Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Social Event of the Season

Last night was one of my favorite events of the year.

The Father/Daughter Prom.

Bridget looks forward to it every year and so does Ray. I wish I could be a fly on the wall at the actual prom and see all the cute girls dressed up, escorted by their adoring fathers.

But, I do get the pleasure of hosting a group of Bridget's friends and their families. We start the evening with cocktail fortification for the Daddies and mocktails for the girls. Whatever brothers have been drug along for the evening retreat to the back with pizza, drinks and airsoft guns and start shooting things. And each other.

The mommies act civilized and sit in the dining room and enjoy each other's company, some food, and wine.

At the end of the evening, the daddies and the wilted flowers return with stories of the Macarena, the Hokie Pokie, and the hula-hoop contest.

It's a great tradition. I'm sad that maybe after only another year or so, Bridget will feel she is "too old" to attend. I need to savor these times. Check the photos!

The party's over. One tired bunny.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today in the Garden (Part Trois)

My fledgling tomato and pepper plants survived Tuesday's wind storm. I didn't get the seeds in yesterday as it rained all day, such welcome rain!

The seeds went in today. I put in:
  • Snow peas
  • Carrots (about the ONLY vegetable Aidan eats, he's looking forward to them!)
  • Nasturtims - both because they're pretty, AND because they're edible. Several colors
  • 2 varieties of pole beans
  • 2 varieties of cucumbers
  • Rainbow Swiss Chard - hope it's as pretty as the picture!
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce. Something I'll call "Surprise Salad." I found a few seed packages that were a pretty mix of things like mesculin, arugula, oak leaf, etc. so have sown about a dozen varieties and we'll see what comes up!
  • One space-hogging squash. Yellow straight necked.

Hopefully tomorrow they'll have a better selection of lettuce sets at the nursery, I want to put in some of those so I don't have to wait so long for salad from seed.

I still have about 7-8 square feet left that I will continue planting seeds of lettuce, radish, chard and beets every few weeks so I have fresh produce for several weeks.

At least that's how it works in the books. We'll see.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Today in the Garden (Part Deux)

I redrew my garden plan. I felt the space hogging squash would be best placed towards a corner of the planter, so that at least some of it's spreading leaves could spill over the edge and wouldn't take up the valuable real estate of my raised beds.

I'm going to try "succession planting" for some vegetables - ones that aren't continuous harvesters (like beans, tomatoes, etc.) So radishes, carrots, and things with a limited harvest window (lettuce, chard, spinach) I will plant in phases. Some of my early plantings will go where the squash leaves will eventually wind up when it reaches it's full size.

Today I filled the beds with a combination of cotton burr compost and whatever the big pile of really good composted organic matter is out on the back acre. Lots of good hard labor, I probably will be a bit sore in the morning, especially my back. But, all the "heavy lifting" is done now.

I laid out my grid (I am heavily influenced by the square foot gardening concept), and planted the few plants I was able to pick up at the nursery this morning. They were pretty picked over from the busy weekend, so I waited for them to unload their delivery. Plenty of tomatoes and peppers, but no lettuces nor other leafy greens. Maybe later this week.

So - into the ground today went: Lemon Boy tomato, Amish Paste tomato, Mr. Stripey tomato, Sugary tomato, Big Beef tomato, Roma tomato and Red Beauty pepper. I tried for a mix of tomatoes that would satisfy Ray and Bridget's love of sliced tomatoes and my desire to make flavorful sauces.

I also bought seeds. LOTS of them! They'll go in later this week.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Today in the Garden

We built the 2nd raised bed.

We cleared the groundcover out of the area the beds will occupy and pruned the Rosemary Gone Wild.

We attached the old broken awning frames to the beds to act as trellises for the climbing plants (tomatoes, beans, etc.)

