Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

My weekend planting festival culminated in the addition of some impatiens and begonias to the pots on the front porch and the back deck.
Nichole will be happy to see that the flower pot in front of the rhododendron no longer needs to feel like an underachiever.
I've got New Guinea impatiens in hanging on the front porch.
And some more impatiens for the pots on the porch and the front porch table.
The back deck got some pink begonias.  Let's hope that Pesky keeps his hands off.

Now I feel like I'm ready for cool drinks and leisurely evenings on the back deck.  Bring it on, summer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Garden Monday

Over the weekend, I finished planting my garden.  I've got the usual assortment of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and 6 rows (!) of zinnias.  Basil, oregano, and rosemary are alongside the carrots and onions.  This year, I'm giving cantaloupe a try. 
I planted later than usual this spring, not by design but because of events out of my control.  Spring around here lingered cold and wet and only in the last two weeks has the growing season officially arrived.  I've been anxious to get plants in the ground and now the job is complete.  Though the garden is planted later than usual, I'm still confident that I'll have plenty of produce by August.
This is the fifteenth year that I've planted a garden in my backyard.  The ritual of tilling the soil, digging the holes, and marking the rows is always a reminder of the happiness of gardens past.  I vividly remember planting a garden the summer I was pregnant with JT.  That next summer, he lay on a blanket and gurgled as I planted the year's tomatoes.  By the following year, he was eager to "help."   This year, he came with me to pick out the plants and set them in place.  The two of us have had some nice talks about why I like my garden so much.

Things always seem more promising when my garden is in the ground.  Mother Nature must approve, because she sent a nice rain our way this morning.

I look forward to tending my plants and enjoying the fruits of my labors, to feeling the dirt  in my hands, and watching the progress of the plants.  Gardens are a lesson in joy from the unexpected.  They are a reminder that patience is inevitably rewarded.  I like the way my garden is a way of connecting my past with my present and my future.
Happy growing, little plants.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Home Sweet Home

It's been another hectic week at Sassafras House, with the usual assortment of homework, laundry, and mouse homicide plus a heaping serving of car trouble served alongside a little later-than-usual Little League game.   But every morning when we leave the house and every evening when we arrive home, we are greeted by the sight of our incredibly abundant rhododendron, which is celebrating spring and life in a way that I find very comforting.
 I'll take it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh, Wednesday

A few weeks ago, I sat down to write-up my Wednesday woes.  The Universe apparently heard (but did not listen?) and yesterday morning offered up Wednesday Can Suck It, part II.

My car, which has been misbehaving in an undiagnosable way (as in mechanic was stumped) for several weeks now, had settled into a pattern of reliably hiccuping but never actually stopping.  No check engine lights were on.  No dreadful sounds were heard.  I figured I had time to: 1) watch for other troubling signs and get thee to a mechanic and/or 2) explore my replacement car options.

JT and I took to bringing along sneakers and a book for all of our travels.  Things were fine.  Or fine'ish.

Until yesterday morning, circa 7:10 am, as we were leaving the house early to score a bagel for breakfast.  The car refused to start, then started but wouldn't really go anywhere.  And suddenly two dashboard lights were flashing, as if to suggest something along the lines of "girl, you are so fucked now."  We grabbed a ride to school with a friend who lives in town.  Then we spent some time yesterday getting the car to the mechanic for what turned out to be the ultimate diagnosis of $600 spark plug coil/ignition blowout.

The repair is proceeding.  We weren't left stranded by the side of the road and instead spent an extra few minutes on the front porch on a beautiful May morning.   And once again, let me note that it's very nice to have friends who are so willing to help.  In fact, our blessings are too numerous to calculate and we know that well.  Add in a sense of humor and we're doing just fine.  

Very fine indeed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

He Has a Point

New York City has banned smoking in public parks, the continuation of a ban on smoking in restaurants that the city adopted a few years ago.  Like everything in NYC, there's plenty of disagreement about whether or not this is a good idea.  But my favorite element of the new policy is the announcement that New Yorkers are expected to police themselves.

Every time the my local public radio station reports that self-policing element, I stifle a laugh.  JT, also not one known for subtle diplomacy, just snorts.  Finally, this morning he said to me, "I'm 11 and I know that's stupid."

