Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Listy-list, full of woe and whoa

  • Today was a "Now what??" kind of day.  The type that while addressing one mess/issue/blow-out, another one crops up instantaneously.  Back-to-back-to-back.  Like, what time is it? . . . because what did I just do all day??  Disheartening.
  • Jamie's list of words include: Uh-oh, Dada, Hot, Sharp ("ahhwp"), and the names of two of our cats: Toots (sounds like "T-ts"), Kizzle (sounds like "K-zl")
  • He is climbing on everything.  Ev.ery.thing.  Everything.  There have been a number of times the past few days that I've had to confine him to the backpack because I'm just not able to hover over him for hours on end.
  • He has also started biting in retaliation to being pushed over the edge of reason with his brudders.  I don't blame him, because sometimes they just don't quit.  When we hear the screaming and see the little head wiggling back and forth, we know he's going in for the kill.
  • I had to have my picture taken yesterday for a new passport card.  Talk about a blow to my vanity.  Oy.  I just have to remember . . . I don't look like a pale spotty floating head . . . I don't look like a pale spotty floating head . . . I don't look like a pale spotty floating head.  Not usually, at least.  I hope.  Uff.
  • I was gone all yesterday taking care of a variety of business and today it was as if our house blew up, i.e. I wasn't home to manhandle life into submission.  We were all starving and there was crap strewn everywhere.  It really is best to stay home as much as humanly possible.
  • Truen has taken to hiding food around the kitchen if/when he doesn't want to eat it.  I've been wondering for the last couple of weeks why hunks of chomped-on cheese or scrambled eggs were lying under the table legs.  So oddly, as if placed there.  Of course it was because they were placed there.  Now that he knows I'm on to him, he tried hiding a chunk of scrambled egg behind a cabinet this morning.  Yeah. right.  Like that is going to fly.
In in the midst of all this, Diego just created a surprise tea party for the two of us (his brudders are sleeping) and before that, he was enthusiastically cleaning the algae from his goldfish's mini-aquarium and giving them "special food".  Bless his precious heart.  (Though I cringe at the water-mess that must surely have slopped all over...)

Now . . . to the tea party. ♥

Friday, January 27, 2012


Diego lost his second tooth today.  Lower-right.  He abides by the "no pull" policy and so it had been hanging on by a hair's-width for the past week or so.  It came out as he was pushing it with his tongue while listening to our audiobook right after lunch.  (Wolf tales from 'round the world.)  He was so good-naturedly pleased about it.  What a fella. ♥

Truen took care of his many babies with tender loving care this week.  Lamby, Baby Lamby, and the little pink pig whose name I've forgotten.  Baby Lamby is one of those stuffed animal/blankie combo doodies.  He devotedly (and delightedly) changed her diaper for two days straight, even bringing it to the library to show our friend Alice.  Changing the diaper consisted of folding each side in, then folding the bottom to the top.  "I'm changing Baby Lamby's diaper!" he said every. single. time. and would then tenderly pick her up and hold her to his chest.  It was enough to make any mama's heart melt.

Schtinky AKA Jamie is climbing on anything and everything.  The places I've found him!  Enough to make any mama's eyes bulge.  The tea party table, the couch, the living room loveseat, the sunroom loveseat, the bedside table, little chairs, the chest we are using as a barricade from the plant-filled bay window, and the worst, climbing up an extra tall stool (the spare we keep for guests) and onto the top of the antique drop-front desk we keep in the kitchen.  Taller than the table!  Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.  I was in the living room and heard rumpstering but had no idea of the danger until I walked into the room.  The stool is usually against the wall with its little steps stored away, but someone had gotten it out (very unusual) and left it out (not very unusual).  He looked so proud, too, with his little 6-toothed grin.  UGH.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grilled cheese anything

I've been on a loveboat with grilled cheese since last summer.  Grilled cheese with sliced red onions, melty and sweet.   Tuna melts w/ cheddar cheese and sliced red onions.  Sliced. red. onions.  Meh tum's a'rumblin'. 

I amped up the arsenal a bit this weekend.  Chicken melts.  I had plenty of chicken left over from stock-making, something I usually use to make meaty quesadillas or boring cold sandwiches with cheese and mustard and jam.  But we didn't have any corn tortillas and I wanted something warm, so as I stared at the refrigerator in contemplation, I wondered, "Why not a chicken melt...?"

So chicken melts it was.  With sliced red onions.  And sweet "refrigerator" pickles on the side. Yo. Delicious.

