Fran's blog

Put a bird on it

Two blog posts in one month?? Someone alert the authorities!

Earlier this month Greta and I participated in RIT's 2012 Big Shot. Although it was definitely past Greta's bedtime on a school night, I couldn't resist bringing her to the help make history at her favorite place: Seabreeze. There was a bit lost in translation and she was bent out of shape that she was "not even in the picture" and that she couldn't ride the rides, but she'll appreciate it someday...maybe...I hope. Here is more info about this year's Big Shot, and here is the end result. We help light the flume ride!

I'm slightly obsessed with a heron cam at Sapsucker Woods and Cornell's Lab of Ornithology. We went out to see the heron nest about a month ago, before the eggs hatched, and it was fairly anticlimactic yet exciting, if that makes any sense. We really didn't see much except the dad heron bring a few sticks to the mom heron. At this point there are five heron chicks that are basically teenagers, so on Saturday we headed back to check on them. I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but we were able to clearly see the chicks from a telescope from the lab, and we were also able to see the dad hunting at a far edge of the pond. Pat and Greta were inside the lab, and I decided to head out by myself. I was absolutely shocked when I walked out to this little area next to the pond and the mom heron was 15 feet in front of me. We had a lovely, uninterrupted couple minutes of quality time, and I was so honored by her presence.

Here she is. I'm said to say I didn't bring my SLR this trip, so this is what I could do with my camera phone.

Here she flew off to the nest to regurgitate some fish for the chicks.

Greta was pretty lukewarm about the whole heron thing last time, but this time I dare say she embraced it.

Greta is the hippest six-year-old I know, but occasionally she lets her nerd flag fly. Binoculars: check. Camera: check. Woot T-shirt: check.

After the trip to the woods we went on a hike at Buttermilk Falls. We had a fantastic time hiking, wading in the water, and all three of us even found fossils!

Don't mind the fact that Greta's bathing suit is basically flesh colored. It was neon yellow when we bought it before our New Orleans trip, but after the RIT pools every week and subsequent washings it has become a lovely shade of jaundice.

After Buttermilk Falls, we went to Moosewood for dinner and walked around the Commons a bit.

We had such a wonderful Saturday we had to punish ourselves by doing several hours of yard work on Sunday.

That's a lotta mulch...and dirt.

In case you're wondering where the blog post title came from, it's a reference to one of my recent favorite shows on TV, Portlandia. Put. A. Bird. On. It.


Don't call it a comeback

File under: New Orleans | travel

I've been here for years.

Sorry for the six-month hiatus. Pat and I are crazy workaholics, and rather than sit in front of a computer any more than I already do, I've been opting to do pretty much anything else.

Things I've done in the last six months that don't have anything to do with work:

  • Started running
  • Quit running
  • Started doing Zumba
  • Celebrated Greta's sixth birthday
  • Took a family trip to New Orleans
  • Became obsessed with birds. These, specifically.


Hmm, that doesn't really sound like much. You'll have to take my word for it that I've been unnaturally busy.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the New Orleans trip.

Greta contemplating the mighty Mississippi.

Beignets from Cafe du Monde. (So good.)

At the New Orleans Audubon Aquarium. These Moray eels thought Greta looked mighty tasty.

At the Audubon Aquarium. Camo fish (not its real name).

We went to the Audubon Insectarium, which was my favorite activity in New Orleans. As we were leaving they offered us some chocolate chip and bug cookies. Greta and I wanted nothing to do with them.

But Pat took one for team Reed and ate both.

We spent a wonderful day at the zoo, where we made some new friends and enjoyed the scenery.

One night we ventured to Bourbon Street and had some raw oysters. Here Greta is being silly outside the restaurant.

Hopefully this update was better than a stick in the eye.



From Hunger to Hope

File under: good cause

Dear kind friends, family, and strangers:

Greta and her classmates are reading books to raise money for the Friends of the World Food Programme as part of Read Along for Hunger. Greta's goal is to read 25 books in the month of October, and we hope you'll consider sponsoring her, either with a dollar pledge amount per book or a flat donation. You can find out more information about the group's mission to end world hunger by visiting From Hunger to Hope.

