Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Big Brudders, Little Brudders

Jamie and Baby Eliah 
August 2013

Diego and Baby Truen
January 2008

How can I resist comparing these two sets of brothers?  Situations crop up all the time that remind me of times past.  In this case, 2 year old Diego and 2 year old Jamie have both just awakened.  Diego from his afternoon nap, Jamie on a weekend morning.  Baby Eliah and Baby Truen are both around 3 months old (and Eliah is just as wild about sucking on his little fist, the cuteness).  Same loveseat, but with quite a bit more wear and tear (the sadness), and the little brudders were also snuggling with their Daddy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My very own swirling eddy

Swinging back from buoyant to overloaded . . . .

Today my "mother's helper", the 18 year old who has been helping me for a few hours each week, was here.  (It is also coincidentally her last time helping, as she is moving to Maryland in three days.)  Over the month she was able to come, I whittled my expectations down from SPECTACULAR to survival with each passing week.  No grand projects.  Just maintenance.

So today I washed sheets and made sure the beds were made before she left.  I also washed a load of towels, hung them out to dry along with the sheets, and hand-washed Jamie's woolen night diaper cover.  And by golly, I finally got up the baby calendars to compare and contrast my first three babies' development and personalities with my fourth little cherub.  I've been meaning to do this for more than two months.

You should see these calendars.  Diego's is perfect.  It is loaded with pictures and every month is filled out to a 'T'. Truen's calendar has pictures, but they aren't pasted in yet.  April 2008 is still blank with a folded piece of paper shoved in, the notes I took that month while at my parents' house.  Yeah.  I haven't actually written it in yet.

I also haven't even finished the physical calendar, and by that I mean binding it and hole-punching the top of each month, as I had the grand inspiration of a handmade baby calendar for my second child. Oh dear.

Jamie's baby calendar is complete other than his first two months, which was written on a bank calendar and not transferred over yet.  I was smart enough to not attempt a "from-scratch" baby calendar again but not intelligent enough to actually get a baby calendar before the babe was born.  Ahem.

Also, Jamie's calendar does not have any pictures.  I did order them in early 2012, but made the mistake of deciding that it would be a good idea to order pictures from the entire year that 1) I really liked, and 2) would be an accurate representation for the year.

Let's just say that when the four pound box arrived, my knees turned to jelly.  It was beyond overwhelming.  And so . . . the box was banished to the abyss of our bedroom closet.  It was too much.  I couldn't even face it.

But now.  But now!  But now I want to see the pictures of my sweet little Baby Jamie during each particular month.  I want a visual to go along with the information.  Cue gut-wrenching groans and a head-slap or two.

At least with Truen's calendar I can flip to each specific month, even if it is laying atop the chest of drawers instead of on the wall like Diego's.  Jamie's is hanging nicely on the wall, but there's a hole in my heart where the pictures should be.

So dramatic, I know.

And so, today during my hour-long Quiet Time which was interrupted 3-4 times by baby burps and a boy's bathroom break, I tackled that gargantuan box.  Ugh.

The first task was to refamiliarize myself with my purpose and intent when I first made the order.  I realized that the pictures were sorted by title instead of date, so the second priority was to sort by date.  All bazillion pictures.

I conquered, but then my time was up.  Tomorrow?  Only time will tell, but my will is set.

Friday, August 16, 2013


As I pulled this sweet little fella out of bed this morning, I thought to myself, "I am so lucky to have a baby again" as I nuzzled him and smelled his sweet scent.  It is worth all the life-rearranging and added work.  It just feels so good.

(I should also note that this was a morning that he slept later than usual, combined with me getting up at a more normal time, which allowed me to be free-wheeling and kicking booty before he woke up.  Times like these help keep me buoyant.)

He is 10 weeks today.  I just love 2 month olds.  They are so sweet.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A summer full of food preservation

I can't believe August is almost half-way over.  Where has the summer gone?

All along the way I've been preserving food every weekend, working mostly on Sundays.  Freezing, drying and fermenting are my modes of transportation thus far.  September seems to be the "canning month".  It'll come, and too soon if you ask me.

