Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Blogging (and Quilting) Again

Must be something about dramatic weather that gets me blogging. It's been many months since we got hit by that epic thunderstorm that Ada and I sewed our way through. Now we're hunkering down for another 3 inches on top of the 17 we got this weekend. This is how Ada feels about it.

Thankfully, I have several sewing projects to work on.

I've washed and pressed fabric for two projects: a baby blanket (a surprise for a friend who I THINK doesn't read this) and another gift. I can't say anything else. So I'll just show you.

These bright ones are mostly from the "It's a Hoot" line by MoMo for Moda. Gorgeous!
The greys must come from the doldrums of Minnesota winter (late fall, technically, I guess). I've been really getting into greys and monochromatics lately.

I'll update on project progress and snow melts as they happen. (Don't hold your breath on the latter.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sewing and Storms

Last Friday, a series of dramatic storms ripped through Minneapolis. Cars floated down Lyndale Avenue in a flash flood, our basement got slightly flooded, and my hair got cut. (That last one is unrelated to the storm but true, nonetheless.)

While Ada and I waited for Dada to either call for a ride from the Light Rail station or walk in the back door soaking wet, we plopped down in the middle of the living room. She, with an array of brightly colored toys in front of her, and I, with brightly colored fabric and ribbons. I sewed (or ironed, cut, and pinned, actually) while she banged her toys around and practiced dropping and picking them up again. And we chatted.

I'm pretty sure she thought that we were playing together, which, in a way, we were. I thought that we were enjoying some mother-daughter sewing time which, in a way, we were. I hope that one day she'll be a willing sewing pupil. We can make beanbags and aprons and doll clothes together. I hope that she will learn the joy of using her hands to transform object, of making use where there was none before. I hope she will be curious about how things are made and want to make them herself.

In the meantime, I used the ribbons and fabric and a plastic bag to make her a new toy so that she can keep playing while I sew. Or so we can play and sew together.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gardening in a Box

Sometimes I write things here:

This time it's about gardening but sometimes it's about food or farming, mostly in Minnesota. Other people write there too. If you enjoy local food, you should visit....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Growing

It's a time of growth around here. The garden is lush, almost too lush, if that is possible. Our radishes are three feet tall, flowering, and threatening to shade out the zucchini. The pea tendrils are wrapping themselves around the fence and neighboring lettuce. We haven't had a chance to put up scaffolding for it to lean into and clasp. We had an early spring, which no one in Minnesota can complain about. And now we've enjoyed lots of warm days and nourishing rains. The result is that our lilies are trying to put out five flowers at once. They've toppled over with ambition. Is it possible for our garden to be growing too quickly?

Yesterday I laid down on the couch with my daughter. I was on my back and she was belly to belly on me, her toes reaching my mid thigh. We laid like this, me watching her, while we waited for Dada to get home from work. Her hair is still whispy but thicker than it was even a few short weeks ago. She looked around the room as I watched her, trying to make sense of the sound and sight of the shadows shifting as cars drove past our front windows. She seemed to be listening to the sound of a bird's whistle as it drifted through the window. She lifts her shoulders and belly off the ground easily now. Crawling is just around the corner. She sits up on the rug, reaching for toys and her dog without Mama's help. Sometimes, when she's in my lap while I'm sitting at my desk, she bangs her head against my sternum. Hard. It was only a few months ago that we were all so concerned about the safety of that little head that she's now using as a weapon. And she eats. A lot. I am putting off giving her solid foods. Nursing is just so easy. And giving her solid foods means we're one day closer to not nursing at all. Already I miss the way she reaches for my fingers while she's eating and grasps them tightly, so tightly, in her chubby hands.

I was in the garden the other day (or was it a few weeks ago now?) weeding. It feels impossible to keep up this season. We pull up the little buggers or turn them over with a hoe, but they're growing impossibly fast. Will we ever be able to eat that much spinach? The cilantro (which is really from last year's seeds that were cast about in the wind) is knee high. Eric warned me the other day that we might have to pull up the radishes. The roots are still spindly, but the leaves and stalks are threatening to crowd out other plants. But I resist such a rash move. Surely there's time and space for all of it, right? Can't I have my radishes and peas too?

