Monday, September 29, 2008

It's The Great Pumpkin

Remember when you were a kid and ate a piece of fruit with seeds. Watermelon, apples, plums... Then you would get the lofty idea that you could dig a little hole in the backyard, pop in the seed and suddenly a full-grown fruit tree would appear.

OK, maybe that was just me.
That fruit planting gene must have been passed down to Little Guy. Countless apple seeds have been buried in the yard. A bag filled with watermelon seeds sits in the garage waiting for spring planting.

Last spring Little Guy spied a seed display and ran towards the pumpkin seeds. "Mummy, we can grow our own jack-o-lanterns!"

So we planted the seeds. And forgot about them. Until now.

Those innocent looking pumpkin seeds not only sprouted, but the chutes are twelve plus feet long and filled with yellow flowers.
The best part is that we grew an actual pumpkin! OK, so it's only one pumpkin. But it's a doozy!

One big, orange, round pumpkin! Bigger than a basketball and all because of Little Guy's and a 69 cent package of seeds.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Smells Like Flaming Plastic

Have you ever noticed all of those mummies out there who seem to have their act together? I mean really together.

Fashionable outfit, clean kids, orderly home, showered...

Occasionally I go through a phase where I convince myself that I can do everything. Usually it is on a Monday when I wake-up rested and ready to take on the world.

Then I fall on my butt.

Take this Monday for example. The kids were clean and well-dressed for school pictures. (OK, one kid only owned clothing that said Red Sox or Patriots, so we did end-up making a Monday morning shopping trip for a shirt without a sports logo.)

I returned from clothes shopping with my five year old only to spend an hour answering emails and calls. Planned the weeks meals and did the food shopping. Took a shower. Half completed three loads of laundry. Put on make-up. I even wore heels!

The day was too beautiful to stay inside, so why not reseed the lawn and spread a layer of compost? Just for giggles I also decided to skip the school bus and walk the kids home.

Eventually bellys started to rumble and my arms started to give out. Time to banish the neighborhood kids and the needy elderly neighbor. Time for dinner.

Delusional Monday morning Gruppie was going to whip-up a seafood feast because the experts keep telling us that seafood is essential. Monday night Gruppie was going to boil water for oatmeal.

Then comes the flaming, molten plastic. I mistakenly took sixty seconds of "me time" in the bathroom and inadvertently set a plastic container of peanut butter on fire.

Smoldering stinky plastic, kids screaming, ashes flying. Brain cells packing their bags.

Anyone want a cheesestick for dinner?

UPDATE: I'm at it again. Almost left a burner with an empty pan on while I left to do a host of exciting activities like Kindergarten drop-off. The stove is officially off for the next few days. I don't trust myself.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New To Me

My first fourteen weeks of being a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) member is still going strong. Every Thursday I show-up and am handed a bag of whatever fruits and veggies were picked on the farm that week. Easy smeeshy.

That simple brown bag of veggies has really expanded my horizons from simply potatoes and carrots all the way to bok choi (hubby wants to replace the lawn with a field of bok choi next spring) and now husk cherries.

On first glance, husk cherries resemble tiny paper lanterns. Delicate and paper like.

When it finally dawns on you to tear open the covering, you will find perfect pale-red spheres. When it finally dawns on you to taste one, you will notice a taste somewhat like a sweet tomato with hints of something I can't put my finger on.

In this week's CSA newsletter the farm included a recipe for husk cherry pie. Gosh, stick anything into a pie crust, add sugar and I will be your best friend.

1 unbaked pie shell
1 cup husked cherries
2 eggs
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 table. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line pie pan with the pastry and fill with the husked cherries. Beat eggs with salt. Add sugar and flour. Add milk and vanilla and stir well. Pour over the husk cherries and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 -30 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve Plain or with whipped cream.

The plan is to cook the pie after soccer practice (Little Guy's. I don't pretend to have the ability to kick a ball). I'll update you then.

Update: The pie was a little too custerdy for my liking. OK, so I ate a piece anyway. Gilrie and Hubby wouldn't touch it.
Cute, but I will have to try a different recipe next season.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

One is Silver and the Other's Gold

Way back when my hair was blond (not green) and I was way too perky for my own good, I began teaching second grade.

On an early September morning, twenty-five mostly eager little faces walked into my classroom. One in particular stood out.