Y'all, we are totally heading to the city to light up and break some rules.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sleeping with the National League

I do not intend this phrase as some sort of Jersey euphemism (a la "sleeping with the fishes"). And I'm not discussing any new tell-all sports confessional book. No, sleeping with the National League is exactly what JT does every night, thanks to his National League sheets. Personally, I'm not sure I would want to fall asleep calculating ERAs and batting average.
Obviously, I'm not an 11 year old boy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Math Facts edition

The backstory: We were driving home from school, discussing the car and its pesky problem. I pointed out that our car is seven years old and therefore entitled to have some problems.  JT announced that we'd had the car forever, since he was "a little kid."

Mama: It's not been that long.

JT: I was four when we got this car.

Mama: No, you couldn't have been four when we got it.

JT: Mama, the car is 7 years old and I'm eleven (under his breath) and I'm the one who had to retake the math test?

As my 4th grade teacher could certainly testify, I was always a tad sketchy on my math facts.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Food Friday: Tortellini Soup and Primavera Risotto

It's been a while since I posted a Food Friday entry but I cooked a lot this week and it seems like a good time to post a couple of spring recipes.  First up is Tortellini Soup, with the steam wafting off the bowl and a side of warm bread and brie.
I found the recipe for the soup over at Tasty Kitchen.  I made the soup with vegetable broth and fresh cheese tortellini. 

Next up is a familiar favorite in my kitchen: risotto.
I adapted the Pioneer Woman recipe to my own needs, using crisp zucchini and carrots as my veggies and adding oregano and basil to the vegetable mixture.  I used vegetable broth for the rice; the chevre makes for great flavor and is a nice way to change-up a familiar favorite.

Happy cooking!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gangsta Blues

JT has a pair of blue shorts that are too large.  I didn't return them for a smaller size because these days it won't be long before the shorts are too small.  Unfortunately, they have a tendency to sag at the waist line.  He knows how I feel about this look, so he generally tugs the shorts back up.  Earlier this week, in a review of which pairs of shorts were clean he revealed the nickname he has for the shorts.  Their name?  Gangsta Blues.  This is what happens when you are raised by me: you nickname your shorts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The other day, a salesman came by and invited me to install an alarm in Sassafras House.  His first line of sale was to invoke the name of a neighboring town where black people live.  When the race-baiting did not cause me to sign right up, he invoked the name of his alarm company's parent company and their responsible attitude toward finance: Goldman Sachs.

I stopped him before he moved on to some third Republican boogie man threatening my hearth and home, though I suspect he might have told me about the dangerous plots of the gays.  Or perhaps he would have warned me about the debt and how it's ruining our children's future?  Maybe he would have assured me that BP Oil owned his company and was at the ready to keep us secure.  Hard to say because I sent him on his way with the warning that we keep a rabid dog in the living room, just waiting to set upon thieves and liars.

Newt Gingrich, I'm talking to you.

Monday, May 16, 2011


It's not officially spring until JT and I find time to attend one of the carnivals that dots our area as the new blossoms and warm weather make themselves known.  In late April, thanks to cold rain, a tricky car, and general exhaustion, we missed the first carnival in our area.

But last Thursday night after baseball practice we headed over to the St. Mathias carnival for a walk through the fun house, a ride on the ferris wheel, and some carnival cuisine (e.g., funnel cake). 

As the months and years fly by,  I'm increasingly aware that my little boy has quickly been replaced by a bigger boy.  I fear that a teenager who is less keen for his mama's company is sure to follow.  But on Thursday, as we waded through the crowds to get in line for the ferris wheel, I thought of the way this carnival has become a yearly tradition for us, of the happy conversations we have as the ferris wheel rises high above the crowd, of the ways in which the two of us are a team in this world.
 Together, we have a store of happy memories of our carnival tradition.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate spring with my boy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


The other day, I found myself violating the rules and following this truck, equipped with a sign reading "DO NOT FOLLOW THIS VEHICLE."

Obviously, I'd been warned and was still following the truck.  Yes, I know the sign is actually meant to instruct me not to follow too closely.  But every time I see one of these signs on the back of a thunderous truck, I picture myself like a newly imprinted goose, just following the truck everywhere, until eventually I head right over the side of a cliff.

