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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Family Memories of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup

I wanted to write a giant post detailing all of the fun we had experiencing the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, but it feels really overwhelming to try to put it into words. Here's a list of the things I don't want to forget!

  • The Nigerian trumpet players
  • Getting Kinder Eggs in the airports as soon as we hit Canada
  • Practicing the metric system on the long drives from Gimli to Winnipeg
  • The feeling of a stadium roaring when the U.S. Women's National Team took the field in the first game in Winnipeg
  • The feeling of a stadium drowning in cheers when the U.S. Women's National Team took the field in the final game in Vancouver
  • Meeting some of the stars in person
  • Meeting wonderful Canadians in every city we visited
  • Painting our faces
  • Painting our van
  • Wearing our jerseys
  • Seeing orcas in Vancouver! 
  • Celebrating as a family
I make a lot of jokes about #soccerifice, the things we give up or miss to get to soccer practice or games for the kids, but in this case soccer gave us back an incredible summer of family adventures.

And instead of going on and on,  I'm going to let these photos do the talking.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hunger Action Month

September is only a few days away and while it's an important month because IT'S MY BIRTHDAY it's also Hunger Action Month. Last year, thanks to my friend Ali's great idea I recruited friends to join me in the SNAP Challenge for a few days during the month.

I found the SNAP Challenge to be a powerful, memorable experience. Even my kids remember the days I participated and asked if I am doing it this year. But the SNAP challenge isn't without problems. Lots of people don't like the idea of making a game out of the way many Americans have to eat every single day of their lives. I did the challenge because I wanted to take hunger in America seriously, but I'm not doing this year because I'm not sure it led to any real action to help hungry people. It increased my desire to address hunger, but I think I can do more things during the month than just not eat.

I think you can do more, too. There are lots of ways to take action in the month of September. Here are 30 ideas:

Spread the word and invite friends to join you. Visit and learn more about hunger in our community. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Squeeze Out All the Toothpaste

My middle son wanted to see what happened when he squeezed out an entire tube of toothpaste.

He had a number of scientific inquiries to address.

1. How long would it take?
2. How would it look?
3. Would it melt?
4. Would it flow out of the pump fast or slow?

Watch the experiment for yourself here:

Here's an aerial view of the finished product.

Try It: Make Some Clay Pottery

My good friend Ali hates doing crafts. But she is a good friend and she knows I enjoy a good crafting session, so for my birthday in 2014 she gave me a gift certificate to Little House, Big Art to try their Introduction to Clay class! 

Ali also knows I love to celebrate my birthday for as long as I can, so we wisely procrastinated on scheduling the class until January 2015. And just to extend the celebration, I'm finally blogging about this in August 2015…you guessed it, just in time for my next birthday! (And this one's a biggie!)

I was super excited for this class even though we had to scale a road that traveled up the sheer cliff face of Spring Hill. We arrived one snowy day and had the studio and instructor (also named Elizabeth) to ourselves. 

So we begin with a simple lump of clay. Very existential. 

I must admit, I don't know how to use a pottery wheel. My sculpting experience is limited to fun little creations I have made with Sculpey!

Like this melting snowman above or these happy little peas below! 

But I had recently read an excellent middle grade book called A Single Shard about ancient Korean pottery. It was so excellent I wanted to try my hand at a wheel. So off we went.

It was intense. Our teacher made it look easy. So did my friend.

At first it went well. 

See that? Got my hands dirty. 

Things were rolling along. I pushed my thumb in and got a little pot going. That wheel was spinning and the pot was growing. It looked so nice and symmetrical. Then I flubbed it up. 

Well, I tried. 

I don't have a future as a traditional Korean potter but the book is still amazing. Read it. What has a book ever inspired you to try??

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Temptation Tarts

Our family loves to try new foods from around the world!! 

(Disclaimer: Not everyone in our family likes to try new foods from around the world.)

This company followed me on Twitter. They can read my mind.
I discovered Try the World from either a friend or a sponsored ad on Facebook. I can't actually remember. But I am super-susceptible to subscription gift boxes that deliver surprises every month or so. I love Quarterly (I picked Book Riot), Birchbox, Graze, NatureBox, this baby box company I can't even remember, Stitchfix, and now I have Try The World! 

Try The World sends a box of foods from a country to your house and you get to eat it all!!!! Yum!! Our first box was from Arengtina and although Lionel Messi was NOT included in the box, delicious Argentinian food was. The whole family was delighted. Sweet, creamy dulce de leche, fantastically flavored chimichurri and of course... Membrillo.

