Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Coffee Project

If you're friends with my husband Sam on Facebook, you may have seen some things from him in the last couple of weeks about coffee. I know. Not wine? What's up with that?

This is a new project Sam started with Picacho Coffees to do offer a sommelier crafted coffee available through Picacho and at East End Wines. So, why do you want to have a wine guy help "craft" your coffee?  If you've ever met a coffee geek, you might notice that they're not all that different from wine geeks: they like to take a liquid and pick it apart and show you exactly why it is you like it (or don't like it). Sam gave me a spiel about coffee is a natural fit after you've already practiced breaking down flavors for wine and beers and sake into all these different types of aromas and textures and blahzeeblahbloo (that is a technical term for whatever it is your sommelier husband says after the first 3 minutes of talking about wine, beer or sake)...   I also figure after you drink a lot of vino, at some point in the next 24 hours, you're probably gonna need a cup of coffee, amirite?

At any rate, they're going to start offering two different blends: 529 Plan and the East End Blend. (The 529 Plan is a bit of an inside joke about where the Sam's proceeds from this little project will go. It's also why our son's names are crafted into the label--that's a grasshopper under a rowan tree).  The 529 Plan is a light-medium roast and the East End Blend is darker. Right now, both of them are caffeinated, but there's a plan to get some decaf in the mix sometime in the future.  You can read more sommelier-esque notes about both blends below, though I will tell you, I have no clue what Arusha is. I thought it was the stuff that gave you the poison ivy rash, but a quick dictionary check tells me that's urushiol. I was close.

They're having a tasting THIS FRIDAY at East End Wines from 5-8pm to introduce the coffees, so I'm sure Sam can tell you all about it.. Check it out if you're around!

Notes from the Sammelier:
Coffee – 529 Blend – Light-Medium Roast, Balanced Brightness, Medium Body – 13.57 for a 12 oz. bag – Tasting Note – Floral, Caramel, Spice from the Blue Mountain, Arusha, Kent, Lemon, Caramel, Tobacco from the Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai. Why we chose it for a wine shop – A noticeable brightness from acid, floral notes like those from hops and aromatic white wines, lemon like Chardonnay or Semillon, caramel like beer malt and Oregon oak, reminiscent of spicy tones brought by various wine grape varietals and oak influence from the aging of wine in cask, especially Oregon and Allier, France, which can also add smoky tones. Tobacco notes are also readily sensed in many Cabernet Sauvignons and Sangiovese.
Coffee – East End Blend – Medium-Dark Roast, Mild-Balanced Brightness, Medium-Full Body. 13.57 for a 12 oz. bag – Tasting Notes: Brown Sugar, Oak, Spice from the Caturra, Catui, Typica, Cacao Nibs, Cane Sugar, Orange Peel from the Bourbon varietals. Why we chose it for a wine shop – Tempranillo acts as a great frame for oak, as does Chardonnay, and the popularity of these varieties prove that people like it. Spice comes from oak, Nevers, France, Merlot has a spice cake note, Syrah / Shiraz, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Picpoul. This has a darker, more oaky feel, for people who like more full-bodied wines with some oak aging providing more structure.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It was a real nice clambake

Today is our seventh anniversary. So, in honor, I'm posting seven photos from the day you may not have seen. Well,actually, I know you haven't seen them because I'm just getting around to scanning them all. What? I've been busy.

I love this one because it has both my parents with their spouses and all three of my mom's sisters AND a bonus of my brother looking disapproving in the background. Plus that person in the beret really rounds it out. I have no idea who that is.

It was a really pretty day.
Contrary to popular belief, I did put Flo on the ground every once in a while but she  was being stalked by a barn owl and a cat that had 10 lbs on her,  so she was a bit nervous.
This is a photo of our cake being made. I believe the stuff in the pan is technically called "Awesome Sauce"

This is the only tiny piece of the cake I got to eat. 

Did I mention it was a pretty day? It was. 

When Sam's grandfather used to leave a family gathering, he would sing this song, "This Was A Real Nice Clambake." Up until recently, I had no idea that he hadn't just made it up himself. Ahem. Anyway, here he is singing it with backup.

