I think I’m taking a break. I could be wrong – it seems as soon as I decide I’m not going to write any more for a while a floodgate of sorts opens and I start posting twice a day.
I think I’m taking a break.
I’ve been feeling a greater and greater disconnect from this website for a while now. At first I thought it was – a year and a half ago – that I’d begun working as a cook and suddenly felt that I really had no right blogging about cooking because there is so much I DON’T know…I felt like a pretender to something I wasn’t.
I know, I think about the stupidest things for way too long.
Anyway, there was that.
But once I got a bit over feeling like a fake, I decided I’d just post about food sometimes, but without any authoritative tone in my writing voice.
But still…that fire is so much smaller now.
I think I just don’t feel like I’m her any more. The barefootkitchenwitch.
Things are changing in my life…well, of course, things are always changing in all our lives, right?…but in conjunction with those changes, I feel like
Oh hell I don’t even know how to say what I’m saying, because I’m keeping some stuff private, only I don’t want to – my urge is to write it all out, but frankly, I don’t feel like sharing with the universe just yet.
And putting that restriction on my own writing seems to have rendered me unable to write about anything except the occasional Scratchy post.
So I guess what I’m saying is I’m not sure what I’m doing just yet, but if I figure it out, I’ll let you know.
We’ve rearranged the living room a bit. We’re using the fireplace now, so I moved some of the furniture so it faces – or is at least angled toward – the fireplace and the warmth and the ever-changing collage of glowing embers and dancing flames.
Scratchy likes this time of year, and he especially loves this loveseat because it’s closest to the warmth. Perfect spot for napping.
And his companion? That’s Zulu, a wild African Dog, adopted from the local zoo. Usually he hangs out in Julia’s room, but this evening he was snoozing on the couch. Scratchy thought about reminding Zulu that cozy spots by the fire do, by long tradition, belong to cats, not dogs…but Zulu’s teeth showed occasionally while he snored, so Scratchy, whose teeth are certainly sharp but nowhere near as big, decided that sharing was much nicer than bleeding.
And they snoozed happily ever after. The end.
Have you heard of those looms? The ones that use little rubber bands to make bracelets or even necklaces or rings? Julia wanted one SO BAD after some of her friends started making the bracelets and giving them to each other. She’d been the recipient, but she wanted to be the maker and the giver, too. So we got her some of the rubber bands (the store was out of the loom), and she learned to do a simple “fishtail” bracelet just using her fingers to weave the bands together. But there’s only so much you can do with that pattern.
She really really wanted the loom.
So we got her one.
And the day I brought it home, she sat down with it DETERMINED to make one of the harder bracelet patterns on the website.
Naturally her ebullience gave way to tears of frustration because it wasn’t as easy as she’d expected it to be.
I tried to reason (ha!) with her. She’d only JUST GOT the loom. Hadn’t even had it for two hours yet – maybe she should try an easier pattern to start with. It’s like playing guitar…you have to start with the simpler pieces before you can play the more complex ones.
She started over. And got a bit farther this time, but still hit some sort of snag and again she was in tears because she just couldn’t do it.
Well, no bracelets were made on the loom that night. And she didn’t use it for the next several days, just sticking to the ones she could make using her fingers. I’d occasionally mention the loom, mainly because I’d gone and bought the thing and thought she really should give it another try, but I didn’t push too hard.
She tried again one day when I was at work. Bill told me about it – oh, the tears. I believed he used the term “meltdown” when describing her emotional state.
But eventually…finally…she got the hang of it. And now she’s making bracelets for everyone. Cranking them out in no time, and very proud of her color choices and patterns.
It’s hard watching that period of frustration. I wanted to help her, but I’ve never used one of those things AND I had only ever used a crochet hook to crochet a really, really long chain – just never got the hang of it, so what help would I be with her and her rubber bands and loom? None.
But that’s the thing – it’s not my job to make it easier for her. It’s my job to give her sympathetic hugs and words of encouragement and attempt to put it in perspective for her with my maternal wisdom….and then give her even bigger hugs when she finally gets it, when the whole thing clicks in her mind and in her hands, and she’s off and running (or weaving or whatever you call it on those looms).
Maybe because I had never learned to crochet, this whole loom thing got me somehow wanting to crochet something. My sister crochets. My maternal grandmother used to crochet up a storm. But it was never my thing. I learned to knit, and made everyone scarves one year for Christmas. But my interest in it lapsed at some point. I tended to gravitate toward fabric…quilts, pillows, wall hangings….
But still. With Julia’s mastery of the rubber band loom, my lack of crochet skills started to bother me.
So maybe a week ago I treated myself to a couple of crochet hooks – really pretty wooden ones – some yarn, and a pair of bamboo knitting needles because they were inexpensive and lightweight and I knew if I failed with the crochet needles, I could always knit something with whatever I unraveled during my meltdown.
I found a picture tutorial online – well, zillions of them – and one night I sat myself down and started to learn. I knew how to make a chain, so that saved me a nanosecond of time. Next it was time to learn to single crochet. That involved poking my crochet hook under that stitch and yarning over and making sure to count my stitches and not to have too much tension in the yarn because the stitches would be too tight and just get tighter with every subsequent row and eventually I wouldn’t be able to wrestle my crochet hook out of the yarn. Or something like that. And you don’t want to have to little tension, either, because then whatever it is you’re making will be all loose and loopy and probably get caught on heavy machinery and strangle you. Or something like that.
But I was determined.
I made my crappy stitches and unraveled them because they were too tight or some were tight and some were loopy so it wasn’t consistent…and I tried again. And it was frustrating.
But…again..I was determined.
So much so that by the time I was ready for bed that night – long after everyone else – I had a little odd-looking piece of something like crocheting to show for my efforts:
I took this picture the next morning with my phone so I could send it to my sister. I think I was in need of encouragement.
Oh, and ignore all the loops of yarn around the hook – that was just so it didn’t unravel on its own.
Now, rah rah, I crocheted (or something like it) several little rows – each successively tighter than the one before it. But I just didn’t feel like I was doing it right. It seemed too hard to do, and at first I blamed my own too-tight stitches and excess tension in my hands for the difficulty, but…..I still had the nagging feeling that I was really just doing it wrong.
So I unraveled the piece above and put it and my crochet hook aside for a little while. Not forgotten. Just put aside until I could find some time to find another tutorial that might help me figure out what was off.
I had today off from work. Bill was at work, the kids were at school, and I’d decided it would really be a day OFF – no dishes, no laundry, no doing anything like that.
For the first couple of hours after everyone had left, I did absolutely nothing at all. Well, okay, I made and ate breakfast. I sat on the couch. I watched TV. I scrolled through Facebook and Pinterest and checked my email. But that was it.
And then, mid-morning, I got tired of wasting my day. So I got my yarn and my crochet hook and a book on needlework that my mother gave me for Christmas a long time ago. I tried to figure out what I seemed to be doing wrong, but I couldn’t really figure out the pictures in the book. I saw in the little diagrams where my hook was supposed to go, or where it looked like it was supposed to go, and what I was supposed to do next, but I still just didn’t get it. I knew I wasn’t getting it. Again, it just seemed too hard. Like I was forcing something that didn’t really need to be forced.
Anyway, I found a couple of video tutorials online. Maybe a kind voice explaining the process AND showing it would work better.
First tutorial – nope. Just like the picture tutorials only with words.
It was the angle of view that was messing with me.
