Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer, this week















This was our eighth week of summer break.

We finally had some rain. Monday afternoon and evening, there were on-and-off storms and showers. Tuesday night brought a big storm just after the Bear and I went to bed. The rain on the roof sounded so good. I'd been waiting for it all summer long.

Our tomatoes have gone crazy! We have fresh tomatoes off the vine every single day now, three different kinds at once. I especially love the Husky cherry tomatoes but the Sweet 100 cherries are nothing to sneeze at. Cherry tomatoes are great to have around; I eat them all day like candy.

The apples are almost ready to eat, by my standards, but they're wildly popular with the kids already. They sit on the wall under the apple tree, picking apples one at a time, eating them and pitching the cores over the wall into the arroyo. Technically, they are littering, but on the other hand, they're eating healthfully and strengthening their arms. Not to mention that it's something to do.

They finished their session of swimming lessons on Friday. Both passed their level, which means that the LB is finished with the swimming-lesson program now. The GB will continue next summer. The LB will be old enough for the junior lifeguard course next year. Can you believe it?

The Bear came to the pool with us on the last day because he was off from work. He brought his travel watercolors with him (he has this set) and painted a lovely little picture of pool life. The boy in the green trunks to the left of the slide is our LB.

I did some nice cooking this week for dinners but didn't get good photos of any of it because of the cloudy evenings and the need for indoor lights. I made eggplant parmigiana, to which I have lately been adding dollops of ricotta cheese between the eggplant layers. It fills out the dish considerably and adds some protein. I also made a chicken and veggie alfredo bake with penne pasta and a Bisquick bake with egg, zucchini and parmesan (the recipe is here; I cut it into large squares for serving instead of the suggested "bites"). And I made a cinnamon-crumb coffee cake (recipe here) -  fabulous with my afternoon tea while it lasted, which wasn't long.

I'm planning a crochet project just for me! This rarely happens. I've been fantasy-shopping a little here and there now that fall clothes are starting to appear, but I'm not seeing much that I love. So I decided I would finally try to make a garment for myself. I've made lots of scarves and hats, but never a real piece of clothing for me. I'm going to crochet The Choro Top from Joy of Motion, a lovely crochet blog and pattern shop. I had some help from a friend, Teresa Kasner, in choosing a yarn for my top. I've settled on Knitpicks' Comfy Worsted Yarn, a blend of pima cotton and acrylic, in the Fairy Tale colorway, which is a deep magenta-wine color. It's very different from colors I usually wear, but hey, I'm branching out. I'm so excited!

I've been reading a wonderful book, How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life, by Ruth Goodman. It's a really interesting look at everything a typical person living in the Tudor era would have experienced, from what they ate, to what their beds were like, to the jobs they did. It's just fascinating. Goodman also wrote a similar book about Victorian life, which I've requested from the library. This is the same reason I read blogs, you know; I'm nosy and I just have to know everything about how other people live.

I hope you're having a good weekend. We're sticking close to home. It's really hot. I went to the grocery store early this morning and we've been straightening up the house and yard before some friends visit tomorrow. Tonight, the Bear and I will have takeout Chinese food for our at-home date. Ice cream, too. This coming week will be quiet, without swimming lessons. We'll probably go to the library. I think we should look at the kids' shoes and see what we need to buy before school starts, along with school supplies. Maybe it's a good time for haircuts too, before the rush; school starts in a bit more than two weeks. They say the monsoon should be active again this week; I'm hoping for a few good gully-washers. Or car-washers, I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Old Hundred













Have you ever been inside an underground mine? We had the opportunity to do this last month on our vacation in Colorado. The Old Hundred Gold Mine is located near Silverton, a Victorian mining town in the southwestern part of the state. If you ever have the chance to visit, I think you would enjoy it a lot. Old Hundred, supposedly named for a German hymn, once contained a thick vein of gold within Galena Mountain. Founded in 1872 by three brothers from Germany, the Neigolds, the mine was very productive for decades and made the Neigolds rich. Silverton was a bustling little mining community for quite a while.