If you would like to sponsor Greta, please leave a comment or email me at fran dot reed at gmail dot com and I'll send you the info. Unfortunately we just have an old-school pledge form and we need to submit checks (hello, 1982!) to Greta's teacher by November 10th.

Peace and love, peace and love,

Pat, Fran, and Greta

Feels like the first time

File under: birthday | milestone | music | work

Try to try, my fanny. Sorry, dudes.

The month of August was hands down the most stressful month of my life. I lived to tell the tale, though, but now I'd prefer to just forget the tale.

Here are the highlights of the last month-plus in semichronological order:

  • We went to the Sauerkraut Festival in Phelps, New York, and didn't even eat any kraut. We saw some good friends and watched a parade and got more free candy than a family should consume in a year.

Greta's first WarHead candy

Dan Zanes at the Harro East

Jessica Lea Mayfield at Lovin' Cup

  • We celebrated 8 amazing years of marriage. I can't think of anything else to say about that except for yay us!
  • Pat and I went to a wedding for our friends Tim and Shastin at the picturesque Allegany State Park. The reception was at a casino and there were many jaw-dropping moments gawking at the crazy gamblers. Additionally, we danced our faces off and enjoyed an adult-only affair without the worry of dropping an F-bomb and having it come back to haunt us. Sometimes it's the little things.
  • Greta wrapped up her last days of daycare and then had a week off with Pat (while I was working 12-14 hours days - whoopee!), and they had some great daddy-daughter quality time. Most notably they went on a road trip to Enchanted Forest for a night. They spent two days at the park and had an absolute blast.

Pat and Greta at Enchanted Forest

Greta and the Dude

Greta in Wonderland

  • Pat turned 35, which means he's a year older than me for two months and three days. He's so old.
  • Greta went to her first afternoon tea. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it seemed like a big deal to me. She poured half a cup of hot cocoa down her white dress, but other than that everything went swimmingly.
  • Greta seamlessly transitioned into kindergarten. It helps she's going to the kindergarten at her daycare center and is with most of her best buddies, but I appreciated how anticlimactic it was.

First day of school

  • We took our annual trip to Ohio to visit my mom's side of the family. We saw my grandmother, my great aunt, and aunt, and an uncle, and we spent a lot of quality time with my parents. It's hard to pick a highlight from the trip, but I guess I'd have to say the highlight was having a cerveza (or two or five) with my Great Aunt Jean at a Mexican joint in Dayton, Ohio. She's 90 and is the one elderly person who makes Pat and me think we may not need to drive off a cliff together in an old-age pact.
  • To round out the list I will share with you Greta's latest artwork from school: a bag person in her likeness! How creepy! How cool!

Freaky Greta

Ruby approves.


Try to try

Sooo, hi.

Here are some things you should know.

I work ALL THE TIME, or at least it feels that way.

Pat might work even more than I do, but it's a close race. A very uncool, close race.

We manage to have a lot of fun despite our workaholic tendencies.

We've been to Letchworth (aka, the Grand Canyon of the East) a couple times this summer. Greta is Little Miss Hiker Girl.

My one silent requirement I never actually announce but that my family just understands is that wherever we go I will blow them off at some point to spend some quality time with rocks. I haven't found any notable fossils lately, but I've found some pretty cool ones, and I'm excited to announce Greta found her first legit fossil rather than a number of rocks that are eroded to sort of look like heart-shaped rocks (which she calls fossils). The one she found was some sort of horn coral embedded in some, um, regular ol' rock.

Greta asked me why I like rocks so much, and I don't know what it is. They just make me happy. I can look at this picture from the lower falls at Letchworth and I feel calmer.