That, and, frankly, my hands. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got carpal tunnel issues with both hands. Sometimes more than just issues. Sometimes it really, really sucks. I wake up with numbness in one or both hands, or parts of them, most mornings. I drive to work and switch hands holding the steering wheel so the other hand can relax and the weird gravelly, needles-and-pins feeling will subside a bit. I know I aggravate it at work, and at home, chopping and peeling and whatever else I might be doing in the kitchen. But at the same time, I usually find that at work, for instance, I’ll start out with pain and those odd feelings in my hands and as the day goes on things start to feel better. Or bother me less. It’s a weird thing.
And, of course, the cause is not solely kitchen-related. All sorts of things bother my hands. All things I love to do – things fabric related, wire and bead related, yarn related, sometimes typing, too.
There are days a meltdown really appeals to me.
But there’s a stubborn streak in me, and so I just do the things I want to do anyway. Maybe I don’t work on projects as long as I’d like to. Or I alternate between one task an another. I adjust.
Anyway, this morning, my hands were both rather unpleasant, worsening as I attempted to sort out my crochet stitches, and I was getting frustrated, stopping and starting, unraveling, letting my hands rest flat on the couch at my sides while I glared at the laptop screen.
I finally found a video tutorial that helped, though. Maybe it was filmed at just the right angle, or maybe the woman’s voice was particularly soothing and encouraging – I don’t know, but whatever it was, something clicked and I suddenly understood how to do what I needed to be doing. Yay!
The only issue left was how to hold the tension in the yarn. You typically do that with your left hand (if you’re crocheting right-handed), looping the yarn through a couple fingers, leading it off from your index finger as you grab it with the crochet hook and pull it through existing stitches.
I couldn’t keep the yarn looped properly over a finger. I couldn’t keep tension in it, couldn’t keep the yarn on my hand even. And it didn’t help that the more I tried, the tighter my hands got, and the tension made them ache and feel all gravelly and needles-and-pins.
It was stop and start for a good hour or so, and I could feel myself just getting SO FRUSTRATED, and part of me wanted to cry, and part of me just wanted to throw the crochet hook at the poised and elegant hands of the woman in the video tutorial, and part of me was wondering why the hell I felt I had to crochet anyway, since I’ve got plenty of other hand-aggravating hobbies to keep me busy.
That’s how I felt.
But the stubborn streak wouldn’t let me stop.
And bit by bit, it sort of got…easier. I still had to really focus on what I was doing, but I was getting the hang of it (except for the keeping the yarn where it was supposed to be on my left hand). And eventually, finally, I had this:
(I took this with my phone – the rectangular piece is on my lap. You can see two of my toes on the floor up there.)(Which makes it sound like they fell off my feet and rolled into the picture. They didn’t. But if they had, this would have been a very different post.)
Anyway, I clearly had screwed up in my counting in a bunch of the rows, which you can tell by the bumps and dents along both sides.
But still. I had the hang of it. I could do better.
So I did. Here it is:
Still not perfect, but way better than my first saved effort.
I’ll take it.
And that was last week’s madness, all those jars of sauce. I ended up with eleven quarts of spaghetti sauce with meat and eleven quarts of marinara.
And after that, I stopped. For a while. I felt exhausted from it all – the obsessive NEED to can every bit of produce in sight. So I did other things…like work, take care of my family, do laundry…
And then, once I’d had a bit of relative rest, the urge began to creep back…
I will blame the tomatillos.
(Side note: I took a break from typing just a few minutes ago to wash some of the bowls and pots in the sink from last night, and I was thinking – or wondering – just how much canning do I really NEED to do? How much food should I have “put up” for the winter, or the year, or whatever. And then I thought, well, I’ll keep going nuts through the end of this month…because then I’ll need to do all the cookie baking for Christmas anyway, and there’s only room for one kind of madness at a time…and all that was followed by the slightly kidding but not entirely thought: I can stop any time I want to. Um…okay.)
Anyway, back to blaming the tomatillos…
These are some of the purple ones. As you can see, they’re not all entirely purple, and in fact some are barely purple at all. I pick them when they release easily from the branch, though I know if I let them stay on longer, they’d grow more purpley. And some fall off. And some are taken before their time by overenthusiastic tomatillo-pickers who are both taller and shorter than I am.
So here they are.
We also had lots of green ones – still do – but I didn’t take a picture of them.
I’d frozen some of our earlier tomatillo harvests, but the freezers have become crowded so I decided I should make salsa now. There are still more tomatillos, both green and purple, out in the garden. I’ll deal with them later. This weekend, I’m canning what I’ve got.
So because we grew these purple tomatillos, I decided I’d make two separate salsas – the regular green one I’ve made before, and one with purple tomatillos and white tomatoes. I thought that one would be gorgeous.
So last night I prepped everything for the purple salsa:
So that’s five cups of purple tomatillos (chopped via the food processor), white vinegar and lemon juice, six cups of white tomatoes AND some of the palest green tomatillos to get me to that six cups, and then in the back bowl there are onions, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, salt, coriander, and cumin.
Look at this pretty purple puree:
I’m not even a big fan of the color purple – I leave that to Julia – but in food? I love it. Purple cabbage, purple onions, purple tomatillos. So striking against the usual greens!
So I combined everything and cooked it for the requisite amount of time and ended up canning eight pints of this salsa.
Now, a while back in an earlier post featuring the purple tomatillo, someone asked in the comments section if the tomatillos would stay purple when cooked or would they turn gray.
I didn’t know, but now I do.
Sadly, the purple fades.
They look just like the green tomatillo salsa. I think. I’m making that today, so maybe there will be a slight difference.
I had hoped.
Oh well. It tastes good, and that’s the important thing. Really it is.
And I can always make a fresh salsa with the next round of purple tomatillos, and we’ll just eat it that way. One of those things that can’t be preserved and must be appreciated and enjoyed in the moment.
So that was that.
I also canned 7 quarts of beef stock last night, and am right this very minute (7:00am on the nose) canning another 3 quarts – I didn’t have time last night.
In addition, I’ve got a double batch of baked beans slow cooking in the oven. My plan is to save some of them for part of tonight’s dinner, and – you guessed it! – can the rest. I’m particularly excited about that – this will be my first foray into canning solid food.
NO – wait, that’s not true! At some point during the summer I canned clams.
But still. Canned, homemade baked beans! I’m very excited.
My favorite part of making baked beans? Besides the eating, I mean…the foam!
I pretty much follow Bill’s mom’s recipe, or at least the basic procedure. After soaking the beans overnight, I drain them, put them in a pot, add fresh water and a little baking soda. I assumed the soda helped soften the beans, but I’ve read that it also helps eliminate the gas-producing qualities. In this house, I’ll take all the help I can get with THAT.
Anyway, I bring the beans/soda/water mixture to a boil and then cook them until the skins peel away from the beans when you blow on them. And I skim the foam off as it bubbles up.
But sometimes first I take pictures.
It’s like a science experiment!
And if I’m distracted – like I usually am – the water will boil and the foam will rise and spill right over the pot. Onto the stove. And then I have to clean it up.
I didn’t take a picture of that.
Once the beans were ready, I drained and rinsed them and set them aside while I cooked some of the trimmings from our most recent batch of bacon…
Bill had thoughtfully diced them before he froze them. Thanks, Bill!
Once they were browning a bit, I added some water, Dijon, salt and pepper, molasses, brown sugar, and a couple of peeled, halved onions.
And the beans. And a smidge more water.
