Sunday, June 29, 2008

It All Comes Due

The farmer's market was ablaze with every beautiful summer fruit and vegetable you can imagine. Even a couple of nectarines and some non-hothouse tomatoes made their appearance. Blackberries (destined to be tonight's dessert), blueberries, and the last of the strawberries all called to me and filled our little cloth bags and plastic quart-sized containers. Homemade violet jelly and some delectably mild goat cheese also came home with us.

Our CSA share was also brimming with goodies. From kale to chard, from a few more blueberries to radishes and salad turnips, we'll be eating well all week.

Even our garden is going gang-busters, after a brief lull between the rapini-and-radish feasts and this new abundance. While our corn and potatoes are still a long way from being ready, we harvested our first zucchini, a handful of green beans and purple beans, and tons of mint and basil this week. The peppers and tomatoes have their first fruits ripening on the vine.

For this week's One Local Summer meal, we grilled--almost embarrassingly for the first time this season.

While drinking a dry cherry martini...

...we snacked on a few barely-steamed sugar snap peas.

After farm-fresh steaks, corn, and foil packets of potatoes and onions all grilled...

...we feasted on this all-local celebration of a meal:

What fun my whole family is having looking at everybody else's meals! We've gotten a lot of inspiration for our upcoming meals, too. Thanks, everybody!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Doing Magic

It has been a while since I pinned out a knitted project on our bed. I'd almost forgotten about that old blocking magic, when you take that nasty thing that cat drug in, wet it, and stretch the living daylights out of it . . . until:

This is Miriam Felton's Seraphim Shawl--my second one--with a few holes taken away and a few beads added. More pictures coming soon!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heading to the Bar

I've been trying over the last little while to stop using some of the corporate products I have come to rely upon. Sometimes I am trying to avoid the big companies. Other times I am trying to opt for healthier alternatives for my body. And often, I am trying to learn to cut down on the waste stream I produce (including all the things I throw in the recycling bucket).

One of the things that used to fill up our recycling container was all those plastic shampoo containers. In my effort to break the shampoo-bottle addiction, I tried out a number of alternatives, starting with a couple of choices easily available in many mainstream stores.

1. Burt's Bees used to be a tiny company in Maine. Then it was a small company in North Carolina. Well, now it is part of Clorox. Nevertheless, I still love some of their products so I first tried their Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar.
After using it for a couple of days, I almost gave up on the idea of using a shampoo bar at all. My hair felt sticky and I looked like there were sticks coming straight out of my head. My comb got covered in white waxy mess.

I had heard that the transition from commercial liquid shampoos to bars might take a little while--so after things had gotten better with other products, I went back to this bar. It was still awful.

What a shame. It is certainly pleasant smelling.

2. I thought my very fine and relatively dry long hair might have hated the Rosemary Mint because it was drying, so I tried their baby shampoo. The scent is subtle and extremely appealing--just a bit of apricot for a smooth scent with a fresh kick.
My hair responded much better to this bar, although it left a sticky residue that even a vinegar rinse did not remove. Although the residue was dulling, it did give my bone-straight hair a bit more body...

David's experience with the bar has been much better. His short curly hair looks great these days--and he is on his second baby shampoo bar now.

I was a little disconcerted to discover that the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database did not give it a great score, mostly because of the product's use of tocopheryl acetate, panthenol, and unidentified fragrance. There are certainly more dangerous chemicals in a lot of American cosmetics--but given that I think of Burt's Bees as a "natural" company, and that this particular product is designed for babies, I was quite surprised.

3. After hearing more and more about the potential dangers of various products commonly used in the beauty industry, I decided to start reading my labels more carefully. While picking up a prescription in a mainstream pharmacy, I ran across Skin Free Extra Moisturizing Soap, which advertises that it makes a great shampoo. Its Skin Deep rating is much better: a perfect zero.

I love this bar. It is clear and scent-free, lathers beautifully, and feels great in the hand with its ever-s0-slight bevel shape. But if I use it for several shampoos in a row, my hair takes on the quality of hay. Not particularly pleasing. So I alternate using this bar with other options.

4. My absolute favorite shampoo bar so far: J. R. Liggett!

This bar, a much squarer bar than the others, lasts a long time, doesn't leave much residue in my hair, is almost scentless, and makes my scalp feel more honestly clean than any of the other bars have. This one is a keeper.

