Saturday, August 30, 2008

Leah


What happens when The Cousins have too much time on their hands and too many boys to entertain...introducing.... Leah! Colleen and Amy didn't want to dress up but Leah was happy to oblige. And what a lovely little girl he is!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You know it's Back-To-School time when...

Sandwiches sprout letters and numbers.


Apples sprout sprinkles.


The Schultüte crop is ready to harvest.


Apple cupcakes are full of book worms.


Batter-batter Baseball season comes to an end.


You find out your girlfriend has preschool on different days in September. Sob.

Your mom throws a back-to-school party!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Three Days: Eat, Drink, Repeat

"You say it's your birthday It's my birthday too - yeah They say it's your birthday We're gonna have a good time I'm glad it's your birthday Happy birthday to you."
-The Beatles

Well, my birthday was technically a bit over a month ago but sometimes gifts aren't always available when needed. In this case, Carrie and Meghan signed Matt and myself up for a cooking class at The Inn At Essex, Vermont:

"Prepare a three-course meal in our famous "Chef Inn Training" culinary class with Chef (Courtney) Contos. You will use fresh ingredients from our garden. The Inn's very own Horticulturist, Stephanie Solt, will be in the class preparing us for our garden tour and will be available for gardening questions."

Fun stuff! The prospect of prepping and cooking a meal (for the student chefs in training and two opportunistic, tag along spouses) in a professional test kitchen with fresh products from the kitchen garden and professional oversight and guidance was too much to ever consider saying no to. Oh, and the the Inn is part of the wonderful New England Culinary Institute (NECI).

So...we now have a reason for a road trip to VT for the weekend!

Day 0:

Thankfully, Carrie's parents were able to take the boys for the weekend while we escaped. Friday started with a little kids' back-to-school party at the house. Needing some quiet time for work, I left mid-way through the party for the Gardner Ale House in Gardner, MA as they have food, beer and free wireless access so I can work remotely. This being said, the weekend of food, beverages and repetition began close to home at the GAH with their very drinkable, Czech-alike pilsner (needs some Perle hops to crisp and bitter it up, IMO) and continued later with Berkshire Brewing Corp.'s Steel Rail Pale Ale (my absolute favorite summer beer).

Day 1:

Off to VT after some morning errands. First stop...Harpoon Brewery in Windsor,VT. I've been a big fan of Harpoon since I moved to MA 11 or so years ago. The Oktoberfests at their Boston location were always fun with friends and they make the single best IPA in the US. The Windsor brewery had some construction going on but that didn't stop and serving and tasting! The IPA is great, as I just stated, so I mostly veered away from it, instead going for a succession beginning with their cider, up to the Summer Ale, a gratuitous IPA and finally ending with their (wheat wine) Triticus.

Hmmm...time is getting tight so we'll have to put-off a trip to Long Trail Brewery until our descent back down the state. Off to the White River Junction area where I missed the Norwich Inn Brewery in Norwich,VT six weeks ago when I was at a conference at Dartmouth College. Lunch was straight-forward and not a complaint was to be heard in the gentrified, old inn. Around the table we had the following in both various tasting flights and pints: Whistling Pig Red Ale, Old Slipperyskin IPA, (I think) Jasper Murdock's ESB, Fuggle & Barleycorn and the (favorite) Famous Sidekick.

Holy Impreial Stout, Batman! We need to find our way to Essex, VT to begin cooking in 90 minutes!!!

OK, so it wasn't too difficult. We make it to the Inn at Essex 30 minutes before the class begins, check-in, freshen-up and find our way to The Tavern for a pre-prandial libation (or three). They didn't brew on the premises so, poor us, had to settle for Long Trail Brewery's Belgian White Ale while we waited (read more of this post for more info).

Matt and I assembled (pints in-hand) in the test kitchen and greet our instructors. Very casual, wonderfully pleasant chefs and class participants. There was a broad range of talent and experience in the room and we all came together as a group and prepared a three-course meal that did us proud:
  • Nibbles of Grafton cheddar with smoked sea salt and habenero maple syrup along with crustini with local herbed chevre
  • Panzanella with heirloom tomatoes, grilled shrimp, fresh mozzarella (and other yummies)
  • Corn risotto with pan-seared scallops and roasted golden beets (and other yummies)
  • Molten chocolate cake with lavender shortbread and pomegranite-infused vanilla ice cream (and other yummies)
It was a fun experience that you don't really get when you're cooking for family or for a specific party, even if you know how to follow the recipe you're given and know the techniques; it's just fun being in a good kitchen with good ingredients with like-minded people. We followed it all up with a (much-needed) walk after dinner and spent 90 minutes or so touring the ornamental and kitchen gardens and actually getting a much more technical education than the kitchen segment!