I've also honed in on the secret to the perfect melt.  Make sure that most of the cheese goes on first, then the meat and onions, then a few more slices of cheese.  The meat won't flop out as you flip it, the cheese won't get too hot and glop out the sides, and the onions will be sweet and soft.  De-wish-shuss.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An excellent introduction

I always had a "whole foods gut instinct" in my youth.  While it may have not added up to much more than instinct, I knew that anything labeled "low-fat" didn't taste good and furthermore, it probably wasn't good for you anyway. I cut out red meat, not because I didn't like the taste, but because I was afraid of it with the Mad Cow scare or getting sick if I didn't cook it long enough. It was frightening. And bewildering.

Then I started reading about Real Food. My knowledge expanded and I started reading about industrial agriculture and the idea of locally-sourced foods.  That is when I stumbled across the philosophy of eating that gave shape and form to my previously nebulous "whole foods gut instinct".

The answer? Traditional Foods. The cookbook Nourishing Traditions* is what kicked it off. I joined Traditional Foods yahoo groups. I was introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Through all this, I realized that I could eat grass-fed meat and wouldn't face the dangers of conventionally raised agri-biz beef (and that the animals would live and die humanely). I found a source for raw milk and started experimenting with the wide variety of options it affords, from the many uses for sour milk to butter-making (and the near-distant voyage into cheese-making). I finally understood why I was always so desperately hungry after boxed cereal for breakfast.  I realized that amping up a meal with quality fats left me satiated.  I reveled in butter-slathered vegetables.  I started fermenting.

Then I cleared my then three year old's dry, red cheeks with a daily dose of cod liver oil. I transformed my then four year old's poop, which had always been akin to "frothy slop" into "well-formed stool" by limiting (not eliminating) grains and upping fermented foods. I healed my own cavity (the first ever, btw) by taking butter oil and fermented cod liver oil, limiting grains and natural sugars, upping vegetables and fats, and eating grass-fed meat. These are all things I always meant to blog about but never did, mostly due to the simple march of time (whoopsies, sorry . . . because they are truly amazing stories).

As a philosophy of eating, the idea of Traditional Foods -- AKA eating as our ancestors ate, AKA if your great-grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it -- well, it has been a major revelation in my life. And so, dear reader: I offer up this beautiful 20-minute introduction to Traditional Foods through the research of Weston A. Price. If you have time, please watch it. You may find it very interesting.

*Interestingly, I don't care for a good chunk of the recipes this cookbook offers. I generally find them to be either overly bland or too heavy. But the principles and dietary information? Pure gold. And some of the recipes are very good.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Notes on potty training

I was just watching past vids from my archives this afternoon and was chagrined to notice Truen, at age 2, wearing a pair of 6-12 month pants that Jamie, at 12 months, has already outgrown.  I couldn't squeeze Schtinky into them if I tried.  But there was my sweet curly-haired Truen waltzing around in them at two years old.  Wow.

And here are the brudders now --
Truen was "taking care" of Jamie, feeding him raisins

I've been putting Jamie on the potty every morning for the past month or so.  He pees in the potty chair virtually every time and has pooped in it on three instances.  I sit him down, make a whistling noise interspersed with talk about potty, then celebrate every time he pees.  Then he stands up, looks at it and claps, saying, "yayyyyyy" . . . it is the cutest thing. 

When potty training Diego years ago, I noticed that he always had a "big potty" right off the bat in the morning and capitalized on that while training.  Same with Truby.  And now with Jamie, I'm starting even earlier.  Why not?  The sooner he's trained, the sooner I'm done with diapers.  Even if it is just the morning potty right now, that is one less diaper (and less urine drenched into his woolen night diaper cover).  More importantly, he is getting used to his functions.

Just the other night I noticed that he was acting like he was going to sit on the potty.  Sensing that he needed to go, I checked his diaper, felt that it was dry, then sat him down.  He didn't want to sit, squealed a bit, then got up and ran around all nakey.  But guess what?  He did have to go, because he peed all over the floor just as I was getting his night diaper.  Heh.  But the synapses are connecting.  I saw it.

Schtinky gets to see the potty chair in regular use even though Truen is four years old.  Diego used it until he was four-ish as well.  This is due to the fact that our toilet is virtually a high tower.  Our home still has many wheelchair accessible features due to the lady who lived here 15-20 years ago, including the tallest toilet in the world.  It is on this winter's "to do" list to finalllllllly replace it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pickl-It: the perfect counter-top fermenting system

Half-gallon jars of sauerkraut

Does everyone know that I am crazy about fermented foods?  I am.  Crazy about them. 