Then I covered the pot, put it in the oven (250 degrees F), and I’ll take a look at them around noon or so. Maybe a bit earlier. I’ll also drop the temperature down a bit in another hour or so. I just want the pot to be nice and warm.
So now, to recap, I’ve got jars of beef stock in the canner, baked beans baking in the oven, and my next move is to put together the green tomatillo salsa and can that once the beef stock is finished.
And I’m going to be roasting two chickens later today. For dinner tonight and sandwiches and other concoctions through the week.
And the bones – of course – will be for more stock.
Because it’s still October, and I can still can.
But I can stop any time I want.
I was going to end this post there, but I can’t seem to stop ANYTHING right now, so I will go on typing.
I think part of my canning mania – or cannia – okay, Jayne, stop right there with THAT nonsense – comes from my increased familiarity and comfort level with the pressure canner. It’s rather scary, with all the heavy duty locking mechanisms and the loud sputtering noise it makes as the jars are processing…and what if I did something wrong, what if the jars explode inside the canner?
I’ve kind of passed that early stage of worry, and now it’s just about as no-big-deal to me as boiling water bath canning or cooking something or deep frying or whatever.
I’m comfortable. My pressure canner and I are friends now, not strangers trying to be polite despite a high level of distrust (on my part).
So that’s where I am.
What are you up to today?
That’s how that corner of my kitchen looked this morning.
Yesterday I made two different great big batches of tomato salsa. Both were from the Ball Complete Book of Canning – my usual launching pad for canning projects. On the left, 23 pints and one half pint of Spicy Salsa (I quadrupled the recipe in the book because we liked this one last year), and to the right, 21 jars of what Ball calls Zesty Salsa and what we are calling Dragon Fire Salsa.
Actually, Bill referred to it as Dragon Fumes, I think, when he tasted it last night. But “fumes” just makes me think of putting gas in the car, and so I changed it.
All the salsa was canned using the hot water bath – or, more accurately – the boiling water bath method. I went three rounds with each salsa. Finally got in bed at 11:15. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing on my days off, but apparently THIS is what I do. Relax? Not so much. Maybe later today.
Right now I have a few moments to type because I’ve had the last 5 quarts of spaghetti sauce with meat, or meat sauce, or whatever you want to call it, in the pressure canner. The timer for that finally went off and now I’m waiting for the canner to depressurize so I can open it up and see if the jars survived their ordeal.
I’ll add them to the jars of meat sauce I canned the other day, and I’ll have eleven. Yay!
Pressure canning reminded me, today, of what it’s like to have a newborn, sort of. That sputtering noise the little weight gauge makes when the pressure’s correct…I find myself constantly listening, making sure it’s not sputtering too long or too often or, heaven forbid, not often enough. It’s like that new mother feeling when the baby is asleep IN THE OTHER ROOM. Is he breathing? Was that a cry? (Holding breath and listening to the monitor….) Yes, he’s breathing! (Great sigh of relief for one second until it starts over.)
Okay, it’s not EXACTLY like having a newborn. I wouldn’t pick up and hug my pressure canner. At least…not while it was still really really hot….
What else is going on here….
I do like ellipses……..……
Oh, yes, and in addition to the jars in the canner, I’ve got a great big vat of meatless tomato sauce bubbling on the stove. I’ll can that next – water bath version – and then I think I might be done for today. I was thinking of making and canning apple pie filling, mostly because I’ve never done it and we’ve got some great apples we picked the other day…but I think it’ll depend on how long the tomato sauce takes. I have a feeling there will be a lot of jars.
Oh! And this is a new one – I’m just about out of pint jars, 8 oz jars, and I’ve got ONE empty 4 oz jar left. I’ve got enough quart jars for today and beyond, but that’s IT. In fact, yesterday I had to buy two cases of pint jars so I’d have enough for all the salsa. Part of me wants to rush out and replenish the other sizes of jars, you know, JUST IN CASE THERE’S A CANNING EMERGENCY, but I am resisting.
Oh, and Julia’s home from school today. Not feeling well – sniffly and, well, she woke up with “rusty boogers.” If that isn’t cause to stay home, I don’t know what is.
Actually it’s been nice having her around. She helped me out by writing Spicy Salsa and Dragon Fire Salsa and the date on all those jars. And she’s pretty entertaining. Kept saying something about “now I’ll sign their heads!” as she wrote on all the salsa jars. That, or racing to the tissue box mid-sneeze. Yes, she washed her hands frequently. And didn’t sneeze ON the jars.
Right now she’s “taking a nap,” which seems to mean “singing and playing” in her room.
I don’t think she’s all that sick, really.
But we all need an occasional day to sing and play in our rooms.
Bill and the kids went crabbing and fishing yesterday while I was at work and while the crabbing was a flop, the fishing was most definitely not. They came home with a whole mess (technical term – “whole mess”) of good-sized skipjacks. They’d only brought two poles, because at first Julia wasn’t interested, but once the fish started biting, she was in. And two poles was plenty, because at one point they were bringing a fish in with every cast.
Bill and Alex filleted all the fish, and then Bill skinned all the fillets. He also made a stock with spines and tails. We ended up with 2 lbs, 10 oz fish, which is pretty cool. We froze the 2 pounds in ziploc bags (1 lb ea) along with some of the stock.
I breaded and fried the remaining 10 ounces, which we had as part of our dinner.
Speaking of freezing things, I kind of went nuts for a few weeks, cooking in bulk and freezing future meals, or portions of meals. As a result of that insanity plus fishing, clamming, crabbing, and Bill’s eight thousand veggie burgers, our freezers are rather packed and we need to start eating some of the stuff before we freeze anything more.
Fortunately we don’t need to freeze winter squash.
We picked some squash yesterday, and we’ve still got a bunch outside to collect. Here’s a picture of what we brought in:
Had to stand on a chair to get this. Sorry about the picture quality.
Anyway, we’ve got a nice variety going on here, there are a couple of Long Island Cheese Pumpkins (the two big ones), sometimes called Cinderella pumpkins, one Galeux d’eysines (the warty one near the top of the basket), some butternuts (underneath, in the basket), some butternut-black futsu hybrids (there’s one in front of the two cheese pumpkins , and some that I don’t really know what they are but they could also possibly be some sort of hybrids (the pear shaped ones, like the two behind the cheese pumpkins and in front of the basket). We’ve got more outside, like I said, including some Musque de Provence, which are also shaped like the cheese pumpkins, but are currently green-and-turning-orange.
The smaller of the two cheese pumpkins in the picture above weighs thirteen pounds. I’m guessing the bigger one is maybe fifteen or so. And at least three of the Musque are in that weight range as well. So while we probably don’t have as many as last year, what we lack in quantity we’ll make up for in weight.
And of course, I’m already thinking ahead to next year and what new variety I want to add to the mix.
I really want something blue. Maybe a hubbard….
But we’ll talk about the harvest part first.
I picked 3 purple tomatillos the other day. I feel like I’ve waited SO long for them to turn purple – I deserved to see how they looked on the inside, now that they’re properly purple (well, these three) on the outside.
And this is how they looked. Some purple, some green. I’m wondering if they’d become purpler on the inside as they age. I think they would, just because that one on the right, the most purplest of all, was more purple inside than the other two. But not by a lot, so who knows.
Anyway, since there were only three, and it was Taco Night (postponed from the previous night, which I’ll get to in a minute), I made a little bowl of fresh salsa using these, a bit of onion, a bit of jalapeno, and three White Tomasol (tomatoes). And some fresh cilantro. Everything but the onion came from the garden.
