Saturday, February 27, 2016

muddy bike/hike

On Sunday we went for our usual weekly jaunt in Forest Park - the "tire-swing" parking spot this time - down old Springville Rd, along the Wildwood to the Ridge trail, up the Ridge and then back along Firelane 7. It's one of my favorite loops. Sebastian insisted on bringing the old skuut bike, against my objections, and the children had a ball riding it through the mud and down the hills, cackling with glee. To his credit, Seb didn't ask me to carry it even once, and I was happy to admit that I'd been wrong in my skepticism.

Spring is in the air - the camellias are in full bloom, the daffodils are bursting out, the forsythia and cherry trees are starting to show some color, and the new crop of ferns and clovers are unfurling in the woods. Today's rain even smelled like spring - all mossy green earth coming to life. I have been delighted and amazed every February to so viscerally feel the turn of the seasons here. For a girl who has lived in Edmonton - Amherst - Sweden - New York - the Portland spring always comes early, before I expect it, in the most delightful way.

Friday, February 26, 2016

kitchen projects

I have fallen hard for a honey whole wheat sandwich bread made by a local bakery - and by fallen hard, I mean we bought and ate 3 loaves in a week. On researching it further, I discovered that the bakery was using flour made from artisanal strains of wheat grown and ground locally (o, bestill my Oregon foodie heart!). So I promptly got some of the flour (Red Fife bread flour - an heirloom Canadian strain! - and Edison white whole wheat) and turned my attention to baking some loaves.

My trusty kitchen helper - and to make it even better, using my great-grandfather's baking bowl.
The finished loaf: oat-wheat-rye bread. The first loaf was very good - delicious flavor and good crumb - the second one I left to slowly rise in the fridge for a few days, and it came out extremely dense. Let's call that one the "German rye" variant - it requires butter and honey.  :)  
Since I was on a roll, I also made an end-of-winter gingerbread cake. One more spicy, gingery, dark molasses cake before the yogurt-berry/strawberry-rhubarb/carrot cakes of spring arrive.

On another note, I tried my hand at making yogurt from scratch on Wednesday night. I had been assured that it was not difficult, and then friend Anne double-dog-dared me to improve on her recent foray. My competitive nature roared to life, and this was the result. It was delicious.
And of course, what's homemade yogurt without homemade maple almond pecan granola to go with it?  Is this the moment at which I realize I've jumped the shark on becoming a Portlander? Or does that designation await the purchase of chickens, or a goat, or the launch of my Etsy business?  At any rate, my family approved. Breakfast today was delicious.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Uptown Funk

Just another Friday morning in our house. :)  I blame Steve for this one.

Untitled from B. Avery on Vimeo.

In related news, both kids got new running shoes, having worn holes in their old ones. Liesl requested pink light-up shoes and we found a snazzy pair with brightly colored lights. Seb, in a surprise move, requested pink Nikes. I was astonished, as he's always been set on blue blue blue. Apparently pink is the new favorite color of all the second and third grade boys in his class. I tried to be encouraging of his diversion and yet also honest about the fact that it might be an unusual pick. Plus, I told him he'd be wearing them for a few months and so to make sure he was sure, because if he changed his mind in a week we weren't buying new ones.

He was super happy to get them and wore them to school today. Predictably, everyone in his class thought they were awesome, but he reported sadly that all the other boys at lunch recess teased him about his pink shoes. But: when asked, he reported that he said "Well, I like them and think they're cool, so I don't care what you say." I was proud of his response but still wished there'd been a little less teasing and a little more support.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

my boys

A Sunday walk in Forest Park with my boys (Liesl was at Camille's birthday show) - it was warm and sunny and altogether lovely, and I could feel spring around the corner.

And.. this is just a random photo of Liesl on a random morning... She appeared downstairs at 6:20, dressed in this getup and declaring that she was ready for school. (!) It could be connected to the fact that the children have restarted swim lessons after a year-long hiatus, and she's SUPER excited about it. We've decided to spring for semi-private lessons - just the two of them in a pool with an instructor - in the hopes that it will move Sebastian along a little more. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

pizza parlor

It never fails... I start thinking about giving away an old, unused toy, and the children discover a freshly creative way of playing with it and I lose my resolve. The play kitchen has sat unused in Liesl's closet for months, but over the weekend it made a reappearance as the counter and kitchen for their pretend pizza parlor. We were the customers - the menus were elaborate - they had so much fun.

So of course the logical next step was to  make real pizza from scratch - yeast, flour, salt and water; canned tomatoes and herbs; fresh mozzarella and parmesan; assorted toppings. I've made pizza before but the children haven't helped much, so I was excited to have their enthusiastic attention. We made the dough first thing on Monday morning, let it rise all day, and then everyone got their own personal ball of dough to shape and stretch and top and bake.

Liesl went for tomato sauce, three cheeses, olives, and spinach.
Sebastian wanted tomato sauce, heaps of mozzarella, and spinach.
This is Steve's, who had three different pizzas on one medium-sized pie crust (indecisive?).
Mine is not pictured, but had butternut squash, brussels sprouts, spinach, olives, and chevre - it was absolutely delicious. Everyone was happy and pleased with themselves. :) 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

We had heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast - with blueberries - exchanged homemade cards, and then enjoyed a sweet and lovely home day.
We played soccer and frisbee and basketball at the school field; Sebastian and I played chess, Liesl and I played Connect 4 and a memory game; everyone read books; Liesl drew a picture; the children watched a tv show; Seb practiced piano; we went on a very muddy and fun hike on the Saltzman Rd trail in Forest Park. It was my kind of family day, full of good food and happy people and both outdoor and indoor fun. 

