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January 29, 2010

Caitlyn and I ate our last honeycrisp apple yesterday. I'd bought 18 pounds of them from Jim and Carmela at the end of our local farmers' market season. The apples stayed in the refrigerator, in their box on the bottom shelf (crowding the beer, which somehow Wednesday seems to have forgiven me for) since purchase in mid October. I think we ate most of them as-is, not using them for pies or crisps, just slicing and enjoying them.

Our last apples were starting to get a little wrinkly. I'm not sure if that's the result of four months in the fridge or if four months is about the "shelf life" of the honeycrisp variety. But they were still wonderful, sliced up and eaten for lunches before school.

I believe the apples are the first thing, of all the produce I put up, we've finished. So far, so good.

January 26, 2010

I think words are superfluous sometimes.

Caitlyn in pink

Don't you?

January 25, 2010

I have great hopes for this stuff: Fast2Fuse, a heavyweight, double-sided fusible interfacing. I picked some up with a book of no-sew crafts for kids for Caitlyn for Christmas. The goal is a fabric craft she can do all by herself (while I'm using the sewing machine, for instance). The book comes with tons of templates to copy, cut out, and trace. Use the iron to fuse the fabric to the interfacing and make hats, bags, toys, games, mobiles, cards, boxes. Get out your glue and your sequins and embellish to your hearts' content.

A family member had a birthday this weekend, so Caitlyn and I made a card with some of the Fast2Fuse.

card front

card inside


I think the card came out well. And I think we have a successful proof of concept. Time to turn Caitlyn loose with the stuff and see what happens.

January 24, 2010

While in the kitchen this afternoon to make dinner rolls and a batch of muffins, I discovered that the carrots were no longer happy with their storage method. Lacking a root cellar, I had scrubbed the carrots, popped them into bags and put them in the drawer in the bottom of the refrigerator. The previous batch of carrots hadn't objected to this treatment, beyond sprouting little roots and trying desperately to grow new tops. This new batch was rotting. My guess is that I had not closed the bag tightly the first time, allowing the carrots to "breathe"; these newer carrots' bag was twisted closed and tucked under.

Fortunately, I noticed this before I lost all the carrots. So, much like last year's Adventure with Saved Onions (wherein I put several pounds of onions into airtight containers only to discover that onions don't like this (a vegetable trend, perhaps?) and then spent an afternoon removing the molded parts and dicing the inner parts for a session in the dehydrator), this afternoon was spent on Project Save the Carrots. I threw the gross ones in the yard waste, scrubbed the rest, removed tops and tails and tiny rootlets, and then cooked them all.

We now have two batches of carrot muffins, two loaves of carrot bread (based on the muffin recipe - I just couldn't be bothered to make more muffins), a batch of carrot-cumin soup (thanks, Ian!) and carrots reserved for tomorrow's vegetable hot pot with biscuits. Which is probably a silly thing to have for dinner, given that we have a pile of leftover bagels from the weekend's activities and that tonight's dinner rolls were shaped in a moment of Carrot Distraction and thus are roughly the size of my arm. Maybe I'll freeze the rolls, if I can find space in the freezer around the muffins and the carrot bread.

January 21, 2010

We opened up the first cheese last night. A gouda. Not quite two months old.

my first hard cheese!

It tastes like cheese, and although it's not quite like gouda, it's surprisingly yummy. It's soft and creamy still in the center, which makes it hard to plane for sandwiches. If I'd left it to age for another month or so, perhaps that would be different.

But, it's HOMEMADE CHEESE!

January 19, 2010

When I got started on it this morning, the vision for dinner was potato soup. When the garden produces 48 pounds of potatoes, that's a lot of potatoes to discover/invent ways to eat. Some of them are starting to show their age (perhaps the pantry is slightly warmer than the perfect potato storage temperature), but they still soup nicely.

But there was half a sweet potato in the fridge that I threw into the pot with the sautéd onions and the dried bell peppers. I added one of the jars of whey from cheesemaking last month and the whey that was floating on top of the latest batch of yogurt. Added two bouillon cubes and left it to get to know itself while Caitlyn was at school.

I'm not sure where the magic came from. The result was a little sweet, a little salty/savory. A delightful soup, eaten with cheese, and perfect for a rainy evening. Which, oddly, it's not right now, since all our rain is apparently misaddressed to California (there's a short video of the storm surge at Steamer Lane at the bottom of this article about flooding rivers, downed power lines, closed schools, smashed cars and one hydroplaning driver - sometimes I miss winter drama in San Lorenzo Valley.)

