Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hold Everything

This is my 200th post. It took me a while to get here, but I feel obligated to point out this blogging milestone. I didn't want it to come and go unnoticed, so I am officially tipping my hat to it. And using it to make a very important announcement. I realize I am late on my next Food Friday post, and that I have not posted pictures of Jack's birthday, but those things are going to have to wait. I went out today. It had been a while. I had a great time. I picked up Rachel and we went to University Village, drank margaritas, ate tacos, and indulged in one of my favorite-things-ever-to-do-with-Rachel: we looked at clothes and trash-talked the designs. And WOW did we have a lot of material to work with. Even Banana Republic, while over-priced and pretentious, can usually be counted on to carry the classics. They've really gone south. I did find a really great dress there that I bought, but it was the only redeeming item in the whole store. The colors are awful, the designs are not well-structured(noboby, nobody looks good in cropped, TAPERED cargo pants) and the fabrics are fussy. I think one of the worst things we saw was a dress from Banana that was thick, thick navy fabric with SILVER PLASTIC BUTTONS, sailor-style, two rows down the front. It was like an ugly stewardess dress. And it was expensive. I don't know how this happened, but somehow, the 80's are making a comeback. I have always been so grateful that I was born in the 80's and thereby saved from most of its fashion, since I didn't care about what I wore until about twenty years later when most of the disasters were long-since over. Now I find that an entire generation failed to learn the first time and once again finds teal, high-waisted skirts with gold buttons a good idea. I'm serious. I can't find a picture of it online, but I saw it in the store. I saw it, and I said to myself, "I have heard the cries, I have seen the need, and I will leave neither unanswered." Which brings me to the very important announcement, the one that is worthy of being my 200th blog post. I'm going to become a clothing designer. I might not get rich, I probably won't be famous, but I don't care. I'm tired of ugly clothes. I'm tired of pants that fall off when I bend down to pick up my baby. I'm tired of shirts that require an additional shirt to be worn under them; isn't the point of wearing any one shirt to wear that shirt and not have to wear a different shirt? Annoying. I'm tired of shirts that stretch out and make me look pregnant in three different places. I'm tired of pants that are designed as if butts are not butt-shaped. Please, respect the butt. I'm tired of ridiculously erratic sizing policies that one season declare me to be well-fitting 8 and the next a 4. A smaller number isn't going to convince me to buy that ugly dress just because it says I'm a 4. If I did, I wouldn't actually be a size 4, I would be a sucker in an ugly dress with body-image issues and poor decision-making criteria. I should state that I'm not sure how long this project is going to take me. I'm not a big sewer. I've never made a wearable item from start to finish, and I've never used a pattern to make anything. But this outrage will not stand, and however long it takes me, no matter how many seams I have to rip out and re-sew(I really hate doing that) I will learn to make clothes. Good ones. That fit properly. And are comfortable. And I hereby swear that I will never, ever make anything tapered.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Food Friday, Part I

It's raining. The boys got a taste of gardening yesterday and now it looks like we'll be inside all day, so I may not have a chance to post as much as I wanted to. To start, I wanted to share the article that got the ball rolling for me. I've never purchased a copy of Vanity Fair and didn't necessarily associate cutting-edge investigative journalism with that particular magazine, but last Easter we were on vacation and I found this in the cabin. The most depressing thing about it(to me) is the degree to which this company controls seed production. The sheer wastefulness of it really angers me. It's kind of a long article, but take a moment to read it through. Then try not to leap out of your seat and go plant some wheat in your back yard :) In the(paraphrased) words of Wendell Berry, "What we eat determines how the world will be used." We need to eat better. I've never thought of myself as an environmentalist. To me, the term always conjured up visions of unwashed hippies who think trees are more important than people. Since having children I've grown up a little, and I realize that how the world is used is directly my concern if I want to feed my boys good food. Yesterday we were digging up a patch for planting some vegetables, and Matteas sampled the dirt. I realized that what is in my own back yard is within my control, and I know I don't have to worry about my kids eating the dirt. I'm not looking for the fastest way to maximize the profits of my vegetable garden, so I'm content to let nature take its course with our plants. The same cannot be said of commercially produced food. I have no problem with a company making lots and lots of money for providing a quality product. I do have a problem with a company making lots and lots of money for producing crap and insisting it's good for me. Industrial agriculture is doing just that, taking all the integrity out of farming to produce a lesser product in order to make more money faster, and poisoning the soil in the process. I understand that a benefit to genetically modified crops is that they allow food to be grown where it could not be sustained using traditional farming methods, but the world's food supply problem isn't a problem of supply, it's a problem of distribution. Right now, America is producing about 3,900 calories per person a day. That's enough to feed the entire country TWICE. So American kids are obese while others are starving. Seems to me we don't actually need a way to produce more food, just better food. The money is there, it's just tied up producing lots and lots of corn syrup for the 219 gallons of soda the average family drinks in a year. If you are sufficiently riled after reading the Vanity Fair article and wondering what you can do about it, one small thing we've starting doing is buying more organic food, a few ingredients at a time. A PCC recently opened a few miles from our house, and we're still getting our produce bin deliveries. It's not as expensive as you might think, and in some cases it's actually cheaper(the cost of flour is about the same). I've been buying all our flour from PCC and making bread, which is always a very exciting time in the kitchen. Whenever Jack hears the mixer on he asks what I'm making, and when I tell him "Brown bread," he shouts "I love brown bread!" I haven't graduated to using all whole-wheat flour yet, but I really want to get some freshly-ground whole wheat flour and try it out. This bread is excellent simply sliced with butter, but if you let it cool completely and then slice it thinly it also makes fantastic sandwich bread. No high-fructose corn syrup, no genetically modified wheat, no pesticides, and a whole lot of goodness. If you're daunted by the prospect of making homemade bread, I promise this is easy. I literally make it with one hand most days. If you don't own a mixer you'll have to do the kneading by hand, which is very therapeutic if your baby is safely sleeping and you can do it in peace. Jack's Brown Bread Makes one loaf 1 pkg. yeast 1 1/4 cups warm water 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup honey(maple syrup or brown sugar would work too) 1 tsp. salt 2 cups white unbleached flour 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour In bowl of mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water(water should be warm, but not too hot to stick your finger into). Add oil, honey, salt and all of the flour. Using dough hook attachment, mix dough on lowest setting until combined. Continue mixing with dough hook(or by hand) an additional ten minutes. Pick up dough and drizzle mixing bowl with a small amount of olive oil, then replace dough and cover bowl with a towel. Leave in a warm spot to rise for about 45 minutes. Grease a 4x8 loaf pan. After the first rise, place dough gently in loaf pan and let rise a second time, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. When dough has completed second rising, bake on 350, 30-40 minutes. Let cool in loaf pan for five minutes before loosening the sides with a knife and turning out onto a cutting board or cooling rack. If you slice the bread too soon it will fall apart, so let it cool at least ten minutes. It is amazing eaten warm, but if you plan to use it for sandwiches let it cool longer before slicing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where's Your Face?

