Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Hi Intertubes. We are still a family of two over here. Today is Busy's official due date, but so far it's been a day like any other. I told him this morning that his mama is a librarian: she does not trend toward the Overdue. Ah well. Our checkup yesterday was tip-tip - we have three centimeters for free, things are quite effaced in there, and she thinks my kitchen floor scrubbing put this guy in the right spot. We have the coolest midwives, I tell you, it's a really pleasure to visit them and get the pep talk.
Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary, can you believe that? We read our vows to each other again, and so many of them were even more powerful when passed over the top of this little guy nestled between us. We are so lucky. I said to B at one point, "I didn't even really realize how awesome you were when I married you." Does that make sense? Like I was completely, madly, totally in love with him, but being married to him turned out to be so much more profound than I could have ever anticipated. Somewhere in my vows I said "I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped and thought to myself, 'This is my life,'" and that remains truer and truer as time passes. This here right now is so absorbing and meaningful and funny and right and romantic and sparkly and yes, sometimes hard, but we are both just Right Here. In the pocket, as they say when the rhythm instruments are rocking the tune. Ain't no other place I'd rather be than right here with this guy.
Righty-o. In fermentation news: kefir. My gal pal delivered some kefir grains to us last week, and since then we have been brewing up magical kefirs of strawberry, black raspberry, peach, and blueberry (yes, we are clearing the freezer of last summer's fruit). It is so stinkin' easy. You slop some milk in the jar with the grains, leave it on the counter, and strain it anywhere from 12-24 hours later, depending upon how hot it is in your kitchen and how sour and spritzy you like your kefir. Take grains in strainer, put back in original jar, repeat. It's yummy plain, but we are loving it with fruit but not too sweet. When we made up our first batch I looked at B and said "Should we be allowed to have this?" Like, having it on tap is a little dangerous.
I am still working it in the garden, much to the consternation of some - a lady from down the street pulled up this weekend and said "What are you still doing here?" I did not really know what to say to that so I did not say much. Last week was all about renovating the strawberry bed. Basically you whack back the plants to practically nothing, rake out the mulch, fertilize and spread compost, re-mulch with fresh pine needles, and water. Lots of bending and squatting, and I know that's where I am getting these free centimeters from. The plants look a little molested, but supposedly this is the secret to many more years of gallons of berries. Plus we really needed to thin in there, and there wasn't any way to see what the hell was going on when they were all leafy.
Other than that, just pruning, bug squishing, reseeding, and eating. We sliced into our first cucumber just this morning, yum. Lots of cool cabbage slaws with homegrown carrots and cilantro and such. The squash plot is absolutely insane. We did a much better job this year of hardening off our starts, and the squash in particular are expressing their gratitude with what is officially a crazy number of baby squash. They are awfully cute out there.
Anyhoo. Send vibes for the real awfully cute to get here soon.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Ok, I have been informed by several people that by not posting on Monday they were sure that Busy must have arrived. Sorry to disappoint - he's still planning his entrance. We're doing great, all of us. I will confess that I am hotter than I have ever been before in my entire life, and this girl has seen both the Central Valley of California in summer as well as a few blisteringly hot months in South America. Seriously, it's like I might burst into flames at any moment. B laughs at me because I literally start shedding clothing from my body between the car and the front door. Nudity is my friend in this battle. I am busting out all the tricks: wet towels, lots of ice, cool showers, refuge under the ceiling fan. Turns out a large wet towel can work miracles, don't laugh. Anyway, when we first got pregnant I swear that every other woman who asked about my due date told me that June was a great time to have a kid, and I thought they were being polite. I get it now, I do, and they are right. Anyway, other than roasting, all is well. Busy needs to do a little shifting in there to help his mama avoid back labor, so my midwife has ordered me to clean the floors on my hands and knees. Right.
So that basil up there. It took us one summer of bolt-y overly strong basil to learn to pinch. I suppose if you live somewhere with super mild slow springs, you might not have to contend with this, but here, when 90 degree weather hits in May and June, you must pinch. And even if bolting is not an issue for you, pinching will give you big bushy plants that are sturdy and full. Basically, you pinch the two leaves at growing tip off (EARLY - like not the first true leaves of the plant, but also not long after those), the plant responds by sending up two shoots where there was once just one, then in a little while you pinch the growing tips off of those two shoots, and the plant responds by sending up four shoots where there were once just two. You get the idea. We really have to keep up with this, and at the beginning you end up with awkward amounts of basil (although soon enough you end up with enough to start packing away pesto for the winter). In these earlier days we throw it in salads, stick it in grilled cheeses, put it in bun or spring rolls, etc. But we just finally got around to making the Thai Chicken with Basil from the January Cook's Illustrated, and it will both use up your basil pinchings and make your day. It's awesome, although I'm warning you that you put raw chicken in the food processor, which is definitely a little gross. Hang in there, it's worth it.
