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Little Big Kitchen: Picnic in Daisy Park

4 Feb

Over the weekend Anthony and I decided we’d do one of the craziest things we could possibly do right now and host two of Isobel’s older girl cousins over for their first sleepover. Isobel had been begging to have a sleepover for months, and Anthony’s at the point in his shoulder surgery recovery where he can start the job search back up again. With a baby on the way and life about to change again, we figured it was now or never–or at least, now or not for a very long time.

One of the things Isobel really wanted to do with her cousins was go to a local park and have a picnic under the tree she picked out as being her “magical fairy tree.”  This was a good activity choice because in addition to picnicking and playing fairies under the trees the girls could feed the ducks and geese at the pond and run around on the playground toys. We took separate cars because I knew they’d want to stay longer than was comfortable for me.

As for the picnic, that was all Anthony’s doing. (In fact, this weekend was 90% Anthony’s doing as I lacked the energy to keep up with three rambunctious cousins, but I helped however I can.) Normally I’d like to fix up some special sandwiches or at least a salad for picnics, and maybe some cookies because every picnic has to have a treat but all I could do was locate the picnic blankets, fill some water bottles for  the kids, and pack along the binoculars, which became extra helpful when we wanted to look across the pond to see if the bathroom was locked (it was). I had gotten the binoculars at a thrift store for 8 bucks and although they mostly worked they were pretty junky. They were great for the kids to play with and I wouldn’t have stressed out if they somehow figured out how to break them.

It’s probably just as well I didn’t make anything for the picnic, as the cousins were pickier than Isobel. Anthony made a stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a stack of turkey sandwiches, sliced them in half and doled them out accordingly. The girls ate a surprisingly large amount of them. My Uncle gave us a bunch of tangerines from his garden and the girls ate quite a few of those, too. We brought grapes and strawberries, which disappeared, and before we left Isobel and the girls picked a handful of miner’s lettuce from our yard and brought that to be their salad. Isobel, who regularly chows down on miner’s lettuce when she finds it in winter and early spring, had to convince her cousins that the flowering plant was entirely edible,  and though she munched away I’m not entirely certain her cousins had more than a hesitant bite.

Every picnic deserves a treat and for these girls we brought corn chips, a third of a bag of small, personal-sized Cheetos (leftover from the party) and for a sweet treat, sugar-roasted almonds. They would have preferred cookies but you work with what you got. Besides, we made cookies to eat before the movie at night so they weren’t entirely deprived.

That large bag of cereal you see tucked away in the picnic basket is food we brought to feed the ducks and other resident water fowl at the park. This is something kids have been doing at this park for years and years, and I know Anthony and I did it while growing up. We found that giving the kids cereal worked a lot better than stale bread because they’d usually get so excited they’d toss whole slices of bread instead of taking the time to tear it into smaller pieces. Not only is this extremely hard for the ducks to consume, it always causes a riot of angry beaks and a frenzy of feathers as 15 birds go after the one piece of bread. Cheerios are easier for them to eat, spread out over a larger portion of the animals, and made the duck-feeding last a long time.

I haven’t felt up to cooking that much lately, which is something I always deeply regret every time I get sick. We’ve been eating a lot of interesting meals consisting of things from the freezer. Anthony’s been taking over the lion’s share of the meal-prep work.  Having him home has really made a difficult pregnancy much easier. That said, now that his arm is mostly healed we’re looking forward to him being back at work.

The sleepover made for a long weekend but the girls had an absolute blast and I’d do it all over again.

Scrapbook: New Year’s Day Ice Skating with Chris & Jenn

30 Jan

One thing you don’t often find in the middle of California is a frozen pond. Under normal circumstances, when the earth isn’t falling apart, we get cold snaps and hard freezes, but in the areas that do have lakes or ponds (few and far between, where I live) the ice doesn’t freeze more than an inch or so, and usually daytime temperatures are enough to warm things up again. What I’m saying is, you have to drive a ways to indoor ice rink if you want to go skating, so most of us don’t get the chance to do it very often (and because of this, even fewer are any good). This year some local business got together and funded a local farmer to build a little rink on some land on the outskirts of town.

As much as I wanted to go, and especially, to take Isobel ice skating for the first time, this was, like so many other things, just not in the cards for us this year. Pregnant ladies should not be subjecting themselves to falls, and neither should post-shoulder-surgery patients. I’d drive by and watch families of skaters, longingly, as they drifted around the rink, unsteady and hugging the side or with arms out for support. Anthony and I hoped the rink would be enough of a hit for it to return next year, hopefully when one of us was in well enough shape to take Isobel.

Christmas came and went and days later we made plans to see my friends Chris and Jenn who were in town visiting for the holidays. They offered to take Isobel on the rink since they knew we wouldn’t be able. Chris grew up in the Midwest so ice skating was second nature to him. Jenn lived there for several years and I assumed she was thoroughly acquainted with it, also. We made plans to meet on New Year’s Day.

Chris and Jenn generously bought Isobel’s pass and fitted her for ice skates. Chris complained about shoe quality while he helped her tie her shoes. “You must be pretty good at skating, right, after all that time in the Midwest?” I asked.

“Um, I think I’ve been… three times?”

Isobel started to protest. She was extremely hesitant at trying new physical things, just like I was at that age, and she said she’d go only if I went. I told her that was impossible, but we convinced her to get on the ice if I held her hand from the other side. It was quite a warm day for December, as it has been this whole freakish winter, and Isobel was too hot to wear her jacket even before she got on the ice.

People ambled around the ice around us as we convinced Isobel to step on the rink. Chris and Jenn held her at times, and she had her turn pushing around buckets and holding onto the PVC-pipe brace. Chris out-skated everyone the moment he stepped on the ice without even trying. Isobel liked skating, but she was much more enthralled by sitting on the sidelines and creating little snowpeople out of the ice slush Chris collected for her.

Before our skating session ended, Chris took advantage of the emptying rink to practice a few jumps. Considering the fact that most people would clutch the side for dear life while skating, the whole rink was impressed. Before we left for home, Chris picked Isobel up and flew around the rink at a brisk pace. She told me it felt like flying, and of all the skating, I’m sure it was her favorite.

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