Friday, September 28, 2012


The lovely Kay, my most devoted commenter, emailed me today to pass along a "hug" (virtual) because it's HUG A VEGETARIAN day!!!  How sweet is that? Kay isn't even a vegetarian. No one else I know sent me a hug!!!  (I had forgotten it was today so I was thankful that Kay reminded me.  Then I was able to send hugs to my ONE vegetarian friend.  And both of my girls!)   If you read any of the comments on this blog, you'd know that Kay is a real sweetheart.  She once sent me a package with some lovely crocheted butterflies for both girls as well as a crocheted cloth and a lovely doily.  During her last trip to England, she mailed me a postcard from there.  Snail Mail ~ I was so happy!  You see, Kay knows that I also have a very English heart! If you're able, visit Kay's blog ~ she always posts the loveliest photos of Arabia and Stone Mountains in Georgia. She also loves beautiful flowers and our friends, the birds. 

In honor of Hug A Vegetarian Day, I thought I'd mention a new recipe I tried yesterday.  I found it in the latest issue of Whole Living but the recipe was contributed by the founder of Cannelle et Vanille (a most wonderful blog that will make you salivate!).  The recipe is for the Roasted Cherry Tomato Clafoutis. I had been looking for a recipe for cherry tomatoes because we're overloaded since the last harvest from our garden.  I'm not a natural cook (I can get quite stressed if it's not fairly easy!) but I found this recipe straightforward and uncomplicated.  The result?  Well, Sophie devoured hers and asked for seconds.  It also prompted a compliment from Alain.....and, if you know Alain, a compliment from him, especially regarding food, doesn't happen all that often!  This clafoutis will definitely be a repeat in our house.  It's listed in the magazine as a brunch recipe but we had ours for dinner with a salad, some bread and farmer's cheese.  Yum yum!

All of the recipes on Canelle et Vanille are gluten-free so it's the perfect source for creative gluten-free recipes!  Next up for me is the Butternut Squash, Apple and Hazelnut Muffins.....I can't wait to try those!

Kay, thank you for your email ~ it was a lovely surprise and made me smile!!!  

{Images via Whole Living}

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Passing On A Love For Reading

After reading to Sophie at bedtime last night, I was overcome with happiness.  Reading to her has always been my favorite part of the day. She savors books the same way I do. Lately, she's been slowly learning how to read herself.  It is SO EXCITING!  As I prepared for bed myself, I kept thinking about all that I've done in her six years to foster a love of reading.  I see lists from other people all the time but I wanted to make one of my own.  First, I went back through thousands of photos from Soph's birth to the present and I just had to put them all together in a post dedicated to reading.  I can't believe it's taken me this long!

Sophie at 3 months ~ books were ALWAYS a big part of her life.

At almost 4 months ~ SO EXCITED to read a new Bear book to Sophie.  A gift from Grandma. The Bear series, by Karma Wilson, is truly one of my favorites.  I love to do a different voice for each character.

Tio Diggy reads to Sophie (8 months) ~ one of our all-time favorites, Hippos Go Berserk.  We love you, Sandra Boynton

One of my favorite presents EVER ~ from Tia Jenny & Tio Diego ~ for Soph's 1st Birthday ~ FLOTSAM!  I've since given it as a gift for other children many times!

Sophie enjoying the Book Center at school.  13 months.

Sophie enjoys her personal library.  Almost 2 years old.

Truly one of my favorite pictures. Bedtime reading. Just before Soph's 2nd Birthday.

Reading to Sophie at breakfast while on vacation in Hilton Head. On Sophie's 2nd Birthday.

I don't think we've had a single birthday or holiday when Sophie did NOT receive books as gifts.  Here, she plays with the new books she received for her 2nd birthday.  I don't believe in buying a lot of toys for my kids but I spoil them absolutely rotten with books.  You can never have too many!

Reading on the balcony one morning on that same vacation.  Wow do I look tired!!!  I made the decision to leave work while on this trip ~ it was weighing HEAVILY on my mind and I probably wasn't sleeping much.

Fast forward a few weeks and we come to a series of photos that I ABSOLUTELY ADORE. Don't ask me why.  It was one of my first full days of not working.  As you can see, I'm already more relaxed.  I'm including this photo because I think the only way to pass along a love of reading is to model that for your child.  For years Sophie would ask me, "Mommy, why do you love reading so much?" Over time I've given her a thousand different reasons.  She doesn't ask anymore because I think she gets it.  I also believe you can read any time in any place. As all of these pictures suggest. At bedtime. In the morning. During meals. In the car. With a glass of wine in hand.  Surrounded by all three of your babies, human and furry!   (smile)

Discussing our favorite part of the bedtime story.  Almost 3 years old.

