Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Goals

Ahh, summer. It's nearly here. Our last day of school is on Thursday and we'll spend the morning at Como Zoo. My girls are kind of "big" for a zoo field trip, but Como offers so much! First, it's FREEEEEEE! Second, it also has a lovely conservatory and the summer flower show this year is inspired by the Impressionists. I LOVE the Impressionists, so I am really looking forward to that! Third, arriving when the zoo opens at 10:00 a.m. is absolutely the best time to go, because it's animal-feeding time! I was there once years ago at animal-feeding time and I actually heard a lion roar. I have never heard a lion roar at a zoo, so I knew then that it's worth it to be an early bird.

I usually have some sort of goals for my summers. This year (again) will be pretty much moving-focused (aaaahhh... almost there, almost done!) and so, though that is still before me I have a few ideas I hope to get to.

I do hope to get some good reading done - maybe two works of fiction. I am such a non-fiction reader and despite many attempts and goals (and even blog posts about them), I still don't read nearly as much fiction. So two should be accomplishable, right?

Two days until June. I found myself mentioning to a friend of mine that if I want to knit some Christmas presents, I should probably get started on them now too. Wouldn't that be a smart thing? Yes it would. Now that would be a wonderful accomplishment! Notice I'm not committing. I'm thinking about it. I hope my November self won't have to be angry at my June self later this year. Perhaps I should be making out that goal list...

I've got Twin Cities sight-seeing plans for us as a family, since so much is new to the girls. Money is going toward moving in, not getting out of town, so it's a stay-cation this year for us. Of course, as I said, so much is new to them anyway, so we are definitely playing the tourist in our own cities!

Screen-Free Wednesdays are also part of the plan. Despite the 90-minute limit each girl has, the computers still see a lot of use, as they are sitll used for school and background music. So, we're going to disconnect on Wednesdays. They can still listen to their mp3 players, since they don't have a radio or stereo, but I just want our faces away from screens. I'll check my e-mail at the end of the day for work purposes (some of you do and some of you don't know that I am a Mary Kay consultant), but that will be it. Strangely - or not-so strangely - enough, neither girl raised any objection to the idea, so it ought to be interesting! We'll see how long we'll keep up the practice.

Tomorrow I've planned an evening picnic with my family for supper after work. We'll meet down at Harriet Island just for dinner and a bit of walking around. I'll be bringing the potato salad I mentioned in yesterday's post. And here's a tip:

Did you know that you can keep your potatoes from getting mushy when you boil them by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar to your pot of water? It's so easy and so perfect for potato salad! You don't taste the vinegar, but it hardly matters, since you'd be making a salad anyway.

One more potato tip:

Perhaps you've found that if you try to cut up potatoes and save them to cook later, they, like apples, turn color. If you'd like to cut up potatoes ahead of time you can, as long as you cover them with water. Then, just store them in the fridge. They should keep without turning for a day or two.

Alright, that's all I've got for today! Off to the library. I've got one book of fiction and one non on hold. I wonder which one I'll read first! ;)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Blessed Memorial Day!


Hello all! Are you having a relaxing long weekend and taking some time to give thanks today for those men and women in service who gave the ultimate - their very lives - for our country's hard-earned freedoms?

We have had an incredibly relaxing day. After a lot of rain, the skies have cleared and today has been simply stunning. My niece, Celia turned 5 today, so we walked over to my sister and and brother-in-law's house with a bag full of goodies and a bouquet of flowers similar to the one at the top of the post.

Don't you love flowers? They instantly add something to a room and I love gathering the random things that are blooming in the yard right now.

Upon arriving at Mike and Lael's house, we noticed that we were all apparently wearing the requisite Memorial Day, hang-out-around-the-house-and-maybe-plant-a-few-seeds-outfits. Notice the matchy-matchy? For both husbands and wives? Yeah. It's a bit scary, yes? Mike, of course, has the latest-trend, newborn-baby accessory, but despite how good they look, we won't be getting one of those anytime soon. Ahem. :)


Outside, we checked out the newly-mulched garden. All the baby plants seem to be doing so well. I seriously can't wait to see how they'll all fill in.

 We added seeds today: golden and red beets, carrots, edamame, peas, and pickling cucumbers!


