Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Phoebe Pounds Cabbage

My dad couldn't resist the huge heads of cabbage from Uncle Merv in Thanksgiving week.  My basement is now highly insulated as part of our new boiler installation, so I didn't know where to ferment cabbage into sauerkraut.  But with cabbage so cheap (ok, my dad wouldn't let me pay him back, but I think it was something ridiculous like $1.50) and labor so willing, I had to experiment. It's a feat to find real work for toddlers (they're not easily fobbed off with fake chores!) that is actually helpful with minimal potential for breakage, bodily harm, and disaster.

I borrowed a mandoline from a neighbor and sliced two heads.  Phoebe took up the meat mallet with proud purpose to pound the cabbage to release its juices. Another key to having a toddler helper:  act like it's normal and don't over-praise because then you will mark their helpfulness as somehow abnormal. I want to encourage all the helpers!  We all eat food in this house and by gum, we can all pitch in.

I lugged the crock up to the balcony - I'm going to try fermenting outside!  The crock is in a sheltered spot and will get strong morning sun.  So far the weather has been fairly mild, so we'll see how the bacteria like being outside in the fresh air to make sauerkraut.

Friday, November 24, 2017

An Unexpected Thanksgiving

I've been through colds with my children before, but never have I seen them sink so dramatically from robust health into pneumonia (Ben) and prolonged fever and coughing that stumps the doctors, even after labs and bloodwork (Genevieve). Phoebe continues to cough and cry.  I continue in health, thank God, because someone has to make tempting snacks and tea and new bribes for forcing liquids at all hours, piling up the little dishes and cups in the sink and washing washing washing laundry and dishes. And don't forget the myriad runs to various medical establishments (my husband had to go on a 2-day business trip in there, too) and food stores to coax the healthy color back into the sickies' faces again.

We realized the necessity of canceling all Thanksgiving plans with extended family on Wednesday afternoon.  Sitting with Genevieve in the hospital lab, I quickly sketched a menu that I thought could work to make Thanksgiving at home traditional and doable. I flew down to market, forgetting its holiday hours, and got there in time to see it shuttered.  I begged the meat stand to quickly sell me something, anything, and got a chicken just before he drove off.  There was just one produce stand with all its boxes packed, but Laura dug through her boxes in full sympathy and good cheer to find what I needed. 

For years, I have wished to cook an entire Thanksgiving feast with everything exactly to my taste, recipes researched, rejected, and chosen with care, ingredients gathered for weeks ahead, and linens fussed over and prepped.  And here I was, thrown into my own feast in less than 24 hours with lethargic children coughing in the other room. 

So I am thankful for things I was not expecting to be thankful for this season: for skilled doctors who use their diagnostic tools well, sympathetic nurses, supportive parents and family who jump in with childcare and errands, the relative health and incremental recovery of my children, an abundance of food from kind market sellers, and all the big things that underpin our lives that I can take for granted.

What are you thankful for this season?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ben, Tucked Up in Blankets

He's home sick from school today with a nasty cold.  The weather is mild - the air smells fresh and the sun is going in and out of the clouds.  My husband suggested that Ben read on the balcony to blow the germs out of his lungs.  So, with hot tea and a good book, chosen, I am sure, for his interest and not for the irony, he got himself snug on the balcony loveseat.

He's not the only who's coughing and complaining in our family just now.  I have escaped the pestilence (so far! knock on wood!).  I tell them all to force clear liquids, even in they're not thirsty, to get lots of sleep, and wash their hands before touching anything other people touch.  At night, they use humidifiers and homemade cough syrup (it's worth clicking on that link just to see 3-year-old Ben!). 

When I was growing up, Mom would have us take Vitamin C to help our immune systems.  What's the modern equivalent?  What do you give your people to boost their immunity in the season of lots of people inside sharing germs with each other?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

How I Put Up My Hair

When I posted pictures of my sea-green dress, you all zeroed in on my hair and asked how I put it up.  Some of you even went so far as to ask for a tutorial.  Listen, I am a teacher by nature and I love teaching, but online tutorials are not the same as teaching and I'm a little out of my element.

