July 29, 2011


We are ready for you. You arrive on the heels of a tumultuous week including all sorts of disappointed hopes and discouraging news.
And though we plan to fill most of the hours within your days making great strides on the house-painting, we hope to also enjoy the company of a few friends alongside us, and the general merriment that relaxed schedules can afford. May your days also allow time for fresh thought and renewed perspective, and provide us much hope and restored energies.

Happy weekend all!

CSA, Week Seven.

Community Supported Agriculture. Local, In-season Food. Fresh.
Let's be honest this week. We are mostly loving our CSA experience with City Fresh, but pun-intended we are harboring a handful of growing frustrations. Mostly relative to smaller-than-anticipated portions for a family share, and some occasional instances of poor quality produce.

Setting that grumping aside, we are really mostly loving the new food adventures, and the variety of local growing that we were less aware of before becoming shareholders in this program. Let's call this week salsa week, as I have already diced up a good measure of the list below into a tasty fresh salsa. 

Week Seven Round Up:

1 eggplant
4 hot banana peppers
1 onion
4 tomatoes
1 hungarian bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch basil
1 yellow squash
1 bag green beans
1 bag small potatoes
1 patty pan squash
1 bunch carrots
1 bag cooking greens
1 zucchini
1 cucumber
1 head cabbage
8 lodi green apples
2 peaches

This last week, I also found a super great use for the last two share's worth of beets. Giving in to the incessant loud imploring of the Craunlets, it was one that did not include any form of vinegar or sugar in the recipe. Team Craun was apparently feeling a little over-pickled. It was a hearty and savory roasted beet soup with feta and fresh dill, from a William Sonoma Farmer's Market cookbook that I lent from our local library, recipe here. It was delicious ladled over some leftover rice, and paired with a crisp green salad.

July 27, 2011

Craunlets, and other C's

Including: coffee, cookies + cute crumbtastic smiles.

Spontaneous Combustion.

Wanted to send out a quick public service announcement that a little boiled linseed oil, soaked into a work rag and saved for future use in a small plastic bucket can catch fire all by itself. No joke. Turns out, boiled linseed oil oxidizes very rapidly, and the rags actually give that action lots more surface area [and insulation]. The oxidation creates heat, quite a bit of it, which then encourages the rags to catch fire. All by themselves. Sometimes while you're not looking.
Let me just take a moment to say that coming home from a quick dinner out--after a long day of working on the house--to a smoking porch is alarmingly unpleasant. Don't worry, we were very fortunate to find the rags just at their smolder point, and faintly smoking. It was actually only in our moving of them in an effort to extinguish did we have flames. And nothing, outside of the two rags and the plastic pail, was harmed. Thank goodness.

So, little tip here: lay out your used rags on the sidewalk, flat, until they are completely dry/brittle to the touch. And also, cut much smaller rags--almost too small--and use them only once.

July 26, 2011

Craunlets, and their Current Books.

These two crack me up constantly, and their work ethics are absolutely astounding at times. Here they spent almost two hours at the dining room table over an afternoon; each working on their current book projects. It must be the alluring potential of all those blank pages ahead. I know this so well.
Nate is currently juggling two blank board books, one devoted to his beloved Mr Pups, and the other is dedicated to his boy doll Oliver. Isabella is working in a blank book which she is quickly filling with  what she describes as the calendar of flowers, it's chock full of both linear + geometric graphs and meticulous illustrations of various flower types. Her second book [pictured here] is the scrapbook of herself and her looks-like-me doll Lucy.
The two of them, two hours, taking only small breaks for snacks, and to pose for photos.

Carve Therapy, and the Reduction Print.

I forget sometimes how lovely restorative the simple act of carving can be. The quiet reduction of the printing plate by small cut strokes with some sharp tools. The simple breaking down + layering up of an image. The rewards are always part surprising, yet wholly encouraging.

Last week provided me the opportunity to teach a week long half-day printmaking residency to a small group of Cleveland middle school students, and a handful of residents at a retirement community. A lovely bizarre mash-up of age, gender, race, and economic standing -- all coming together for a reduction print workshop.

