sous chef

IMG_0457 Callum and I officially launched our cook-fest last night, using a recipe from Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures. I am really loving that cookbook.

IMG_0462 Callum did way more than mash the guacamole, although I think that was his favorite part.

IMG_0463 He chopped the potatoes, cooked the onions and filled the tortillas.

IMG_0465 Chorizo, potato and onion soft tacos with guacamole, prepared a deux.

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cooking together

IMG_9225 Callum and I are right in the swing of things with our shared New Year's Resolution. (Number 9 on my list, if you're keeping track at home.)

IMG_9227 I ordered a cookbook for us, Rick and Lanie's Excellent Cooking Adventure and we've been perusing it to pick out yummy recipes. Callum loves Rick Bayless, well heck who doesn't? Already I can see some great possibilities for us. And I defy anyone from Top Chef to come and cook in a kitchen in which a ten year old also lives. We were dodging sticks and wands and nerf guns the whole time.

IMG_9228 Rick Bayless recipes come next week.  This week, we cooked my neighbor Sara's recipe for Artichoke, Bacon and Grit casserole.

IMG_9231 It was delish. Anything with bacon, really.

IMG_9234 My sous chef agreed. I think he's already learning the delight of eating a meal that you had a hand in creating. The casserole was yummy, but for me it's always process over product. I think I'm going to like cooking together.

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IMG_8121 When I was a little girl, my mom had glossy issues of House & Garden magazine floating around our home.  Stacked on the coffee table or in baskets in the bathroom.  It was a beautiful magazine (does it still exist?), but much like Vogue, which also floated around our house and was full of gorgeous pages of things I'd never wear, the homes in H&G never felt like ones I'd ever live in.  I guess I'm more a Better Homes & Gardens kind of gal

IMG_8106 The house we visited last weekend was definitely a House & Garden kind of house. Neel's aunt and uncle have lived there for thirty-five years.  His uncle saw the outside and liked the location (it was equidistant from three hospitals where he worked as an ENT doctor), and he bought the house!  They hadn't even seen the inside.  As his aunt says, it's basically a brick ranch and she tried to work with that. What she did was make it something special.  



IMG_7909 She has the kind of timeless good taste that never goes out of style.

IMG_8087 This was my favorite room almost twenty years ago, and it still is today.  These two love to travel and that love is reflected in their surroundings.  The whole effect is one of elegance, luxury and comfort.  

IMG_8083 This is the room where we watched the deer.  I'd have trouble concentrating with that amazing view. For those of you keeping score at home, note the expanse of white windows.


IMG_7913 You'd think a ten year old boy would find it tricky to navigate a home with so many lovely things in it, but Callum managed just fine.  Especially when he made it outside, but more on that during the garden portion of our tour.

IMG_7948 Although perhaps he did a little editorializing.  To his mind, no decor is complete without the addition of a fighter jet.

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lowcountry, part 2 (the kid version)

IMG_5688 When we got to South Carolina, Callum disappeared into the bowels of the house, only to reappear at meal times or to be spotted as he dashed from room to room...much like dolphins moving their way up and down the Atlantic coast.  ("There's one, did you see it?!").  However...

IMG_5733 Clearly.

IMG_5732 These children.

IMG_5738 Are up.

IMG_5798 To no good.

IMG_5811 Even.

IMG_5812 The dog.

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it's still nice here

IMG_4516 Oh God, am I ever digging June this year.  The hydrangeas are finally coming in, but I think I need to add some vinegar to the soil.  I like them blue more than lavender.  My maternal grandmother would shake her head at me.

IMG_4532 We're slowly settling into a summer rhythm here.  Getting our bearings.  We had to have a family meeting last night about it.  Callum leaves at nine and has trouble checking in until all his friends go home for dinner.  Part of me couldn't be more thrilled about the kind of summer he's having.  Twilight games of manhunt, ping pong tournaments, running running all day long.  I'll catch glimpses of packs of boys roaming from yard to yard, yesterday it was eight!  But he's not as untethered as he thinks.  He still needs to put his clothes in the hamper, and his laundry away, and make his bed before he leaves the house.  And he can't eat lunch at his friend's house everyday.  His little-big-man-ness has never been more apparent. 

