heavenly hash

It's jam making time around these parts. Around May I start watching the price of berries at the store, and usually in late May or early June, berries are so cheap you can buy loads of them for a dollar or less a pound. Last year we stuck with strawberry jam, and it was delicious. We ate our last jar just a few weeks ago.

This year, in addition to making five batches of strawberry jam, JR decided we should try our hand at making Heavenly Hash. For those of you who aren't lucky enough to have a Grandma Hellewell, Heavenly Hash is a jam my grandma makes which is a combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. And it lives up to it's name.. the stuff is amazingly good.

Grandma happened to call me yesterday and when I asked her if she had made her Heavenly Hash yet, she told me she likes to use boysenberries instead of blackberries. My grandfather always had a large garden in their backyard, and he made sure to grow enough fruit to make jam in the spring. Grandpa passed away several years ago, but there is still one boysenberry bush producing, which means Grandma can still make at least one batch of Heavenly Hash.

We used blackberries in ours and it turned out pretty good... not as good as Grandma's, but not bad for our first attempt. Both JR and I think boysenberries would be better, but they are a little hard to come by. What is a boysenberry, you ask? Boysenberries are a cross between a raspberry, a blackberry and/or a loganberry. And the story of the boysenberry and how it came to be is one worth telling.

Turns out a man named Rudolph Boysen had been experimenting with a new kind of berry, but gave up after a few years. Walter Knott, a local farmer and a bit of a berry expert, heard about the berries and tracked down Boysen, who had since sold his farm. Knott want back to the original farm, found a few of the struggling plants still alive, and transplanted them back to his farm where he nursed them back to fruit bearing health. He named the berry after its creator: the Boysen-berry. Knott soon went on to find his own success, first at a roadside stand where he and his wife made jams and pies using the boysenberry; later with a chicken restaurant; and then for the famous theme park Knott's Berry Farm which they began in the '40's as a way to entertain people who were waiting for a table at the chicken restaurant. According to the Knott's Berry Farm website, all boysenberries in the world can trace their roots back to the original Knott farm.

My grandma says boysenberry plants can be tricky, and that she isn't patient enough to baby them the way my grandfather did. One more thing to add to the garden I am planning in my head... we'll have to carve out a little place for the boysenberries.


this week's library book

I'll confess that I have a little issue with princesses... which can be tough, when you have a four year old daughter. For the first few years of her life, I admit that I limited Bee's access to princesses and all things purple and sparkly (I had a specific aversion to Disney princesses). It's not the princess stories I have a problem with, I just don't like how Disney has taken ownership over these beautiful stories that have been around for so long.

And then I found some photos of myself as a little girl, about Bee's size, dressed in a bright pink princess costume for Halloween (which my mom reminded me I wore more than one year in a row). So I decided not to fight it any longer... if Bee wanted to love princesses and dress up in pink sequins, so be it.

But I did want to show her that there are different versions of these classic princess stories. We've started checking out more of these old stories from the library... Rapunzel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White. There are some beautifully illustrated versions at our library, and Bee loves to look through them. So this week's library book is Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Jan Brett.

Beauty's father picks a rose from the Beast's rosebush for his daughter, and is taken as his prisoner. Upon hearing the news, Beauty bravely takes her father's place as prisoner.

Over time Beauty starts to see the good in the Beast, she begins to look forward to their dinnertime conversations and she sees his kind and thoughtful deeds. He asks Beauty to marry him each night, and Beauty always replies "Pray don't ask me".

Beauty asks to take a trip to visit her home and see her sisters and her father again. While she is away, she has a dream that the Beast is dying and realizes that she loves him. Beauty rushes back to the castle just in time to save him... which breaks the spell and magically transfoms him back into a handsome prince.

Can I share one more little secret? I've figured out how to avoid the morning tears while combing the tangles out of Bee's hair. I used to dread combing Bee's hair in the morning, she would cry and whimper about every little tangle or snarl. Now I've turned that time into story time, and it has saved us so many tears. Bee will happily hand me her comb and remind me where we left off. I try to stretch each story out, so it takes a week or so to tell it and I don't limit myself to just princess stories. I've told my version of Red Riding Hood and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.. The Three Little Pigs and Charlotte's Web and anything else I can vaguely remember. I love that my son C is always peeking his head in so he can hear the story too.

