May 29, 2012

A lot on our Plate.

When life gives you too many strawberries, and you have last week's rhubarb still waiting in the refrigerator, you bake a pie.
As the season increases, so does the variety on our plates. The food abundance that our region grows and makes continues to both astound and encourage us–maybe it truly is possible to take a small family off the commercial food grid. 

Week after week, the bring home is looking more and more colorful...
and is cooking up more and more delicious.
Week Six at the Market:

1 quart Broccoli
1 Loaf Wheat Bread
1 Quartered + Marinated Whole Chicken
1 half-gallons Whole Milk
1 lb. pkg. Spelt Maple Crunch Cereal
1 lb. Spelt Granola with Raisins + Sunflower Seeds
1 8ox. bag Maple Peanuts
4 Vine-ripened Tomatoes
19-oz. White Cheese Curds
1 8-oz. jar Maple Butter
1 8-oz jar Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
1 jar Kosher Dill Pickle Spears
1 bunch Beets with Beet Greens
1 bunch Radishes
6 Pickle Cucumbers
1 quart Apples, Braeburn variety
1 cucumber
1 dozen Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 quarts Strawberries
2 bags Sweet Basil
1 bunch Dill
2 heads Leaf lettuce, Green + Red Leaf
1 bag Pea Sprouts
2 dozen Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 Apple Strawberry Rhubarb Puffin
1 Chocolate brownie, consumed onsite
1 pint Apple Cider, consumed onsite
To track back on our weekly Market adventures to date, click here: Week 1, Week 2Week 3, Week 4, Week 5.

May 27, 2012

Long Weekending.

I love, love, love me a family-centric long weekend. Especially one with Summery temperatures, laughing children, late bedtimes and carnival rides with twinkling lights.
See the rest of our fun times at a local carnival right here.

May 25, 2012

New Shoes, and Space on the Internets.

So far, minus all the tweaks and little discomforts I am completely loving my new space over at jencraun.com. She's a fiercely lovely-to-look-at little space, so uncluttered and clean, and always being updated. Stop on over today, and check out my recent news, and read today's blog post on color.
Happy Weekend All.
I'm currently breaking in these new shoes.
And similar to my new space on the Internets, minus all the tweaks and little discomforts I am completely loving them.

Beautiful Math.

The other day I treasured upon a lovely old set of Cuisenaire Wood Mathematics Rods. Every single piece intact, well cared for, and organized perfectly in their original plastic case. I bought them immediately, and was so excited to have a minute to get them out with Nate and see their potential in action.
We brought them with us to the coffee shop yesterday morning, and I let him just play with them–experiencing the different sizes and colors of the blocks. Of course he went straight to building, but I was interested in that he was lining them all up in stair steps, and ordering them by descending height. Totally getting that they were incremental units. JUST BY PLAYING.
It's this very thing that makes me so glad that I have spent the last seven years mostly staying-at-home and growing my preschool years with my two babes. This small window of time–and the piling on of long days–has rewarded me a front row seat to the wonder and beauty of watching them so readily learn and live through play. It's these millions of minutes and moments. The accumulation. Thinking about Kindergarten fast-approaching, and having both babes in school...the internal heaviness of the season's shifting...

We arranged all of the orange ten-sticks flat like a raft on the counter of the coffee shop, and effortlessly he counted by tens to one hundred. He's been mostly able to do this for a while now, so I changed it up to the 5-sticks. And the counting by fives rushed forward without hesitation. He held up the brightly red 2-sticks, and asked what their number was. And we were counting by twos.
Today, we printed up some centimeter grid sheets–as the wood rods are each milled to the centimeter, one through ten–and we worked at building some pictures together. All the while, discussing size, and value, length and shape.
Building on a flat grid, we imagined a creative world of math together.

May 23, 2012

Delicious Continued.

It's sort of undoing to still be hearing sincere exclamations of food enjoyment at our daily dinner table from the Craunlets. Bella almost habitually looks up after her first bite, and in all seriousness retorts: this is SO amazing! and other quips like: this is SO good! her eyes huge and intentional. Emphasis deserving on the SO, as if she still can't quite believe it either. And just this morning, Nate turned down his forever-favorite Peanut Butter Granola Cereal for a bowl of honey puffed Spelt. It shouldn't be SO surprising that our bodies enjoy food that tastes good, and that they begin to crave again what feeds them so well.

It's happening gradually and naturally, the good food is slowly replacing all the former standbys. The pantry is thinning, and our dinner diversity is increasing.

