Sunday, November 15, 2015

Alessia at 5

Oh, my dear sweet Alessia. So big, yet so little.

Last winter, you finally learned to use the potty, and then four months later you taught yourself how to read. You always have been on your own schedule.

Yesterday we read a book about Amelia Earhart, and I explained that when Amelia Earhart was alive girls weren't allowed to do all sorts of things like fly planes and becomes scientists. You cried.

You love to draw and paint pictures, and you love just exploring paint with your hands. You feel much the same about food, and we are still trying to convince you that not all foods (I'm thinking of peanut butter here) are hand foods.

Your television alter ego is Bill from Curious George.

We tell people that you have an "old soul." You are so serious and have a deep sense of melancholy. When we watch Sesame Street you sing "It's not easy being green" right along with Kermit. On the way to school we sing "This is the day that our God has made" and your joy overflows.

You are so silly, and you and your sister can make each other laugh, which makes me so happy.

You've stared a new sassy phase. You pretend not to hear us the first time we tell you not to do something, and the second time you respond with "but I was just..."

When you started preschool last year, it was hard. You found it overwhelming and couldn't figure out why you couldn't just stay home with me. You became so much more social though, and this year you are excited to go to preschool.

We love you more than I can describe. You have always been a wonder to me, and I look forward to being with you as you grow up.


Monday, October 26, 2015

The Mixed Up Signs Game

Today we invented a new game. Like our alphabet game from last winter, it involved taping bits of paper to things in our living room.

There is a series of books about a character called Mr. Pine. He is a sign-painter, and in the book Mr. Pine's Mixed-Up Signs he puts up new signs all over town even though he has lost his glasses! As you can guess mayhem ensues, until the townspeople and the mayor find Mr. Pine, he finds his glasses, and he puts the signs where they belong.

Today I played the part of Mr. Pine. I made signs with the names of objects. I also added little pictures so that my younger daughter could participate. I then taped them up in the wrong places. The kids then ran around finding the signs and putting them in their correct places. The silliness of finding them in the wrong places really appealed to my kids, and Alessia enjoyed reading the words.




Saturday, October 17, 2015

Why I Studied and Continue to Study Italian

I first studied Italian, because it is the language of my father's parents. They came here as children, and they didn't speak Italian with their own children (I can only imagine that WWII had something to do with that). I grew up knowing that my dad regretted not knowing Italian, and when I got to Smith College I enrolled in intensive beginner Italian with the goal of spending a year of my undergraduate studies in Italy. For most of my 20s and early 30s, I didn't use my Italian much. When my first daughter Alessia was born, I decided to try to speak a little Italian with her every day. Now I learn Italian with my girls. I keep studying Italian, because it is the language of my grandparents, and because of the ways that English and Italian words relate to each other. My English is richer with meaning, because of my Italian.
A parasol is for the sun (per il sole) and my umbrella makes shade (ombra). When water falls (cascare) it is a cascade, and when a man falls (cadere), he becomes a cadever. A porter brings (portare) my stuff. When my hunger (fame) is big, I am famished. My hands (mani) get a manicure, and my feet (piedi) a pedicure. With my arms (braccia), I can embrace someone. The nurse holds my wrist (polso) to take my pulse. My bellybutton (ombellico) is what is left of my umbillical cord. A jellyfish (medusa) is beautiful and mythic...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sauce (tomato and apple) with an Immersion Blender and a Freezer

This year I am making tomato sauce and apple sauce. I don't have much time for these types of projects, but I like having a stash of local foods to eat in the winter. I have a new process that involves less hands-on time than the traditional methods and results in less waste.
I cut out the cores and coarsely chop the fruit. I cook it all down, skins included. With the tomatoes I even leave the seeds. Once the fruit is cooked down enough, I turn off the heat, and then blend it all smooth with an immersion blender. If the sauce is too thin, I cook it a bit more. Then I put the sauce in freezer safe containers (sometimes mason jars and sometimes plastic containers depending on what I have on hand). I let it cool on the counter or in the fridge if it's already late in the day, and then into the freezer it goes. That's it.
The tomato sauce has texture. I don't know that I will use it for a plain marinara sauce, but I've been using it in stews, chillis, and pasta sauces that include beans and vegetables. Amongst the texture of the other ingredients, the texture of the tomato sauce isn't noticeable, and it's so healthy with the skins and seeds included.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Dying Tomato Plants