This was a real nice clambake
We're mighty glad we came.
The vittles we et were good you bet!
The company was the same.
Our hearts are warm,
Our bellies are full,
And we are feelin' prime.
This was a real nice clambake,
And we all had a real good time!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Supply List Addendum

I'm not the world's most organized person (cough), I've got a serious procrastination bent and besides that if I don't like to do something, chances are, it will remain undone for quite sometime. This would be why the paint job on the hallway in my house still hasn't been finished since 2009. I don't like painting, what can I say?  BUT, one thing I don't screw around with is prepping ahead of time for kid stuff.  I started out mothering the same way I'd lived for 3 2/3 decades, i.e. by the seat of my pants, but I learned the hard way that if you leave the house unprepared with two boys under a certain age, someone will be wearing Ca-Ca on the seat of those pants without a spare pair to be had anywhere and that shiz is not pleasant.  So, I've evolved into this person who (prepare yourself now, sit down) GETS STUFF READY THE NIGHT BEFORE. Crazy, huh? I know, I wouldn't have believed it of myself either. 

Hop is starting kindergarten in three weeks and I got the supply list about a month ago (WHO IS THIS WOMAN?). I was going to wait to buy stuff  until the Texas Tax Free Weekend coming up tomorrow, but I have seen this Tax Free Weekend phenomenon before. It's almost as bad as going to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving, only people get violent over 12 packs of glue sticks. So, I started picking things up here and there and I'm actually way done with the Kindergarten supply list (though, I have questions. Such as, is it really necessary that every child come with 48 glue sticks? Really? 48?? PER CHILD.  That's insane. That's more than one glue stick per week of school. How much glue sticking are you going to be doing? Is there a glue stick component on the Standardized Tests?)

But even with the list all done and purchased, I feel like there are some things missing  that my son might be needing for school. I've made a list. If you're out and about this weekend, feel free to pick any of this up for him.

  1. an alarm clock that he cannot figure out how to turn off or unplug or reset somehow in the middle of the night
  2. 40 pairs of socks (That's one per week of school. Unlike glue sticks, I can actually envision us needing that many)
  3. a parachute (not the playground kind, the real kind for when you jump off things really high)
  4. thorazine dart gun (for his teacher)
  5. a sidekick (preferably one that's either very big or very smart. Or both)
  6. an emergency clip-on tie (sometimes, he needs one. that's what he says anyway)
  7. a sudden ability to hear something he doesn't agree with and keep his mouth shut
Ok, well that last one might be unlikely.

Friday, August 01, 2014

knock knock

To lighten things up for the weekend (and because I mentioned it earlier this week), I'm finally posting for your pleasure some videos of my kids telling knock knock jokes. Mind you, we do this probably 3-4 nights a week, for months now, so I'm only sharing a fraction of the ones I have on my phone (note to self: this is probably why your phone is starting to die).   The ones I'm posting for you are the ones that almost make sense. Usually, when Hopper tells jokes, he's just stretching out his comedic legs and coming up with something completely da-daist, But he's learned that if it contains the word POOP or CHICKEN, it will  crack Rowan up.

 As you may have already noted, Hopper likes to take conventional things and put his own spin on it (WHO KNEW). For example, there's that classic:
knock knock
who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say bananas??  (baahahahahha, right?)

Yeah no. He will literally use ANY OTHER FOOD OTHER THAN ORANGE.

Here is one where he almost, ALMOST says it the original way.

But then, that's over.

We go through many variations of this. Applesauce, Chicken, Watermelon. And no, it doesn't get any better. He tickles himself  though, and that's what's important.

Here's another one. I think it's... almost making sense? Maybe?

He's already plotting on how to change it up, though. I fully expect the Hopper version sometime in the next couple weeks, one that involves cow butts.

And lastly, here's a video of Rowan attempting to get in on the joke telling, but he just ends up saying the word "chicken" over and over. I can't help it, it kills me.

have a happy weekend, y'all.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


I’m 43 today.   I’m totally over being concerned about being in my 40s. I’m not too broken up about the loss of my youth.  I’ve already said goodbye to the decades where I could diet for three days and lose 20lbs. I’ve already figured out I’m completely out of touch with the younger generation because of  my continued befuddlement of Snapchat as an effective communication method. I am OK with these things.  I am prepared for getting older: I  have a happy life, a good moisturizer (and good lord, SnapChat is SO STUPID).  Trust me, turning 43 doesn’t bother me, truly it doesn’t, but I haven’t been looking forward to this birthday.   I haven’t wanted to make plans. I haven’t cared whether I get to eat carrot cake or chocolate mousse (or both). I’ve been meh on choosing to put anything on my wish list.. It’s been slow to hit me, but I finally realized a couple of days ago that the reason I’ve been dreading this birthday is not because I’m getting older, it’s because it’s the first birthday I’ve ever had without my mother being alive. And I know how silly that is. I know that I grew up a long time ago, that I’m an ADULT with children of her own. But when I thought about the fact that I’d go my entire birthday and I wouldn’t get to talk to my mom, I burst into tears…at work, in the middle of an office day, had to close my door and just have a good ugly cry.

