Sunday, August 31, 2008

Soft Opening

Labor day week end is a time to get together with friends.We just had no idea we would be hosting a party, but we did. Leif, Emma, and Finn worked diligently assembling the furniture because we had twenty people heading over to enjoy our almost done deck.
I work well under pressure and was particularly pleased with my red pork with cucumber relish and beef shumai, but there were many stand out dishes tonight. Penny's noodles may be a restaurant in the area, but my friend Penny's noodles were the best dish of the evening. E's Skewers is not a restaurant, but should be, as that aggressively marinated flank steak was an utter delight and then there was A's fruit dessert...I am not sure what was in it, but yum, a serious yum.
The Elsmo Four were supposed to head to the beach in Racine today, but when faced with the reality of the party were forced to call Nancy and announce a change of plans. She drove down and enjoyed an evening in Oak Park, amongst her grandchildren and friends.

So...we are waiting for a new door, have no grass, and no landscaping to speak of, but we have friends who, by invitation, invaded our home to celebrate the end of summer and confirmed we had made the right choice in upending the back of our little house. It was simply lovely to see the space, however raw, filled with life.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Wedding and our own reception

Here comes the bride...
...and Finn's second grade teacher.
He absolutely adored Miss E, now Mrs. K, and was simply thrilled to be invited to share in her memorable day.
She made a gorgeous bride and following the ceremony was met with an eager mass of students on the steps of the church. They blew bubbles at her and reveled in their outside of school glimpse at their tough but fair teacher. I am touched she asked them to be a part of her ceremony, as I know she has a special place in her heart for these crazy kids who made up her first class as a teacher.

For obvious reasons we were not invited to Mrs. K's reception, but that couldn't stop us from having our own reception of sorts. We invited the Shaw's over for a grilled lamb dinner. Even though our back yard remains in post construction shambles we are starting to recognize all our new back yard spaces will offer us, our friends, and family.
The highlight of the meal for me was the roasted beet, heirloom tomato, and smoked blue cheese salad!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Four with the Pfour

After an afternoon of hustling to and from school, soccer and ballet it very nice to have an excuse to throw down a couple of slices of pizza and a piece of cake among great friends.
Tonight we had the cutest excuse of all!
The youngest member of the Pfour turned four today. Pizza and pinata made for a festive evening and despite a brief bout of stage fright when it came time to blow out the candles, the absolutely precocious and precious birthday boy seemed to have a great evening.

We often hang out with the Pfour and A is responsible for my starting this blog. Oddly enough she is also responsible for her neighbor P starting her blog The Frigs. It struck me as funny that we all read about each other daily and when any one of us says more than a sentence it is sure to be followed with, "oh yeah, I read about that on your blog!"

Thanks to Emma for her photo of the bloggers!
And thanks to the Pfour for a wonderful evening!
Happy Birthday C!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eleven Hour Day

I knew middle school would bring about unique challenges, greater Independence, and new found responsibilities for young Emma. I just didn't think she would be hitting on all cylinders on her first full day of sixth grade.
She left the house this morning at 8:20am with a back pack weighing practically as much as she does to meet up with her walking partners. She made it to school and had a fantastic day. She was tickled by the extensive potty training lesson she and her fellow classmates received. Apparently the girls were crammed in a bathroom and informed in dramatic fashion in middle school you go into the the bathroom, use it, wash your hands and leave...Emma has every confidence she will not let the school down in this regard. After a long school day the ballerinas made their way to the academy at 3:30. After jazz, ballet and pre-point classes she made her way home and walked through the door, back back still on, at 7:34pm.
That is a big day for anyone and she was totally proud!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From third to middle

The first day of of school brought about Finn's proud entry into the third grade.

Emma's first real walk to middle school.

And much joy to both.

Time continues to fly!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Popcorn and Polictics

Break out the popcorn; it is a big night in the Elsmo house. In the same way some families crowd around the TV to watch the Super Bowl or the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade, we have cause to celebrate the Democratic National Convention!

