Tuesday, June 29, 2010

sunshine daydream

I'd really rather be in Sardinia. What an adventure to be a child camping one's way around the world.

Well, we didn't make it to Sardinia today, but we did go over to our school and pull a lot of weeds. The bee balm and coneflowers are blooming away, and all the other plants have grown and grown. Ruby was so funny sitting on the tiny dwarf thyme as if it were a fragrant cushion. We planted Thumbelina Zinnias, Cosmos, and many kinds of sunflowers to greet the children when we head back to school in the fall.

The CSA bag was heavy today with fresh corn, beets, new potatoes, squash, and snowpeas, and for dinner tonight we had a giant salad and corn on the cob. Now all we need is a few freshly caught sea urchins.

Monday, June 28, 2010

the big world

old school slide, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

The two littlest and I went out to Newport to hear some music at the Ruritan Park on Sinking Creek. I stopped at the the little country store to pick up some super sweet cantaloupes. John and a merry band of little people slid down this giant metal slide for hours, and then someone fetched a sheet of waxed paper from the concession booth and let him slide down on it. He completely fell of from near the top. He was shaken but fine after a while. It did really scare me though. He is getting so big, and he has to try things out for himself.

Speaking of trying things out for himself, John was completely swept up in playing with other boys at camp last week. I asked him about a little girl who will be in his kindergarten next year and he said, "Is that a girl? I don't play with girls."

He was participating in pretend weapons play, perhaps for the first time, and he was eating it up. I want him to get out there and enjoy the pretend play, but I've always had this idea that kids should never pretend to kill. Defend the castle, hunt for dragons, storm the camp, but let's not get down and dirty killing. It has worked pretty well for our family, but next year he is going to be faced with a lot of boys and girls who have been exposed to a whole new level of media violence. I think children need to be shown the kind of behaviors that we want them to model, and that behaviour does not include sexual innuendo or a well stocked arsenal.

Hopefully our little guy will have some fun out there in the great big world. He has a coon skin cap in his backpack, and he's ready to go.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


summer, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, June 25, 2010


malaysian tropical curry with lemongrass and shallots

This recipe is adapted from the July 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. I added some browned tempeh at the beginning of the stir frying.

1 tbs veg oil
4 shallots
3 stalks of lemongrass
1 tbsp lightly crushed cumin seeds
2 cups jicama
1 red pepper
1 diced fresh pineapple
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbs agave or honey
1 tsp chile garlic sauce such as Huy Fong
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Saute cumin, lemongrass, and shallots for two minutes. Add jicama and red pepper and stir fry for three minutes. Stir on pineapple, soy, lime, agave, and chili sauce and cook for one minute. Garnish with cilantro.

This was really delicious, and the kids hated it. It was a little spicy, and the cumin was a strong flavor. Maybe a half a tablespoon would be better. I had to make John a flat egg. On the other hand, I had sauted some tiny little okra with just salt and pepper and John said, "I love these burned beans."

the little man

the little man, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

John was a little distressed that camp only lasted five days. This guy is so ready to start kindergarten. He is all about playing with other little guys, and I heard that he and his friends were galloping around the playground on pretend camels doing some tomb robbing.

His favorite thing about Egypt? The Finks.

headed for Egypt camp

headed for Egypt camp, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

chinese brushpainting

ella's chinese brushpainting, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ella was visiting her grandparents last week and took a class in chinese brushpainting. Her granny set her up with all the materials and made her a felt roll to store it all in. Here at home she unrolled it on the dining room table and was ready to show me the "materials and the techniques". I was pretty blown away, even for an oya baka.

She has been talking about her visit to the Caledon Natural Area where she saw bald eagles and found sharks teeth on the banks of the river.

I think she is enjoying being at home this week while John is at camp. This weekend she and her daddy are headed out on a camping trip. I have a feeling they will be in a hammock reading Lord of the Rings for much of the time. On monday she starts farm camp, horseback riding, spanish, sheep shearing, wool dying, and handspinning.

pool boy

green, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

big science

big science, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


We had a bonfire for solstice, and bedtime stories were read outdoors. John is in Egypt camp this week, and we are enjoying one of his first forays into the world without us. On the first day he was happy until I tried to leave, and then he cried and had the biggest frown. He said, "I don't think that I can do this." His friend Hallie took his hand like a little old annoyed wife and helped him into the line, and then he was fine. Now he is have a wonderful time talking about mummies, listening to stories, and thinking about going to kindergarten. This afternoon in the car Hallie told him that he was her brother now.

I asked him if he liked honeydew melon, and he said, "No, I like two eggs scrambled together." I thing that sums it up about the way summer is going. We are enjoying the pace of home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

john h butler, 1950, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, June 18, 2010

take a left at the tie dye shop

I should probably just be a realtor. I think this is just gorgeous.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, we have the opposite direction.


I'm happy that the single parenting portion of my week is now over. It is just more confortable to have two grownups and a couple of working telephones. Yesterday Ruby gave my cell phone a good washing in the sink, and I had to spend the night phoneless. I opened up the house to let in the cool night air and started hearing noises everywhere. Our backyard is the woods, and all kinds of creatures wander up at night. The coons like to wrestle with my composter, and the deer prance around. What kind of pioneer woman would I make, here in the city without my cellphone? I flashed my carlights to make some ruckus and slept with my car keys and alarm button next to my bed. I was wondering how I could get the police on the Internet if I needed to. Oh, Caroline Ingalls.