I was about to type up the recipe, but looky, here it is. Go forth and pinch happily.
Friday, June 11, 2010
We pick this every morning...
...for our breakfast (homemade granola under there).
Hoo-boy, this last little bit of being patient is turning out to test my resolve to not rush this little guy. It has not helped that work has turned from end-of-semester insanity to mellow-summer-slowness. The hectic pace was wearing me out but I swear that sometimes I was so busy that I would literally forget that I was pregnant for a moment. Now, well, let's just say that it's on my mind and I realized earlier this week that if work wasn't going to distract me then I needed to make my own arrangements. B and I have been slaying weekend to-do lists like crazy in an effort to get Everything Done, but I pretty much finished up and realized that this is probably the worst time in the world to be knocking around the house feeling a little aimless.
So. First the books. I was slogging through this here book, which came highly recommended by a few people but I was HATING it. Like I had to talk out loud to B about hating it while reading, it was annoying me that much. Something about the long strings of sentence fragments reminded me way too much of a high school poetry reading. So I traded it in for some favorite fiction from my adolescence: Le Guin, McCaffrey, Bradley, L'Engle (interesting aside: I cannot, at this moment, think of very many favorite childhood authors who are male). I am already buried in this book and it is just what the doctor ordered. Of course, ladies die during childbirth in this world all the time, but whatever. I figure if I kill this pile of books I will bust out the Laura Ingalls Wilder and the L.M. Montgomery, and no, I'm not joking.
Second, the crafty. B really likes this mobile, but I'll be durned if I'm going to pay $62 for it. So we now have the stuff to make a mobile to hang over the changing dresser, probably black and white to start with and then we'll change it out for something brighter. Also, more curtains. I know, is it wise to sew while I'm with child? You know how I get. But it's the LAST set of curtains for the entire house, I know I can do it without getting too mental.
Third, the food. I have really not been into cooking lately at all. The heat, my feet, and the fact that our garden is bursting with fresh veggies have all conspired to put us on the front porch glider with an enormous salad on many, many nights. We do all the greens and carrots and peas and whatever's ready in the garden, with cheese, apples, salami, quinoa, and sometimes hard boiled eggs. It's so stinkin' good. But whatever, I need projects here, so yesterday I busted out one of these with our first gorgeous head of cauliflower from the garden. Oh man, it was soooooooo good. Note that I subbed sour cream for mascarpone, some edam and swiss for the gruyere, some milk for the cream, and all was well.
Fourth, the fruit. I canned jam! This was my first canning adventure, and I learned about 40 things all at once, generally in the "ok, so I wouldn't do it this way again" kind of way. Of course I had to go use extremely cute jars that are kind of fussy to work with, but only one of them didn't seal properly so I was not too sad (note: unlike standard canning lids, these are bpa free). I did not get the note that said "skim foam off of jam before filling jars" so my jam was all foamy on top and that did make me sad so I shook the hell out of them and now they are not foamy but rather just a little messy looking. Trust me, it's an improvement. I used Pomona's Pectin so I was able to cut way back on the sugar (with thanks to Sloan for the pectin delivery). I am still more of a sauce girl, but I figured I would go to some sort of strawberry hell if I did not make a few batches of jam from the 15 gallons of berries we picked. I don't know if I am a canner at heart, I continue to worry that I might kill or sicken someone. Maybe that goes away with practice??
So yeah. I am also learning more new tunes and we are sucked into a television show that I really never thought I'd watch. It ain't no Buffy, but it has its moments.
That's the plan over here. Keep busy. Try to nap a lot, since sleep while the sun is down has been super elusive lately. Jump up and down, keep an eye on the ripening plums up the street. Make a lot of dates, go see some World Cup games. Tell Busy about forty times a day that we're super excited to meet him.
Have good weekends out there.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Can you tell from this photo what this weekend was all about?