5. I have another favorite: baking soda and vinegar. I put a tablespoon or two of baking soda into a bottle, fill it with a cup or two of water from the shower, and shake until it is clear. I pour it over my hair and rub it in. There is really no real lather and it takes a while to get used to this feeling--but my hair feels deep-down clean after a BS wash.

For conditioner, pour a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar into cool water and rinse your hair with it. Then rinse again with clear water. The first time I tried it, I was utterly amazed at the softness that resulted. Whether you use baking soda, a shampoo bar, or even traditional shampoo, this is a great find!

6. The other thing I do? I now wash my hair every other day, or every third day. Although it took a little while for my hair to adjust, it is pretty happy with this routine now. I never would have believed that I could make this transition!

* * *

What have you found that works for you?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Local Shabbat

On Friday we all had busy days and found ourselves close to dinnertime with very little planned. Friday evenings are usually a special dinner for us as we welcome Shabbat. Although we threw this dinner together, we especially enjoyed it as we ate in our garden and toasted to the mosquitoes, finally hitting their stride in the DC area.

We served farm-fresh hotdogs with spicy sauerkraut from the same farm, bread from a local bakery, and a big arugula salad courtesy of our CSA. For dessert (which we gobbled down before we thought about the camera), we enjoyed strawberry ice cream--made by the farmers from dairy and strawberries from the farm and maple syrup from one of the farmer's neighbors.

For breakfast the next morning we made French Toast using bakery challah, farm eggs and milk, home-rolled oats, and nonlocal almonds--and topped the bread with farmers market strawberries and local maple syrup. Delish!

For lunch, we heated up leftovers in the solar oven. On Thursday evening, we had cooked cornbread with yogurt from the farm and cornmeal we ground ourselves, and we served it next to South Carolina cowpeas and Carolina Gold rice. Saturday's lunch was a repeat, this time minus the greens we enjoyed that evening.

Although I grew up in the Carolinas with a historian father who studied slave culture on Carolina rice plantations, I'd never had "Carolina Gold" rice. (For many many years, the state standard has been long-grain white rice.) Much to my surprise, Carolina Gold (the variety that made South Carolina into a major grower of rice at the beginning of this country) is short-grained and almost sticky. Fascinating. And tasty!

I cooked the cowpeas with some local onion from the farmers market. The cooking broth was one made from assorted vegetable peelings (onion skins, asparagus bottoms, green bean ends, very holy rapini leaves, etc.) and a few leftover chicken bones. To make the beans taste authentic, remember to cook them with a little black pepper.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Changing Directions

A morning of weeding in the garden, clipping clean whites to the clothesline to dry, and grinding corn for tonight's homemade cornbread made me feel alive, productive, sure of myself.

But the beautiful morning sun is now all clouds. The laundry hanging on the line no longer looks like some great artist's portrayal of Tuscany or Provence. I've pulled on a long-sleeve shirt to cope with the chill in the air.

This afternoon I find myself feeling lost, feeling that I am in some world other than the one I was planning on.

I have been reading a novel that has affected me profoundly. It is an interesting book, well-enough written, but certainly not high literature. Nonetheless, it has somehow wrung so much out of me that I find myself in tears, afraid.

Finally I put the book down, with only about 100 pages until the end.

I don't know whether I should read on, hoping for some sense of resolution that will allow me to get past the place I am now, or return the book to the library and go read some cozy mystery.

It is time for a pot of tea.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Washing Dishes

aAlthough we have used cloth napkins and kitchen towels instead of disposable paper products for years, we've had an enormously difficult time getting past our addiction to disposable scrubby-sponges for washing dishes.

We now have some answers:

The blue thing is the plastic netting our seed potatoes came in this spring. We've been using it now for a couple of months and it is in great shape. While it is ultimately disposable, it was saved from the trashcan where it could have gone immediately after planting the potatoes. It provides absolutely superior scraping of cast iron pans, etc. and has lasted extremely well. Because it is so easy to wash out well, we don't worry about the germs that can grow so easily in disposable sponges. We have another one waiting in the wings when this one finally wears out.

The two green squares are a knitted cotton washcloth that David made and a woven potholder square that Son made. Both are absolutely fantastic--with a lot more traction and absorbing ability than the cloths we had been trying to use before.

Addiction number one broken!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When I a Fat and Bean-Fed Horse Beguile

During the spring, my 9yo son participated in a fabulous local production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Despite his initial protestations, he loved being a lover. He played Lysander to his best friend's Hermia.