Have you had membrillo? You must. It's quince paste. It's fruity, slightly tangy, sweet, and smooth. Lots of people don't know about the quince, but scholars suggest it is the original fruit from the Garden of Eden because of course apples are New World fruits. We usually eat it with manchego cheese but this time i had a HUGE block and wanted to make something really warm and delicious. I wanted to make tarts. 

Since Adam and Eve might have actually tempted and eatin' the quince in Eden, I named these Temptation Tarts. Because tarts can be very tempting.

1. Start by buying puff pastry. Let it thaw a little like the package says. Warm up some yummy goat cheese and spread it aaaallll over. Yeah, like that. 

2. Then slice into that ripe, sweet membrillo. Smooth cuts. Very carefully. Lay it out on the goat cheese nice and gentle. Perfect. 

3. Tuck it in under the next layer of puff pastry. I made some little cuts with a knife here so it would be easier to separate the tarts when they were cooked and stuff them into my mouth individually. 

4. Bake according to some random combination of directions I found on the internet and the puff pastry box. I think I did 350 or 375 for like 15 minutes. Then I put them back in for another 5. Then I toasted one in the toaster oven later like a strudel and that was good, too.


So, so, so, so good.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oak Hammock Marsh

We couldn't wait for school to end this spring because two days after the boys finished Pre-K, second and fourth grades we were on our way to Winnipeg, Manitoba!

Why Winnipeg, you ask? Don't worry. Even the people in Winnipeg asked why we came to Winnipeg. We went to see the opening rounds of the FIFA Women's World Cup, of course. But more on that later.

But we couldn't stay in Winnipeg because all of the hotels in that city were sold out, so we stayed in a little town called Gimli and learned a ton about Canada and Iceland. Bonus! Staying outside of the city turned out to be a real win for us because we explored more of the southern part of the province than I think we would have otherwise.

One of the highlights of our adventures was to Oak Hammock Marsh. This environmental center was a delight! We timed our visit to the afternoon when the school field trips were done. Even though our kids were done school, kids in Manitoba had to wait until June 30.

The marsh was so lovely and peaceful. There's nothing like the expanse of a prairie to make you feel both insignificant and part of a larger whole. It seems so empty from a distance, but when you pause and watch carefully there is a lot of learn from the bustling life of a marsh.

From the observation station on the roof, we watched muskrats swim.

Inside the interpretive center, we observed the tiniest water bugs.

On our hike through the marsh we made friends with the fiesty ground squirrels!

And we even shared a meal with some hungry local salamanders.

Though we eventually had to flee from the mosquitos who wanted to make a meal out of us, we really loved our visit to Oak Hammock. It is known as a birding hotspot and we saw an incredible variety of birds. Our boys were inspired to design soccer uniforms based on bird colorations (always with the soccer). We also spotted a small leopard frog and an interesting spider. We learned about duck nest tunnels, how to tell female ticks from male ticks, and how to eat wood rose petals! 

This marsh is part of the Red River ecosystem and protecting the prairie is an important part of their mission. On our hike, we came across the sign highlighting other parts of the prairie. I wish all informational signs were written with this voice - it just made me want to come back and explore Oak Hammock even more! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What does the Hawk Say?

Warning! This post has a gross photo of a dead rabbit. For realz.

We have a lot of bird action at my house. Not pet birds, birds doing their thing out in nature. One boy compared being at our house to being at the Aviary. Bird poop on the porch railings, birds destroying our window screens to make their nests, and my ever-present guardian hawk.

Remember my guardian hawk?

I was hard at work today on an article about female sports stars from Pittsburgh and about to switch gears to a revision of a short story that one of my number one top target magazines thought was a "hoot" (more bird action) but needed a little revision. Though I was in a total groove I kept getting distracted by a crazy commotion - no a cacophony - of hawk sounds in the backyard. Not just regular hawk calls, but some really loud screams and then high-pitched scratchy screeches, lots of blue jay chatter and it all sounded really loud and close. And it went on for awhile.

Ok, ok, I thought. You want my attention. I'll be right outside.

I finished my sentence and grabbed my bird-watching binocs. But once I got to the backyard, it was quiet. No sound. I saw the hawk swooping behind the trees off to the west. I scanned the area a little longer, but even the bossy jays had departed or else finally gotten tired of bossing every other bird in the place.

Turning around to return home, I found it!!! It's like Watership Down in my freakin' backyard!!


OK, I now I should probably be grossed out by this but I'm not. It's just a dead rabbit. Hawks gotta eat, yo. This was probably supposed to be lunch for my hawk. I don't know why it's still in my backyard, because my guardian hawk is definitely strong enough to carry this bunny. But I realized now that some of those crazy screeches and screams might actually have been from this rabbit. So now I have an idea of what the rabbit says, too.