Fossil Hunting at the Beach

March 31, 2009

Reading about this family's recent fossil experiences in Canada brought back memories of a special fossil hunting trip with my family when I was a kid. So I started to do a little research about Florida fossil hunting possibilities and discovered that the beach near us was a prime spot for fossilized shark teeth. It was a beautiful day yesterday so we convinced some friends to join us on a little fossil hunting adventure. Quite a hunt but very exciting whenever one of us had success. But teeth weren't the only discoveries. As the tide went out we all learned about sea pansies, sea cucumbers, cannonball jelly fish. We used this fabulous book for identifying the different types of shark's teeth and sea life. Noah and Annie made a wonderful little habitat area for a few favorite sea creatures. Liam and Camille dug some big holes. It was another good day at the beach: exploring, learning new things, watching my kids run free, laughing with friends, and then heading home with sandy feet and full buckets.

Recycled Sun Catchers

March 30, 2009

Put a bag of tissue paper (yes, I save gift wrap), a pair of scissors, glue, and some used bubble wrap in front of a three year old and this is what happens: suncatchers. Aren't they amazing? Camille spent a long time at the kitchen table last week working on these. Cutting/tearing the tissue paper and gluing the pieces on the bubblewrap. When she was done with each piece, I folded the bubble wrap in half and bound the edges with colored duct tape. An easy way to turn a bag of old gift wrap and used packing materials into colorful sun catchers.


March 28, 2009

So here's our experience with audio books. We started using audiobooks when Noah was about 3 and starting to transition out of long afternoon naps. After reading a few books together, I would put on a tape or cd and explain that he didn't need to sleep, but he needed to have some calm/quiet time. Some days he would end up napping, some days he wouldn't, but it did help to establish a routine and his love for the stories. Those early story tapes were compilations of stories (Jim Weiss or tapes that went with books). They were short and captured his attention without overwhelming him with lengthy plots. Soon he began requesting them at night and they quickly became a part of our night time routine, too. Camille recently started sleeping in Noah's room and she has become a big fan of the audiobooks, too. We also use them on car trips, rainy afternoons, while working on art projects....good just about any time and any place.

Here's a list of our favorites. We own a few treasured ones, but most come from the library (some get checked out over and over again). Chinaberry Books has a great selection of audiobooks.

Early Listeners:
Jim Weiss (Tell Me a Story, Animal Stories, Fairy Tales)
Rabbit Ears Treasury of Fairy Tales (great readers and hearing BeauSoleil)
Curious George Collection
Frog and Toad Collection
And we also have some tapes of both grandmothers reading stories

Easy Chapter Books on Tape/CD:
Junie B Jones Series
Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker (library audio only)
Year of the Dog by Grace Lin (library audio only)
Magic Tree House Series
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Series

A Little More Advanced:
Stuart Little
Charlottes' Web (read by E.B. hearing authors read their own work)
Box Car Children Series
Little House Series

Would love to hear about your favorites. We need to start bulking up our family's listening library since our public library access will be more limited in Sicily.

Travel Photo Friday: Northern Thailand

March 27, 2009

Photos from our trip to Thailand in 2004. One of our favorite family trips. Truly an amazing country and a great place to travel with children. We spent one week in Phuket doing the beach thing (about a week before the tsunami hit) and another week and a half traveling in Northern Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. These photos were taken on the drive between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The first photo is of mushroom growing huts in the middle of recently harvested rice fields.
We brought medical supplies to several different hill tribe villages. Adam saw a couple of patients. Noah loved playing with all of the children (he was 20 months old). And I enjoyed meeting the residents and getting a glimpse into village life. A very meaningful and memorable part of our trip. Hope we can get back to Thailand again in the future.

Visit Delicious Baby to see more travel photos as part of the Friday round-up.

Quiet Afternoon

March 25, 2009

My two little monkeys listening to a book on cd (Little House in the Big Woods) happy to bask in the afternoon sun and be transported to another time and place.

Triops Update

March 24, 2009

Here's what happened: Several hatched and were eaten by one hungry guy who grew, shed his skin, lived for a few more days, and then died this past weekend. I think their average life span is about thirty days. Our little guy (or do you know on a triops?) lived about 22 days. Noah was kind of bummed but then quickly rebounded and started his campaign for a new pet. We are considering a goldfish or hermit crab. Noah insists that they could fit into his carry-on bag a few months from now, but I am pretty sure they would be happier joining the other school pets. So any thoughts or advice? goldfish? hermit crab? or nothing until we move? I have to admit that the triop was fun and Noah did do a very good job of feeding him, but this is also a pretty busy time.