Shakespeare plays around with size quite a bit in this play. During an argument, Hermia betrays her shame about her short stature. Other characters pick up on her discomfort and tease her. At one point Lysander calls her a dwarf, an acorn, and a bead for being so tiny.

In most productions, directors can be counted upon to cast shorter actresses as Hermia and taller ones as Helena, the other (mortal) female love interest. In this production--full of homeschooled children--the director (a homeschooled highschooler) cast as Hermia a young woman who is about six inches taller than my son. She played the part brilliantly--and when Lysander labeled her a dwarf, the audience burst out laughing, realizing that she was only hurt by the comment because of her own feelings of inadequacy.

* * *

In this same production, Oberon (King of the fairy world) was played by an intense and small boy who acted the overbearingly royal qualities brilliantly. Titania, his love and the queen of the fairies, towered over him by nearly a foot. And when she fell in love with Bottom (after his transformation into a donkey), she found a love several inches shorter than Oberon.

Compared to the two of them, Titania looked not like a delicate fairy but like an Amazon. The idea that the character is weak and basically loses in the play always irks me. So I was thrilled with the transformation.

* * *

Now I am considering casting on that beautiful knitted cotton sweater Titania, named for the Queen of the Fairies.

Here's the pic from the knitting designer's website:

The above model is not a little wispy thing of no substance--but she is a combination of slender and curvy that shows off this sweater wonderfully.

You could say I am curvy. In all the right places.

And, well, in most of the wrong places, too. You could never say I am slender.

Am I going to look like an Amazon Fairy in this thing or am I going to look more like Bottom the Weaver in his Ass costume?

"wide enough to wrap a fairy in"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mosaic Meme

Inspired by 2 Sistah's Knit Together:

How many of my answers can you figure out from the photos?

  1. What is your first name?
  2. What is your favorite food?
  3. What high school did you go to?
  4. What is your favorite color?
  5. Who is your celebrity crush?
  6. Favorite drink?
  7. Dream vacation?
  8. Favorite dessert?
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  10. What do you love most in life?
  11. One word to describe you.
  12. Your Flickr name.

The instructions to create the mosaic are:

  • Type your answers to each of the questions below into Flickr Search
  • Using only the first page, pick an image
  • Copy and paste each of the URLs into the mosaic maker

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Purslane Paneer

Inspired by the last week's local Matar Paneer over at One Size Fits All, I decided to copy her and make a vegetarian Indian dish for One Local Summer.

Making paneer is quite easy--easier even (and faster) than making goat cheese. I brought a gallon of whole milk to a hard boil. As the boiling milk began to rise, I took the pot off the burner and added about a quarter cup of lemon juice, whisking it in for a couple of minutes. I then let the tiny curds sit in the whey for about ten minutes, then drained the mixture through a cheesecloth. (I'm enjoying a cultural cheese game that can make your head spin by saving the whey to make mysost.) After it had drained for about fifteen minutes, I shaped it into a round (still in cheesecloth), put it on a tray, and weighted it down with a big pot filled with water for about a half an hour.

While the cheese was draining, I went out to the garden to help David do some weeding in the Three Sisters plot.

I brought in a handful of radish tops and a large bowl full of purslane--that plant that is ridiculously easy to grow (since it doesn't even need to be planted) but hard to get rid of. Yes, it is a weed--but a very tasty one full of great nutrition. Why not replace the spinach in saag paneer with this garden-fresh produce?

I sauteed a farmers market onion (on its very last legs) in some farm butter until it was soft. I added various Indian spices (cumin, coriander, ginger, red pepper, etc.), then stirred in the radish greens and the purslane. After a few minutes, I added the cubed paneer, then added some cream and some yogurt, both from the above-linked farm.

We served the meal over some non-local jasmine rice. How delicious!

* * *

I enjoyed the meal so much that we made Indian food for the next meal, too--with a lot more nonlocal ingredients--and equally iconoclastic and non-authentic, I fear.

While sipping a rhubarb martini...

...I put together a dish made with home-canned tomatoes, store-canned chickpeas, some leftover green beans brought home from a restaurant one evening, and some leftover radish tops. Assorted seasonings and some yogurt and cream rounded out the dish. Since we were out of rice, we served it over millet (one of my favorite grains).

For dessert, I chopped up some non-local almonds in the old family wooden bowl and mezzaluna given to us recently by David's parents. The grooves worn into the wooden by his ancestors made the tool fit just perfectly into my hand.

