Friday, December 23, 2005

on the road

If we can fit all our things in the car this morning we are headed to Richmond and points north for eight days. John has the Booker T and and the MGs Christmas CD on the top of the stack. Santa has carefully packed Ella's gifts into bags with covers, and I'm trying to not pack too many clothes for the kids. Little John aka blow out boy requires more clothes than most. I'm starting to know why people buy bigger cars when they have kids. I'm not taking a stroller, but I do want a bouncy seat. He knows how to raise his leg in the air and pump it to make the seat bounce--lets just say hours of entertainment. Hopefully it will fit between them in the back seat. It is going to look like a bouncing ejection seat for our imaginary third child.

I'm looking forward to some quiet time--if that exists for a family with two children under five. My father's funeral was eight years ago today. It was such a cold clear day with Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas. Lawrence was reading Fern Hill behind the barn to practice. The priest was wearing lace, and the moss was very green in the cemetery. Joe Gallo was a baby, and Joan McLaughlin made everything seem somewhat normal. I only wish he could have held these children for one day.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


jbp, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

sweet feet

jbp, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Who needs elves?

It is funny that just today I was thinking that E was just so immature. Well, she is four. I suppose I forget sometimes.

behold my rolls

jbp, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


jbp, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Herald the Return of the Sun

The Mesopotamians, it is said, celebrated the winter solstice first with a 12-day festival of renewal designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year.

There is a small brown rabbit in our backyard sitting in the sun cleaning his ears. I wonder if he feels the turning towards spring.

Ella and I just took our first load of furniture over to Spring Street.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas 2005

Granny took the littles to picture people.


Spacella, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Doesn't this pretty much say it all! We are back. Ella is watching Winnie the Pooh and I'm having a Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout.

Ella went to the Nutcracker ballet on saturday. She remembered being there last year and noted some changes. However, this year she did not take a nap. She did some ballet shopping and is very interested in leg warmers.

She did much more than I did for the last four days. She was up baking after I had gone to bed and has a big box of beautifully decorated sugar cookies with icing, sprinkles, and candies. She travelled to DC to the train station, the Natural history museum, and the Zoo. On sunday she took an ice skating lesson for an hour and was quite pleased with herself. She can get right up when she falls down and can "talk the talk" of ice skating. It was wonderful to watch her concentrating so hard.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Road Trip

The kids and I are headed to Fredricksburg for a Christmas extravaganza--gingerbread house building, the Nutcracker, and a trip to Washington DC. Ella has been arranging kooky outfits with tights, dress up shoes, white gloves, and purses. Someone needs to tell her that you can't wear white patent leather after labor day, especially with plaid.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Frozen closing

We are closing on our house this afternoon, and ice is falling out of the sky. Is it hell finally freezing over?

21 pounds 6 ounces

The baby had a doctor's appointment yesterday, and he weighed in as a one year old.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh

I'll share this with my dog

I'll share this with my dog, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ballet Day

Ballet Day, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Hiyumi's birthday

Hiyumi's birthday, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ella and Hiyumi

Best of Friends, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Best of Friends

Ella went to two birthday parties last weekend. Her friend Hiyumi's dad just sent us these pictures. Ella and Hiyumi met in Kindermusik last year when they were barely three and had a hard time sitting still. Well, they still have a hard time, but they CAN. Hiyumi is a little commedienne, and her voice is a cross between a beautiful bird and a teeny tiny cartoon girl. She and Ella are now taking ballet together and love to go to the library together afterwards. They like to mimic each other to the extreme: if one has a drink of water the other must have a drink of water. Ella loves the food that Hiyumi's mother brings to the library, but Hiyumi isn't too sure of our carrots and celery.

Ella and Hiyumi in the pink glow

Ella and Hiyumi in the pink glow, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Santa House

Dont' ever buy a house that closes two weeks before Christmas. It is, ahem, limiting. I am thrilled to be getting a house for Christmas-- it is the best present ever. I just want to do Christmasy things for Ella. I just finished buying her some things from Santa. A few weeks ago I got her a wooden toaster for her kitchen, a beading set with alphabet beads, and a build your own model of the solar system kit. Today I ordered her the iron/ ironing board from Magic Cabin, "Through the Year" by Elsa Beskow, and some little wooden people to use in a dollhouse or with her trains/blocks...any pretend that calls for a little people family. I hadn't thought about stocking things, but I think I'll go to Michaels and get her clothespins, yarn for a clothesline, and other little crafty things.
We are about to have a playroom. Miracle. I think one of our first acts as homeowners will be to take carload of little furniture to the playroom. There is a playhut tent in the middle of the living room right now, and her dream was to make orange juice out of a clementine using her hands. Foiled again.

