Was working on a bit of writing for somewhere else the other day, when I realized that, more than any other, this is the part of the year I struggle to get through. I celebrate Spring with dirt and seeds, Winter is exciting and beautiful, and Fall is probably my favorite season of all...but Summer, particularly the late July and August part of Summer...meh.
When I start feeling "meh" in general, I've found that a good anecdote is to stop and count my blessings. Like, literally, I pull out my little moleskin and sit there until I've written down three happy things. It's not a cure-all, but it does help.
So, I think that's what I'm going to do for the next few weeks--try to celebrate rather than just slogging through. Instead of just whining that it's hot, I'm going to complete the thought with something nice.
Feel free to chime in with your favorite Summer things.
Posted on July 24, 2011 at 08:48 PM in Happenings Around Home and With Family and Friends | Permalink | 0 Comments | TrackBack (0)
As I get older, I've noticed that at a certain point my body just says, "Go to hell!"
Don't get me wrong, I've always been a lover of sleep, but I used to be able to just push through both "tired" and "sick" like a mack truck when necessary. Now, less so. It's like, the spirit is still willing, but the flesh says, "Nope, uh-uh--either you can sleep on your own or I'll make you sleep, but either way, we're going to bed now."
Which is exactly what happened yesterday afternoon.
I wouldn't say I was sick, per se, but moving made me nauseous, my joints were all achy...basically it just a big old red flag that it was time to get some rest.
And wouldn't you know it, the world looks a lot better today. It's a wonder what sleep, a sick day, and a bowl of fried rice (my go-to food for tummy upset) can do.
Some happy things from my new, more bright-eyed perspective....
Fifty pounds of tomatoes....all canned (or dried) up and ready to combat the month of January. They're local (they came from a farm just up the road), cheap ($1 a pound), and organic-esque (i.e. grown responsibly, even if they don't have the little round sticker). I haven't counted how many pints it made, but it's a lot.
Knitting projects that can be done bit-by-bit while entertaining a small child. Would you believe that I finished this sweater in less than two weeks, almost all in stolen moments? And got a decent chunk of a chunky blanket finished as well? I wouldn't have thought it possible myself, except that I did it.
Also, last but not least, the laundry is folded. At our house, one major casualty of having a child has been that folding and putting away laundry doesn't happen a lot anymore. It was our least favorite chore before, and now, well, I consider just keeping up with washing it a big acomplishment. But since I was feeling better this afternoon, I tackled the mountain...literally. (And then realized I'd missed what was in the dryer, but ah well....)
The before, if you recall.
I can take no credit for either the speed or the quality of the after. Sweet Husband got a bug to get it finished, I pointed at a paint chip and some hardware, and a few days later it was all ready to go.
I love the little nicks and bits of character that remain. It feels like it belongs in that spot so much more than the cabinet we had there before, which was really more of a placeholder.
It also seems to want to collect knitting projects on top, and who am I to say no?
A few weeks ago, Nice Mom asked me to make her a t-shirt quilt out of some concert shirts. So, I cut up all the shirts into little strips, and....
JUST KIDDING MOM. Your shirts are still whole...well, at least the important parts are. But after I cut the pictures off the shirts to make my quilt squares, I was left with a lot of scraps. So I decided to make some t-shirt yarn.
T-shirt yarn is just t-shirts cut into strips. There are fancier ways to cut the shirts so that you get more continuous strips, but since I wasn't starting out with whole shirts, I ended up mostly just tying a lot of knots. (You can also sew the ends of the strips together...I didn't care that much for this particular project.)
But what to do with it, you ask? Well, first, t-shirt yarn makes the best garden twine in the world. To the extent that my tomatoes are tied up to stakes (which is not very well right now), it's all done with t-shirt yarn. The stretchiness and softness of it is just perfect.
You can also knit with it.
I found the idea for these washcloths on Pinterest. The bottom two are the traditional washcloth pattern (e.g. Grandma's Favorite). The top two (which I ended up liking much better) are just stockinette with a garter stitch border.
I love homemade washcloths--they really do work the best--but I rarely take time to make them for myself. Doing it in this bulky yarn, however, I can make a whole stack in just a few hours. I love the nubby-knotty-ness. Plus, as usual, I get a little buzz out of making something useful out of something that would otherwise be trash.
