Sunday, March 27, 2011

The zoo. . .

Liam went through a zoo-making phase this weekend.  He also was delighted, delighted to be addressed as "zookeeper" and to tell me all about the animals. 

"Well, this Lion. . .this Lion, see, he has a big mane, that's his hair; and he has a long tail with this black puff at the end, and his toes are black too and his tummy is very round. . .it's very round see, because he has been eating hay."

Note that when you are the zoo keeper it is important to use your binoculars (backwards) to get a good look at all the animals.  My job was to help make the animal houses and to occasionally intervene when the real animals tried to play.  "Mommy!  AGGGGGGAHHHHH!  Mommy!  Pixie no, NO, NOOOOOO.  Mommy. . .HELP!"  (Pixie is the cat; she is too big for lion houses made from blocks and a hazard to the lion fence too.)  My job also was to pretend to sleep and then wake up and sing the zoo song (you know the one)* and then go to the zoo to be given a(nother) tour by the zoo keeper.

Also this weekend: we successfully walked the dog with no yelling and no crying, which is a very big success.  Did lots of swinging on the swing even though it rained most of both days.  Filled in the Very Big Hole dug by the dog and continued with the gravel-moving-bootcamp workout.  Made carrot raisin cookies, so good.  And took a trip to urgent care because Liam "bonked" his eye on a cardboard box and (as it turns out) scratched his cornea slightly.  (He is fine; will be fine.  Mommy almost had to start drinking after having to help strap her screaming baby into the papoose so his eye could be examined.) 

Here's how Liam explained what happened to the doctor: "Well, Mommy was brushing her teeth and I was on my Auntie Chris' couch, I mean her beddie, and I wasn't looking where I was going and I bonked my eye on a box." 

"Wasn't looking where I was going" is all his own explanation;  my word was accident, as in "You accidentally bonked your eye and it hurts."  He was so brave about the whole thing.  Afterward he said to me: 
"Mommy, I really didn't like that special beddie to help me hold still."   "No, you didn't like it; I didn't like it either, but we had to help you hold still so Dr. Karl could get a good look at your eye." "Yes, we had to do it."  (My description of the papoose; special beddie that helps you hold still, which I thought was pretty good considering I had all of 45 seconds to come up with some way to explain what was about to happen.)

Love and light to my old friend Fred tonight who is (I hope) getting ready to be awakened from his second heart transplant.  What else to say about that.  Go Fred, I wish you many, many more happy years and blessings, peace and comfort to the donor family. 

*This was the best? only link I could fine on YouTube, and it's a cool live recording but not as nice an arrangement for singing as the zoo song we grew up with.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The garden is up; the fence is down

Peas planted three weeks ago at least, before the snow and then the flood and then the weeks of rain, sleet and hail, those peas are sprouted.  And the kale too.  Still no sign of the shallots or fava beans, but I'm hopeful.  Optimism and willingness to work in the rain are the two most important qualities for successful gardening in the maritime NW as far as I can tell.

The second lift of peas went in this weekend.  (Sounds so huge, it is only really two more short rows, about four feet each, the width of the raised beds.)  Carrots went in too.  Romaine.  More kale.  Planted by Liam and me on the first sunny day in ages, and slept their first sleep under the biggest full moon one could wish for.  Beets and other lettuces will follow soon.  Summer broccoli.  And we'll go on that way for a while until June when maybe it will be warm enough for the pole beans to go in and the basil.  In July I'll get tomato transplants from the Farmer's Market, and maybe a hot pepper or two.

Liam found some side-shoots from the overwintered purple-sprouting broccoli when he was helping me plant.  He was so excited to eat it raw from the garden; purple broccoli was a revelation.  It was a beautiful purple, but none of the pictures came out.

Just before the great snow, yes, before, I started a somewhat misguided front-garden-wall-replacement-project.  The fence did not survive the great melt/flood/deluge and collapsed into the back excavation for the new wall, so now it has become a wall and fence replacement project.  I got into this sideways when the north side neighbor mentioned that the fence line zigged when it ought to be straight and it should be fixed in a way that would give me four more feet of sun.  Four feet of sunny front yard perfect for blueberries?  Okay, I can get comfortable with that.  Except the elevation difference between my place and her's is about three feet in the front.  So, the side wall needed to be moved.  And it is, of course, attached to the front wall.  So I think, if we're going to get into this we should do it right and just replace the whole crooked, cinder-block wall mess with something that will look decent.  Thus began the total replacement of the wall; and now the fence too.  Note to self: leave things well enough alone already.

It has been too wet and rainy to get the wall in right for most of the past two weeks, but Friday's half dry day started real progress again and I'm cautiously hopeful that they might wrap it up this week.  Liam is very much enjoying watching all this unfold, from the big truck with detachable forklift that delivered the blocks, to the wall digging and progress, to, especially, the mud pit that used to be our parking strip. 

Happy first day of spring; we are ready for it around here, that's for sure.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Buckwheat noodles and broccoli

It's shaping up to be a real and truly animal-free food weekend.  Friday night I made red lentil dal and brown rice (from here, a lovely place) which I served with broccoli and some more orange squash.  Saturday dinner was buckwheat noodles with broccoli from Bittman, Food Matters.  These noodles were so, so easy and so good, and were just inhaled by the small one.  (They are teriyaki noodles and asparagus in the cook book.)  I adapted the recipe a little, which is to say, I left out the ingredients I didn't have around.