This afternoon J has gone to school and we are making a bird book of birds we see in our backyard. We have some "blank books" from great aunt Teri, about five or six pages with a square at the top for an illustration and lines at the bottom for the story, so we are drawing the blue jay, cardinal, and downy woodpecker. I think we might do better with paint because the white crayon is making her mad. She wants to make white spots or stripes over the other colors, and it just doesn't work. Conceptually, she just doesn't see that she can leave it blank.

Sling Sleep

Sling Sleep, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

It is my four month birthday

cars, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

And she is off

And she is off, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I'm four months old today

I'm four months old today, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


playtime, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I play with toys

I play with toys, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Gingerbread Waffles

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablepoon (3/4 stick) butter -- melted and cooled Preheat waffle iron to medium. In a small bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar, molasses and buttermilk, then beat. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add to batter and stir until smooth, then add butter and combine. Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter into very hot waffle iron and bake for four to five minutes. Serve hot with real maple syrup.
I saw this served with homemade chicken sausages made from ground chicken, diced granny smith apple, diced onion, sage, and fennel seeds.


John opened the fridge this morning, and, as usual, several things fell out. When one's shelves on the refrigerator door are made of elastic, that happens sometimes. Ella was walking through and said, "When that happens you need to say"Dammit". That's what you say."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ginger Garlic Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

4 boneless skinless thighs or chicken of choice
4 inch long piece of ginger, cut the long way in thin pieces --sounds like a lot but it isn't
10 cloves of garlic, sliced or just crushed with knife
1 onion
3-4 stalks of celery and leafy parts
3-4 carrots sliced
1 large can/box of chicken broth. I like the organic one
black peppercorns
3 bay leaves

In a large pot put 1 teaspoon olive oil and lightly brown chicken. Throw in ginger, garlic, onion, peppercorns, salt. While still browning you can throw in celery and carrot as you slice it. Add bay and pour the broth in. Add about 2 cups water. Simmer slowly until chicken is done. Longer if you have time. Add parsley. Serve with jasmine rice cooked on the side. If you cook the rice in the soup it is good but you have to use more broth or water. Slice chicken if you like.

If you want something good and different add a can of lite coconut milk, a few handfulls of cilantro, and a few splashes of fish sauce. Some thinly sliced chili peppers are good too, especially if you have a cold.

Warm, homey, and good for the cold that ails you.

snow reveals

snow reveals, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

for the birds

for the birds, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

pudding for birds

pudding for birds, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I'm going to make you smile

I'm going to make you smile, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

night time

night time, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


We were amazed that we were sick while the children remained healthy. Unfortunately they were merely incubating whatever foul virus has found it's way here. For me, it wasn't too bad, just long and drippy. At some point this morning my shirt was completely covered in a drool/snot combo, a petri shirt. Ella is taking it well. She would be glad to go outside in a second, but we are staying in. We cancelled her library playdate for this afternoon--unfortunately Hiyumi is dripping as well. Baby John is no longer amused by the saline bottle that keeps his little nose clear. I propped him up beside me last night because he was choking when he was lying on his back. On a happy note, he slept eight hours without nursing for the second night in a row--it has been six hours for a while, and I'm considering eight hours "sleeping through the night". If only Ella could do it. Night before last she woke up saying that something had jumped from under her bed and grabbed her bottom. She honestly believes this one. Perhaps that is why she was so interested in "spring cleaning" her room yesterday--exorcism of the bottom grabber.

Chicken soup with ginger and garlic is on the stove. The clouds are rolling in for another snow and we just made "Chickadee Pudding" for the birds----lard or Crisco, rolled oats, cornmeal, orange bits, bird seed, peanuts, and peanut butter. We cut out oranges to make baskets to stuff the pudding in. E strung more cranberries for the birds, and we made our one trip outside for the day to hang them up.

Monday, December 05, 2005


snoweater, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

berries and snow

berries and snow, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

December Curriculum at Ella's School

Week 1 Exploring the Arctic Tundra
Discovery Time- Nothern Lights mural painting, "How the Arctic Animals Keep Warm" book, sugar cube igloos, easel painting Arctic animals, Arctic tundra terrarium, Arctic food chain, investigating lichen.
Circle Time- dircovering the fragile ecosystems of the tundra that support an intricate web of life.
Small group time-Older group: Attribute Block game (comparing/contrasting sizes, shapes, and colors), Phonics workbooks (phonemic awareness and letter formation of -J, -F. Younger group: Introductioin to the letter -S, numeral sequence to 10 with dot to dot puzzles
Music and Movement- Arctic songs and fingerplays
Story- The Igloo, Amazing Arctic Animals, This Place is Cold, Tundra Discoveries, One Small Square: Arctic Tundra, Little Caribou.