Still Sick

Matteas comforting Daddy in his sickness.
Matteas' favorite game is to find objects around the house, turn them over and use them as step stools. His other favorite game is to dump out ALL the dishwasher detergent and then load it all up again. This is how I bought myself time to make dinner the other night. It didn't last as long as I'd hoped, but long enough to butcher a whole chicken and get it in the oven. Aaron isn't feeling much better, and I'm feeling worse. The boys still seem to be doing alright, but I'm worried that my "mild" version of Aaron's cold was really just a slow descent into hell. I've been making soup with homemade chicken stock and hot ginger-lemon-honey-cayenne teas, which have all been very comforting but so far not terribly effective. I've been appreciating the stormy weather we've been having, it's so much cozier to be sick when it's windy and raining. I'm looking forward to spring though. A few days ago Jack and I shelled some peas for dinner, and a few of the bigger ones were sprouting. We put them in some dirt and I've been watering them, watching their progress on my kitchen windowsill. The sprouts have now emerged from the dirt and will sprout leaves soon, so hopefully the crazy spontaneous snow we've been having stops and we can put our little pea plants in the ground.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No, We're Not Dead

...but we have been very, very sick. Again. The last two colds the boys got were just kid things, so at least Aaron and I were healthy while taking care of them. Not this time. Wow. Poor Aaron is still pretty sick, but the boys are almost 100% and I'm close behind them. I haven't had a cold quite like this in a long time; technically I suppose we had a flu, but in my family we always referred to the stomach flu as "the flu." For once, I almost would have preferred to throw up than feel the way I did. I'm still a little woozy, but I don't have the exhausted-to-my-very-bones-burning-eyeballs kind of aching going on anymore. I can breathe. Through one side of my nose, anyway. Last week I roasted a chicken and made stock with the bones, so I used it to make a really good spicy soup for dinner tonight. After dinner Aaron said "Thanks honey, that was delicious. I think." I've decided I'm going to start a feature on my blog: every Friday is going to be "Food Friday," and I'll post a recipe, cooking tip, technique, or food back-story. I really want to blog more regularly, and I think having something scheduled will help me with that. I've been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I'm definitely making some changes. Not quite to the degree that Barbara Kingsolver did; I doubt I will ever be able to slaughter my own chickens and turkeys. But I like the gardening bit, being more connected to your food, using local food resources to the fullest, not eating processed garbage, etc. I don't think I'll become an exclusively PCC shopper, but probably pretty close. It's interesting how disconnected most people are with the food they eat; I've always been one to read any and all printed information on any label(toothpaste, soap, cheddar cheese), but people get sneaky with labels and what it says might not actually be what it means. Also, some things don't come with enough labels. Like beef. If the USDA required cattle farmers to put a label on their products that said "This meat was produced from cows that were fed the brains and other innards of cows and some other animals," I feel that no one would buy that beef. We have a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of mentality when it comes to details about our food. So Friday's post will be some of what I've learned about where our food really comes from, and a recipe or two to end things on a positive note. Tomorrow I'll put up some pictures. I have some great video of Matteas trying out a few of his new words. Grandpa, hold onto your hat :)