 Earlier last week our power was out for a bit, so on the day I thought I'd be making that lentil loaf, we all got big veggie subs at Subway. So FINALLY, tonight I've got that loaf in the oven. It always smells so good with that ketchup baked on top. I'm getting ready to run downstairs to put on the potatoes for mashing. Here's the recipe for the gravy I've used and we've loved for years. It is taken from an old Above Rubies magazine and the lovely Nancy Campbell is the one I believe should get the credit here.

Vegetarian Gravy:

1 c vegetable stock  (I use my veggie soup base mix)
(Oh my goodness. That link is from 2007. My girlies were so little then!)
2 T flour
2 t chili powder
1/2 t thyme
1/4 - 1/2 c nutritional yeast
2 or 3 T Braggs aminos or soy or tamari sauce

Heat vegetable stock in sauce pan over medium-high heat. While that is heating, blend dry ingredients in a small bowl and slowly stir into the sauce pan along with the Braggs or soy sauce. Continue to stir as it comes to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and stir occasionally until ready to serve. Add more stock or water if you need to thin it a bit. I double this all the time with great success and it reheats well too!

Here's the rest of our meatless week:

Monday - Lentil Loaf and Mashed Potatoes (finally!)

Tuesday - Enchilada Bake

Wednesday - Sandwiches and Tempeh Potato Salad
(This is for our picnic at Harriet Island! And btw, this is a fabulous recipe from Vegetarian Times! I don't always like their recipes because sometimes they need a bit more punch, but this one is always a big hit! It's such a great way to try tempeh - mmmm - if you never have.)

Thursday - Vegan Mac & Cheese

Friday - Stir Fry

And just one more shot of these lovelies. It's such an old-fashioned mix; I love it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Taking Part in a Food Revolution

Do you remember Jamie Oliver's show a couple of years back called Food Revolution? My girls and I loved that show, though Jamie really was pretty much preaching to the choir in our case. That's wonderful news, though, if you've seen the show, know about his mission, and want to change the way America feeds itself. If you don't, check out the TEDtalk he gave the same year his program launched. And even if you saw it back then, it's a terrific reminder of the direction in which we should be moving. After all, this generation of children is expected to live 10 fewer years than we will. And 10% of our health insurance premiums are for diseases caused by obesity. And the top killers, Oliver says, far from the things we fear, such as homicides (which are at the bottom of the list) are actually totally preventable diseases influenced by what we put in our bellies and into the bellies of our growing children.



What to do? Well, there are numerous ideas in the video, but this stay-at-home mom who cooks from scratch for 90% of her meals, now wants to make an even more concerted effort to teach her 12 and 15 year old how to make some of those meals on their own. I've talked about this repeatedly and my girls do know how to make some meals for themselves, but I'd like to see them even more confident in the kitchen. I'd like them to know how to make substitutions when we are out of a particular ingredient, how to make a fresh meal using leftovers, how to pull something together using seemingly disparate ingredients, or what basic ingredients and flavors make a meal italian, mexican, or asian, for example.

I just happen to have girls, but of course, boys need these skills as well. Just think how nice it will be knowing that by the time they get to college or are out on their own, our children won't be having regular dinners of canned spaghetti or boxed pasta, frozen pizza, other frozen dinners or fast-food takeout.

Summer, with it's less-structured schedules and often plaintive cries of, "I'm bored," seems to be the perfect time for greater kitchen instruction. It's on my to-do list. I want to be determined not to let it slide when I'm feeling tired. I wonder if I could set a goal... um, yes I could. ;) Okay, I will set a goal of teaching my girls 5 different meals that they can make this summer. They can choose their favorites and I might even have them learn one of our regulars, like vegan mac and cheese or our super easy veggie chili. Just think of how many night's off of cooking I might gain from this. :) Care to join me?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just Another Meatless Monday (And Budget Update)

So, do you have that Bangles song in your head? heh. Shameful, I know.

Here's the rundown for the week, proving that you can always eat veg and have a happy tummy too:

Monday: Cabbage/Burger Casserole

Tuesday: Veggie Italian Sausage (my family loves this one from Tofurky) with Baked Fries. Tuesdays and Thursdays are tae kwon do nights for the girls, so I choose something light and easy to make since we get home later. Most of the time I'll do soups or chili in the crockpot on these nights, but with the weather so nice, I've been changing things up a bit.