But I scheduled my annual hair cut for next week, which forced me to decide if I was going to attempt a tutorial for you or not.  I enlisted Genevieve to hold my phone as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and put up my hair, and we went for it. You can imagine that Ben's trombone practice in the background is the soundtrack, ok?

So that this feels more like teaching to me, please tell me if you tried to follow my directions and, better yet, if you have a blog, post a photo and link in the comments.  Or, instead, tell us all how you get your hair up and off your face. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Made Myself a Pair of Socks

Phoebe is modeling my socks - more interesting than my modeling, I assure you.

I am really curious to wear my own knitted socks.  The people I have made socks for (my kids) love them, and I like wool socks in the winter, so will I like my own handmade socks?  It's starting to get cold enough to think of long underwear and wool socks.  I'll report back!
Balloon's from Genevieve's birthday
I got the yarn for these socks at A.C. Moore.  It's self-striping, and I love the colors.  I used Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Socks, although I forgot the ribbing along the top of one foot.  Oh well. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Dinner: Honey-Baked Chicken and Braised Broccoli

I read about Anna's birthday feast, but my library didn't have the same Susan Herrmann Loomis cookbook she used so I settled for In a French Kitchen.  I glanced through it quickly Saturday night - the prose includes everyday details of French kitchens (fascinating!) and the recipes seem very doable.  My eye landed on Braised Broccoli and with no trouble at all, I added it to our Sunday dinner.

honey-baked chicken (More with Less)
baked potatoes
braised broccoli (In a French Kitchen)

thaw chicken

Sunday morning:
scrub potatoes, put in oven on timed bake
cut up chicken, mix sauce, put in oven on timed bake
cut up broccoli/onions/garlic and put in pan with lid

Sunday noon:
set table
cook broccoli

This was an excellent, easy Sunday dinner.  I'll be doing this one again!

Braised Broccoli
Put in wide shallow skillet with lid:
about 1 lb. broccoli, cut in bite-sized pieces, tender stems included
3 Tbsp. minced sweet onion or scallions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup water

Sprinkle over:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
fresh-ground pepper

Cover and cook on med-high for 10 minutes.  Lift lid and stir. Continue to cook without lid, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and contents are sizzling, hopefully even getting a little browned, maybe 5 minutes.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Portraits of a 12-Year-Old

For God created her inmost being;
God knit her together in my womb.
I praise God because she is fearfully and wonderfully made;
God's works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Her frame was not hidden from God
when God made her in the secret place,

when she was woven together in the depths of the earth.
God's eyes saw her unformed body;
All the days ordained for her were written in God's book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16 but I changed the voice/pronouns

And that's a Bonnie Butter marble cake from Betty Crocker's cookbook that she made entirely herself and tinted the yellow part pink.  It was delicious.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Little Clothespin Bag for a Little Clothesline

Before we knew the walnut tree was coming down, I was throwing a sheet over my umbrella washline to protect my laundry from the falling walnuts.  Black walnut is a serious stain, so if you go to old-timey demonstrations of dyeing fabric and fibers, black walnut shells are one of the materials in the dye pot.  So you can see why I was trying to keep it off my laundry.

I suddenly realized that I could put up a washline on my balcony, a way to keep the laundry out in the air and the electric dryer turned off.  I bought a retractable clothesline ($14.99 at a Mennonite store), and my husband put it up for me with accompanying hooks so the line could zig-zag back and forth in a small space. 

I had the pleasure of making up a little clothespin bag hung from a child's hanger to go with it.  Oh, it was fun!  The calico is some sweet 70s stuff lined with a scrap left from an apron I'm making for the museum shop. 

And it was nice take a break from that big order from the museum shop for this little bag that was immediately filled with clothespins and trotted up to the balcony.  Because laundry for 5 people, one of whom is clinging to her cloth diapers, is a big job that must be beaten down every day.