I am a proud democrat and a fierce Obamacrat. I had the privilege to join Leif as a special guest at Barack's 2004 victory party after winning his senate seat and shared a table with Michelle Obama and her mother at the 2005 Christmas Glory concert. As Barack spoke at the Democratic National Convention four years ago, I was certain he was a man destined for greater political success.

During the primary, I traveled to Doylestown, PA in predominantly republican Bucks County to canvas with a group of amazingly bright women. We knocked on hundreds of doors in that quaint little town and even managed to change a few minds. I had never pounded the pavement in support of candidate in that way before and I was immediately hooked. The second I had the opportunity I assembled a group of Oak Park families, snatched Emma and Finn from school, and headed to Muncie, IN for two days of canvasing and experiential education. That army of of kids hit more than 150 doors in two hours on primary day and Finn was quick to inform anyone he was there "on the half of Barack Obama" and naturally begged the question, "What half?" Munice provided a stark contrast to darling little Doylestown and I assure you there is nothing as interesting as campaigning for a black presidential candidate less than than five miles from the home of the grand dragon.

I believe in Barack in the same way an good Obamacrat would, save for the fact Leif actually knows Michelle. He has worked with her for more than a decade and long before any of this insanity, considered her his mentor.

Soo...watching Michelle speak at the convention tonight was cause to break out the popcorn and cheer for our friend and our future. VOTE!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Soccer Style

Finn's coach insisted he come fully faux hawked to play their tournament game today. His teammates were stoked to see the littlest Striker looking so fierce. One player even commented he thought Finn looked like a dinosaur. Our friend E may have to become the U9 stylist, as I anticipate a rash of new hairstyles on the team!

My brother, a great player and long time youth coach, laughed when he heard Finn had his edgy new haircut. He warned that any kid with a faux hawk on the soccer pitch had better be able to tear it up. Finn is not a poser. He had a great game against a team ranked 7th in the state. Although the result was a 5-1 loss the game was much closer than the score would lead you to believe and Finn was in the mix the entire time. He had several solid tackles and even assisted the team's only goal. Finn's coach commented that "Finn was making himself look very dangerous." I guess he can handle the hair...or the hair can handle him.

What I apparently can't handle is taking a picture of us having dinner on our incomplete new deck. We kept the soccer chairs out and decided to break it in even though there is a ton more work to do. I guess it just isn't meant to be shared until it is finished.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sunny in Shaumburg

The Strikers were on the move again this week-end. After a week long intensive soccer camp the team headed out to the Shaumburg Soccerfest to show what they had learned. Due to circumstances beyond our control the boys were bracketed very high in the tournament; we're talking some of the best U9 teams in the state. All of the competition is ranked more than four flights ahead of our team during the regular season and we had prepared ourselves for the worst. The forecast predicted heavy rains and we had visions of repeating the boy's seeding tournament experience.

We pumped Finn up on the way to the tournament with a CD Leif made for him. He rocked out to Ozomatli, Kool and the Gang, KLF, and The Ramones and proceeded to get his game face on. Apparently so did the rest of the team because the won their first game 2-1. It was very exciting to watch and the Strikers nearly no cheering policy was hard to follow...everyone was delightfully shocked. Everyone except the boys, they took it in stride.
In game two the boys faced the home team and in a true nail-biter lost by one with a final score of 3-4. Pretty amazing, as the boys have never played two full fifty minute games in one day! Even Emma basked in the day with her new found soccer sister companion, MK. We head back tomorrow to face the Sockers. The reality is the U9 Strikers are not out of the running to play in the final. We'll see what happens, but no matter the out come it was a sunny day in Shaumburg! Fun for all and I must admit I am oddly into this whole soccer thing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Throw another log on it

I love my nuclear family deeply for the simple fact I feel as though I know them inside and out; Emma, Finn, and Leif are unique individuals who hold little mystery for me. All three of them are part of my daily routine and fuel the fire within me. I have come to depend on their consistent yet diverse personalities. They are my comfort and my challenge.
My cousin and one of my best friends, Annie, was in for the night. Upon waking this morning I found her deep in conversation with my kids. I love seeing Emma and Finn light up around our extended family. I treasure the fact that they have their own special friendships with Annie, my parents, Leif's mom, and everyone in between. I do not interfere with these relationships because I know I was raised by and around inherently good people and I firmly believe a whole person can only emerge once they have learned about independence and trust from family beyond the folks sitting at the dinner table on a nightly basis.