Like his mother, Callum's a fragile sleeper.  He still, at almost ten, wakes at least once a night. 
    "What if I wake up at five?"  He asks.
    "Go downstairs and make a bowl of cereal."
    "Can I play the Wii?"
    "As long as you're quiet."
    "What if it's four?"
    By now I'm ready for this conversation to be done.  "As long as you're quiet."

Last night Neel heard some noise deep in the dark, and he looked out into our unusually well-lit back yard to see Lucy-the-Beagle running the perimiter of the fence line.  He knew right away that something was up.  (Bear in mind that fragile sleeper that I am, I didn't hear a thing.) He came downstairs to find Callum on the sofa, a bowl of cereal in front of him, a can of seltzer in one hand and the Wii remote in the other.  Violet and Thea were blissfully snuggled up with him.  It was 4:10 a.m.  Callum's first question was, "Was I quiet?"

He's still sleeping now.  We were both really proud of him, Neel and I.  He let the dogs out on his own and tended to everything quite responsibly.  We tucked him in with us and chatted and snuggled for awhile. And this is why summer is so wonderful.  He can sleep in, and we can figure it out, how to help him sleep better.  I work mostly from home in the summer and everyone is blissed out and happy about this, right down to the dogs. 

IMG_4509 This is how Lucy and Neel greet each other every evening.

IMG_4518 The evenings are the best.  I love my work, but it's so nice to not rush in the door and immediately start thinking about dinner.  We take time and settle in.  Dinner simmers instead of boils.  As if by one, many of the grillers on the block switched to charcoal.  Isn't it funny how things like that work out?  It slows things down, that's true, but you know, I don't mind.

IMG_4523 We grilled teriyaki-and-ginger chicken sausage and pineapple, and I sauteed some squash and zucchini from the farmer's market for some pasta.  See that drip of cream on my bowl?  Don't you just want to swipe that up with your finger?  It was gone as soon as I put the camera down!

IMG_4513 After dinner we crossed the street to check on Callum who was right back at it in a neighbor's back yard.  We ended the evening sharing a bottle of wine and some amazing dark chocolate (bunnies!) and some good conversation with these neighbors and friends.  David said it, that the impromptu gatherings were the best, and he's right.  We sat around their kitchen island as the big boys played lacrosse in the backyard and little-big William (he's three) brought us lightening bugs, one-by-one to see.  Lightening bugs?  Fireflys?  Di and I like firefly, and Will opted for "firebug," and as the three of us walked home, I thought, "It's Tuesday."  Plain old Tuesday.

Somewhere, on some blog I read recently (I'll have to dig around and find it.) the author asked if there was a place that was special to you that you vacationed as a kid with your family that you take your kids to now.  A place that's special for you to bring your kids to.   I don't have places like that.  There weren't regular vacation places in my family.  No mountain cabin or lake or beach house.  But last night, as I was walking back home, I thought that place is summertime.

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plugged in

IMG_4246 We got  Callum an iPod Shuffle to celebrate the end of another great school year not knowing quite what it was going to mean for us.  Apparently the soundtrack of our summer is going to be "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls.  Sung at the top of his lungs, of course.  Not a thing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned.  And I've just added "Eye of the Tiger."

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little big man

Dear Callum,

IMG_0798 Well, we’ve reached it again.  The end of another year.  Today is when you say good-bye to third grade.  You’ve had a week filled with fun things like a beach day with your partner class, and a PE party filled with water games (and the dentist, that was fun too, wasn’t it?!), but you’ve worked hard this year too and it’s important to look back and everything you’ve done in third grade.  Papa and I are very proud of you.

