Wii look out for ourselves.

B: Who wants to play Lego Star Wars with daddy?!

T: ME!

R: ME!

T: NO! ME!

R: NO! ME!

(repeat several times)

B: You can take turns playing. Thomas will go first since he said it first.

J: Nice.

B: What?

J: Way to reinforce the concept of putting others before yourself.

B: Hey, it’s the rules of the arcade – first kid with his quarter in the slot plays the game.

Just what the doctor ordered: food, drink, and sun.

After coffee and breakfast with Dave the house guest, we sent him off to meet his traveling companion filled with all sorts of ideas for how to spend their day. Last night we all had dinner with Heartichoke and husband at The 5 Spot – a great little “spot” on the top of Queen Anne Hill. They rotate their menu periodically, and were currently serving New Orleans cuisine. It’s a little on the pricey side for a weekly date night stop ($15+ a dish), but my Cornbread Andouille Bourre Chicken was to die for (even if I couldn’t pronounce it), as was my Amaretto on the rocks.

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Today is a rare warm and sunny day in December, and I couldn’t bear to be inside anymore, so I jacketed the kids and forced them outside with me. Together we started prepping my vegetable garden to be healthier and happier, and more willing to help my tomatoes grow! grow! grow! My friend Jenny (no, not this Jenny, but this one) sent me an article she read on how to make a new garden bed (I don’t have the source, but maybe she’ll add it in the comments?), and the instructions are following.

This was a fun and easy activity to do with the kids without feeling like I needed to be such a control freak. After all, we just shoveled dirt around and raked leaves!

1. Start with a layer of cardboard or black-and-white newspaper. Lay directly on top of grass or weeds and thoroughly wet it. A good thick layer (1- to 15 sheets of newspaper) will smother weeds and sod, and all that decaying green matter will form the foundation of your spring bed.

newspaper layer

2. Add a layer a couple of inches deep of moist garden soil to weigh down the paper layer and speed up the decomposition of the sod below.

top soil

3. Next, spread any fallen leaves, grass clippings, or well-chopped kitchen waste you have handy onto the bed. Be creative-a local brewery may have spent hops to spare, or a juice shop may have carrot pulp. Many coffee shops will gladly give you all the grounds you could want.

4. Add a thin layer of soil or finished compost-just enough to sow the cover-crop seed into. When I empty flowerpots in the fall, I also add the leftover potting soil.

5. Plant a cold-tolerant cover crop directly on top. In frost-prone areas, plant in late summer or early fall. Some crops can tolerate temperatures well below freezing if you give them 6-8 weeks to become established.

leaves, finished compost, seed

Note: Cover crops offer many benefits. They hold soil in place over winter and prevent erosion. Their roots reach deep to break up compacted soils. Leguminous varieties add nitrogen to the soil as they grow. And when the crop is turned under in the spring (before going to seed), it provides a quick, plentiful dose of organic matter. Let the soil rest 2 weeks before planting.

And that’s all there is to it.

I’m glad I only attempted one section of the garden because the kids were losing interest by the last step, and abandoned me completely at clean-up time. Next week is supposed to be rain free, so I’ll get another chance to finish.

By the way, I created a new strip of garden along the south side of the house using these instructions, and the cover crop is already three inches tall!

The number of the day is five.

This weekend we have the kids from our babysitting co-op all night and all day tomorrow so our friends can get out of town. Which means we have five kids. Which means I’m making breakfast for five kids. Which means we’re taking five kids trick-or-treating at our neighborhood Halloween party. Did I mention these five kids were all under the age of five?

Without a doubt, I’ve been having a total blast so far!

Tonight we huddled around my tiny kitchen table while the kids watched me roll out sugar cookie dough between two sheets of wax paper. Then they watched me cut out cookies in the shape of bats and pumpkins. Then after baking, they watched me ice them all with orange cream cheese frosting.

A better person would have probably invited them all to decorate their own cookies however they wanted, with frosting and sprinkles, and such. But to be honest, that thought never crossed my mind until I sat down to write this post. At the time, they all seemed excitedly patient to eat their bats, and I was content to be in control of the mess and design.

But despite this, I’m very pleased with myself for providing such a fun activity (even if they did just watch), and for actually having fun doing it. I have no doubt that I am this close to full abdication of control during good times.

