Saturday, August 6, 2011

His Mother's Child

I'm a creature of habit. Serious habit. I really, really dislike having my schedule disturbed. This is not always a positive trait of mine, and last night it became apparent that I have passed it on to my son.

Some friends of ours had a party at their lake cottage down the road last night. It started around six, with the idea of eating around 6:30 p.m. Cubby goes to bed at 7 p.m. It was only about 15 minutes away, so I figured we could go, Cubby would play with the other kids for a little while, maybe eat something, and then A. could stay while I took Cubby home to put him to bed, returning to the party myself after the MiL got home from her party.

So we went, there was a child's-size tractor for Cubby to play with; he chased around a soccer ball some older boys were smacking with hockey sticks; there were cats all over the place for him to coo over . . . in short, we were having a good time. So when A. said there was a portable crib in the cottage that we could use for Cubby to fall asleep in, I went against my better judgement and agreed to try it.

It was dark and quiet in the room the crib had been set up in. Cubby was very tired, he had eaten a good dinner. There was no reason on earth he shouldn't have just gone right to sleep. And no way in hell he was going to.

I gave it about 10 minutes before I pulled a very unhappy Cubby out of the crib, strapped a now-screaming Cubby into his car seat, drove him the 15 minutes home and deposited him in his own crib. Thirty seconds after reaching that safe haven, he was asleep.

Lesson learned. Cubby will be home for his bedtime or there will be no bedtime. Duly noted.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Almost Afternoon Already?

How did that happen? Oh. Right. No morning nap.

Not for me, of course, though I would dearly love to be able to take a morning nap. No, sadly it was Cubby who elected to not sleep this morning, instead whirling around like a dervish, eating anything put in the proximity of his face (bread and cream cheese, peaches, egg salad, pickled green beans, blueberries, Cheerios . . the kid is a black hole), stacking blocks, rolling around, and generally just . . . not sleeping.

So. Here it is, noon. I'm just eating my lunch now and I have gotten very little done so far today. Other than keeping an apparently starving child hell-bent on his own destruction alive and fed, which I suppose is something.

Now I must go make some panzanella for a party we're supposed to attend tonight. With tomatoes from the garden, because at least they're managing to produce something edible despite the drought. Panzanella is also supposed to include a cucumber, and that, I do not have. What kind of garden doesn't produce cucumbers, of all things? Oh, right. This year's shitty garden. Usually I have so many cucumbers they're rotting in the crisper. This year I can't even come up with one lousy cucumber for panzanella.

Oh well. At least I have the tomatoes. That's what's really important.

Happy Friday, duckies!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rainy Day Fun

Well. After all that drama and online hand-wringing yesterday about the total lack of rain, it, uh, rained. Of course it did. Actually, most of the day it kind of pissed around, sprinkling now and then. Just enough to be damp outside without a real soaking. Which meant Cubby and I had a fun day in the four rooms.

We also had a brief trip to the pediatrician, during which we were not kept waiting forever OR told to come back in a week for a vaccination that couldn't be given until Cubby was 18 months, 2 days, and 10 hours old. Or whatever. So! Success!

The rest of the day was mostly spent playing indoors. Cubby was wearing very beachy attire yesterday despite the weather. He accessorized himself, though.

Daddy's hat is key to avoiding over-tanning. Also, it is apparently extremely exciting.

And of course, a color-coordinated bucket is a must-have for any fashionable beach-goer.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the CD playing at this moment on the TV and DVD you see back there was The Beach Boys' greatest hits. Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world, indeed.

Shortly after this, A. took Cubby out with him to let the sheep out to graze on the neighbors' pasture. And shortly after that, the misty rain changed to a downpour, soaking both the head shepherd and his assistant. Neither of them cried, however. You have to be tough to be a shepherd.

So that was yesterday. Who knows what today may bring? More rain, we hope. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Photo Tour of Disappointment

This has been a very odd summer. Not only has it been hot, which isn't so strange by itself, but it's been dry. Very dry. Like, almost desert conditions dry. No rain, low humidity, lots of sun. While I sort of enjoy the low humidity and the lack of mildew on the walls in the bathroom, the garden is not so happy.