IMG_0569 You’re still nothing if not enthusiastic.  You’re a hard worker and willing to take on any challenge.  Your reading took off, in part because of the challenges your teacher presented your class and in part because of your own interest.  While you and Papa still read Tintin together, you read all of the Harry Potter books on your own, handling the more mature moments within them better than your own mother could.  And Harry Potter was just the beginning.  You’ve been eating up books like they’re popcorn.  You’ve developed your mother’s habit of reading before you go to sleep each night, and our rides to and from school are quicker and quieter with you reading in the backseat.  You’re a great writer too.  If you have writing homework you breeze through it.  You like writing, I think.  You like making emotional connections with your words, and you’re good at it.  At nine, you already have a definite writing “style,” and that’s quite impressive.  This year you won the Teacher Jane Book Award for your essay on The Long Winter, and not only did you write a great essay, but you stood up and read it in front of your whole school.  Papa and I were bursting with pride that day!  You like public speaking and acting too, I think, and your teachers have great plans for you on next year’s forensics team. 

IMG_1085 It’s not just reading and writing.  Spelling has been a snap, history and science (Best Experimenter!) have captivated you, and even math has been exciting, as you’ve learned multiplication, division and fractions this year.  Many, many accomplishments.  Papa and I knew that third grade was where things really kicked into high gear academically, and you more than rose to the experience.  You’ve loved your teacher this year, and she, it seems, has had a great appreciation of you as well.  She loves your interest in history and your sensitive nature.  I love it too.  How my World War II movie-watching boy can be just as excited to read These Happy Golden Years with me.  Renaissance Man. 

IMG_3909 This year you played lacrosse, your first time on a team.  We made a deliberate choice to wait until third grade for you to participate in team sports, but you were ready.  After a camp in the fall, we knew you liked lacrosse, and your time with the Nighthawks only cemented that.  It wasn’t always easy.  At the start you were shy and kids were mean, but you stuck with it.  By the end of the season your hard work and steady personality paid off.  Kids wanted to play with you, and kids stood up for you.  Your goals were to get a sticker and score a goal in the season and you met both, several times over.  At the Jamboree, you scored two goals, won two face-offs and had four assists.  You had kids telling you that you should have been on the all-stars and that you were playing really well.  Your coaches said you were the hardest worker on the team.  Being on a team has been so good for you.  You did better in school while you were playing lacrosse, and you gained a maturity at home as well.

IMG_2173  This year has really cemented your relationships with your “at home” friends.  You run with a pack of great kids in the neighborhood, and on the weekends we often say good-bye to you in the morning and don’t see you until nighttime!    I love to see that you still enjoy a combination of imagination and pretend play along with hours and hours at the lacrosse rebounder. 

IMG_1517 More firsts this year, a ski trip for Papa’s birthday and a trip to Atlanta to meet your new cousin.  You throw yourself headlong into everything we try, and your interest in travel and history led your teacher to encourage us to take you along on Papa’s next big trip to Hungary in the fall.  I could tell by your reaction to this news that you love the idea of being a seasoned traveler.  We can’t wait to go on this trip with you.  Other firsts weren't as fun, like the flu and allergies so bad that you had headaches for a week.


IMG_1574 You love dressing up for special occasions, and you look pretty sharp in your bowtie too!  You adore your beloved pups, although we all think Thea is your favorite.  You set the table for dinner each night, and we finally don't have to remind you to clear the dishes when we're done.  We do still have to remind you to put your clothes in the hamper and put away your laundry, but you're getting there.You still love popcorn and Gatorade each evening after school, and I still give you spelling tests while I stir the soup.  After years of soup in your school lunches, you branched out to chili!  And next year, in fourth grade, you’ll get to use the microwave!  There's a lot to look forward to next year.    We're talking just as much during your homework if not more.  I'm enjoying our conversations most about your growing up.  You're asking good questions, and you clearly have a thoughtful way of looking at the world.

I'm going to end this letter with something you wrote about yourself that your teacher shared with us at your conference this spring.

IMG_3985 Papa and I could say a lot of wonderful things about our son, but this we couldn't have said this better ourselves.  Congratulations on another great year, Callum.  We're so proud of you.


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spring is sneaking in

IMG_2240 It's been a sly one this year, that spring.  Callum and I just finished up spring break, and our best day was Sunday, the day before we head back to work and school.  Sunday of soaring temperatures and sunny skies.  As I sat typing this, Tyler was outside mowing our grass (it's true, our neighbor mows our grass, what kind of sweet deal is that!), the dogs were splayed out in random corners of the yard, so stunned by sun that none of them noted a bird hopping idly along in the shade beneath Callum's swing, and a robin sped madly along the roof of our shed, his beak filled with bits of twig and grass.  The phlox is coming in, along with the hyacinth and jonquils.  Dandelions too, but fortunately Neel is ever-vigilant.

Callum too, seems stunned by spring.  This team sport thing has been so good for our boy.  He's one of the youngest out there, soaking it all in, bursting into bud like the trees that line our street.  I can see the confidence bloom upon him.  At times his need to be big kid among them, his teammates - the other big kids, clashes with our awareness of his comparative youth. 

"No, you can't go up there by yourself.  There needs to be an adult with you."

"But I'm not a baby," he wails.

And he's not a baby.  Too little and too big.  We try to help him save a little face, riding bikes along instead of driving him, but staying very clear that he's not there yet, big kid.  I'm reminded of fat toddler hands that tried to scramble out of mine to go alone up and down the stairs.  It was ever thus and thus it ever will be.

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sick day

Well it was the huge pile of vomit (sorry) that did it.  Kept us home today.  I'm so relieved to stay in the house and snuggle for a bit.  We had four parties this weekend and I think it was an exhaustion barf as much as anything. 

So we stayed home, and the hounds hovered, and Callum watched Harry Potter # 4 (twice), and I finished up some Christmas knitting (pictures to come, well, probably after Christmas), and embarked on more Christmas knitting (crazy, I know).  It's freakishly warm here, but the tree is pretty and the mood is certainly upon us.  Or at least it will be after we all get some more rest.

Sometimes I love sick days.

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it begins

Well, Callum started Lacrosse this weekend.  It's his first foray into team sports, and it was time.  He's been taking karate for for three years now, and really that seemed sufficient.  Part of it, I know, was that Neel and I weren't ready to face hectic practice schedules and gear, but we also knew that when Callum really pushed it, it was time.  Not before.

Well, he pushed it for Lacrosse, and here we are.  A five-week camp held every Sunday at a local college by the college coach and team.  This camp will get him ready to get on a team in the spring.

This boy continues to amaze me.  How other he is from us in spectacular ways.  His athleticism astonishes me, and his enthusiasm humbles me.  Callum enters any project from Lacrosse to multiplication with excitement and energy.  Sunday was his first day at this game.  Sure he's tossed a ball in the yard before, but really getting out there?  This was it, first time, full stop.  And there he was, giving it his all.  Talking to his coaches, asking for extra practice, wanting to get in the game.

The friend that Callum knew was coming made him happy, he was glad to have a bud.  For me it would have been essential to have someone I know there.  But then, I am tentative.  I hold back.  Not this kid.  There is nothing tentative about him.  Neel and I could hear him yelling across the field, "Over here!" and we thought "That's our boy."

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the remedy (except it's a spiced pineapple cooler. apparently)

I have had A. Day.  One blow of craziness after another.  A few weeks ago I bought two of these new drink mixes from Williams Sonoma, and for my whole drive home tonight I was thinking, "I need a Remedy." How perfect is that?  Except we'd already finished The Remedy so I had the Spiced Pineapple Cooler.  Neel brought me a sip from a straw as I peeled shrimp for dinner (Never say that man can't recognize a desperate situation when he sees one.), and he worried that it was too spicy for me.  It wasn't it.  I chugged it.  Now I'm ready for bed.

And along the lines of "things I never dreamed I'd hear" we sent Callum to his room after school so he could calm down a bit before tackling his homework, and we could hear him wailing, "Please let me do my math.  Please!  I want to do my math."  I don't even know what to say about that.

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