Food on Display

March 23, 2009

In keeping with the food theme:scarlet turnips from our favorite local farmer's market. Aren't they pretty? But my food pics can't compete with those on Food Porn Daily. Do you have favorite food blogs/sites? Please share.


When Adam asked my dad for my hand in marriage, my dad was in the hospital. He had just been in a very serious car accident and he was still pretty out of it. The first words out of my dad's mouth were "well, you know...she's not very domestic". We have all laughed about that many times but part of me agreed/s with my dad and part of me took his words on as a challenge (luckily Adam wasn't scared by my lack of domestic skills!) And so I often find it funny that a majority of my posts on this blog seem to be about the domestic realm of my, cooking, gardening,etc. Clearly I am still working on many of those domestic skills. Ten years ago when Adam proposed, I was in graduate school and I never would have imagined that I would spend so much of my brain power contemplating the best method for cleaning grout or researching fish recipes (instead of researching issues of social justice and clinical practice). But here I am.

My recent reads have been a mix of domestic and cultural explorations. A melding of my past with my present and a glimpse into my geeky need to over-analyze, form connections, and feel like I can use my brain even in the midst of domestic pursuits. Cultural anthropology+clinical social work+home ec= food books.

So here they are:

What The World Eats : I love this book. Big glossy photos of families with all of the food they consume in a week. It appeals to my voyeuristic/inner anthropologist with its nitty gritty details, images, and glimpses into the variety that is our world.Visit their website where they highlight a family from Okinawa or listen to this NPR segment.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: I know I have shared this book here before, but it was our most recent book club selection and so I quickly skimmed it again as a refresher. Food/cultural identity,Chinese immigrant experience, interesting history (the evolution of "take-out", the design of food containers, selling soy sauce, and more) all rolled into a well packaged and crispy read. I couldn't resist highlighting it again. Visit Lee's website or watch this.

Feeding a Yen: it starts with a bagel and from there Trillin takes the reader on an entertaining romp around the country in search of the best local cuisine. A quick and tasty read. And the boudin chapter is my favorite since it highlights my homeplace and also some close family friends. After reading "Feeding a Yen" I followed up with the very moving About Alice. Also highly recommended.

Slow Food: The Case for Taste: This slim book written by the Italian founder of Slow Food movement is chock full of the history and the evolution of the movement. A little dry and slow in parts, but still an interesting and worthwhile read. Good reminder to slow down, savor quality, eat/buy local, and avoid "McDonaldization". Listen to what Patrini has to say about food and underwear.

You would think that with all of these food influences I would be making some fabulous, memorable meals for my family. But sadly that's not the case. My dad was right I am just not that domestic. I can only focus my domestic energies on one thing at a time. The spring cleaning/sorting is nearly done so perhaps I will actually enter an energetic cooking phase (my domestic interests seem to cycle in phases) but maybe not...maybe I'll just keep reading.

Monthly Fix

March 22, 2009

Books.Wine. Laughter. Connection. Support. Laughter. Friendship. Brought together by our daughters. Already counting down until next month.


March 21, 2009

Here's our kitchen. Yesterday (messy/real/every day) and last month (unusually clean) and hopefully by the time my book club arrives tonight it will be fairly neat. Our kitchen feels like an ocean with incoming and outgoing tides of clutter (dishes, mail, kids' school stuff, projects, etc). It's in constant use and it's the room where I feel like I spend the most amount of time doing the same tasks over and over again. I wish I could be more zen about it but to be honest I just can't find much enjoyment in the repetition. I wish I could say it's usually clutter-free, but the reality is it isn't. It's in constant flux.

A few months ago Sarah and I had some discussions about blogging and reality. I joked about perhaps the need to start a website where we could all post pics of our dirty toilets to counterbalance all of those inspiring "bliss blogs" that can sometimes bring up mixed feelings. But part of me was being serious. It reminds me of those moments in relationships when you move from one level to the next. When you allow a friend to see you cry or see your messy's a moment of trust, letting it all hang out, and then suddenly they aren't just a friend, but one of those close friends. And there is relief in knowing you aren't alone, you aren't weird, and you have a good friend. So in addition to showing you my messy kitchen, I am also going to show you a new flickr group devoted to documenting real life. Add your own pieces of reality or just visit it when you are feeling alone in the mess. And read this post by Stephani who started the group because she couldn't find her couch.