Recipe Swap

Recipe Swap nightLast night about nine or ten gals came over for a Recipe Swap and Menu Planning Party that I hosted. The group was mixed, consisting of friends from all different compartments of my life, including local bloggers.

I didn’t really plan to have a format, so everyone just brought their cookbooks and notebooks and index cards and we swapped swapped swapped. We mingled, and chatted, and nibbled on veggies and called out things like, “Anybody need a good enchilada recipe?” or “Does anyone know how to make pesto?” or my personal favorite, “Tell everyone about that great chicken dish YOU make, Jen!” (Nothing like a little flattery to get you multiple dinner invites).

We had great fun, and I hope to do something like it after Thanksgiving – maybe something crafty-like, or maybe we can all get together and address our Christmas cards together. Or whatever. I just think it’s fun to get together!

Leah of My Pink Toes had to cancel at the last minute, but she wrote up a blog post about it and left us with a few recipes.

Annagrace at Love Drunk lives a little too far to attend, but coincidentally, she had this recipe on her blog this week.

And Dacia also posted many of her favorite recipes at her lovely craft blog, here.

If you have a favorite recipe to share, leave it in the comments or link to your own blog.

I will also take this time to point out a few things about this picture (click to enlarge if you care to indulge me).

First of all, you will notice the pieces of orange streamer paper taped into each corner near the ceiling. These are left over from Ruthie’s birthday party TWO YEARS AGO when I yanked them down. The pieces stuck to the tape didn’t come down, and here they still sit.

Secondly, you will notice the faux iron plate rack hanging off center above the piano. This used to hold a giant white platter, as I have storage issues in my kitchen. I have since decided to go completely IMpractical and hang a piece of art there. However, I cannot get the plate rack down. The screws are stripped or something, but the damn thing will not come off the wall.

You may have also noticed my latest organization project, which was to remove all the random photo frames off the piano and put them on the wall in hopes of eliminating clutter on the piano. They just always looked so terrible on the piano, and besides, that area needed some height. Hopefully I didn’t just make my wall look cluttered – what do you think?

And what you can’t see in the picture is that I rolled my kitchen island over to the wall under the window, opening up the kitchen wide and spacious. Wow! What a difference that made, and nobody was bumping into each other trying to pour a drink! I think I may just keep it over there and roll it back out into the middle when I need to cook.

how to can plums

1. Stand on a tall ladder over a treacherous patch of blackberry bushes in order to pick plumbs off the top of the tree

2. Sit around like old ladies, chattering about weddings and babies and the first days of school, while pitting plumbs.
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3. More chattering while chop chop chopping.
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4. Carry the load together, knowing that canning should never be done apart from the community of friends.
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5. Stir stir stir!
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6. Taste taste taste!
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7. Marvel over the beautiful, purple jars, and feel proud after a hard day’s work.
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8. Locate your children, who have run free on this half acre of blissful property all day with minimal supervision.
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Thank you to my friend, Heather, who invited us all out to share in this experience, and for climbing the ladder – so bummed I didn’t get a picture of that! Alecia, you rock – your previous experience saved the day! And Beth, you looked mah-valous, and were just as clueless as me!

Round two with pears is this week, and round three with apples is next (if we can manage that kind of stamina!).

If you thought the drunk blogging debacle was bad, you should have seen all the LUSTING tonight.

I will not name any names to preserve the integrity of all participants, but several desperate housewives gathered in my basement tonight for a big screen HD viewing of Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveShow on HBO.

O-my-ga. The man has some moves.

One of my friends came downstairs at one point and said, “There was a huge streak of lightening outside!”

“That’s God trying to find me right now!” shouted another as she fanned her lusting eyes.

Highlights from an eight year old’s birthday party

1. Margaritas

2. Corn fritters with cilantro lime dressing

3. So much homemade Mexican food I had to be rolled down the driveway

4. Margaritas

5. Thomas throwing a fit because he didn’t get to open any presents

6. Twenty kids and two pinata’s

7. Friends I haven’t seen in months

8. My friend sending his four year old son to the beer cooler with his toy pickup truck to haul Corona’s back to the circle of adults, then sending him back for the bottle opener. The four year old then makes repeated trips to the cooler and back until he declares, “That’s the last one!”