My dining room is a tribute to that belief. The room is filled with photographs of all the people who are responsible for our existence, the beliefs we hold, and the legacy we are responsible for. Everyone loves my old lady dining room. Annie took a look around today...perhaps she was looking for someone who wasn't represented on the walls. We had laid out a gorgeous spread of food; her mom was coming to lunch.

Annie and her mom, Kathy, spend a week-end in Chicago together every year and I benefit from the trip too. When Annie's mom meets her for their girly week-end it often happens at my house. I always take special care when Kathy comes to visit, not because she will judge me if everything isn't perfect, but because I miss my Auntie Kathy. There are not any pictures of her in my dining room because, for whatever reason, circumstances snatched her from my life. I know her now through her daughter and believe Annie keeps the connection strong by regaling her with the tales of the Elsmo four. Auntie Kathy comes to my grown up home holding memories of my childhood Christmases, thanksgiving Turkeys, and one very bad pumpkin soup. I want her to know my family, if only briefly, to show her how deeply we care for her daughter, and to remind her she has mattered in my life beyond my childhood. I am not sure cheeses and wine can do that, but I will hang the photo of Annie and my Auntie Kathy on my dining room wall as soon as possible to remind myself everyday.

Sooo...just when I was feeling confident that things had gone well Finn accidentally started his mail on fire. A fifty dollar check can cause some distracted excitement, he dropped the envelope in a nearby candle, and a first time fire related hullabaloo ensued in the Elsmo household.

Family, the everyday and in between, is a fire that burns full force or at a gentle smoulder depending on circumsatnce. It is a fine day when a forgotten buring ember flares up and reminds you that your life is a sum of its parts. I'd like to keep that log burning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eight Eyes

They can see clearly now!

Just for fun

Looking for a little fun?
Check out My Heritage

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Moving up

There are moments in any life when a new door opens and you know you must walk through it even though you have no idea exactly where it will lead. You know others have gone through the same door countless times, figured it out, and owned the experience in the end, but taking that first step can still be scary.

Clutching her schedule in one hand and her school ID in the other Emma toured her new school with a personal guide. CShad has been a part of Emma's life for several years and whether she knows it or not, the enthusiastic tour she gave empowered our daughter to walk through those middle school doors with confidence.
Thank you CShad, the actress, for embracing your role as usher tonight; you prepared Emma to take her place on a brand new stage. Bravo to the possibilities moving up can bring.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Afternoon among flowers

Today we ventured out to the Garfield Park Conservatory with some friends to savor the fading days of summer. The conservatory opened in April of 1908 and is the third largest set of green houses in the United States. They feature amazing landscape art under glass as well as stunning outdoor gardens. The green houses are 100 years old and they are free to visit! There is something truly special about sharing a picnic lunch and effervescent conversation in such a breath taking setting.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


We have enjoyed the company of our neighbor, Eileen, for more than a decade. She is a wise woman with extreme resolve. Over the course of years, witnessing a duo of deaths in her home has transpired to welcoming the births of several of her nieces and nephews. We miss her family members who have passed on and treasure the fact we know the next generation of her family. It has been an evolution.... and we have watched her age.

Eileen's home was recently electrocuted during a storm and rendered her powerless, both literally and figuratively for more than 50 days. Like a lifeline, Casa de Elsmo powered her home via a single extension cord stung between our houses for more than a month. Eileen has finally returned home with partial electric and a need (as she said) for vegetables. We invited her for dinner tonight.
We stopped at a road side produce stand yesterday and picked up wax beans, fresh picked corn, and green tomatoes for Eileen's much needed veg head dinner. I have never worked with green tomatoes before. I decided to fry them because, well...I've seen the the movie.
I think the secret to fried green tomatoes lies with corn flakes and a homemade pico de gullo. I guess a fried house is a good enough reason to fry up some tomatoes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whims in Racine

We headed off to Racine, WI today to spend the day with Leif's mother, known to some as Herbal Nan and to Emma and Finn as Nonna. Personally, I love spending time with Nancy, especially on her home turf. When we arrived Nancy was decked out like the Obamacrat she is, complete with red socks and Obama pin to finish off her patriotic look. She took the kids to shop for school shoes and we were all shocked and delighted to learn Emma now wears a ladies size six! After shopping rendered us hungry Nancy treated us to a delicious lunch at Shillings Irish pub in the down town area.

