Friday, September 21, 2007

Still waiting for my 400 recipes to come pouring in

I still remember one of the first chain letters I ever received. It was hand-delivered by my friend who had walked across Ilomantsi with her father to bring copies of the letter to me and my sister. I was to copy the letter six times, add my address to the bottom of the list and send a postcard to the name at the top of the list. I would be continuing a chain that had been 'unbroken and traveled around the world many times', and would receive a pile of postcards from across the globe.

I'm not sure if the promised postcards arrived. But, then again, time moved at a different pace back then. Letters had to be hand-written, post-marked and passed along by various postal services at their leisure.

Ah, but the chain letters for the modern mom work much quicker! A baby book exchange (who could resist such a good cause!) encouraged you to photocopy or print out copies of the letter and their were only two other addresses to wait through. Peanut received four books: two from the US, one from Finland and one all the way from New Zealand.

The latest one I pushed ahead came via email. Its the first email chain letter I'd gotten. So quick and easy. Just a click-click copy/paste, delete the first email address, add your own, scroll through the online address book (click, click, click) and SEND!

Please send a recipe to the person whose name is listed in the number 1 position above (even if you don't know them) and it should preferably be something quick, easy, without very rare ingredients. Actually, the best is the one you know in your head, and can type out and send right now. But, feel free to consult your recipe files!

Then, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to the number 1 position, and put your name in the number 2 position.

Only your name and mine should appear in this list when you send out your email.

Send this to 20 friends.

You should receive 36 recipes. It is fun to see where these recipes come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we can all use new recipes! The turn around is fast because only 2 names are on the list.

Again, the hook was too tempting to resist -- new recipes! Goodness knows, I need inspiration in the kitchen. peanut's papa always laughs at how I make shopping lists. I always start with 'chicken, pork chop or ground beef?' and grab random veg and carb side dishes that kinda go with the protein.

So, within minutes, I had sent a recipe to Name #1 (Salmon Chowder - nice for fall/winter and perhaps a recipe she didn't have). The instructions said to send to 20 friends and you'll get '36 recipes' in exchange. Hmmmm, I thought later that day. I'm no numbers whiz, but that sounds a bit low. I mean if everyone participated, my diligent 20 friends would move me up to position #1 and all send it to 20 of their friends, leaving hundreds out there to zap me their kitchen favorites. We should be in food paradise! I'll be unburdened of having to contrive of some meal plan for weeks, months, possibly the entire year!!!!!

Yet, now almost a week later, my mailbox has yet to receive a single poor family continues to eat pork chops with carrots and couscous or coconut chicken with mixed veg and noodles wondering when -- if ever -- they will get to taste something new......

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Walden Pond

One wonderful thing about living in New England is all the historical and beautiful places we live among.

The Walden Pond of Henry David Thoreau's Walden is just a short drive away and completely open to explore. To limit the impact of visitors on this natural gem, the number of park visitors is capped.

This past Sunday was a glorious day - just like you would imagine early autumn in New England to be - bright sunshine in a brilliant blue sky, cool weather mixed with a hint of warm currents. We headed over to Walden Pond with the intent of strolling around it, but ended up playing and picnicing on its sandy shore.

As we descended down the path toward the pond, I was shocked to see a couple of people swimming in the middle of it! The shock was two-fold: it was quite brisk out and this is a park! Once we reached the waterfront and sampled the water ourselves, it was easy to see why the swimmers were out. The water temperature was very pleasant especially at the lengthy shallows.

Of the paths around the pond, none of the them looked wide enough to accomodate our Mutsy so we went as far as we could and settled on the sand to eat lunch. Peanut could hardly keep herself from the rocks on the water's edge. So, the picnicing was left up to papa, me and Tex, who enjoyed his mushy sweet potatoes.

An older man soon approached us wondering if Peanut might be interested in a shovel, bucket and sieve. He explained that he cleans the beaches everyday and everyday he finds the same types of toys left behind. The rangers usually throw them away, but he likes to disburse them among the children on the beach. However, as a sign of our times, he refused to hand them directly to Peanut saying he only gives toys for children to their parents, never to kids. He didn't even really dare to speak to her.

On our way out, we saw a replica of Thoreau's one-room cabin; next time, we'll have to strap Tex into the baby carrier and walk to the actual site where Thoreau was inspired to start the back to simplicity and nature movement in America. I can't wait to watch the scenery change as we approach winter!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quack, Quack!

Peanut & Tex's uncle from the Netherlands was here last week for his first visit to the US! He's just headed home last week after a leisurely drive down the coast to NYC with a friend. We think he'll be back.