Kirsten was a precocious, little girl. Big blue eyes, glasses, a Brownie uniform and lots of questions. At seven she could already spell circles around me...
"Ms. Gruppie? Doesn't cocoa have an a at the end?"
"Ummm, sure. I was ummm, just testing to see who was paying attention."

Eventually I learned that Kirsten and I shared a birthday. March 8th to be exact.

Then, I learned that Kirsten was also adopted.

After I heard Kirsten openly discussing her adoption with other kids I was an instant fan. Here was a seven year-old that was openly discussing something in a way that my twenty-three year-old self was unable to do.

As a kid I never told anyone that I was adopted. It felt like a secret to me. Even today when I tell people, they always respond with a hearty "Really?". They seem to be shocked that someone who is relatively normal and devastatingly cute could be adopted. These reactions have always made me feel different and strange.

Kirsten and I went on to have an annual pizza lunch together on our birthdays. A few other lucky Pisces joined and we even expanded the lunch to kids born on the 7th and the 9th. Can you imagine if I will still teaching? "Pizza party for everyone who was born in the winter!"

After I "retired" to stay home with my sweet little Girlie, Kirsten continued to invite Girlie and me to her birthday parties. Then to summer pool parties. Twice a year is the norm. Kirsten's amazing mummy Eileen really kept the connection going.

This year Kirsten is a senior in high school. I simply will not believe that she is old enough to drive a car and take the SAT's. I simply will not believe that I am old enough to have taught someone who has taken a college tour.

A few weeks ago Kirsten and Eileen invited my family over for lunch and some swimming. Where has the time gone? Kirsten now plays the role of a fun aunt and Eileen is the grandma who loves to spoil my kids. What happened to Kirsten being the little one?

Next school year I am sure that I will be baking cookies and sneaking five dollar bills into greeting cards for Kirsten when she leaves home for college. Someday she too may have her own little girl. When that little girl is in second grade and I hope that she will remember her second grade teacher and smile.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

My hair is green.

Just like Kermit, Oscar the Grouch and other assorted Muppets. My hair is green.

For years I have highlighted my hair. Brightens it up. Recently it dawned on me that hair dye may not be the safest thing to put so close to my brain. So all summer my friendly hairdresser has been attempting to get my hair back to it's original color. (whatever that may have been)

This summer each time my hair was colored, it would disappear and be back to it's streaky-brass self in about a week.

At this week's hair appointment my hairdresser claimed she had the trick to make the color stay. Some sort of French word for magic.

I emerged from the salon chair looking a bit like a deranged Snow White. Skin the color of snow. Hair the color of coal. Only without the birds perching on my fingers, it didn't look so cute.

Fast forward to the next day. I took my shower, brought Little Guy to Kindergarten and popped-in on Girlie and her friends in the cafeteria.

Staring. Pointing. Giggling. The table full of eight year-old girls who couldn't take their eyes off of me. I was rocking the sweatpants...

"Ms. Gruppie. Why is your hair green?" Huh? "Mummy, your hair is green."


Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pedal To The Metal

I wish I could report that my family travels by bike everywhere we go. We are Gruppies after all.

Maybe if we lived in someplace progressive like Amsterdam or someplace that has been recently planned like the Southwestern US I could say "yes." Alas, here in ye olde Connecticut where narrow and winding roads that can be treacherous are the norm, my bike riding has been banished from the roads. Even when surrounded by six air bags, many of these roads feel a bit like a roller coaster ride gone wrong.

Now that Little Guy is five ("one of the big boys now", says he), we have been able to get out and bike as a family. Mostly on local bike trails and once off road in the woods. Did you know that breaking on a sandy hill is not the smartest idea?

When we go biking as a family we tend to look like the bike trail misfits. T shirts, sneakers and the occasional flip-flops are the standard. Why do I get the feeling that those hardcore bike families look at us funny.

You know those families. All in spandex. Space age helmets. Backpacks with snakelike straws.

Seriously, there is no way that I could get so thirsty in a single hour that I would need to drink out of a backpack. OK, OK. That statement does not count during college years. I vaguely remember a certain LL Bean backpack filled with a coconut run and apple cider mixture. shudder

Just yesterday the kid's school had a family bike trail parade. Lots of families showed-up complete with decorated bikes. Even the friendly principal and her hubby brought their bikes. Family togetherness. Exercise. Enjoying nature. What could be better?

