Friday, August 28, 2009

Return of ANTILOP

Return of ANTILOP

Violet has gained sitting prowess in the past month or so, becoming a veritable sitting EXPERT, and we have replaced the bouncy seat in the kitchen where she curled while I puttered about chopping vegetables or sizzling onions in olive oil with a high chair. Now we can strew bits of finger food in front of her to try to keep her occupied while I cook and pull her up to the table with all of us while we eat dinner-- so convenient! It's like she's a little person or something!

This is actually the second of this exact same model of high chair that we have purchased, as it was the high chair we used with Grace in Connecticut. The first one did not make the cut of being moved across the country and got donated to a crisis pregnancy center or something (a great way to get rid of outgrown baby stuff, if your politics allow it). Do you remember that? When we got rid of a bunch of stuff because the cost of replacing it was less than the cost of another moving container? Ah, moving... And now we have indeed spent $25 to get another one. I am inordinately fond of this high chair, actually, as it is so trim and small and white and does not have any padding or crevices for bits of food to get caught in. It comes in red now, too, which is super cute, and I was almost persuaded away from my purported minimalist clean white aesthetic by its bright cheeriness.

Violet is eating a lot better now at 8 months than she has been. Every time we feed her, she will eat a good half-dozen brimming spoonfuls before turning her little head and sealing her little lips and batting away the spoon. This is a huge step forward but I still get astonished by how little she eats at a time. I have to work hard to remind myself about babies' tiny stomachs-- about the size of their fists, right? One effect of exclusive breastfeeding is that I have only the vaguest notion as to how much volume she normally eats at one feeding and thus don't really have anything to compare to.

Anyway, the other thing that still astonishes me is the GIGANTIC MESS every feeding makes. I am still stripping her down to her diaper and giving her a bath afterwards at every feeding. Any efforts I make to minimize the mess seem to result in Violet not actually eating; if she's going to eat, she wants to hold the spoon with me and smear it in her hair and all over her body and somehow manage to fling it across the kitchen. They don't make a bib that will address this level of mess. And because of THAT, I am still only feeding her once a day. Is that bad? Probably, right? I somehow have in my head that I plan to feed babies once a day for a month, twice a day for a month, and then up to three meals a day. I am waaaaaaay off track on that one, though; I really must take a deep breath and work up some steely-eyed resolved and go to two feedings a day. And as a consolation for all the mess, it is awfully cute, yes?

Nana & Violet

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to School

Back to school

Today was the first day that Grace went back to her little preschool after our summer of being home together. I so enjoyed having more time to be with her, more sweet hours filled with her energy and chatting, and of course fewer mornings where I have to have us all dressed and fed and out the door by a certain time. I am looking forward to her being back in "school", though, and the time it will give me that will be more quiet and flexible and, hopefully, productive. It was amazing today how peaceful it was with just Violet here and how much I was able to get done. I am super duper unoriginal in this thought, but why did I think having one baby was tiring/draining/hard when Grace was little? Having a mere single baby to deal with is eeeeeeeeasy.

Schoolgirl Grace

Grace is back at our same little preschool just 5 minutes from our house, but of course in a new classroom with a new teacher. She goes 2 days a week from 9am to 2pm, 10 whole hours a week for me to, you know, eat bonbons. Today she said she painted and colored and sang songs and ate lunch and read books during naptime and went to chapel where they rang a bell and played with a girl whose name she can't remember. Sounds like a busy day, no?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eggplant Takes Over the World!