All the fancy holiday meals that we ate growing up included cut-glass dishes of pickles and olives; what a treat it was to bite into something cool and tart and crunchy with a rich meal.  I remember it well.  

Over the years I've come to understand that my palate has always veered towards savory tang vs. sweet.  (My parents have told me that I ate tomatoes as a little tyke.  Tomatoes!)  I go ga-ga for sour dishes.  They are just so yummy.

Now . . . . add that to my whole foods gut-instinct, then stir in my recent grounding in traditional foods (approx. 5-6 years of study and assimilation), and voila! the path to fermented foods. 

I am crazy-in-love.

Sure, everyone has heard of yogurt.  Or buttermilk.  Or sour cream.  All of which are fermented.  Many tart side-dishes that we are so familiar with, like the classic dill pickle, were once fermented (vs. the current use of vinegar to preserve and give that sour taste).

But what about pickled beets?  Sauerkraut!  Pickled peppers, kimchi, gingered carrots, salsa, fermented bean paste, bread and butter pickles, pickled pearl onions.  And so on.

These delectable dishes are created by allowing chopped (or shredded) vegetables to sit at room temp in a brine of salt and water, or their own juices, in anaerobic conditions for several days.  Instead of decomposing, they start to sour.  They are preserved by the combination of salt and the lactic acid created by anaerobic conditions.  Once the initial ferment is over, they can be feasted upon immediately or moved to cold storage to age and develop a bit more flavor,  i.e. the refrigerator, cold basement, or root cellar.

I have been fermenting for a few years now, with guidance from Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation.  I also participate in two Traditional Foods yahoo groups, which provide discussion and camaraderie for the "trad foodies".

Through connection to these groups, I have found the perfect counter-top fermenting system.  Forget about crocks.  Don't waste your time with canning jars that overflow and corrode.  Use a Pickl-It.  A Pickl-It!  These fermenting jars are so unbelievably worth the investment.  I cannot believe how wonderful they are.  The ease!  The intrigue!  The consistent results!  Production has definitely picked up.

And so . . . with no further ado . . .

May I please introduce you to the Pickl-It --

Initial ferment in the Pickl-It
Beautiful beets, both red and golden

It truly is the perfect fermenting system for the modern kitchen.  Why?
  • Small batches keep things in regular rotation.
  • Small batches allow for greater variety.
  • The airlock ensures perfectly anaerobic conditions.
  • You can see the fruit of your labor as it ferments.
  • It comes with a plug for the bung, allowing for easy storage after the initial ferment.
  • No decanting is required, unless desired.  Simply plug and store.
  • Its small size allows for easy storage in a variety of locations.

I cannot gush enough!  These vessels are AMAZING.  A true delight.  They work beautifully for both the fermenting enthusiast and the serious home preserver.  With two large gardens, I decided on the largest bundle and kept the jars in regular rotation this past summer, amassing a collection somewhere in the range of 30 quarts (around 7 gallons) of sauerkraut, 12 quarts salsa, 3 quarts pickled onions, 4 quarts pickled peppers, 3 quarts pickled beets, and 4 quarts bread and butter pickles.

As you can tell, sauerkraut is my favorite.  L-l-l-l-l-l-ove it.

With that much output, it is necessary that I decant after the initial ferment.  And because I have a fully-functional root cellar, we have plenty of storage space (awesome).  I decant into either quart or half-gallon canning jars, using new lids, and then transfer to cold storage.  No heat processing, as that would destroy the beneficial bacteria for your gut.  I've found this to be an effective strategy, and a good number of the jars seem to have even sealed, enough to keep air out and create a tight-fitting lid that does not "boing" when pressed.

Seriously?  Awesome.

Friday, January 06, 2012

My lil' guys

The brudders were weighed this week --
  • Diego, age six: 58 lbs
  • Truen, age four: 32 lbs
  • Jamie, age one: 25 lbs

Diego, at age one: lost to time and space
Diego, at age four: 41 lbs

Truen, at age one: 21 lbs
Truen, at age three: 24 lbs :)

And I just noticed . . . Diego weighs one pound more than the other two put together.  Heh.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Happy First Birthday Schtinks

Schtinky! and Voosy-voo!
How on earth has a year passed??
Yes, he was on TOP of the play table
and he climbed up there all by his little self.
See his giant feet...?
I can't squeeze those suckers into ANYTHING.
1/5 update: This guy weighs 25 lbs
What a lunk.