Every birthday my mom would call me at the crack of dawn. She always said that she liked to call her four kids every year, right at their actual time of birth. Luckily for me, I was born 23 minutes past midnight, so she gave this up pretty early on. But still, she’d call me first thing in the morning when she got up. Sometimes I was awake, most of the time I wasn’t.  “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARE YOU AWAKE YET?”  “Mom, it’s 5:15am.”  “I KNOW, AREN’T YOU OUT CELEBRATING??”  And she’d laugh.  Every year she’d wake me up as early as possible just to tell me Happy Birthday and then laugh at me. The more haggard and asleep I sounded, the more tickled she got. She showed no mercy. The year Hopper was just a wee baby, we were on vacation in Oregon, so not only was I up with him, I was also in a time zone two hours behind. I called her right at my time of birth which was 2:23 in the morning in Arkansas.    “HEY MOM IT’S MY BIRTHDAY, AREN’T YOU OUT CELEBRATING??”  She did not find it nearly as amusing as I did.

So, I’m 43 today and my mom is gone. I said goodbye to her back in May when we laid her to rest, but I have to say, it didn’t occur to me at the time that I would keep having birthdays and how much it would hurt not to be able to hear her voice today. It hurts worse to think about how many more birthdays will come and go without her. The shitty fact that life continues and she does not.   Then I think about my boys and I know that even though it’s really hard sometimes, I want many many more birthdays. I want as many birthdays as possible, til my boys are even older than I am now. With each birthday, it'll hurt a little bit less, I know that, I do.

But, I miss her. I miss my mom.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Yellow Boat

Every night when the boys are eating their dinner, Hopper will ask me to film him telling knock knock jokes on my iphone so he can then watch himself immediately afterwards and laugh at his joke like he's never heard  it before. It's very cute and sometimes, the jokes even make sense. (not usually though). I've been meaning to post some up on the blog but just haven't gotten around to it. Tonight, Hopper asked me to film him singing his new favorite song, "The Yellow Boat." And this is where it all starts to go downhill.

Yeah, I suggested that maybe, just MAYBE that song is actually Yellow SUBMARINE.
"No, it's not."
"Yes, baby, it is. Trust me, I've heard it a few times."
And we go back and forth like this for a few minutes til I figure, hey, he doesn't have to take MY word for it, I'll just show him the real deal on YouTube. So, I do. Yeah. No dice.

I played the song for him, give him ACTUAL PROOF and he is still not budging.   I'm starting to give up at this point, but he's not. He wants me to show him the REAL song on YouTube, the one he's been singing. You know, that classic hit of the 1960's,  "YELLOW BOAT". Kee-rist.

I stopped filming because while he's thinking about how sad it is that I don't know the real name of the song, he's just stuffing a hotdog into his face and smacking his food obnoxiously, which is a tactic he utilizes to throw his opponents off.  Right after I stopped filming, he says to me, "You know, the Yellow Boat video is a LOT better, too."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Neverending Project

When I was growing up, my mom was like a lot of other moms in that she took photos of all the holidays and milestones and vacations and dutifully put them in albums; but my mom, much like myself, also liked to take pictures of random shit. Often. Everybody does it nowadays. Entire corporations have been founded around this. Facebook would practically collapse if we didn't see at least 57 pictures of your sweaty margarita on Friday afternoon or your dog's new haircut.  I am not making fun. Trust me. (I took 17 shots of Mr. Bean's last grooming before I got a picture of him not looking like a war refugee and you're damn skippy I Instagrammed that thing WITH FILTERS).  But my mom lived most of her life before Facebook and Instagram so she didn't post her pictures. She printed them and put them in a box. Then a bigger box. Then a cedar chest that would hold a bunch of boxes. She had pictures crammed into books, stuffed into drawers, albums overflowing-- they were everywhere.  For years I asked my mom to give me pictures from when I was growing up and she never would. Then, about 4 or 5 years ago, it changed. Whenever I'd go to Little Rock for a visit, she'd let me sit and go through boxes, picking out pictures to take home. At first she'd ask me to send them back to her when I was done with them but then after a while, she stopped asking and just let me keep them. I didn't take much at first, just maybe 10 or 15 pictures at a time, but when she loosened up a little and told me to take what I wanted, I scooped up a whole album and said, "Can I have this?"  It pained her to part with it, but she did.  