Inspired by the gorgeous pictures and great ideas over at Tea & Cookies, we sprinkled some of the leftover paneer with local honey and the almonds. Although folks who love sweets might not be completely satisfied with this dessert, I thought it was an absolutely perfect ending.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Register Your Discontent, because...

the real Inconvenient Truth is the Constitution, or so say these funny and brilliant folks:

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Life of the Individual

Partially inspired by Green Bean Dreams' Bookworm Challenge, I've had a great time reading books about families who made the move from one way of life--one that only taxed their brains--to a more sustainable one that put their beliefs into practice.

There are a lot of open paths. Path to Freedom, the granddaddy of homesteading blogs, shows how to do it in an urban setting. Crunchy and Melinda do it in Seattle. Colin and his family are at it in a high-rise in Manhattan. Madeline shows us how when you live in the boonies outside a big city. Sharon and Greenpa teach us what to do in the country. You can do it in the suburbs. You can even do it in the desert. And there are so many more ways!

But for those who want to curl up with a good book rather than a laptop, I have a few to recommend:

Logan Ward's See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America was a surprisingly wonderful read. I had not heard of the book before I randomly stumbled across it, and it is published by a relatively little-known press. Logan and his wife and young child move from New York City to a farm in a rural area of Virgina. They decide to spend one year living with only the tools available to a person one hundred years ago. While they are a very modern family with very modern issues sometimes, they go through daily life growing their own food, putting it up for the winter, learning to travel by horse and bicycle, living without electricity, mass-market toothpaste, and running water. What they make themselves comes to the fore--including the community they find themselves creating in their rural town. One of the most interesting sections of the book is how they deal with the tragedy of 9/11, which occurs during their 1900 year. Highly recommended as thoughtful but light reading. Perfect for an afternoon in the shade.

A less appealing but equally interesting book is A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence by Ferenc Mate. The author, in a very edgy funny-if-you-are-not-too-sensitive attack on modernity and all of us who make any compromises with it, engages some fascinating issues but offers answers that sound awfully off-putting. For example, I am probably as anti-television as he is (sorry, Carrie!), but being bombarded with writing like "Open an upstairs window...and throw the heinous sonovabitch as far as your arms let you!" makes me want to rebel and go buy one. Mate has a lot of interesting insights--and if you handle this style better than I do, let me know what you think. I know I am not really being fair to him, given that I've heard others say that this book has transformed their lives.

I was similarly unimpressed with Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City. Although the authors' tone is respectful throughout, they wind up sounding a bit self-important and preachy. I don't exactly blame them: their task writing this book is a really difficult one. When authors set out to show you how to do better, it is often difficult to take. On the other hand, when authors detail their own path--especially if it is a pretty bumpy path--toward trying to make a more authentic life, it can be utterly charming. This book, much to my disappointment, comes across as an example of the first kind of book. But it is filled with a lot of very interesting ideas to transform your life without moving to a farm or something. The choices open to them in southern California are radically different from what I have in the DC area, but many ideas are applicable nonetheless. Glad I read it, but don't plan your vacation reading around this one.

We also reread parts--the "spring planting" chapters--of Barbara Kingsolver's fabulous Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life last month, too--always a joy and an inspiration. Kingsolver is an elegant writer with a wickedly funny edge sometimes, and even when she is talking about how amazing her life is, she sounds real and down-to-earth. Her partner writes short political essays scattered throughout, and her daughter writes up recipes and reminiscences. This book is absolutely a must-read, and a must-read-again.

Another lovely book I briefly revisited this season is Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. The authors (from British Columbia) are much stricter in their eat-local rules than Kingsolver is. Where she uses eating local as an entree (sorry) into the connection between culture and agriculture, they explore more precisely what the consequences as well as the joys of a local economy are. Well written and very funny.

Up soon on my nightstand: Michael Pollan's pre-Omnivore book, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education. Has anyone read it? Any reviews? Or does anyone have any other book recommendations for me?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Local, but Not From Here

There has been a very interesting discussion among the participants of One Local Summer about what defines a diet as local. Joy has a lovely post outlining some of the most central issues. For example, she discusses the conflict between buying nonlocal organic versus local nonorganic, nonlocal grassfed versus local grainfed, locally milled or packaged but not locally grown grains and beans, etc. I recommend her totally non-preachy exploration of these issues.

