Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cousins

We had the pleasure of having our cousin Devon from Jackson, MS stay with us for a full week. Ellen and Arianna just couldn't wait for her to get here. Their 10 year old cousin is one of their best playmates and friends.

The girls spent most of their time playing inside since it was terribly hot outside that week. Our dogs were center of attention, and the playroom was hardly recognizable with characters from littlest pet shop, playmobil, and dolls set up shop and home from wall to wall.

We went swimming at a pool...

And the lake...
We went to 2 free music events, the children's museum, playgroup, and ballet classes. Devon fit in perfectly with our friends and she even loved most of the food we served. I'm sure it was very different from what she is used to and she was happy to try everything we were having. She loved our fresh cucumbers and all the garden veggies we were eating almost every night.
Picking fresh flowers from the garden.
Sweet cousins and friends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Billy Jonas June 2009

On stage with rock star Billy Jonas

Billy Jonas comes to Columbia once a year. We look forward to his concerts because they are so much fun. He plays a guitar and also other instruments made from recycled materials such as buckets, barrels, bells, pots and pans. We have a few of his CDs including his newest one called Happy Accidents. He plays all over the US and abroad.

This year he was playing in the Richland County Library as a part of their summer reading celebration so it was a free concert. (another reason to love the library!) We got there early and the girls piled in the front rows with the other kids and adults. During the concert he taught the crowd one of the new songs and the sign language to go along with it. After singing the song all together, Billy called Ellen and her friend on stage. He said they were doing the signs so nicely he wanted them to demonstrate:) Ellen was shy but did a great job. She was so excited but I could tell a little nervous to be up there. He is a rock star to us! Anyway, this was a few weeks ago but I'm just now getting to uploading the pictures. We had a great time at his concert as always. If you don't have his music you should check him out. I bet your library has his albums in the children's section. That's where we found him when we lived in Indianapolis. We didn't realize he was from this area until we moved here and we found out he had a huge following.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Camping in the mountains

Last weekend we went camping on Grandfather Mountain (near Boone, NC) with our dear friends, the Morrisons. We had been planning the trip for weeks! Scott found a wonderful campground that was great for families and car camping. We had a nice spot tucked back in the woods by a creek. Our cars and the bath house were close but we couldn't see them so it felt like we were really far away. The weather was perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better vacation camping trip.

I've got tons of pictures to share. First is this great spot where we set up camp. We cooked all our meals on stoves set up near the campfire. Daniel used the campfire to grill squash and roast potatoes from our garden. The kids enjoyed putting potatoes and not dogs on sticks and roasting those over the fire too. We also brought our little baby Taylor camping guitar so the guys played for us while we were cooking and hanging out. The kids took turns too.

Across the street from the campsite was a big open field. It was so beautiful to walk out of the woods and have this view! It made me really miss the mountains.

On Saturday, we went over to Hebron Rock Colony to explore the rocks and waterfalls. This was a place that Daniel and I used to go to when we were in college and even after when the girls were babies and we lived in Boone.

All the kids were very brave and hopped all up and down these huge boulders. The parents were guiding steps and holding hands. We watched as the kids were totally enjoying themselves. It is an awesome place. The kids took turns standing under waterfalls and sliding down rocks with help from the dads. Little Brady was not quite big enough for most of the adventures but he had fun with mom watching from the side.




That hike was very exciting and we were all tired and ready to relax around camp when we got home. Thanks to the guys for keeping the fire going and to our friends from Columbia for letting us borrow an extra large tent for all the kids to sleep in!

While back at the campsite the kids spent lots of time at the creek collecting crawfish and salamanders, making dams and playing games in the water.
And here's a fun game of Uno.
Saturday evening we got to go on a free hay ride around the campground.

Here we are in the last few minutes before leaving. Being in the woods is so refreshing. None of us were ready for life in the real world yet. We miss our good friends already.


On the way home we took a driving tour through Boone. We drove by our old house and up to the top of Howard's knob, another favorite place of ours. The girls had never seen the view from the top. We spent a little while looking out and reminiscing. Then Daniel took the girls back in the boulders and helped them on their first experience bouldering.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garden Update

Here is what we pulled after our camping trip last weekend (pics of camping to come).
Some notables for gardening this season:
We've been pampering some cabbage since our earliest Spring planting and they are finally edible. We have never successfully grown cabbage. We were worried the heat would get them but they pressed on to maturity. Also, our onion bulbs have always been the same size as the stalk. Who knows why. But this year for the first time we are getting little "round" onions...like they're supposed to be. Otherwise there is an odd hybrid squash, some straight neck, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, chard, kale, collards, and okra. We are about half way through our potatoes and trying to figure out what to do with that empty space. We are also beginning to pull up squash plants as the tiny vine bore eggs have now become juicy hungry grubs inside our plants.

