Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Summer Vacation

It seems strange but this is the first year the kids have been in a school that closed for a week. Between sick days and long weekends I usually used up or saved my time off for the next cold. Since the daycare was closed we were forced to take time off. Time I don’t really have but luckily I have an understanding boss and there is a pay back system. The next few blog entries will be some of the things we did during our week together.

How I spent my summer vacation: Day 1

Our summer vacation started with a family yard sale. I was up at 6 and my help started to wonder out awhile latter. We took box after box after crib after toddler bed and other things we out grew or just no longer needed. Signs went up and after over an hour of displaying it across the front yard we were ready. Several hours latter the majority of the stuff was gone and we had a few dollars in our pocket to show for it. Yard sales are definitely not a big money maker but it is a good way to recycle. Everything sold didn’t go to a land fill. The things not sold will have one more chance and then will go to a local thrift shop.

Once the yard sale was wrapped up we headed to a company picnic at J.R.'s Festival Lakes. This picnic site is run by the same people as one of the best local steak houses J.R.'s Stockyards Inn. The grounds and food are fantastic. The company arranged for all the extras to make it a great event. The band was rocking. My little girl dropped the corn on the cob she was chowing down on to start dancing to 'Mustang Sallie'. It was a priceless sight. My son now isn’t sure if he wants a guitar or a base guitar. The ping-pong table was a bit too much of a challenge for the 2 and 4-year-olds. The air hockey table was a hit. The inflated water slide was a huge hit with my son. This was the third year we have had to drag him away from it to leave. The moon bounce was my daughter’s favorite. It was a dinosaurs theme this year and had a rock climbing wall inside. After watching the bigger kids scale the wall she wanted to do it – by herself. After a few trial runs with help up to the first ‘rock’ and a lesson on how to use the rope she was off and keeping up with those big boys.

Our busy day left us all so exhausted we decided to use our hard earned yard sale money for Chinese delivery for dinner. After baths and showers we all fell into bed to see what day 2 would bring.

It was a great start to a summer vacation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Harvard Beets

I had friends over for dinner last night. I confirmed food allergies and preferences then came up with a possible menu. I included one of my favorite childhood dishes, Harvard Beets. To my surprise one of our guess had never had beets before. I’ve introduced her to a few other foods like kasha and split pea soup. Why not add one more to the list? I’m happy to say they liked it.

Harvard Beets

  • Fresh beets: boiled, peeled, & chopped
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Corn starch

Add about equal parts of vinegar water and sugar to sauce pan with the beets. Bring to a simmer. Dissolve a teaspoon or two of corn starch in some cold water. Quickly stir the corn starch mixture into the pot. When the sauce is clear to the desired thickness, it is ready to serve.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I have been wanting to write a book since I was quite young. I remember receiving an ‘Anything” book as a gift and started to fill it with my own poems and drawings. My father then showed me a book written and illustrated by my grandfather Ben Wolf. It was his poetry and the single ling drawings he was known for. The dream no had new inspiration. In school my papers always received high marks for my writing yet they barely passed because of spelling errors which I never noticed due to a mild learning disability. My concentration had to be focused on spelling and my creativity turned to other things and the joy of writing faded.

Now thanks to using spell checking software and lots of repetition, I’m now reviewing other peoples work and have been inspired to try and try again to write. In 2007 I joined a team to walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. The team decided to use a blog to encourage each other and let others follow our training and fund raising efforts. I had been reading a few blogs (Not Martha and Gluten-Free Girl ) for a while but I hadn’t thought of contributing to one or writing my own. I’ve now posted over 250 posts on to Ma Walking Wolf ( ) on and well on my way to making writing a habit. Hopefully honing a few writing skills along the way.

There are three different books I want to write. Two required lots of creativity and two requiring lots of research. Each time I write for the blog I am practicing a little of both and brining myself one step closer to making something of my own to one day sit on the shelf next to my anything book and my grandfather’s books.

Ben Wolf,

Maine Illustrated

Words and C by John F. Gummere (Author), Ben Wolf (Illustrator) (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers (April 1990))

Franklin C. Watkins: Portrait of a painter by Ben Wolf (University of Pennsylvania Press (1966))

A common of piscary & other poems by Ben Wolf (Sutter House (1981))

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Shortly after I posted the blog “Corn, Watermelon and Zucchini, Oh My” saying how well my corn was doing the squirrels also decided it was doing well. They climbed up the stalks, stripped off the husk and ate the corn where it stood. Two ears broke off and they dragged them through the yard and gnawed them down to nearly nothing. I solved the "The Mystery of Vanishing Tomatoes" when I discovered these same adorable furry critters were running off with not only my wonderful vine ripened tomatoes but also the green tomatoes. Just last week I saw a hawk try to corner one of these well feed critters in the cul-de-sac. At the time I wasn’t sure who to route for, now I know. I need to find a way to help the hawks or fox capture a few squirrel dinners or other eco-friendly ways of reducing their population.