Wednesday: Pizza!

Thursday: Corn Chowder

Friday: Lentil Loaf and Mashed Potatoes (we had church events last Friday evening  and one daughter not feeling well, so I ended up not making this; we just grabbed a few things and went)


Back a couple of months ago, I posted about how I was going to be trying to work on our food budget. I did so well that first month with a budget of $525 that we thought I could try trimming it even more to $515. This has turned out to be more difficult. Last month, my mom came to stay with us for a couple of days and this month we started hosting a Bible study in our home on Sunday evenings. We wouldn't want to change any of those plans to accomodate a budget, so the budget will need to change to accomodate to our lives. We'll go back to $525/$530 and see how comfortable that keeps us.

The great news is that because we stuck to our guns and bought a home within our means, below what we actually qualified for, come July our mortgage payment will be almost exactly half of what we are currently paying in rent! SOOOO very happy about this. That will give us a little more wiggle room as well as being able once again to set some money aside into savings.

It's tempting, so tempting, in this culture to reach beyond our means to satisfy, however temporarily, a desire for bigger and better. Advertising wants us to believe that we deserve certain things, especially when we've reached a certain age. "Shouldn't we have, by the time we are in our thirties, XYZ?" "Shouldn't I be making more than I'm making by X age?" "Don't we deserve to have X after so many years of hard work?" The bank account may not reflect that possibility, but we get tired of waiting. Or maybe we haven't even been waiting, but a new desire has been created in us, perhaps from the friend or neighbor that has something that looks like something we think we would like.

Reality and history show us a different perspective.

 History shows us that generations have passed with our ancestors having worked very hard all of their lives never having attained half of the material goods that some of us take for granted today. Wars, depressions, recessions and the like cannot be ignored. Now, I specifically note that they may not have attained material goods, but it does not mean they didn't lead fine and happy lives. We realize, of course, that material goods do not buy happiness (a temporary emotion) or even more, joy (a sustained state of being).

Reality reminds us that it is all grace. Simply being born into your country with your family, your friends, your connections, your educational opportunities is all grace. Plenty of people don't get what they "deserve" good or bad. Plenty of brilliant children live in parts of the world where opportunities will not come their way, where they are responsible for caring for their siblings, their parents, or themselves. Good kings ascend to thrones by birth and wicked kings follow. Wise men are servants, wicked men despots. A good man is rewarded. A good man is denied.

What I am trying to say is that we simply cannot allow our thinking about what we feel we "deserve" to color our view of the world or motivate our decisions. It is all grace. The Bible tells us that what we all really deserve is death. It also tells us that because of Christ and the free gift He offers, it doesn't have to be that way.

I'm not saying that we should never do anything nice for ourselves or even be a little extravagant once in a while. But temper it with some perspective of what it really is (a gift) and don't be fooled into believing you deserve it.

I don't know that I was planning to "go there" with my topic today, but there you have it. Maybe my point is that having this kind of perspective is helpful when one is trying to live within her means. It is helpful in avoiding unnecessary temptations. Because, for example, buying a pair of shoes that perhaps you really shouldn't have, perhaps really couldn't afford, is a smaller thing and one that can be more quickly and easily overcome, but buying a house, notsomuch. And yet the same thinking that causes the one mistake is the same that instructs the other. Making a regular practice of living within your means in the small things translates into greater rewards when it comes to the large. Like a smaller house payment and lower property taxes. It's worth it. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hello, Gorgeous


I am in love. All over again, I am in love with the peonies and I remember - as if I could ever forget - why they are my favorite, favorite flower! And oh, how I missed them with their dear, plush petals. It doesn't get cold enough in Florida for peonies - or lilacs, their springtime sister that takes second-place in my heart.

"These are girly flowers, Mama!" says my younger. She is smitten too. "I want to sleep in a peony! I would be a peony fairy and live in it." And later, "I want my wedding dress to look just like this!"

I know I've shared this poem somewhere here on the blog before, years ago when I was lovelorn for their annual display, reminiscing of their fragrance... that I couldn't quite capture... that would take me back to my grandmother's garden. But Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. And she is writing about my favorite flower! It doesn't get much better than this; it is a rite of spring for me. Enjoy, enjoy! And have a blessed weekend!

