Friday, December 30, 2011

List-posts are easier too

  • I realized last week that I really don't like oatmeal, even Eggy Oatmeal, unless it is well-slathered with coconut oil, applesauce, yogurt, and walnuts down to the very last spoonful.  Otherwise, gag me . . . I just can't hack it.
  • I have recently mastered Vegetable Beef soup.  What a delight!  I will have to post the recipe soon.
  • There is no snow - none a'tall - on the ground in SW Minnesota on December 30, 2011.  Un-un-un-un.  We are having what they call a "dry winter".  My past-self would have never believed it, but I am really pining for snoooooooow.  I feel like it would nourish my soul to see a winter wonderland outside.  But it is just brown, brown, brown everywhere.
  • Though this "dry winter" does make moving around so much easier.  It has been so warm that I haven't had to fuss with boots, hats, mittens, scarves, snowpants, etc.
  • I have started noticing the tunnel-vision that comes with having more children and older, more active kids.  I hardly have the time or energy to focus on anything outside my own little sphere.  It is the strangest thing, something I'm not quite used to yet. 
  • Things like . . . as an extrovert, for the very first time in my life, I am starting to cringe when we need to go somewhere, especially if there will be a large group of people in attendance.  It is so different from my usual mode of operation.  I've never even had inklings of this in the past.  Ever. 
  • It is so foreign . . . but staying home is just so much easier.  Calmer.  Safer.  Less aggravating.
  • I've been thinking a lot about these changes recently.  I feel like I'm just starting to grasp an understanding of WHY.  I wrote above "as an extrovert", i.e. one who draws energy from others.  I am an extrovert.  Historically, I get my energy from interacting with others vs. my own self.  But that's just it.  I am with my children all day, all night, every single day.  Of course I love them.  But I expend a lot of energy meeting their needs and interacting with them.  And things seem to get wilder the more of 'em there are (how did my mother-of-five ever do it??).
  • So as time goes on, I've found that I need down-time.  Time to sit and think and stare.  I need it.  Not just "it's nice", but I absolutely, positively NEED down-time to contemplate life and re-connect with myself.  I feel unkept and ragged without it.
  • Strange (and yet so obvious). 
  • Interestingly, with this realization I have been cultivating a deeper sense of comprehension and respect for Blaine.  (Time alone is something that is vital to his soul.  Going places with gaggles of people isn't his idea of fun.  He loves to be hunkered down at home.  Etc.) 
  • We've been together for 15 years now (married 11 of them) and I am still digging down to deeper layers of understanding.  It feels good.
  • Speaking of Blaine, he had M-Th off this week.  We've had a lovely "stay-cation", what feels like the first real leisure we've had since last spring (which may simply be just a state of mind, because we did have a 4-day weekend over Thanksgiving . . . but it wasn't relaxing at all). 
  • We've stayed home every. single. day. (big suprise) and have done nothing but basic household maintenance and hanging out together as a unit.  It feels so. good. 
  • We missed him today, but we have another 3-day weekend starting now (he just got home).  And that feels very nice as well.
  • 10-4, roger that, over and out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Twas a very merry brown Christmas

50-ish degrees on Christmas Day
In Minnesota, mind you --
U.G.L.Y.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yessssssssss

I am so very pleased.  I just wrote a rockin' LTE rough draft, representing the Library Board and Friends of the Library here in our little town.  We are close . . . so close . . . to actually breaking ground and expanding at our current location.

We have been two years in process, working and working and working towards a larger space.  There have been city council, library board, joint committee, and public meetings galore to work through all the minutiae of such a big step for a little town.  It has been very exciting at times.  And a little tedious. 

However . . . we have one last hurdle coming in a few weeks, a public forum to give space to the naysayers (though honestly, they've had two years' worth of meetings to have spoken).  But no matter.  We will come through in a blaze of glory, I have no doubt.

All the facts and numbers and emotion is weighted on our side.  It just a matter of holding ground, giving a well-researched presentation and rebuttal to any pooh-pooh.  My specialty.  I should also note that our town has been gifted a new librarian whose organizational skills and professional experience has catapulted our library onto an entirely new level.  She absolutely rulz. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel....