At the mine site, located at the end of a long gravel road (the pavement ends about two miles before the mine), there is now a small building where the tour starts, with a real mine train car out back, for entering the mine. Everyone puts on a yellow rain slicker and a hard hat for protection inside the mine. It's cold down there, about 48 degrees all the time, and very damp, so a sweater is a good idea too. You pay the admission price, then you board the mine train, driven by your tour guide (all are retired miners), and it heads into the mountain on the original old track. It's dark as night in the mine, as you might expect, with light bulbs strung up here and there. Water runs down the rocks, leaving colorful mineral deposits. Copper, silver and lead were mined here in addition to gold.

When you're inside the mine, you're actually standing where the vein of gold used to be - they mined every last bit of it, leaving behind a winding tunnel. You have to watch your step to avoid the water flowing across the floor and along the sides of the footpath. Almost immediately, you'll feel grateful for the slicker and the hard hat. Everything about the tour is intriguing. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and experienced; he had many interesting stories to tell and he demonstrated the use of several different kinds of mining equipment. The small Bears were able to try a few things, like pushing down the plunger on an old dynamite detonator. I especially enjoyed seeing the elevator and emergency equipment, as well as the artifacts of mining life - lanterns, lunchboxes, discarded bottles and tins. In our tour group, there were some people who knew a lot about mining and the discussions were fascinating.

The tour lasts about 45 minutes before the group boards the train and it zips back out again. Then you're on your own, to pan for gold or to walk around the site. We chose the latter, walking out behind the building to look up at Galena Mountain, where you can still see the miners' boardinghouse, located 2,000 feet up the side of the mountain face (the men rode a tram to get up and down). There's an old mine train out there, which you're free to climb on. The site overlooks a ravine with a rushing creek at the bottom. There is nothing but mountains and trees as far as you can see, green and more green. It's a bit sad - the gold ran out, dreams died - but people once flocked here and some saw their fortunes made. It's hard to imagine the industry of it all now, but the abandoned boardinghouse is a good reminder. When you drive back down to Silverton, along the gravel road lined with clutches of columbine, you feel like you've experienced a secret slice of history.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer, this week
















This was our seventh week of summer break.

The heat has been brutal for the past two weeks, but it seems as if relief is in sight for the coming week. We will finally be seeing some more monsoon activity. This has been an unusually hot and dry summer so far. Everyone is feeling fed up with it. Unfortunately, our break from the heat will contribute to a scary-sounding "heat dome" situation for the Midwest. I hope it doesn't get too bad for people there.

We're eating a lot of cold foods nowadays, just trying to keep the house and our bodies cool. Our tomatoes are plentiful enough to have a few almost every day, though I still buy them at the store too. I make green salads or tomato-cucumber-basil salads most nights for dinner.

We did bake this past week, partly to keep busy but also because we felt like cookies. We made jam thumbprint cookies with our own homemade raspberry jam. It was just a small batch (this is my favorite recipe for thumbprint cookies) and they were delicious. I refrigerated them to keep them fresh and the jam drops got nice and firm, like soft jellybeans.

During the week, I really enjoyed this post about vacationing in Beirut in the 1960's, before the city was devastated by war. It's of particular interest to me because my mother's family, who are Syrian American, often vacationed in Beirut in that era and I've always tried to imagine it as the glamorous place it once was. That's a really neat blog, by the way, lots to see and learn.

The kids went back for another session of swimming lessons. We'll be there this week as well. This session is quite sparsely attended and I've got the shady knoll pretty much all to myself. It's thirty-five minutes of cool, breezy bliss.