For the most part I've been organizing closets and drawers all week. I've taken a few more carloads to the Goodwill. Our realtor was here last week and sent me a list of all the things I would need to do to put our house on the market. Let's just say it is a long list, but it can certainly be achieved with the help of a good contractor, some guys at Lowes, and a middle aged woman with three littles who isn't afraid to take a crowbar to the kitchen counters. Oh, that and a couple of thousand dollars.

Tomorrow I want to bake some pies, and sunday we go to get our big girl.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

sweet, sweet birthday girl

sweet, sweet birthday girl, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Ruby was truly celebrated today with her dear sweet friends. She ate so many berries, and blew out her candles and shouted in her most southwest Virginia accent, "One more time".

The other children put her in a little rocking chair and gathered around her while she opened her gifts.

Thank you to everyone who made this afternoon such a special one.

ruby, 2

ruby, 2, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


a-loon, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

happy second birthday ruby june

ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

back when there were 2

thanksgiving 2007, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

On the cusp of Ruby's second birthday, this made me laugh. Who are these tiny little people?


Harissa is a North African red chili sauce that is used to flavor soups, vegetables, and as a marinade for grilled meats. It is wonderful to dollop on some bean soup or with oven roasted potatoes.

Make a paste with 8 chili peppers and four cloves of garlic
Add a tsp of salt

Grind 2 tsp caraway seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, and tsp cumin
Chop a large bunch of mint
Blend all with 1/2 cup of olive oil


cold oven pound cake

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
whisk these together

5 eggs room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups butter room temperature
1 cup milk with 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp lemon extract, and 1 tsp almond extract

Cream butter, and add 3 cups sugar slowly
Add eggs one at a time
Add flour alternating with milk
Pour into a greased and floured pan

Place in a cold oven.
Turn on to 300 degrees and bake 1 1/2 hours or until it is pulling away from the sides of the pan.


preheat the oven to 425.
4-6 tbps olive oil, butter, or bacon drippings in the pan,
and put the pan in the oven.

2 cups self rising cornmeal,or 2 cups plain cornmeal
mixed with 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt

Add 2 cups buttermilk (or regular milk with a splash of cider vinegar) and
2 eggs beaten

Take out the hot skillet. Leave 4 tbsp oil in the pan and mix 2 in the batter

Quickly mix and pour into the hot pan
Bake 15 minutes until golden.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


sunshine, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I really would have taken pictures of the other children, but they were in the water for five hours only stopping to gulp down some water, shove in some food and run back to their play.


hat, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I always said that a two piece bathing suit was not the best choice for a young girl, and then I saw this one at Target and threw it in the cart. Who can resist? They had that whole Liberty collection, and then poof it was gone.

Speaking of bathing suits, I hate them. More specifically, I don't like putting them on. Even when I was a younger and had a great body, it just wasn't me. Now, it is just an atrocity really. Last year I bought one of those pricey Land's End one piece suits. I liked the top, but the leg openings just hit me all wrong. They are neither high nor low, just wrong. I keep thinking it is the kind of bathing suit that would look great with jeans and a white linen shirt.

In a fit of panic about having to go to the lake with my most lovely and also not skinny mama friends, I ordered a Land's End tankini top, the one with the adjustable sides that you can pull up tight or wear long at the hip. I love it. I could run in it, and with three children I will be running in it. Apart from that, it is also pretty. If only I'd planned what I was going to wear on the bottom.

I think linen pants would be nice.

ella art 2010

ella art 2010, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ella art 2010

ella art 2010, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ella art 2010 flip book

ella art 2010 flip book, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ella art 2010

ella art 2010, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I've been trying to take pictures of the kid's artwork as opposed to trying to keep all of it. I've got a portfolio going for a few pieces from each year, and I'm keeping the self portraits from school, but I feel like I've been riding the wave of paper that comes home from school and then meets with the wave that is created at my dining room table.

I think that her art teacher at school does a tremendous job introducing them to the art world in an academic sense and then giving them the tools and time to create things that are truly their own. When it was decided that the school day would be lengthened Ella almost automatically commented that she would like her extra time to be in art class.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Summer started today at our house with trip to the lake. The public schools are still in class, so we pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves. The humidity has passed, and we had the perfect blend of clouds, sun, and breeze. It was so gorgeous we ended up staying for five hours, and yet little John still pretended that the lake was pulling him in when I told him it was time to go home. My friend showed me how to get there on a country road, and now I think I'm going to buy a season pass there. I like going early before anyone can go in the water and watching the butterflies sipping along the edge of the water.

Tomorrow we will vacuum and put away our clothes, but today we had to play.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


c, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, June 04, 2010


3, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Guess who is going to third grade? We've spent two days celebrating the end of school. Last night was the art show and music program, and today was the graduation. Last night we picnicked on the school playground,and today we potlucked with school friends. I feel like I've been running into the house, making and packing food, and running out the door.

This afternoon daddy and John left on their first boys only camping trip. Tonight they are eating macaroni and cheese under the stars. They have books, games, trucks, and bikes. Back on the homefront, the ladies with be regaining order, organizing artwork, and enjoying the quiet.

2 sides of ham

2 sides of ham, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

button up shirt, plaid. flower shorts. a tail.

He went upstairs to get "very dressed up" for the art show tonight. Many were envious of his tail.

at her art show

at her art show, originally uploaded by ellajohn.