Our heirloom tomatoes are once again suffering. Although there is no blossom end rot we have serious yellowing leaves and are not sure why. But Romas are taking off and we are growing those to can. We found this book STOCKING UP: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow, Naturally at a used books store some years ago and it is coming in quite handy (click on the book title to see this old edition on Amazon for under $1. I don't know whether it is better or worse than others but it is suiting our needs). It not only gives info on what types of foods to preserve covering fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, and nuts but recommends different types of preservation: drying, freezing, canning, storing. It also contains detailed info on times in the canner or drying, pressure levels, and has some nice simple recipes for pickles and jellies. I've got my eyes on pickled okra and pickled hot peppers but we started with something a bit easier.


We've frozen some jars of pesto but here are our canning starts: pickles and beans. We think everything went well but I guess you never know till you try um. I have made these cans off limits. If all goes as planned we'll save them till the fall and winter and stretch the gardens giving a bit. I'm a Canning Tyrant!
All this is rather experimental but it's been fun to learn slowly and on a small scale. Maybe one day we will line our walls with homegrown.Last, and I know this is off subject, but, for any of you who have been on HWY 321 in Hickory you may have noticed Wonderland Books. It's been there for years. When we were making trips regularly between Boone and Charlotte we would always stop by and browse. Well, they are looking for a buyer. They also have books at 50%. We stocked up while we were there. So, if you are in the area and want to not only help out a good independent book store but take advantage of the discount swing by Wonderland Books. BUT the store is not operating on normal hours so the owner advised that anyone call before heading over. Here is their info:
5008 Hickory Blvd
Hickory, NC 28601
(828) 396-7323

Monday, June 15, 2009

Graduation

A week or so ago I (Daniel) attended our home school group's year-end graduation ceremony. Teachers and students alike worked very hard to construct a wonderful ceremony for family members and other guests. I am not involved very heavily with the girl's education and on this night I learned much about the nature of the community they are a part of. I was overwhelmed first by the teachers themselves. Here they are below for a group picture (there's Jennifer third from right):I'm prone to wonder aloud even when unsought and unrequested: These teachers, mostly women as you can see, work by affection alone outside of monetary relations. Certainly I could have deduced the same from the very idea of a co-op school group but sometimes being in the presence of such a truth informs in ways mere intellectual deduction won't. I don't say monetary relations can't exist along side affection but it is a pleasure to watch the product of affection alone. These teachers commit days, evenings, weekends, resources, and much love to their students without any reparation save the life of the community itself. I was awed by the cheer, grace, compassion, leadership, and innovation on display this evening.

These folks operate autonomously, independently, without subservience to corporate, monetary, or government influence or help. Their actions are courageous. Their satisfaction in success all theirs. A note of thanks to the church, another voluntary, autonomous, and self-supporting institution, for sharing their space with this school group.

Jennifer works tirelessly both at home and with the home school group to educate our daughters and the other students. She and I find ourselves a pair of teachers and I could not be prouder. She is mother, wife, manager of home-life, and seamlessly, gracefully, and yet with full distinction and commitment, teacher. Below she narrates a shadow puppet performance on graduation night.


Honored to be her husband I was humbled to be their dad. You may have seen the video. It's probably equivalent to the difference between seeing pictures of Appalachia and walking its hills. I melted as they played. I note the courage, this branch of the Kruideniers is rather shy, the discipline, the excellence of tone and heart. I relish the sheer unspeakable and incommunicable joy of being a part of these two girls' lives. They absolutely stun my tongue. Words crumble in insignificance. Proud, yes but more. Humbled, yes but more. Imagine rain drops conscious and feeling. Imagine also as they cascaded through the sky and united collecting into pools and rivulets tracing minute geography their feeling grew. The union of drops forming a union of feeling. From rivulets to streams and mighty rivers. Now imagine all that feeling dashing over a cliff and falling freely into a great deep abyss. That's how I felt whilst they played.

A picture of the shadow puppet performance. Ellen acted the part of a crane in an ancient Indian tale.

The evening was full of teachers introducing students, and students reporting what they enjoyed in their learning this year. Some other students also gave musical performances and the high school age students performed a play written by one of the members of their screen-writing group. All had a wonderful time. The girls proudly accepted their diploma for completing their year. They as well as I left educated.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

recorder performance

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More recital photos

These are from William's camera. He was able to get a shot of all four of us. The one's he got of the girls are so sweet and natural. You can also see the whole costumes.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Dance Recital 2009

This year Ellen, Arianna, and I were taking ballet classes at Columbia Ballet School. The studio put on The Wizard of Oz for the recital this year. Ellen was in two classes and performed as one of the "mayor's welcoming committee" in this crazy black and white tutu that you see below. She also danced as an emerald city girl and helped Dorothy get ready for the wizard. Arianna performed a really sweet piece in the lullaby league.