Here are a few more hints:
Yup, cherries. This is the time of year when we stuff a ladder into our tiny car and scavenge the town for cherries. Until we finish, I am pretty much consumed with a mild panic that we might not get enough. What's enough? I can't really say, but it has to be enough for a goodly number of pies, crisps, cobblers, and now some brown betties. We are now in the safe zone, and basically now I am ready to have this baby. I kid you not, I had a talk with him and told him that his mama needed to put away the cherries before he could arrive. Fortunately fruit is early this year; these cherries are almost two weeks earlier than the last several years. How handy.
I definitely freak out over putting up other kinds of fruit, but not like I do with cherries. For one, you can't buy a fresh sour cherry around here; the best you can do are the mushy ones in a can. Two, in chatting with a similarly minded lady friend, I was reminded that sour cherries played a role in our annual family reunions for many years. There was a sour cherry tree on the family farm until it bit the dust, and every year we would pick that tree. Which honestly was completely thankless picking for an eight-year-old: sour cherries are not much of a hand fruit. But we'd give the cherries to my Gran and she'd disappear into the kitchen, and some hours later there would be this PIE. It was like magic: into the kitchen go these sour little things and out comes one hell of a pie. So I guess I still sort of think of cherries (and my Granny) as a pretty magical fruit (she's a fruit alright). I picked a couple of great sour trees out at work, and then we hit a pretty big tree that is kind of between a sour and a sweet cherry. Then we pitted cherries until my thumb nearly gave out, and then we picked our own strawberries and put those up and jeez with the fruit already, right?
Ok, vegetables then. We're on over here: broccoli, our first cauliflower, peas, carrots, and the usual cast of lettuces and greens and herbs. The fridge is just bursting, and the overwhelmed feeling I'm having is making me feel good about how much of our garden is dedicated to alliums and squash, oh patient storage crops. Last night we shredded some chicken and got to work making spring rolls. The ingredient list was as follows: peas, carrots, lettuce, mint, basil, cilantro, aforementioned chicken tossed in a basic Vietnamese dipping sauce (from this book, absolutely one of our favorites), and peanuts. We grew every single non-poultry non-nut item on that list, awesome. They taste amazing and we made a bunch for lunches this week.
Last, this week's bouquet: garlic scapes. We need to settle upon something besides chopping a few up in a salad. Maybe this? It sounds great, but at the same time soup is not really where my heart is right now.
May you be eating where your heart is at right now.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
First with the presents. B had an awesome birthday this year, with a proper party and a proper dessert and proper lusty singing from great friends and family. He also got some rocking presents, including a seriously top notch pair of pruners from my parents (he had been using lousy ones at work and it was getting to his hands) and a variety of baking stuff, you know, now that he's the Bagel Guy there were some essential gadgets he needed. But I'm here to tell you about the most last minute gifty I got for him, the one that he basically got because I refuse to pay for shipping on Amazon and so this got thrown in with something else. I mean, I didn't even wrap this one because it arrived after I got wrappy on everything else. Sorry little guy, had I known I would have done you better:
Behold the garlic press. We had both been so resistant to getting one of these - the garlic press of my childhood was laughable, with half of the clove squashing out the top and a small dribble of juice and pulp meandering out of the screen. Well clearly someone spent the last 25 years working that shit out, because this here gizmo is effing amazing. One, you don't even need to peel the clove. This is HUGE for us, since we get by mostly on our own garlic and fresher garlic is grumpy about giving up its skin. Two, I swear to you, what is left in the press is but the thinnest hull of skin; like a potato chip. The first time B used it he turned to me and said, among other things, "Woah. You really have to watch out for the velocity on this sucker." Like you could take someone out with what shoots out the other end. Which, as long as I'm getting geeky on this, is pretty much perfectly minced and uniform bits of garlic. We love this thing.
We continue to have just the most ass kicking weather a girl could ask for. A few days ago I threatened to get the sprinkler out, and wa-la, the next morning we woke to a gentle soaking rain. Now we are trading stormy afternoons with sunny mornings - a recipe for GROW. It's a little scary. This morning I picked more chard than would fit in a shopping bag, just because these particular leaves were beating up on my coreopsis, dahlias, and lavender:
Please someone give me some new ideas for chard. My body is craving fresh, so the dishes we normally throw this stuff in are kind of off the table. Note for the garden book: too many cooking greens.