Actually, calling it "attempt" "again" is not entirely correct. Last time Moe completed the bird murder. This time it's only an attempt, so far, but we may have to amend the charges in the next few days, depending on how the victim fares.
Which is my way of trying to inject some gallows humor into a very sad occurrence at the Hacienda tonight. 'Lani, our Easter Egger,decided to escape from the chicken yard, just as Moe was out for his dinner time pee and patrol.
'Lani actually looks much better than I thought she would. I was inside with the baby for the fracas, but according to Sweet Husband she played dead rather than fighting back--a move that probably saved her life.
But it's still dicey as to whether or not she's going to make it. She has a few wounds on her back and neck that are not pretty. We considered putting her down, but decided she was still whole enough that it was worth taking a wait and see approach. We cleaned her up, and she's currently resting by herself. (She can't go back with her sisters until she's healed, as they might peck at her wounds.) The plan is to reevaluate tonight and tomorrow. I don't want her to suffer, but I do want to give her a chance.
And the criminal? Is sleeping sweetly on the couch. As much as I hate that he hurt one of the girls, he was just doing what's in his nature to do. Can't blame him much for that.
While we've done our absolute best to keep him away from the hens, I've always kind of known that one day bird or dog would slip through our defenses. What surprises me--and what's worst in a lot of ways--is that he didn't finish the job. That probably makes me sound heartless, but the thing I hate the most about living with animals--more than any chewed possession or ruined tomatoes or anything--is having to make these life and death decisions for them....so let's all send good recovery thoughts to Miss 'Lani this evening, yes?
Update: She died sometime last night. Darn it....
I apologize for my absence these past few days, but we've been busy rewatching Harry this week in order to get ready for our date with Deathly Hallows, Part 2 tomorrow evening.
I always thought this day would be a little sad for me. Along with about half the population of the planet, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. When the last book came out, I could say, "At least there are still movies to look forward to...." And, while I think Jo Rowling (we're on a first name basis, see) still has some fun little bits in store (e.g. Pottermore), basically, this is it.
For the most part, my entire amorphous twenties can be dated in Harry Potter....
Devouring Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire in one sleepless twenty-four hour stretch at Sweet Husband's scary first apartment....walking to class on the most delicious, cloudy Halloween as I listened to Hedwig's Theme for the first time on my Discman (ack! so old!)....taking a very young Sweet Sister to a past-her-bedtime midnight showing of Chamber of Secrets....
Hunting down copies of Order of the Phoenix at midnight with a friend, who was later a bridesmaid in our wedding....being just a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able to see the Prisoner of Azkaban movie the day it came out because we were on our honeymoon in Mexico....trying so hard to keep my poker face with Sweet Husband's family (also all big fans) when we unexpectedly ended up together for his grandfather's funeral the weekend after Half-Blood Prince came out and I had finished the book and no one else had....
Waiting and speculating about things like "Who is R.A.B?" and "Is Snape good or bad?" before Deathly Hallows....the pure joy at finally having the book in my hands and getting to dive in and find out....watching the characters and effects transformed into movies that were visually incredible....watching the actors that played the main characters grow up into really nice human beings....just barely sneaking into the theme park in Orlando before the grand opening, with the Kiddo (at a just-barely-even-there five weeks) stowing away in my belly like a tiny, magical secret....
I think it's a safe bet that the Harry Potter books will stand the test of time to become classics. The Kiddo will read them, his kids will read them....and that by itself is something special. I love to think of my great-grandkids under the covers, wide-eyed, reading about Voldemort's return in the graveyard of Goblet of Fire. Or having dreams about playing Quidditch. Or giggling at my favorite lines ("Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret....") Or falling in love with Dobby and Hagrid and Lupin and Dumbledore.
But I have one-up on my decendants, because I got to be here for the books' creation--the suspense, the speculation, the waiting two years for one glorious night of reading, the countdown to the release of each movie.
And, as will happen for the last time this weekend, the fun of getting together every so often--whether for movie or book--with a few hundred people who are just as excited about it all as I am. The universalness of knowing that, give-or-take a few hours for time zones, millions of fans are sitting down, sharing it all right along with me.
It really has been a magical time.
Any one want some chicken noodle soup?
The tale of my exasperation begins with Tori. Last week she decided it would be fun to be a mama, and went broody. I was actually a little worried about her. It's hot, after all, and sitting in a broiling coop all day (on eggs that weren't even all her own) seemed miserable. Not to mention the fact that broody hens = grouchy!
I spent a few days carefully shooing her off the eggs, but, by the end of the week, it seemed she wasn't going to give up. After consulting with my chicken experts, I decided that the best way to "fix" the problem might be to work with it, instead of against it. I decided to get her some fertilized eggs and see if she could hatch them.
Friday afternoon, I asked Nice Boss if he would bring me some from his roosters-welcome flock. (Side note: Like, four people in my office have chickens now--love it!) He agreed to bring me a dozen on Monday morning.
Although I was initially hesitant, the idea of watching Tori raise babies quickly grew on me. She's not a very good layer. On anything less than a completely for-fun farm, she would have been served up with gravy by now. But she's certainly sweet, and maybe, I thought, her mothering skills would make up for her lack of eggy prowess.
Just as I was starting to get excited, however, Tori came out of the coop Sunday morning and greeted me like we were best pals again. Her broody spell was broken. And Nice Boss's eggs? Became a double batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Then this afternoon, I went out to pick some basil for dinner and look for ripe tomatoes. On really hot days, we like to let the chickens roam the whole yard--that way they can find the coolest spot. I wasn't worried about the garden, because the only thing we really have growing right now are tomatoes. The hens haven't ever cared much about those in the past, so I figured I was golden.
I love my girls, really, but....*sigh* chickens.
Somehow, although there were no plans and not much feels "accomplished" we had a dizzyingly busy weekend. And we're in the middle of Harry Potter movie marathon week in preparation for next Friday. That all being the case, I'm going to prop my feet up, grab a basket o'knitting and a glass o'wine, and pop in HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
But before I go, may I give you some advice?
Maybe not tonight, maybe not this week even, but certainly sometime before summer is over, you should make some homemade ricotta. The ingredients are probably in your fridge right now--milk (or buttermilk), cream, salt, lemon juice--and you can sub a muslin-y tea towel for cheesecloth.
Mine ended up very curd-y both times, which is absolutely perfection sprinkled on a sliced tomato.
Really, go try it!
We seem to be very consistently back on the newborn sleep plan this week. It's become so regular that I almost don't have to look at the clock. (Two, four, six, eight....we do not appreciate.) There are a multitude of possible reasons--we started a new daycare this week, growth spurt, etc.--but that doesn't do much to help the fact that without sleep, things do not go as well.
Without even really talking about it, Sweet Husband and I have assigned night time duties based on what side of the bed we sleep on. We have a feeding side, and a diaper side. It's actually not a bad trade-off--feeding takes longer, but you don't have to get out of bed to do it; diapering is quick, but requires actually getting up. The other night, after having been on the feeding side for over a week, I ended up on the diaper side. When Sweet Husband handed me the Kid after he had finished eating--in my mostly asleep stupor--I was so confused.
I eventually figured out what it was I was supposed to do with him, changed his diaper, and put him back to bed. But then, about two seconds after I laid back down myself, I was all of sudden wide awake and petrified that I had just put the Kid in his crib upside down. (I.e. with his blanket over his head, instead of his feet.) I hadn't, of course, but the jolt of thinking that I had was not conducive to further sleep.
The next day, I stopped at the library on my way home from work to pick up some books I had reserved. The Kid was sweetly dozing on my shoulder as I walked in, and I was enjoying the sympathetic, "aww-how-cute" smiles of onlookers. I forgot that I had reserved about a half a dozen thick cookbooks, but--seeing that my arms were going to be full--Nice Librarian at the check out desk kindly bagged my books up for me. All good so far, yes?
But then I got to the parking lot. I put the books down by the side of the car, and went to strap the Kid into his carseat. Then, distracted by a five year old running amock in the parking lot and the thought that I needed to be very careful not to back into him, I got in my car and drove home. Anyone see what step is missing?
Thankfully, someone nice took my books back inside the library where they were waiting for me when I came back to retrieve them.
And then there was this morning. The Kiddo was in a beautiful mood--because he basically sleeps through all of his feedings and diaper changes, the little poophead--and I was enjoying making him smile as I got ready for work. Daycare bag packed? Check. Coffee? Check. Shirt on right-side-out? ....Hmm.
I didn't notice until after I dropped him off at daycare. I can only hope his teachers didn't notice, or thought I was making some hip fashion statement.
I was trying to put a positive spin on my tiredness the other day--making lemons out of lemonade and all of that--when the thought popped into my head, "After all, I didn't get much sleep my first semester of law school, and I lived through that...."
If you went to law school, you're laughing right now. If you didn't, it's kind of like saying, "After all, I spent four months in a war zone, and I lived through that...." (OK, now I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.)
And on that note....goodnight!
Technically, it's raspberry and mulberry gin, but that gets a bit long winded.
We share a mulberry tree with our neighbors. We also have a little hedge of raspberry bushes that I've added a few plants to for a couple of years now. But even between the two of them, I only get a few handfuls of berries a day. Sometimes, we enjoy them straight "off the vine", so to speak, but otherwise, there are often not enough of them to make a pie, for instance.
I was perusing a few preserving books for ideas about what to do with just a few berries, when I came across the recipe for sloe gin in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. After a bit of googling, it seemed like it could easily be modified for berries, so it was off to the liquor store for a big ole' bottle o'gin.
The recipes I found called for a lot of sugar, so I'm trying to modify that downward. (I think I've added about half a cup so far, and will probably add a little more as it progresses.) Otherwise, I've just left the gin on the counter, and I add washed berries each day as we pick them. According to the River Cottage book, it needs to sit for a few months with the berries. Once it starts to taste berry-ish I will strain the berries out, decant it into smaller bottles, and let it age for about a year before drinking it.
Although--if we can stand to leave it that long--it will be next summer before we can say if it's good or not, I'll try to update on how it turns out.
I now believe that--with assistance on the latte front from Sweet Husband--not only have we copied the drink, we've made it even better.
A few years ago, one of our favorite breakfast joints, the Mirth Cafe, began making a honey latte, which they called "The Bee's Knees". I won't lie, it was the cute name that first sold me, but I was quickly dolloping a spoonful of honey into all of my coffee drinks. And once you make the switch, it's so hard to go back to plain sugar. (Truly, it makes my nose wrinkle. It's like biting into a fresh, ripe peach and tasting Skittles.)
That being the case, I wasn't interested in making simple syrup. However, later the same afternoon as the lunch at Talula's, I came across some rosemary honey at a farmer's market. As I was buying a jar, I questioned the seller, and discovered that making infused honey is as easy as making a cup of tea.
There's a quick method and a slow method, and which one you choose just depends on how much time you have and how much rosemary flavor you want. And either way, you want to start with fairly neutral, light honey. (Buckwheat honey is one of my latest reasons to live, but it's not right for this application.)
For the slow method, you just cut or bruise a few tablespoons of rosemary, put it in a reusable tea bag, put the bag in a jar of honey, and wait a few weeks until the honey is flavored to your liking.
If you need it faster you can gently heat the honey after you've added the rosemary. Just put it all in a canning jar, and let it simmer in a pot of water. A half an hour is good to start, but, again, if you want it stronger you can go longer.
I've been combining the two methods, starting each jar of honey with an evening of simmering, but then leaving the rosemary inside after until the honey is sufficiently strong.
The really fun thing about the honey? You could infuse it with anything--lavender, coffee, chilies....
As for the latte part....Sweet Husband's latest hobby/gadget is making espresso at home. I still haven't properly learned all the ins and outs of our little pot (one of these Bellman guys), but now that he's gotten through the learning stage he makes a mean latte. For sixteen ounces of espresso/milk, he adds about two tablespoons of rosemary honey, which is darned near perfect for me.
Even if your barrista is of the Starbucks variety, give this a try sometime!
It may have been that I started my weekend early (and with a sick little 'un), but this felt like the longest weekend. After a few days with his first cold--and a summer cold, at that, darn the luck--the Kid had recovered enough by Saturday that we decided to brave a trip to the Old Hometown to blow some things up.
Are these not the scariest beings you've ever seen? They have little fireworks on the back, which makes them, like, gremlins with explosives. If they don't make an appearance in my nightmares soon, I'll be amazed.
The Kid: "Holy guacamole! Are you guys seeing this stuff?! Woah!"
Berry gelato and fruity drinks in coconuts. I'll say no more.
Somebody finally decided he likes the pool! The water was super warm this time, so I think that helped. And it was so sticky out, that the pool was the only place to be!
All that swimming makes Kiddo a tired boy! Lucky mama found a spot in the shade for a mid-swim snooze.
Hope y'all had a great weekend!