From there we simply went where our whims led us. Nancy showed us her gardens at the DeKoven Center. She is a horticulturalist and works in the stunning gardens frequently. Emma and Finn were particularly interested because Leif and I were married in the unique chapel on the property more than a decade ago. We sought out the Frank Loyd Wright home on the water and took a drive to see Leif's Fine Arts Elementary School. We even managed to find Leif's first grade report card; the current Elsmo students were distressed by their father's poor academic performance. I was simply tickled.
Later we ended up stopping at the lake front to let the kids take a little dip. It is hard not to smile while watching Emma and Finn frolic in the water...and for us smiling is a good thing when we venture to Racine. You see, going home to Racine brings a bit of sadness to the Elsmo four. We all miss Leif's dad. The weight his passing has put on Nancy's shoulders is palpable in many many ways. That "heavenly hunk" made our lives brighter at every turn and he was always eager to celebrate our family. Spending a day in Racine with Nancy would only have been better if he had been there to share it with us...strange how that thought can leave you both fulfilled and a little lonely. I am sure Nancy lives with that paradox every single day and for that and much more she has my love and utmost respect.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Say Cheese

There is a new hot spot in town! The Marion Street Cheese Market has been around for a while, but is was just a nice spot to pick up a stunning cheese and a fine wine. Not so anymore. We headed out on the town to check out the all new cheese market, complete with high-end cafe and insane wine selection, with our dear friends Brian and Stephanie. We even left our combined five kids behind to hang out and have their own special night. Ahh...liberation...

...and onto libation. We enjoyed a lovely Oregon Pino Noir and sampled some olives, beets, wood fired pizza, cheese puffs, and shrimp and Chorizo. I say skip the shrimp, but keep the olives. By far, the highlight was the Tri-State Cheese Plate and the adult conversation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

10 blocks

Oak Park is dense and thick with people, but still maintains a small town vibe; you can be stuck in traffic forever trying to get to the grocery, but will surely know at least four people in the store when you finally arrive. At noon today I slapped the kids on their scooters and walked ten blocks in our unique four square mile neighborhood.
First we hit, Turco's, the new Italian deli about six blocks west of our house. The place has a New York kind of energy, the service is friendly and efficient, and the food is first rate. We purchased two enormous gorgeous sandwiches for under $15 and headed on our way.
One block north and four blocks back to the east we rang the door bell at the home of the Pfour. Talk about making our community smaller, we have know this family forever. In fact, Leif went to preschool with B, and both he and his wife, A, were in our wedding. We love that they rehabbed a house just blocks from us and our children will go to school together. We unwrapped the sandwiches to share with A and enjoyed a quick lunch and a yummy conversation before heading back out again.
Three blocks north and one block east landed us a the front steps of the 325 Healing Center. Julia , my acupuncturist has literally changed my life. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy my bi-monthly treatments and the kids love going too. Julia let them take some pictures today and Finn even became brave enough to try a needle himself. Emma passed claiming the thought of it gives her the shivers. I get to relax and rejuvenate and the kids hang out with a darling little pug while they wait.

Feeling slightly drunk from the treatment we headed back toward home. While walking the four blocks we bumped into a neighbor who passed along some stunning tomatoes and peppers from her garden. The offerings made our flank streak dinner fresh and beyond delicious.

In ten blocks and four hours we managed to touch Italy and Asia, heal a body and stimulate a mind, meet with a dear friend, and procure some local crops...all without use of a car. All in all not a bad day in the OP.
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