Every year I plant two tomato plants. My garden is very small, and I get fresh tomatoes in my farm share. So two plants work well for us. This year, I started Amish Paste tomato plants from seed. The seedlings were healthy, and once in the garden, I trained them and pruned them so they wouldn't get out of control. I have to say, all in all, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Then some leaves died and bumps formed on the vines, and now green tomatoes are starting to drop. I think it is a bacterial infection. Which means I have to pull the plants, and I can't plant tomatoes in that bed for three years.

I love watching tomatoes ripen through the summer. I love eating them fresh off the vine, and I absolutely adore that end of summer ritual - when we pull the plants out of the ground, we strip all the remaining green tomatoes off. Last fall I made a fermented green tomato salsa. It was by far my favorite ferment.

There are a few green tomatoes on the vines right now. I'm pretty sure they are safe to eat depsite the vine's disease. Fermenting works best when the temperature is in the mid-60's, but is still possible in the 70's. We're having a mild summer, and my basement is a little cooler than my kitchen, so I am going to try fermenting them.

I'm also going to plant a little fall crop in the space where the tomatoes are right now. I have some kale seeds and some carrot seeds. I'll try one of those.

The first image is what the plants look like now. They were twice as full a couple of weeks ago. The second shows dying leaves. The third show the bumps on the vine.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Flyaway Katy and Messy Outdoor Art

Today we did "Messy Outdoor Art." We put out a big piece of paper on the sidewalk, anchored with bricks. I got out our most washable paint (Crayola is my favorite for this) and a selection of brushes, texture tools, and toy cars. Rather than putting the paint into cups, we put blobs of paint directly on the paper. We ran the cars through the paint (my favorite part), and dipped the texture tools, brushes, and our hands into the blobs of paint. Eventually messy outdoor art led to the kids pretending to be Flyaway Katy. When Alessia was quite little we discovered this book at our local library, and we highly recommend it. Katy is stuck inside with no one to play with on a grey, grey day. She decides she needs a little color, and puts on yellow tights, a pink dress, and her blue blue shoes. It isn't enough though. So she paints her face purple, orange stripes on her arms, and her fingertips purple. While waiting for the paint to dry she flies into a painting of colorful birds and spends the rest of the day with them, before flying home for her bath. The first time we read it, I could see Alessia's eye light up. So I set two ground rules, we spend some time painting on paper first, and we don't paint our faces.

Today, after the fun of playing with paint on paper had worn off, the girls set themselves to being Flyaway Katy. They painted stripes and polka dots on their arms and legs, and flew around waving their wings. When it was time to come inside, Alessia reminded me that the story ends with Katy flying home for a bath, and upstairs we went for a quick rinse before dinner.



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Raising Opposites - Part Two

Alessia wakes up talking. It starts with a shouted "mamma/daddy come see if I'm awake!" If the wrong parent opens her door, she says "I was hoping for mamma/daddy." Then she launches immediately into a story or she picks up on a half finished conversation from yesterday.

Olivia murmurs or at most mutters "mamma, mamma" when she wakes up. When I enter the room she gives me the biggest smile and reaches out her arms wordlessly for a hug. It can take her several minutes to wake up enough to start talking, and when she does it's quiet and sleepy.

A few weeks ago we took our easle outside to paint. Alessia stood, both feet planted, and contemplated her paper. She dipped her brush into one color at a time and put a great deal of thought into each mark that she made on the paper.

Olivia started with the fattest brush in the can. She dipped the brush into multiple colors and made broad strokes, taking a fencer's stance and working with her whole body. By the second piece of paper she had tired of the brush altogether and painted with her whole hands.