I decided to give myself the nightly homework of also participating in the residency project, beyond facilitating the instruction. What a delight to move through the soft plate slowly making an image. Selfishly, it also provided a useful step-by-step future teaching reference, as I was careful to not only print the full edition, but I also printed the evidence of each phase of the plate and the subsequent image accumulation along the way.
The editions were printed on postcards, and we decided as a group that our series of prints would relate to one another by all addressing issues of place; specifically related to personal experience or memory. I selected a recently found feather of a blue jay for my 4-color reduction print.
Nate discovered the feathers [and most of a decomposing blue jay] when we removed our front bushes the weekend before we officially launched our house painting endeavor. The place is both specific, as well as symbolic--acting as a poignant reminder or landmark of the spiritual place of this season. One heavy with emotion, contrasted with the lightness of taking flight. This burden and blessing. This striking place of loneliness and quiet, but also of slow satisfaction and accumulating pride. A very visible season [the house exterior seriously looks like a war zone] but remarkably also one that feels incredibly isolating at the same time.  It's early mornings, late evenings and the very long long days in between these two extremes. The overwhelming grace of every new day.
This season has proven to hold a still and beautiful sadness. One that reminds me of the very moment of discovering the blue jay. This hidden wonder, his feathers so pristinely laid out, waiting, breaking down. This undiscovered beauty. The meticulous patterning and soft tininess of each of the downy barbs. A poetic place, seemingly between two worlds. Yet, a certain marker of a new beginning. One richly and grandly full of hope.
Perhaps its the problem of having too much thought time while working endlessly outside on the house, mostly alone or in quiet intimate and infrequent company, but the carving of this plate was a welcome reprieve to my tormenting thoughts, and so familiarly restorative to my current and promising-to-pass frustrations. Like a good friend. Like the very ones I am longing for; friends that will come alongside us in this endeavor. 

Reduction printing is a fabulously simple yet confusing process, and it's insanely rewarding. By progressively making the plate smaller, the print accumulates in layers of color. It's a limited edition, as once you carve away from the plate, you can never make the same print again. And it's a rhythmic and responsive process of carve, print, repeat. Carving, printing, carving, printing...again, again, again.
Last week's residency was a sweet and urging reminder to my spirit to keep on going.

July 25, 2011

Buttons Pressed.

This book has been lifting my spirits all week. I loaned it from the library originally for the Craunlets, to feed their voracious summer reading diet. I swear! But as I am finding all of my own buttons so easily pressed in the last handful of weeks, I was compelled to pick it up, and play along myself.
It's a cheerful inviting book; one full of encouragement.
Well designed, and beautiful to just interact as instructed, and simply enjoy the cadence of turning it's pages. 
Belle thinks the book is magical; Nate finds it simply unbelievable [every turn of the page] that the dots continue to reorient due his actions on the page previous. 
It's a crazy perfect fit to our household in this season; I'll be surely sad when we have to return it.

July 22, 2011

Capital Investment.

Before storing away the components of our Annual Lemonade Stand, I decided to  make a few coordinating capital investments. I love the cheerfulness of citrus colors, and the efficiency of having all  of the just-right tools on hand. 
Already, I am looking forward to next year's stand [and also dreaming about the nostalgic carved and hand-painted wood signs that I hope to make yet]. That's the sort of crazy I live; it's a constant creative scheming around here.

CSA, Week Six.

Community Supported Agriculture. Local, In-season Food. Fresh.
Fruit returns to our City Fresh CSA share this week--albeit it's laughably small proportion--in the form of two early season yellow lodi apples. So, either we are drawing straws for who gets to eat them, or we will dice them up into slaw with some of our kohlrabi.

