Monday, September 28, 2009

Reflections on the Tooth Fairy

If I had it to do over again, I never would have introduced the idea of the tooth fairy.

Nine times out of ten, I forget to put the money under the pillow on the night a tooth has fallen out of one of the kids mouths. It's such a hassle. Most of the time I fall asleep before my kids. In the morning they are always sorely disappointed and I have to concoct some lie about how the tooth fairy was running late last night and the money will probably be under their pillow when they come home from school.

Plus, they want a dollar per tooth. To be honest, I guess it was me who set that precedent. But they are very greedy about the whole thing; numbering their soon to fall out teeth in dollars. Cha-ching!

Today I felt the tooth fairy's sting most sharply when Ethan, almost 12 came home from middle school with a pulled out tooth in a little green, plastic treasure chest he got from the nurses office.

"Hey mom," he said. "Do you think the tooth fairy can make, like, you know, a treasure hunt for the dollar I get for this tooth?"

"Can't I just give you the dollar?" I asked.

Ethan sighed, lowered his head in a move that Good Grief Charlie Brown would envy, and shuffled off.

I'm not doing a treasure hunt, but maybe $2 will ease his disappointment a little.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What in the World is Tomato Jam?

Tomato jam is nothing to be afraid of, although it seems that its very mention here on my blog has stirred up a bit of curiosity.  

I thought putting a link to Erika's blog with the tomato jam recipe would answer any questions about this strange condiment, but it hasn't.  So here, in my own words, which are very similar to Erika's words, is my take on tomato jam:

Tomato jam is a delicious combination of cinnamon, allspice and cloves, along with fresh lemon juice and tomatoes.  And sugar.  It's got plenty of sugar.  It is the taste of Autumn.

It is a jam-like substance, mostly because it is jam.  If you can imagine strawberry or raspberry jam, and then just picture tomato as the fruit instead of berries, that is what tomato jam looks like.

I wouldn't eat it on a peanut butter sandwich, but it tastes divine on a Triscuit with a little cream cheese.  Erika mentioned last year that it would probably also taste wonderful on a slice of pumpkin bread.  I can imagine that would taste excellent as well.

If you've made any other kind of fruit jam using pectin before, you should have no problem making tomato jam.  This recipe is for water bath canning.  I suppose there is a way to make freezer jam, but I'm not sure of the specifics.  If you think you want to experiment and find a good tomato freezer jam, I'd be happy to post the info here.

I hope I have clearly explained tomato jam.  I'm so glad I discovered it.  I think it will be one of the staples on my food storage shelf for many years.  

Isn't Fall wonderful?

p.s. This is the very first post posted using my brand new Macbook computer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tomatoes by the Numbers

1 - pot of fresh tomato soup (recipe here)
2 - pots of marinara sauce (enough for 6 lasagnas)
3 - little green worms brought into the house via tomato
5 - pints summer salsa
6 - half pints pizza sauce
10 - pounds of tomatoes given away* (I know...I'm so stingy!)
17 - half pints tomato jam
20 - quarts of tomatoes
49 - pints of salsa
250 - pounds (approximately) of tomatoes picked so far

*I technically gave tomatoes to Andrea when we made salsa and jam. But she brought all the other ingredients, so it kind of evens out. She has 25 jars of salsa and 6 jars of jam out of the totals I've listed here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Say Tomat-oh, I Say Enough Already!

I picked 52 pounds of tomatoes yesterday. Calculating the poundage required me to get on the scale in the late afternoon, on a Sunday, after leftover pizza and brownies. It was not the most fun thing I did yesterday, but I digress...

Tomatoes!

Last year I planted 6 tomato plants and hardly got any tomatoes due mostly in part to user error, but also to the fact that the weather was a little cool. This summer I planted 6 tomato plants and my advanced tomato growing skills combined with absolutely perfect tomato growing weather have resulted in approximately 200 pounds, and counting, of tomatoes.

This bunch will become salsa on Thursday. I'd love to feel confident about drying tomatoes so I could find another way to preserve the pounds of tomatoes that will come next, but I suspect my drying efforts would result in wasted fruit. For now I'll stick with my canned tomatoes, tomato jam (thanks to Erika's recipe last year), pizza sauce and salsa.

Any other tomato suggestions? (I have loads of pint jars, a few half pints, but I'm out of quarts and I do not want to buy more jars this year.)

It may be the official end of summer, but we are on track to have at least two 90+ degree days this week which will only aid to ripen more tomatoes! Is it possible I might still have tomatoes a couple weeks into October?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Painful but Cleansing

A couple posts back I posted a "before" picture of the play room in our home. It was literally covered in toys. When I spent 3 days cleaning it, I took the opportunity to do a major purge. I set aside all kinds of things from the playroom for a garage sale.

For the last 5 days I worked to organize my garage sale for maximum profitability. I used many of the suggestions from a handy little booklet called "How to Have Big Money Garage Sales."

The premise of the booklet is that you can do a little work and make a little money, or you can do a little more work and make a lot of money. I didn't have the wallet-busting results some of the satisfied customers testify to, but I surpassed the earnings goal I spoke out loud to friends and family and came close to reaching my secret earnings goal that I kept to myself so no one would laugh at my cockeyed optimism.

I started by cleaning out the garage and then cleaned the toys with antibacterial wipes. I made cute hang tags out of scrapbook paper and attached them with ribbons to clothes I was planning on sending to Goodwill. "Adult clothes don't sell," is what everyone will tell you. I sold almost every article of clothing I put out.

