Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Our garden was a pretty good success this year with the exception of the fact that we didn't get one single ripe tomato. Not one. Not a hint of a blush of red anywhere. Our plant got huge and produced tons of tomatoes, they just stayed green. Determined not to let all my personally-grown tomatoes go to waste, I did a little research and found a recipe for roasted green tomato salsa. I sliced the tomatoes in half, quartered two onions, and left two jalapeños whole. I drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasted them on 400 for 25 minutes. I have to say they were not as pretty coming out as they were going in, but the whole house smelled fantastic. I began peeling, coring and chopping the tomatoes. It was taking forever, and I had limited time because Matteas was napping and Jack was at school(which is the best thing that ever happened. More on that later). Suddenly I remember that I actually own a food processor(thank you Sonia). Mere minutes later, all my chopping was done. In a large pot I cooked six cloves of garlic in a little olive oil, then added all my chopped vegetables(although I only used one whole jalapeño and I think it's the perfect amount of heat) along with 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice and 3/4 cup white vinegar, two cans of diced green chillies, 1 tsp. ground cumin and 1 Tb. dried oregano. I brought it all to a boil, then ladled it into hot jars. I've never canned before, but I think it worked. I set the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes and the tops seem to have sealed. I guess I'll know in a couple of weeks when I have a cupboard full of rotten salsa. I left one jar fresh and added some fresh chopped cilantro, then sampled some with tortilla chips. I may be biased because of my personal investment, but I have to say it was pretty flippin' amazing. I'm currently roasting a chicken which I plan on shredding for tacos tonight, topped with fresh cilantro, black beans, grated pepper Jack, sour cream and my very own green tomato salsa.
Friday, September 26, 2008
So much to blog about, so little time. Above is a book I waited six weeks to check out from the library, and now I wish I'd just bought it. It's called The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. This is what everyone will be getting from me for Christmas, so don't buy it for yourself just yet. The book is absolutely amazing. It's all about how to live creatively as a family, how to encourage your children's creativity and how to make room for all this creating without making total chaos in your house. I can't say enough about this book, but other people have already said lots about it. I am apparently the very last mama in the blogging community to know about this book, but now I know and it's going to change my life. That's not something I say very often, but Amanda's attitudes and insights into children and family life are so soul-satisfying and so substantial that they speak to a very real need, with beautiful, practical solutions. I'm not even doing her justice, you'll just have to see for yourself. After Christmas. In the meantime, you can visit her blog here. For a while our cucumbers were doing very well, but then it seemed like everyone stopped; the weather hadn't turned cold yet, but the tiny cucumbers on the vine stayed tiny. Yesterday I did some investigating and discovered why; two mammoth cucumbers were hiding behind the tomato plant, hogging all the nutrients. I didn't grow the bananas, I just stuck them in there for size comparison. Our cucumbers don't usually survive past a couple of inches because they're so tasty then and the boys love them, but Jack was incredibly pleased about the ginormous pair I found. I picked the last of the blackberries from our back yard the other day and couldn't think of what to do with them, so I made a very small jar of blackberry jam. Some of Tuesday's produce bin. Jack has discovered a love of steamed artichoke. Jack needs to work on his picture face a little; I tell him to smile and he really give it his all. I took him clothes shopping last week because he is growing like a zucchini vine and we cannot keep clothes on him that fit. He picked out the shirt he's wearing; it's a 5T. Two Hot Mamas. I'm so lucky to have family close by. When Ambry and I were little we often talked about "playing babies" like our moms did when we were little, and now here we are, livin' the dream. I made a pot of French press coffee and put it in a thermos, then packed some freshly-baked Russian teacakes and some coffee cups in the back of the stroller and we took the kids to the park. Jack took our picture. For a three year-old, his photography skills are amazing. I keep a file of all the pictures from his camera and someday I'm going to make him a scrapbook out of them. I went out for a little bit today and picked up this super cute set of wooden blocks for $3. I washed them and dried them in the sun, but then had nowhere to put them. In the spirit of Amanda, I used what I had and made something with my own hands that would meet the need instead of buying something generic. This is the snoopy fabric Jack picked out. I made him a library tote out of it already, but now it's come in handy twice. I think perhaps I should have been a pioneer. But with electricity and cars and internet.