And speaking of reality. A good friend of mine me tipped me off to this month's issue of Real Simple which has a ton of cleaning suggestions. Some were things I already do...vinegar, baking soda, liquid castille soap....but who knew ketchup could be used to clean copper? and white bread for dusting? And thanks to all for the spring cleaning tips. I am making progress.

Travel Photo Friday: Taiwan

March 20, 2009

Our second trip to Taiwan in May of 2006. We went to finalize Camille's adoption, spend some time with her birth family, and explore her birthplace. These photos were taken in a temple in the beautiful old town of Lukang outside of Taichung. It was a hot, muggy day. We were staying with our friends who are originally from New Zealand, but now living in Taiwan (we met via blogging and our shared adoption experiences). Noah was 3 and Camille was 6 months old.

Temple Phone

Noah napping in front of bags filled with joss money.

Spring Cleaning

March 19, 2009

Since tomorrow is officially the first day of spring, since I am in the midst of heavy spring cleaning, and and since I need help...please share your favorite cleaning tips. My favorite one is club soda. Picked it up from this book several years ago and still use it religiously. I use it instead of Windex. Great for windows, mirrors, glass, etc. I buy a bottle of club soda fill up an empty spray bottle and it works every time. Love that it gets things clean quickly, cheaply,safely, and keeps my children entertained/engaged (they love cleaning when they spray things like crazy!).

I am also trying to stick with my Aunt Carol's advice about only touching an item once. Pick it up, decide where to keep it (or get rid of it), and be done with it. Don't keep adding it into another pile to be sorted. Sounds simple, but since I am constantly making piles and sorting piles...not so easy for me so I have it running in my head these days as a little mantra. I am also following Megan's advice for creating a box just for my dad's things.

My general method is to clean one room at a time. I need to have that feeling of accomplishment and whenever I feel overwhelmed I can return to that room, look around, feel some peace/success, and then get back to the remaining chaos. Adam's approach is different and it drives me crazy. He works like a Tasmanian devil tearing through the house, jumping from one project/task to the next with manic speed, not necessarily completing the tasks in sequential order but somehow,eventually getting them all done. I just can't stand the space in between his start and finish when everything seems to be undone, but it works for him. What works for you?

And here's my current cleaning dilemma: getting ball point pen drawings off of painted walls.I have tried that Magic Eraser sponge. I have even painted over the drawings and they bleed through. Any suggestions?

Chair Photos: March 2009

March 18, 2009

Another installment. Camille asked me to take these photos of her a few days ago.

Grief in Sorting

March 16, 2009

Starting to work my way through our house one room at a time. Sorting, cleaning, and getting ready to sell/rent our house (not a great time to be a homeowner moving out of the country!). It is simultaneous torture and catharsis. Since I am a die hard pack rat it is a very good thing that we move every three years and yet it still amazes me how much we (ok, mostly me and the kids...Adam is not a pack rat) accumulate in short periods of time. The sorting seems to be more challenging this time around. It is compounded by the fact that the kids are aware of what's happening so I frequently find "helpers" sneaking things back into the house. But the most challenging part of it is the grief that sneaks up on me. Sorting through books and I will find a book with an inscription from my dad. Photographs. Even year-old Kit Kat bars in the pantry that he sent me almost a year ago for my birthday. Drawings he sent to the kids at various times. In the midst of the piles are these objects that spark memories, tears, and connections. I can't bring myself to even move the last letter he sent to me. It is still sitting on the same shelf in the kitchen where I read it after returning from my last trip to see him in the hospital. This recent sorting process had made me realize that the grief feels different than even just a few months ago when it felt so intense and raw during the holidays. Still sad, still clinging to any connection to him, but not quite as searing. I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I am. So the sorting feels a little different with this upcoming move. Grief has added another dimension to it. Good to let go of things we don't need/use anymore, good to re-connect with things that have meaning but have been hidden in the clutter, good to the see the final results of a clean and organized space, yet still hard work. Lots of hard work.


March 14, 2009

Adam ran the 15K. Noah hadn't been planning to run but he got caught up in the excitement and at the last minute (literally minutes before starting!) decided to sign up for the 1 mile kids run. A very exciting morning and I have a feeling there will be some more runs in the future.

Travel Photo Friday: Guam and Japan

March 13, 2009

Happy to report our visit to the passport office went smoothly this morning and none of my children licked the passport agent's chest. As we were waiting, I flipped through Noah's passport and we looked at all of the stamps from the places we had been during our three years in Asia. It made me feel both nostalgic and excited. Since I started this blog towards the end of our time in Japan, I thought I would participate in travel photo fridays as a way to re-live/record/and maintain my enthusiasm for travel. I am hoping that seeing old photos of previous travels will be a happy motivator when I am up to my elbows in packing and pulling my hair out while trying to rent/sell our house. A reminder of why we want to move overseas again.

So these photos are from our first big trip after moving to Okinawa. Noah was six months old. We spent Thanksgiving week in Guam with friends who were stationed there. It was a fun week. Beautiful sunsets from their waterfront condo. Snorkeling. Lots of good food and visiting. We then flew from Guam to mainland Japan. We headed to the small town of Amagi (Fukuoka-prefecture) where I had been an English teacher ten years earlier. It was wonderful to re-connect with friends and nice to discover so many things had remained the same. Noah especially loved our visit to the high school where he charmed all of the giggling girls. We learned a lot during that first big trip: pack less, don't bring a stroller AND a backpack (after the trip we ended up ordering this which worked well for other Asian adventures), always take naps, slow down, try new foods, and most importantly travel with kids is possible.

If you want to join in the travel photo fun, visit Delicious Baby.


March 12, 2009

We took passport photos today...look at how much my babies have changed since their first passport photos (both taken when they were three months old). And speaking of change....when did passport photos become so expensive? $13 per set and we needed 2 sets for each of us (one for government passports and one for civilian passports). It adds up very quickly and it's an unpleasant reminder of all the costly details that seem to pop up every time we move.

I wish I had brought my camera with me today because I kept laughing as I watched the kids take their photos. Camille kept posing. Winking, shrugging her shoulders, plastering on cheesy smiles and moving her head just as the guy thought he had a perfect shot. Noah on the other hand was very serious and somber. Quite a contrast to his first set of passport photos. He was three months old and very wriggly. We were in a long line at Costco and the photographer kept instructing me to "sit him up and keep his head straight because both ears need to be in the frame". I kept trying to explain that he was only three months old and physically unable to sit up. We eventually got the shot with me holding him in a very awkward position against a white sheet.

But our most memorable passport experience happened a few days later when I took Noah with me to submit the photos and paperwork. Keep in mind Noah was only three months old. I was still in that hazy, sleep deprived state called new motherhood. I stumbled into the office thinking all I had to do was turn the paperwork in and then leave. Wrong. We had to wait in line and when it was our turn there was more paperwork to be filled out. Noah was starting to get fussy. And the very stern-looking passport agent did not seem happy to see us. It quickly became obvious that I could not fill out the paperwork with him in my arms. I was surprised when the agent offered to hold Noah so I could fill out the papers. All was suddenly quiet until the agent said: "Well, this must be a breast fed baby!". I looked up to see my son working his way around the woman's very well endowed chest!

Spring Fever

March 10, 2009

My to-do lists are getting out of hand. My dreams are anxious ones filled with deadlines, clutter, and airplanes. We have our orders (our paperwork) for moving to Sicily this summer. It's good to have the paperwork because it is confirmation that we really are moving to an island in the Mediterranean, but it also means that we have a lot to do! And yet I find myself ignoring the to-do lists because I seem to have developed a bad case of spring fever. The azaleas are in full bloom and more vibrant than in years past (perhaps our colder winter made them happier?). The oak trees are covered with their bright, neon green leaves. The dogwood trees are popping. The days are sunny and balmy. Spring has arrived and I feel sorry for those still in the midst of winter. And I find myself itching to get my hands dirty, but with our upcoming move I have to settle for weeding, working in the school garden, and hunting for gardening info/books/websites about Mediterranean gardening...dreaming about olive trees, fresh basil, and sun drying our own tomatoes.

In addition to the heady mix of spring flowers and spring weather, the recent time change has really set us all off track. Staying outside longer, eating dinner later, getting to bed too late, starting each day in a hurried race since we all woke up late...feels like we are off balance. So I keep ignoring the lists, filling vases (like this beautiful one made by my sister), running late, and nursing my spring fever (lazy, excited, and restless is quite a strange combo).


March 9, 2009

A trip to the thrift store ($5 bike without training wheels), a trip to the bike store (new tire $6), an anxious boy, a patient daddy armed with these tips, a sunny afternoon at the park and within minutes Noah was riding solo! Very exciting and impressive!

