Saturday, August 29, 2009

Garden Notes, End of August

-It's more fun to throw rotten tomatoes at the wall than into the compost bin.

-Planting basil right next to the tomatoes is a very bad idea. They won't get enough sun and die, and by the time you have a lot of ripe tomatoes all the basil will be gone.

-Late blight hasn't hit my garden (yet), but some of my tomatoes have an unknown disease, especially the Brandywine and Mule Team ones.

-Ignoring the okra for 2 days leads to 10 inch long pods or pods with a 2 inch diameter. It's okay because they still taste good.

-We all agree that eating fried okra every night is not a bad thing.

-Sun helps make tomatoes sweet, and a weird, wet, cold Summer means none of my huge red ripe tomatoes are sweet. The Hawaiian Currants are sublime though.

-Cutting the Hawaiian Currants off the vine is better than pulling them. They tend to split easily, then get moldy before you can eat all of them.

-It's impossible to convince an 18 month old not to pick the green tomatoes.

-By late Summer, the squash have mildew and the zinnias have rust.

-Even with a small garden, sharing the harvest with friends and family is necessary.

-With a small garden, it is hard to do a second planting for Fall, especially if nothing is dead yet, leaving you with no empty space for the dreamed about chard and beets.

-The unknown volunteer winter squash are still unknown. Prolific but unknown.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gift for a New Mom

My sister-in-law just turned 30. Meg is also expecting her first child any day now.

When Ely was born, I was thankful for his relatively easy birth and that it went exactly as we had hoped it would. Don't get me wrong, it was hard hard hard work work work! Pushing was the most frustrating, uncomfortable, and exasperating thing I had ever done, and when it took much longer than it should have I was sure he was never going to crown. But, I was able to sleep during contractions for the first half of labor, had an active stage that was only about 2 hours long, and when the midwife arrived at our house, she found me completely dilated at 10 cm. During the previous weeks, we had been worried about what my already-almost-at-the-high-cut-off-line blood pressure might do during labor, especially if it was a long and drawn out one. When Ely came quickly, it was as if our prayers were answered.

Learning to breastfeed knocked me off my feet though. I thought it would be easy and natural. I was prepared - I had read lot of books, learned about breastfeeding in our Bradley childbirth classes, attended several La Leche League meetings while pregnant, been breastfed myself when it wasn't the popular thing to do, made sure there were no bottles or formula in the house, and had an extremely supportive husband. Instead of joy, I had over a month of pain, severely cracked and bleeding nipples, plugged ducts, and mastitis. At one point I just knew I had thrush because there had to be some reason why it hurt so much. Nursing made natural childbirth seem easy, and everyday I wished I could birth my son again instead of having to feed him. My saving grace was the maximum dosage of advil and the lactation consultant who came to my house 3 different times (though by the end she was just there to cheer me on as I was doing everything right). My other saving grace was the entire Sex and the City series on dvd, because I had entertainment during those hundreds of hours I spent sitting on the sofa feeding my baby then holding him once he fell asleep. There was no way I was going to move once he was asleep. Not only did I watch every episode, I watched every episode again with the commentary turned on. Yes, I was hardcore.

It can be really hard being a new mom. There can be physical pain, emotional pain, boredom, loss of independence to get used to, and, of course, lack of sleep. Anything to make a new mom's life easier is always appreciated. I remember all the food that came to our house after Agnes was born. The day may have been long and hard, but at least we could sit down at the table every evening as a new family of four and eat a delicious meal someone had made for us out of love and friendship. Our next door neighbor even brought everything over hot and ready to dish onto plates exactly at 6pm.

For my sister-in-law's birthday gift, I wanted to give her a little something that would make her new life easier. I remembered cloth.paper.string's weighted bookmark, and loved the idea of being able to hold a book open without using your hands. I'm sure if I had one four summers ago, I would have added some reading time to all my tube time. I used some neutral linen for the front, light green canvas for the back, and embroidered my sister-in-law's initial on the front in darker green floss (green is her favorite color!). I measured an average size book and decided to make my finished bookmark 9x3 inches. Once it was stuffed with the lentils I found in my pantry, I was unsure if it would be sturdy enough to hold open a book, but I tested it with a newish hardback book and it did with no trouble at all. I also made Meg a nursing bracelet of green opal beads threaded onto elastic thread to help keep track of which side the baby last nursed on. The bracelet slips easily from one wrist to the other. When the baby starts a new nursing session, you simply go to the side the bracelet is on, then move the bracelet to the other wrist. I meant to make one for myself before Agnes was born, but when babies unexpectedly arrive early at 37 weeks, a lot of your plans fall by the wayside.