Clearly, I avoided that fate.  This time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Role Reversal edition

The backstory:  I've had a week of forgetful behavior.  I left my computer at home on Wednesday.  Then there were the flip-flops on Friday.  Also on Friday, I managed to bring my laptop to school, but I forgot the power cord.  When I mentioned this to JT, he had a question.

JT:  Mama, did you stay up late last night playing Angry Birds?

Me:  You're not the boss of me and I refuse to answer that question.

JT (shaking his head):  Mama, Mama, Mama.

Someone has to be a grown up around here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Footwear

It's been a week for screwing up.  So it was this morning, when I was forced to send the following e-mail about my out-of-dress code footwear to my boss:

I wear flip flops around the house and then switch into grown-up shoes before I leave for school.  This morning I failed to make the switch.......a fact I realized when I was halfway to school and caught said flip-flop on the clutch.   I'd ask my mom to call in and excuse me, but she's in France.  So I must beg special dispensation for the day.  Unless you can see fit to send me home, in which case, I'd owe you one.

I promise to remain penitent for the day.

Yours in footwear malfunction,


Note that I did not call them thongs, which means a whole other things these days.  And let it also be noted that my new flip flops rock (thanks, KO!).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Morning Can Suck It

Let's just review my day thus far.

I stayed up later than usual last night, alternating games of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja while Baseball Tonight played in the background.  I am good at both, by the way, so when the Angry Ninja Fruit Bird Championship comes to town, I am so going to win that fucker.


When I awakened at 5:35 am this morning, I hopped in the shower and immediately began to plot extra time to Fruit Ninja-up.  Which I did while wrapped in my towel, sitting in my bed, and drinking coffee (I had managed to set the auto-brew the night before).  Perhaps it needn't be said but let the record reflect that this lady-of-leisure crap so does not get the lunch boxes packed.  Not to mention the hair blow-dried.  Or the exams graded.  WTF?

I hit the kitchen at 6:20 am, planning to make up for my slacker ways by moving lightening fast through the chores at hand.  Lunches: packed.  Breakfast: prepared (fruit smoothies…..in keeping with the Fruit Ninja theme).  Kid: awakened and forced to face the day.  Dishwasher: unloaded.  Personal grooming:  good enough.  And out the door we went.  Right on time, by the way.  Cha-ching.

Turns out that I was sans laptop.  In my world, that's tantamount to leaving your brain at home.  I  didn't realize the mistake until we arrived at school.  So while JT trudged off to the 5th grade, I  fired up the car, called the office to say I'd be a few minutes late, and drove home to get my brain computer.  The car, always eager to get in on the action, played its chugging maybe-I'll-stall/maybe-I-won't game at virtually every intersection, thus assuring that my adrenaline level remained startlingly high.

The day has evened out a bit and my afternoon should be less ridiculously stupid (but for the fact that I have just officially tempted fate by saying as much).  But when you consider that there are two days left in the week let's just say that I'm a tad nervous.  Friday can't come fast enough.

Monday, May 09, 2011

4th Generation Flowers

Last fall, my father brought me some bulbs from the iris flowers which grow in his garden.  He's grown irises as long as I can remember; they are an inheritance from his grandmother's garden.  My dad has moved the bulbs from house-to-house (we're a shiftless lot, my family) and now I have some for my garden.  I planted the bulbs by the garage hostas, where I knew they would receive plenty of sun as well as some protection from wind.  I organized JT's efforts to keep the bunnies away.  And then I waited for my much anticipated flowers to bloom.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The War on Women

Last fall, a bunch of Republicans ran for Congress and state legislatures on a platform promising fiscal diligence and attention to the unemployment problem.  As it turns out, that was just lip service.  The real goal these folks have pursued since they took office is to use their newly elected power to attack women, their healthcare, and their right to make decisions about their bodies.  Unemployment is still north of 8.5% but Republicans want to address the problem of abortion.