Peanut certainly hopes so! Mama & Papa were simply swept aside when Peanut realized what a good time she could have with her uncle. At first, she referred to him simply as "This" - as in, "Let's go to the pool." "This come along, too?" with a little finger tapping his shoulder. By the end of his visit, she was very clear on who he was :-)

To get a quick look around Boston with the whole family, we jumped aboard the local Duck Boat Tour ! We arrived a half hour before launch, but it wasn't a minute too early. All the other passengers were also clambering up the ladder-like steps dropped from the back of the amphibious vehicle. The Duck Boats are renovated World War II vehicles made for moving from land to sea and back again. They played a major role in the Normandy landings. It gave me a strange sort of feeling imagining what those original passengers must have felt and now we were just leisurely riding around in the Ducks for fun.

We had a lively operator/captain by the name of "Hardly Davidson" who kept us entertained while also sharing a few stories about the city; the strangest was the tale of the Great Molasses Flood. After a loop on dry-land we headed around to a specially-built launching site on the Charles River for our splash-down. I had imagined a more dramatic race off the edge of the pavement, but it was still a new adventure.

Next time we move (because I just know we will), I'm going to make sure we hop aboard whatever sort of local city tour bus/trolley/boat/tram/amphibious vehicle within the first weeks. The little ones had fun watching the city whirl by and I learned a lot about the history, culture, politics and people of Boston in that short 80 minute tour.

Bye-bye summer

Labor Day seemed to really mark the end of summer - schools opened again, some leaves are already hinting at their fall glamor, our local "beach" was pad-locked and the days are growing shorter.

There was much to enjoy - the New England love for ice cream being one! As you drive along the winding roads, you're certain to run into a local ice cream stand often founded as a corollary to the diary farm. Usually just a small building marked by an over-flowing parking lot and lines of people in front of windows surrounded by huge boards filled with scores of ice cream flavors. Nearby our home, we went to the Bedford Farms Ice Cream stand where Peanut carefully balanced her own cone of "pink ice cream" as it slowly shrank in size. For the record, she nearly finished it all by herself!

The region is dotted with lakes and I was surprised to find so many with beaches -- on the map, at least! It turned out that many beaches are owned by the local community in which they fall and are closed to outside visitors. Only town residents can come splash and play. We were fortunate that down the road from our apartment was a 'pay & play' beach. Its just a small strip of sand on a lake, but when you're Peanut's size, that's all you really need to make it a beach. For $3 (paid to the lifeguards), we all got a spot on the sand. We arrived in the evening so we had the beach all to ourselves.

Little Tex spent his beach days lounging in our portable, pop-up baby cabana to protect him from the sun. I'm pretty fanatical about keeping Peanut coated in sunblock and Tex hidden in the shade since we come from such Northern backgrounds.

One lesson I'll remember for next summer is also about coastal beaches where parking is often limited to residents or priced up to $25/day -- either get there super early or invest in a regional beach parking pass. For example, by joining the Crane Beach Trustees for $150/year, you can get free admission to the beach for 4 family members. Coming from a part of Florida where our beaches were all free, its still a hard nut to swallow. Contrast it even further with Finland's idea of 'Everyman's Right' and it seems down right outrageous to charge such sums for public access!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blind dates

From "You know, there's a collegue of mine who knows someone you should meet....I think you two have a lot in common...." to personal emails with complete strangers from online forums to exchanging phone numbers at the library, I've never been on so many blind dates!

That is, until I became a mama.

You know how it goes, you agree a time & place to get together. That morning, you get yourself showered (not an everyday occurance!), fix your hair (also not everyday), put on some make-up and ironed clothes -- that are clean & match (sadly, definitely not an everyday occurance!). You get the babes into clean clothes, into the mini-van and head out to meet a stranger hoping that you will click so you can have future 'dates'.

I try to learn as much as I can about the blind date before we get there so I can think about some topics to discuss in case things fizzle. Sometimes, you don't have too much to go on.

Depending on who introduced you, we agree to meet in a public location (like the park) or even at one another's homes. You try to suggest a time when the little ones will be on their best behavior. "Oh, 10:00 am is great for us!"

Sometimes you get lucky and there's a sort of mama-magic in the air -- you have similar interests, child-raising perspectives, a sense of humor and the time flies. Its naptime before you know it.

Other times, you know within the first minutes, its going to be a loooonnng playdate. You struggle for what to say. You can't help but think "I would NEVER treat MY children like THAT". You try to keep your little ones away from all the hazards open in their home. You make up excuses "Oh, we have to leave early because she's got a bit of a cold coming on and I wouldn't want your little darlings to catch it ...." "I'll call you to set up another playdate" - but you never call.

Having moved as often as we now have, it takes a lot of energy & effort to find new friends for myself and Peanut & Tex. I find that I'm getting quicker at approaching mamas at the park and library. I've vowed to jump at every chance we get to go on blind dates introduced via friends. I think I've really developed my social abilities with the kids. Before, I've been more shy and content to just focus on the smaller group of friends I already had. I've been almost reluctant to try to meet strangers.

We've been very lucky and have developed several rich relationships from our blind dates. Only very rarely have we hit a dud.

With fall arriving, many local parenting groups are starting up activities and we're filling our calendar with events full of potential future dates. Now, I just need to work on my pick-up lines ;-)