We took a trip to the local nursery to scout out plants and seeds and to get a professional opinion on the organic matter that is in a big grass-covered heap on the back acre. Too long to wait for an actual soil analysis, but the way the guys eyes lit up when he felt it and smelled it was enough for us.
All in all, a good day's work. I'll wait until mid-week to buy compost, plants, seeds and get it all in the ground!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mary Mary Quite Contrary....

.... How does your garden grow?

No little bells, nor cockle shells. It'll be radishes and swiss chard all in a row for me!

I've never been much of a green thumb. Gave up on house plants over 20 years ago since I could never keep so much as a Wandering Jew or Spider Plant alive.

But.... I'm going to try to grow some food.

I've had inspiration coming at me from all directions. Some neighbors out on the road have made a large garden that four families will work. I've watched them all winter as they scavenged grass clippings, leaves, straw bales & horse manure from around the neighborhood and they've built 3 enormous raised beds that have been percolating all that organic material all winter.

I truly enjoyed the fresh produce from the farmer's market last season and am craving it again. I found lots of ways to incorporate the freshest, most local stuff into my family's diet. I read an amazing book by Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) that encouraged me to do this. I truly believe that it's the right thing to do to try and not eat so many things that have to travel thousands of miles to make it to my table. No, I'm not giving up imported proscuitto. Nor French wines. I'm just going to try to do a little better. For my family, for our farmers, for the planet.

And I'm starting right here at home. I am actually going to try to learn to garden.

I picked a spot that is close to the house so the dogs can drive off the bunnies and deer. It'll be out of the heat of the sun during the hot Texas afternoons. It's got a water spiggot right nearby. All the ideal requirements for a beginner to have success.

Step one is to build to planter boxes for this. I'm going to make two that are 3' x 5'. This will give me 30 square feet to garden. For vining plants, I am recycling the frame parts from our gazebo we lost in a snowstorm last spring. I am planning on planting:
  • 1 squash plant which is a space hog. It needs 8-9 square feet! But my fantasy is to pick a squash, walk to the grill, throw it on w/ a little olive oil, sip my gin & tonic, and then eat freshly grilled veggies!
  • 6 tomato plants. This is too many for one family to consume, but I am planning on canning!
  • 8 bean vines - my friend Carolyn has a GREAT recipe for canning spicy beans. Maybe I need more
  • 2 cucumber plants
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 snowpea vines
  • 40 beet plants, planted in phases so I will have a new crop coming up every week
  • 80 radish plants, also in phases. They grow quick and maybe will get Bridget interested
(note to self: maybe back off on the beets and radishes a bit - it seems excessive)
  • 5 square feet devoted to lettuces - about 20 plants in all, also to be sown and harvested in phases so I have fresh salad all summer
  • 4-6 Swiss chard plants
  • 1 square foot each for spinach and basil
Come for dinner - sometime in late May - we're having salad!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The results are in. My kid is officially fast.

State champs is finally over. What a long couple of days. BIG thanks to Papa and Grandma for flying in from California to support Aidan. BIG thanks to Ray for chauffering them around so their "Swim Meet Experience" was pleasant.

HUGE kudos to Aidan, who swam his heart out. In EVERY event, he not only dropped time, but wound up placing higher than he was seeded. Meaning he beat kids he wasn't expected to.

He officially is in the Top 20 in Texas for 2 freestyle events (50 & 100 yard) and is officially in the TOP TEN in Texas for 2 backstroke events (50 & 100 as well).

Here is a video of him swimming in the finals for 50 back. It is a Big Deal to swim at finals and I'm glad he earned the right to do it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How stoopid is Kellogg's?

You don't even have to be connected to the sport of swimming to know that Michael Phelps lost his Kellogg's contract because he was hanging around with people untrustworthy enough to take a camera phone shot of him having a bong hit.

Apparently, Kellogg's had already produced the Frosted Flakes product. Oh, what to do with case upon case of Frosted Flakes with Mr. Bong Hit's face smiling next to Tony the Tiger?

Altruism prevailed and they donated all of the cereal to the San Francisco Food Bank.

Stupidity prevailed and they left the boxes "as is."