I organized my merch into little areas: the game table, the book bench, the toy tables, and household goods corner. I put 2 or 3 Happy Meal toys each into little cellophane bags and tied them up with a ribbon and arranged them all in a basket with a sign that said, "grab bags, 25 cents each." out of 18 bags, all but 2 sold.

I advertised! Craigslist, the Hillsboro Argus, and 8 strategically placed, graphically appealing signs. I bought latex balloons to put at the foot of my driveway to give treasure hunters the extra clue they needed to find my place. Latex! I hate latex!

My point is, I made some sacrifices.

Was it worth it?

Of course! My main goal was to earn enough money to get me closer to my ultimate goal of buying a Macbook laptop computer. I reached the goal. Life is good.

My secondary goal was to declutter and reclaim space in our house. Check!

At the end of the sale, I boxed everything up and portioned it out to the appropriate places: Goodwill and Northwest Children's Outreach (thanks Jill for the pick up service!)

Everything is gone.

The cars are back in the garage.

And for the first time in a week, I hope to not wake up at 4am with a noisy "to-do" list going through my head.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We Bought a Trombone

It's not for Jonah, but he sure has fun playing it.
video

Thursday, September 10, 2009

After

Finished! And it only took me 3 days.

Now onto the bathroom. I will not be posting a picture of the bathroom on grounds it may incriminate me. I don't need a visit from the health department today.

(Yes, that is a mattress on the floor and it's a permanent playroom fixture. It's a trampoline for the kids and a sofa bed enhancer for guests.)

(Sorry the picture is kind of dark but I'm on a roll with this cleaning thing and don't have time to stop and take another one.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Before

I'm going in.

If I'm not out in 3 days, call a mental health professional and tell her to bring chocolate.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ahhhhhhhhh!

That I must wait another year or more to find out what happens is cruel and unusual punishment!

This series is fast paced, intense and amazing.

I can't believe I have to wait for book 3!!

What I Did This Summer: Oaks Park

Only a few more days before Summer Break is over. (I'm perfectly giddy with excitement!)

I can't let the summer blog-season pass, however, without a pictorial mention of our annual trip to Oaks Park; a reward for the kids completing their summer library reading program.

By the way, I have the secret to the perfect Oaks Park trip. If I were to tell my my secret, it's very possible that the little enjoyment I receive from my annual visit to Oaks Park could become a thing of the past. A thing of the past, I tell you.

So, I will not tell you my Oaks Park secret.

OK, fine! I'll tell you. (Gosh, you don't have to get all snotty about it!)

We head over to Oaks Park about 3 in the afternoon. Ideally this would put us on the road before the height of afternoon traffic, but it sometimes does not. This is alright. We arrive at Oaks Park to a big crowd and long lines at the rides but this too is no problem-o.

You see, around 4pm, everyone starts to go home. They want to by-pass the traffic (they won't) and get home for dinner. The lines get shorter, the crowds thinner (less chance of losing the kids, which is kind of high on my priority list when we are at Oaks Park) and everything at Oaks Park becomes more enjoyable.

Benches have more sitting room so you don't have to stand and wait for your kids to ride the Frog Hopper 3 times in a row. The line for cotton candy is so short that you can buy a big bag and hide it in your purse before the kids get off the Rockin' Tug Boat.

We bring a picnic dinner and sit on the benches overlooking the gorgeous Willamette River. We eat and watch the boats go by while the sun lowers itself over the Portland skyline. (This is my favorite part.)

Then the lights come on at Oaks Park and everything turns magical. There is hardly anyone at the park at this point and the kids ride the rides over and over until the park closes at 9pm.

Then we zip home across the Sellwood Bridge, down MacAdam Avenue and then I kind of get mixed up and don't know where I am until we finally make it onto Highway 26 and are headed home.

I take a big risk in sharing this secret with you. If everyone were to follow my plan, my annual Oaks Park visit could turn into a crowded, kid-losing, no-bench-sitting, long-line-standing, cotton-candy-sharing nightmare.

I suppose I'm just in a generous mood thanks to the fact that school will be starting in 4 days.

You're welcome.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What I Did This Summer: Visited the Portland Art Museum

I thought the boys, especially Ethan and Jonah, would be interested in seeing the MC Escher exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. And I was right! They were interested...for 10 minutes.

The rest of the hour we spent looking at Escher's amazing artwork was heavy with whining, complaining, and yes, even 2 episodes of collapsing to the floor (Jonah, not me).

I tried to get Jonah, a self-proclaimed future artist, to see the beauty in the art and to explain to him how Escher made his famous prints. I did not know they were woodcuts!! Fascinating!

Luckily there was an interactive computer display with a game controller that Ethan and Jonah essentially monopolized while I studied the details of each piece.

Ethan kept pestering me to come and play the game and I kept pestering him to come and look at the art. Finally I realized we just needed to let each other alone to do what the other wanted to do.

We got a few items from the Safeway deli for lunch and ate in the Park Blocks before heading home. It was a lovely day and I again wished I was a little more urban.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I Did This Summer: Swim Lessons

For years I'd been hearing about this guy "Curtis" who teaches swimming in Aloha but I've never enrolled the kiddos. Finally, friend Andrea did the signing up for me, and Jonah and Isaac finally got swimming lessons.

Curtis was everything I'd hoped he would be: encouraging, fun and loved by the kids.

Jonah and Isaac were in level 1 with two 3 year olds, but because they were a little older, they progressed well...maybe too well. Jonah would often continue to work on his skills even when the 3 year olds were getting one on one instruction from Curtis and his efforts would often produce waves and splashes that I'm sure didn't help the little one's confidences.

Jonah and Isaac were as ever, competitive with each other and had to race to see who was fastest. (Note to Jonah: you probably would have won if you'd kept looking ahead.)