So, all Meg needs now is her new baby boy. And maybe a season or two of SATC.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Productive Day

Waking up to a sick baby, meant all the fun things I had planned outside the house had to be postponed to later in the week.

While kids made a lot of noise, I got stuff done:

-emptied the counters of tomatoes by making oven roasted tomato sauce

-made Molly's macaroons while I waited for the sauce to finish

-worked in the garden which meant I restocked the counters with tomatoes

-cooked a lot of our okra into bhindi masala for dinner

-weeded my recipe binder while looking for the bhindi masala recipe

-vacuumed the floors (still need to mop though)

-worked on the piles of laundry filling the floor of the laundry room (I'd love to get rid of recycling today too - it's obvious we haven't recycled in weeks)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Booklog: August 2009

I'm reading Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman. It was one of the books we discussed reading later this year or early next for my bookclub, but we thought someone should read it first just to make sure it was worthwhile. Ayelet has a website, and she has the coolest thing on it - a list of all the books she's read in the past few months with brief comments. Her booklog goes back to 2001, and I thought it would be a nice record for me and maybe provide some suggestions for other people. I know that I am always looking for new books to read.

Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus with Alan Jolis
Yunus is a genius. So much of what he said about poverty and solutions for poverty were proven in other books I read over the Summer. Some parts of this book were too in depth and others parts didn't quite go deep enough.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Greg Mortenson is a great guy, but the book is just okay. I think a different journalist, or a writer like John McPhee, would have written a book with fewer weak areas.

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout
Strout can really tell a story and her language pulls you in and keep you turning the page, even when you don't care very much for the characters. This is probably the weakest of her three published books.

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
The best book I read all Summer, no all year, no in all the past few years. The voice is so perfectly Julia and her story is fascinating.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Why did it take me so long to read Gladwell? He blew my mind, and I'm totally rethinking school for my children. His other two books are at the top of my must read list.

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl
Another hilarious and engrossing book by Reichl. It's more of a novella, and took me only two evenings to finish. I'm glad I learned more about her mother, who is also in her first two memoirs (maybe the third as well?). I'm eagerly awaiting Reichl's fifth book.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
In Freakonomics, the chapter on Venkatesh, "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?", is one of the best. I enjoyed GLFAG, and he disproves a lot of stereotypes people have about living in the projects. A lot of what Venkatesh says, is the basis for the success Muhammad Yunus's Grameen Bank.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Ariely loves to come up with questions about the world find out the answers, like "Will it hurt less to pull a bandage off slowly or quickly?" (ans: quickly) or "Are people more likely to steal unattended food or cash in a communal refrigerator?" (ans: food). A lot of what you think should be true is not, and Ariely keeps you wanting to know more and more about his studies.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Strout's first book. I love her writing and I enjoyed getting to know the characters of Amy and Isabelle. Just when I thought the book would remain in a scary and creepy place, Strout takes it in a different direction.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Sad and scary, especially if you know of anyone with early onset Alzheimer's. More of a beach read than good literature, but Genova does know how to keep you turning the pages.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
There are some wonderful short stories in here, and some not quite as good ones. The not quite as good ones seem to be all the early ones, from the publication info on the copyright page. I loved the different ways she used the character of Olive Kitteridge to link all the stories together and Strout is a marvelous writer.

The Kid by Dan Savage
If I ever adopt, I'm doing an open adoption.

Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch
The inside world of Per Se is fascinating. I'd love to eat here or at The French Laundry someday.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and the next 5 in the series by Alexander McCall Smith
The first book is the best, but the others are good car books and it doesn't matter if my 4 year old is paying attention or not. In fact, he loves it when a snake is mentioned or someone gets into a car accident.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
I wish Morrison had made this book longer. I didn't want the story and beautiful writing to end as quickly as it did.

The Commitment by Dan Savage
Dan Savage is so funny. I annoyed my husband so much while reading this book. The story of the Dan, Terry and D.J. family holds up to the writing.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Liked it, but I didn't end up on the Toole train. By the end, I was just ready for the whole thing to be over and for the characters to go away. Far away. Toole was a genius with the dialogue.