Rock.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Food preservation notes

METHODS: 
  • ROOT CELLAR (cool & moist): potatoes, carrots, apples, beets (if we had any left...heh), and storage for ferments, canned goods, wine
  • CANNING: applesauce, some salsa, tomato sauce, jams
  • FERMENTATION: sauerkraut, pickled onions, pickled beets, ginger carrots, salsa, pickled peppers, kimchi, "refrigerator" pickles
  • DEHYDRATOR: green beans, zucchini, plum tomatoes, celery, strawberries, watermelon (kind of like candy chews), peas, corn
  • FREEZER: kale, collards, cooked pumpkin, broccoli, spinach, chard
  • UPSTAIRS (cool & dry): squash, pumpkin, onions, garlic

EQUIPMENT:
  • 9-try Excalibur dehydrator
  • Pickl-It fermenting jars (two 3-liters, three 1.5 liters)
  • Half-gallon jars for decanted kraut and/or other ferments
  • Water-bath canner, jars of various sizes, lids
  • Lots of shelving in the root cellar and unheated upstairs room

RECOMMENDED READING: 
  • Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables - Mike & Nancy Bubel
  • Food Drying: How to Dehydrate, Store and Use Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs - Phyllis Hobson
  • Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods - Eugenia Bone
  • Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling - Sheri Brooks Vinton
  • The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time - Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger
  • Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation - The Gardners and Farmers of Terre Vivante
  • Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods - Sandor Ellix Katz

Monday, December 12, 2011

Root Cellar 2011

From top to bottom:
Blaine's homemade wine
Pickled onions, tomato aspic, grape jam, salsa verde, apple sauce, tomato sauce
Kimchi, pickled peppers, cantaloupe pickles, fermented salsa
Tomato remnants, fermented sweet pickles, sauerkraut
Apples (in box on floor)

 

Glamour shots:
Pickled onions, tomato aspic, grape jam

More glamour!
Blaine's gorgeous wines

We also have a good number of boxes filled with carrots and potatoes, but that isn't quite as beautiful.  Additionally, our apple harvest was pretty small this year; otherwise we would have had more storage boxes filled to the brim.  Onions, garlic, and squash are all upstairs in cool, dry conditions.  Dehydrated green beans, zucchini, plum tomatoes, celery, and herbs are in kitchen cupboards for easy access.

Looking at these pictures, I am amazed at how different it looks from years' past.  I didn't even post a picture last year, because it was so pitiful.  I remember being embarrassed by it!  Both our tomato and apple crops were a blow-out in 2010, which lessened the output.  I didn't ferment as much (more on that in the future).  I was pregnant, but that doesn't seem like it should stop my production.  And I don't think I was able to get my hands on as many grapes. 

But I digress...
Here is 2009 for comparison.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jamie's baby-signing skillz

As reported yesterday, Baby Jamie has started signing.

Our family's baby-signing repertoire is pretty simple.  We have kept it to the basics: "eat", "milk", "more", "all done", "help", and have also added our own versions of "hot", "sharp", and "snuggle".

"Hot" is an outward-facing palm of the hand moving back and forth, frontwards and backwards. "Sharp" is the pointer finger of one hand poking into the palm of the other. This sign is my personal favorite, as Diego made it up when he was just a little guy in response to a pokey-sharp cactus. It made perfect sense and so we went with it. "Snuggle" has simply been a palm to the cheek, mostly me asking Schtinks if he wants "milk" and "snuggle".

Just last Friday, Schtinky signed "hot", "sharp" and "milk" consecutively, in perfect form no less, in under one minute.  It is like the synapses connected and the signs suddenly gushed forth.  Up until that point, he signed "more" and "all done" correctly and in context, and did his own version of "milk" (I knew what he meant).

Since then I've had little mini-conversations with him about either the hot stove or a sharp cactus.  I will bring it up asking, "Remember when we went down to the basement and Dada lit the fire?", to which he will respond with the sign and saying (in a whisper), "Haaaaahhh, haaaaahhh".  Or "remember that sharp cactus?  Ouch!" and he'll sign "sharp" with the fattest little finger and sometime even sound like he saying, "aaaaawp, aaaaaawp".  (Again, in a whisper.)  And sometimes he brings it up all by himself.  Adorable.


Studying his big brudders in action.
Just look at those fat toes, like little peeps. 
And that little pinky finger!
♥♥♥

It has been so fun to see some of the inner-workings of his mind.  I love seeing him sign "hot" and hearing the little whispering "haaaaaahhhh" when we walk by the basement wood-burner or I turn the stove-top on.  It is exciting!  And precious.

And . . . he's also started giving slobbery kisses.  It is all the rage in these parts.

Now, dinner.


Monday, December 05, 2011

JSS: Haaaaaaaaaht

Long time, no post.

I just popped in here to record an adorable and amazing event.

We have a gas stovetop.  I just turned on the burner to start heating up our soup for lunch and lil' Jamie in the baby backpack started saying, "Haaaahhhh, haaaaahhhh" and making our sign for "hot" with his fat little hand.  Un-un-un-un. 

I sometimes forget he's there and BOOM, there he was, signing and saying hot, noticing all the little things around him.

11 months yesterday. 
How did that happen?