" /> Toads-in-the-Hole: May 2011 Archives

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May 30, 2011


Memorial Day Weekend. A weekend set aside, complete with a day off for the toiling drone, to honor, commemorate, share, remember, recall ... And to re-create anew.

This weekend our family of four shared memories past and created new memories with a gathering of old friends at a cabin on a farm in Decorah, Iowa and a series of schoolroom suites in Preston, Minnesota.

The Institution, born on the plains of South Dakota, is (was) a collection of young men with varied interests including theater, debate, running, band, choir, soccer and role playing games. Perhaps the only thing they were unanimously dedicated to was each other.

After high school, the Institution scattered to matriculate, serve, work, marry and procreate. Four years ago, most of them gathered with their families in Preston, MN for a reunion. We didn't make it. Two years ago, they gathered in Iowa City for a men-only reunion. Joel was there. This year, after much wheeling and dealing at work and (perhaps not enough) scrimping and saving at home, we made it to Preston for the second grand reunion.

Along the way we camped:

Saw the old college:

Visited where it all began for us:

And followed the edict of that old scout song:
Make new friends, and keep the old
One is silver and the other's gold.




May 24, 2011

Bebop-a-Rebop Rhubarb Jam

Last week I made the most delicious pot of strawberry-rhubarb jam.

Yes, the most delicious pot of jam.

I collected a bunch of rhubarb and strawberries from the farmer's market and set to work one afternoon. Adelaide, practicing her kitchen knife skills, carefully chopped up the rhubarb and then neatly trimmed the berries. We dumped granulated sugar on the lot, wrapped the bowls up tight with plastic wrap, and set them in our spare fridge to transform.

The next night, after the kids were in bed, I brought out the bowls, and gently simmered the concoction for twenty minutes per the recipe and then left it to cool on the stovetop sans a lid. I repeated this step on a Monday, and by Tuesday I couldn't handle the waiting any longer: I repeated the step twice on Tuesday afternoon and then ushered the jam into eight sterilized Ball jam jars.

I scraped the remaining jam from the pot and placed it on a couple pieces of toast for Adelaide and Henry to enjoy after their naps, and enjoy it we did!


The awesome thing about this jam is that it takes only three ingredients: the fruit, some lime juice, and sugar. The jam becomes jammy by evaporation instead of pectin.

It is the best strawberry rhubarb jam ever. Try it!

May 23, 2011

Animals ... For Real

Sunday morning, we awoke feeling a little ambitious and so piled into the car and drove off to the nearest zoo. The Niabi Zoo in the Quad Cities, sixty miles to the east of us, was well worth the trip.







May 19, 2011



It's a common scene lately in the wilds of our home at dusk: three humanoid species devouring a carton of Blue Bunny while stalking other mammalian types on David Attenbourough's "The Life of Mammals".

Thanks to Attenbourough's uncut, realistic portrayals of life in the animal kingdom, our children now understand about "eat or be eaten". Prior their introduction to Attenbourough, Adelaide would often ask, after reading a cheerful, cartoonish Goldilocks and the Three Bears, "Are bears nice?" What is the answer to that? Um, bears are nice to themselves? Sometimes bears fight with each other? Bears like being bears? Bears are not nice to the food they eat, including fish? More often than not, instead of tromping down the complicated path of evolution and the food chain, I'd just say, "Well, the bears in this book are nice. See how baby bear is inviting Goldilocks back over for more porridge?"

Last night, my five year-old and my two year-old watched a lion take down a zebra on Life of Mammals. Adelaide excitedly shouted at the screen, "That lion's just like, 'come over here zebra, I'm hungry!'"

May 17, 2011

Home, Home on the Plains

Joel and I are a bit caught-up in thought, in nostalgia, and in hopes ...

In an couple of years, if we continue to play our cards right, Joel will finish his residency and fellowship here at Iowa. After that, he'll get a Real Job.

We've dreamed about moving to a handful of places, mostly Minnesotan, like St. Cloud, Bemidji, Fargo, Minneapolis, Madison. In our dreamy discussions, we'd discuss things like real estate, school systems, arts and public libraries. We'd do a little Internet search and suddenly we'd have fodder for an evening's worth of conversation about the demographics of one place or another. Of course, it's all like playing house when we were kids: easy, fun, low-risk.

We don't have that Real Job Offer yet that'll be a heavy hitter in our Where Next lineup. And it's certainly not interview-time yet ... Joel's got a bit of work to do here in Iowa City before we roll around to planning a new life.

However, our compass just found a new True North, after a friendly face stopped by our home this weekend.

Steve, one of our dearest friends from Vermillion, South Dakota, reminds us of the family of friends and the potential that lives in that small riverside town. We talked about the parties and plays we missed, the old friends who've left and the ones who've come back, and thoughts political and metaphysical in a be-Brambled fourteen hour sojourn.

And now, we can't stop thinking about moving back to Vermillion someday. For all sorts of reasons, ones to lengthy to mention, but mostly to rekindle our relationship with a sense of Community that we don't have here, but were rich in there. It's funny that the little town that was a hiccup in 2004 on the way to greater things for Joel and our our family quickly became the center of our collective universe in a way no other place was before or has been since. It's not the location, location, location. It's the people, people, people.

Adelaide and Henry's pediatrician here in Iowa City is a classmate of Joel's from medical school. Nearly every time she treats our snotty noses or gives us our required vaccinations, she asks, "Are you guys thinking of moving Home?" The Home in question is southeastern South Dakota.

The answer is that suddenly we certainly are.

Vermillion is the home of our hearts, and I'd love another whack at that romance.

Isn't life surprising?