Week Six Round Up:

3 onions
2 zucchini
2 bags green beans
2 heads red leaf lettuce
2 heads green bibb lettuce
1 cucumber
1 bag kale
1 bunch beets
1 yellow squash
1 head cabbage
1 garlic bulb
1 bunch dill
2 pickle cucumbers
1 patty pan squash
1 tomato
2 lodi apples

Crazily, on the hottest day of the year, I decide to bake up a couple loaves of quick bread to purpose one of our zucchinis. The simple 2-loaf recipe is straight from a Pilsbury Quick Breads + Muffins cookbook, but I found it here. I love making two loaves at the same time, the opportunity to both keep and share is so delightful. In this recipe, the zucchini is deliciously paired with freshly squeezed orange juice, and spiced up with cinnamon and ground cloves, further drizzled with a simple orange glaze.
My share loaf went in with me today for my last day of the reduction printing residency I have been teaching every morning this week. Yesterday, one of the retired community residents remarked that it was her birthday, and she spoke how fondly she would love zucchini bread. What a simple request. Something refreshingly in season, comfortable, and homemade. I couldn't help but indulge her, and fancy it up a bit with some over-the-top candles.
We sang this morning to all who will celebrate a birthday this year. What a sweet thing to consider. The residency is a partnership between a Cleveland after-school program for middle-school aged students, and the residents of a local retirement community. 

It has been a week of truly rich exchange.

July 21, 2011

Pondering the Universe.

A recent shape-stencil drawing by Miss Belle. 
Completely unprompted, and created during her alone time. The normal stuff she thinks about.

July 20, 2011

The View From Here.

One of the greatest pleasures in my casual days with the Craunlets is to watch them engrossed in watching something themselves. The simple but show-stopping moments of the world in front of them. 
It's such a beautiful slowing of pace and paying attention. It's nice to fall back, and remember not to hurry.

In it to Win it.

This week closes out our first swimming lessons for the Craunlets. They have come quite a way in these several short weeks, and are increasingly confident in the water. Last week, Belle's new male instructor [who is wonderfully more challenging than the instructor he replaced] was pushing the students to keep going in an underwater kicking competition. Belle was among the remaining three students, and still going strong, when he quipped: Belle is in it to win it! And stretched across her face was suddenly a beaming proud smile.
This determined and unstoppable her. The one who hasn't set a toe into water in four years. Here she is, completely in it to win it -- and taking swimming lessons by storm. It strikes me so often how amazing it is that in the briefest of interactions such as these quick and distracted swim lessons, that people can so truly estimate the very essence of a person's nature within such a casual comment.
I sat there on the sidelines also proud, and remarking to myself that this fiery little girl doesn't do anything half way. In nearly all that she attempts, she fixes her eyes and efforts on the gold.

*pictures are from a recent swim in a friend's pool -- no floaters and toys in swim lessons!

July 18, 2011

Weekends, and Little Great Escapes.

We had an out-of-state family wedding to attend this past weekend, which put me and the Dave in the car alone for 3 hours on either side of the overnight trip. What an indulgent escape from our now-normal weekend's of paint-scraping.
Uninterrupted conversations, cups of hot coffee, and meals--for more than 24 hours in a row. Divine.

July 15, 2011

Making Sure Progress.

The end of two very productive work days; we're feeling much encouraged as the sun sets this evening.

CSA, Week Five.

Community Supported Agriculture. Local, In-season Food. Fresh.
This week's City Fresh CSA family share marks the very first to include no fruit. Though we all let out a collective sigh--oh how we LOVE our summer fruits--we were happy to see both the quantities and sizes of the produce increasing a bit. Miss Belle eagerly picked out the head of cabbage, exclaiming how much she loved it the other day and was looking forward to more. Watching the Craunlets try and explore all these new vegetables has been a sheer joy. Increasing our repertoire of dinner recipes has also proved to be a fun--though time consuming--challenge.