We attended the final week of the library's summer reading program. There are still three-plus weeks until school starts and I wish they had more activities to help pass the time, but library budgets are not exactly fat these days. I understand, but still...summer break is long. We'll go to the library anyway, activities or not. The kids have both been reading a lot this summer, especially the GB - her nose is almost always in a book. It's wonderful to see.

My pirate ship cross-stitch is so close to being finished. I'm just adding the final bits of "water" detail under the ship now. I hope to have a finished, framed project soon. There's birthday-gift work to get started on.

The GB found a large clutch of empty snail shells under a wild grapevine in the arroyo. She was picking them up by the handful to save in a bag. They're really interesting; no two are alike.

I'm really enjoying these quiet summer weeks, spent mostly at home in swamp-cooled air, with short trips out for groceries, library books, swims and occasional coffees. My kids are getting older and are better at occupying themselves during the long days, which has been good for my relaxation. I'm feeling so anxious and ill-at-ease with the news and everything going on right now. I'd like to shut off and ignore it all, but I don't think that's realistic. I do my best; I tend to listen to the radio more than I watch TV, which helps. It's all just nuts - the elections, the violence, the political unrest here and abroad. Just in the time since I began writing this post (I stopped for a trip to Costco), there was another mass shooting of police officers. I just don't know what to say about that. I will say again that I'm trying to use the computer less, because it's tempting to click over to the news or - at the very least - the weather (I can torment myself with bad news in any number of ways, just try me), so if I'm scarce, you'll know why.

I hope you're having a good weekend. We're staying home the rest of the day, having gotten the Costco chore out of the way. I'm going to make iced tea now. We're grilling some pork chops and asparagus for dinner and looking forward to our Sunday night PBS watching party for two. I'm really enjoying this show Dancing on the Edge. Have you watched it? It's very good; the Bear is quite possibly the most avid John Goodman fan alive, and as usual, I'm in love with the period costumes.

I leave you with two summer songs from my adolescence, just because I've felt like listening to them lately: this one because it's about, well, summer. And this one because I once heard a radio DJ announce it as "the ANTHEM of the summer of 1995," so obviously it's of major cultural importance.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Family camp

















Last weekend, we had a family camping adventure. We camped at Black Canyon, in the Santa Fe National Forest, just a few miles north of Santa Fe and an easy one-hour drive from Albuquerque. If you're ever looking for a campground in the area, I recommend Black Canyon highly. It was high up in the forest, shaded, cool and unexpectedly quiet. I appreciated the amenities offered, such as drinking water via spigot (we brought our own 20-gallon water jug to fill), and vault toilets in a clean little building. I enjoy camping very much, but would prefer not to go totally primitive if I can help it. Our campsite was really nice too - there was a paved area with fire pit and curved rock wall for sitting around the fire, and a gravel tent-pitching area.

Do you enjoy camping? It's a fair amount of work, but I think it's worth it. There's a lot to be said for the outdoor life. The fresh air in your lungs, the wind whispering through towering, ancient pines. Yes, there are downsides too, like bugs and dirt and snoring, flailing bedfellows, but I can overlook most of the negatives because it feels good to get away and do something different together. We did the standard camping things: made Jiffy Pop popcorn on our Coleman stove, built a fire in the pit, grilled hot dogs and made s'mores at night, sat around with guitars, books and crafty projects, traipsed back and forth with a child to the toilet hut about a million times.

One of my favorite things about being in the woods during high summer is the plants. There were a few wildflowers and a lot of berries around our campsite. I really liked that they left things growing. As nicely maintained as the campground is, you're still in the forest. Birds and insects are everywhere, there are lichens and mosses on most of the trees. A dry creek-bed meandered past our campsite, detritus from countless springtime runoffs resting at its bottom. There was a lot to see and we all have the bug bites, scrapes and bruises to prove it. But we also had: singing, scary stories, hatchet lessons, endless cups of cocoa, new friends (with a cool hammock) three campsites over and the chance to be vaguely, giddily concerned about bears (the woodsy kind). 
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