Peonies
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open--
pools of lace,
white and pink--
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities--
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again--
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

- Mary Oliver

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Prelude to the Journey From House to Home

We are finally on the last leg of our massive moving adventure! We have found a house and plans are in motion to close on June 21. I am beyond excited to think of seeing long-packed-away (18 months now!) family photos, paintings that I've done, and other personal items that were just that - too personal - to be on display when our house was on the market.

While I am not a homebody necessarily, I am whole-heartedly and joyfully, a homemaker and I have already begun making plans for our new place. The whole of the interior is very neutral and so all of my pent-up decorating and nesting will begin to be unleashed in just over a month!

One of my favorite sections at the library is design and decor books, but I have had no need for them for a year and a half! Now, now I have permission again to peruse the pages for inspiration. And speaking of that, Pintrest has been a delight for that as well. Especially since my tastes have changed over the years, it is interesting to use my Pintrest boards to actually discover what I like nowadays. I really didn't know exactly what with or how I wanted to start with colors for the new place, but now I am narrowing down ideas and am getting excited!

Thrift stores, antique malls, and garage sales will all become fair game again. A long-time favorite pastime, these too have been off my list these last 18 months of paring down to make us as streamlined and mobile as possible for what will amount to 3 - yes three - moves in 8 months! So while I am a lover of a clutter-free life and am not looking to fill up my house with unnecessary stuff, I am also hoping and praying not to be going anywhere for a long, long time.

Recently I commented on my friend tonia's blog,

As I am preparing and praying over our new house (we have a purchase agreement currently) becoming a HOME and what God wants it to be, I am excited and nervous all at the same time. Home means a great deal to me and the idea of not moving again for a long time means just about as much. I am about to turn the page on a new chapter and wonder, wanting so much to love it all, what I will find?

New neighbors and community. New streets with which to become familiar. New parks for biking and hiking. New libraries, stores, restaurants. Which will become familiar? Where will we choose to... or just naturally become... regulars?

There is so much that goes into making a house into a home. My home is my work and my ministry and a vehicle through which I can practice one of my spiritual gifts of hospitality. I am not someone who believes that women should not work outside the home and though there are more women returning to stay at home with their children when they are young, often, unless you are a homeschooling parent, it seems to be acually looked down upon if a woman really just wished to remain a homemaker.

I'm not advocating one way or another and I don't know where I will even be when my little birds fledge the nest. Sometimes a person or family has no choice to remain at home, if for no other reason than health benefits a company can provide. There are real and hard choices to be made and each case is different. But I will argue that it is not always financially necessary for a family to be a two-income home and that if money is not necessarily made or brought in by a homemaker, it can certainly be conserved to a great degree. We, for example, in the years 14 1/2 years that I have been home with my children, have actually paid off all our debt. Presently, we are even completely debt-free, beause we don't even have a mortgage... though that will soon change! ;) I am not saying that to boast, but to make a point that one can live comfortably and happily on one income. I am just arguing that it is possible.

Something I wrote in my journal a few months back is something that guides my thinking in the way I value my work: The world needs God's expression of Mother-love and it needs it in the comfort of the home setting, not just being nursed in a hospital or other care setting. Again, I am not suggesting that women who work outside the home do not provide this. It is just that I have found that one of the benefits of my work is that I am available.

For years I have been available for neighbors' children needing a ride to school in the rain or when a parent could not pick them up. I have been available for children whose parents were not yet home and a storm sprang up and they knew they could come to my house for a little bit of safe-feeling. I have been available when animals have been found and need to be returned home, when a neighbor just wanted to run to the store or had to work when her child was home sick. It didn't mean that I was always inundated with requests and it didn't even always mean that I had to actually go and do anything, but the fact that I was there and that most people have expected me to be there I believe is a value to neighborhood and community that is not there if no one stays at home. That our home may be a refuge of comfort to people other than my own family is an extension of hospitality and, to me, a tiny reflection of kingdom living.

I hope that if you are someone who has been feeling down or frustrated being in your home - whether you are there full or part-time or if you are new to staying at home or feel a little aimless or in a rut in your home, having been there so long - that you you will look with fresh eyes at your home and your position. I hope that you realize the potential that is there for creativity, learning, offering healing, a listening ear... for joy.