Husk cherries are really interesting to eat and jewel vine attracts bears...two useful things to remember.

So now we're fat, slow and happy for the night. What better to do than go back to the bed and breakfast we've taken rooms at. Wait...the same B&B owned by a Lithuanian, Olympic family? The same B&B on Rt. 7 just outside of Burlington,VT? The same B&B...yes, that Carrie and I shared our first weekend away at when she discovered the joys of Burlington for the first time. Selection of the B&B was a completely random event, I'm told (only place with rooms on UVM move-in weekend).

So how do we wrap-up a day of driving, eating, sipping, cooking and synchronicity? A few bottles of wine in front of the TV watching the Olympics and Iron Chef USA. Sigh...maybe we are getting old but I slept GREAT that night.

Day 2:

Yawn, stretch, argh...daylight. What is this strange, bright orb in the sky? Actually, the weather has been absolutely perfect. 80F or so, clear skies and no humidity. Oh yeah, we also just ate and drank ourselves to happy oblivion yesterday. Let's do it again today!!!

B&B breakfast was good for everyone except me (eggs Benedict and I can't stand eggs unless they're cooked to some rubbery form that allows them to be a vehicle for better tasting things).

I don't know everything but I remembered a few things about Burlington that I hoped hadn't changed. First off...right fine coffee and nibbles at Muddy Waters on Main St. in Burlington. I swear, this place is a close cousin of the great Coffee Exchange I loved when working in Providence, RI.

What's Burlington and the associated edge of Lake Champlain if you don't take a tourist/UVM parent stroll up and down Church St. in Burlington? Meghan bought Birkenstocks while Matt and I dreamed of more beer. Birkenstocks in-hand, beer was ready to be acquired!

Did someone say more beer? Right, that! A short stroll back to Vermont Pub and Brewery had us seated for another set of tasting flights and myself going straight for the two cask-drawn offerings - Dogbite ESB and Mick's Smoked Stout. We emerged, aware of our geographic location and with a vague sense of how long it would really take to get anywhere. Especially when we needed to visit the Magic Hat and Long Trail breweries on the way!

Magic Hat was nixed, sadly but understandably. I think we all tried to rationalize it in some way but suspect that we would have tried to do Magic Hat AND tried to do Long Trail. Especially when a trip to Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream in Waterbury, VT for a factory tour and tastings were in order for the day.

As it was, finding Long Trail in Bridgewater Corners, VT was a feat when you don't really have directions or have conflicting directions. I point my finger at Meghan at this point but that's mainly because my BlackBerry died and I didn't have Google Maps (my god, what in the world has travel come to???) and her directions just "felt" wrong based on the previous day but she got us there in the end. Kudos to Meghan.

Long Trail Brewing
...oh how I've loved thee. Your Long Trail Amber introduced me to VT brewing and I've never stopped loving you. The Hibernator and Double Bag got me through some special times and I was just as happy a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon your Belgian White. Oh my. Your food menu was standard pub grub but the flights of tasting brews were enjoyed by everyone and my new-found dedication to the Belgian White leave the food as a distant, unneeded memory.

So this is a great weekend and b-day gift, right? Yes, yes it is, if you're not following the box scores. I want just ONE last pint, however. We need to go through Greenfield, MA and I want to stop at The People's Pint. I haven't been here in years and it might totally disappoint me. I doubt it but it could happen. It opened the year I moved to western MA and was the only reason I would ever consider leaving my genteel existence in Northampton at the time for a pint of beer. Times have changed and the Amherst Ale House appears to have been replaced by a strip mall so I hold-out for a time when I can revisit the People's Pint and pretend I'm a decade younger and a decade more hip than now.

We didn't stop for a pint but I'm still thankful for a great weekend and was equally happy to see the boys and dog again after 36 long/short hours. Time to finish this post, have one last pint of Steel Rail and call it a night.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lazy Days of Summer

We did very little this week. And enjoyed it immensely. The highlights:

We had a nature walk around the yard and our street which, thanks to some inside-out painters tape thrilled the boys more than I could ever have imagined a free activity could. They tried desperately to out-search each other for better, more colorful finds. Their favorites: pebbles for Liam (who couldn't be convinced that large boulders wouldn't stick to his tape bracelet... "I just try it and see" is his new favorite phrase) and "pop-pods" for Colin (if anyone knows what those flowers are called, you know, the orange ones that kind of look like little cornucopia and are always found alongside the road with those green pods the burst when you brush by them? I am not a botanist, but I know good kid fun when I see it. Hours were spent trying to find "big popable pods".

