Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Friday at Caleb and Isaac's school is always a half day.  During the rest of the week they are served a hot lunch that includes something from all the food groups.  But, on Fridays, since most kids leave shortly after lunchtime, they get a sack lunch with a sandwich.  They school tries to get creative with their sandwich options, but usually it is 2 pieces of bread, a slice each of turkey, tomato, and cheese, and a piece of lettuce.  Now, my kids will eat salad, but lettuce and tomato on a sandwich is definitely out.  Frankly, the don't really eat sandwiches all that much unless they are of the burger variety.  Caleb detests peanut butter, I KNOW!  And Isaac, while he will eat peanut butter, prefers it by the spoonful and nowhere near jelly.  Even Trader Joe's Sweet Whole Cherry Preserves does not tempt him.  And, both of them would rather have their bread on the side.  So, I can get them to eat egg salad or chicken salad or turkey, but not actually on bread.  I shouldn't complain, I could stand to eat a little less bread myself, but this penchant for food groups and plates does make eating on the run a bit challenging.

Last Friday, as we headed home, we talked about that day's lunch and I was informed by Caleb that he ate only his bread and turkey and threw out the rest.  Isaac chimed in that he ate the cheese too, but only half of it.  I asked Caleb why he threw away the cheese and he replied that it was the wrong kind.  In response to my query "what kind was it?" he replied without missing a beat that it was "white cheese."  We then had a long discussion about cheese and how it is classified many ways, but usually not by color.  Caleb and Isaac were stunned as I rattled off endless varieties of cheeses and explained which came from cows and which from sheep or goats.  We talked about wheels of cheese and rind and smoked cheeses and cheese mixed with herbs and fruit and mild and strong flavors and all the different things we eat that have cheese in them.  I suggested that maybe we needed to sample some of these cheeses and then we could decide which we liked based on more than just color.  Caleb and Isaac agreed and asked to start immediately.  I was able to put them off, but not for long.

Tonight for dinner we introduced 3 "new" kinds of cheese: Romano, Havarti and Gouda.  We talked about the country of origin for each variety and the differences in texture and flavor.  We discussed what animal each cheese came from and how it was made.  We compared them to the cheeses we are already familiar with (i.e. yellow, white and feta).  Then, we tasted them. 

The verdict: a resounding YUM!  

Caleb was a fan of the Havarti and Isaac preferred the Romano, but they both enjoyed the "ham" flavor of the Gouda and had generous helpings of each type.  We decided in the future the boys would come along for the shopping part of this adventure and select our next varieties (Isaac has already declared he is bringing home "an enormous blue cheese" YUCK!).  I'm certain they won't love all the kinds we sample, certainly I do not believe that all cheese is created equal, but at least we have moved beyond white vs. yellow and in the process discovered the wonderfully diverse and gastronomically exciting world of cheese.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Panic

In the last week, the weather in the Mid-Atlantic has turned decidedly chilly.  As someone who walks around with a toaster oven strapped to her middle 24 hours a day, this is excellent news indeed.  The crisp air means fall is on the way and we are anxiously awaiting its arrival.  At present, there is no real evidence of changing leaves, but the promise of gold and red sun-kissed treetops is tantalizingly near.  My inbox is overflowing with notices of apple picking and pumpkin patches, corn mazes and homemade apple cider, Halloween costume ideas and autumn inspired recipes and blogs everywhere are teeming with craft and food ideas to welcome the change in season.  

One such blog I follow recently reported rumor of a canned pumpkin shortage and she rushed out to procure some before it was too late.  Her errand yielded just 2 lone cans, a fact which, considering my penchant for fall goodies and a stocked pantry, sent me into a panic.  Accordingly, I headed out myself this weekend to stock up one of my favorite and most versatile staples.  I hit 4 stores before finding anything, and even then it was just a smattering of mostly dented cans.  I bought them ALL.  I am not a hoarder, by any means.  But I like to be prepared and I use pumpkin in myriad recipes, all year long, but especially now when the temperatures start to plummet.

I have since read that pumpkin shortages in the Northeast are not just a rumor, but a reality.  Many farmers are expecting record profit losses this year and farmers out west have found unexpected consumers for their crops.  We had planned to take the boys to a pumpkin patch at some point this year, but based on this information I imagine we'll be taking them sooner rather than later before all the gorgeous, orange globes untouched by hurricane and tropical storm devastation are gone.  Right now, though, I'm going to eat a delicious bowl of pumpkin soup secure in the knowledge that my pantry is fully stocked and there will be pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin gooey butter cakes and pumpkin pasta and pumpkin pancakes any time we want them, all season long. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #17

Happy Constitution Day.  Today is the 224th anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution.  And, while the Constitution was actually drafted in Philadelphia, it's current location is Washington, DC.  Now, the obvious way to celebrate today would have been to visit the National Archives and view that auspicious document in person.  But, we like to think of ourselves as non-conformists, so we skipped the Archives and headed to some other equally fun and important DC landmarks.