If you have any suggestions for protecting our gardens or discouraging squirrels my fellow gardening neighbors and I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Green Spring Gardens Park

This past Sunday I took the family to Green Spring Gardens. It is a county park of gardens and duck ponds. The kids had a great time. For nearly 2 hours we walked just over a mile at a preschool exploring pace. We were weaving between gardens, ponds and creeks. We had to stop and watch the running water form miniature waterfalls and whirlpools. We searched the water for minnows, painted turtles, and water bugs. We tried to follow darting dragon flies as they flew across the water. The water lilies fascinated the kids. They wanted to walk out and touch the lily pads and smell their beautiful flowers. We spent some time trying to explain why they couldn’t. We ate a snack on a stone bench overlooking the pond in the shade. The kids asked if their gold fish crackers could swim with the little fish. We wandered twisting and turning paths to see beautiful flowers and busy bees. The kids have a list of flowers they now want me to plant in our yard and want to go back. I would love to go back to check out the historical building, the horticultural building, and the gardens we didn’t get to this time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Weeds Are Toast!

I was the counselor at camp who loved to teach knife, ax and saw safety, fire building, archery and cooking. That was many years ago but I still enjoy each one and finding new ways to enjoy using them in my every day chores. Yesterday was knives and fire in the garden.

I worked on the yard for 3 hours yesterday. One very thorny bush is now about 1/3 the size. It was shooting past the gutters and roof. The darn thing filled almost 2 lawn bags and nailed me really good twice. The darn thing has 2.5” thorns on some of the older growth. A nice sharp pair of pruners did the job. I had my ax and Japanese saw on stand by but it didn’t come to that.

After having one plant fight back it was time to get my revenge on some unsuspecting weeds. In early spring I had used my sod cutting shovel to edge the yard along the curb and scrape out the weeds growing in the cracks along the curb. The weeds in the curb had not gotten the message they were unwelcome and came back in vengeance. I had the garden hose in one hand and my burner in the other. The neighbors just smiled and stayed away as I lite the burner and lowered it down to the first weed. As I walked along the curb I could see the next weed wither in anticipation of its turn to be brought before the flame… As I contemplated the carbon emissions from the burning propane vs. the potential damage herbicide can do to the water ways and the plants and animals along the way, I charred the weeds along the curb and walkway. I still needed to do more along the curb but I saved that for another day. I think the burning weeds was the most satisfying chore of the day. I love my weed burner. For some reason frying stubborn weeds with a beautiful blue flame; watching them twist, wither and burn is so satisfying. Yes, I’ve remembered my Girl Scout training to always be prepared. I had the hose or a bucket of water in the other hand at all times just in case the flames decided to try to escape my control.

I also tried to burn the wisteria growing at a base of a tree. If it doesn’t work I’ll have to resort to herbicide. It is so close to the tree that any attempts at getting rid of the tree smothering plant could damage or kill the tree.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Compost: Take 2

My husband and I took turns digging out the compost bin. The rich black soil was riddled with roots from the nearby bush and tree. I added a wheelbarrow full of compost to the pumpkin patch. I mixed it in pulling out some chunks to go back into the compost bin. The pumpkins have a few grape tomato plants growing amongst them from the compost.

The lessons learned are 1) turn the pile more often, 2) to chop up what goes into the bin for faster decomposition, and 3) to have a better mix of brown and green materials. If we turn the pile more often the roots won’t have a chance to get so well established. It will also allow better air flow so the little micros can get the oxygen they need to do their thing. If we chop up the stuff into smaller pieces there will be more surface for the little micros, ants, worms and such to work on. It will break down into rich soil faster. If we have a better balance of brown materials (dry leaves, news print) and green materials (green leaves, fruits, vegetables, etc) the air flow around the material should be better and an optimum temperature should be maintained which would then better support the micro biotic life and neutralize the seeds. I’m now shredding the news papers and some of the junk mail which is on similar paper. I’m mixing it into the compost trash can in the kitchen. I’m hoping this will help absorb some of the excess moisture so there is less to clean out of the bottom of the can. The biodegradable compost bags usually work well but if a spot gets too soggy it starts decomposing a little too quickly. The news print should help with that along with adding some brown material to the bin. A side affect is a neater looking trash can.