Highlights from our adventures on the Seattle waterfront and Bainbridge Island Ferry

1. Said loudly on the ferry –
Ruthie: Thomas! Where’s your bus?
Thomas (thinking she said ‘butt,’ he grabs his ass): I put my butt wight hee-ah! (And grabbing his crotch) And my pee-pee’s wight hee-ah!

2. Bryan and Ruthie leave to get a table at Red Robin while Thomas and I wait ten minutes in the car at a meter (don’t ask). While I’m trying to pay the meter, Thomas continues to break loose and run straight for the teriyaki restaurant we parked in front of. Each time I drag him back to the meter he wails and throws a fit about how he’s hungry and wants to see his daddy. Despite my repeatedly telling him that daddy is at the OTHER restaurant, i still have to drag him across the street kicking and screaming, and looking looking like a child kidnapper as he screams, “NO! I WANT TO SEE DADDY! DADDY IS BACK THERE!”

3. Thomas attempting to steal an apple out of the hand of a homeless man as he eats it while panhandling on the street corner. I drag Thomas away from the homeless man as he screams, “I WANT AN APPLE! I HUNGRY!”

4. The parade of bicycles that swarmed down First Avenue toward Pioneer Square. Ruthie is mesmerized, and thankfully doesn’t notice the two men who are riding buck naked.

5. Killing time in the Magic Mouse Toy Store, hearing Thomas’ voice in the next room even though he’s standing right next to me. We discover there is a toy parrot that repeats everything you say, annoyingly, and seemingly from far away rooms and around corners. Bryan and I brainstorm who we can buy this parrot for… just for kicks.

6. Ruthie and Thomas pretending to drive the race car video machine –
Thomas: We ah home, baby!
Ruthie: Okay daddy!

7. Thomas entertaining the ferry crowd with his rousing interpretation of giving Ruthie Time Outs, which then turn into wrestling matches filled with giggles.

8. As we approach the ferry dock at Bainbridge Island, I tell the kids we are going to crash. Several heads turn, and grown ups gasp that I would scare my children so. But I know my children. And I smile smugly as they jump up and down with delight, screaming, “WE’RE GOING TO CRASH!” over and over again.

River Days are here again

This morning I was awakened at 6:30am by the quivering voice of a fully clothed four year old: “Mama, I thought we was going to the parade….” She was hard to convince, but we did manage to get her into bed with us, and I spent the next hour and a half with her knees in my back.

Ruthie’s preschool ‘marched’ in the River Days parade this morning, so Bryan walked with her as she and her friends rode their bikes. She was very proud to represent, and Thomas did all the appropriate screaming and charging the crowd when he saw his sister.

Thomas and I hung with the curb crowd, ooo-ing and aahhh-ing at all the activity, and he wasn’t even phased by the Seafair Pirates’ loud canon. He was more interested in eating candy, because apparantly throwing candy into the gutter was a prerequisite for participation. By the time he’d had three suckers and a piece of bubble gum, he was starting to walk a little drunkly – like this Seafair pirate.

As far as parades go, this one was lacking in rumpus marching bands, and a little excessive in political campaign caravans. But drill teams and dance companies were fun to watch, and there was even a unicycle group. And did I mention the candy?

And though I could not attend Blogher, my weekend was not lacking in schwag… I have PARADE SCHWAG:

Parade schwag

More photos here.

What I Did This Summer

I just returned from five days and four nights of camping in the rain. It was a little overwhelming, but we just couldn’t stay away as it was the week of our favorite music festival on an island north of Seattle. For five days everything felt damp, even if it wasn’t actually wet – my pillow, my book, my skin, my shoes, my children… EVERYthing.

This afternoon as I unpacked my bag to do laundry I experienced post traumatic stress from the musty smell, and ended up washing everything even if I never wore it. All trace of damp memories needed to be eradicated.

During the one non-raining afternoon I was stung on the ankle by a wasp, and through this experience I discovered who my true friends are (or aren’t) as they laughed at my screaming and leg shaking. They sat mocking me from the craft tent, claiming they thought I was scared of a slug. Granted, these Orcas Island varieties of slugs are no less than five inches long and an inch thick, but they are not that scary.

For the record, I think I was stung by this. I remember thinking – in the delirium of my experience – that I had never seen a black wasp before, and that this was the biggest f*#@ing wasp I had ever seen in my life. My ankle is now inflamed, red, and itchy, and I’m trying to not scratch the skin raw.