I have great memories of my dad telling us stories when I was a kid. He would make them up when we went on long car rides, and they kept all six of us children entertained for hours at a time. Unfortunately I am not as good a storyteller as my father... but lucky for me, my daughter doesn't know any better.


the moon from our backyard

JR happened to look out at the full moon the other night as the clouds moved in and out. He grabbed the camera and shot a few frames. I think they are beautiful.. don't they feel like paintings?


friday night camping

Sandwiched between our trip to New York, my little brother and his family coming for a visit, and my shoot in the Bahamas (May has been busy!) we took a quick camping trip with the kids.

Part of why we moved to California two years ago was so we could be close to my family. My parents live about ten minutes away, and my older brother lives less than a mile away. The cousins love each other, and sometimes when I feel badly that C doesn't have a brother, I am so glad he has two older cousins who help fill that role.

So when my sister-in-law asked if we wanted to go camping, we were in.. despite our crazy May. We had three families in all... perfect for divying up all the gear that comes with camping. (And especially helpful when you get to the campsite first and realize you have forgotten all of the firewood. Oops!)

JR was in charge of buying a tent and came home with this little number. I took one look at it and reminded him there are 4 people in our family. To prove to me that his tent was the perfect size, he set it up in the living room the night before the campout.. and yes, all four of us fit (barely!). I love the feeling of having my whole family snuggled in together.

The most exciting part of camping for the kids is the campfire. They love gathering the sticks for the kindling and letting us know when we need to add another log. We kept it easy.. hot dogs for dinner followed by s'mores. All the kids went to bed around 8 (or at least got in their tents.. we could hear them talking and giggling for the next few hours) and the adults sat around the campfire and talked.

In the morning we had omelettes, made to order on two little camp stoves. My friend had chopped up all the ingredients (like peppers and onions) beforehand and she and her husband set up a little omelette bar. Delicious!

We took a hike in the morning in the hills around the campsite. Though I think my kids are pretty tough, they were both wanting to be carried about 20 minutes into our little nature walk. By the end of the hike, they were both in tears. I coudn't quite understand it until C came down with a fever that afternoon and the doctor told us it was strep throat. Bee came down with it a few days later. I feel a little badly about that hike..

I'm amazed that just 25 minutes from where we live, you can be in such beautiful countryside. May is the perfect time to go camping (at least in Southern California). It's not too chilly at night, and not yet hot enough that you are boiling in your tent by morning. I'm always glad to see that the kids can entertain themselves when we leave them to their own devices, they spent most of the morning looking for ladybugs and chasing squirrels and helping take down the tents and carry things to the car.

It does take a bit of gear to have a comfortable campout (this pregnant lady was very happy for our air mattress). And sometimes it seems like a lot of work for just one night. But will my kids remember that they went camping as a family? Will they have memories of different campsites and the funny things that happened along the way, the way I do from my childhood? I'm doing my best to make sure they will.


mikkel vang

I spent the last five days on a small island in the Bahamas working on a shoot with photographer Mikkel Vang. I've been a fan of Mikkel's work for some time now, but never had the pleasure of shooting with him during my time at Martha Stewart. He's one of those rare photographers who can shoot anything: interiors, food, lifestyle, people, landscapes. If you need a little burst of inspiration today, spend a few minutes on his website.

Photos from Mikkel's website - www.mikkelvang.com.


back soon

JR and I are taking a little trip to New York this week. A few days to spend in the city we love.. which also happens to be the city where we fell in love. I'm excited to see New York in all its glory in the springtime, visit my favorite little shops, eat at some of the restaurants I've been missing, see Purl Soho's beautiful new shop in person, visit with some of our old friends, and most of all, spend some alone time with JR.