We've had a bumper crop of broccoli this year for the first time ever.  Blaine finally found a variety that actually produces.  Interestingly, while the heads are huge, it is a major sacrifice on taste.  It tastes like normal, grocery store broccoli.  So . . . fairly boring.  The thumb-sized broccoli (no joke) that we have been used to growing, while small, packs a punch on flavor.  They're spicy and significantly more tasty.

In the past we've grown 50-ish plants just to get a reasonable amount to eat along the way.  Definitely not enough to put up.  But this year, think 50 plants of store-sized broccoli and you'll get the picture.  Inundation!  We've been eating as much as we can, giving it away, loading the freezer with bags and bags of it, etc.

Now that I think of it, I'm also dehydrating the chopped stems for vegetable soup this winter with "waste not, want not" as my mantra.  Besides, I like the stems.

* * * * * * * * 

This weekend I busted out all seven Pickl-Its -- the Bundle of Five and the Condiment Duo.  Oh yeah, baby.  I worked on the onions this weekend.  On-ions.  I'm drooling.  So tasty.  And they are just so beautiful.  Blaine pulled all of them last week, then sorted out the little fellas for fermenting.

 Pickled pearl onions --
with thyme, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, 
mustard seed, juniper berries, and cloves
I know.  Rockin'.

 Sliced onions for sandwiches and salads --
with celery seed in the little guy and nothing in the big'un.

And then there are the pickles.  Classic crock pickles.  Kosher pickles.  Pickle barrel pickles.  Sour pickles.  Whatever you want to call them.  I just say, "DELICIOUS".  We have always seemed to let our cucumbers get away from us every year, but after the solo batch of pickles I made last year, the ones we devoured with great satisfied squawks and howls this winter, we decided to get serious this year.

Blaine has been closely monitoring the cucumbers this season, picking them at just the right size, then bringing them in and storing them in the refrige for my mini-blitz over the weekend.  After a week of counter-top fermentation magic, we've got the beginnings of something gorgeous.

 Pickkkkkkles --
with cardomom, peppercorns, celery seed,
bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, dill heads, and garlic.
The grape leaves are to keep them crunchy with natural tannins and
the water is murky because I used some of the leftover liquid from last week's batch.

This was last week's batch --
I decanted them into half-gallon jars and
brought them down into the root cellar for a nice, slow ferment.
They'll be ready this winter (and already smelled sooooo good).

The ground I've covered this summer includes --
  • Dried celery
  • Dried broccoli stems/stalks
  • Dried peas
  • Dried green beans
  • Frozen parsley & cilantro "herbcicles"
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Frozen chard
  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen collards
  • Frozen rhubarb (for Blaine's wine)
  • Fermented kimchi
  • Fermented dill pickles
  • Fermented pearl onions
  • Fermented onion slices

Food preservation notes.

Not bad for a mother of four with a new baby.  Though let's keep it real: I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without my fella.  Blaine.  He is always such a huge help: slinging baby, hanging with the boys, dealing with conflicts, covering snacks, fetching ingredients, transporting jars up and down, picking the produce, heck - GROWING the produce, and this year, he's even helped in the kitchen.  What a man.

Today marks 13 years of marriage, giving us a total of almost 17 years of back-history together.  I couldn't be happier.  And it just keeps on getting better.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Blaine works with a guy who is the king of all stooges.  He's our age and a great talker, but reality proves to be much different.  Seriously.  Working with this guy is like mining gold for prime sitcom material.  He could easily be on Seinfeld.

Story #1: 

He is very proud of his yard.  Very proud.

A year or so ago, his neighbor made some comment to him about "keeping up with the Joneses" in reference to his yard.  I can't remember why.  The next day he came into work and told Blaine the story, totally pooh-pooh-ing his neighbor and said, "I don't know who these Joneses are, but I know my yard is way better than theirs".

Huah!  Smackdown.