And if you don't believe me, hear the words of one of my favorite authors and illustrators and just people in general (I seriously can't wait to meet her in heaven!), Tasha Tudor:

 I enjoy doing housework, ironing, washing, cooking, dishwashing. Whenever I get one of those questionaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife. It's an admirable profession, why apologize for it. You aren't stupid because you're a housewife. When you're stirring the jam you can read Shakespeare.

Monday, May 14, 2012

News, Some Structure, and a Meatless Monday

It's a fresh, sunshiny new week! Gosh, it's gorgeous outside, so I am going to try to key quickly!

My ankle is healing nicely and I'm hopeful to perhaps try a little jogging on it next week; YES! We'll see. I am being cautious in all that I am doing with it. In the meantime, I started this fresh week with a little bit of yoga. I had stopped my yoga because it had strangely started causing my back to ache. When I was sharing this with my sister, she wondered if it could be connected with my running. I immediately said no, because I had gone an entire year doing both running and yoga and had been in the best shape I had ever been; my endurance was terrific and I felt strong. Then in late January of the following year, I started struggling with my back. It was always irritated after yoga. Eventually, I just stopped. I've always thought it was kind of strange, given that yoga is often used to strengthen one's back and, indeed, entire body.

I was telling my siter this while we were on the way to the plant sale last week when what she'd mentioned clicked with something I hadn't thought of before. And while I kind of felt like a numbskull for not noting this before, I am so very hopeful that my problem may be that I had bought new shoes around that same time. While they were the same brand, the store where I purchased them did not have the same model of shoe I'd had such success in the year before. I don't know... maybe they don't even make that kind of shoe anymore, so I bought the newer one. The arch, I'd noticed was different and kind of cramped my foot for some time in the beginning and I thought I just had to get used to it, which I did, but I wonder if it kind of did a number on my form and therefore my back.

SO, I am in the midst of a new experiment. While I can't run, I am going to try some gentle yoga this week and see if my back can handle it. I love the way yoga tones me all over. When I feel the stretch in a Down Dog position, for example, in my legs, my arms are also being worked. Brilliant for time-crunched mamas!

I've been thinking about introducing a little bit of structure in this space. Ugh. I so rarely seem to stick with this kind of thing, but I'm going to try. I'd like to continue writing more often and a loose structure may help guide my posts. Perhaps they won't be as ramble-y.

I haven't talked about my vegan diet in some time, so I thought that joining the folks over at Meatless Mondays would be a good place to start. But first, a confession. I can't claim a strictly vegan diet anymore, because when my husband and I locate a farmer that meets our criterea for kindness to their chickens, we will occasionally buy eggs. I know how important it is for some who are vegan to be clear in what it means to be vegan, so I can't claim a strictly vegan diet anymore. I may go back to being completely egg-free again, because I still don't like the idea of so many male chicks being tossed aside into bags to suffocate or straight into a machine that mutilates them immediately upon their birth (deemed as the "humane" way of disposing of those animals not profitable). If I do, my reasons will be for that, not because I think it is exploiting a chicken to use it's eggs for food.

What I did want to mention today is why we remain dairy-free. I won't go into any gruesome details here. There are plenty of websites out there that do that. I just want to clarify by stating some facts that I think some of those who know me just don't understand, because it is true, consuming dairy does not (directly) kill the animal.

Here are just three (though there are more) reasons we don't consume dairy. The first two are from Robin Robertson's fabulous cookbook, Vegan Planet:

1) "A factory-farm dairy cow must endure a painfully swollen udder and spend her entire life in a stall, being milked up to 3 times a day. She is kept pregnant most of her life, and her young are usually taken from her at birth."

2) "Veal calves - byproducts of the dairy industry [often male calves that have no "purpose" on a dairy farm] - are locked up in stalls and chained by the neck so they cannot turn around their entire lives. They are kept in darkness and fed a diet without iron or roughage in order to produce tender, milky-white meat."

3) I don't need to.