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Another weekend, another wedding. Unfortunately for Matt and Ashley, the first day of Fall brought typical Northwest fall weather and their outdoor ceremony had to be moved inside last-minute. I don't think Matt and Ashley really noticed though, they both seemed so happy just to be married.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
As a teenager, I worried about normal teenager stuff: will that boy like me(he didn't), will my skin clear up(it did), will I get a good grade, will I be allowed to go to that party... I find that my fears are occupied by other things now, things like: will those kids like my kids, will Jack learn to be patient and gentle, will Matteas ever sleep through the night, will we all get through this without permanent damage? And lately, I don't have any good answers. I am not comfortable not having the answers. But frankly, it's too early to tell. On Tuesday, I took the boys to the park after picking up Jack from school. I like going somewhere after school on Tuesdays because if we are gone long enough, our produce bin is waiting for us when we get home. There was a soccer field next to the park where we were playing, and some of the girls came to burn off some excess energy after practice. They were six or seven, "older" girls to Jack, though he's almost as tall as they are. I think he was impressed by their cleats and their shin guards, their long blond ponytails, their attitudes of entitlement: we are pretty and we know it, so we will get what we want. He wanted to play with them. Playing with other children has been something we've had to work on with Jack. Six months ago if we were at a park and other kids showed up, he'd panic, latch onto my leg and beg to be taken home. Aaron and I have coached him through dozens of encounters with strangers at the park, encouraging him to say hi to people he doesn't know as long as Mom and Dad are with him. Most of the time, we've been lucky. The kids we've met at the park have been sweet, and most of them, being only children, are thrilled to find a playmate. Most of the time, Jack overcomes his very painful shyness and is rewarded with a friend for the afternoon, and I can see each success emboldening him for future experiences. But not Tuesday. Not these girls. These girls were mean. They were too good for Jack, and they wanted him to know it. Three girls stood giggling together, an unholy trinity of snobbiness. Jack approached them quietly, hoping to be silently drafted into their group without too much trouble. They looked at him, saw the hope in his large blue eyes, and ran off. Not to be discouraged, Jack ran after them. The girls jumped into the monster truck tire in the sand and huddled down out of sight. Jack ran over to the tire and hopped right in, whereupon the girls darted out and ran to the swings. Over and over, they ran from him, and over and over, Jack followed them. When it became clear that they were not going to change their minds about Jack, I took Matteas out of the baby swing and walked over to Jack. "Come play with Mama, Jack," I said brightly. "But I'm playing with those grills(girls) Mom!" "But Jack, those girls are mean; they are running away from you just to make you sad because they know you think they're cool. But they're not. They're shallow, selfish little brats and they're going to be sluts in high school." Okay, that's not what I actually said. What I said was: "What?" "I'm playing with those grills, Mom. We're playing chase!" And before I could get another word out, he ran off again. Part of me wanted to laugh, part of me wanted to cry, and most of me wanted to grab those girls by their long blond ponytails and yank. Hard. I wanted to tell them that torturing someone who likes you isn't real power, that making space for someone new is far more powerful than excluding them, and that in a few more years it will be them chasing Jack and I hope he will treat them better than they treated him. But I didn't say anything. I was just grateful that, for now, Jack is too oblivious to know that they were being cruel. As far as he's concerned, it was another great day at the park filled with new friends and a rollicking game of chase.