We have been overwhelmed with eggplant lately from our CSA. Seriously, dramatically overwhelmed. The past few weeks, there have been 10-12 eggplants in our box each Saturday. A dozen eggplants! Which arrive with the promise of another batch to arrive a mere 7 days later! Granted, they are smaller than grocery-store-style eggplant and come in a variety of lovely colors, but still, that's a lot of eggplant to deal with every week. This has been somewhat typical of our CSA this year; they tend to give us vast quantities of a very few kinds of things. The total quantity of food they give us isn't a problem for our veggie-eating habits, but I do wish there was more variety. Our other CSA experience in Connecticut was quite different in this regard, but I don't know if this difference is one of management or just climate. Anyway, the eggplant is now ranking up there with the turnips for the challenge it is presenting to our gastronomic planning because, you see, none of us actually likes eggplant. We are very open-minded at our house about food and vegetables in particular, but everyone has their little foibles and among ours is a dislike for this admittedly beautiful, sexy berry. This means I am looking for ways to eat it than involve a bit of, say, camouflage. So how have we been eating our eggplant?
  • Sliced, grilled with olive oil, then served with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. This was, eh, just OK. It tasted a little too eggplant-y, if you know what I mean.
  • Steamed and pureed, intended for 7-month-old Violet-- This turned out DISGUSTING and I did not try to give it to her. Blech... I DO NOT RECOMMEND.
  • Eggplant Involtini, from Feast by Nigella Lawson. Mmmmm, cheesy goodness.
  • Baba Ghannouj from Alton Brown. Yummy!
  • Badenjan Dip from Nigella Lawson. More yummy eggplant dip goodness!
  • Grilled eggplant slices the next day cold with a miso dressing. Yech. It sounded so promising but was NOT GOOD.
  • Udon Noodles with Tofu, to which I added the eggplant with the other vegetables. Udon noodles make everything better.
  • Grilled Eggplant and Olive Pizza from Smitten Kitchen. Very nice indeed, and I think I'm going to try some of her other eggplant recipes when we, you know, get more this weekend.
  • Eggplant Parmigian-- I used this recipe that my friend Emily sent to me at the very end of my pregnancy with Violet because of its supposed labor-inducing properties, but there's also one in this month's Everyday Food that's about the same. It turns out when you fry eggplant in olive oil and then douse it with red sauce and cheese, it is very tasty.
  • A spin on the Greek classic pastitsio casserole done with eggplant instead of the meat. Quite tasty, although just verging on being too eggplant-y.
  • A Thai-style green curry with other veggies and tofu over rice. I made it extra spicy and thus we did not taste the eggplant essence.
  • A slow-cooker vegetarian chili with black beans and corn from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, which is very nice cookbook. This was quite good, and after all day in the slow cooker, the eggplant sort of dissolved into the chili.
That's all I can remember right now, although I feel like we've eaten more eggplant than this in the past month or so. I am predicting (hoping?) that we have reached the eggplant zenith and this Saturday when we pick up our CSA box we will have fewer eggplants than last week, signaling the beginning of the end for the eggplants. You never know, though. Perhaps I shall be haunted by their presence in the vegetable drawer in my refrigerator FOREVER.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Housing Market

Welcome to the dollhouse

As my parents contemplate their move to Chicago, they are going through all their stuff and deciding what to take and what to shed from their lives. After years of storing and dusting and making room in their house for my childhood dollhouse, they have decided it's time to let it go on to its next owner. I know it would make my mom really happy if I took it, but we're not going to. It's just so big, and not really the kind of dollhouse little kids can play with. Maybe a mature, careful 7-year-old, but our house is filled with babies and toddlers and will be for the foreseeable future. And anyway, we are trying to be the kind of people who own less stuff and have been working hard on paring down our possessions. (Didn't I even blog about that? Yes, I did.) Anyway, with much hesitation and soul-searching, my parents have decided it's not in their best interest to keep it, and then we decided the same thing, so it is time to say goodbye.

Step inside this house

I am keeping most of the furniture, in case you're wondering, along with the tiny dishes and food (oh, how I love the tiny food...) and other miniature accoutrements. Those things are much easier to store in a manageably-sized box in a closet so it is only the house itself that is leaving us. The house itself is quite lovely, though, and filled with memories and my girlhood distilled and all that. My parents built it for me, running tiny electrical wires for the lights and hanging the wallpaper and laying the carpet and painting with tiny brushes.

Wee tiny flowers on the porch

Dollhouses are a THING in my family, specifically my mom's family, in case you are wondering what possessed my parents to undertake such a project. Some of the furniture in these pictures has been played with by several generations of little girls.

Girl's bedroom

When my parents told me their plans for the dollhouse, it wasn't hard to agree and to let it go, but I did decide to set it up and take a lot of pictures beforehand-- you know, for the memories. What's really special and valuable here are not the actual physical objects but the memories of being a little girl, of my world of sweet play and pretend. I don't regret choosing to let the dollhouse go, but there is still a touch of sadness in saying goodbye.