Monday, January 02, 2012


So, yes . . . I am tinkering with the look of my blog.  I've been contemplating doing it for awhile, but never had much in the way of time or inspiration.  The blip-bloop green top had been my template since I started my blog 6 years ago, but finally, this weekend, I decided that it was time.  Time for change.

Tinkering commenced after I started thinking about my blog title, Rain Garden.  I chose that name when I finally decided to start my own after enjoying others' blogs so much.  We were still in Minneapolis at the time and interested in actual rain gardens for the urban landscape.  I thought it was clever enough of a title and always envisioned "percolating" as my blog description.  Ha.  Ha.  Like . . . I'm thinking about all this various runoff in the form of information and ideas, absorbing and sorting through it, and there you have it: me.

But, meh.  I never did get too fancy.  And I don't intend this blog as a public forum or showcasing myself.  I cherish it as a way to sort through ideas and life, to connect with people who mean a lot to me, and enjoy the process of writing and re-writing.  Through time, I've realized that it is also a very important tool in helping me to remember my own history "as it was".  I often look back and find that my memory is kick-started with events and emotion I might have otherwise forgotten.  And I do keep a journal.

But back to the point.  My blog's name.  Though I do think it is pretty, I don't feel like it suites me much anymore.  I've shifted a bit.  I've been thinking about it and feel like I want to change it while staying within the "garden" theme.  It seems to run in the family: Rock Garden, my SIL, and Fire Garden, my dad.

The pictures I've chosen as part of my new "look" are significant to me for several reasons.
  1. Diego took them.
  2. This owl belonged to Blaine's great-grandma, Mammy.
  3. I love the clouds and the sun and blue sky.
  4. The boys in the background in the first one make me happy.
  5. It gives a fuzzy representation of our rural surroundings.

This cute little guy sits atop our water meter.  I screwed it into the wooden post when we first moved here, always a little unsure what to do with it before that, but never wanting to part with it because of its charm and that it was Mammy's (and I think I might have a thing for owls).

Living rurally, it is our responsibility to check the water meter every month.  In the city we got our water bill in the mail, but not with "rural water".  We do everything, from remembering to check the meter to filling out the coupon and mailing in the bill.  It definitely took a little getting used to at first.

But I remember that first month, in the dead of summer, checking the water meter.  It was mid-afternoon.  I was pregnant and two year old Diego was napping.  Walking to the meter was almost surreal in the thought that I had essentially just walked to the end of our Minneapolis block, and I wasn't even halfway up our driveway.  Or another time near the beginning, when I was in the quonset (the curved building in the background of the first picture) and realized, "Our entire house and yard could fit inside this building."  Literally.

It is interesting how things change.

How about the name "Prairie Garden"?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 Booklist: Completed

  • Tart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen - Kelly Geary & Jessie Knadler
  • When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today - Elaine Cooper
  • Curly Girl: The Handbook - Lorraine Massey
  • The Joy of Pickling - Linda Ziedrich
  • The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had - Susan Wise Bauer
  • A Literary Education - Catherine Levison
  • Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods - Eugenia Bone
  • The Lives of the Great Composers - Harold C. Schonberg
  • The Great Composers - Wendy Thompson
  • The Great Composers - Jeremy Nicholas
  • 50 Artists You Should Know - Thomas Koster and Lars Roper
  • Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling - Sheri Brooks Vinton
  • The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution - Alice Waters
  • Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures - Amanda Blake Soule
  • Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty - Mark Winne
  • The Cloud Collector's Handbook - Gavin Pretor-Pinney
  • Inside Picture Books - Dr. Ellen Handler Spitz
  • Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race, and Themselves - Edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses
  • Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood - Jamie Martin
  • Making Great Cheese: 30 Simple Recipes from Cheddare to Chevre - Barbara Ciletti
  • Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking - Madhur Jaffrey
  • An Invitation to Indian Cooking - Madhur Jaffrey
  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl - Ree Drummond
  • The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels -- A Love Story - Ree Drummond
  • Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living - Tsh Oxenreider
  • She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana - Haven Kimmel
  • The Adventures of Peter Cottontail - Thornton W. Burgess (Read Aloud)
  • Lady Lollipop - Dick King-Smith (Read Aloud)
  • The Adventures of Johnny Chuck - Thornton W. Burgess (Read Aloud)
  • The Adventures of Reddy Fox - Thornton W. Burgess (Read Aloud)
  • Mothers Who Think: Tales Of Real-life Parenthood - Edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses