Bon Voygage and Two Good Blog Reads

We are headed to Colorado tomorrow for a reunion with all the Mountain Man relations. I am simultaneously excited to see the his family and the Rocky Mountains again and fairly strung out about traveling with both babes, even though it's only one flight. Wish us luck!

Meanwhile, two fun posts from blogs I read on the reg.

A Cup of Jo's review of natural deodorants (!):

Dinner, A Love Story's slick trick for getting young children to try more vegetables

Bon voyage!

Cute Tees for Boys and a Sale

I'm not wild about children's clothes with cartoon and movie characters, emblems or logos.  So Ford wears a lot of stripes and solids, but he definitely loves the handful of t-shirts I've found him with animals and bikes on them. [Bikes as subtle instruction on our preferred/ideal mode of travel!]

These two have been his favorites this summer:

"Bob the Monkey" from Hanna Andersson (excuse this very weird photo of headless Ford)

If you're in the same boat, Hanna Andersson has really hit it out of the park with cute graphic tees, AND they're all 20% off right now!

Just to keep it real, I sent Ford off to a summer day camp on Monday wearing his beloved "Bob the Monkey" t-shirt (that's where he was in the above photo). After having the time of his life playing in the Virginia red clay mud, his nice Hanna Andersson tee will never be the same. You can bet I went straight to Walmart and bought him two cheap cartoon graphic tees to completely trash for the rest of the week. And please share your laundry tips for getting red clay out of clothes!

New House: Garden Evolution

This new house has its own set of yard challenges, although not nearly as many as our house on S. 5th Street in Missoula. Remember this?

Back when we though Chopper was forever. 

The front yard of "the new house" in Staunton (as Ford still calls it), has, on the plus side: lovely maturing boxwood, azaleas and a dogwood. 

On the minus side: a dwarf peach tree that the previous owners planted in a fit of edible landscaping enthusiasm. I'd like to say that we're down with edible landscaping, but not at this stage in our lives. We meant to dig it up and give it away last winter while it was dormant, but had a baby instead. I don't have the heart to just cut it down, so now it's heavy with worm and bug-eaten fruit. Sigh. Maybe it'll go this winter.

The visible-from-space gravel, raggedy petunias and ditch lilies also had to go. We subbed those out for dwarf nandinas, spirea and mulch.

Mature examples:

The backyard was in a really sad state:

We discovered that the back patio sits on an artificial bench made of rubble just dumped there when the pad for the house was being excavated.  On top of that was almost 2 ft (in places) of gravel. Nothing growing except weeds on the slope of the bench and enough built up dirt to prevent the patio from draining after a rain. It was a weedy, slimy mess.

After we cleared away the debris and the wood pile, we had a blank slate:

This is the kind of indoor documentation you do with a newborn. Note the Medela bottle in the foreground.

Then we brought in the professionals to haul away the gravel, scrape the site and level with topsoil. To define this new garden bed and maybe discourage people from tumbling down the slope, we put in a row of Otto Lukeyns laurels at the back edge.

More lazy indoor documentation. 

Then my wonderful mother arrived from Richmond with a carload of "foundational plants" from her garden. The whole bed is pretty shaded during the spring and summer by the big honey locust, so we mostly planted hostas, heucheras, epimedium, and ferns. After much wheedling, she also brought me a hellebore, one of my favorites. (Aside: epimedium is sometimes known by the common names "horny goat weed" and "rowdy lamb herb!" According to Wikipedia, at least.)

Of course, she did this in March and then we had a nasty cold snap and several more inches of snow. The hostas are only now starting to come back. Funny thing about that May 15th frost-free date. 

As of this week, the garden bed is still very much in its earliest stages, but it's come a long way from last summer:
The MM and his did sunk these slate stepping stones and seeded the new grass. It was a big project!

Summer Supper Essentials

I've been hunting for a great set of melamine plates for suppers outside on our patio and finally found them on One Kings Lane this week. In honor of the solstice and more outdoor meals on these new beauties, I give you our summer supper essentials:

If you're grilling steak, this is your marinade:
1/3 cup soy sauce 
1/2 cup olive oil 
1/3 cup lemon juice 
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder 
3 Tbsp dried basil 
1 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes 
1 tsp ground white pepper 
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 
1 tsp minced garlic
(I used McCormick Herbes de Provence instead of the basil and parsely)

Chicken, you say? Dinner, A Love Story has the only marinade you'll ever need:

½ cup plain yogurt (we've been using Fage 2%)
1 minced clove of garlic
2 tsp salt
Juice from two lemons
1 good squeeze of honey
1 tbsp olive oil
A very healthy dose of black pepper (I probably did 10-15 grinds)

(Don't skip pounding the chicken breasts flat--so worth it for evenly cooked, tender chicken.)