Allow me to show you the sadness.

Sad squash. This whole area should be covered with vines of Chioggia pumpkins, butternut squash, and cucumbers all up those pallets. Alas, no cucurbits, thanks to no rain.

Sad beans. Bush beans on the right, pole beans on the left. The bush beans produced for about a week before giving up, the pole beans have grown and grown, but have not yet evidenced a single flower to indicate any beans to come. Because, I have no doubt, there has been no rain.

Sad Ronde de Nice zucchini. Of the eight (admittedly somewhat aged) seeds I planted, only two germinated. One was killed by drought, leaving me with a single, solitary zucchini plant way in the back there. Sniff.

Sad tomatoes. Okay, actually the tomatoes aren't TOO sad. A few of the Romas had blossom end rot, but I have been harvesting some Stupice, Baby Cakes, and Black Krims. I don't think the plants will produce as much as they can this year, though, thanks to the whole no rain thing.

This is where Penny the hen has been laying her eggs, high up in the hay barn. I included this photo to relieve the depression a little bit. Her eggs are delicious, and we anticipate the seven Rhode Island Red hens we seem to have will start laying soon. Rain or no rain.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Manifesto

You may have gotten the impression by now that I really love food. That is correct. Well, I really love good food, and good food comes from only one place: the kitchen. Not the kitchen of Stouffer's, either. My kitchen. But someone has to be in the kitchen to cook the food. So I cook. But if I may be frank with you . . . I don't actually love to cook.

I'm not one of those people who spends hours in the kitchen preparing some elaborate meal because cooking relaxes me. It doesn't relax me. Probably because I do it every single day, three times a day, so it's more like a chore than a hobby. Which means that I'm all about making it easy for myself.

Cooking is easy for me, but you know WHY it's easy? Because I do it so damn much. And this is where I get so irritated with people who get all up on their high horse about how it's so easy to just go into the kitchen and throw things together! Anyone can do it! Even you there, who has never so much as scrambled an egg! YOU CAN COOK! GOGOGOGO!!!


You can cook, sure. You should learn to cook. And you will eventually be able to just go into the kitchen and throw things together that taste the way you want them to, but not until you've been in that kitchen a LOT. To start with, you have to follow recipes so you can learn how to put food together. Reading and following recipes takes time, so it's not going to be easy and quick in the beginning. If you don't have exactly the ingredients called for in the recipe, it takes experience to know what can be substituted or just left out.

Plus, some recipes just plain suck. But you won't know which ones until you either try them or have enough time logged in the kitchen to foresee what combinations of ingredients will be disgusting to you, no matter how carefully the recipe is followed.

I figure it took me about three years of pretty constant cooking before I got really skilled.

I was thinking about this last night as I was making dinner. I started my meal planning with the idea that I would use eggs as my protein. And then I had a single zucchini, some tomatoes, onion, garlic, a few potatoes, a couple of strips of bacon, some fresh oregano and basil . . . these are all things that can be combined into a delicious meal, but to make it without any kind of guide, there were a lot of hard-earned bits of knowledge that came into play.

The order in which to add the ingredients to the pan: bacon first to render its grease, then the onion and garlic to cook in the grease before any liquid was added, then the zucchini to start softening and releasing its water, then the tomatoes to do the same, then the diced potatoes that would cook in the liquid exuded from the previous two ingredients, then the fresh herbs that you really don't want to overcook, then the eggs on top of it all.

How small to cut the bacon and the low temperature it should be cooked at so it renders as much fat as possible.

How small to dice the rest of the ingredients so they cook quickly.

How much water to add so the potatoes cook, but it doesn't get soupy.

How much salt to add, and on and on and on.

Except now I don't really think about these things much, because the practice has made it all automatic. What I think is really a disservice to beginning cooks, however, is pretending that those people can just jump in the kitchen and do this sort of thing without any practice at all. That's untrue, and will result in frustration and probably abandoning cooking altogether. And that would be a shame.