After finding the boys in the suitcase, I decided it was time to put it away, finally. Of course, we're going away this weekend so just in time to have to take it out again, naturally.


The swings are up! We were so excited we braved the thick masses of mosquitoes to finish them up after the kids were in bed. Thanks to the self-timer and 98.9% deet, we managed to document it too.


The Hardwick Fair was this weekend and always a hit. This is the first year the big boys rode horses without being scared.


Can you tell Christopher doesn't play golf? The kids don't even know how to hold the club properly but had fun whacking it around regardless.


They were more adept at the soccer obstacle course.


The hay course was far and away the day's winner for them (mostly because the long-awaited frog-hopping race had too many spectators surrounding it for the little tots to catch a glimpse).

I have never, ever, seen Colin so happy as in the obstacle course. He, who tends toward whining and being less-than-impressed with the mere mortals he must deal with each day, just laughed and laughed, chatted up strangers and was immensely proud that he could maneuver the rope swing moat by himself (Liam required a helping hand for it). It was worth the 10 bucks for the all-day family ticket because he loved it that much.


Eamon being his usual demonic self. Every time he got out of the stroller he would run around pushing it maniacally through the crowds. In order to save the fate of the throng, we bribed him to get back in his four-wheeled jail with icecream. Works like a charm.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wonder Woman


I can't tell you how many times people stop me out in public to ooh and ahh (and not in a good way) about having three boys. I have plenty of friends who have 3 kids close in age like ours and I don't think they garner quite the attention if they have girls or a mix of both. People seem to assume having all boys must be "a handful" as the kindest of comments seem to run. They are. But, as they have spent hours in the past two days pouring over catalogs trying to pick the best Halloween costume (refusing to listen to my lament that they have months left to decide), one thing has become clear: superheroes are "in" right now in this household. I can no longer call them Colin or Liam, but must address them as "Batman" or "Superman" or "Spiderman" or "Aquaman" (whom Daddy introduced over the weekend to put an end to the arguments over having two Spidermen at the same time-- my double X chromosome must have kept me from hearing of Aquaman whoever he is, but I did have Wonder Woman underroos in my distant youth). So, would I like to pick out frilly outfits for a girl? Sure. But I have a lot of friends with girls so I still get to do a lot of pink shopping. But, how many moms of girls get to hear, as they work diligently (and today, alone) with drill and ratchet on the epic swingset, "Batman, you go get the screws, Wonder Woman needs them!" Bestill my heart... moms of girls might be wonderful moms, but *I* am Wonder Woman and in the history of little boys, that might be the best compliment yet!!

Rainy Days

I spent the week finding boredom busters to combat the rain. One day was spent at the Ecotarium which was fun because they have a weather exhibit right now hosted by the Zula Patrol. It's a PBS kids show about space which Colin just discovered and loves. (Anything space, planets, cosmos, etc is big these days). We also happened to show up, unexpectedly, just in time for preschool craft and storytime.

Eamon tried his hand at the mouse craft while I drank copious amounts of free coffee. That's mommy's criteria for a good craft hour!

Good pupils that they are, the boys sat right in front at storytime and answered ALL the questions. In fact, Liam had to be ushered out finally because he asked the staff 1982121 questions about the "animal of the day" (a chinchilla) until he finally ran over into the next story hour! Is this kid ready for school or what?!?

Demon and his magnets.

"Trust the Gorton's Fisherman..."

Captain Liam mans the helm.

The Zula Patrol are aliens that save the solar system. The boys fit right in!

And see what it's like to control the wind!

Who ISN'T thrilled by dry ice clouds?? Colin has been super into clouds and rain lately and begs for kitchen sponges to use as clouds in the bathtub.


Liam fooling around in the giftshop. As cute a polar bear as he is, I always find masks a little creepy.

Super huge baby sees how he measures up to a polar print.

Master of the Universe plays with the fates of the planets.