Capitalism prevailed and now those boxes are all over ebay.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Speedy Boy

State swim championships begins this week and Aidan has qualified in four events.

I am so proud of that kid. You wouldn't believe how hard he works, how many hours he trains. During summer and holiday weeks, he gets up at 5:30 or 6am to work out. He swims several thousand yards a day. Sometimes twice a day.

He's given up so much to get to where he's at. Nothing good comes without sacrifice, and I am glad he is reaping the rewards. He's proud of himself and he is so energized by swimming.

I will Twitter from the meet with updates - those updates will appear over to the right on this blog ("Brief random musings"), or you can sign up on Twitter to "follow me" and get updates sent right to your cell phone.

Here's the basic schedule.....

His first event is Friday - probably about 11am. It is the 50-back and it's his best event. It is the only event in which he MAY qualify for finals. If you finish in the top 8, you come back at night and swim in the finals and it is a Big Deal. It isn't the usual organized chaos of a meet where there is one event right after the other until it seems there have been thousands of swimmers (oh wait, there HAVE) and seems you've been there for hours (oh wait, you HAVE). This is just the best 8 kids (one heat only) in each of 32 events.

Aidan is ranked..... wait for it....... EIGHTH in the state in this event. Doh! Keep your fingers crossed for him!

After the 50-back prelims, he gets an hour or so to rest, and then he swims in the 400-free relay.

Saturday he swims four times. First thing in the AM is the 200 medley relay, he starts it off with the 50-back. Then comes the individual 100-back. He's ranked 11th in the state in this, and could possibly make top 8 to final, but it'll be a stretch. Stranger things have happened, but he was sick for 3 weeks recently, so we'll see. After that, he swims the 50 free and I expect a "middle of the pack" finish. The final event of the day is the 200 free relay. IF he finals in the 100-back, I expect the coach to put a sub in the relay as Aidan will need to come home and sleep for 2-3 hours before evening finals.

Sunday he swims the 100-free, and again, I'm expecting another middle-of-the-pack finish. He finishes the day with the 400 medley relay, again starting them off with the backstroke (100 yards). I would imagine that we'll go back for finals that night just to watch, and to hear the meet results the moment they're available. Our team has really "turned up the volume" this last year with some new coaches and new philosophies and we are expecting our best ever ranking in the state. We even expect our 11-12 girls to finish first in their age group.

This has been an amazing ride. Just to watch this pack of young swimmers train, compete against each other, encourage each other.... to see all their ups and downs with wins, illnes & injury, listen to the gaggle of them in the carpool, learn how complex training can be, etc. it's just been great.

What a sport. What a kid.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Over the hill, but doable

This past Saturday was Open That Bottle Night. Many wine collectors have a couple of bottles stashed away that are reserved for some special occasion. We forget we have it, the occasion never happened, we drank something else; but for whatever reason, there is often That Bottle languishing there, dusty and forgotten.

So, for no occasion other than just enjoying wine, you are supposed to dig out that bottle, open it, and enjoy it.

Sometime early in our history, I gave Ray That Bottle. It was so long ago that neither of us remembers the occasion. It couldn't have been TOO early, as the note I'd written would have been awfully presumptuous. It said to handle with care and to enjoy together in May of 2001, which would have been the 10th anniversary of our first date. So, it was far enough along in our relationship that I assumed we'd still be together in 10 years.

That Bottle was an '86 Stags Leap Cabernet.

Saturday night was no special occasion. I'd been up early for swimming and the Science Olympiad (Aidan tood 5th in the whole District!). Ray had helped coach baseball practice out in the cold. Bridget had a friend over and Aidan was bouncing between our house and the neighbors. It was just another night.

But, we did it. We opened That Bottle. It was 22 years old, the cork was still moist, what the heck.

It was drinkable. Very earthy (I like that!), it tasted old (as it should), but it was probably a bit past it's prime. We enjoyed it anyway.

"Over the hill, but doable," Ray said.

Just like us!