Also in the garden: cauliflower! I completely forgot that we planted this and just thought that we had some slightly disabled broccoli growing out there, and then these cute little white heads started peeking out and it totally made my day. Mmm, roasted cauliflower with butter and cumin.
Cabbage, flax, borage, dill.
Last year *a lot* of cashed out flowers went into our compost, and the upshot is that now our garden is full of volunteers. Flax, poppy, marigold, cosmo, batchelor button, borage, and ton of dill and cilantro. Three years ago I couldn't have told you what a baby batchelor button looked like for love nor money, but that's what time will do for you. We are frequently accused of being Very Neat gardeners, but this year we're letting a lot of the flowers go for it and it's really pretty. We've had to move some stuff and I think in general the poppies are a no go (you were right Jenni) - they just get too honking big, but the flax is great since it's so tall and willowy and the marigolds are tucked in here at there. Between these flowers and the Exploding Raised Bed of Color, we have finally been seeing some beneficial insects. So awesome. In particular we have been seeing a lot of hoverflies or flowerflies. These guys munch aphids so you can imagine how psyched we are. I think I've linked to this book before, but we absolutely love this book for insect identification. I do wish there were more photos of eggs; turns out that last year I probably squished several pods of hoverfly eggs, damn it. Anyway, the cilantro: has anyone tried freezing chopped cilantro in ice cubes? How bothersome is it that cilantro has usually bolted its ass off well before your other salsa ingredients are ripe? Very.
Last, our one surviving blueberry bush is on. Fresh blueberries and strawberries in the hand, how extravagant is that???
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Hello, June. Will you be the month that ushers in our son? We hope so.
I am still trying to get our camera to do these delphiniums justice. This photo is the closest yet. What color of blue is this? It makes me so happy.
We have picked so many freakin' strawberries, it is no joking matter. I would say that between eating and freezing and strawberry sauce making, we have probably picked over 10 gallons and the party rages on. At one point B turned to me and said, "You know, of all the berries, strawberries are probably not the berry I would choose to be inundated with..." And I had to laugh because I had definitely been thinking the same thing. We both like strawberries, but neither of us have ever been one to freak out for them. Granted, I think this is largely a response to the fact that most strawberries out there for the buying taste pretty weak, and most of them are dripping in chemicals, and chances are pretty good that most of them have been picked by folks getting paid Not Enough and being protected from said chemicals Not Enough. I have really been thinking about these folks as I bend and squat and reach each night. I am bushed after an hour of picking in twilight temperatures, I kind of can't imagine doing it day after day in the hot sun. I will say that we are definitely more excited about our bounty after I simmered up our first batch of strawberry sauce. Just berries, sugar (not that much), lemon juice, and time. We've been rocking it on ice cream, waffles and yogurt, and I know in the gray days of January next year we will really feel lucky.
Lessee, this weekend was really lovely. It was B's birthday for real, we had a waffle party with friends in town from Philadelphia, and we went to a wedding where we got to play a ton of music and two step the night away to a favorite band. Yes, I am 37 weeks pregnant and I can still hoof it around the dance floor, thankyouforasking. I did enjoy the heck out of the wedding, but I pretty much had to be dancing or get an instrument into my hands in order to escape the seemingly nonstop stream of questions and Extremely Dumb Comments about being pregnant. I have been really patient with this kind of stuff so far, and I have not had any weird experiences with strangers putting hands upon me or anything, but I kind of snapped this weekend and at one point B literally had to maneuver me away from the woman who, no shit, said, "So you're really not that proud of your belly, are you?" after I indicated that no, I would not be making a plaster cast of my belly. Then there are the "Were you due yesterday?" people, the "There must be triplets in there" people, and then a very large cast of people who just like to state the obvious: "Wow, you're pregnant!" or some other such brilliant comment. What is it about pregnant women that make people feel the need to blurt out body commentary? I promise you that I really did notice this belly already. Let me also say that people have said some seriously amazing things to me, and in all fairness I did chat up some very cool women at this wedding who either managed to have an entire conversation with me about Something Else, or we had a really great conversation about birth and kids and whatnot. So I guess I am just venting here because I can, and because I have spent the last 48 hours thinking about whether it's discomfort that prompts complete strangers to respond to a pregnant woman by saying "You're huge!" Also, my BFF says that I am cheery all the time on here, and I just want to make sure that you all know that I'm truly a snarky pain in the rear.
Now you know.