Quirky Bits and Pieces

March 5, 2009

Here's a random little post of things I have been enjoying lately. The common theme between them is that they are all quirky and entertaining in their own way. I seem to be in a "quirky" mood lately. Can't tolerate anything too dark or too heavy. Nothing that requires too much thought or substance. We are all just getting over colds. Vacation/honeymoon is over. Adam is back at work. The kids are back in school. And I am trying not to panic about all of the work that needs to be done around this house (serious spring cleaning, starting to think about moving, renting/selling, etc). So these quirky things have been keeping me distracted and smiling:

The Flight of The Conchords: Very funny HBO series about two New Zealanders trying to make it as a band of two in New York City (perhaps this has been around forever, but just new to us?)

French Milk: A very quick and amusing read. A graphic novel about a college student's trip to Paris with her mother.

This music video and this belly one.

Weeds: this is my most recent trashy delight. I started watching the series on Netflix while Adam was gone and I am anxiously waiting for my next dvd to arrive to find out what happens in the third season. A suburban widow living in a gated community who keeps her family afloat by growing marijuana. I love the opening song and all the trashy twists and turns. Kind of like beach reading...I need some junk every now and then and this has my attention right now.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
: I couldn't put this down. Very captivating read...interesting characters and beautifully written.

What's been keeping you busy? happy? entertained?


March 4, 2009

Although I didn't grow up eating Jewish foods, they have quickly become some of my favorite comfort foods. Matzoh ball soup cures all, bagels and lox make any morning better, tender brisket, sweet kugel....all made with love, all so filling, all passed down through the generations. And hamantaschen seems to be the ultimate comfort dessert. Sweet dough lovingly shaped into triangles and filled with a big doughy hug from a favorite great aunt. My sister-in-law made the first hamantaschen I ever tasted and since that time I have been hooked. The kids and I made the first batch of the year to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Purium. We used the same recipe we use every year. The one that my sister-in-law shared with me. And I imagine it will be the same recipe that Noah and Camille will share with their kids. Comfort, family, tradition, and a very sweet treat. Happy Purim!

Here's a link to the recipe. We make the cookie dough one and use raspberry and apricot jam for our fillings.

First Pets: Triops

March 3, 2009

It's been a long time coming...pets. Noah has been begging for quite awhile, but with all of our traveling and moving we just haven't been able to make the commitment. Having grown up in the country surrounded by animals, it does make me sad that we don't have pets. One of the things Noah loves best about Louisiana is the chance to run with the dogs. He gets up at dawn with my parents' dogs and they spend the rest of the day running in the fields, rolling in mud, wrestling, and playing chase. Our new pets don't have quite the same nostalgic/furry appeal but they have produced quite a bit of excitement in our house today and they seem kinda cool in a prehistoric way. It all started with this book. And then I happened to stumble upon some triops eggs and today we started the process to "hatch" them (they are very tiny specks). I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that we will have some success. Anyone else out there have some cute little prehistoric pets hanging around your house? (and I don't mean roaches or silverfish). Any tips on triops?

Middle Age

The other morning Noah crawled into my bed, studied my face, and with a worried look he pointed to my chin and asked: "Is that a wart?". I calmed his fears and reassured him that I had not turned into a witch by explaining it was a pimple. But part of me wishes it was a wart....just doesn't seem have acne AND wrinkles at the same time. Is this what middle age means?

Hammered Botanical Prints

March 1, 2009

Nature's Art Box (a book worth checking out) was the inspiration for this project...hard to pass up a project that 1) doesn't need any special supplies, 2)allows my six year old to hammer to his heart's desire, and 3) produces such pretty results.

Supply List: Cotton fabric, tape, a cutting board, hammer, newspaper (we used an old phone book), paper towel,a warm iron, and leaves/flowers/herbs.

Here are the steps:
Set up work space (we did this project outside) by placing a cutting board on top of phone book or stack of newspaper. Place paper towel on top of cutting board. Gather leaves and flowers (we found that azaleas, ferns, and various herbs worked well). According to the book, different plants' pigment will be longer lasting....we'll have to see what happens with our prints. Tape down plant on to cut piece of fabric.
Place fabric plant-side face down onto cutting board. Hammer the fabric. You will start to see pigment coming through the fabric. When hammering is complete, gently press with a warm iron (plant side down). Turn over and carefully remove tape and plant bits from the fabric. Then enjoy the results....a great way to celebrate early spring.

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