Friday, August 29, 2008

They might be giants

Well, the garden is in high season, literally as this picture will attest. Michael is 6' tall and surrounded here by Benary Giant zinnias and Russian Giant sunflowers. This part of the garden is making a little bit of a spectacle for the neighbors. People stroll down our street in the evening and often stop to observe the giants and the wild array in the garden. Its fun to be sitting in the house and hearing their observations, amazement over the height, glee over the squash growing in the chainlink fence, interest in the giant spider-web bean poles.

We have never grown corn before and are anxiously awaiting the first picking, probably this weekend, as our corn went in a bit later than most local corn. But, our three sisters planting of corn, beans and squash/pumpkins has been a success and there are many ears ripening on the stalks!

We're managing to keep up with the kale by making lots of wilted kale salad, sesame greens with rice, yum! from Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair's great whole foods cookbook, which we use regularly and by making Colcannon, an irish dish mixing mashed potatoes with kale and onions and sometimes cabbage. This recipe is great when there's a little cool snap in the air. And the leftovers can be reheated as patties in olive oil for really delicious savory potato pancakes.

We have about 6 weeks to the frost date here and are excited to see how much wonderful food keeps growing steps from the front door. Here's what I picked when I came home from work the other night...

Happy Harvest!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Papa's got a brand new (old) car and the latest look at the garden

Well after a couple of weeks of very frustrating, demoralizing searching, Michael found a new (used) car to replace the one he totaled. His mission was a pretty tough one. He needed to find a reliable, safe set of wheels that didn't cost any more than the insurance company paid him for his old one (not much!) and we were hoping that he could find something that got better mileage than his Mercury Sable.

After many discouraging hours looking at over-priced piles of s.......tuff, being baited and switched, and rudely brushed off by opportunistic used car dealers...hmm is that redundant? We were just at that point when you really begin to think that people suck, when Craigslist came through! We met a very nice man who was selling his older and much loved Honda Civic because he was upgrading to a slightly newer vehicle that his friend was selling him at a good price. Our Honda guy wasn't looking to make a big profit, or rip anyone off. He was completely forthcoming, giving us repair history and even telling us of the next big work that will likely need doing in a year or two. And when we went to sign the papers, he gave us the roof rack and bicycle rack as well as a clean car with a full tank of gas. Our faith in humanity was renewed!

This was all accomplished under the budget that we needed to stay under, and with more than enough money banked for the big repair next year.

Since we also went and met with the adoption agency the other night and found out about the whopping large sum that will need to be found to pay for agency fees, legal fees, medical expenses, etc. , coming in under-budget here was a real big deal. Hoorah!

And I'll leave you with the latest pictures from our burgeoning garden. Hope things are ripening and flourishing around you!

Our weekly bread

Since last January, we've moved away from eating anything packaged, overly processed, made with white sugar, white flour, trans-fats, additives, etc. Basically we've gone to pretty much a whole foods diet. So far, it has meant the loss of some unwanted extra weight (and more to come), 100 points on my cholesterol reading (I can't remember how much Michael's dropped but it too was significant), better (more consistent) energy, less trash (far fewer food packages) and less consumer guilt.

It has also meant a serious restructuring of the pantry, much more time spent together in the kitchen cooking, more advanced planning on meals and a much better understanding of what we put in our bodies for fuel and where it comes from.

We try to get about 90% of our fuel from plant-based substances, leaves, fruits, grains and allow ourselves one serving per day of organic, wild or humanely raised animal-based food...butter on your toast, milk in your coffee, a piece of meat (swim, fly or amble), cheese, egg, or what have you.

I've always enjoyed baking bread, and now, with the way we eat, I bake all of our bread. At this point that means two loaves of sourdough whole wheat bread a week. And possibly a baked goodie somewhere in there a few times a month. The above picture is fresh from the oven and ready for slicing up for sandwiches or toast for the week. I have many wonderful bread recipes, but my standby for the sourdough weekly bread is Everyday Sourdough Bread from Richard Packham. I use the measures at the end of the recipe for individual loaves, make enough dough for 3 by his calculations, and make two large loaves that fit in the big loaf pans I inherited from my mother. Very nice!

I don't use the powdered milk. When I have fresh milk, I scald it and cool it to room temperature and use that instead of the water and the powdered milk. Just use the same amount of scalded milk as he calls for water. But, if I don't have milk, I just skip it. The bread is not quite as tender but still comes out quite nicely.

Since I always keep a sourdough starter going in my fridge, I just take it out the night before, refresh it with equal parts flour and water and let it sit over night to bubble away. Then I start from there with his recipe. It is a staple around here!

I also make all of our pizza dough from scratch. I find that with my starter, this dough usually does rise to double in size and I cut it into two balls. This works great to freeze and take out in the morning if you feel like a fresh homemade pizza that night.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another project for the lil' goober

Finished my first Baby Surprise Jacket designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I used a nice bright colorway in Plymouth Yarn Outback Wool. It feels like it'll be nice and comfy and the wool has a great hand to work on. A fun project once you decode it! Now I'm on the hunt for some appropriate buttons.

Some stress, some relief and some serious gratitude!

Stress is getting a call from your husband in the middle of the afternoon, telling you he's been in an accident, driven off the road, into a ditch, that he's fine but shaken and to please leave work immediately to rescue him from the side of the road. Low level freak-out in prairie-dog land. I've never shut down the computer, locked everything up, notified the boss and raced for the car so fast!

When I arrived at the scene that Michael had directed me to, I saw a crowd gathered, no husband, and a tow truck straining to haul something out of a deep culvert. Gulp! Luckily, then I saw Michael, leaning against the side of a building, off in a quiet corner, looking rattled and pale.

Relief is seeing for myself that he's relatively unscathed. A troubling back twinge which showed up about an hour after the accident, (soon to be checked out medically) but none of the gruesome possibilities that flooded my brain as they hauled his wrecked car out of the big deep hole. Relief also that the woman who was entirely at fault for the accident did eventually admit her responsibility and was cited with a traffic violation. His poor car even made the front page of the local paper.

Gratitude is looking at this wonderful man who I married ten short months ago, and thanking my lucky stars for every minute of time I have with him safely tucked in our little corner of this big planet. I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baby Steps

Today we made an appointment with the agency that we hope to have handle our domestic infant adoption. This is big—SUPER BIG. And I'm kind of alternating between giddy hyper-excitement and stomach-flipping overwhelm.

Because knitting generally has a calming effect on me, when we really got down to making this step I picked up my needles and cast on a first pair of booties for the lil' goober. Christine's Stay-on Baby Booties from Fuzzy Galore is an incredibly fun and easy way to use up odd bits of yarn. I can't wait until there is a little one to wear them.

Now that they're off the needles, I've cast on a Baby Surprise Jacket which I'll photograph once it looks like more than a hodgepodge of stitches. I realize that there are a zillion more hurdles to jump through before we are actual, official parents. But we have made that first step and we are on our way. Whoohoo!