Hopefully we’ll have better compost faster. If not, we’ll learn a few more lessons to get it right the next try.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Corn, Watermelon and Zucchini, Oh My

A few of the corn stalks are doing very well. I have about 5 which have one or two ears of corn developing quite nicely. Some of the ones from the second planting are trying to catch up but some rodent, possibly squirrels, are still nibbling them off just above the ground. The darn little critters aren’t even eating the rest of the stalk. They are just leaving it there to brag about their vandalism.

The watermelon is also having some rodent problems. Every once in a while another section of the vine has been nibbled off and left to curl up and wither in the sun. there were lots of quarters size melons but so far only a handful have gotten to a small fist. One has made it to the size of a softball. The kids are starting to have high hopes for the little fella. Hopefully the rodents don’t get it or its life line.

Zucchini have formed beautiful mounds of green foliage decorated with bright pumpkin colored blossoms. They are beautiful and fruitful. Much to the children’s dismay we are now getting one or two each day. They seem to be wondering how mom will get it to appear in the next dinner.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Handful of Pea Pods

The pea pods seem to be doing well but are not nearly as productive as had hoped. They are often providing yummy little snacks when I check on the garden but two or three pods does not make for anything more then a teaser snack other then a side dish for a family of four. The handful pictured above is from one of the more productive days.

The metal fence does seem to be doing well for support but could use a few horizontal strings added to assist in their vertical climb. Next year I’ll do the fencing again but I’m definitely going to have to plant more.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Color of Bentos

To try to perk up the lunch time bentos I picked up some new Wilton Silicone triangle shaped baking cups. They are pretty pink and purple. They seem to be a bit roomier then the square ones I have. They definitely don’t fit as neatly into the compartments of our lunch cubes but they are colorful and add some thing a bit different to the look. I’m not sure if the kids even noticed their favorite colors were added to their lunches. I wonder if they would notice them if they had cupcakes in them instead of grapes or pirate cannon balls.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bread Serving Trays

After baking bread and dragging it across state lines for a wedding I realized I hadn’t packed any serving dishes. The hostess might have had some but she was already using most of hers for all of the goodies she was preparing. While racing through the local dollar store for a few things I came across some pizza pans. I picked up three for $1 each. They worked perfectly under the castle bunt cake. Normally most pans are either too small or dwarf the cake. These multi-purpose pans will come handy for serving snacks at parties and making pizzas. It might not be up to Martha Steward’s standards but they work for this working mom of two.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kid Educational Stuff

I’m always looking for more sources for science stuff to do with the kids. This past weekend a friend introduced me to POW! Science!. This site is packed full of stuff to check out. Now I just need to see if I can find stuff to interested me and my little people.

I asked a friend who home schools her 3 kids in a co-op type arrangement with other friends where was a good resource for workbooks. She said without hesitation Rainbow Resource. They have a ton of materials to for home schooling and educational things to do with your kids even if they go to a traditional school.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blueberry Bark

The hostess of the party I attended Saturday night made this wonderfully delicious and simple to make treat for the party. I was even allowed to take home a few of the remaining pieces where I promptly had it kid tested. My daughter thinks this stuff is great!

Blueberry Bark

  • 1 pt. Fresh blueberries, washed and dried
  • 1bag chocolate melts or chocolate chips (dark or milk)

Line baking dish with wax paper. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe dish or in a double boiler on the stove. Pour the blueberries into the lined dish. Add melted chocolate over top. Mix together and smooth level. Chill until hard. Break with a kitchen fork and serve.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Quote for a Day Off

It's the things in common that make relationships enjoyable, but it's the little differences that make them interesting.
-Todd Ruthman

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wedding Breads

I'm helping with an after wedding reception party this weekend. The hostess seemed like she would appreciate some help getting the house ready and some help with the cooking. I helped a little with the cleaning and dropping off a few party supplies and then I got baking.

This past weekend I baked homemade spelt pumpkin bread in my new silicone bunt cake pan. I use the quick pumpkin bread recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook and substituted the wheat flour with spelt flour. I was a little concerned with using a new pan which could effect the cooking time. It looks like it turned out well.

I made a batch of pizza dough in the bread machine. I used the bread machine recipe but added 1 tablespoon of Italian herb seasonings and a teaspoon of garlic powder. I substituted the 3 cups wheat flour with 1 cup of whole spelt flour and 2 of white spelt flour. I then baked it in 2 8-inch square pans. It smelled wonderful and should taste just as wonderful with cheeses and the other things which will be served. I was inspired by some Italian flat breads I have had at a few catered events.