When mom died, the first thing I did when I got home was go to that cedar box and open it up and start looking through pictures. I think pictures show you a lot of things. They show you the obvious: the subjects, of course, but they also tell you so much about the person who takes them and the person who keeps them. What they love, who they love, what their viewpoint (LITERALLY) is. I guess that's why they're so fascinating to me. Because I feel like even though I knew my mom pretty well, there's a whole deeper dimension to know in those pictures. So, while I was there, I scooped up as many pictures as I could reasonably carry and I took them back home with me. I've been going through them ever since.

Every weekday, I pick out about 10-15 pictures. I scan them, then I try to fix anything that needs fixing in Photoshop and I upload them to an online photo archive separating them out by decade. I've gone through a few hundred by now and I've not even gotten to a quarter of them. And these that I took barely made a dent in my mom's collection. It's not an exaggeration to say that there are thousands upon thousands of photos my mom took over the years. And they're not all gems. I just went through a stack that had no less than 5 pictures of my mom's dog we had in the 1980's looking likes she chewing her own butt. (DO YOU SEE WHERE I GET THESE THINGS??)

There are so many photos that I've never even seen before. I'm not even sure who some of the people are in them. But in some weird way, it soothes me to do this. Sometimes, the pictures are these tiny little cutouts (I don't know why she did this, it drives me insane) that I have to glue to a larger sheet before I can even scan it. like this:

That I then cropped and turned into this (and yes, that's me when I was Rowan's age).
Sometimes, I'm scanning and cropping and then trying to figure out how to fix the yellowing pinkysoriasis (my technical term for it) that happens to old photos, like so:

I am pretty sure this is my mom's grandmother.

Luckily, Photoshop has some handy/dandy tools you can just click and point onto and it will mainly fix it. One heartbreak I have is that there was about a five year period where my mom used her Polaroid camera exclusively. Good Lord did Polaroid Cameras suck. No matter what you do, all the pictures are crappy. They were INSTANT! But they were crappy.  What I wouldn't do for a clear, non-polaroid version of this picture:
Thanksgiving, 1982.

If anyone has, or can point me to a tutorial on how to fix POLAROID in Photoshop, please hit me up.

Here are some of the other photos I was working on this morning: 
My mom and her sister Robyn, year?? I'm guessing probably 1949 or 1950

My mom and Uncle Frank, Christmas. I think the little girl in the hat is her sister Robyn. No clue on the little boy.

I adore this photo. I'm pretty sure it's my mom and her sister Robyn. There's no date, but on the back it says, "I have no idea what to call this." heh.

This is my Dad's mom holding my brother and her one-time husband
 (not my Grandfather) holding my sister. I have no idea what One Time
 Grandpa's name was. Seriously, no idea.

So, this is my neverending project.  I expect this to take me 
YEARS to finish, if I ever get finished. But I'm hoping by doing 
this and putting them in the online archive, my family can look at them too and, yes, order prints if they want to, but also remember,
  SO much. It's daunting. But I think Bonnie would approve. 

Note: Family members that would like the links to the archive, email me at  I promise I've culled the pictures of Muffin's butt.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Farm 2014 Blogging Days 4-6

Ok, so I had intended to post more pictures from the farm while Rowan took his nap each afternoon, but then I realized this wonderful little phenomenon that happens when you're on vacation and someone else can distract Hopper from dismantling a 150 year old farmhouse: I get to take naps. Also, I broke my middle toe. I won't post another picture of it here, as you may have already witnessed its glory on Instagram, but to answer your burning question: I tripped over a cat rug. Not a rug for cats, a rug with cats on it. It had it out for me. So, I've been propping up my foot a lot. It rained for a couple of days as well (including all of the Fourth) so I have less naked-butt photos to share.
One thing we did do is have a big family dinner celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary (which is actually in August, but we will not be here in August), so we had some lovely steaks and peach cobbler for that.

There were even some special shirts made for everyone. The boys wouldn't wear theirs because they were being contrary, but I did manage to snap a shot of them in one right before they ripped them off. I fully suspect that a week from now, they'll both insist on wearing these shirts daily and wonder why I ever took them away from their grubby little hands because that is just how they do. The picture is of the grandparents walking down the aisle at their wedding, it's very cute, unlike these children. 

and then as an after dinner surprise, there was a bagpiper who came and serenaded the group. He also marched around the house three times, which is supposed to give good luck. His name was Douglas and he was very nice.