The jalapeno had this cute little curly thing sticking out of its skin. A curly jalapeno skin tag. Just thought I’d share.
Here’s the salsa:
Delicious and colorful!
We’re also picking tomatoes – mostly cherry tomatoes. Sadly, our larger tomatoes have lagged far behind. They’re starting to ripen now, but I’m not sure how many we’ll get before it’s too cold.
We grew beans this year – two kinds – the kind you eat now, and the kind you let dry out so you can use the dried little beans to make soup or baked beans or something.
And sometimes they blend into one variety, like when you totally neglect your red noodle beans and they get way too big to enjoy – too fibrous – so you dry them out instead. Not sure if we’ll cook them or just save the seeds for next year.
The other beans in the picture below (besides the fading red noodles) were grown for drying. We’ve been picking them as they dry, and we’ve got a jar in the cupboard where we collect the dried beans. Eventually we hope to have enough for a single batch of…something.
AND – I’ve saved the scariest vegetable for last -
ATTACK OF THE RUTABEGAS!
I’ve got today off, and I’d told Bill yesterday to pick any root vegetables he wanted me to roast today. We’ve got a few beets, some kohlrabi, and, now, THESE.
The picture doesn’t do them justice. They’re huge. And a few minutes ago I moved them – this basket and the peacock tailfeather leaves – from that counter to another spot in the kitchen, and they were HEAVY.
Julia was terrified.
So that’s the harvest part.
No – wait – one more picture. I just took this one – of the roots.
There. I’m done. Well, Bill picked a bowl of tomatillos, too, but they’re the green ones, so…eh. No picture.
Now for the blood.
I’ve got one incident, one story, and one STORY.
Incident first – yesterday Julia was rollerblading and she fell (she was long overdue), and got herself a huge raspberry on her thigh. She cried, Bill managed to bandage it up with what we had (nothing that big), and she was eager to show it to me by the time I got home from work last night. It’s a bit stiff today, but it’s not deep at all, and there’s no gravel or anything embedded in it.
Now, the story.
Friday night was supposed to be Taco Night. I made the salsa after work, and Julia and I went to the store to get a few more things while Bill went to watch the last part of Alex’s baseball practice. We’d probably eat around 7:30 or so, but that was okay, it was Friday and I was the only one who had to work in the morning.
Julia and I pulled into the driveway and I was surprised to see that Bill and Alex were already back. They’d just arrived a few minutes before us, and Bill had that somber look on his face that he gets when one of the kids has a scrape or cut or any sort of injury. Turns out Alex hurt his thumb. Well, no, first he got hit in the side of the knee, and that hurt, but some time after that, Alex was playing third and (shortish version) the kid running back to third (in a pickle between third and home) knew he wasn’t going to be safe anyway, so he didn’t slide. He ran straight into Alex. Alex had caught the ball thrown from home and had his glove hand up, ready to tag the other kid. The kid ran into his hand and bent Alex’s thumb waaaaaaaaay back. It must have hurt so much…
Alex put his glove back on and finished the inning.
He held back the tears til he and Bill were on their way home.
You know, because there’s no crying in baseball.
Anyway, I took a look and the whole thumb was pretty swollen. Bill kept looking at me with his funeral director face, and he’d hover there, asking “so what do you think?” every minute or two. Alex couldn’t bend his thumb at all, so – field trip! – off we went to the emergency room, to make sure it wasn’t broken.
Two hours later we were heading home. No break, according to the x-rays. Alex had a splint on and was told to ice it often and no baseball for a few days. And if it wasn’t better by Tuesday, we should see his regular doctor.
It’s funny, but Alex and I have a good time hanging out in the ER. We’ve been a couple of times over the past bunch of years. The other times were asthma issues. We talk. He’s nice to talk to. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s just nice to know that we have a good little mother/son relationship.
And he told me he was glad I was there with him. I think he said something like “Moms are more caring…” – not that Bill isn’t caring. I think Alex meant nurturing. Or something along those lines. I try to be calm and relaxed and keep an “everything’s going to be all right” tone. Bill’s is more of an “Oh my GOD! That looks like it HURTS!” kind of caring. So it’s best I do the ER trips. Plus I like medical stuff.
Anyway, that’s that story. Alex is on the DL for a bit, and we’re going to see the Dr today because his thumb is still pretty swollen and while I have a feeling it’s still just a sprain, I figure it’s best to be sure.
But basically, he’s fine.
And now, the STORY.
** A word of caution: If you don’t like to hear about blood, skip this one. **
Okay. So you know how Bill’s been on a crabbing mission lately? He’s brought home I don’t know how many crabs now, and we cook them up, eat what we want and freeze the rest for some future meal. Well, a few weeks ago or so, he and Alex went crabbing/skipjack fishing at one of their spots. They were using both chicken legs and skipjack carcasses for crab bait, I think, and the technique was to tie the bait to a piece of rope, toss it out into the water and let it sit there til a hungry crab scuttled near and started feasting. Then they’d gently, gently, ever-so-gently pull the rope (and feasting crab) closer and at just the right moment, blindly (the water in this spot is kind of murky) scoop down into the water with the net and hopefully catch the crab.
Got all that? Good.
So this one day Bill and Alex went crabbing and fishing. I think they were fishing near a marina…off a dock. I think they came home with a little of both – 5-7 crabs and about the same number of skipjacks. Or I could be off on the number of fish. I don’t remember – sometimes it blurs together. That part isn’t important to the STORY anyway.
Anyway, during this whole adventure, Bill needed to jump into the shallow water, I think to go after a crab that had eluded his net. He doesn’t like it when they refuse to be caught.
The water, as I said, was pretty shallow there, but the mucky muddy sandy surface below was very soft and mushy, and when he jumped in, wearing his flip flops, his feet sank down deep. When he took a step, he lost his footwear.
That was unfortunate, but he also had to walk in the muck, which was littered with rocks and bits of shell and probably broken glass. He found a large rock he could stand on, and had Alex fetch his junky sneakers from the truck. He’d already felt some cuts to his feet and he didn’t want to risk any more. Somehow, balancing on the rock, he got his sneakers on, and crabbing continued.
When he got home, he showed me the catch, but, more importantly, he showed me the life-threatening injuries he’d sustained.
There was a nasty cut on one heel, and on the other foot, a cut right on top of his big toe. I told him to clean them both and put some Neosporin on. And I went back to whatever cooking I was doing at the time.
We were both busy for a while, he pulling things from the garden and putting together his crab boil seasonings, me…cooking something. I don’t remember. But we were both in the kitchen. And both walking around barefoot – the norm for me; rather unusual for Bill.
Anyway, he said he noticed the floor seemed wet, but figured it was water from the various food-related goings-on.
Until he looked down.
And saw the puddles – of blood.
Yes, blood. He gently brought it to my attention by shrieking.
His toe, which he’d slathered in antibiotic ointment, was…leaking. I figure the cut wasn’t able to scab over because of the ointment…so it had been spilling blood as Bill walked around the kitchen.
I looked down at his toe and yep, blood was pouring down on each side, kind of like a gentle volcano.
And then blood SPURTED out of his toe. Yes, SPURTED. Right out. In a graceful red arc.
And I shouted “Cool!” as my husband expressed more concern and shrieking. Okay, not shrieking. More like “Aaaah!” In a terrified tone of voice.