8-10 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
4 cups cut up broccoli
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon each garlic and ginger, minced
2 tablespoons or less oil (I used canola, I think)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey mixed with 2 tablespoons water (this is a mirin substitute)

1. Mix the soy sauce and honey/water 
2. Bring some water to boil for the noodles.
3.  In a large pan suitable for stir-frying cook the broccoli with the oil, ginger, garlic and green onions.  I added the oil and when it was hot added the broccoli and green onions, cooked until it was starting to turn bright, then added the ginger and garlic, cooked a minute or so more, then added some water and covered to steam until the broccoli was all bright green but still crunchy.  Take off the cover, turn off the heat.
4.  Cook the noodles; mine took 3 minutes after the water returned to a boil.  Don't overcook them.
5.  Turn the heat to medium-ish under the broccoli.  Add the cooked noodles, about 1/2 cup of cooking water, and the soy sauce mixture.  Stir around and cook until everything is mixed well and heated through and the sauce has reduced slightly; this worked out to be about another 5-6 minutes.  That's it, you're done.

Next time I would add lots more vegetables, at least red pepper and onion, and maybe carrots too.  Bittman calls for adding some shelled edamame at the end with the noodles and I'm sure that would be good.  I didn't have any edamame in the freezer this week for some reason. 

Liam ate salmon and veg. last night (he's not a big lentil fan) and a little more salmon with his broccoli and noodles tonight.  Loved it all, especially the noodles.

It's raining, raining, raining this weekend and predicted to continue. The front fence collapsed because the new retaining wall in the front has been so delayed by weather.  So, now I guess we'll be getting a new fence too.  Great.

Happy Birthday to Auntie Chris today.  What is to say about Auntie Chris? She is simply the best sister, auntie, naval officer, a person could ever encounter.  We are so blessed and lucky to have her in our lives. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

My first week as a vegan

In my grocery store, the organic spinach apparently comes with lady bugs included.

On Monday I started a 30-day vegan "cleansing" project.  This basically involves not eating animal foods (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) and eating whole plant-based foods instead, as much as possible.  For me, these structured events are a good way to re-baseline my food habits and cravings.  I've done them before, but this year's guided on-line version organized by this person here, is truly compassionate and impressive and I'm really enjoying the materials and community.  It makes me more conscious of my commitments to myself.

At the same time, I'm pretty casual about it.  In my first week "animal free," I've eaten 2 small pieces of chicken (while traveling for work and eating late in a hotel), 2 eggs, some small chocolates that I get in the grocery store checkout line and just don't feel the need to give up, and a little bit of chicken pot pie when GoGo and GG invited us to stay for dinner and that was what was on the table.  Oh, and 2 small buckwheat pancakes when GoGo and GG invited us to the Fat Tuesday pancake supper at their church.  (Buckwheat pancakes w/out butter are not as good as buckwheat pancakes with butter, I'll tell you that.)  Also, I'm still working the loaf sprouted wheat bread that was in the kitchen when this started for my morning peanut butter toast, and while I haven't looked it doubtless has some small amount of dairy in it.

On the other hand, I've eaten: massive amounts of broccoli, a butternut squash, cooked white beans with garlic, brown rice, an apple and/or a banana every day, tofu and vegetables from the veg lunch spot, an entire huge container of raw spinach, lentils, almonds, popcorn (with soy sauce, my favorite), and at least 300 ounces of water.  And I haven't eaten any: cookies, lattes, cheese, croissants (we have the best french bakery here, really you should visit), pasta, chocolate (other than those grocery store checkout line candies), or alcohol, I've cut coffee by more than half, to only one cup a day, and upped the water intake.  And I feel lots better.  And my skin is clear, and I wake up with more energy.  And I've lost a pound or two (probably not for reals, but at least on the scale).  So, I'll stick with it for another 3 weeks and at the end, I'll work eggs and fish and meat back in as I come across them.  I don't feel any particular urge to be a vegan full time, but these little vacations from animal foods are really illustrative and helpful, at least for me.  Try it for a day.  Or maybe just a few meals a week.

Another illustration: Liam asked me the other day, "well, how do they get the hamburger from the cows."  In a total and complete cop out I said, "we'll talk about that some other time."  And, because it was late and he was tired, and there was cold milk, fig newton, and story time in the offing, he---for once---let it go and hasn't brought it up again.  One more reason to eat quinoea and kale.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A small trip was made

We visited my sister in Monterey, CA last weekend.  It was lovely.  Just lovely.  Sunny and warm (especially compared to here), and the ocean, oh the ocean, my favorite place always.  She is close to the beach.  We aquarium-ed; walked in the nearby nature reserve ("Mommy!  I went on two hikes in one day!); went to the beach, put our feet in the ocean and marveled at waves, rocks, purple and pink seaweed, and hermit crabs; picked up shells; watched seals, sea lions, otters; ate breakfast out. 

First airplane ride for the small one and he handled it well; handled it all well, and so far as I can tell had a wonderful time.  Thanks Auntie Chris.  We'll be back, I hope.

Photos are: airplane; kelp forest; the blue pool on the second "hike"; Auntie Chris and Liam come up  the hill on the first hike (He went all the way down and all the way up the pocket beach you see at the bottom left is the beach he is throwing rocks at in the second photo); Liam throws rocks at the bottom, first hike; Mommy and Liam look at a tide pool.

Unrelated: I started a 30 day on-line guided vegan project, I guess it's a project, yesterday and I don't have enough words to say how impressed I am with the materials and how much I am enjoying this change.  Thank you Heather.