First stop, breakfast at Eastern Market.  If you've ever been to Washington, DC, and not had breakfast here, you are missing out.  The bluebucks (buckwheat, blueberry pancakes) and french toast are out of this world.  Eastern Market is a DC institution and a favorite destination for us, though one we seldom rise early enough for on Saturday morning.  It was overcast and chilly today, it seems autumn is upon us, so the market was not as crowded as it usually is and the breakfast line was a mere 20 minute wait.  Sometimes the line is so long they run out of breakfast before they run out of line.  The boys and I took in all the wares available for purchase while Kenny held our place in line and then all four of us dove with abandon into our delectable orders.  The verdict?  A collective YUM!

Caleb had a soccer game this afternoon so we only had time for one more stop before heading home to change.  We opted for a visit to the Jefferson Memorial, another item on our seemingly endless Washington, DC, bucket list.  It was surprisingly crowded with several bus loads of tourists from who knows where America and at least one group from France.  While walking around the Tidal Basin from the parking lot to the Memorial we were delighted to discover a crew of workers striking chain link fences and loading up cement barriers.  The Jefferson Memorial has been surrounded by scaffolding and fencing for the better part of the last decade and today, finally, it looked as though that phase of its existence may have concluded.  Sadly, the Memorial is sinking into the Potomac and more refurbishment is planned through the Trust for the National Mall, but for now the barriers are down.

For the Constitution's 225th birthday we will be in China, a fact that makes celebrating our citizenship on our own soil today especially noteworthy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bramble Rambles

When I was very little I used to go with my family to our church farm and pick fruit and vegetables.  I was pretty young so its hard to say if my memories of those days are real or constructed from the stories I've been told.  Regardless, I "remember" those outings fondly and wanted my boys to have a similar experience.

 About an hour's drive from DC in just about any direction you will find yourself smack in the middle of farm country.  Beautiful, lush, green fields as far as the eye can see overflowing with all manner of produce.   We selected a farm boasting all our favorites, corn, peaches, apples, raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes and set off on a picking extravaganza.

 Despite checking the weather endlessly and being assured we would miss any rain by miles and hours, we were not so lucky.  We got caught in a torrential downpour.  But, our plans to pick prevailed and we trudged through the mud and rain filling our buckets and boxes to overflowing with...

 7 and 1/2 cups of delicious red raspberries.  We probably picked even more than that considering how many bypassed our receptacles completely on their way to our mouths.  It was wet.  Too wet to venture into other fields beyond the raspberry rows, but the boys had a great time, so I'd say it was a successful day all around.

 In case you're wondering, 7 and 1/2 cups is A LOT of raspberries and for the last 2 weeks we have been stuffing ourselves on Raspberry Crumble (my favorite of all the recipes we tried),

 Raspberry Scones (these were so easy to make and a hit will all the males in my household, I don't know why I've never made them before),

Raspberry Cream Pie (made with sour cream and topped with, in this case, a slightly overdone crumble crust), and

Raspberry Blueberry Pie because, if you can imagine, we ran out of raspberries.  If you're hungry, we might still have some pie we'd be happy to share, come on by.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm a Soccer Mom

I knew this day would come, and now it has.  Caleb started his first team sport this weekend.  Soccer.  YEA!  He loved every minute of it from shopping for gear, selecting new shoes, choosing practice clothes, donning his uniform for the first time, and mostly, getting on the field with his team and playing his heart out.

The league is very relaxed.  They don't have goalies, they play 4 to a side and only for about 35 minutes each game, and they don't keep score.  The second the game was called, however, Caleb wanted to know if his team, the Bulldogs, had won.  We didn't know, we weren't paying attention.  But, he did score twice (and twice during practice he reminded us) and had fun, so yes, they won.  Right?  Isn't that what team sports are all about?  Having fun?

 Isaac, despite desperately wanted to escape to the playground, dutifully sat on the sidelines at times cheering his brother on and at other times amusing himself by picking at the astroturf field or staring off into space.  He says when Caleb is done playing Soccer he'll start playing Basketball.  I'm not sure where that idea is coming from, but I am busily looking for Basketball options for 3 year-olds (wish me luck!).

We have 8 more games this season and next week we'll be bringing the orange slices, so I guess that makes it official, soccer is our newest family hobby.  Now we just have to wait for the inevitable targeted political mailings for our particular demographic.

Friday, September 09, 2011


We have some big news here at 
Rambles and Ruminations...

That's right, we're having a BABY in early January.  I announced this very happy and much anticipated news on facebook a couple of weeks ago, but the blog was feeling neglected.  I certainly couldn't let that happen so please consider this the official blogosphere alert -- ah the woes of multiple social media outlets.  

We don't know gender yet, but hopefully we'll find out before the baby comes.  
(If it's a girl, I definitely need to go shopping!)

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