So if you're a novice in the kitchen, just get in there and start cooking. Use recipes, make mistakes, throw things out because they're gross, but just keep on going no matter what. Because that's how the good food gets made. And then, of course, you get to eat that good food, which is the whole point, after all.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shipping the Friendly Skies

Shortly after the debacle with the busted toy box, courtesy of Fed Ex, was cleared up, my dad asked if there was anything else we needed.

Little did he know.

The list I came up with included a Cubby-sized chair, a step stool so Cubby could reach the sink to wash his hands (once he, uh, can wash his hands--we're not quite there yet) and some coasters.

Yes. Toddler paraphernalia and cocktail accessories. That about sums it up.

The chair and the step stool were completed in what seemed to be a very short amount of time. In fact, they were completed shortly before the great family gathering in Wisconsin. So my dad, rather than ship them and go through all of that mess again, instead decided to just bring them with him on the plane and we could throw them in the car to bring them home.

The only reason he could bring them on the plane, however, is because he was flying Southwest Airlines. And on Southwest, you are still allowed two pieces of free checked luggage. Free. FREEEEE. Not $25 or $30 or whatever obscene amount most airlines are charging these days. Free. Because it is Southwest, and they are awesome*.

Both pieces of furniture made it through the trip unscathed and are now fulfilling their purpose of giving Cubby something his own size to climb on and tip over and smack his head with.

Behold, the throne of the prince. Which landed on top of the prince last night when he attempted to stand on it to make a proclamation. There were no lasting injuries to either chair or child.

"Tank" is my dad's nickname for Cubby. It's not as cute of a name as Cubby, but it is certainly appropriate.

I should mention that the chair is all handmade without nails and is made of black walnut. It's strong enough that even the adults can sit on it, incredibly beautiful, and probably way too nice for a toddler chair. Which means, of course, that it's just right for the Little Prince to sit on while he eats his Cheerios.

We dine formally at Blackrock.

Baca triumphs again.**

* They are also awesome because my dad and my brother are both Southwest pilots. And I have an aunt and an uncle that are Southwest flight attendants. They're a really great company to work for. And no, I don't work for them and nobody paid me to say this.

** Baca is the name given to my dad by my niece. We don't know why, but that was the name bestowed by the first grandchild, and so Baca he will be forever.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


My garden is burning up. It's been so hot and so dry and so sunny that the plants are just . . . crispy. There are no cucumbers or cantaloupes on the vines, despite a lot of flowering. The pole beans have grown and grown like Jack's beanstalk, but they're not even producing any flowers to indicate actual beans anytime soon. The Chioggia pumpkin plants are the saddest-looking vines ever, in a constant, dispiriting state of wilting. The corn is almost ready to be harvested and the ears are the smallest I've ever seen. The blackberries just shriveled up before all the berries were ready to be harvested, and the green beans have pretty much just given up entirely.

It's been depressing.

Watering has always been a problem in our garden. There was never enough water for the house, much less for the vast, thirsty garden. But now we do have enough water for the house, thanks to A. and his lake pump. So perhaps there might be a way to get some of that water to the garden?

Sure there is. But only if you're clever enough to figure out how to run a regular garden hose off a one-inch plastic pump hose, and then fit a sprinkler head onto a garden hose that has no actual screw-on part. Luckily for me, A. is that clever.

Yesterday he manipulated various hoses and couplings to put together a sprinkler in the garden that runs off the lake pump. He started the pump around 5:30 p.m. and it ran until 8:30 p.m., when it ran out of gas. We moved the sprinkler several times, in an attempt to reach all corners of our huge garden. Some of the farthest reaches didn't get watered in those three hours, so we'll have to do it again tonight.

It's not a perfect solution--only actual rain is a perfect solution, but that's not looking likely anytime soon--but it is SO NICE to be able to water the garden without struggling with a huge, heavy plastic hose that washes away soil, crushes plants, and waters me almost as much as the ground.

It may be too late to save some of the plants in the garden, but I'm hoping we can salvage some things at least. With the aid of our miraculous sprinkler, courtesy of my miraculous husband.