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Funny that I am feeling the call of Autumn now that we've had two straight weeks of gorgeously sunny weather; still, it doesn't feel like summer sunshine. It's a slanted kind of light, a fall-ish sort of warmth, but lovely all the same. The turning of the seasons always makes me feel creative, and there's something especially inspiring about fall; maybe because it's Aaron's favorite season, maybe because I'm usually so relieved not to be hot anymore, maybe because there's such a contrast between the sweltering summer afternoons and cool fall mornings. Whatever the reason, I've been awfully creative lately. I picked up this book from the library the other day(did you know there's an entire section for adults at the library?!) thanks to some speedy driving on my husband's part; we were on our way to Tom and Sonia's for dinner and the library closed in just a few minutes, but my wonderful husband got me to the door of the library literally two minutes before closing. I grabbed my book and ran to the checkout desk, and while I stood there the lights turned off. I was that close to having to wait an entire day before I could get my book, and I wasn't in the mood to wait. Yesterday I went to the craft store and picked up some supplies for making stamps; I figured this would be the gentlest introduction to fabric printing, although I'm dying to try silk screening. Baby steps. I bought some plain unbleached muslin and made a hand towel, then did a few practice runs with the flower stamps I made before coming up with this design: As an added bonus, the ink smells funny so I feel like I'm working with special potions. I had to mix some inks to get just the colors I wanted, so that was fun too. I feel an addiction coming on here. I was already starting to like sewing a lot, what with being able to design my own projects and pick whatever fabric I wanted, but this whole printing my own fabric business opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I thought the fabric store had a pretty big selection and often had trouble choosing a fabric, but hand printing just might kill me. There is virtually no end to the possibilities. I feel a little like I imagine God felt when He was creating the world; I'll just make whatever pops into my head in whatever size and color I feel like.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
In case you've been living under a rock and missed the announcement, the press recently released video footage of Senator John McCain's release from Hanoi. Politics aside, I have this to say: swoon.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The crazy thing is, I did not alter this picture in any way. That halo around the berries was accomplished by putting them in a while melamine bowl and shooting in the sun. It's been a slow season for blackberries around here, owing to the cold snap we had in the middle "summer." But we've had a lot of sunshine lately and things are finally ripening up nicely. I always get excited about picking blackberries and making things with them, but I'm just kidding myself; I feel that any culinary application results in a lesser version of an otherwise perfect thing, and that the best way to enjoy fresh blackberries is as God intended. Matteas slurps them down whole, like a hungry baby bird. It's great to have so many things growing in our own backyard so that when the boys want a snack, we do a little gathering then find a spot in the shade and enjoy the fruits of our labor. I did not grow anything in this bin. I found an organic produce delivery service called Mother Nature's Organics that will bring a bin of fresh(and whenever possible, locally grown) produce to your front door once a week for $35. Aaron thinks it's a little expensive for the amount of food and I agree, but it was so thrilling to come home from the library in the late afternoon light and see a big blue bin on my doorstep. This was our first delivery, but so far I'm pleased. The quality is pretty incredible; that head of romaine is the healthiest lettuce specimen I've ever seen. There was absolutely nothing wilted or old, and it was so big and bushy I could barely fit it into the produce drawer in my fridge. I think Aaron might come to appreciate high-quality produce a little more as the season progresses and the selection at QFC declines. Everything in the bin was either at the peak of freshness or a little under-ripe, which is perfect. A PCC just opened by our house so maybe I'll end up canceling our deliveries, but that will be a sad day. You don't get to choose what arrives, so I'm hoping to get some surprise vegetables and expand my culinary repertoire a bit. Also, if anyone is interested in signing up and you tell them I referred you, I get $5 off after your second delivery :)
Monday, September 8, 2008