Just when I was starting to feel REALLY bad that I'd never taken a picture of Alain reading to Sophie, this one popped up.  Whew.  Just over 3 years old.

Alain reads to Sophie while she enjoys an afternoon snack.

Sophie enjoys a new present.

Alain reads to Sophie in a bookstore.  3 1/2.

A peek at my bedside table and then Sophie's.  Summer 2010.

Grandpa reads to Sophie on the day of her 4th Birthday Party.

Sophie reads to Hubbell. She was 4 1/2 years old.

Sophie and I model one of my all-time favorite children's books.  Crepes by Suzette....written by Monica Wellington.  We like to make books come alive and we did so on this day by making the same exact crepes as in the book.  We tasted each one as we read its corresponding page.  Such a fun little event!  If you've never seen or read a Monica Wellington book, get thee to a library or bookstore PRONTO.  This was the Summer of 2011 and I was largely pregnant with Clara.

For Mother's Day of last year, I requested some time alone out in the yard to read.  In that below picture, I think my thoughts were along these lines, "Maybe if I ignore them they'll go away!".  Ha! Just another example of modeling my own love of reading.....

Sophie shares a baby book with her little sister. Sophie, 5. Clara, 2 months.

I LOVE that I've put all these pictures together in one place.  They make me really happy.  It may be too soon to tell but, if Sophie should turn out to have a love for books and reading, I would consider that a crowning achievement in my life.  Okay, so on with my list....

1. Model your own love for reading.  I read ALL THE TIME.  Whatever I can get my hands on. My child barely sees me watch TV but she sees me read constantly.  I think that's important. It would be tough for me to expect her to read a lot if I didn't do it myself.

2. Read to your child every single day.  I have to sign a calendar each day for Sophie's school teacher saying that I read to her for 10 minutes.  Pah!  That's kind of insulting.  10 minutes is barely enough time to get into a good story.  We read for much longer. But I think any time is better than none.

3. Involve the entire family.  I love that we had a few pictures of Soph's relatives reading to her.  I hadn't thought about that before but it's so nice.

4. Think outside the box.  As I mentioned before, read in unlikely places. On a picnic. At the beach. In the car. While eating meals. Out in the yard.

5. Ask your child a lot of questions about the book/story.  What do you think will happen next? Why do you think that happened?  Will she or won't she?  Did you like that book?  Why or why not?

6. Go to the library and/or bookstore often.

7. Find a good source for used books.  We have quite a lot of used books in our collection.  Our library sells used books and I find pretty good ones at Goodwill and consignment stores.

8. Make books come ALIVE.  We often cook food that we read about in books.  Like the crepes example before.  Or we made pizza when we read about Curious George making pizza. We'll also visit places we read about in books.....the ice cream parlor, the movie theater, the park.

9.  We have books for every holiday or occasion.  If we had a trip planned, I'd check out books about that place/city beforehand and read them before we left.  I've also often purchased a book  about the city while we were visiting.  Before Clara was born, we read a bunch of books about little siblings.  Before school started, we read a lot of books about that.  Sophie especially liked the school books ~ I think it helped her mentally prepare herself for the change.  We read gardening books in the Spring and "green" books before Earth Day.  I try to make our reading material relevant to what's going on in our life.

10. Make your family & friends aware that you'd prefer book gifts over toys.  We've found it handy to have a Wish List available on Amazon.  When someone asks for present ideas, I just refer them to that page.

11. Make your own books.  Let your child pick the topic.  Make a dedication page.  Write the words for them (if they're not able) but let them draw the illustrations.  Soph LOVES this.

12. Let the child pick the book to read on a regular basis.

13. Discuss the author and illustrator.

14. We often discuss the differences in styles of illustrations.  Sophie is quite artistic and visually inclined so she really gets into this.  We also choose our personal favorites ~ I particularly love Knuffle Bunny and the style of Monica Wellington (the Crepes by Suzette book is especially nice!).

15. We sometimes watch TV shows and/or movies that are based on books we've read.  Heidi is a good example.  I bought the book for her on a trip to Switzerland and we've watched many different versions of the movie.  We then discuss the similarities and/or differences compared to what we'd imagined as we read the book.

16. Have books readily available. We have books in Sophie's room, in the car, by the toilet, in every room.  We also schlep books with us when we go on trips.

17. If you're able, go to your child's classroom to read to the class.  I love doing this!  On occasion I was able to let Sophie choose the book to read to her class.  She would get so excited!