Week 2- Feed the Birds
Discovery Time- making Chickadee Pudding, stringing berries, orange baskets, bird feeders from recycled materials, child sized bird wings, , drawing birds with guest artist Marylynn Intebetow, investigating bird's nests, recognizing and graphing birds that come to our feeder.
Circle Time- recognizing winter birds, discovering by beak and by foot shape a bird's dietary and habitiat needs
Small Groups- Older group-measurement (length), math workbooks, phonics workbook ( phonemic awareness and letter formation of -G and -H), writing and drawing in journals.
Younger Group- intro to the letter -G, color by numeral pictures
Music and Movement- bird songs and games
Story- Backyard Birds of Winter, Birdfeeder Banquet,Birdfeeders Kids Can Do, Chickadee Winter, Birds at My Feeder, The Late Little Robin, Bird Count, When Winter Comes

Week 3- Old Fashioned Games, Stories, and Toys
Discovery Time- making old fashioned toys including pom-pom bunnies, walnut shell boats, clothespin dolls, and folded paper toys.
Circle Time- Circle Games and Mother Goose Rhymes
Small Groups- Older group-measurement (weight and volume), math workbooks, phonics workbooks (F, D, and W)
Younger Group- intro to the letter R, ordinal numbers
Music and Movement- old fashioned skill games
Story- Tasha Tudor stories and The Tales of Peter Rabbit

Sunday, December 04, 2005


ella, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


blue, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

oh, for the expedition

oh, for the expedition, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

mama's world

Thinking about the mama life and friends as well as well as Ella's new friendships. I think I'll add to this later. I'm thinking about fifties neighborhoods, backyards, coffee-talk, and the decline of civilization as we constantly move away from friends and family to pursue the education and jobs required to support and sustain us in this "mobile" society/economy.

I got an email from an old friend recently catching up about kids, etc. He was talking about his wife and boys and mentioned how " you moms always love to sit and gab on the playground". Do we? It is often kind of an awkward place.

Friday, December 02, 2005

rattle and chew

rattle and chew, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

down low

down low, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hacked Off

Hacked Off, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I just cut off all my hair. The jury is still out. I thought I'd post a picture of myself for once, since I've been oya bakaing the littles pretty hard lately. Here I am. Fat and somewhat happy.


jbp, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


hi, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rabbit Magic

In the true spirit of the oya baka parent I have to report that Ella read her first word. It wasn't a memorized word. She sounded out the three consonant sounds and it was there. Rabbit. We had been reading a Pooh story, one of those first reader ones with simple sentences and little word finds at the ends of the chapters.

This morning as we piled out the back door with backpacks and the baby car seat there was a brown rabbit sitting between the porch and the car. Ella ran towards him and he ran under the car and then across the backyard. I told her it wasn't nice to scare rabbits, and she said that he wasn't scared, that it was his birthday. " I know when rabbits have their birthdays too."


Flat Lick Farm, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's house in Farmville. It was warm and festive, and the food was above and beyond good. My brother smoked the turkey again, and I've got to get one of those smokers. Click on the picture for more Thanksgiving goings on. The baby was smiley and peaceful, and Miss Ella was doing her best to be grown up. She wanted to dress up for dinner, and she was quite prepared to ask if she could be excused when she was finished. She stayed at the table so long waiting for the very tall chocolate cake that she didn't even have to ask to get up.

On friday we went out for sushi in Petersburg. No, it wasn't scary at all. It was delicious at Wabi- Sabi, and we were wishing we had such a cool little outpost in our hometown. Then we took in the art at the Nathaniel Friend Gallery and did some antique shopping. We ran into a classmate of my mother's that hadn't seen her since 1961, and he told me some good stories about my father when he was teaching high school english.

John and I went to see Good Night and Good Luck friday night at the mall. The movie was good, but it broke in the middle and we missed a bit. We got free tickets for another movie but ended up staying anyway because we so seldom are out without two small children. During the movie repair process we went to a puppet store in the mall. I don't know if it is a chain or not, but it looked so fun. They had an incredible owl puppet that I wish I'd gotten E for Christmas. We are putting on another Provo production this weekend at Hiyumi's birthday party. Strangely enough, I was dreaming about puppets last night...and discussion about jesus with Mr Rodgers.

I've been thinking about the Gallo kids. They lost their grandfather on friday.

Who was the first one at the table?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ella's favorite thing about Thanksgiving....