On the nature theme, when we moved into our house there was a dead weeping cherry tree in the front. I am horribly indecisive, and we went to a bunch of places and all of the trees were just so...meh. We went to Oriental Garden Supply and I fell in love. It's such a great place and there is such an amazing selection of really wonderful, different trees, shrubs, and plants. We ended up getting a weeping larch for one side of the turret. For the opposite side we got a contorted filbert. I feel like our yard and sort of coming together. In a very exciting development, this summer I finally realized I enjoy weeding. I always hated it, and no I will not come to your house and weed. We have plenty of weeds here to keep me busy. But I actually enjoy weeding now! It's oddly relaxing! Who knew this?

Here's our new weeping larch.

I've had quite a few culinary hits and misses in the last few weeks. I definitely have enough for another blog. And I promise I will try to try to post another one soon. And yes, I said I'd would try to try.

One last thing I want to mention is I saw a great news story last week about this five-year-old boy who came up with the idea to sell artwork to raise money for multiple sclerosis, the disease his mom suffers from. Connor Grossman is from Rochester, but the story is making national headlines. I will just say I think you should watch this video and check out the Marbles for MS site and consider donating to this worthy cause.

Okie doke, I think that's enough for now.


Another post about foodstuffs and my kid

File under: CSA | holiday | recipe

This week the CSA bounty was almost as exciting as last week. In our share we got kale, fresh garlic (did you know the garlic you buy at the supermarket is cured?), red and green lettuce, broccoli, more beets, cherries, and a basil plant.

With the kale and garlic, I made greens and beans. I didn't work from a recipe, but it was just a pretty traditional recipe like this one. With the lettuce I just made a bunch o' salads. With the broccoli I made a recipe called Ziti with Broccoli and Ricotta Sauce, which I've made two dozen times from a book called Quick Vegetarian Pleasures illegally reproduced here. (Since I'm an editor and a no-plagiarism ranger, I won't reprint it here, but if I link to someone else who has that's okay enough, right?) Despite what it says in this blog, our family absolutely loves this recipe. It was even tastier than usual with such fresh broccoli. I used this recipe for the beet greens, and I will say this was the first non-winner I've made so far. I made some substitutions and changes, though, so I'll blame myself rather than the recipe.


I've been good about documenting our dinners, but I've been using my phone camera, which is super low budget, I know, but whatever.

Oh! I also found a great use for the bok choy from last week. Last Thursday night I was exhausted, and Pat read my mind and picked up some takeout. He got chicken panang, and I used this fantastic recipe from Steamy Kitchen (I love this site) to make a tasty, healthy side dish.

This weekend we went to a great baby shower for cousin Rory and his super lovely wife Jennie. You may remember them from such weddings as Rory and Jennie's wedding. We all had a wonderful time, and I regret I didn't get a picture of the expecting, but look at these cute family members of mine.

We stayed at the party later than Greta's normal bedtime and she also got more sugar than she is used to, and she sort of tweaked. Hilarity ensued. I have a bunch of short movies of her drunk-tired and hopped up on sugar. Here are two. My brother Phil is not hopped up on sugar; he is always  game for some fanny spinning.

Untitled from Fran Reed on Vimeo.

Untitled from Fran Reed on Vimeo.

Other highlights from this weekend include Pat and Greta doing some yard camping, which Greta was super excited about; picnicking and fireworks; and working slightly less than normal.


Wrote a blog about it. Wanna hear it? Here it goes.

File under: CSA | recipe | weekend update

This past week we got our first summer share of our CSA from The Good Food Collective. It was definitely the highlight of my week. I was so excited to get fresh organic fruits and veggies, and the bounty did not disappoint. This past week I really enjoyed meal planning for the first time in ages. I also enjoyed finding new recipes and even trying some new veggies (garlic scapes and Swiss chard) for the first time ever. In addition to the garlic scapes and Swiss chard, we got strawberries, bok choy, lettuce, and beets.

I thought I would post the links to the new recipes I tried this week. They were all winners.

In addition to throwing the garlic scapes into everything I could think of from marinades to raw in salads, I also made garlic scape pesto, which beats the pants off of basil pesto if you ask me (and I LOVE basil). I used the pesto on spaghetti, used it as sauce for a pizza, and even mixed it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make a salad dressing.