What we WILL be eating this week is as follows:

Monday: Pakistani Kima ( curry dish from the More With Less Cookbook)
Tuesday: Rosemary Lemon Potatoes with Black Olives and Sundried Tomatoes (from Vegan Planet)
Wednesday: Baked Polenta with Red Beans and Salsa (Vegan Planet)
Thursday: A la Carte Veggie Wraps with homemade Hummus
Friday: Lentil Veggie Loaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

So, perhaps you'll take a look at the Meatless Mondays website or any of the books I mention and be inspired to try your own Meatless Mondays every week. There are thousands upon thousands of  free, wonderful meatless recipes out there on the internet and from your local library to try and there is so much fresh, fabulous produce available now and in the months to come here in North America that you'll never be lacking in choices for flavor and variety! The Avocado Raddish Salad over at Meatless Mondays is something that looks divine to me right now! We didn't get any radishes for our garden this year, but that doesn't mean I won't be looking for them at the farmer's market! Ooo... and that reminds me of a fantastic radish recipe I want to share with you! I'll have to get it from my friend, Lily. Good grief, it's making me hungry just thinking about it. Thank goodness I've still got my blueberry Silk yogurt - right here - yum! - and some peach iced tea. Happy Monday! :)


.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Plants.


Photo by Gary Smith, Courtesy of Allposters.com


So, I went to the Friends' Plant Sale today with my sister to buy some plants for our summer garden. This sale is a fundraiser for the Friend's School and it is serious business, people. Thousands of people descend on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for this annual sale and it's only gotten bigger every year. There was nothing like this in the area in Florida where I spent the last 8 years. It's plant season all year long there; people just don't get as excited.

Ths was not the first time I'd been to the sale. I think I went about 14 years ago. When I went, it was at or near the actual school - at any rate, it was a much smaller site. Folks pulled wagons for their purchases. Now, it's a whole different story... or a whole 'nother, which is often the way people say it (have you noticed??).

Now people pull around wagons with towers attached to them. I saw a four-level tower today: the base a wagon and one of those plastic shelving units with the bottom legs bowed into the wagon and three levels up on top. You know... for all your plants.

Now there is a system in place (tally-takers, separate from those who actually take the money, for example) - a well-designed system, of course - to get you through easily and I can say that it was exceptionally easy.

Now there is a numbered area where you can place all your plants when you're done and you can go and get your car for easy pick-up... kind of like the airport baggage claim... but with plants.

Oh, Minnesota. You and your love of your short-lived growing season! Like concentrated laundry detergent you will take your tablespoonful of time and the sunshine and grow for all you are worth!

It was wonderful to see the glee on the faces of so many (and one in particular who was shopping with me) all together with their gardens in their minds' eyes. I wanted to ask each one, "What are you planting this year? What does your garden look like? Is it large or small? Do you have containers or boxes or beds? Is this your first garden or your fortieth? Will you can or freeze at the end of the season or do you share your abundance with neighbors? Is there something new you're trying this year? What is YOUR favorite tomato?"

I haven't been away from the Sunshine State long enough to feel my pulse quicken over planting season yet. Especially since we've had such a warm winter - a cheater, really - I haven't been starved for the greenery that I know my fellow Minnesotans feel. But I do remember it and I know that feeling will return. My sister has taken the day off of  work every year for the past few years to volunteer at the tally tables. Volunteering gets you in early on Thursday night for the first pickins. This year she's already home because she's on maternity leave, but apparently she's not the only one who takes a three-day weekend to work the plant sale properly, as I overheard from one conversation.

Another snippet of conversation that floated past went something like this, "...that's the technique that my Grandma Bell taught me, so that's what I do." So sweet, this simple act of growing food.

So, my sister and her husband are making room in their garden for me and my family this year. It's working out in a perfectly symbiotic way of sorts: she just had the baby and didn't think she'd be able to handle the garden this year and we won't be in our new house until the end of June and certainly won't be putting in a garden until next year. So for 50 bucks a piece we look forward to: arugula, aparagus, 2 kinds of  beets, brussels sprouts, celery (red!), broccoli, leeks, scallions, kale, bok choi, kohlrabi, 3 kinds of tomatoes, a new-to-us, climbing spinach, peas, carrots, swiss chard, 2 kinds of lettuce, beans, summer squash, basil, spearmint, chocolate mint (!), oregano, tarragon, thyme, chives, popcorn (!), strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sweet red peppers and orange peppers, pickling cucumbers, rhubarb... and... oh, I just can't remember any more!