On the Fourth of July, it poured all day. We weren't sure they were even going to have the parade. But they did. It was 65 degrees, so that's why we're wearing raincoats. 

The parade was very cute, lots of firetrucks and boyscouts and old cars.. Hopper wasn't sure why he was supposed to keep waving if they weren't just handing over the candy.

Here is Rowan giving his patented WTF look after the parade ended. He might have just been giving a clown the side-eye.

Rowan and I in the middle of the street.

We also went to a lovely after-parade party in a gorgeous old house at which I failed to get any pictures.   Then today, we woke up and after all that rain, it was a beautiful cool morning. So, we went to the local CSA and mucked around a bit so Rowan could see some farm animals. They did not disappoint. 

The pigs, however, may have been a little bit of a letdown. I think the boys were surprised to learn that pigs would rather lay down in poop than come over and say hi. 
But all in all it was a nice little visit. 

Tomorrow, Ro and I head back to Austin while Sam and Hopper stay a few more days. A solo plane trip with a 3 year old and a broken toe sounds fantastic, doesn't it? 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

2014 Farm Blogging Days 1-3

We've been at Forked Brook Farm for 3 days now, so that means that if you're not my friend on Facebook, you've missed at least 2 days of me posting pictures of my kids' naked butts. It's pretty much Mother Nature's Nudist Camp up here all the time. We normally come up in August, but this year we planned our trip a little bit earlier to coincide with some family celebrations.  It's a bit hotter this time of year, so we've pretty much either been in water, or they're taking off clothing and free-balling it in the wind. One of the two. The first day we went to the Grafton Lakes State Park which had some nice lovely cool water. But due to the fact that we were operating on sunscreen that expired in 2009, we opted to leave a little early. Hovlands are not sunburn people.

Then yesterday we went to one of my favorite places in the world, Tom's Pond. Man, I love this place.  This is the little island where I like to sit and ignore the cries of my children.

Hopper paddling 

We found a cache of goose eggs! Apparently, they've been abandoned by their mom. Either that or the mom was somewhere off to the side seething quietly at me. Don't worry, mama, I didn't touch your eggs. 

This was my attempt at nature photography. 

There has also been some bubble action. They're only wearing clothes because I made them. They were in the buff shortly after this. 

And this morning they made some cookies with Gram. Don't worry, they're wearing shorts because I told them they had to for sanitation reasons. 

But the temperature is rising, so we're about to go back to Tom's pond for a bit. It's polywog-tastic. I'll show you pictures of a million tiny frogs a bit later. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Suck it, Barney

For whatever reason, neither one of my boys has ever gone cuckoo for cocoa puffs over dinosaurs. They will play with dinosaurs from time to time, watch a little Dinosaur Train here and there, but  I would say that the prehistoric set has never really achieved the universal love that, say, ROBOTS AND ROBOT-LIKE STRUCTURES AND ANYTHING REMOTELY RESEMBLING ROBOTS OR THEIR SUBSIDIARIES enjoy among the young Hovland males.  So, I really didn't think much of it this weekend when  we were at a little festival here in town where they had some cast members of an upcoming show called Erth's Dinosaur Zoo Live. 

Now, I don't know if you know anything about the show, but from what I can find on google, it's a live sort of wildlife show about dinosaurs using these reeeeeaalllly life-like puppets. (photo of one nabbed from google images here).

So, we walk into this festival this weekend and we see a big crowd of kids around one of these puppets and it's the T-Rex (or something approximating a T-Rex, I don't watch enough Dinosaur Train to know). At first the puppet is bent over on the ground so the kids can pet it, which is when we approach. And then the guy stands up and the whole contraption is about ten feet tall with gigantic teeth.  About this time, Rowan, who was standing right next to me, clutches my leg in a death grip and lets out the loudest, most hysterical scream I have ever heard come out of this kid. You might have heard it? Around 11:45 last Saturday morning? Yeah, that was him.  
It took me about 30 minutes to calm him down and convince him that this puppet was not going to come eat us. He even kept checking behind us when we pulled out of the parking garage an hour later, you know, just in case this guy in a 10ft rubber T-Rex costume was coming after us. When we got home, he took all the little plastic dinos the puppy has not yet eaten and attempted to hide them in an Elmo coloring book. 

Suffice it to say that I'm pretty sure any affection my son had for dinosaurs at all is, uh, extinct. (heh)