Triangle Man

Triangle Man, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


JBP, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Mayflower, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Tis the season for folk art poultry, and you know how I feel about that. ( I love folk art chickens, and I just don't know why. ) Ella was determined to put the waddle on the turkeys, but she was 100% determined that the little red part under the neck was called a "wobbler".

Home Cookin'

Before 9 am and she is all dressed up and working

Before 9 am and she is all dressed up and working, originally uploaded by ellajohn. I, on the other hand, am bleary eyed and wearing pajamas.

18 months size on John

18 months size on John, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

The jolly green giant is wearing a size 18 months here. The legs are rolled an inch, but the rest is perfect.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog

We went to Roanoke today on a Christmas mission. We bought some apples at the Farmer's Market so that E and I can make a pie tomorrow. One pumpkin and one apple.
Ella got a wonderful letter today from Her great aunt Terri and her great Uncle Fred. Fred sent her two turkey feather's from Nebraska, and Terri told her that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the symbol for our country instead of the eagle. E has a turkey feather from Virginia, but both the shape and the stripes are different.

I'm trying

I'm trying, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This was going to be the last chance with the paci. He has rejected every other brand there is. He loves his fist but tries to suck on just one finger and gets frustrated when his hand stays closed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pilgrim Ella

Our young pilgrim in 2005, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Pilgrim and Native American John

I married this man. It is a little disconcerting to see him with the big gun---as if he had been out hunting that turkey. It is more likely that I married the guy in the bottom picture.

Marvel Baby

John as baby and riding horse, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This is my husband when he was a baby. We have Marvel here in the living room, albeit not the original.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005



West African Chicken Stew

This dish, typical of West Africa, is traditionally accompanied by foo-foo, a porridge-like side dish made from corn, sweet potato, plantain, or cassava meal. Serve the stew with rice to sop up the delicious sauce.
Active time: 45 min. Start to finish" 1 ¾ hours
1 3 lb chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces or 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp salt
1 (14 to 15 oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
¼ cup water
2 T tomato paste
¼ cup oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, minced and mashed to a paste with 1 tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp cayenne
½ cup smooth peanut butter
1 ¾ cups chicken broth ( 14 fl oz)
1 (10 oz) box frozen WHOLE okra
1 lb sweet potato
Place chicken in a single layer and salt; let stand at room temperature for 30 min.
Pulse tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until finely chopped.
Stir water into tomato paste in a small bowl.
Pat chicken dry. Heat oil in a 10 to 12 inch skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, without crowding, in 3 or 4 batches, until golden, 6 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a 6 to 7 quart heavy pot. Pour off all but 2 T fat from skillet, then add onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring until edges are golden, 2 to 3 minutes, Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic paste, and cayenne to chicken in pot. Whisk together peanut butter and 1 cup broth until smooth. Add to chicken along with remaining broth ( chicken will not be covered completely with liquid). Bring to a boil, uncovered, then cover and simmer , STIRRING OCCASIONALLY TO PREVENT STICKING, until chicken is very tender, about 25 minutes.
Peel sweet potato and cut into 1 inch chunks. Stir into stew along with okra, then simmer, covered, until potato is tender but not falling apart, 10 – 12 minutes.

Cook’s notes:
Chicken stew, without sweet potato and okra, can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, covered, then refrigerated. Reheat and proceed with recipe.
The recipe is readily doubled.
From GOURMET 10/05

Four year olds love this and grownups swoon. The peanut butter sounds gross, but it is absolutely what makes the recipe taste rich and luscious.


Classic Potato Gratin
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 ¼ cups half and half
1 ¼ tsp. Salt
ground black pepper.
Pinch ground ( freshly) nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper ( optional)
2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick or less
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350*
Rub bottom and sides of 5 to 6 cup gratin dish or shallow baking dish with garlic Mince remaining garlic and set aside. Once garlic in dish has dried, about 2 minutes, spread dish with half the butter.
Bring half and half, seasonings, potatoes, and reserved garlic to boil in medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with wooded spoon ( liquid will just barely cover potatoes, Reduce heat and simmer until liquid thickens, about 2 minutes.
Pour potato mixture into prepared dish; shake dish or use fork to distribute potatoes evenly. Gently press down potatoes until submerged in liquid; dot with remaining butter. Bake until top is golden brown, basting once or twice the first 45 min) about 1 hour and fifteen minutes. Let rest and serve.
For a more pronounced crust, sprinkle three tablespoons of heavy cream or Gruyere cheese on top of the potatoes after 45 minutes of baking.

Monday, November 14, 2005