This sense of pride and victorious joy that I have in watching the Craunlets enjoy food is articulated perfectly in Design Mom's blog post The Egg today. These two sentences hit it spot on:
Sometimes I forget that feeding someone else — feeding each other — is more than putting plates full of food on a table at a certain time as expected every morning, noon, and night. It’s actually a highly personal, sensual, and loving act.

Week Five at the Market:

1 lb. Elk Summer Sausage
4 Chicken Portebello Pesto Patties
1 Marinated Quartered Chicken
1 lb. Yellow Beans
6 Pickle Cucumbers
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
19oz Cheese Curds
1 pint Apple Cider
1 bunch Asparagus
6 Whole Grain buns
1 bunch Rhubarb
1 bunch Cilantro-like Lettuce
1 bag Pea Sprouts
3 Puffins: Sunrise, Berry Peachy, Blueberry Apple
1 quart Strawberries
2 pkg. Homemade Spelt Crackers
2 Spelt Granola Bars
5 chocolate Chip Granola Bars
4oz Brie Cheese
7oz Kokoborrego, Headwaters Tomme' Cheese
1 quart Apples, Fuji variety

We were stoked to be at the Market early enough last Saturday to get the treasure of this Season's very first Strawberries! In fact, we were so excited that we ate them all up at a break-neck pace, and were completely out of them before we started our week. Good timing, as our own strawberry patch kicked in with it's red berries right afterwards.


To track back on our weekly Market adventures to date, click here: Week 1, Week 2Week 3, Week 4.

First Substantial Harvest.

At last! This afternoon we picked more strawberries than we could readily consume whilst picking. 
 
The sun was shining, a cool breeze was sweeping through our back gardens, and merrily we searched our two berry beds for their ruby gems. 
Quickly, we had quite a pile of our perfectly red, rightly-sized and robustly sweet treasures. 
 
Not so shabby for the beginning of season two with our strawberries. YEAH!

May 22, 2012

Braiding to Remember.

I'm on a bit of a disposable jewelry bender. A make-it-now-to-wear-it and then give-it-away to the first to compliment. It's been wildly fun. 
And bright, as I've been mostly gravitating to the pink and NEON.
It's the slow rhythm of braiding; the strength of multiple cords. And the reminder that three strands are not easily broken.

May 21, 2012

Summer is Coming.

Taking the tiniest taste of what Summer will soon hold, we spent the majority of our awake hours this weekend out-of-doors.
This picture completely cracks me up.  After chasing each other in circles around our backyard gardens, they end the match by spraying themselves down.

May 18, 2012

For the Love of Food.

This morning I made official my subscription to the new Edible Cleveland Magazine. It's an editorially rich, community-based, local foods publication put out quarterly–covering each of the four Seasons. 
I've turned its pages over and over again, read cover-to-cover every bit of writing in the Spring issue, and even whipped up a delicious big pitcher of the included seasonal recipe of Rhubarb Basil Smash by Jon Benedict and illustrated by Danielle Schroeder. We substituted out the Bourbon for the Craunlets, who enjoyed the seasonal beverage instead with bubbly water.
Illustration by Danielle Schroeder for Edible Cleveland's Spring Issue.
The core values of Edible Cleveland are completely aligned to our Fresh Market efforts in allocating more and more of our food dollars locally, our hope for Cleveland, and the desire we have to eat well as a family. Taken directly from Edible Cleveland:
  • Beauty counts. We want to publish a magazine that’s worthy of the paper it’s printed on. Striking photography, the well-turned phrase, and a gorgeous layout combine to create an experience that feels remarkably indulgent. Browsing the pages of edible Cleveland will be an inspiration, and every issue will be an object of beauty.
  • Be optimistic. edible Cleveland is a celebration. As such, we will strive to tell the stories that extend our sense of community, deepen our understanding of practices, satisfy our curiosities about food, and cultivate a vibrant food culture.
  • Local matters. Although edible Cleveland is a member of a thriving national movement, the focus of our work is local, and it will stay that way. We will work with local writers and artists to capture the people, places and food that make up our region’s particular culinary culture.
  • Be of value. edible Cleveland will be a resource for everyone interested in our food culture and will strive to bridge the gap between those who love food and their food sources.
Last week was Market Trip number Four. And the adventure we have been on this far––now at 50% of our food spending local––has been most delicious.
Week Four at the Market:

2 half gallons Whole Milk
1 quart Chocolate Milk
1 quart Apples, Braeburn variety
6 pickle Cucumbers
1 loaf Pumpkin Bread
1 dozen Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 dozen Eggs
2 Pork Loin Chops
1 dozen sweet Cabbage Pierogies
2 dozen Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli
1 bunch mixed Lettuce Greens, Dozen Variety Blend
1 bunch Claytonia, or "miners lettuce"
6 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 quart potatoes
1 half Chicken
1 Zucchini
8oz Grass-fed Baby Swiss Cheese
8oz Grass-fed Mozzarella Cheese
1 lb. Spelt Granola with Raisins + Sunflower Seeds
1/2 lb. Honey Puffed Spelt Cereal
8 mini powdered sugar beignets [consumed onsite]
To track back on our weekly Farmer's Market adventures to date, click here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.

These Two, This Instant.

We ventured out to Cleveland's Natural History Museum this morning, ringing in the freedom of Isabella's day off from school.
The sun is shining brilliantly, and the morning has been the most delightful prelude to our long weekend ahead.

Sweet Siblings.

I watched this sweetly lovely video yesterday. I'd seen the preview trailer a week or so prior on Design Mom, and was so delighted to see at last the first episode of Olive Us. It's a beautiful project. Episode one is a celebration of both gardening and sibling relationship. I was swept away smitten to read and view the same heart for sibling friendship and beautiful-but-real family relationships that we strive for as Team Craun. Every moment can certainly never be perfect, but each presents an opportunity for love, growth and joy in sharing life in this world. Take a peek, it's terrifically charming, gorgeously filmed and edited, and absolutely uplifting:

May 17, 2012

I Suppose I Could Blame the Sun.

I taught a whirlwind of 12 classes over Monday and Tuesday. And then we went out to dinner to one of my favorite little places, a delicious little French restaurant shaped like a wedge and appropriately named le Petit Triangle Cafe. The whole family is happy there–it's locally owned and operated–and they serve up some absolutely fabulous and tasty savory crepes. 

Then I woke up to a day off.

And after that one, another.

And it's so sunny and bright, mildly temperate, and just plain lovely.
So, I've been taking walks to the park, attending afternoon art openings, gardening, and going on small city tours. I read a book yesterday for a quite a chunk of quiet time in the afternoon. I've been updating and redesigning my resume, drinking extra cups of coffee, and baking cookies. Today, Nate and I went to the Art Museum to take in the Rembrandt in America exhibition, and we ate a completely overpriced but delicious "Rembrandt Fruit and Cheese Plate" for our second lunch. We picked up Bella from school, and then we all cut loose to the playground.

Just breathing in the freedom. Consecutive minutes, hours, days and nights of freedom. It's been so lovely. Though I've missed you all, the little break has been fantastically rich.

And guess what? Tomorrow is another day off.

May 11, 2012

Playing House.

It cracks me up how much the Craunlets role play our everyday life. 
Like living it out for real just isn't enough, so we replay all the mundane with our toys and playtime again and again and again. 
 
The other day, they played swimmingly for hours with Bella's doll house. 
 
The small wood crate that normally contains all of the doll house accessories was quickly converted into an efficiency apartment for Nate [pictured above].
 
Hearing them play out all of the characters, in normal life scenarios, is a total riot.
This weekend, we are mostly hanging around the house. We have our weekly fresh market trip, and a casual Mother's Day lunch–and both are partnered with a fabulously sunny forecast. Happy Weekend!

Beautiful Sound.

There's a flock of noisy birds in our neighborhood that sing the morning in daily without fail around 4:45 am. I almost never manage to sleep through their cheerful and celebratory chorus of peeps. I think what I find most remarkable each morning is how chaotic and urgent their heralding sounds.

Detail of Beautiful Sound, a commissioned print I created for the Cleveland Clinic.

By my rise time, they are silent. I wake up just before 7am to sun and almost absolute quiet, their morning now well behind them. A friend and colleague once told me that birds have a keen sense of perceived light, that they can see the gradations of increasing light coming even pre-sunrise. An almost knowing that it is coming. Half awake, they remind me that a new day lies ahead. One rich with potential and new graces. We can shake off our sleep–with yesterday forever behind us–and place our feet on the ground, and rise.

Sitting on my counter top, groggy Craunlets circle the kitchen making their own morning and hunger peeps. The morning always starts this way. I set out our tiny white saucers and espresso cups. I scoop the raw sugar into them, awaiting the shots of espresso that Dave is making on the stove top. Our stainless steel demitasse spoons clink melodically against the porcelain. It is morning. It is morning. Comfortably always the same, and gradually all the time changing.

The frantic of getting ready is stalled by these few minutes of coffee and conversation. And this morning coffee is followed with slices of fabulously sweet and chilled leftover rhubarb pink cake.

We discuss the day ahead. Each of us hatching out our morning missions for the minutes we have to get ready.

Moments later, I am found rooting out a compacted little stash of dirty laundry from a crevice of Nate's room, as a resolution to tears at the top of our stairs over having no pants. This happens only shortly after Dave has spent some minutes searching for a specific matching pair of knee socks for Isabella's dress-down day at school. 

I think about the rhythms of our household, the order and the systems, and the loose patterns in place that allow the necessary space for each of us to fly. These invisible strings that keep our little flock together, but give us each our space to spread our wings and make our beautiful sounds as we soar.

More about the piece pictured in this post, and how it was commissioned by the Cleveland Clinic, can be read in the blog section of my jencraun[dot]com art website, check it out right here.

May 10, 2012

These Two, That Instant.

Though these shots were captured a little while back now, they are perfectly the Craunlets right now. 
They're such a beautiful mash-up of confident, silly, adventurous, curious, smart and serious. 
Each in their terrifically own way–and sweetly–they are the best of friends most days.

May 9, 2012

We Shall Bake Cake.

I'm thinking our remaining rhubarb should most certainly become this:
 Image by Leela Cyd Ross via theKitchn, the recipe is found right here.
At Wednesday, I am already knee-deep in more busy than I would like. So, I've decided that our Thursday morning shall be greeted with CAKE FOR BREAKFAST.

May 8, 2012

The House that Nate Built.

Paper is pretty much Nate's preferred building material. Sure, it gets allover colored, but rarely does it ever remain 2-dimensional. The kid's a chronic builder.
This here is Krypto's new house. The puppy, Nate is certain, is Superman's sidekick and trusty pet. It's even been confirmed in one of his many books about Superman. He just knew that Superman had a puppy.

May 7, 2012

Feasting Like Kings.

I am certain I have never eaten this well. Never enjoyed food so fully. 
Week Three at the Farmer's Market.
I'm also pretty sure that Craunlets are going to get noticeably bigger around by the Summer's end. I've never seen them devour such full plates before. And then ask for more. To see them wake up to the pleasure of eating well, it's divinely rewarding. To be certain they are satiated, not just full. I can't tell you how many times Bella has opened her eyes super wide at the dinner table, and exclaimed: this is SO GOOD. And you know what, she is spot on -- this IS SO GOOD. 

Last night, it was a fantastically flavorful and tender Rinderrouladen. Super thin cuts of round steak, painted with honey mustard, layered with bacon strips, thinly sliced onions and dill pickles, sprinkled with parsley, ground pepper and salt, then rolled up tight and cooked slowly for a super long time. We served it up with a hot German potato salad. And we ended on a sweet note with piled-high bowls of rice pudding.

The mailbox where we picked up our Freezer Beef, so familiar to my childhood.
Learning of my Great Aunt's certain soon passing, it felt so good to stand at the stove and stir up a pot of growing up. A bubbling hot and sweet pot of rice pudding family comfort. It was an hour of mandatory standing still, and stirring. Sixty quiet minutes to sort out memories of a life lived out so well, to the very last.

And she breathed her last today. Gone with so little suffering, for that I am so incredibly thankful.

It's amazing, in reflecting this weekend, how almost all of my growing-up memories involve brimming tables of family pot-lucks, the bowl of rice pudding, large holiday feasts, and big rooms booming with the laughter of all of my Aunties. 

It's a sweet thing, and something that I long for the Craunlets to know and savor also.

Super delicious Puffins, we might be forever hooked.
Week Three at the Market:

1 Quartered Roasting Chicken
4 Apple Chicken burger patties
1 Quart apples, Braeburn variety
5 Peanut Butter + Oat Granola Bars
1 pkg. Maple Candies
2 lbs. Butter
4 Cucumbers
1 bunch Asparagus
2 Puffins [berry + peach, pie-muffins]
8 Mini Cinnamon Doughnuts [consumed onsite]
1 pint Apple Cider [consumed onsite]
19oz Cheese Curds
6 Dinner/burger Rolls
1 pkg Sea Salt Pita Chips
1pkg. Artisan Chocolates [Teacher Appreciation gift]
1lb. pkg. Spelt Maple Crunch Cereal
1 lb. pkg. Krispie treat Granola

6 garden tomato plants:
       Violet Jasper
       Sungold Cherry
       Tami G
       Bush Early Girl
       Ananas Noir
       Soldacki

Reading the ingredients, and description of our new [similar to Grape Nuts] cereal label, I am again reminded of the pleasure of shopping, and supporting, and eating local. Listen to this love:

A great cereal our children love to eat with milk, ice cream or yogurt. It is made traditionally by baking loaves, then they are cooled and crumbled, then dried to a delicious healthy cereal. Thank you for supporting local family farms.