Lastly I baked a Sweet Whole Spelt bread in my Norticware Castle Bunt Cake Mold. This is another altered recipe from my Joy of Cooking cookbook. The only substitution I made for this one was switching the whole wheat flour for whole spelt flour. This is a very nice sweet bread with a slightly nutty taste.

I wrapped all three breads and have stored them in the freezer to keep them as fresh as possible. I pulled them out the day before and placed them in a cooler for them to slowly defrost in time for the event.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pink Hawaiian: 3rd Outfit Complete

Over the past two weeks I have been busy at work cutting and sewing the third outfit made from the fabric I bought while on vacation in Maui. This time I was working with a beautiful pink floral to make a top. I chose a dart olive green fabric to make a contrasting carpi pants to complete the set. The green fabric is a very light weight cotton. I was thinking pants in August in humid Virginia. I wasn't thinking wear and tear. I believe the finial result will be good for wearing to work or nice events (aka not crawling around on the floor with small children or rock climbing).

I decided it was time to use a new pattern after using the same pattern for the first dress and skirt set. This time I chose Butterick B4558. Since the first two tops seemed large I decided to make this one one size smaller. That was my first mistake. The finished pants just fit and the top had to be altered. After spending a lot of time to make sure the pattern on the sleeves were perfectly centered on the pattern, I didn't use them. I determined that if I attached the sleeves I would never be able to raise my arms. So the plan changed and it became another sleeveless top. I decided that instead of using lace for the 'modesty' insert I would use a piece of the contrasting green fabric. After most of the top, I tried it on and could not decide if I wanted or needed the insert. I've decided to wear it once and then decide.

The results is a very pretty and comfortable cool top and a pair of pants that have inspired me to concentrate a bit more on eating healthier and trying harder to take lunch time walks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ratatouille: Take Two

After enjoying ratatouille for a day or two it is time to start the transformation process. Well okay I only added to the part I packed for lunch but it is an example of taking one dish and having it become something a little different and very delicious.

Today’s lunch is ratatouille with sweet Italian chicken sausage and sweet corn.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


In an earlier blog I mentioned ratatouille as one of the one of many dishes I like with zucchini. The Wikipedia description says it is a French dish with herbs de la providence. I’m not sure if my mother ever made it quite that way. Actually I’m not sure if she ever made it the same way twice. For that matter I’m not sure if I have either. When I first moved out on my own I lived on my own and worked 2 to 3 jobs. I often would make one dish and add to it as it went down. I often did this with chili in the winter starting with a vegetarian one and eventually adding meat some time during the week. In the summer I would start with a ratatouille and end up with some kind of garden meat spaghetti sauce. Either went with noodles or rice. It made cooking easy while still adding a bit of variety.


  • Egg plant, diced
  • Onion, diced
  • Pepper, green or red diced
  • Zucchini, diced
  • Tomatoes, fresh or canned crushed (do not drain)
  • Italian herb mix
  • Salt, pepper, & sugar
  • olive oil (or other oil or butter)

Soak eggplant in salted water. Drain and rinse. Sauté onion in olive oil, add herbs, pepper, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. Test to see if salt, pepper, or sugar need to be added. Simmer until all vegetables are tender. Serve as a side dish or over rice or pasta.

Tomatoes can be either acidy or sweet. If the ratatouille seems tart a pinch or so of sugar can remove the acid taste. Add the sugar in small amounts slowly allowing it to mix and cook in before adding more. Adding too much will give the dish more of a relish taste.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Mystery of Vanishing Tomatoes

My tomatoes have been vanishing. This is all I have been able to bring into the house this summer. A few of the nearly ripe ones usually have teeth marks or are found feet away from the vines half eaten. Then the green tomatoes started to disappear. I was baffled what could be eating my tomatoes.

This past weekend I watched a squirrel run up the fence, pick out a beautiful green tomato and run off with it. Those critters just went from cute fuzzy critters to dog food. I didn’t know they ate tomatoes until I saw it. I thought it was mice. We found 2 dead in the yard, one of which was in the garden.

Does anyone know any way of keeping squirrels from tomatoes or the garden in general?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Frying Pan Farm Park

There were so many good reasons to go out this weekend. The weather was wonderful and it was time to celebrate the First Harvest. Many of our friends gathered to celebrate Lammas (Wikipedia & Cyber Witch), the first harvest. I decided the most appropriate way of having a 2 and 4 year-olds to connect to their agricultural roots and the seasons was to take them to a farm. Now you may wonder where I was going to find a working farm in a county of over a million people. That part was easy thanks to some forward thinking farmers who donated their land to the county to be maintained as a working farm and a park.