And my first impulse, as I watched the intermittent Monty Python sketch-like spurting of the blood from my beloved husband’s toe, was “I need to get my camera!”
Yes. I thought it was cool, and I wanted to take a picture of it.
These thoughts, combined with my husband’s pale, horrified expression, triggered wave after wave of, yes, laughter.
Just for the record, I didn’t grab my camera, so there are no images of the event. (I also, all in the space of a nanosecond, realized I’d have to take a series of pictures in order to (hopefully) get a decent mid-spurt shot, and that such callous behavior might not do my marriage any favors.)
I did, however, spend minutes and minutes just now to create a life-like artistic rendering of the spurting. Julia was my technical critic and she gave the picture its title.
Here you go:
Okay, his heel isn’t that pointy. But otherwise, it’s pretty accurate.
Now, lest you think I am completely heartless, I did tell Bill to sit down, I applied pressure, elevated the wound, cleaned it up and bandaged the toe. No amputation necessary. He looked nauseous at one point, so I urged him to look away.
I couldn’t help the fact that I kept laughing the whole time.
I tried to stop, really I did, but…well, I’d never seen anything like it before. Bill was the one who made the Monty Python reference. It just looked so…fake.
I think I was still giggling when we cleaned up the puddles.
Bill has recovered from his injuries and should finish up toe rehab in another week.
We grew green tomatillos last year, and this year we’ve also got a purple tomatillo plant! At first the fruit was green, which led to confusion and speculation that the seeds got mixed up or something, but we waited, and they started turning purple!
So excited to make purple salsa when we get enough of them!
A couple of days ago Bill and the kids and Bill’s friend and one of his kids went crabbing. Gone are the days when crabs were the occasional bonus goodies brought home in addition to the major prey – the clams, the bluefish.
Now, we are The People Who Hunt the Savory Beautiful Dancers of the Sea. Well, of the Bay. And I haven’t even been hunting for them myself. (Because of course I am The Woman Who Tends the Hearth) (okay, enough with that silliness….)
Yeah, you read that right.
Last night after dinner, I made popcorn and Bill and the kids and I settled in for a couple hours of song and death.
Let me back up a bit.
So we’re a one cat household now.
After Softie passed away I firmly said I don’t want any more pets. Ever. I realize that’s a pretty normal emotional response after a pet dies. I’ve gone through it enough times, also, to know that the feeling subsides and pet people tend to stay pet people despite the periods of heartache.
Right now we’re focusing on bringing Scratchy’s weight down. It’s easier to regulate how much he eats when he’s the only one we have to feed. We only feed him twice a day now, and have learned to tell him no when he tries to beg for snacks. The kids encourage him to exercise with a flashlight – he chases the beam around the floor, and especially up and down stairs. So far he doesn’t suspect that this is for his own good.
He also has occasional weigh-ins on the Wii board. These are usually rather dangerous affairs for whichever kid (usually Alex) has to hold Scratchy, because while he’s very affectionate, he doesn’t like to be picked up.
Anyway, like all people trying to shed some pounds, he has had his ups and downs. We were pretty pleased when he lost a pound – only the kids wanted to reward him with a couple of cat treats, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of rationing his food…
Most recently he’s put some weight back on, so either someone’s been slipping him some extra kibble or the flashlight batteries have died and no one’s replaced them.
Scratchy has become a bit more sociable recently. Before, he would race out of the room and hide if anyone came to visit. Even family and friends who are here on a relatively regular basis would send him hissing and running up the stairs to hid under a bed. But we’ve noticed a change. He isn’t as quick to run away, and he doesn’t hiss so much. He even lets people – OTHER people – pet him.
I’m wondering if he misses his sister.
If, maybe, he needs some sort of interaction with other living creatures, and with Softie gone, he is gravitating toward these tall, non-feline beings that visit.
Or maybe she’d been telling him people were out to get him and he’s realizing that she was just messing with his head. Sisters do that.
Anyway, when he’s not begging for food or chasing balls of light, Scratchy does his best to cover all the chairs with white hair.
It’s one of his best things.
That, and being sweet.
The original title to this post was going to be “Rainy Day Baking” except that it hardly rained at all today, and I didn’t want to be inaccurate.
I made four loaves of white bread this morning. I haven’t done any bread baking all summer – it’s been too hot and humid for me to want to, and we’ve been rather busy as well, so time was limited.
Anyway, here are the rest pictures I took along the way….
I’ve got a laptop again.
My original laptop finally quit on me a while back, but I haven’t been able to do anything to replace it. So I told myself in a stern voice that once upon a time I didn’t even have a laptop, I used the desktop computer and that was just fine, and there was no reason I couldn’t do that again, so stop feeling sorry for your laptopless self right now, missy.
So I used the computer in our music/computer room and of course that worked fine.
Except for when the kids needed to practice. I’d be in the way. Or on the stool they needed to sit on. Or it was Alex practicing violin and it kind of hurt my ears to be so close to all that…………music.
So I started trying to figure out how to fix that.
(I know, I know, such a problem to complain about when there are so many other bigger issues in the world. But this is not a heavy website, it’s a light one. So my laptop issues are pretty much as heavy as things get.)
Anyway, it occurred to me that my mother bought a laptop years ago that she very, very, very, rarely (or never) used. Periodically she would call me or my sister for help getting it started again because it would sit dormant for so long it wouldn’t get updated and just ran sloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwly at best. Plus it’s got a semron processor, which, I discovered, was the kind dinosaurs used on their laptops. Not the fast-paced dinosaurs, but the slow, lumbering kind.
I offered to buy the laptop from my mother, and she refused that, saying she’d like to give it to me and in return I could help her choose a new one when she decided to do that. So I said okay.
And I brought it home and plugged it in, and twenty five millennia later, I was able to get past the “Welcome” screen and attempt to explore things. I’ll fast forward through the agony and just say that for a birthday gift Bill asked his computer guy coworker to get all the stuff off my death-bed laptop and get this “new” one to run better/faster.
So here I am. And it’s even better than I expected, because Awesome Computer Guy added RAM and memory and cleaned it all up and tricked it into running faster with some sort of Computer Guy magic.
I am SO grateful.
And now I’m just getting used to having the laptop again. I got out of my writing habits (which, I know, were sometimes pretty sporadic), and for a while I didn’t even know where to set it up. But now I’m here in the living room, by the big front window, which is one of the two places I used to like to sit and type. The other place was downstairs on the same work table as my sewing machine, but since I rearranged everything down in the sewing area, that might not work out now.
And that’s okay.
I like my spot here by the window.
Isn’t it gorgeous?
Bill (the Hunter, the Great Provider, Farmer of the Bay and Gardener of the Back Yard) has been doing a bunch of crabbing lately. We’re eating our fill and then packing the remaining meat in crab stock and freezing it.
I’m looking forward to winter, when we’ll thaw one of those packages and make something yummy with locally caught crab meat…stuffed mushrooms, maybe. Stuffed flounder. Cheese and Crabmeat Fondue. Crab Rangoon. Who knows what else.
A couple of weeks ago Bill and I were horrified to discover that Julia’s hermit crab was dead. We found it’s curled, lifeless body outside the shell one day, and since this came so soon after Softie’s passing, well, we dreaded telling Julia. Although, she’s been angling for a guinea pig or hamster, so we also realized maybe she wouldn’t mourn this loss quite so much.
You’ve probably heard of this sort of thing – using old tee shirts to make something new, like shopping bags or quilts or, in my case recently, rugs. I’d say braided rugs, because that’s what they look like, but actually they’re kind of crocheted…sort of.