What an awesome adventure we are on, in this short short life.

May 4, 2012

Weekend Ready.

More than usual, I am ready for the weekend. 
The day's end at one of the school's I worked at this week.
I'm ready for relaxed rise times, our weekly trip to the local farmer's market, printmaking with the Craunlets, munching on freshly baked banana bread, and drinking extra cups of coffee.

May 3, 2012

I Know That There's Enough to Go Around.

All these little pieces–725 of them–carefully laid down one at a time into parallel rows. Slowly, we sat around the table together, just Nate and myself, and brought the bigger picture into focus. Projects like these, seem to me what childhood memories are made of. The two of us sweetly enticed on a quiet morning by a simple plan of a shark, a big tub of melting beads, and the interest in pulling off something almost too grand.
I'm certainly glad that I never tallied a bead count before we began the project, as the information might have kicked my better judgement into action.

We quickly realized our plastic base would not be big enough for the project, so we readied ourselves for an errand to the local craft store to pick up a large fuse bead base. Necessary for this project, and surely to come in handy for future endeavors. 

At the store we were also lured in by a big under-the-water multi-pack of beads containing nearly every hue of blue. Thank goodness we splurged on this impulse, as part-way through our bead placement we realized that we would not have enough of a single blue for the water, or the body of the shark. We rearranged, recounted, and continued to sort every blue bead from our assorted tub. [Insert obscene amounts of patience here]
Still, we continued to come up short. Not enough shark blue, not enough water blue. Not enough.

And this is when the worst parts of me want to just throw in the towel. Certain that we are biting off a project that is way too complex for our attention span and our abilities. Reasoning with my I just want to quit thoughts, I quietly consider making a slight modification to the plan. Then I share my thought with Nate–almost hesitant–as this certainly ratchets up the project to the even-more complicated. 
Maybe we should add gill openings, I suggest. His eyes alight, this boy is completely smitten obsessed with Sharks. He researched them last year, and has been writing a book to record his findings. The book led to the Halloween costume, that led to the Aquarium pass–incurring several visits to the shark tanks both there and at our Zoo–most recently, a trip to watch the sharks being fed. Certain this was the solution, he remarked [practically quoting from his text] Sharks have five, six or seven gill openings on each side! Tapering off, he continues: But for fish, there is only one.
So here I sit, now squeezing in 5 small rows of a darker blue in the shark's slim body of beads for his gill openings. Then I lighten up his under belly, and we have enough.

Next, we are still short beads for the water. We remember the sand sharks from our numerous expeditions to the aquarium, and Nate proposes that we simply add sand to the bottom. Terrific, we are getting close. Then we decide that as the water gets deeper, so could the shade of blue. We are close to a count that will work. We are ONE SINGLE BEAD SHORT. Insert again my quitter spirit, we are now nearly 2 hours into this project since printing out the pattern.
I am quietly stewing, unwilling to pass on this give-upness spirit. I don't want my frustration to become contagious; I don't want to indicate that I no longer believe that there's enough to go around. 

Teaching in some of the most challenging elementary schools of Cleveland, I have started making my lowest grades repeat a simple mantra before we get started with our printing [as the process requires both a lot of shared materials and patience]. I repeat it once, and then I ask them to join me: I know that there's enough to go around. In chorus, I hear their little voices grow larger and louder–more certain–they continue to repeat the mantra, now assured by their collective words: I know that there's enough to go around. 

Air bubbles! Nate breaks my silence. Remember when we watched the sharks eating? And we saw lots of air bubbles? Let's add air bubbles, that will work! He is sure that there's enough to go around.
Carefully, I excavate out single blue beads from within the sea of water blue–trying not to upset the entire pattern, and morning's worth of effort–replacing each of them with a white air bubble bead.
And he is right, and I remember: there's enough to go around.

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