Gyros

Faux Dome - Christ Pantocrator

Dolmades

Trying Spanakopita

Trying Spanakopita

Saints Icons

Baptism of Christ Icon
Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Entry into Jersusalem Icon

One of the tastiest days on the Cleaver family calendar is the day we visit the Greek Food Festival. Hosted annually by the Holy Trinity Church in Portland on the last full week of June, we start anticipating our visit as soon as the weather gets warm.

It’s not that you can’t get good Greek food in the area other times of the year, it’s  just that there’s something about the food that you get at the Festival that makes it extra delicious. We eat light in the morning so we have plenty of room to stuff ourselves with dolmades (lamb and rice-stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, gyros, and loukoumades. And oh the loukoumades – the Greek equivalent of a light crispy doughnut hole, made fresh and served in a honey-nut syrup.

Despite being rather full, I gave Mr. Cleaver some serious stink-eye when he suggested only getting one serving of loukoumades this year.  It only comes once a year! Even LMC, who for the most part was too busy taking it all in to pay much attention to the food, loved the loukoumades. She ate her little snack and danced her little toddler dance to the Greek music playing on the loudspeakers. Happily swaying back and forth with the taste of honey on her lips. We usually go in the mid-afternoon on a weekday to avoid the crowds and lines, but it would be fun to go see the live music and dancing one of these years.

We did however take the opportunity to get a  private tour of the church from Father Sarantides himself. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, I’d highly recommend it. Holy Trinity features a number of stunning small and large scale icons throughout the sanctuary.  All we had to do was ask one of the volunteers and they set it up. They’re truly beautiful.

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Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Ripe Strawberry on the Vine

Sunny Day Shorts

Sunny Day Shorts

Irises

Sunny Day Shorts

Oh sweet summer, you are officially here and I waffle between trying to cram three days of activity into one weekend day and being completely lazy and just soaking it all in. Being lazy should win an awful lot more than it actually does.

I am amazed at how rapidly a garden can grow once you get your plants in. Some of my leaf lettuce is almost ready to start picking, I’ll likely be making some fresh basil pesto soon, and we’ve sampled the first sweet, sweet strawberries warm off the vine. This little girl of mine loves fruit. Any kind, all the time. So it was such a joy to see her eat that first strawberry and point at the plants looking for more and the heartbreak of having to wait another day for some more to be ripe. As these plants are young and small, I’ll be surprised if we get even two dozen berries off of them this year, but each one is worth it, so long as we can beat the critters to them.

Early last week, we had a visitor to the garden beds. My guess is either a woodchuck, which we’ve spotted in the neighborhood, or a skunk that our neighbors saw. Either way it gnawed the leaves off of three of my six broccoli plants. So it was off to the home improvement store and some quick installation of fencing. I’m using that green plastic hex mesh (chicken wire) and thus far we’ve had no additional midnight-snackers.  One of the broccolis seems to be recovering nicely, but I’ll likely have to swap out the other two. Live and learn.

In my efforts to supply LMC with some appropriate play clothes I sewed two pairs of the new Oliver + S freebie pattern, the Sunny Day Shorts. One in some Birch Fabrics Jay-Cyn fishy print I had in my stash and a second pair in some blue twill leftover from my Beignet skirt. I didn’t do anything fancy other than add top-stitching to both pairs. It’s a freebie pattern, so there’s not a lot to it and the drafting is a teensy bit off (one side of the legs seem to have a sharp point where you turn the hem, the other side is more of a curve, so it doesn’t exactly line up). Also, the rise isn’t quite long enough to cover the whole diapered bum, but for nice looking shorts that whip up quickly? They get the job done. Next up, I’ve got another t-shirt cut out and ready to go, after which I’ll probably take another selfish sewing break to try a go at making my first swimsuit. Because we just got LMC a kiddie pool and I’m gonna need something fabulous for splashing around in that! 😉

Bubble Blaster
Bubble Blaster
Rhododendron
Snuggle Time
Irises
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Steiny
Juliet
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Sand Play
Old Port Festival Parade

Old Port Festival Parade
Old Port Festival Parade

With the arrival of good weather and the Annual Old Port Festival in Portland, it’s really starting to feel like summer here. And with summer comes copious amounts of sunscreen, bug-spray and activity for the Cleaver clan.

LMC got to take in her first parade, which featured beautiful large-scale puppets from Shoestring Theatre and sampled a bit of fair food. We also visited her first farmer’s market and picked out plants to go into the new raised beds, which despite her efforts to pluck them back out have been firmly planted into their new homes.