I didn't take a picture of dinner tonight since it wasn't terribly photogenic. Caitlyn sneered at it as she came to the table. But she perked right up when Ian pointed out that I had put her soup through the blender and her bowl was lump-free. She ate two bowls of it, so clearly, something went right.

January 17, 2010

The other day, Caitlyn asked for a definition of "girlfriend, like when grown-ups get married." So I defined, aiming in grand parental fashion, for age-appropriateness and a balance between traditional definitions and using too many words to explain the various non-traditional relationships in our lives.

Caitlyn then announced, "Me and Alik are girlfriend and boyfriend." This was followed by a description of the afternoon's events on the playground, a game that seems to consist of sitting at the bottom of the slide and waiting for the other person to crash into you as they come down. And then, nonchalantly, she adds, "And we're getting married tomorrow."

"Really?" I'm playing this cool. Nothing Fazes The Mama.

"Uh-huh."

"Oh. I was hoping I could go to your wedding. May I come tomorrow?"

"No," she tells me, as if I were the most stupid person on the planet. "It's during recess."

"I see. Will you show me pictures?"

"Oh, sure."

The topic has not come up again. I can't remember Alik coming up again, except in a discussion about why Caitlyn couldn't wear sunglasses to school ("But, Alik wears glasses to school!") Maybe next time, I'll manage to get introduced to the young man...

January 14, 2010

Reality Intervened, after I had promised Caitlyn project time after school today, and she was all set for some no-sew fabric crafting. Instead, we made dinner. I'd been reading about Solar Oven Chef's frittata and Hip Chick's kale tortilla, so:

She chose the potatoes from the pantry, then scrubbed them clean. I peeled and chopped. She put the water in the pot and carried the full pot to the stove, were we turned on the burner together. She watched the pot to be sure it didn't boil over. I sautéd onions. She added the broccoli. I drained the potatoes, and stirred everything together. I broke the eggs, she beat them. I put dinner in the oven.

The result:

spanish tortilla with broccoli

The best part: Caitlyn ate it. She liked it. She called it delicious, and thanked herself for dinner.

Lessons for Mama: get her more involved. And find a better space to take after sunset food pictures in the kitchen. The light over the stove looks bright, but man, dinner looked lots better than the photo turned out!

January 13, 2010

Ian and I seem to have acquired a stomach bug and, as a result, Caitlyn got to watch The Wizard of Oz this afternoon. This was her first occasion to talk to the characters on screen, telling Dorothy and Co., "Hurry! Hurry! Run!" while they were attempting an escape from the Witch. And thus is the future habit of telling horror movie victims, "Not that way! Can't you hear the soundtrack cues?!?" born.

January 10, 2010

I've checked out my seed order for the year, minus the potatoes. I'll order them in a day or so (after Seed Savers answers my question about garlic). Everything else will come from West Coast Seeds. I even remembered to check the stash of leftover seeds from last year and am not buying more zucchini or carrot or spinach seeds.

The challenge veggie of the year will be eggplant, which is more a challenge for the garden and less for me. Meaning that the challenge will be to see if the garden can produce actual eggplants, since I have a terrible time getting pepper plants to produce actual peppers in a quantity that justifies the space they use in the garden. Previous challenge veggies have been beets and turnips, which the garden produced just fine and which I didn't do very well at finding yummy things to with the results. It seemed wise to stick to things that I am reasonably comfortable cooking - although I generally only cook one or two eggplants per year, so perhaps the challenge will be finding something to do with a sizable eggplant crop.

I also decided to get some melon seeds. Last year's melon plant did pretty well. I'm skipping green beans this year since I have so many quarts in the freezer.

Otherwise, we'll be planting our standards: peas, carrots, mescluns, pumpkins, butternut squash, zucchini (just one plant!), spinach, kale, potatoes, tomatoes. I'm going to try starting onions from seed, too. I wonder if that means that I need some deep seed-starting trays?

Outside, the garden sleeps under its blankets of maple leaves and fava bean plants. I wonder if it's looking forward to planting season...

January 07, 2010

It's only a problem some days.

Caitlyn's school is in a room in the lower level of a Catholic school attached to a church. St. Joe's has a lovely big white building, and if we get close enough, soon enough, we often get to listen to the bells tolling noon. Last year, we watched the lengthy process of stained glass window restoration/installation.