Beets are a huge favorite of ours. We love to roast them and eat them with some goat cheese, and we also had a roasted beet salad with orange dressing.

The Swiss chard recipe was amazing, but that might be because it called for white wine, butter, and cheese, and I also threw some bacon in for good measure.

We didn't have the bok choy yet, so I am currently auditioning recipes. If you have any good ones, please share.

The strawberries didn't make it into any recipes because we just stuffed them in our faces.

I can't wait for this week's share!

Friday night went to a very cool art show for a group called Sweet Meat Co. I was a little worried we'd be the old non-hipsters there with the kid, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a wide variety of people there. And Greta wasn't the only kid, even. We actually ran into at least a dozen people we know, too. Hey, we're still awesome! Good to know.

Here is Greta contemplating the art.

I wish I took some photos of show itself because it was such a cool setup, but I am terrified of getting yelled at for photographing artwork. I once got reprimanded for taking a picture of Greta in a gallery, and I was horrified. I hate getting yelled more than pretty much anything ever. Anyway, it was a great show, and you will just have to take my word for it.

Saturday Greta and I headed to my parents' house for a few hours. We were planning on going to a McCarthy family reunion, but due to a scheduling snafu, we were a day early for the reunion. Woopsie. It was actually nice to just have lunch at my parents' house and let Greta run around the yard for a bit with no agenda.

This week I've been a completely cranky stress case. I don't know what to say about that except I hope I stop soon because I am sure my family is not a fan of my mood and I can hardly stand myself.


Fancy Dancer

File under: holiday | weekend update

This past weekend Greta had her big dance recital, which went off without a hitch. She did a great job and had a blast. Greta's grandparents all came to show their support.

Greta got SO many flowers. It was sort of ridiculous...ridiculously awesome. Look: the bouquet is bigger than Greta's head.

She got flowers from her dear mom and dad, both sets of grandparents, her friend Sophie's parents and her friend Sophie's grandparents. Greta just got more flowers than I've gotten in my entire life.

Right after the recital we had a late lunch, or linner, or dunch, if you will. Since it was Father's Day weekend and all my favorite dads were in attendance, I thought it would be nice to step it up a notch, and we had beef tenderloin with two kinds of butter (roasted garlic and horseradish), taders, haricot vert, macaroni and cheese (per Greta's request), and fruit salad (also per Greta's request).

We also had a big family jam session (Pat on guitar, Grandpa Reed on ukulele, Greta on harmonica, and Grandma McCarthy on mini accordion) and we looked through various fossil collections (Grandpa McCarthy's, Greta's, and mine). Do we know how to have fun or not? In case there is any question in your mind, the answer is yes.

On Sunday, when it was just the three of us, Greta and I surprised Pat with breakfast in bed, and then we went to Letchworth State Park. We hiked.

We dined on ice cream.

We hung with the hippies.

We found more fossils. (Not pictured.)

We loved it.


Are you happy to see me or are you just happy to see me?

I've been meaning to update for ages, if no other reason so that when my mom comes to the site she doesn't have to see that awful "...or are you just happy to see me" joke. Oh well. Things have been busy again, but what's new? I sound like a broken record.

Things have been good. A couple weeks ago we went out to Pat's parents' camp, and we all had a great time. There is such a nice community out there, and I love hanging out with the Reeds, drinking beer, eating hamburgers, sitting by the fire, and catching up. Also, Pat's dad always has some great stories that start like, "Did I ever tell you about John Prell, the punch-drunk fighter who burned his meat?" (That one was so good I had to write it down.)

Greta got to fish with her grandpa, and unlike last year, when she quickly caught three fish, this time the fish were just stealing her worms.

No fishies.

The highlight for me was I was reading my book, Remarkable Creatures, and Greta asked me what it was about. I told her it's about fossils, and then I told her a little about fossils. Greta got all jazzed up about looking for fossils. I figured we'd poke around a bit and not find anything, but we actually found some good fossils. (Well, I found part of a trilobite, Pat found part of what I think is some coral, and Greta found a bunch of rocks she thought were pretty). It rekindled my fascination with fossils that started in high school, and now I can't stop thinking about them.