Week Five Round Up:

1 head cabbage
2 kohlrabi
1 jar sweet dill pickles
1 bunch carrots
1 bag green beans
3 pickle cucumbers
1 red onion
1 white onion
2 yellow squash
2 heads green leaf lettuce
2 heads red leaf lettuce
1 bunch beets
1 bag assorted cooking greens
1 bunch basil
1 bunch chives
1 bunch parsley

We finally incorporated all the overage of the last two weeks' accumulations, and made some super tasty side salads with our enormity of beets, kohlrabi, and various cooking greens. I sliced up all of our carrots + kohlrabi matchstick-style, and marinated them [after a quick blanching] for a few days in a lemony vinaigrette infused with hyssop for a tasty crisp side salad. However, our favorite served-cold side dish this week was a modified recipe that we enjoyed with our first round of beets: 

Roasted Beets + Citrus Greens Salad

6 medium beets with their greens
2 heaping C Assorted cooking greens 
[beet, dandelion, mustard and collard greens, some kale + red chard]
1 sweet onion cut in wedges
4 valencia oranges [peeled + segmented]
1 grapefruit [peeled and segmented]
scant 1/4 C grapefruit vinegar
scant 1/4 C red wine vinegar
1 new season garlic clove [minced]
1/2 tsp grated orange peel
2 T sugar

Preheat oven to 400ยบ and trim greens from beets, cut off and discard stems, reserving leaves.  Coarsely chop the leaves [as well as the other cooking greens , and combine. Set all greens aside] Wrap each beet in foil, and place directly on oven rack to roast for one hour. Cool. Peel Beets, and cut into bite-sized pieces, then place in a bowl.

Cook greens in boiling water until just tender [about 2 minutes] Drain. Cool. Squeeze out all excess water. Add greens to beets. Cut + peel all pith from oranges and grapefruit and segment them with a  sharp knife removing all membranes and seeds. Add citrus and onion to beets and greens.
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars, olive oil, garlic, orange peel and sugar to combine. Pour over beet mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate one hour [or more] and serve chilled.
However tasty all of our new side dishes were around the table, our most delightful treat was the Rhuberry Pie. Flaky top and bottom pie crusts sandwiching bubbly sweet blueberries and Rhubarb. We enjoyed our first slices warm out of the oven topped with big scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. 
That was a big loud YUM. So much so, that we enjoyed our second slice's the very next morning for second breakfast.

July 13, 2011


In the car on the way to swimming lessons this morning, we were discussing fears about the risks of thunderstorms--and lightening especially--as we analyzed the sky against the weather report. Belle was worriedly wondering what electrical shock would actually feel like, when much appreciated, Nate inserted a lighter conversational tangent into the too-heavy topic, by blurting out:

Rain is the just the cloud's pee.

Much laughter washed all the fear and speculation away, the sun shone brilliantly all through swim lessons, and no clouds peed on us either. Thank goodness.

July 12, 2011

Playing School.

One would think that in a Summer holding so many new freedoms, school would be a faint and distant memory. 
However--quite on the contrary--the Craunlets have been insisting that we play school several times a week. Using multiple online home school sites, we have printed up a variety of enriching activities in math and language arts.
The Craunlets are voraciously marking off reading slots for their summer reading challenge, and have further proposed to conduct research projects on a topic of interest, and they plan to create illustrated books to collate and share their learning. I find their ideas and ambitions so delightful; so curious and full of wonder about their world and experiences. On Belle's list of possible topics to research: why are bunnies fluffy? I giggle every time I read that. And my favorite from Nate's list: where do bird's eggs come from? Oh my.
Their motivation and hunger for learning is astounding to me. And as we sit around the dining room table playing school, I get to enjoy watching their wild discoveries unfold, and cheer on the mastery of so many new skills. I whisper much encouragement, and I find myself quietly hoping they are forever excited and driven to learn. 

July 11, 2011

Help Wanted.

