23 September 2011

A year examined

I've been thinking lately about all the change I've experienced in my life over the past year.  Hands down the most welcomed change is that our lives have slowed down a lot.  We lived in total chaos and at a hectic pace last fall -- getting the downstairs remodeled in time to move Herman down from Canada, getting ready for a baby, and then all the other stuff we added to it.  These days life is still full, but its more fun and less frenzied.  It's also more focused on the important, rather than just being caught up in whatever is most urgent at the moment.

Most of the change has been good.  Of course, giving birth to Wyatt and having the joy and fun and adventure that comes with adding a child to your family has been the best of it.  I've also gotten to see a new side of my spouse as he gets used to being a dad.  It's fun to see how happy being a dad makes Byron, how good he is at it, and how much Wyatt loves everything about him.  After being together for more than 20 years, it's pretty special to share something so meaningful and to get to see a new side of your partner.

It's been a great relief to get Herman's suite nearly finished.  Having him move in with us and become part of our family has also been nice.  I didn't really know what to expect when we decided to create a multi-generational home a few years back.  Now that we're living it, I like it.  That's not to say there haven't been some challenges -- mostly health-related as of late for Herman -- but so far they haven't been anything we can't handle together.  I know a lot more about hearing aids than I used to.  And it's pretty handy to have a neighbor downstairs from whom I can borrow an egg if I need it (and I have).  Plus, it is really fun to see Herman, now 87 years old, light up the moment he sees his grandson.  I'm glad Wyatt will know him and I'm glad Herman is surrounded by family once again.

Some of the changes have been less than ideal -- the jiggly nature of my midsection now, the lack of quality sleep (why am I still up?), and not having time to finish (or even begin) home projects as planned.  But, I'm exercising more, Wyatt is beginning to nurse only about once in the night now, and we've decided to get someone else to paint our house this fall.  This is progress.

Just for fun, here's a look at then . . . and now.
Wyatt (known as Grover in utero) -- September 20, 2010
Wyatt using his eight teeth to go at a cob of corn -- September 20, 2011.

19 September 2011

Fall and remembering

Summer has given way to fall, and no season rushes up as quickly or is as welcomed by me as this one.  I swear the air is different.  The locust trees have begun to drop their gold leaves and the wind is kicking them around in the street.  My dahlias are past their prime.  We even had our first rain, yesterday.

Fall means lots of things to me.  Among them: chili and cornbread, oatmeal for breakfast, and more things with crusts like pot pies, fruit pies, pumpkin pies, and cobblers.  It means you can get out your sweater and slippers from the back of the closet.  And if you light candles at dinner, it actually gets dark enough to see them while you eat.  Fall means travel and gift planning for the holidays, it means driving around town and having to stop behind school busses, and it means my towel will actually dry between showers because the house is warmer and drier thanks to turning on the furnace.  And then there is the doughnut making.

Making doughnuts is our fall tradition.  It's also an act of remembering.  My mother in law, Esther, passed away 15 years ago tomorrow.  She made doughnuts in the fall, too.

Esther was a lovely woman.  I knew her for only about six years and she was in her 60s then.  I remember one time that she and Herman came to visit Byron and me at college when we were dating.  He was playing in a hockey game and I was sitting in the stands with Esther and Herman watching the game.  She was so concerned that I stay warm enough that she nabbed the bedspread off their hotel bed and brought it along to the hockey rink, insisting that I wrap myself in it.  I always felt that she was genuinely thrilled to have me in the family when I married her son. 

She was many things: a caring mother who always tucked a $20 bill into notes to her son, a baker of good bread and even better cinnamon buns, and a connoisseur of classical music who followed along with her own score when we took her to The Messiah one Christmas.  I also remember her nutty phrase like "Heavens to Betsy" and "I've had the biscuit."  I say them occasionally and think of her and smile.

Before she married Byron's dad, she had a life full of adventure as a single woman -- pursuing a master's degree in nursing and then teaching obstetrics nursing in Boston and Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.  Only after doing that for many years did she marry at 43, move to Northern British Columbia to set up housekeeping with Herman, and have a baby of her own at 44.

Each fall we make homemade doughnuts using her recipe, and in doing so, we try to keep her memory alive and not just in our heads.  In remembering her this fall I can't help but think about how much she would have loved Wyatt.

I miss you Esther.

Sunset over the Olympic Mountains as seen from our deck in September 2011

17 September 2011

This old dog has a new trick

Believe it or not, my dad is now a blogger. 

Last week, I helped my dad get started with a blog about his hobby -- cutting gemstones.  His new blog lets you keep up on his latest projects, and it also has pages that showcase some of his best work -- examples of the stones he cuts and the lovely jewelry that the stones often end up in.  Eventually, he plans to show stones that are available for purchase.  You can check out his blog here

I'm proud of him.  For wanting to learn something new.  For listening to all those who urged him to get a web presence.  For venturing outside his comfort zone and into cyberspace.  And for being so good at his hobby of gem cutting that lots of people want to see (and buy) his work.