I'm proud to say that my bike has saved me from the dark, dank gym over the last three months. Fingers crossed for global warming to head off winter this year.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Party Time!

I know, I know....Being green is about living simply and not buying more stuff like the media would lead you to believe. But sometimes a Gruppie just has to make a purchase in the name of green.

With the fabulous social life my family leads, there seems to be a lot of plastic cutlery involved. Summer beach cook-outs. Cape Cod street parties. Backyard birthday parties...I could go on, but I don't want to make you insanely jealous.

What do all of these celebrations have in common? Trash! Plastic junk that will be on this earth for lifetimes. Plastic plants spewing toxic air for innocent residents to breathe. And can someone tell me why those plastic forks snap every time you need to actually cut something?

Here is my solution...

Aren't They Cute?

To-Go Ware was founded by a US woman in order to create a fair income for women on the Thai-Burma border. A happy addition to that fact is that these creative women are using tons of plastic that would otherwise be relegated to landfills or the ocean to create the pouches. The company's tag line reads, "turning one persons trash into another person's livelihood." Beautiful.

Each rolled pouch is made of old plastic bags and newspapers. Inside, the bamboo cutlery sits comfortably. Knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks. If your kids are anything like mine, the chopsticks will be perfect for spearing watermelon from the fruit bowl, marshmallows from the bag and sometimes for spearing each other.

Did you know that Americans toss out enough plastic cutlery each year to circle the equator 300 times? That little fact certainly shocked me into awareness.

Next time you are at a party (where is my invite?) or enjoying some take-out ice cream, take a second to think about that plastic you may be holding in your hand. Once we use it, it's here forever.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Suburban Twilight Zone

The phone line is dead.

My Internet connection is spotty at best.

Mailman Keith forgot to come to my house.

Has Big Brother cut me off from the world?

Could this be a case of the twilight zone in suburbia?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Feminism Today

Now that Little Guy is heading to half-day Kindergarten I seem to get the same question wherever I go. "What are you going to do with all of your time?"

Are people really concerned that I will cease to fit through the front door because of spending my days eating bon bons or is this some grand test that women give to each other.

"Gee, I was going to spend all of my free time contemplating world peace while watching reality shoes."

Yes, Little Guy will be in school for three whole hours each day. Enough time to shower, return calls and maybe plan a dinner. Maybe I will take some time for myself (gasp!).

Even if the kids were in school for fifteen hours a day and I wanted to stay home, why should I have to defend that choice to anyone? That is my family's choice.

Funny, not one man has asked me what I was going to do with all of my new found "free time."

When will women step-up and support each other? Whatever decisions we make regrading our decision to stay home, work or something in between are the right decisions for us. Isn't modern feminism all about individual decisions and understanding that other people's decisions might be different from our own?

Just today I decided to turn down a possible job offer. The position was the most perfect job fit for me. An educator at a local children's museum. Unfortunately, the time and money constraints that went along with the job were far from perfect. Ultimately, this job didn't come at the right time.

I was afraid to share the details about the interview with too many people. If I chose to go back to work I might be viewed as abandoning my little one. If I chose to pass on the job I might be viewed as lazy or IQ-challenged. No win.

Here is my call to all of my female readers; Support the women in your life. Whatever her choices are.

Monday, September 1, 2008

See the change

Today is the last day of summer.

That last sentence alone could comprise one completely depressing blog post.

This morning I woke up freezing for my first time in months. Hubby was so cold that he broke down and put on a long sleeved shirt. While the days will continue be warm, here come the cold mornings and evenings.

Tomorrow is the first day of school. That means today is the last day of summer vacation. Not only will Girlie be heading off to the third grade (I am so not old enough to have a third grader), but Little Guy will be downstairs in kindergarten. (Little Guy is so not old enough to be in kindergarten)

Another tell tale sign of summer slipping away is right on the trees. The leaves are starting to change. As beautiful as the leaves can be, I see the leaves as an ominous warning. Here come the coats, boots, busy schedules and the end to playing all day.

Goodbye sand between my toes!
Goodbye ice cream for no special reason!
Goodbye flip flops!
Goodbye summer!