A corner for the piano

In other housing news, my parents have sold their house. I know! Amazing, right? Their house was on the market for 10 days or so and after getting a couple of offers they signed a contract on Friday. Their neighborhood has done pretty well even in the midst of the housing slump, but this was still pretty amazing. My mom invests a lot of time and energy and resources into her house and one benefit of that is that your house tends to sell super quickly. So they leave this coming Saturday to do their own house-hunting in Chicago and my dad will just stay up there in temporary housing to start his new job in about 10 days. My parents will close on selling their house here the middle of September and gosh, they are really moving, aren't they? It's been sad to see them grieving the end of their life here, the end of their time in their home, the end of their expectations for the next decade or so. I wish I could somehow make them more happy (although not enough to take the dollhouse, apparently). As for me, I mostly feel blank inside about them moving, with here and there a splash of jealousy and then a streak of relief that now I won't have to feel guilty about wanting to move away from them. I think it hasn't started to feel real to me yet. My parents living anywhere but Texas seems as hypothetical and imaginary as the family who has lived in my dollhouse for all these years.

All cozy around the fireplace

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Fruits of summer

We are growing a bit of a garden this summer, with mixed results. We've both been reading and thinking a lot about where our food comes from and how it is produced and all that, so it seemed like the natural, right thing to do. My dad had a garden for most of my growing-up years, this huge line of orderly rows that yielded vast quantities of cucumbers and zucchini and squash and tomatoes. We decided to start out on a bit smaller scale and try the square foot gardening approach, where you build a raised bed, fill it, and rope it off into a square grid. "Like graph paper!" I thought. "Perfect!"

Starting the garden

We built the bed and planted our first set of seeds last fall, but nothing really came of that. This is mostly my fault, as we didn't get our act together to plant things until much too late (beginning of October, I think?) and there wasn't enough time for things to mature before the sun and warmth went away. Also, Rob insists that I never watered the garden and that somehow this may have affected its success. Crazy, I know.


So when spring rolled around, I decided to try again and this time we have managed to produce ACTUAL FOOD. The things which have done the best are some of the herbs (basil, oregano, sage) as well as cucumbers and tiny tomatoes. We have a jalapeƱo plant that is looking super lush and healthy; it has yet to produce anything but we harbor high hopes for it still. I've decided that it's just too hot here for parsley, cilantro, or beets to thrive (or of course any lettuce-y green type things). We tried chard and it seemed to do OK until we got to the 100-degree weather and then it just stopped growing. Actually, that happened to a LOT of stuff living in our garden.

How does your garden grow?

I will admit that I kind of thought we would get more edible goodness from our garden, but on the whole it's been fun and good to eat things we've actually grown. I am left with so many questions, however. We went crazy overboard with tomato plants but about 3/4 of them haven't produced a single tomato. And why are the tomatoes we are growing so tiny? The ones from the non-cherry-tomato varieties are just larger than a grocery store cherry tomato, and the ones from the cherry-tomato varieties are the size of a small marble. Too much hot weather? Was the compost we used not compost-y enough? (We are also new to composting.) And why are our cucumbers strangely bitter? Nature, man-- it's inscrutable.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not-So-Little Grace

So here is the last of our videos; we are all caught up on video editing now-- hooray! And now we have resolved to stay caught up on it. This video is most of 2008, so Grace is 2 years old in pretty much all of it and it starts out in our house in Connecticut and ends up in our new house in Texas, with a brief few seconds set in the apartment we sublet in New Haven in the interim. In this video, we get to witness her eating hummus with all of her fingers, using Rob's old EMT stethoscope on our funny dog, playing my dad's mandolin, and look! At the very end! It's me all huge and pregnant with pink hair. I kind of long to dye my hair again. I shall remind myself of the touch-ups required every 2 weeks and that it might not be the best move considering that we are going to start the adoption process soon-ish (social workers, interviews, etc, etc).

And can you believe that snowstorm? The lovely thick blanket of soft fluffy whiteness? I almost can't believe that it's real as I sit in our sweltering August heat. This is something I have experienced many times before; in the midst of the long hot summer, any other kind of weather seems imaginary, fantastical, hypothetical. I sort of don't believe in winter anymore. Seeing our Connecticut backyard all lush with snow makes me long for it, though, and maybe it does make me feel a bit cooler. It's like how watching the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back makes you feel better on a hot day. Hey, I know! Let's all go on a mid-August visit to Hoth! Who's with me?