I'm about to dive into the newest issue of Southern Living and get re-inspired for veggies and side dishes, but we've been defaulting to a simple green salad dressed with a champagne vinaigrette.
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp champagne vinegar
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
Good squirt of honey
Salt and Pepper
And then I mix it all up in the immersion blender.

Which brings me to dessert! In an alternate world, I'd be making this for 4th of July:

Flag Cake from Food52. Totally amazing and labor intensive. Maybe in 10 years. 

This is more like it for the upcoming holiday:

Peach cobbler via Garden and Gun. I'll add blueberries.  

But here's the real surprise winner around here for a chilled dessert: Chocolate Avocado Pudding.  If you didn't know it's made with avocados, you could never tell. Ford certainly couldn't! 

Serves 4

2 very ripe avocados
⅓ cup / 4 oz / 113 gr raw organic honey (or maple syrup)
⅓ cup / 1.4 oz / 40 gr cocoa powder (I splurged and bought Dagoba cacao powder)
3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground chia seeds


Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and silky. You might need to stop the blender and mix with a spoon to make the blending easier. Divide pudding among ramekins/cups and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving (this allows the chia to thicken).
Sprinkle with chopped almonds, walnuts, cocoa nibs or top with some whipped cream or Greek yogurt before serving.

What are your go-to summer suppers? Bon Appetit!

Pimento Cheese. Pie.

I have a Pinterest problem. I had so many food pins on one board that the MM started complaining about not being able to find recipes when it was his night to cook.

Reader, I subdivided for him.

It took a few nights and I haven't felt so dorktastic since I alphabetized my Case Logic CD books in high school. Among new boards for salads, sides, supper and dessert, I made a repeat-worthy food board. This Pimento Cheese and Tomato Pie is definitely repeat-worthy. You can find the recipe here and be utterly charmed by the thought that her friend wrote her master's thesis at UNC-Chapel Hill on the history of pimento cheese. (Now I'm wondering why I wrote about James Joyce.)

Some would argue that the key to a good pie is the crust, but I'm going to call it for the filling on this one. Store-bought pie crust (the roll-out kind from the refrigerator section) will do just fine. You need some really good pimento cheese and for that you need the right mayonnaise:

According to Southern Living, the Duke's brand, now owned by Sauer's in Richmond, VA, gets fan mail and fan art to this day. How can you not love a place that paints tributes to iconic, beloved condiments?

Pimento Cheese:  this one from Garden and Gun has been my go-to for a few years now:

Pimento Cheese
Yield: About 1 pint (serves 4 as an appetizer)

2 cups sharp orange cheddar, grated (8 oz.)
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
½ cup pimiento peppers, drained and chopped (7-oz. jar)
¼ cup green onion, chopped (use both the green and the white parts)
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Dash of Tabasco

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir with a rubber spatula. Serve immediately with crackers, or cover, refrigerate, and let flavors marinate.

With a big green salad, the pie was perfect. 

Bon appetit!

Dirty Dozen + 2

Since the local growing season is upon us and we're all buying lots more produce, I'm sharing this as a re-post from my go-to food and cooking blog, Food52. These lovely photos to illustrate the Environmental Working Group's original Dirty Dozen + 2 more foods on which to spend a little extra and buy organic if you eat a lot of them (I'm looking at you, strawberries and kale).  Food52's main post links to a page with detailed information on each fruit or vegetable and how it's grown. Very cool. Bon appetit!

Ford, Almost Three

May 2013
Growth and change in our little ones mostly sneaks up on us bit by bit. But sometimes they have huge developmental leaps seemingly overnight. About this time last year, Ford went from only saying a half-dozen words to chatting up a storm in the space of a week or two. It was like a dam of fussiness breaking--once he made up his mind to talk, he was so relieved. We were too!

Easter 2014

The same thing happened again last weekend. After very sporadic pottying and lukewarm interest, Ford woke up on Saturday morning and announced that he wanted to wear big boy underpants and use the potty. There has been no looking back and he's hardly had an accident. In hindsight, a few weeks of squirrely, frustrating behavior preceded his leap into "big boy-hood." Was he acting out because of some subconscious anxiety about it? I'm no developmental psychologist, (just his mommy) but that's my theory.

He also utterly adores his baby sister. He brings her toys and blankets and wants nothing more than to lean in close and kiss her cheeks. He tells us when she's fussing and says "It's ok, Eleanor," and "Mama, I love her so much." I hope it lasts!

We have been talking about clothes that match (stripes! Blue pants!), words that rhyme, what day of the week it is and favorite colors. It's so fun to see him constructing his understanding of relationships, space and time. Despairing over how to get him to wear sandals without socks, I offered to paint his toenails his favorite color. He was beyond excited. So sweet that he is not yet locked into set notions of gender.

Summer is upon us, we're slowly coming out of the sleep deprivation fog and our little guy is very excited for all the world to know that his is a big boy. It's an exciting time!

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