But sometimes when we walk past the church to school, we walk past a bit of church life. If people would get married or christened at noon on a weekday, it wouldn't be such a big deal, but weekdays at noon seem to be reserved for people who die. And walking by a Big Catholic Funeral - with priests in matching robes, incense burners, large hearse, coffin, and processing kin - seems to be something I have trouble with. Even with the warning of the slowly tolling bell, twenty minutes after noon when bells shouldn't be ringing, I get choked up and clingy.

It makes no sense. I'm not Catholic. I wasn't raised Catholic. These services and rites have nothing in common with Dad's memorial. If anything, it should feel like I've stumbled upon a movie set. But I can't quite breathe.

We walked around, crossing to the other side of the street so Caitlyn and her classmate George didn't accidentally race each other through the grieving crowd. There were small children near the hearse, being urged forward or comforted by a woman not that much older than myself. Were they saying goodbye to a father or grandfather? I picked Caitlyn up (40 pounds these days) and asked for a hug.

"Why are you crying?" she asked. I told her that the funeral made me think of Grandpa Jim.

"I remember him, too," she tells me and squeezes me back.

January 05, 2010

Harvested some kale from the backyard this morning, sautéd it with onions and sweet potatoes, and made a savory bread pudding for dinner with it all. The results were very pretty, with vivid orange and green. Caitlyn, of course, looked at it and announced that she didn't want it. Coaxed into trying it, she announced, "It's not as yucky as it looks!" and then ate two servings. I'm trying to see this as a happy moment, not a critique of my cooking. Four year olds can't be reliable food critics, right? Or we'd all eat nothing but mac-n-cheese and PB&J.

I spotted Snuggie for Dogs today at a Rite Aid. I am still horrified by them. The whole Snuggie thing is kinda creepy, I think, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of. But the dog version isn't really big enough to be a real Snuggie (for obvious reasons), so really, it's just a fleece for your dog that has the same brand name as the thing you wear when you spend all Saturday on your couch. Why do you want to wear the same thing your dog is wearing???

Ok, so I've just outed myself as a cat person, again, haven't I?

January 03, 2010

Tomorrow is Monday, and the vacation is officially over. And, in the department of minor miracles, I might actually be mostly ready. The after-school muffins are made, the mail is processed, the email box sorted.

Caitlyn and I harvested the remaining carrots that were still in the garden. Their tops were nasty, but the carrots are in surprisingly good shape, even after the freezing weather of last month. Caitlyn was able/willing to get into the harvesting this time, as well, since the soil just brushed off, unlike last time. I may leave them in the garden longer next winter - it's easier to store them there than in the fridge. All that's left in the garden now is kale. Pantry is still full, though.
And, as evidenced by the above, we have set up a way that makes it much easier for me to take pictures and get them to the blog without 15 extra steps. So, here is a completely gratuitous picture of today's batch of muffins (carrot, in case you were wondering):

January 01, 2010

Well, we're back...

I've been digging my way out of the pile up of Stuff accumulated while we were on vacation in California. Seventeen days, 8 different sleeping locations (two of them on Amtrak), 6 kinds of transportation, lots of friends and a new cousin. Great to see everyone, and great to be home.

It's New Year's, and I keep thinking I should be making up a list of goals or something. Make some bold declarations. But mostly I keep coming back to wanting more of what I've got. I'll keep gardening, sewing, freelancing. I suppose I could say that I want to write more, exercise more, and so forth, but I say that every year. Maybe this year I'll actually do something about it.

We took Caitlyn to see The Princess and The Frog. It was her first introduction to anything Disney Princess, with the minor exception of seeing a box set of Disney Princess dolls in Target (we were looking for crayons, which were in the "Stationary" part of the store, not the "Toys and Games" part) - a set of Barbie-style figures in big, sparkly dresses: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, Belle and Tiana. Caitlyn did a comic-book screech-to-a-halt, doubled back, stood before the dolls and said, "Mama, I want this!" Why, I asked her, since she hadn't seen any of the movies and only knows about Snow White through a coloring book and an antique in her room. Her answer was mostly incoherent, but I think the appeal was the sparkly, shimmery dresses.

Anyway, we saw the movie today. She seemed to like it, although she was unnerved by the evil shadows, as one should be, and disappointed whenever the storyline veered away from the frogs. I appreciated the balance of Light and Dark magicks and that the movie didn't end with a wedding. Tiana gets her man and her dreams, though both take a bit of work, and she's clearly the one In Charge in her relationship. The childhood friend character who is desperate to marry a prince, at the end of the movie, is declaring that she's "waited this long" so it'll be ok for her to keep waiting for the prince who will marry her. Kinda turns the traditional "marry a prince who can keep you and everything will be ok" pattern on its head.