How are you feeling NOW about your laughter? Yeah, YOU know who you are.

The rainy weather changed the vibe of the week for me. Usually we spend hours listening to music while the kids run around, but this year (our fifth) I felt more introverted and isolated, choosing instead to hide under a tarp most of the time and read a book or visit with a friend. Bryan kept asking me if I was having fun, and I didn’t know how to answer. I felt like I was supposed to be having fun, because we have always had fun at this festival, and Bryan is on this stupid kick about having a positive attitude. But camping is a lot of work, and camping in the rain is a hell of a lot of work, and sometimes it just doesn’t seem like a vacation to me.

In reality, I know I had fun. There was too much laughter and revelry at 2am to claim I did not have fun. But I think I was mourning that it felt different than all the other years. I like tradition, and this trip is a yearly tradition. There are certain things that I expect from this vacation every year, and when those things didn’t happen they way they always have I think it threw me off a little.

Anyway… yes, Bryan, I had fun. It was just different fun, and I’m okay with that.

I apologize that I did not warn you dear readers that I would be absent from this space, but I make it a point to never tell the Internet when my house will be dark and unoccupied and filled with all sorts of valuables for the taking.

We will now return to our regular, albeit spotty blogging routine.

Dog Friendly Parks

We discovered that Maple Valley is a dog-friendly town, permitting dogs to walk with their owners on the trails at the arboretum as well as relax at the beach when said hike is finished. The city I live in is not dog friendly, so this is a fantastic discovery for the Zugs.

Saturday night we brought a picnic dinner to Lake Wilderness and spent time swimming and wresting in the grass. It was a pleasure to have Scout with us, and so cute to see how attentive she is when Bryan and the kids are in the water. See her ears perked up? She’s on high alert!

The only sad discovery to this perfect evening was rice grain sized leaches all. over. my. legs. I totally freaked out on the inside, so as to not alarm the kids. But Ruthie? She simply said, “Something is sticking to my foot.” And she picked it off and went back into the water. We may go back, but I’m not sure I’ll be in the water with the kids!

Fourth of July

On the 4th we drove North to Bellingham where my dad has a condo on Lake Whatcom. The weather was beautiful, the kids were great, and the food was yummy. And there was plenty of laziness going around for everyone to enjoy.

That night I drove home, and around 10pm we were on the stretch of I-5 between Marysville and Everett, in a valley with tree-topped hills off in the distance to the East and the South. Bryan was reading and the kids were asleep and I was listening to Brandi Carlile as loud as possible, feeling refreshed in my introverted bubble.

Then, as I looked out over the valley I saw puffs of fireworks all along the treetops, stretching for miles along the thin line between tree and sky.

It was as if God had sewn a sparkley fringe around the horizon.

The House of Barbecue Returns

We officially launched the House of Barbecue yesterday, on Easter Sunday, with salmon grilled on cedar planks over charcoal and mesquite, veggies in a grilling basket over the coals, and an Asian cole slaw. Friends were in town for the occasion, and more friends joined us for an after party of Jitterbug Martinis. Unfortunately the rain kept us from roasting marshmallows at the fire pit – stupid Seattle rain.

As far as holidays go, this one rates in my top five for the chill factor. Bryan always says that Jesus loves a good barbecue, which is either true or a wild justification for throwing lots of barbecues.

Either way, I get a good party every weekend.

Gettin’ Scrappy

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My girlfriend, Sarah, has been coming over on the Monday nights that Bryan is out of town, and we scrapbook together. When Ruthie was a baby I made scrapbook pages throughout her whole first year, and filled a second scrapbook of other family fun stuff. But by the time Thomas came along I was deep into writing and blogging and creating videos, and decided I only had space in my brain for only one hobby at a time.

I have missed scrapbooking, though, for the tactile nature of it, and for the fun of designing with color and image. So once I got my craft area set up in the basement I decided to give it a go again, only on a much leaner time commitment – one evening every other week.

It’s funny to watch Sarah scrap, too. She held out for the longest time, swearing she would never get into such a thing, that it was cliche for moms to scrap. But oh how I laughed when she showed up at my house with scads of paper and embellishments and tools, all neatly tucked into pretty organizers. I love it when the mighty fall.

Ever since I took these pictures of the kids drinking hot chocolate during the SNOW BLAST OF 2007, I envisioned a page like this, and it makes me happy to have created it.