"Hey, they don't make these microscopes at my height so I HAD to climb up to see it!"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Show-off!

video

I know, I know, it's kind of sideways. I can never seem to remember that you can't turn videos around. You'll get the gist even if you do get a stiff neck. Keep in mind that I heard a commotion in the playroom while making dinner and ran in to find Eamon standing in the middle of the table cackling. I, of course, immediately got him down. He, of course, immediately got back up. Being the type of mother I am, instead of admonishing him again... I got out the camera. Check out the look on his face, it is so priceless. Pride goeth before a fall, don't you know! Don't worry... at the end when it looks like the camera ducks and he falls off... he didn't. I caught him, I swear. This time...

video

Here's some slightly less dangerous fun. Eamon always wakes up in a wonderful mood and is so happy to see me and start his day! Here he is showing off his crazy joyous nature.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Busy Bees


Our busy week started with a "sleepover" with Baby Jake that the boys were soooo excited about. I was terrified that Eamon would continue his jealous streak and shriek the entire time, but he was really quite good with the baby and was the official "back-burper, bottle-bringer, binky-putter-backer boy". We woke up on day 2 with no water (Alas, we now have a lovely new well pump though.) Who says you need water to care for four boys under four?


Though he did attempt to be the "baby" himself for a while, trying to squish his oversize tubbiness into the a Jake-size bed.

I, personally, rue the day that Moon Sand was created. It is the bane of my existence, really. But the kids love it. And we were learning all about the moon and moon stations this week and they are already obsessed with space as it is. So, when Colin decided to use his little astronauts to recreate the surface of the moon replete with craters and shooting stars, I had to agree that moon sand probably was the right medium for this project. And, if you've never touched it, it really is a tactile delight. However, clean up was always the reason I hated Moon Sand because it filled all of the cracks between our old floor boards and wouldn't come out. Thanks to the arrival of my brandy-new Dyson vacuum however, I could finally say "yes" with pleasure. You know you are old and lifeless when the highlight of your week is a new vacuum (which you have painstakingly researched and drooled over for a long time), but so be it. My floors are sand-free!!


Great. Next week he'll want nunchucks!


Eamon has actually learned to sit down recently, though. And loves to color. He only eats the crayons about 40% of the time now.


Spidey scales a wall while playing at the playground with his friends Max and Harry.


They showed a remarkable lack of fear yesterday. So I got to sit back and chat. Perfection.


Mt. Everest for the toddler demographic.


Once he mastered the rock wall, Eamon was thrilled to see a new perspective from above. He was mesmerized by the changing light peeking through the holes.


Day 2 of the Swingset Build. (I implore you to ignore the 3 month hiatus between Day 1 and Day 2. I know I'm trying to...) We have a floor!


And walls. (And way too many helping hands.)


And a roof!! The monstrosity begins to take shape.


A day of construction is very tiring. This is poor Liam before I could even get the food TO the table.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beat the Heat

We had a fairly quiet week around here. After hurting my back last Friday, I spent 3 days laying on the couch, unable to move, walk or cater to boy-os. (Kind of like a vacation though, really. Minus the pain). I have since spent the last 7 days trying to recover from the inevitable disaster that overtakes the house when Mom is not "on duty". The boys helped... to one degree or another.


Eamon proudly showing off his new Red Sox hat that Daddy bought him. The men of the house had a lovely day out while I languished on the couch drooling from the pain meds and watching TV. Eamon was obviously telling me to take him swimming as he carried around his swim diapers for an entire day...


He gets in on the cleaning action. He doesn't do a great job, but it is easier to let him try than to pry the vac out of his screaming arms so that I can do it myself. He's also super into cleaning anything with rags--except himself.

Case in point. What better way to beat the summer heat than homemade pudding pops!


And what else epitomizes summer than corn on the cob? We have three little cobbers and they will do ANYTHING for their corn on the cob!


Auntie Kelly cleaned out her house this week too.... and brought all KINDS of stuff over to us. Which the boys love. Now I just need a bigger house for it all. Liam LOVES dressing up his Build-a-bear frog. But, unlike Colin who loves to match, Liam is all about "mix and match" as he says. Here's his roller skating fireman football player. A perfect outfit in his eyes.


All hands on deck! We decided to make fresh bread this week and Eamon mastered climbing up on the kitchen chairs for the first time to help. He HATES being left out of the big boy fun, but he threatens to fall off constantly (and has done it a few times just to scare me) but they all enjoyed kneading.


One of our teddy bear loaves. So cute!

And tasty! Colin wouldn't touch bread if his life depended on it, but Liam is a little carbo-loader and scarfed down a couple big bears all on his own.

As did Little Mr. Chipmunk Cheeks who, once filled to capacity, finally decided to chew.