to tightly twist the "chenille sticks" so I had to be her art slave, doing all the manual labor.

The final result looked like we had gone dumpster diving behind Joann crafts. Our special mobile included Christmas star garland, fake flowers, some beads and feathers, a copper bell, some ribbon from the seventies, and a pine cone from the yard with blobs of sticky sap. And of course, the three chenille sticks. The piece de resistance was a small silver cross with the popular Christian abbreviation "WWJD."

And just What Would Jesus Do? He'd banish this monstrosity to Hell, of course!

But in our house this is now a Special Project, just like those tiny ceramic cats painted in neon colors, the paper Easter egg with decoupage tissue, the bead necklaces and all the other crap, er um, crafts that Megan has made.

Don't get me wrong, Megan's passion is heartwarming. And some of the stuff is just precious. Megan has done some drawings of the family that just get my Mom Sentimentality gushing. And I especially love the self-portrait from this week with slanting writing over the top proclaiming "The prettiest girl is Megan." But the impersonal craft items do nothing for me. When every kid in the class goes home with half a paper plate painted like a water melon, I am not impressed.

I have tried to sneak some of these items into the trash while Picasso is sleeping, but I am always foiled by her super-power memory and have been busted on multiple occasions, which leaves me rummaging through the trash or consoling a distraught artist who has just lost her prize work. So I don't do that anymore (ok that's a lie. but I temporarily hide them in a retrievable place to see if she'll notice first). But still Megan's room is teeming with these no longer useful works of art.

Lucky for us, this weekend's creation was special enough to hang on the wall! Right next to the hot pink star with beads and weird stuff glued on the top, and a moon made out of tiny plastic balls that magically stick together with water.

Tomorrow we are painting a wooden box that previously housed brie, and when it is dry we will further adorn it with stickers. I am sure that'll be Special, too, and need to be displayed on the dresser. Oh goody.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!

For 4th of July, we invited two families over for the very original idea of a barbecue, for a total of six adults and eight kids. I guess for the holiday we felt we could violate the Kids-Should-Never-Outnumber-The-Adults rule that we try to live by.

It is probably not the smartest idea to invite people over for an outside party when your yard is all ripped up and requires a hard hat to enter, but we didn't think of that until the morning of July 4th. As the temperatures skyrocketed, we realized our only usable shade was the 10 x 10 square on our front porch. We were certainly going to be getting cozy, in a hot sweaty sardine kind of way.

We figured our guests wouldn't mind as much if they were drunk, so we started the day just down the road at the Ankeny Hill Vineyards for some wine tasting.

After completing the rounds, we made a little jaunt up the hill for a little geo-cache action, with a hell of a lot of whining from my two pip-sqeaks.

Dinner was a bit tight on the porch (kids ate in the kitchen), but it all worked out.

Then we decided to give the kids an opportunity to burn their eyes out by giving sparklers to kids who can't even feed themselves yet.

But we should have been worrying more about the menfolk blowing off their limbs, since home fireworks are obviously like Kryptonite to the male IQ.

Then when we were all good and sweaty, smokey and about as dirty as can be, I remembered that I wanted a family photo to compare to July '07:

I even wore the same shirt to make the comparison easier. It is very festive for the 4th of July so I wear it every year. It is red and it says "Costa Rica."

Lucky for us, the fun didn't end on the 4th. The next morning we got professional show involving tacky clothes, silly dancing and way too much tape. Just what every 5th of July needs.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rock Out

We are finally getting to the point where we can envision the new yard.

Our back yard was a claustrophobic runway of grass, with huge overgrown junipers totally obstructing the view, some ugly railroad ties and a rotting deck.

The junipers are gone and a new rock retaining wall is in their place, which probably gives us about 50% more grass area, but it feels 300% bigger with those bushes out. There is also a sunken fire pit in the new wall (if we are lucky we may get to use it this year!). And the new deck is going to be cement and metal rails which should be maintenance free and shelter the lower deck. And the tractors are like babysitters for Liam, very expensive babysitters - he'll stay at the windows just staring.

If it looks this good now (hahaha!), just wait till it is done!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Megan finished up the end of swimming class in grand fashion, finally letting Daddy stay out of the pool and doing the class by herself. So Sunday we took a trip to Enchanted Forest to celebrate (and because we had prominsed her since she missed the last day of school trip). Megan's friend Maddy came along which was a BIG EVENT: It was the first time we had one of Megan's friends without the parents! This was also a first for Maddy and it took her a bit to warm up to the idea, but once she did, she was on fire, running us all over the park!

Enchanted Forest was a pleasant surprise - cutesy fairy tale scenes, several good slides and rides for the kids. It is perfect for the 3-9 year old crowd. Right here in Salem - I'm shocked.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Virginia Pics - Finally!

Here are the highlights of our trip:

Lots of time on the plane after a detour to Grand Junction and a night in Denver due to tornadoes.

We meet our new cousin Luke. Liam can't get enough. Megan is bored after about three second with him; she'd rather play with all the new toys and books.

The kids finally took a bath at the end of the week.

We did our best to keep from melting in the East Coast humidity. We weren't always so successful.

We spent a day at the National Aquarium. Yay - we found Nemo!

Megan takes one turn holding Luke and announces"I'm done" before we even get the cameras out (we make her stay)

Liam is in heaven holding Luke. He was so cute petting Luke's head!

There was general silliness.

Not too much sitting still. Brooke couldn't even make it a quarter block before she was climbing out.

Lots of cousin fun - too bad they are so far away now!