Though our progress on the house painting has not been nearly as far and fast as we had originally dreamed that it might be, we are getting things down to a pretty efficient process. And the few things that have eked over into the done column, are highly satisfying. With heat sources of many varieties [that insanity is for another post altogether] we are getting the wood to almost bare, light sanding, and treating it with linseed oil...and let me tell you -- it is incredibly gratifying to see the house getting naked, and all cleaned up. Dressed in her new paint job, she is really going to sing. You can follow our house progress in pictures, by clicking the paintbrush image on our sidebar, over there to your right, under Painting Our Old House.
This week we officially decided to stop hinting around and all-the-while hoping that friends and family would just swing on by and help us out on a whim, and we are making actual and formal asks. [I know--take a moment--go ahead and reread that last sentence, it's true!] Those of you that know Team Craun well, also know that this [the asking for help thing] is something we are not very good at--and honestly--to an occasional downfall. We are chronic over-doers, and we are rarely ever  vulnerable enough to even let people know that we really need some help, let alone to go so far as to actually ask them for it. Progress, see? The house is bringing us along now...

So, we slated up our remaining Summer weekends, and are sending out requests within our circle of friends, family, and professional contacts--each getting their own dates and time-slots. The outlined clarity scrawled on the piece of paper was both comforting and catalytic. We have a plan now! 

We went even further to identify and list the various areas of help that we need. Because scraping lead paint off of a century home is no cakewalk, and using a belt sander sideways...well, it's really horrible and heavy and hard, and probably a good measure unsafe. Also in the unsafe category, are some of our heating devices--the ones that threaten combustion beneath the wood siding and a potential a house fire. But we could also use a lot less dangerous help, like gophers, kid-watchers, hospitality managers, and clean-up assistance...

In keeping with our chronic nature to overdo things, we decided last night to add to our most sincere asks pleas for help, a motivating photo montage of the house painting project. Hope it works!

July 8, 2011

CSA, Week Four.

Community Supported Agriculture. Local, In-season Food. Fresh.
Yesterday's City Fresh family share did not disappoint; the repeat produce is getting larger, and we were delighted to see plump and perfectly ripe black raspberries on the board, and a head of cabbage. We are carrying over much of last weeks hearty produce of kohlrabi, and beets, and even our zucchini -- as the Holiday somewhat sidetracked our adventurous cooking, and instead we fell back on some American standard fares on the barbecue.

Week Four Round Up:
1 cucumber
1 onion
2 kohlrabi
1 pint black raspberries
1 head cabbage
2 zucchini
1 bag shell peas
6 pickle cucumbers
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 "new season" garlic bulb
1 bundle chives
2 yellow squash
1 bag kale + beet cooking greens
1 bunch beets

We did manage to combine last week's berries into a fabulous refreshing cold soup, which was a sure highlight to our warm temperatures. We have millions of cucumbers, so I will likely be wilting some more, as well as combining some in a garden tomato [we have harvested our first; how I LOVE the Early Girl variety!] and fresh mozzarella salad with a basil balsamic dressing.
Up tonight, we have a dinner with friends and we are bringing a warm and bubbly sinking peach baked dish with vanilla bean ice cream. 

Happy weekend all! 

July 7, 2011

Leaving the Letterbox.

The letterbox has been moved temporarily for all of the house-scraping, and was inadvertently more conveniently located to the height and interest of the Craunlets. 
It's made the constant coming-and-going of the post a lot more energetic; I hope the Craunlets never outgrow their love of both writing and receiving letters.

Minis for the Mini-Me's, Oh My!

The fabulously talented Auntie A has done it again. 
To the wildest pleasure of the Craunlets, they have recently received the most delightful and diminutive [near-exactly] precious replications of their new bed quilts from the Grand Dubs [see Nate's here, and Belle's here], miniaturized for each of their mini-me's.


We have had slumber parties, and picnics, and all sorts of grand snuggles and fort play with the new quilts already. 
Lucy sleeps under her new and perfectly-sized quilt every night in her bed, the one that lays just next to Belle's. 
Nate often tucks all three of his Mr. Pups under his miniature quilt at the foot of his bed, if his beloved boy-doll Oliver is not already asleep in this same place.
It's nearly too sweet. 
And the stunning meticulous craft of the quilts is absolutely undoing. I know already that we will treasure them forever. And I look forward to pulling them out of the attic someday in our aged years, and remembering this sweet age and tender role-playing with a great fondness.
As an aside, Auntie A can be quite easily commissioned through her Etsy shop, check it out right here.


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