Go dad!

One of dad's faceted gems

What to do when it's coming out your ears

We've been overrun with produce lately.  I'm not really complaining.  It's just what happens around here each summer.  Luckily, year after year I seem to find a way to dig out.

Lately I've been contending with zucchini and regretting, a bit, the three hills I planted in our home veggie garden.  According to my friend Chelle's dad, half a hill of zucchini is too much.  I'm beginning to agree.  Zucchini management, which, if you're curious, involves shredding and bagging and freezing a lot of zucchini, takes a lot of time.  One of my plants grow a giant squash that, alone, produced nine cups of shreds. (Honestly, I'm not sure if I should be proud of that or shamed by it . . . )  I suppose the upside is I can make my favorite zucchini bread all winter long now.

I'm about a third done with my annual applesauce project of working through 50 pounds of akane apples. A few weeks back I dealt with 15 pounds of pickling cucumbers (it's going to be a pickle-themed Christmas this year).  And last week, I also made my first-ever batch of blackberry jam, which yielded six little jars of pure gold.  Dad got one for his birthday, but I will not be sharing the rest.  FYI.

I bought a 20 pound box of peaches not long ago that I was going also going to jam (we ate our first box that came over the mountains from Walla Walla with friends), but again we ate most of them.  Maybe I'll try again next week, assuming I can still get some good peaches at the farmers market and that the applesauce is behind me.

This summer's deluge is also due, in part, to our CSA share, which we've been enjoying for the last 12 weeks -- sadly, just six more weeks to go.  I got my bulk share of basil from the farm and had to make pesto for three days straight.  Now I find myself peeking into the freezer sometimes just to see the line up of bright green jars.

I use the pesto all year long to dress pasta as a base for spicy white beans and greens -- something we eat often during colder months.  Mine is a version of this recipe, using lacinato kale instead of the escarole. 

Large-Scale Basil Pesto

1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 - 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or more depending on your taste)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
6 - 8 ounces basil leaves and stems, washed and mostly dried
pinch of ascorbic acid (to help it hold its color)

Combine everything but the basil in a food processor and process until well combined. Add the basil in three or four batches, processing until the leaves are chopped small and the mixture is fully combined and emulsified.  If not using immediately, store in a jar in the fridge (or freeze it) with a thin layer of olive oil on top to keep the air out.

Makes about three cups.

On Friday, I made all this worse by picking blueberries while visiting my parents in Oregon.  Somehow I came home today with 40 pounds of beautiful late season Rabbiteye berries -- Centurions and Powderblues.  I'll keep about half of them and share the rest with my sister and friends who haven't had time to pick their own this year.

I'm sure I can think of at least 20 ways to use mine.  For starters, it's blueberry buttermilk pancakes for breakfast tomorrow . . .

04 September 2011

No pain, no gain

For Wyatt it was a week of tears and grumpiness and sore gums and lots of nursing. The upshot being that he has new teeth sprouting through his gums, he is longer and a bit skinnier around the middle, and he's acquired some new skills.  Byron also insists that Wyatt can now tell his right arm from his left, but I'm not so sure.

I wouldn't say he is crawling exactly, but he has progressed in no time flat from sitting in one place reliably to launching himself forward -- sometimes on all fours and sometimes by pulling up on something.  Yesterday we think we saw him move himself forward on hands and knees before collapsing back to earth.  But until he gets crawling down, he rolls and pivots and, between the two, can get himself most anywhere.

These days there is much shaking of his toys and he has started jetisoning objects out of the crib.  He turns the pages of his board books now.  And he is absolutely crazy about opening the doors and flaps in his book-of-the-moment "Where's Spot?" (thanks Dana and Robert!).

I periodically catch him studying things too.  Sometimes its his reflection, other times its the zipper on his hoodie.  He can sit for what seems like hours and rearrange the wood beads on one of his toys.  And of course labels, especially the yellow and white warning labels on strollers and carmseats and sun visors . . . , are the most interesting of all.

Wyatt is also keenly aware of the cat now.  He will stop whatever he's doing when he hears Oggy meow and then get a big grin on his face.  Much to Oggy's displeasure, Wyatt can launch himself toward the cat, shrinking the space between them considerably more quickly than Oggy is comfortable with.  This makes Oggy leave the room, which causes Wyatt to cry, which in turn causes Oggy to run in the opposite direction . . . this cycle repeats itself several times a day.

I know we are enjoying the final days of Wyatt's non-mobile period.  I'll miss my mostly-stationary baby when he is gone, but I know that once Wyatt gains the ability to move on his own it will lead to lots of fun and discovery for him -- and for us.  In the meantime, we are baby proofing.