The boxes are approximately 4 ft x 8 ft x 6 inches. We got a yard and half of loam delivered from O’Donals in Gorham, which we combined with some of our Garbage to Garden compost from last year.  We probably could have gotten away with a yard of dirt, but the leftovers will go into additional boxes we hope to have in place for planting next year.  Because, obviously two boxes aren’t gonna cut it. 🙂

As for this year’s plantings, I kept the plant list fairly similar to my first garden attempt, with the addition of lettuce:

  • Plum tomatoes for salsa and sauce (3)
  • Sweet bell peppers (2)
  • Broccoli (6)
  • Lettuce (6)
  • Basil (4)
  • Thyme (1)
  • Rosemary(1)

I think I’ll probably pick up a few more herbs (I’m thinking cilantro and maybe parsley and mint) and I also planted 4 strawberry plants around the deck in addition to our existing blueberry bush.

Growing up I lived in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard that my parents filled with all sorts of edible plants. We had cherries, granny smith apples, boysenberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes most of time. As a kid, my friends and I would spend our summer afternoons out there, reenacting dance routines from Newsies over the sprinkler and eating our fill of the backyard bounty. It was bliss.

Now as a grownup, I live in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard, that I’m slowly filling with edibles, so my daughter too can eat sun-warmed fruits and veggies to her heart’s content.

Anything need persuading out there?

Gathering up her Tools

What's a Level?

Little Mechanic

Little Mechanic

Little Mechanic

Raised Garden Bed Frames

A Dog in his Domain

Raised Garden Bed Frames

We Can Do It!

We took advantage of decent weather and a long weekend to get some yard work done. Mr. Cleaver mowed the lawn, Little Miss did lawn mower maintenance (it’s electric and I’d highly recommend it), and Steinbeck keep guard. Meanwhile, I put on my best Bobby C. shirt,  pulled out the tools, and put together two very long overdue frame for raised beds.

When we first bought our home 3 1/2 years ago it came with a big above ground pool and accompanying deck. As much as I love to swim, neither Mr. Cleaver or I had any desire to maintain an above-ground pool, so in our first year of ownership we put the pool and the deck up for free on Craigslist and got someone to take them off our hands. We cut back the weeds and (mostly) leveled the soil. Then with pregnancy and new babies, I didn’t do much in the garden at all.

But this year, with a helpful little assistant to keep tract of all the hand tools, we finally got it done. At least the frame building bit. Now I just need to get some dirt, and plants – but oh to have a vegetable garden again! I so enjoyed it back when I had a community garden plot. It’s a bit late to start anything from seed, but if memory (and a blog post) serve me well, I’ve still got time to put some plants in the ground and get a decent harvest. Now to decide what to plant!

 

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Little Miss Cleaver turned one this weekend, and it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. The days can be long (3:30 wake up calls, anyone?) but the weeks and months, and now year (!), just speed by.  It seems not so long ago she was just this tiny squishy thing and now she’s walking and babling, and has opinions and is just a tiny little person.

To celebrate her first birthday we made a weekend of it. First on Friday, Mr. Cleaver and LMC met me at work and we went out to lunch at the Olive Cafe, picked out some birthday presents at the local toy store, and LMC tasted her first ice cream – Gelato Fiasco of course!

For her actual birthday on Saturday we kept it fairly low key. She wore a new mom-made birthday dress. There was breakfast and cards. Then we went to LMC’s very first swim class, the first half of which involved a wet baby clinging to me like a barnacle, until we got to the picking up and splashing into the pool part and especially the singing part. During the singing she clapped her little hands with joy and looked at me as if to say, you didn’t tell me there’d be singing mom, I’d have been more open to this whole thing if I knew there would be singing! The swim class totally wiped her out and resulted in a nearly two-hour mom lap nap.

In the afternoon Memere joined us for a few balloons, a few presents, and a cake. In honor of her birth on Maine Maple weekend, I made a applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting. I modified the original recipe to use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, less sugar in the cake, and no nuts/raisins. I’d probably cut back on the whole wheat flour next time, as it got a bit dense. I also added a bit of water to the frosting to get it to a spreadable consistency, but it was otherwise delicious.  The frosting tasted almost exaclt like maple sugar candy. The cake decorations I made myself out of some scrapbook paper. The birthday crown was a free pattern on Ravelry that took about an hour to make.

Later in the day our neighbors, who watch LMC two days a week and are like second family to her came over for a while.  Then we ate some pizza, gave LMC a bath, and everyone went to bed about a half an hour early and slept in late.

Today was Maine Maple Sunday itself, and we made our usual jaunt up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast and sugar shack visit. All in all it was a sweet time with a sweet little girl and a very good first birthday/first year of parenting celebration.