Frying Pan Farm Park is now a part of the Fairfax County Park Authority. This beautiful park is in the western part of the county (far side from Washington DC).The property has a working farm which portrays a typical area farm of the 1920’s through the 1950’s. Prior to the development boom since, Fairfax County was the largest dairy farming county in the state of Virginia.

The plan was to visit the park and walk around to see the fields, animals and take a ride on the wagon. Well to our surprise there was an annual 4-H fair and an antique car show. There was so much going on we didn’t even get near the antique cars. We did check out the animals that normally live on the farm but we also saw lots of horses, rabbits, sheep, goats and cows who were visiting and being shown by their 4-H owners. The kids politely asked each owner if they could pet their animals. They were a bit intimidated by the horses but the bunnies were the perfect petting size. The kids weren’t interested in all of the flower arrangements or science projects but the honey bees were fascinating. The kids were fearless watching honey bees in their glass display case.

The park’s playground was a big hit. So were the pens of animals especially the ones with babies. Pigs are okay but piglets are so cute. We went on a wagon ride pas some of the animal pens and around the feed fields. The farm had just harvested the barley and rye but still had small crops of other things typically grown in Virginia. The feed corn field was doing well and would help feed the animals through the winter. Selena fell in love with the early century dresses the women were wearing. The men’s uniforms didn’t do much for William.

I believe both kids would agree one of the highlights was getting to milk a pretend cow. The park has set up a life-size ply-wood cow with a contraption to simulate milking a cow. They both want to go back and milk a real one. Actually the both just want to go back. So we’ll have to find a day we can go back in time to let them milk a real cow… Yes, they will let suburbanites milk a real cow under supervision.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Zucchini Season

Have I mentioned it is zucchini season and they seem to have the ability to pop up in some unusual places. The zucchini pancakes were wonderful. Fresh steamed zucchini added to lunch time leftovers is delicious. The zucchini rice pilaf needs some thing else to be fully appreciated. The latest places for it to pop up were delicious.


Leftover Singapore rice noodles (a thin rice noodle, some meat and vegetables doused with a wonderful curry) reheated with a thinly sliced zucchini tossed in is wonderful.


Zucchini diced and sauteed with onion and red pepper makes a wonderful filling for a cheese omelet especially with melted mozzarella and Monterrey Jack cheeses.


Spelt pizza with Italian herb crust and zucchini mushroom toppings. I thinly sliced the zucchini and halved the medallions. I added the raw mushrooms and zucchini between the sauce (Ragu home style pizza sauce) and the cheese. The zucchini was a wonderful slightly crunchy topping. I'll definitely do this one again.

The spelt pizza dough is made from the bread machine recipe but substituted the 3 cups of wheat flour for 3 cups of spelt flour and added about 1 1/2 teaspoons of Italian herb mix and a dash of garlic powder. Occasionally I'll use 1 cup whole spelt and 2 cups white spelt flours to add more fiber and protein. It also has a wonderful flavor without being over powered or rejected by the small children.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Boring Bentos

I need to add some life to the kids lunches. They seem to be enjoying their bug spoons and sporks, the little cupcake cup dividers and cute containers. They even seem to be enjoying the weekly cheese sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches (hold the jelly please), English muffing pizzas, cheese quesadillas, mac & cheese with extra cheese stars, and cheese and cracker lunches but I’m getting bored packing them. They would be happy to say cheese based life forms but I believe it would be healthier for them to eat a variety of foods. I need to find some other things they will eat and will keep in a lunch box with an ice pack. I need to find a way to turn them onto tuna, humus, beans, lentils and such so I can add some variety.

One friend recommended sending lox and cream cheese, humus, or orange marmalade on mini-bagels, pitas, tortillas, or challah, prepackaged peanut butter or cheese crackers, granola bars, cereal bars, almond butter, butter, handful of nuts, raisins, and trail mix.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for lunches which will be welcomed and devoured by preschool kids?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Zucchini Experiment: Rice Pilaf

The zucchini are slowly coming in. I’m only averaging one a day but there are still many more blossoms. I decided to try to use the newly picked zucchini in a rice pilaf. The flavor was mild and much sweeter then I expected. The kids reaction to having green specks in their rice was exactly what I expected – “I no like that.” The husband went back for seconds. If I make this again I’ll be adding sautéed onions before adding the rice and I’ll toss in some frozen peas after it is done.

Zucchini Rice Pilaf

  • 1 T butter, sweet unsalted
  • 1 c short grain rice
  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • 2 c water

Melted butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in rice and grated zucchini and heat through. Add water then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes.