Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strawberry fields forever

"Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill..." (John Greenleaf Whittier)

Today Sam and I enjoyed my birthday present from my sister--a strawberry picking outing. We went to Knutson's Country Harvest in Newark, Illinois, about 20 minutes from Aurora, a very quaint little family farm.

The berries are grown in these hydroponic stackers made of styrofoam. At first I thought it wasn't "authentic" enough of a faux farming experience, but since it was 90+ degrees today, it was kind of nice not to have to sit in the dirt. Each stacker had about 20 plants and could be spun around.

Sam knew exactly what to do! Of course, he put them right into his mouth instead of the pail.

Amy scores a nice big ripe one! My sister also babysat Sam all day yesterday while I was at work and teaching, and while Ed was doing some projects around our condo. Sam had a blast, as he always does at the Manion house.

Sam was also good at taking strawberries out of the pail. He wasn't exactly clear on the concept of putting them IN the bucket. Oh well, we didn't have to pay for those he ate in the field.

I love living in the city, but I also love getting out of the city. Sam seemed to enjoy being out in the country. The Knutson farm also had chickens. Sam said, "Cluck, cluck" to them. I guess all that singing of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" is paying off.

I also got some rhubarb, so I hope to make some strawberry-rhubarb compote or jam or pie or something. I may have to freeze some of the berries, since we're leaving for a conference in Florida in a few days. It can't be any hotter there than it is here. Sam got a little red-faced and sweaty out in the field.

All strawberried out on the way home. Notice the red stains all over his face. Thank you, Amy, for such a thoughtful gift. I love gifts that are experiences--especially ones as Schlumpfy as strawberry picking.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thrifty Daddy

"He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." (Clarence Budington Kelland)

So last weekend Ed tells me he's going to hit a few yard sales to find a bike seat for Sam. I tell him, in my most know-it-all voice, "Honey, you can't just expect to find a specific thing like a bike seat. In fact, I've been going to garage sales for years, and I'm not sure I've ever seen one."

You guessed it: He found one. $20. So today, for Father's Day, Sam went on his first bike ride. As you can see, at first he didn't really like it. Mostly it was the helmet around his chin.

But once we got going, he had a great time. We rode for about an hour, then stopped at the new Middle Eastern place near our house for some schawarma. Yum! Sam learned a new word: cucumber. He's talking up a storm these days.

Another "thrift Daddy" story: Ed always carried Sam in the Baby Bjorn and later in a hand-me-down backpack that was too small for Sam and way too small for Ed. We started pricing baby backpack carriers and discovered they're over $100. One day Ed is at the Vietnamese sandwich shop with Sam, and a customer says, "That backpack is too small for you. I have one I'll sell you for $20." So Ed gets this practically brand new super nice backpack for $20!

Other Daddy's Day news: Ed was on the cover of our parish bulletin today (actually with that old backpack!) Before dinner we went to Foster Beach (more pix on Dear Sam and Sophie). I made homemade blueberry muffins for breakfast, and ribs, corn, green beans and watermelon for dinner. Plus I let Ed sleep in two days in a row. Happy Father's Day to the best "Dada" in the world! I'm so lucky to have these two amazing boys in my life--not to mention my own wonderful Dad!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hoot hoot

"A wise old owl lived in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?"
(Old nursery rhyme)

I love that nursery rhyme--I remember my Great Uncle Fran reciting it to me and my sister. (According to Wikipedia, "During World War II, the United States Army used the rhyme and tweaked the ending to 'Soldier.... be like that old bird!' with the caption 'Silence means security.' "

Anyway, I have found myself drawn to the many, many owl images in the craft blogosphere lately. They're so 70s, but I love them. When I saw this simple pattern from Button It Up, I knew they would be fun to make out of felt. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the backs, which are cute matching fabrics. I added the ribbon trim and emboidered the recipients' names on them. (Those are heart-shaped buttons as claws. Turns out triangle buttons are very hard to find.)

The owls were birthday gifts for these two cuties: my friends Karen and Jeff's twins, Mari and Mesfin, who turned five this month. Karen and Jeff had a cool birthday party for them, complete with face painter and clown--and jello shots that even put me to shame. Let's just say the Chocolate Covered Cherry was to die for. I knit these sweaters for these two when they first came home from Ethiopia two years ago, and gave them this embroidered quilt (which still amazes even me) last year. So this is in keeping with the homemade gift theme. I'm planning to make more of these.

My friend Lourdes and her husband Jason took these photos of me and Sam (and those of Mari and Mesfin) at the party last Sunday.

I love this one.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Won't you be my neighbor?

"Love your neighbor as yourself." (Jesus)

For living in a big city like Chicago, we have been incredibly lucky with super friendly neighbors. First, we had our friends John and Leigh Ann who lived below us (still close even though they live a mile away now). And now we have Andy and Michelle who live next door and share our porch. Every morning Sam goes over to their door and waves hello, even if they're not home. They are the sweetest couple, even if they are 20 years younger than us! We often sit outside with a drink at night, I can borrow anything from them, and Andy joins us for dinner when we make something good.

Andy and Michelle are getting married 4th of July weekend, and Saturday was the wedding shower. I made Michelle an apron to match her kitchen towels and oven mitt. Andy was actually over having dinner and watching hockey the night I made it but he acted surprised at the shower, which was an exceptionally nice, sit-down luncheon thing at a golf course. I modeled this apron on the last one I made and used a hand-printed dish cloth from the thrift (50 cents) and a scrap of brown linen-like fabric (washable, though). The back is green tiny gingham check from a pillowcase.

I asked Sam to model it but he kept taking off! He doesn't sit still much these days. Which means I won't have much time to make myself an apron, though I'd like to.