Well, we survived. On Thursday morning, Aaron took off with Albert, Tristan, Trevor and Sam for their anual(except for last year due to Matteas' birth) Man Trip. In years past they've gone camping, but this year they stayed in a plush house by the beach and went wine tasting. They were gone for four days, so the boys and I packed up and headed over to Anna's to keep each other company in the absence of our husbands. It got pretty crazy at times, but we made it through the weekend without any major mishaps. Matteas got into(literally, he got in it) the litter box once which was pretty offensive and Jack pooped in the yard(later that same day), but fecal matter aside it was a pretty good time. Still, four days is a long time to take care of a bunch of kids without relief, so when Aaron came home from work early today I went out to do some restorative shopping. I usually don't find much at our local Goodwill, but today the used goods gods smiled on my tattered little heart and filled it with joy via this chair. And that red quilted blanket. And that velvet pillow. The entire ensemble cost a grand total of $26. I'm not sure where the chair was made, but it is in really excellent condition. The back is a little worn at the top, but that's it; no stains, no holes, no tears, no animal hair, no weird smell. And it's comfortable, and is the exact shade of brown in the living room rug(which I actually rolled up, but the chair and rug may yet find each other one day and then they'll match beautifully). I also found a beautiful black trench coat that fits me like a glove, so now when I put on a coat over a nice outfit I won't spoil the effect. We took the kids to the park every day; a change of scenery was nice for everyone. This is Gabriella. The Crew. The two dark-haired kids are Kyle and Lisa, who live next door to Albert and Anna. I call this, The Best Idea I've Ever Had. I used to just call it Mexican Lasagna, but that was before this weekend. It is a glorious thing made with taco meat, stewed tomatoes, corn, black beans, onion, cheese, sour cream, green chillies, corn tortillas and green onions. I put it together on Thursday, then on Saturday we took the kids to the park for two hours during that special time of the evening the precedes dinner when all children seem to meltdown and are unable to function cheerfully. After two hours, they were absolutely filthy. We took them home and tossed them all in the bath while my Best Idea warmed and melted in the oven. By the time the kids were clean and dressed, dinner was ready and we'd sullied not one single dish in the undertaking. The kids proceeded to eat almost the entire pan. Bedtime that night ranked pretty high on my list of Ultra Satisfying Experiences; it was a great feeling to put to bed clean, well-fed played-out babies. Albert and Anna have several fruit trees in their back yard, which makes Matteas very happy. He just crawls around and helps himself to his favorites. Jack and Talia wanted flashlights to explore the backyard after dark, but since there were none to be found I gave them lanterns. Talia heard me looking for matches, then trotted off to the garage and came back with a blow torch. "This makes fire," she offered. I think next year the guys have to take her on the Man Trip and let her show them how it's done.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
There was a rare sighting at Costco tonight. A woman traveling alone(without her husband) was shopping with her two small children. She was wearing trendy jeans, an embroidered peasant top and carrying a cute purse. Her hair was pulled back and she was wearing diamond stud earrings. In short, she looked reasonably well put-together. That by itself wouldn't be surprising, but you don't often see moms shopping at Costco with their kids looking put-together, reasonably or otherwise. Then there were her kids. Their outfits matched(not coordinated, but respectively), they had shoes on, and they were sitting quietly in the front of her cart chatting peacefully. They were not whining. They were not demanding that their mother purchase this or that toy in bulk. They were not fighting with each other. The older boy was being gentle and patient with the younger boy, who was tickled pink to be sitting next to his big brother. Now for the really shocking part. The woman was me. Make no mistake, my kids have their fair share of tantrums, meltdowns, and scene-making, but generally they do it at home. I realize this is a gift, and I appreciate it. Deeply. My kids are the ones who make the other kids out in public look bad, the kids other moms at Costco look at with longing and think, "Why can't my kids behave like that? What does that mom know that I don't?" Frankly, I don't have a secret. Mostly I just got lucky. Generally I don't approve of comparison games, but I couldn't help myself tonight after witnessing some rather unlovely behavior in the dairy aisle and realizing that we'd been at Costco for some time and I had not had one bit of unpleasantness from the boys. Matteas did try climbing out of the cart once, but he was just being curious. He made the day of the lady standing in line behind us, flirting his heart out complete with cocking his head to the side and batting his big dark eyelashes. If he wasn't so young I'd swear he'd been trained to do it, but he was just born that way. I'm off to bathe and bed my well-behaved(in public) boys.