NOTE: My break here will have to be a little longer than I expected. JR and I had a great time in NYC, and since then have taken the kids camping, had my brother in town visiting with his family, took the kids to Disneyland for the first time and now I am flying away to a photo shoot. I have so many things I'd love to post, but life is just a little too busy right now and they will have to wait until I get back. Back soon!

image from here (if I remember correctly!)


tooth fairy bunnies

I intended to give these little guys to the kids for Easter, but time has had a way of getting away from me this month, and C recently lost his first tooth.. so the tooth fairy bunnies were born. (I'm hoping this might make it easier for the tooth fairy to make the proper tooth exchange, I heard she had a hard time finding the tooth under C's pillow last time.)

Bee has named hers "Toothy" and she now can't wait to lose a tooth so she can put it in the little pocket and hope for the tooth fairy to bring her something in exchange.

And tonight I caught my 5 year old wiggling his bottom tooth a bit (it's already pretty loose so it shouldn't be more than a few days before this bunny gets something in his pocket).

I used the stuffed bunny template from Kata Golda's book "Hand-Stitched Felt". You can also make a mouse, or a dog, but I thought the bunny ears were too cute to pass up. I added a little pocket on the front, not too big so a tooth would fit snugly, but big enough so the tooth fairy could leave a little something. I also stitched the kids names on the top flap of the pocket (I've retouched them out of these photos since I never use their real names) and added a little white stitched tooth.

I've never stuffed anything before, so if you were intimidated like me, it's really no big deal! You just poke your stuffing in and keep working it into the arms and legs, trying to get it so it feels even all over. I might have overstuffed C's bunny a bit. I was struggling to fit his little shirt on, so I went a little less fluffy with Bee's.

I can't say how long these little bunnies will last, I thought they would sit on the kids shelves and not really be used outside of tooth emergencies, but minutes after I handed them over to the kids this afternoon the bunnies were being strapped into parachutes, propped up on pillows for our bedtime reading, and are currently tucked into bed with the kids. And really, what more could a mom want?


this week's library book

If you aren't familiar with Frances the Badger, you really should get to know her. I can't say Bedtime for Frances is my favorite in the series (I would vote for A Bargain for Frances) but I was excited when I saw it at the library last week, I remember these books so well from my childhood. The series is written by Russell Hoban, and I love Garth Williams' illustrations.

"The big hand of the clock is at 12. The little hand is at 7. It is seven o'clock. It is bedtime for Frances."

Frances is not at all tired. She tries to sing a song about the alphabet, she looks around her big, dark room and starts to wonder about tigers and giants and bugs and spiders. Each time she goes to visit her parents and they send her back to bed.

Frances notices the curtains on her window moving in the wind. When she asks her father about it, he says "That is the wind's job. Every night the wind has to go around and blow all the curtains... Everybody has a job... You have to go to sleep so that you can be wide awake for school tomorrow. That is your job." (I should mention that Frances' dad does tell Frances that she will get a spanking at the end of the book if she gets out of bed one more time. I tend to skip over that part.)

Frances hears a moth bump the window, she thinks to herself, "There were so many giants and tigers and scary and exciting things before, that I am pretty tired now. That is just a moth, and he is only doing his job, the same as the wind. His job is bumping and thumping, and my job is to sleep." Goodnight little Frances.


happy easter

I'm so looking forward to this weekend and Spring Break all next week. My kids love Easter, almost as much as they love Christmas. In fact Bee's favorite saying lately is "We have the luckiest life.." and then she goes on to name all the things she gets to do. First on the list is always "Because we get to go Easter egging! Mom, did you know some kids don't get to go Easter egging? Not ever!"

I've got to finish up a few Easter related items, like sewing Bee's dress (in a pretty green and white gingham) and stitching these sweet bunnies (I'm following the pattern from the book Hand Stitched Felt). Wish me luck!


silo day 5

Silhouettes lend themselves beautifully to all kinds of paper goods. I love making them into personalized cards. I prefer to leave the silhouettes in black, and use some color for the type. A colored envelope is a nice touch. I'm a big fan of thank you notes, and personalized ones with Bee's silhouette were perfect for Bee's birthday party.

A family of silhouettes makes a nice notecard. I'm hoping to send a set of these to my brothers and sisters when their birthdays come around. (Get ready, little brother!)

A cute anniversary card can be made by printing two silhouettes on a gatefold card. This one opens up to a heart that says "Happy Anniversary!"