18. Find a good source for books.  One that you like.  I use Mighty Girl and I am a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE fan.  All of the books we've read from that site have strong female characters.  I've read some amazing books that I would not have known about otherwise.  Check it out if you can!

I could go on but really.....nobody is still reading anyway.  Ha!  I feel very passionately about this, clearly. I realize working parents don't have the time to do a lot of these things.  I know, I've been there.  To that I just say do what you can.

PS ~ We're trying to kickstart Clara's love of reading and, so far, she loves her books. Here she is at 3 months doing some tummy time while looking at her sweet little baby book, a gift from Abu.  At least this time around we'll have a little help from Big Sissy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Butterfly Project and Garden

The Butterfly
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone. . . .
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
in the ghetto.

This beautiful and sad poem was written by a 21-year old man named Pavel Friedman. Pavel perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.  His poem helped to inspire The Butterfly Project,  a project designed to memorialize the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Holocaust.  The project originated at the San Diego Jewish Day School ~ the idea being to collect 1.5 million handmade butterflies worldwide.  Our local Jewish Community Center took part and I was lucky to be a volunteer. This video is great and gives a lot of background and details of the project.

My first visit to the Ceramic Studio was to paint one of the butterflies. I loved being in the studio with a bunch of others who were also there to paint.  It was therapeutic and quite moving. We were each given a card with the name of one of the children who perished and the thought was to paint your butterfly in memory of that child.  I enjoyed myself and believed in the project so much that I began volunteering. Mainly I prepared the slabs of clay and cut out the butterflies using a cookie cutter. I also helped the people who were there to paint.  

On the most memorable day there was a survivor in the studio.  I know because a tattooed number was visible on her forearm.  When I collected her butterfly, I looked down to find her number painted on the wings.  I tried to imagine what her early life must've been like and I wanted to put my arms around her.  Of course I didn't feel comfortable doing that because she was a stranger but I was extra sweet to her until she left.  

Fast forward to May of 2011 when the Children's Holocaust Butterfly Sculpture was unveiled at the local community center.  The sculpture contains about 2,800 butterflies that were made by the local Jewish community as well as students from schools all over Charlotte.  The sculpture was created by Paul Rousso. I love how the sculpture is shaped like a heart but butterfly wings as well. It's really lovely.

Alain, Clara and I just happened to be in the butterfly garden a couple of weekends ago and I was reminded of the beauty and magic of the sculpture.  My favorite detail of the sculpture are the 3D wings sticking out. I took a few photos to share here.....

I am quite proud to have taken a tiny little part in such a memorable project.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Iggy Pop

I had a totally different post planned for this week. But then Tia Jenny sent me some photos of Ygal. At the sight of this one, my heart just stopped.  

This could very well be my favorite photo of Ygal EVER.  

The thing about losing someone you love is that you never know what will set you off.  For me, this picture was one of those things. Each time I look at it, I just see so much life.  I see an amazing person with so much to offer, who brought joy and love to so many people.  I am reminded of the cruelty of life.  I think about all of Ygal's dreams.....dreams which were buried along with him.  Beautiful and lofty dreams. I think about Bianca and Cristina sorting through his clothes last weekend and how damned painful that must have been for them.  I think of Cristina sleeping in one of his shirts and my heart breaks a million times for the mother who lost one of her babies. I think of the emptiness in Bianca & Yaron's home, an emptiness IMPOSSIBLE to fill.  I think of how the Jewish faith considers each and every person an entire universe. I look at this picture and I can actually see, I can feel that entire universe. I think of my dear husband who carries a load of pain around with him everywhere he goes. I think of how my friends tell me that Alain seems so sad every time they see him.  I encounter gifts in our home, gifts that Ygal & Bianca gave to our babies and I feel sick thinking that there won't ever be more (from Bianca, yes, but not from Ygal). I think about how this will be the last year ever in which I spent time with Ygal.  The record has stopped playing.  I think of all of us and how we work so hard to move on....but wonder how we're supposed to move on when our minds, hearts, bodies, souls seem stuck on June 29th.  I know all too well that there was a life before the news and there's a life after. That alone causes me much sadness. I think of the new fear that plagues me, the fear of losing someone else in my life.  Or the fear that something happens to me and my girls have to grow up without a mother.  I pray and hope and beg the air, like a crazed fool, that I don't ever have to lose one of my babies. 

One photo.....all of this....I could write all day.  Losing Ygal has put me in a weird, loopy, philosophical headspace.  My new normal.  

I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone.  Ever. 

Tia, Jenny, thank you for this beautiful photo.  Thank you.