We're thinking a lot about growing around here: what to hold on to, when to let go. But I've answered my question. Yes, it is possible for things to grow too quickly; plants and children both. So I rub my girl's downy hair and pluck some lettuce leaves from the ground. I watch her watch me through the garden fence.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shopping From the Edge Redux

A month or so ago, I did a little experiment in which I shopped for one month solely from the perimeter of the coop (and from anywhere at the farmers market). This included: produce, meat, bulk, dairy, and bakery (which I didn't end up using).

Here's what I learned from this largely successful experiment.

- Shopping bulk can be a pain in the butt, but it's totally worth it in terms of savings at the register and in the wasteful packaging department.
- To make shopping bulk easier, have containers with you on each trip to the market. I've ended up using bulk for certain items, so I have one container already measured and marked with the tare (the weight of the container so they don't charge you for it) and the PLU (price look up so they charge you for the right item). Once I had those containers (mostly mason jars) set aside for staple items (brown sugar, sliced almonds, dried cherries and, yes, malted milk balls) refilling at bulk was almost as easy as buying prepackaged items off the shelf.
- I am NOT a bread baker... yet. I've now tried to bake bread three or four times with little to no success. The thing is, I've made pizza crust a bunch of times successfully so I know it's not the yeast or where I'm letting it rise or anything like that. I'm still convinced I'm going to love baking bread I just have to figure out how to do it.
- Shopping the perimeter meant that we had fewer processed foods and snack around the house, which was totally worth it. We saved money by not buying pricey spritzers and sodas and were (probably) eating food that was healthier for us. (OK, not the malted milk balls.)
- Using dried instead of canned beans is shockingly easy. Sure, it took some planning ahead because I had to soak them overnight, but they were WAY tastier and cheaper.
- I definitely made more items from scratch and even learned how to make paneer (Indian cheese), which was super easy.
- Bulk tea leaves are fancy and satisfyingly ritualistic. I was worried that I'd miss the ease and Britishness of pouring hot water over a tea bag, but I was surprised that I actually enjoyed using bulk tea on a regular basis. I just pulled out the old tea balls and away I went! A little extra cleaning up, but well worth the savings and deliciousness.

Will we continue? For the most part, it's so easy in the spring and summer to shop from the edge because we practically live on produce anyway (and because our farmers market offers SO much). I still have a bit more kitchen organizing to do, but I'll probably stick to trying to buy from bulk as much as possible.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quinoa: It's What's for Breakfast

In my last post I mentioned my trip to DC where my mom and dad live. In the week leading up to my visit, my mom asked if there were any foods she'd like me to stock up on. I gave her a list of things (steel cut oats, soy milk, yogurt, english muffins) that I've been eating for breakfast lately and my mom being my mom, she went out and bought EVERY last item on the list. I was not staying for a month and I was not bringing an army with me so, needless to say, there was an excess of breakfast foods. I did manage to at least eat a little bit of each thing and to introduce my mom (who regularly eats rolled oats) to the wonders of steel cut oats.

For those of you who haven't tried them, these tasty nuggets of flavor and texture can be found in the hot cereal aisle (or bulk food aisle) in vintage-like cans.

God bless the Irish.

They take longer to cook and require more babysitting than traditional rolled oats, but the pay-off are chewy, yet crunchy whole grains that put their mushy (processed) cousins to shame. My mom was sold.

Leave it to my youngest brother to kick it up another notch. While we were discussing the relative merits of steel cut oats, Andrew, who is a cook at a brunch place, mentioned that they serve quinoa for breakfast. While quinoa is often cooked like couscous (covered in a pan of boiled water while the grains soak up all the liquid), he said they cook theirs like pasta which makes for more consistent cooking. Cooked quinoa also refrigerates well. So I cooked up some quinoa for breakfast this morning. It took a mere ten minutes compared to the 20 to 30 for steel cut oats. I mixed it up with a little cream, brown sugar, and dried cherries. It soaked up the cream a little more readily than oats do, making it harder to play with the consistency, but the grains were delicious. They stick to your ribs a little less than oats do so they're a great warmer weather, quicker cooking alternative.

Next up: a cardamom- anise seed addition to my morning cereal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shopping the Edge With the Better Half

First, a confession. I was back in DC (where I'm from) last weekend and the shopping from the edge experiment took a back seat. I didn't do much shopping there, but the little I did do (with my mom) did violate some of the rules I've laid out for myself. The night I made pizza for my parents, I did a pretty good job: only the pizza sauce and olives were from a center aisles. But when I was shopping for a party that my parents were having for their newest granddaughter, I was less able to adhere. It's not my household (anymore) and, thankfully (for my parents) I'm passing (slowly) out of the stage in which I think I know more than they do. Besides, they conserve in other ways like doing all their dishes by hand even though they have a dish washer.

In my absence, my husband was instructed to at least try to keep our house a center-aisle free zone. It was a risky maneuver.The first time we went shopping together, he asked if he had to adhere to the rules when he was shopping. "Do what your conscience tells you to do," I told him. "You don't want me to do that," he retorted. "My conscience will let me do pretty much whatever I want to." Clearly I'd forgotten who I married. My husband's mantra is, in the famous words of South Park's Cartman, "Whatever. I do what I want."

But to my pleasant surprise, what the old man wanted to do this time was actually participate in the experiment. I expected to find telltale frozen pizza boxes and soda cans in the house, garbage, or recycling but instead E stuck with eating leftovers, frozen pizza crust, and grilled burgers. His veg intake might have been a little low but so was his consumption of over-packaged, processed foods. Yay old man!

The good news is that we're down from averaging about three bags of garbage a week to two. But the biggest difference is probably in the number of items we're putting into our recycling bins. Yes, you say, but recycling is good! And reducing is better!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shopping From the Edge: First Trip to the Coop

By far the greatest success of this first trip to the coop was purchasing both brown sugar and dried cherries in bulk for two reasons: I remembered my containers from home and it couldn't have been easier. In fact, I love that I don't have to deal with moving the brown sugar to a more resealable container because it's already in a mason jar.

Mason jars, which I do sometimes use for actual canning, make me feel warm and fuzzy and nostalgic for a time that I have no memory of. They make me want to grow and ferment things and store items in my pantry that I bought out of a bin at The General Store along with a few yards of calico, a spool of grosgrain ribbon, and penny candy. The make me want to hold chicken eggs up to the light to determine whether they've been fertilized. In fact, I have so many mason jars used for so many different things in my kitchen (making yogurt, storing food, growing sprouts), that sometimes I have to remind myself that I do not live in a little house on a prairie.

I have to admit that my first trip was rough. I was tempted by each of the middle aisles, especially the one that has bars of really dark chocolate. I was panicked that I would be hungry for a snack and there'd be nothing to eat at home, which, of course, is silly because there's always cheese or yogurt or fruit. I even perused the bulk section for snack foods. I was impressed by the array of items I'd never noticed before: all shapes of pasta, olive oil and maple syrup, and more types of teas than even in the tea aisles.

I will return to the bulk section. And I will like it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First Mama's Day

It turns out that even when you do things like entertain yourself by placing your daughter's shirt part-way on and then taking pictures, you get spoiled for one special Sunday in May.

In our house, this means that husband wakes up early to go to the coop to buy fresh ingredients for breakfast which includes a bowl of fruit; light, lovely pop-overs; my favorite tea AND orange juice; and Eggs Benedict replete with the best darn from scratch Hollandaise sauce you've ever had (which says a lot since you order it almost every time you go out for breakfast). I'm wondering if I should be worried that my current reign as Queen of the Kitchen might be threatened by my husband who until now has specialized almost exclusively in baked goods. (Although this might have been his crucial mistake: now that I know what he's capable of, I might be demanding more food stuff drenched in Hollandaise.) To top things off, he only bought one thing (the English Muffins) that was in violation of my current "shopping from the edge" experiment.

I even got to enjoy a little of the New York Times (Sunday!) in bed before the little bug woke up, rolled over, and won (demanded?) my attention.

I only had to do ONE load of diaper laundry the whole day, had a lovely scenic paddleboat ride down the Mississippi River with my best guy and my best gal AND got to take a nap.

I might even have more kids just so I can get multiple special Sundays each year. That IS how it works, right?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May Food Experiment: Shopping From the Edge

For four consecutive weeks (beginning this past Tuesday) I'm shopping exclusively from the perimeter (and the bulk section) of my coop (and, of course, the Farmer's Market). What do I hope to accomplish by doing this?