I loved how focused on finding fossils Greta was.

Last weekend we went to Hamlin Beach, and the first rock I picked up and turned over was a fossil. It looks like some sort of wormy larva dude (technical term). I then proceeded to pick up probably three hundred more rocks and got nothin'.

Also last weekend we went to a fantastic wedding reception. My friend Dottie (who won the honor of Favorite New Friend of 2009 [Yes, I give out superlatives like these in my head. Sorry if we met in 2009 and you did not win. I'm sure it was an honor for you just to be nominated.]) and her husband Bryce were married in Italy la few weeks ago, and they had the most beautiful reception that was made out of fancy. Look how handsome we all are. The fancy even rubbed off on us.

Well, almost.

And now we're almost caught up. So, this Saturday we realized we had nothing really going on, so we decided to take a day trip to Ithaca to go fossil hunting, hiking, hang out in the Commons, and eat at Moosewood. It was a beautiful day as we drove the almost two hours. Then when we got to Taughannock Falls and stepped out of the car, it started sprinkling. By the time we got to the first small set of falls, it was full-blown raining. By the time we got a bit down the first trail, it was pouring. We tried to stick it out for a half hour or so, but it was MISERABLE and we decided to retreat. By the time we got back to the car, we were all drenched to our skivvies. Bust.

And then we went to Moosewood, my favorite restaurant. Surely the meal would revive this otherwise crappy day, but we had our first mediocre meal there. Disappointment.

But with all the bad, it was oddly good. Even though we all had fits of grumpiness (well, Greta and I did at least), we also had ridiculous fits of laughter that was directly related to the rain and being soaked.

Also, we found out Greta is a harmonica prodigy. The rain must have been her muse.

In conclusion, this is too long. Sorry.


Is that a giant TV or are you just happy to see me?

File under: book | champagne problems | greta

Some things in no particular order:

I did indeed start editing the book. People who said editing is harder than writing weren't joking around. And here I thought they were just kissing up to me. So far it's slow going and I'm thinking the end result is going to be mediocre at best, but I will finish—or die trying.

I also came up with an idea for book number 2. It's still very intangible and far fetched, but I have an idea! That's sort of a big deal for me.

This past Friday we went to the artists' reception for the show Greta's picture is in. It was really fun to see Greta's photo in person as well as the entire series. Each photo was better than the next. And it was so fun to see the kids there and get to see their personalities and see how excited they were. The photographer has posted some of the images here. I love them all. And I sneaked a picture of my favorite little model in front of her photo.

We have butterflies! Greta got a butterfly habitat for her birthday from her friend Sophie, and the next day we sent away for the butterflies in waiting. We got our larvae and we've been enjoying their metamorphosis over the last couple weeks. On Monday the first two butterflies appeared, and today the third and final butterfly made its appearance. It has been really, really cool, but they're really, really freaky to me. I mean, this is a face only a mother could love, no?

I do thoroughly enjoy these little critters, though.

Did I mention they're creepy, though?


Even more exciting than the butterflies, if you like technology and don't fear change, is that we got a new TV. We are notorious for our ridiculously dumb outdated TV. The thing is, I like our old cruddy TV. But Pat has been trying to talk me into buying a new TV for years, and he was so stupidly excited when we got our tax return and found the perfect TV. Anyway, I was reluctant but I couldn't squelch Pat's dreams for a modern TV anymore even though Greta cried when she heard the news (we do fear change). The TV arrived today, and it is so big. It came while Pat was at work and I IM'd him complaining about how big it is. Here is the transcript of our conversation:

Fran: it's like half the length of the living room

Pat it'll be perfect

Pat: i studied the viewing distance charts

Pat: i used scientifically proven methods

Fran: okay okay

We got it all set up, and Pat and I watched for five minutes. Here is the transcript from this conversation:

Fran: it's giving me a headache

Pat: me too

Pat: we'll get used to it

Fran: [groan] champagne problems


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