Summer, summer, with your gorgeous array of flower and vegetable! I am so excited to welcome you and see what you will bring forth!  And my favorite tomato? Brandywine. Oh yes. Right off the vine or on a warm plate with olive oil, basil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Tomorrow is the work day. It all goes in the ground! It's so, so worth it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Just What She Wants to Do

Its a beautiful day outside today. This morning we were treated to a quick-moving storm that darkened the morning skies, but quickly gave way to sunshine and bright, springtime color. Inside, however, it's a slightly different story. I'm nursing a cold and a sprained ankle. Plus, I think my kitty of these last 19 years is preparing to leave us.

Nimue and I have what I would call a "love-frustrate" relationship, meaning that she has always loved me and has caused me no small amount of frustration on a regular basis. She was downright grumpy and occasionally mean for much of her younger years. Age has mellowed her a great deal, so I haven't had to concern myself too much for some time now with that part of her personality that was trouble for me and any company I might have. For years, though, she could be unpredictable with her temperament.

She also liked to do plenty of things that she knew she wasn't supposed to do or would drive me up a wall. For example, when I would nurse my younger daughter in the wee hours of the morning, she would walk over to the plants that she ignored during the day, look right at me and then begin to chew. Of course, having the baby attached to me meant there was little I could do except scold her in a yelling whisper, "Nimue! Stop! Stop that!" Because what came next was throwing up that same plant on the carpet.

Another favorite of hers was to meow at all hours of the night right outside our bedroom door. It doesn't mean that letting her in would make her quiet; she meowed if let in as well.

So, it should really should not have surprised me that despite her current slow-motion state and little action in general, she could still manage to create a ruckus as only Nimue can.

She hasn't eaten anything for 3 days now. Today she tasted her food for a few seconds, but she's pretty much refused anything other than water on the whole. So when she got up to walk toward the kitchen from her basket, I followed, curious and hopeful. She just planted herself in a little patch of sunlight on the floor, so I thought, it being so beautiful outside and her speed of movement being greatly diminished, that I could let her out back into our fenced-in yard to roam about in the sunshine a bit. Even though I'm hobbling around, I thought even I could outpace her at this point.

So, out we went and she was very happy about this. She immediately walked easily ( I thought she might fall) down the three steps of our deck and took a stroll through the grass and into the perennial bed. She sniffed about here and there and headed back. "Oh," I thought, "she may not have many more adventures like this." (Though she is an indoor cat, I have let her out from time to time under observation or on a leash or tie-out. The tie out, by the way, was not fool-proof and led to another fiasco, but that's another story for another day). I checked to see that everything was safe. The deck, though short, was closed in all around, so she couldn't get under there, and there was only one, small opening under the fence and she was not near that. "I'll just go grab my camera and take a few shots." And I went inside, knowing right where I'd placed my camera in my purse and was all of FIFTEEN SECONDS in the house. I come out and she was gone. Really? Really???? Well, no, not really, because this being our rental house, and me not realizing that the deck was not, in fact, closed-up all the way around, she'd squeezed under the 6-inch gap on the back side of the deck and crawled to the FAR end closest to the house... and lay down.

Oh great. What if she DIES under there??? I'm going to have to find something to start to rip apart a portion of this deck to get her out!

Eve came outside and lay down on the grass looking under the deck and shouting and my nearly-deaf kitty, "Nimue!!! Nimue!!! Come out!!"

Maia came outside and marched around on the deck first in bare feet and then in wooden-soled sandals, making a loud racket to inspire same nearly-deaf kitty to come out.

I tried calling my brother-in-law to see if he had a screwdriver bit that might fit in a drill to unscrew those screws with a flower-shape on the head instead of anything I recognized (Phillips or flat-head) so that I could begin disassembling the deck! Yes, that's right. I did have those thoughts.

Nimue lay at the back and calmly stared at us doing what she has done her whole, live-long life: whatever she wants.

Eventually, she sniffed around a bit and started heading out only to initially tease Eve by turning back within arm's reach. But she did, finally, mercifully come back out and we brought her back inside. Just so she could step two front feet in the litter box and pee on the floor.

Ah, yes. Days to cherish.

But, you know, I still love her and I will miss this whiny, old lady when she is gone from our lives and I'm thankful that right now she is still happy, if skinny and slow, and sleeping contentedly in her basket right now, which is just what she wants to do.
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