Anyway, I don’t have enough how-to pictures – woefully unprepared am I – but I taught myself to finger crochet and I made simple little bracelets for Julia and her friends out of the bottom seams of old tee shirts. I taught Julia how to do it, and she made seven bracelets in half an hour.
Anyway, using this same technique of crochet without a hook, you can make long chains with strips of old tee shirts (nice to use because they’re stretchy) or other strips of fabric…denim…yarn, whatever.
So I’d salvaged and sliced up a lot of old tee shirts from this household, and I decided to make little rugs for the kids’ rooms. More summery than the shag rugs they’ve got now.
I made two lonnnnnnng chains, one with Julia colors and one with Alex colors, and yesterday I started binding Julia’s rug. Now, if I was REALLY crocheting, I suppose I could crochet the whole thing together using some sort of round and round stitching. But that’s not happening. So I just started spiraling the chain and stitching it together on the back side. Here’s a picture I took not long after I started:
Very exciting, except you can probably tell the “rug” is curving more like a hat or a really large soft bowl. At first I thought I could stretch it out and it would lie flat…but as I kept going (past the above point) the cupping just became more pronounced. So I looked up stuff online about this sort of issue with braided/crocheted rugs, and learned I was stitching it all too tightly.
And after a lot of heavy sighing and frowning, I ripped out all my stitches and started again, this time with a looser stitch and paying careful attention to potential buckling.
Here’s where I was at the end of my day yesterday:
I’d gotten about as far as that white section before, and it was definitely NOT flat. This is much better.
It’s currently 17.5” in diameter, and I’ve got a bunch more left of the chain to go. Not sure how big this will get, but it really doesn’t matter. Julia already likes it.
I like it because I know where all those different portions of fabric came from. That little dark pink section near the top of the picture? A very small pair of stretchy pants Julia had…dark pink with black polka dots and black lace at the ankles. The section that looks white? Actually it’s also got tiny pale rosebuds, and it came from maternity summer pajamas I had when I was nursing.
One more – see the section that’s a blend of deal and dark purple? More very worn stretchy pants I couldn’t completely part with:
That’s about it for now, but I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to. There are other things, too, but they’ll have to wait.
What have you been doing lately?
After a rather sudden and fast-moving illness, Softie is gone.
She passed away Tuesday night, in our living room/basement. The kids were asleep. I think Alex suspected, though.
I sat with her. First I held her, but when that seemed too uncomfortable for her, I laid her down on the carpet and stayed down there with her.
She rested her head in my left hand, while I petted her non-stop with my right hand.
And all the while I looked into those eyes of hers.
I told her over and over that I was sorry, so sorry, and that it was okay…I’m here…I love you….
She looked at me but sometimes it was as if she was looking through me, and that is the image, one of them, that has stayed with me, haunting me, squeezing my heart inside my chest and forcing new tears to my eyes.
Sometimes it seemed to me she looked at me with reproach. Why couldn’t I do more for her? Why wasn’t I saving her? That’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. So sorry.
Bill and I were both sitting with her when she exhaled for the last time. Scratchy was nearby. He knew something was wrong.
I wrapped Softie in one of Julia’s old baby blankets. It has tiny rose buds along the binding and I’ve always liked it. Then I put Softie in a plastic box – no lid – and tucked the ends of the blanket around her. She’d have looked like she was sleeping, only we couldn’t figure out how to close her eyes. So…she was resting. Bill put the box in the downstairs fridge.
Two days later Bill and the kids dug a hole near the garage. There’s a really pretty blue hydrangea growing there, so we thought it was the perfect spot.
When I got home from work, they showed me the hole (very deep – the kids stood in it to show just how deep), and I brought Softie up from the refrigerator, and we held her funeral.
The kids – no, all of us – picked flowers from everywhere in the yard and placed them in the cinder block that Bill had placed on top of the dirt so no animals would try to dig her up.
Julia played her recorder.
We cried some more.
And then we went inside. Alex changed into his baseball uniform, and we headed to his game.
Life goes on, of course.
But frequently, still, I see her eyes from that final night, and something squeezes my heart. Hard.
And that’s about all I want to write about this right now.
When I recently fell back in love with quilting (not that I ever fell out of it…but we had kind of a parting of the ways and now we realize we are meant to be together forever), I figured there must be a gazillion quilting blogs out there, and I was curious to see what people were doing. So I think I typed in a search like “quilting blogs” or something, and landed on this page.
If you scroll down, there is a HUGE list of quilting blogs. I’ve been clicking on one or two of them whenever I get some time to explore. Some are defunct (the list went up in 2010), some have moved, but a lot of them are still there and it’s fun – and inspiring – to look at all the quilts people have made.
Go take a look. So much talent and passion and artistry out there!
So the other day at dinner Julia said, out of the blue, “I don’t like eating raisins because it’s like eating tiny old people.”
I have no explanation.
The baby quilt I’ve been working on has conjured up memories of other baby quilts I’ve made, especially one of the first ones. Not sure if I’ve told this story before, but here goes…
This was back when ALLLLLL my quilting was hand-sewn. Piecing AND quilting. Everything. I loved it. And I still do, though too much of it bothers my hands. But this was a while ago.
Anyway, one of my sister’s friends, Betsy, was having a baby – I believe she was the first of their group to do so, and I was invited to the baby shower, and so I decided to make a quilt. I kind of blended aspects of the styles of Monet and Seurat, with colors from Monet’s Water Lilies. So I used soft greens and pinks and blues, and all the pieces were hexagons. I can’t describe it better, and I don’t have pictures, but I remember loving the creation of it…the artists, their styles, the colors…and yay – a baby!
Anyway, because I was a card-carrying member of Procrastinators Anonymous (still am, but not as bad), soon it was the night before the shower and I still hadn’t finished the quilt.
But I DO finish things. And the shower was at something like eleven o’clock the following morning (a Saturday, I assume), so, hey, I’d just stay up kind of late and get it done.
I was up all night. All. Night. I had the tv on, I was in the living room with my quilt on a table, and I was stitching my fingers off.
And yes, dammit, I finished that quilt.
I don’t remember if I took any sort of nap that morning, before the shower. I kind of don’t think I did.
Anyway, to make it even better, I had to drive, because my mom, who was also invited, had had surgery on the bottom of her foot and it was still in a cast or boot or something.
The shower was half an hour or so from where we were both living (and my sister wasn’t even able to come to the shower for some reason…she was living up in Boston at the time, so maybe it was because of work or something?) (and, as yet another side note, I now live just minutes from the church basement where that baby shower took place) …where was I? Oh yeah, half hour drive. So here we go, my limping mother and me with most of my brain wrapped in fuzz.
We put our gifts with the others and found seats sort of near the back. I propped my eyes open with paper clips. And the shower was under way.
While other gifts are being opened in the story, I’ll take a moment to explain the weirdness going on in my head during the shower.
I was big.
I felt, as I willed myself to remain upright on that folding chair in that church basement, with all the many sweet church member ladies and family members and friends, like I was twice the size – at least – of my usual self. Not fat. Big. A giant. That’s how sleep deprivation was distorting my world. I tried not to move so I wouldn’t frighten anyone with my big-ness.
And eventually Betsy got to the baby quilt. She pulled it from the bag (or unwrapped it – I don’t remember) and held it up for all to see, (as I tried to shrink down so I was normal-sized) and said, loudly, “JAYNE W MADE THIS!”