Yesterday, the state of Texas adopted a law which would require a woman seeking an abortion to have a sonogram 24 hours before the abortion procedure.  The purpose of the sonogram is to ensure that the woman knows she's pregnant with potential human life.  A baby, as it were, and not a guppy.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to on a plan to ensure that no insurance provider in America will provide coverage for abortion.  Under this arrangement, women may obtain an abortion, but only if they can pay for it out of their own pocket.  Currently, individuals and employers do not have to pay taxes on income used to pay for insurance premiums.  Under the House Bill, insurance premiums which cover abortion services would be excluded from that tax deduction.  An insurance company may still cover abortion services but the money used by employers to pay for that premium is no longer tax exempt.  Practically speaking, insurance companies and employers are likely to simply remove abortion care from their policies so as to avoid dealing with the giant abortion coverage accounting morass the House saw fit to create.  The good news is that the federal bill will go nowhere in the Senate; President Obama has vowed to veto it.  The bad news is that women are being treated as if their right to control the fate of their own bodies is neither guaranteed or respected.

Though I normally make clear that my opinion is just that, on this issue I'm going to go a little further and speak for women.  I feel comfortable asserting that the vast majority of women understand that pregnancy entails potential human life.  We don't need Texas to explain that to us.

When you're pregnant and wish to be pregnant, that prospect is both exhilarating and terrifying.  On balance, a women who wishes to be pregnant is thrilled by the prospect and all that it entails.  But if you're pregnant and wish not be pregnant, there's no question that you know a baby is on the way.  And if you're seeking an abortion, it's because you are not ready to bring a new life into this world.  To suggest otherwise is to demean millions of women who daily struggle to raise the children that they have.  I can think of no legislature in this nation willing to vote for policies which limit how men may use their bodies.  Why?  Because a man's body is his, and his right to control its destiny and fate is protected by the law and the Constitution.

What a shame that women cannot make the same claim.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tulip Wednesday

Last week, one tulip had bloomed but the rest were still working up to the show.  I had a hard time snapping a picture because my camera is being snippy.  So you'll just have to believe me, sans photographic evidence.  This week, the noble pink tulips have delivered the goods.
And how.
Plus, as a consolation for last week's screw-up, I am pleased to offer this gratuitous lilac bush photo, which is all a-bloom and smelling amazing.
Happy Spring!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

More Play, Less Homework!

A few months ago, I wrote about my frustration with homework and relentlessly paced "learning" which sucks the joy out of actual learning.  I received quite a few private e-mails about that post and a comment or two which suggested that I'm not the only parent who feels this way.

This week, I read about another parent who's doing a lot more than whining on her personal blog.  Pop on over to Slate and read about Vicky Abeles' film "Race to Nowhere."  It sounds like a powerful endorsement of the notion that we owe our children more than standardized tests, piles of homework, and more and more assignments.  We owe them a childhood.  And as Abeles suggests, we may be falling well short of that goal.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Straight Outta Shenzhen

A few weeks ago, JT handed me his savings, I added some supplemental funds and we went ahead and bought an Apple ipad.  The local Apple store had none in stock, so we ordered it on-line and then eagerly checked the Apple website to watch the progress of our order.

Last weekend, we learned that his new friend was packed up and ready for Fed Ex.  On Monday, it got in line with the rest of the ipads and early Tuesday morning it left Shenzhen, China for a little overnight action on Lantau Island in  Hong Kong.   On Wednesday afternoon EST it left Hong Kong for Anchorage, Alaska where it passed through International Shipment clearance and was on a Fed Ex plane headed east by Thursday afternoon.  When we woke up Friday morning, it was in Newark and headed for Branchburg, New Jersey and the local delivery truck to our town.  At 11:45 am, the Fed Ex website reported that the ipad was on our front porch. 
I hurried home over the noon hour to bring it inside. 
But for a small break to play a little Little League game, it's been in JT's hands ever since.   He's already an accomplished Fruit Ninja and those Angry Birds should watch out.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May 1: Clematis Vine

I awakened this morning to a glorious spring day, the third in a row.   I fired up my mower yesterday (that alone was something of a minor miracle as the mower is quite elderly) and I cut the grass.  I always enjoy mowing because I get the chance to see nooks and crannies of my the yard and things looks so fresh at this time of year.  The dwarf fruit trees are coming along nicely; there's a happy row of volunteer carrots to go with the onions in the garden.  The lilac is in it's full glory and my iris blooms are looking lovely.

But it's May 1st and we're here for the clematis vine, which has enjoyed a fine month of April and is alive and hard at work.
The clematis has grown more in this past month than all of last summer (a result of last year's drought, I believe), so I'm pretty excited about the summer to come.