All of the pictures above were taken backstage. I was back there because I'm also teaching one preschool ballet class that performed as the farm hands in the show. A few months into the school year the studio manager asked me to help teach this class at one of the preschools in town. It had gotten so big with 18 little girls that they needed one more teacher. I had a great time teaching the class and my girls loved it because their favorite babysitter got to come over and play for one hour every week! Here's a few of the girls in my class pictured below. I hope to be teaching few more preschool ballet classes next year. I've already contacted another preschool that will be starting a ballet program with me. I may have a class or two at the studio as well. Next year, Ellen and Arianna will be able to come with me to help assist!


It was a great show. I think it was one of the best dance recitals I've been to -- and I've been to a lot over the years. I don't mean because of my kids (who stole the show in our eyes, or course) but because of the older dancers. The studio specializes in ballet training and the dancers that are just a few years older than our girls are amazing on point.

My dad, Daddy Bill, and Davie (pictured below) drove up from Baton Rouge to watch the recital. They are going to be in Columbia a few days. We are having a lot of fun visiting. William (daniel's dad), my mom and my nephew also came in town for the show. It means a lot to us to have family in town on these special occasions.


I mentioned above that I take ballet classes also. I have an hour long class every Monday night that I've been taking for 2 years. I usually get dinner ready and then run out the door for 6:00. It is an intermediate adult class, and is very good exercise physically and mentally. I can totally focus on my body and myself for a short time every week. For some reason I come home with new energy and a fresh feeling for my house and family. I'll be continuing that class through the summer.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Winter Queen Meets Summer Princess

The summer heat finally killed the Winter Queen-Garlic. Arianna and I (Daniel here) pulled this white gold yesterday and set it on a screen in a shaded dry space to cure. Once the leaves are dry and the necks sufficiently tightened we'll cut the roots and stalks.
Also-a reminder as the heat picks up. Something I am learning slowly:
We are getting a wave of serious heat. It's such a challenge to keep moisture in the soil. But remember, as a rough estimate tomatoes are 95% water, potatoes 80% and corn 70%. Plants need water. Low water during extreme heat can also transition the plant from "growth mode" to "crisis mode". These types of transitions can stunt growth and cause lower quality and quantity yield. The trick is to try and keep the plant in a steady growth mode. Stressed plants are also prime targets for disease and pests, kinda like the human body. Everybody's soil is a bit different so there's no magic formula for watering. Higher clay content means better water retention but too much means poor drainage. Higher sand content (our problem) means great drainage but no water retention. Of course row covers of mulch or hay can help the soil hold water by shading and protecting it from the sun's heat. If you're already generous with the water-good. I tend to be stingy and expect the plant to suck it up. Don't ask me why...but I'm learning.
-Daniel

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Garden update and pesto recipe

The girls and I went to Navarre Beach, Florida last week and met up with lots of my extended family. There were 18 people in 5 families from 4 different states--Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Daniel is teaching 2 summer session classes so he couldn't join us. When we got back on Friday I was amazed by the growth of the garden.

We are bringing in lots of squash and zucchini. What's funny about our summer squash plants is we planted 8 of them thinking there would be 4 yellow and 4 zucchini. Now that the plants are producing fruits we have realized that we actually have 6 yellow squash and 2 zucchini. Even funnier is that Daniel and I don't even really like yellow squash! I can eat a few but if you've ever grown squash before you know how much squash you get from one plant--tons! We like zucchini better since I can make zucchini bread with it.

We have brought in about 4 pounds of cucumbers and I am trying to wait for a few more so I can make pickles. Anna, what recipe did you use last year when you made them?

The bush beans are exploding with flowers and small beans and we should have our first harvest of those this weekend or sooner. Daniel also brings in a handful of potatoes every few days. He does most of the harvesting in the mornings on his way to work (before I get up).

The basil has really taken off. I made the first harvest last Saturday bringing in about 12 cups of washed and packed leaves. I made 3 cups/jars of pesto and sent the rest of the basil home with mom. I took the picture below this morning. I should be able to bring in plenty more over the next few weeks.
I am including my favorite pesto recipe. Most people, stores, and restaurants make it with cheese. I have found a great recipe in my Mediterranean Vegan Cookbook that is called poor man's pesto. I have modified it a little by adding nutritional yeast. This is the first year I have added that ingredient and I'm really happy with the rich and full flavor it has. I use walnuts instead of pine nuts since I always have walnuts and pine nuts are expensive. We put pesto on everything. It's great on pasta, toast, veggie sandwiches (especially with portobello), burgers, potatoes, pizza, etc. I make several batches at once and freeze what we can't use in a week.

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
6 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
2 to 4 cloves garlic
3/4 tsp cours sea salt or to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast or to taste (optional)

Combine everything in food processor except oil. Blend until ingredients are finely chopped. Add oil and blend until smooth and creamy.