Oh, and we bought WAY too many chocolate bars at the New Seasons sale (50% off!) - we had a taste-testing extravaganza of the various bars, plus the remains of a chocolate cake I had made on Thursday. Yum.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

random things

Sebastian's friends at school have nicknamed him "Subway". (In reference to the sandwich chain, not the trains, unfortunately.) That's what they call him on the soccer field and at lunch recess - he claims that "everyone" exclusively calls him Subway now. I kind of like it, it's fun and active and unusual, and it's a sign that he has an independent life outside of us.

In turn, Sebastian has taken to calling Liesl "Lees", which is the most obvious nickname, and yet not something that anyone else has ever called her. I wonder if it will stick? I wonder if her friends will call her that, especially if she plays team sports?  It's so fun to think about. My own nickname was bestowed by 3-year old Carl and stuck with me for a long while - no one called me by my full name until I graduated from high school and left home. Now, only Steve, and family when they're visiting, regularly call me Bri. None of the very close friends that I've made here call me that, and very few of my NY and Columbia friends and colleagues ever did. It's interesting to me that you can outgrow what was once your name.

On another note:  On Tuesday this week, Sebastian asked me who I was planning to vote for in the presidential election. I was a little surprised, by which I mean totally unprepared, to answer the question, since he's never before evinced any interest in politics. And Steve and I discuss issues and the candidates, but often when the children are asleep or otherwise not around to interrupt us.  So I sort of hemmed and hawed and talked about how it was a long process to choose the candidates, wondering what to say about the process of the primaries and the selection of candidates in various states, and the two-party system, etc. I basically froze at the sheer complexity of the American political system, in part because my sense is that he knows very little. While I was cogitating, Sebastian said: "I think you should vote for Trump." "What??" I said, "I would never. Ever. Unless the other option was Ted Cruz, and then maybe, but just no. Why do you say that?"  Sebastian: "Because everyone is voting for him and he's going to win anyway, so you should just vote for him too."  I was utterly floored, too flabbergasted to contest the statement appropriately. (Side note: a truly smart stance from an evolutionary perspective: identify the alpha male, and get behind him early.) Happily, I recovered my brainpower that evening and managed to have a really good conversation with him the next day about the electoral system, the two parties and their major policy differences, and my political views. Phew.

Liesl has been particularly interested in word meanings lately, which has been really fun - lots of definitions being given and discussions about shades of meaning - I can't remember a tenth of her questions, but just off the top of my head - what does "necessary" mean? what does object mean? what does collaborate mean?  Did you know that when you say food is hot it can mean two different things? what does charming mean?  Etc. It's a fun age and she is endlessly curious and interested, able to focus for a long time on understanding something.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sebastian's piano recital

Sebastian's piano class had their end-of-semester recital yesterday. It was pretty informal, just in the classroom during the last half of the regular class time, but still everyone's first time playing in front of a largish group of family members. Sebastian was a little nervous but handled it very well - no grouchiness or temper, no upset stomach - and he played four (very short) songs beautifully.  He had to come to the front, introduce himself and the song he was playing, sit and play, and then stand up and take a bow at the end. He was a little shy, but did well, and I was proud.

We celebrated with an assortment of mini cupcakes from Saint Cupcake - yum! He will continue with the same teacher and many of the same children during the spring semester, again in a group lesson format. He has indicated that he's interested in private lessons, so we will most likely pursue that next year - so far so good! I admit I was nervous entering into piano lessons, fearing that it was a whim on his part that would be an expensive foray into horrendous nagging on my part. I won't say there hasn't been nagging, but he's mostly practiced his 20 minutes a day with minimum grumbling - especially since we moved the piano into the living room - and he's definitely still enjoying it. I hope it continues, as it's nice to see him exploring an alternative interest and side of his personality.

I took a couple of not-very-interesting photos, but my laptop is wonky and I'm letting it have a moment to itself, so the photos remain on the camera. I'll add the pics to this post later. :)
Edited to add:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

preschool "endeavors"

Liesl's classroom at school is trying out something new: every Wednesday they meet in small groups, with a teacher and friends from their own Dragonfly class and the next-door Butterflies, with the aim of exploring a subject in depth. The children were asked to rate five choices: science (bugs and seeds), murals, movement (dance and gymnastics and yoga), sewing, and book-making. They'll stick with the same theme and teacher for the next two months.

Liesl picked science and murals as her top two, and was placed in the murals group (along with bestie Nina!).  They have so far spent time learning about the concept of murals, going on a field trip to see giant-size murals in downtown Portland, looking at pictures of murals in various library books, brainstorming together about the theme and subject of their mural, and sketching out their ideas. It's been amazing to see the excitement about the various projects. I wish all school could be like Liesl's preschool.

Their concept and display wall, with various photos of their sketches and collaboration, their field trip, and just their learning about the ideas of murals and seeing pictures of famous murals.

On an unrelated note, they've been playing around with felt collages and storytelling using collage materials. This is one of Liesl's creations and the accompanying story.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

dancing queen

When I picked Liesl up from preschool yesterday, her teacher was playing Vanilla Ice's classic 1990 hit "Ice Ice Baby" at afternoon circle time. I couldn't help it; I busted out my best dance moves from high school and beyond. I rocked it, I danced, I kept on dancing.

Everyone laughed and cheered - all the teachers and student teachers were cracking up, the children were giggling and pointing, and Liesl was MORTIFIED. Bright pink cheeks, hiding her face: she could not have been more embarrassed. It was awesome - truly a proud moment - I look forward to so many more years of embarrassing my children.