And the word loudly doesn’t do it justice. Her voice THUNDERED the words, and as she said them I seemed to grow bigger and all the little old ladies and moms and cousins and friends turned, as one, to look at me as I was contorting into something that might pass for normal-sized in my metal folding chair.
I hope I smiled politely.
No one ran away screaming, so I guess I looked harmless.
And the shower proceeded normally, with the rest of the gifts opened, lots of oohs and aaahs and smiles at all the adorable baby things…lots of thank-yous from Betsy, and then, of course, food.
That is my best baby quilt story.
I made baby quilts for my sister’s two kids, both of which were late. Not sure how late my nephew’s quilt was, but my niece didn’t get hers til she turned two. Hey, there were a lot of appliquéd flowers on that one. That sort of detail takes TIME.
Anyway, so that’s the baby quilt stuff.
Like I said in my previous post, all this quilting has resulted in a resurgence of my love of designing and sewing. So naturally I had to rearrange my sewing/jewelry-making/other stuff-making area. (For some reason I can’t stand the term “crafting” or anything “craft-“ related. I can’t use it. Ick.)
So that’s what I did yesterday. I’m still not completely done, but that’s today’s job.
Both pictures were taken in bad light and with my phone, so please excuse the poor image quality….
The biggest change I wanted to make was to have that tall work table sticking out from the wall so that I could walk around it and work on big projects. It’s a bit of a tight fit back there, but I made it work and I’m SO happy about it. There are still areas that need to be tidied up or reorganized, but that’s the easy part.
The hardest part was moving the rolltop desk. Now, it does come apart, so that helps, and I remove all the drawers, of course, but still – it’s heavy, even broken down into sections. But I did it. I’ve done it so many times over the years, I’m actually pretty good at reassembling it, which is tricky because the center writing part has to slide in between the two drawer portions, so those things have to be just the right distance apart, and that middle writing section is HEA-VY because it’s got a huge piece of some sort of stone inlay as the writing surface. And, of course, there’s maneuvering the whole roll-top section – which is one enormous unwieldy piece – and fitting it onto the pegs that hold it in place (the pegs jut up from the corners of the two main drawer-holding parts of the desk). Anyway, putting that together successfully is always cause for high-fiving oneself. Not that I did, of course, because that would be weird.
And that’s about all the writing I have time for. I’ve got some laundry to hang outside, and some reorganizing to finish downstairs.
And, of course, that baby quilt isn’t finished yet….
So what have you been up to lately?
I worked on the baby quilt a bunch yesterday, made some cookies, got dinner ready, went with the kids to the book fair at their school, and did some more quilting before I went to bed.
I haven’t hand quilted in a while – my stitches are a clear illustration of that. Don’t have pictures to show you, but I will at some point.
It took me a while to get going, trying to find a way that felt comfortable now, because my fingers start feeling needles-and-pins-y when I’m doing all sorts of hand work – peeling, chopping, sewing, pinning, writing, tying shoes, braiding my hair – stuff like that. Sometimes it goes away after a while. I think my little hand muscles loosen up or something. I don’t know how it works. But I know I can compensate, or change the way I’m holding something or doing something, and it’s manageable.
Anyway, I fiddled around a bit and finally got into a good rhythm with the sewing. And it was so great to be doing that again. Like harvesting coriander seed, it’s meditative. Rhythmic.
It makes me happy.
And speaking of things that make me happy, here are the couple of pictures promised by the post title:
Julia, of course, mid-cartwheel. We were at the ball field the other day. Alex’s game was over and the coaches were talking to the team in the dugout. Julia and I were waiting, and Julia, who does not do “patiently” or “sitting still” all that well, was turning endless cartwheels and practicing round-offs. The sun was going down, and I was catching some great shadows of her against the back of the dugout wall. No shadow of her in this picture, but it was the best of the cartwheel shots (taken on my phone), so I thought I’d share.
This is Alex running through his music before the elementary school band and orchestra concert last week. The five local elementary schools come together for this concert – so five different groups of 4th grade violin, five groups of 5th grade violin, and 5 groups of band kids, all playing together. It’s pretty remarkable, and I love their music teacher.
You’ll notice that Alex isn’t playing his violin in that picture (though he is in the violin group and played that instrument as well). He does fine on violin. But he doesn’t love it. He plays it because, as Bill has pointed out, it gives him an in, an opportunity to play his guitar. So Alex was one of the kids who had a solo that night. The others were all from the band. Bill had arranged the second of movement of a Vivaldi concerto for Alex to play on guitar, and Alex’s violin teacher played the orchestra part on keyboard.
We went early so Alex and his teacher could run through the piece. That’s when I took the above picture. I like it – Alex with all the music stands and empty chairs behind him.
I only took one picture during the performance – first of all my hands had broken out in a cold sweat just before it was Alex’s turn to play, and because I didn’t want the click of the camera to be a distraction. And it also occurred to me that I should just sit there and listen, and delight in the moment.
Which I did.
I think I will be baking some cookies today. Nothing new – I’m making these, I think, since I have a lot of limes and a bag of shredded coconut. Not sure if there will be nuts in them or not.
I was at Alex’s baseball game last night, sitting on the bleachers, when Julia came running up to tell me someone was here to see me. (Julia spends Alex’s games playing with whichever younger sisters of other baseball players are around. There’s a good supply of them. Most are girls she knows either from school or from the season last year, and when she spots them and they see her, it’s like a tenth year reunion of best friends who haven’t seen each other since graduation. Very cute.)
Anyway, the someone was the mom of one of Julia’s former classmates. Her son is playing baseball, too, and he had a practice that night.
She asked me how my writing was going, and for a minute I had no idea what she meant.
Oh, yeah, this blog. Um, I haven’t been doing much writing over the past year.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot, on and off. I even thought, recently, that maybe this website had run its course. Maybe I should just say thank you and goodnight.
Still, I keep finding that I just don’t feel like writing about food. I think, maybe, that I don’t need to write about food like I used to, because cooking is now “what I do for a living.” I just don’t feel like photographing what I make for dinner and talking all about it. Unless it’s something very different or really interesting. I don’t know. It’s weird, but that fire has burned out.
And I came to the conclusion (yesterday, after mulling things over), that that’s fine. I’m not required to write about food. I can write about whatever I want to. Or not.
I see my stats dip way down when it’s not pre-Easter (when those posts about coloring eggs are all over the place), and at first I felt this panic – Oh no! I have to get those numbers up! – but…why? I am not dependent on the ad revenue. It’s nice, but not crucial. So…I can relax about that.
I have today off. My days off are so precious to me. At first I’d use days off to catch up on all the household things – do tons of laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking, baking, etc. But now, I don’t want to use up my time – MY time – doing all that. So I try to get as much of that stuff done on work days, or have the kids do some of it, so that I can spend my days off doing what I WANT to do do.
Lately it’s been all about the fabric. I’m working on a quilt but I can’t show you because it’s a baby quilt and a gift and no one gets to see it (out there in internet land) until after the baby arrives. Which should be soon. SO excited!!
I love fabric. I love designing quilts or little wall hangings or pillows… and I haven’t really done a lot of that in a LONG time. But now, I think now that I’m cooking for a living, it’s like THAT hobby or passion or whatever it is has been sated, and now I have room for other creative pursuits.
And isn’t that a great thing?
I still need to get back to repairing other quilts we have – a project I started a while back and then dropped. But it can wait til after this baby quilt. And it’s Spring – we don’t need as many quilts.