PS ~ I can't even wait for Friday ~ I'm posting this one now.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Iggy Pop

Being that our family is so spread out over the globe, it's rare for all four brothers to be in the same place at the same time. It usually only happens for big occasions, in this case Michael's wedding.  It was June of 2004. Although all four brothers didn't make it into this photo, I wanted to post it anyway.  Why?  Well, we all had such a fun time in San Fransisco (AND it was the first time I met Jennifer, my much loved sister-in-law).  Mostly, I just love this photo of Ygal (on the right for those who might not know)......does he look cool, calm, collected and casual or what?  Seriously, Ygal is/was the most photogenic person I've ever known.  I'm sure you've noticed from all the photos each week.  He simply could NOT take a bad picture.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Experiment in Local Eating

Yesterday Clara and I were out running errands in a large shopping center close to home.  As we drove in, I saw two Asian ladies crouched down on the ground picking up fruit that had dropped from one of the many gingko trees which line the parking lot.  Well, I am not one to miss out on a good thing!  After we grabbed a little lunch, I pulled off to the side of the lot under one of the female trees and collected about ten of the little fruits.  

As soon as Clara went down for a nap, I started Googling.  Ha ha.  One of the first things I learned is that Gingko fruit contains urushiol, the same chemical found in Poison Ivy/Oak. It's highly recommended that one wears gloves when collecting the fruits.  I must've been lucky ~ I picked only the best looking fruit.....not squished or oozing liquid.  Good thing!  

The second thing I learned is that the fruit is not collected for the fleshy part. In fact the fleshy part can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. These fruits are prized by certain Asian cultures for the nut inside.  I found some step by step instructions here and followed them....

This is what the fruit looked like.....

Per the instructions, I soaked the fruits whole for two hours.

I then removed the nuts from the fruit....using my latex gloves the entire time!

I coated the nuts with a little oil and then roasted them for about 45 minutes.

This is what they looked like after.  On the left is one of the nuts I'd cracked open.  You can see the seed inside....

My verdict?  The seed was rather mealy and gummy although I rather liked the nutty flavor ~ it was reminiscent of chestnuts.  Still, after all of the effort, I'm not sure it was worth the work involved.  I don't know if I cooked it correctly or enough.  I'd read the nut/seed should appear green but mine never did.  Maybe if I found the right recipe....

This article from Gourmet magazine was very interesting to me and somewhat mirrors my own experience....although I never fried them up....and certainly don't intend to.  

It was rather cool to try something new. I found it all rather exciting.  The Chinese even believe these nuts are an aphrodisiac.....hmmmm......I guess you'd probably have to eat more than two to notice a difference!  As for the smell, I never noticed it.....but I don't have a strong sense of smell.  Some cities have banned planting female gingko trees because of the foul smell created by the rotting fruit.  This saddens me.  These trees are living fossils and, for me, produce some of the most beautiful foliage.  Remember this photo?  Those yellow leaves are gorgeous gingko leaves ~ they turn yellow in the Fall.  In fact, we'll be visiting that same site in about a month! 

I'm curious......has anyone else tried Gingko nuts?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Garden Update

I have a confession to make.  I quit my garden the second half of the summer season.  Yes, I did.  Everyone knows how much I dislike the heat.  I decided I didn't want to do it anymore, despite the many payoffs that come from caring for the garden.  Luckily, Alain picked up some of my slack and we still managed to have a decent season/harvest.  

I'm happy to report that temperatures have FINALLY dipped below 80 degrees in the mornings and evenings.  So, you guessed it, I have reunited with my garden again.  It's so nice to be back!  

So far, I've pulled out all of the dead growth in my tomato plants as we're still getting some new growth and yummy tomatoes. I'll probably give the plants a couple more weeks before I pull them out completely.  

My eggplant is having a late season resurgence.

I planted nine different lettuce plants. Yum. I can't wait for these to be ready!

Our neighbor gave us a few different hot pepper plants.  One of them is doing amazing!  There are probably a hundred different peppers growing.

Just take a look at this beauty we harvested today!

Sophie's zinnia plant is also having a resurgence.  There are lovely pink blooms ~ I've even picked a few and put them in a vase inside the house.

I planted three cabbage plants.  Ruby Perfection.  I LOVE growing red cabbage despite the looper problems.  We usually don't have as many problems in the Fall so fingers crossed.

This was our little harvest today.  I told you my eggplant was doing well!  There were also many more cherry tomatoes but Clara eats them as quickly as we can pick them.  How fitting that her hand made it into the picture.

I also planted carrot, radish and pea seeds.  In addition, I have some onion and leek plants which have to be thinned before I plant them.  Hopefully I'll get around to it this weekend.


Tell me, how does your garden grow???
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