1) Healthier Eats. Even at the coop, where they stock the shelves with local and generally more healthful foods, the aisles in the middle of the store are filled with items that are more processed than items on the perimeter. Some "health experts" even advise avoiding those middle aisles to lose weight. Since I'm breastfeeding right now, losing weight isn't a goal as much as eating healthy, but if that ends up being a side effect, I probably won't complain.

2) Less Packaging Waste. I'm going to be shopping from the bulk section a fair amount and hopefully I'll get better about bringing containers from home to pack in the store. Right now we average about three kitchen-sized bags of crap that we throw out each week (plus our recyclables). I'm hoping to see a decrease.

3) More "Experimental" Cooking and Cooking From Scratch. Most of the items I'll be buying will be raw ingredients, which means if I'm craving, say, granola bars, I'm going to have to figure out how to make them myself. Amongst the other items I'm going to have to learn to make from scratch: polenta, pizza sauce, vegetable stock, mustard, and mayonnaise.

4) Less Food Waste. I find that the more involved I am in the process of making food, the less likely I am to let it go to waste. So, for example, I might let a container of Chinese take out sit in the fridge until it grows alien life forms and has to be tossed, but my homemade yogurt is a precious, precious commodity that I will not let go to waste. I also hope that by learning to cook more from scratch, I'll be able to cook more meals just with what I have available in the pantry and fridge without having to make extra trips to the grocery store.

What, exactly, will I be "able" to buy. Produce, eggs, milk, butter, (and cheese -- I could perhaps learn to make it , but that's a little too hardcore for me), meats and fish, and whatever is in the bulk section plus whatever I can get at the farmer's market. Even though the frozen food section is on the perimeter of the store, I'm going to be skipping that part (especially since I can get fresh produce these days). I'm also going to skip the bread section and learn how to make bread from scratch.

What do I anticipate happening?
1) By about week 2, I'm going to wonder, "Why the hell am I doing this?"
2) I'm going to love baking my own bread, but it's never going to be as good as the bread from local bakeries and it's never really going to be time effective.
3) I'm going to succumb to desires for: cereal, pre-made chicken stock, and condiments.
4) I'm going to be forced to organize my kitchen to stay on top of bulk food purchase.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hall and Oates Lives!

The Bird and the Bee have a kick-ass cover album out. Here's one performance - not great quality, but I love that Inara George is super preggo here. The rest of the album is great. As Eric pointed out last night, "Hall and Oates just put out hit after hit." And The Bird and the Bee did them one better.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A scene from "More Things My Husband Says"

Late winter. Eric, the tall, dark-haired husband sits in a cushy red rocking chair next to a sunny window. The newborn baby resting on his shoulder, nuzzles his neck. His wife sits on the edge of the bed.

Eric [laughing]: It feels so funny when she roots around on my neck, looking for a nipple.

Wife [distracted]: Mm-hmmm....

Eric: What if she finds one?

Wife [attentive]: What?

Eric: What if she finds a nipple on my neck?

Wife: You're so weird.

Eric [concerned]: What am I going to do?

Wife: You're so weird.

And scene.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February, still?

I did not long for summer, until I saw this video:

... and until yesterday when some women at mom-baby yoga were talking about the joys of having a naked baby in the house.

Thank you for all the kind thoughts and congratulations after my birth announcement post. Ada, Eric, and I are doing great -- adjusting to the joys (and rescheduling) of being together in the world. I'll hopefully be able to start posting more often again (and include baby pics!).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where there was no person, now there is one!

I've taken a rather long break from blogging. We've been busy. I hope this is a reasonable excuse.
This is Ada Christine. She took one year of TTC, 42 weeks of gestation, 28 hours of pitocin-induced labor, and four hours of pushing to make.

It was well worth it.

She weighed 10 pounds 5 ounces at birth and was 22.5 inches long. She's bigger now at four weeks.

She was born on her dad's birthday, New Year's Eve.

She's named for her dad's great aunt and her mom's mom.

She was pretty much the best thing we've ever made.

And we're pretty sure we're going to keep her.