Story #2:

He loves comedians and will listen to their acts over and over again in the office.  He also loves to flirt with women in their mid-twenties that come into the warehouse.  And yes, he's married.

Just yesterday, he recited a comedy routine verbatim to one such lady visitor.  It was a routine about "unsweetened tea" and why on earth companies market tea as unsweetened when they don't have to take the sweetener out; why don't they just call it "plain tea" instead of using a polysyllabic descriptor in their tagline?

Verbatim.  Blaine has heard the routine 10-15 times and this guy recited it word for word.  He can't even come up with his own material.

The woman laughed throughout his "routine" and afterwards giggled, "tee-hee-hee . . . what does polysyllabic even mean??"

And his response my friends, is gold.  Pure gold.  He stuttered and said, "Ehhhhh . . . errrrrrrr . . . . uhhhhhhhh . . . . why don't they just call it plain tea?!"

Oh yes, he did.  Or should I say, "Oh no, he didn't".  Un-un-un-un.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Blow-out nature post

This is a strange re-entry from a week without posting, but it can't be helped.  I've been meaning to post on all this for more than a month, detailing some of the excitement at our house.  But, you know.  Life gets in the way.  We've been up to all kinds of things.

And so, while the baby is taking a much-needed "mega nap" and the boys are playing peacefully after nap/quiet time . . . the inspiration hits.

(Nevermind the house, which looks like a hurricane hit it.)

Both Blaine and I are intrigued by the intricacies of the natural world, both flora and fauna, and enjoy introducing its varied pleasures to our boys.  So with that in mind, here are some of the highlights from the last couple of months:

Last August Diego found an enormous green caterpillar with a brown face,
crawling in the grass under the basswood in our front yard.
We put it in a jar with a twig and basswood leaves and
after a few days it curled itself up into a cocoon, wrapped in leaves.
We kept it in the root cellar over the winter,
brought it out this spring,
and THIS is what it hatched into: 

It was HUGE, close to the size of my hand.
It was in the cocoon from August 2012 until June 2013.
It came out of its cocoon a few days after Eliah was born --
We had no idea what exactly it was until that point.

That night we put it on a rotted log alongside the garage.
It sat there for a good hour before it finally up-and-fluttered-away.
I actually got to see it happen --
It buzzed its wings a couple of times before it took off.
The boys were out and about on the acreage with Blaine,
but I was still sticking close to the house at that point in time
during my postpartum recovery period.  So lucky.

 The #2 amazing thing: morel mushrooms in our grove!
What the??  We were amazed.
This was the second week after Eliah was born.
Blaine went mushroom hunting on the first warm day after significant rainfall,
and bada-bing-bada-boom, there they were.
Tons of them.

 They were beautiful, just gorgeous --
I felt strong enough that I went out into the trees to see them.
(Still recovering from childbirth at the time, you'll remember.)
We had no idea that we could find morels in SW Minnesota.
My parents were here that week and since
I was obviously not up to kitchen work, we dried them --
They needed to be used/stored within 24 hours for peak flavor.
Un-un-un-un.  So exciting.

 Then there was our "pond life" aquarium 
and garter snake terrerium.
We had 2 varieties of snails, 2 crayfish, 2 fish, 
all kinds of water bugs, a leech, and 8-10 tadpoles in the aquarium.
Blaine and the boys dug up mud in the shallows of a nearby creek.
We had so much fun observing all the activity in the morning sun,
particularly the cranky crayfish tending their burrows.
We also realized this year that we have a garter snake den on our property,
under a cement slab near our quonset.  It was wild --
The boys were catching 7-10 snakes a day,
feeding them worms and even "basking" with them in the sun.

Finally . . . a baby praying mantis.
Truen got a bit obsessed with mantises this June,
and we indulged him by ordering mantis egg sacs off ebay.
We released them into the garden after they hatched by the hundreds.
(They are a tropical variety that dies with the cold weather hits.)
This particular little fella is living in the chard,
hopefully wreaking havoc with this year's grasshopper explosion.
We are hoping to catch a mantis and keep it as a pet this winter.