We are lucky enough to have access to several different all-local farmers markets, organic-style (meaning not always certified) produce from our CSA and several booths, and an organic-style pasture-fed farm source for meat and dairy products. We even can get maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, candles, and soap at our local farmers market.

Grain has not been nearly so easy. This year we bought some non-local bulk grain and a small hand-cranked grain mill--and what we produce from that we count in our local diet--but this is not necessarily something everybody else would allow.

We've also allowed ourselves--no, encouraged ourselves--to buy local foods in the places we travel. We've brought home rice and tea from South Carolina, grits and chow-chow from North Carolina, peanuts from Virginia, maple syrup and cheese from Vermont, current cordial from Quebec, and wine from the state of Washington. Are these local? They were when we bought them... Does that count? Well, it does for us.

* * *

Buying local foods supports one's local economy and helps it further develop. If the local food is from the places we are visiting, it still supports the local economy there. If our major issue is creating food security where we live, channeling money into other localities does not help at all--but obviously it is important to help others create food security where they are. So we feel pretty good about our purchases--in addition to enjoying one of the most tangible expressions of the culture of these other places: food.

Eating local also reduces the amount of petroleum products that have to be used up to bring us food from around the world which is out of season for us or that cannot be (or just isn't) grown here. When we bring home food from vacation or buy grain in bulk from a non-local source, we're adding in that petroleum, although perhaps there is an argument that the oil is not as high as it might be otherwise. I'm not sure about that, though.

One of the things I'm most drawn to is the goal of making my purchases from non-corporate sources, whether they are local or not. Although there are a few very large food companies that are located in our area, we typically don't count their food as truly local.

* * *

All these issues swim around in my head when I contemplate ordering online tepary beans. The beans, deeply local to the place from which I order, will be trucked and trained across the United States to my doorway. This is not in our local diet rules--but in a way much more profound than are the greenhouse tomatoes that show up in early June in Maryland, these beans are indeed local.

Tepary beans, once a staple in the Sonoran Desert and throughout Mesoamerica, are one of North America's oldest native crops and are now members of Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste. They have been cultivated for more than 8,000 years. You can read more about the history of this crop in Gary Paul Nabhan's wonderful Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods and also his Gathering the Desert.

Tepary beans are considered by many to be the most drought-tolerant annual legume in the world. They are capable of producing a harvest of beans with a single rain in the harshest conditions. When irrigated, they produce higher yields only up to a certain point, after which excess moisture becomes a detriment and leads to overproduction of foliage and low bean production. In fact, it appears that moisture stress is necessary to trigger fruiting. As water shortages become a reality in many parts of the U.S. and around the world, teparies can play an important role in dryland agriculture. In fact, tepary cultivation is now taking place in dry areas of Africa and is being revived in southern Arizona where it was quite common as recently as seventy years ago.

The tepary bean has a higher protein content (23–30%) than common beans such as pinto, kidney, navy, and even soy. It also has higher levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium. While higher in all of these desired nutrients, tepary beans are lower in polyunsaturated fat and in the anti-enzymatic compounds which make common beans hard to digest.

Many native people in the Sonora Desert once depended on teparies along with other high fiber and mucilaginous foods, such as cactus and mesquite, as dietary staples. As these native people gradually abandoned their native foods and embraced a highly-processed "Western" diet, type-2 diabetes diagnoses soared. In some native populations, diabetes is fifteen times the national average. Tepary beans seem to be an ideal food for people prone to diabetes (or living with diabetes) since tepary bean sugars are released slowly and steadily. Many reservations in southern Arizona have re-embraced the tepary bean and now cultivate the beans for their own use, as well as for sale to support the community.

The teparies we have are from a community- based organization dedicated to creating cultural revitalization, community health and sustainable development within the Tohono O'odham Nation. The Tohono O'odham (formerly known as Papago) Nation sits in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, sixty miles west of Tucson, Arizona. Approximately 18,000 of the tribe's 24,000 members live on this main section of the Tohono O'odham Reservation.

Check out Heritage Foods USA for the sale of this product and other community-supporting foods.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Apron Strings

--picture from the lovely Fresh Figs

David’s parents are visiting right now, a few days in to an eight-day trip. The weather is miserably hot and humid here (high 90s on both fronts)--doing nothing to prevent tensions from being higher than they ought to be.

Grandma and Grandpa are wonderful people. They not only humor but support us in all the crazy things we do, and they care passionately about our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our child.

But we have our conflicts, as it seems all families do. We live pretty different lives and feel connected to pretty different things—although honestly, the differences are often really small once you look to the big picture. (I like every vegetable and spice I have tried or haven’t tried, while they like stuff they know and stuff that isn’t green. They like Clinton and I like Obama. Can’t we all just get along?!)

I think many of my own issues are related in culture clash. Having grown up in the South with one set of manners quite at odds with their New York set of manners (and don’t say this is an oxymoron as it will only encourage me), I often feel that they’ve deliberately been rude to me or to someone else they care about or even to a stranger--when they had no such motivation.

The other big issue for me is personality. I want to think about ideas and discuss complexity absolutely to death. I grew up with a family that worked in precisely this way. David, at least usually, is also fed by that kind of discussion. But not everybody loves it. Some people are much more content without big issues and complex ideas constantly on the table.


David, Son, and I watched the first season of the Waltons recently. As a child raised basically without television, I managed to see an awful lot of Mr. Rogers, Little House on the Prairie, the Watergate Hearings, and the Waltons—that wonderfully gentle series about a young writer growing up in Depression-era Appalachia with his large family.

John-boy’s grandparents lived with the rest of his family. Mother Olivia lived every day with her mother-in-law--a kind but very strong-willed no-nonsense woman named Esther--in the same house.

Clearly Olivia is, in addition to being a child’s fictionalized memory of perfection, a much better person than I. She is calm and kind in the face of great adversity, self-reliant during the era of the Depression, and thin and beautiful and not even gray-haired. All after giving birth to seven children, rearing them, and surviving polio on top of it. I am none of these. (I think I identify with Esther more than I do with Olivia.)

But I think there is something else about the relationship between Olivia and Esther. They lived a life where the two of them worked together—HAD to work together—to assure the survival of their family. They gardened together, picked together, cooked from scratch together, and put up food for the winter. They washed and ironed, mended, quilted, made clothes, etc. together. They had a common purpose--one that meant they not only had the same experiences but knew it was only by working together in harmony that they could sustain the whole clan. This sense of shared purpose seems to make an enormous difference. I'm struck by how much their days are defined by pulling on their aprons, tying the strings, and getting to work--together.

I don't want to romanticize what they did. It was incredibly hard work, work that must have been anything but rewarding much of the time. (You spend thirty minutes washing the dishes and they immediately seem to get dirty again. Then you do it again, and again--pausing long enough to do the same with the clothes in the other washtub.) It was a time and place of firm gender roles that did not allow Olivia or Esther to make any significant choices about what work they did.

But it did foster connection, and it is for that that I hunger.


Right now, David and Son are with Grandma and Grandpa at the movies. I sit in Borders' air conditioning (which we don’t have at home) finishing Son’s homeschool review.

I picked up a lovely apron (although not nearly as lovely as the one I linked to above!) to put on my café table while I write. I am not planning to purchase it, but looking at it reminds me to have more patience.

To keep quiet and calm. To be a lot more grateful for all this extended family is.

To learn to work together—even if it doesn’t mean the same thing that it meant for Olivia and Esther.

To put this cloth over my head, wrap it around my self, and tie the strings as we go forward.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Growing Local

Today, in honor of the first week of One Local Summer which asks participants to document a meal a week made with local ingredients, I present:

Ground beef patties (from our farm source)
stuffed with onions and flavored with horseradish (both from the farmer's market)
Roasted radishes (from our garden)
Stir-fried radish tops (pretty tasty!)
Whole wheat bread, homemade with wheat we ground ourselves

A simple meal--but the novelty of cooking radishes (which I have only had raw) and also eating their greens definitely made it seem a bit adventurous.

I can't want to read about other people's local meals. What are you cooking and/or growing?

Friday, June 06, 2008

A New Eden

I dreamed of Richard Heinberg.

(Doesn't everyone? The guy is a genius.)

Yes, he's sexy, but it was not that kind of dream....

I sit in the audience at a talk. He says brilliant thing after brilliant thing.

I am following, only a step and a half behind him.

I ask a question. I almost understand.

He pauses.

He says, after the pause, "OH!"

He pauses again.

He says:

"Well--what you are wondering about is just XYZ, obviously...

...but your question made me UNDERSTAND


I awaken,
what it is I want
to be
in this life
I am dreaming about.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Knitting Together

Both Son and David have the washcloth bug too! They are knitting from the same big ball of cotton yarn--Son from the inside and David from the outside.

Here, while Son works on a garter stitch square, David tries out Mason-Dixon's ball-band dishcloth. (I linked to the free pattern, but check out these 2600-plus examples, too, if you are on Ravelry.)

Here is David's finished cloth (about an hour later) being used by Son as a hot mitt so he could pour our evening chai:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yes, We Can!

After seeing this beautiful homemade sign for Obama, the message resonated so deeply that I had to go home and prove it to myself.

Yes, we can! On to Victory!

He can. I can. In fact, here are the seven half-pints of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam that I canned just this weekend:

And yes, the tomatoes are still sitting on the table behind the jam. I remind myself: "YES WE CAN!"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The New 'It' Girl.

Yup. I've been tagged.

Quite often when I am tagged for blog memes, I postpone writing the answer until I just eventually forget about it. I would really try to forget this one too-- but each time I do, yet another person tags me for the same game.

So here are some answers for you:

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

1. Trying to decide whether to try to get pregnant at the end of the summer. (I did.)
2. Trying to finish my dissertation before getting pregnant. (I did not.)
3. Trying to read the entire oeuvre of Amanda Cross, author of mystery novels about that great academic sleuth Kate Fansler. (I did read them all--and perhaps that is related to why I failed that year to finish my dissertation. Of course, all-day morning sickness also contributed.)

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?

#1 – Knit yet another dishcloth, my current obsession (which started Saturday evening). Convince myself to sew in ends. (Something inside must be screaming for simplicity.)
#2 – Try to come to terms with all those "used" (ie, seconds) tomatoes rotting next to the canning jars on the kitchen table.
#3 – Wash my hair before tonight's all important social engagement: knitting group!
#4 – Water the wee corn spears struggling to survive in their fight against the very hungry neighborhood squirrels.
#5 – Read all three long books due back to the library this evening.

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Anything with alcohol. Gin and Tonics. French 75s. Dirty Martinis. Sidecars with good brandy.
Anything with fat and salt. Yummm. Example: the eggplant fries I often get at Adega, the wine bar where my knitting group meets tonight... Yummm...

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Parent. Write. Read. Knit. Spin. Garden. Cook. Try to live simply and sustainably.
Then, create
a space of my own where I can escape from parenting to write, read, knit, and spin. Have more space for both cooking and gardening. And keep chickens in the outdoor space I don't need for digging.

5) Places I have lived:

Born in North Carolina, then moved to my parents' hometown in South Carolina for high school. (My parents still tease me about being a Yankee since I was born a few miles over the border of SC in NC.) Went to college in Massachusetts. (Lost most of my accent after the first three and a half years. Only got to enjoy not being told to "say it again!" for one semester.) Went to graduate school in Pennsylvania. Got a job in Washington, DC where I lived for two years before moving to an old hippie inner suburb in Maryland. (I can walk to DC in ten minutes.)

6) Jobs I have had:

1. 1976: Fortune Teller at elementary school Halloween fair. I read palms and also performed scrying in a bowl of water. (Unfortunately, I lost the touch before I learned how to make this talent pay.)
2. 1978: Babysitter--long enough to save up for a very fancy bright blue bicycle with a basket on the front and a squeeze horn. (It was stolen the day after I bought it.)
3. 1980: Princess Leia at a picture booth at an amusement park. (Check out your vacation shots from your summer at the beach in 1980. That girl with the spiral braids pinned to her ears? Me. And it was my real hair, too.)
4. 1982: Iced Tea girl at a chain steakhouse during the summers.
5. 1984: Afterschool all-purpose flunkie for a tiny real estate agency. I learned how to type for the two young men who ran the company, and got propositioned for the first time. And the second time.
6. 1986: Housing coordinator for visiting applicants at my college. Whenever I was stuck with too many prefrosh wanting housing, I would call on the volunteer who filled out the form as "Jamie!"--complete with the exclamation point. Still don't know if it was a male or a female, but s/he never turned me down.
7. Teacher (and writer) for all of my semi-adult and adult life--at places as diverse as a summer camp for the heinously gifted, a university for deaf students, and a class with only one pupil. The latter continues. It is the job I have most enjoyed out of all of them--and also the easiest, since the pupil (my 9yo son) does most of the teaching himself.

Out of respect for the fact that everybody I read seems to have been tagged already, I'll just let things die over in this corner....


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