I’ve also been sucked into the black hole of Pinterest, and that’s actually been a great motivator for me. I see all these amazing creative projects (including quilts), and I just want to make them all. Or not – but make my own things. Because why not?
So that’s what I’m working on today. Hoping to finish the baby quilt. And then a couple other little projects…and then….?
I have no idea!
And that’s sort of the best part.
When I first started working at my job (I wanted to write “my new job” but after over a year now, I suppose it’s not so new), I was, frankly, a nervous wreck. I know I wrote about that, so I don’t think I’ll go into it again, but the short version is that I am way overly critical of myself about oh…everything I do…and so much of my time at the job (and before it every day) was spent in my head alternately criticizing myself, berating myself for not being better/faster/more efficient and for not already knowing how to do everything there, and imagining all sorts of disparaging things my new coworkers must be thinking of me.
Anyway, as a result of that nervous wreckness, I could barely eat for six weeks and I lost some weight, which was nice, but not in a manner I would recommend to anyone.
In addition to all the self-flagellation and not eating, I was also back in my home town, where many people from all my pre-college years still resided.
And post-college, because I moved back to that same town for a while some years ago when I returned from out of state.
Anyway. In my overly emotional and jagged mental state during those first weeks, I didn’t want to see anyone I knew. I was afraid I’d cry. So many swirling emotions were that close to the surface, I didn’t think I could dam them in if the level got any higher.
So, naturally, I saw ghosts.
For one thing, every older man of a certain age – and dressed in a certain way – was my father.
Oh, my father’s still alive. And still living in town. And I did see him (and still do) periodically when he’s shopping there. But at first, I didn’t. I just thought I did.
Every older gentleman in jeans and a lightweight jacket and some sort of baseball-style hat – my dad. I can’t count the number of total strangers I almost spoke to before realizing that no, they only looked like my dad because they were rows of produce away with their backs to me and my father doesn’t even have a jacket that color.
Or a beard.
They weren’t him. But for a moment, they were.
And then when he really came in, I had all sorts of other emotions swirling around that bubbled to the surface…but that’s another post, maybe, some day.
Anyway, besides my dad ghosts, there were others.
People who looked familiar. My brain – already overtaxed – would rush around (in my head, where it couldn’t scare anyone) looking through every classroom I’d ever been in, trying to bring a name to that face. Was he…? Was she…?
And along with the facial recognition thing came the quick back-in-time feeling. If it was (or looked like) someone from elementary school, then BANG, besides being an incompetent fake cook at my new job, I was also EIGHT YEARS OLD. Or, worse, ELEVEN. Or, even worse, ANY AND ALL OF MY AGES IN HIGH SCHOOL.
Not only was I an incompetent fake cook, but I was also legally too young to be working there, plus awkward and shy, plus I had braces again! And pimples! And hair that wouldn’t hold a curl!
AND, (yes, there’s more) – some of the people I saw were (or looked like) friends of my parents. Couples or halves of couples who used to come to dinner parties, or belonged to the Rotary club, or the Garden club, or something. They had more wrinkles, yes, but they were out and about, shopping, chatting with friends and neighbors “Oh, fancy seeing you here!” Smiling.
My mom should have been there, too.
I’d see women of her age, vital and…doing. Participating. Living.
Mom was at home.
It’s a long story.
But anyway, many ghosts.
Ghosts of people.
Ghosts of emotions.
Ghosts of what ifs.
Ghosts of whys.
Those first six weeks were exhausting. Most of that – okay, all of that – was my own doing. My own letting go of the reins and letting every anxiety and insecurity I’ve ever had race wildly through the streets, past the strengths and mental defenses I’d built up over time (who were currently feebly trying to wave the out-of-control stampede into a corral).
What kept me going was, simply, that I really liked my job. I was getting to do something I loved to do.
So I survived. And people I worked with were encouraging and critical but never mean (like the cartoon versions in my head), and I managed to battle my own WRONG thoughts and get to where I could eat a bit more often.
And here I am.
I’m happy to go to work. I get to cook stuff!
I still have bad moments, but I learn from them and I can laugh them off.
But I still see ghosts.
I suppose I always will.
It’s been reading week at the elementary school, and yesterday was “Dress Like a Pirate Day” (because of the treasure in books, I believe), and because we are the Last Minute Family lately, Julia and I put her costume together about twenty minutes before she had to leave for school.
Not too bad, I think.
A week or two ago I pulled out all the bins of fabric from their bins and shelves and reorganized it. Rather than just organize by color, which is my usual method, this time I sorted first by type of fabric. So now I’ve got all the cottons and cotton/poly blends together, all the stretchy fabrics together, all the fancy (sheers, shiny, lacy) together, all the sturdy fabric together, all the super heavy duty (upholstery, etc) together, and – in its own huge Rubbermaid bin – denim.
It’s such a nice feeling to get that done and to go downstairs to my corner of the basement and see the neatly divided stacks and bins of fabric, just ready and waiting.
I also have bins with all the little bits and pieces that are too small to fold and really organize. For years I’d insisted (to myself) that they, too, needed to be part of my whole sort-by-color operation, but I’ve changed, apparently. I’ve become less rigid. I’ve gotten sick of all those scraps mixed in with the larger pieces. It’s annoying to see a pattern and think That’s Perfect! only to pull it from the mess and discover it’s a sort of triangular piece roughly 4” on a side with a weird little bite-like scoop cut out of one point and pretty much useless for the purpose I’d had in mind.
Done with that.
Anyway, while I was clearing everything out of the bins at the start of this project, I also pulled down the huge piece of gray fake fur that the cats like to snooze on, way up on top of all the shelves. I knew it had to be coated in cat fur, and at the very least I could run it through the dryer to clean it up a bit. As I tugged, a whole pet store’s worth of cat toys came flying down, pelting me on the head and shoulders.
THAT’S where they all were! I saw some I hadn’t seen in years. It never occurred to me that our little hunters would drag their rattling prey way up to their comfy aerie….well, now I know.
Yesterday morning, Julia yelled for me – there was something I HAD to see!!!! I brought my camera – a habit I’ve neglected of late – and there was Softie, in one of my nicely fluffed and reorganized bins. (Quilting cottons, by the way.)
Apparently I don’t have as many medium shades of fabric as I do lights and darks, so Softie made herself a little nest.
She’s staring at the desk lamp off to the right. I switched it on so I could take the pictures in this post.
Other than that little turn of her head, she didn’t move. Or get out of the bin.
Clearly I need more fabric, if only to keep the cats out of the bins.
We love our grilled cheese sandwiches around here. From the simplest – bread, cheese, a hot pan and butter – to all sorts of complex concoctions, no one in my family ever says no to this simple and simply satisfying sandwich.
We weren’t even going to have corned beef this year on St. Patrick’s Day. Julia and Bill had been sick, Alex isn’t a huge fan of it, and I wasn’t interested in working in a kitchen all day and then coming home and working in the kitchen all night. It was never a big deal at my house when I was growing up (we were Scots and English!), and when Bill was growing up, he didn’t really love the meal, but it was tradition…so, we got in the habit of making it once a year.
Anyway, at the last minute, sort of, Bill decided to cook some corned beef. Not the whole boiled dinner – none of us like boiled cabbage particularly, and there are tastier ways to cook vegetables. But corned beef was on sale, and heck, why not. So he bought a point cut (cheaper than the leaner flat cut) and put it in a dutch oven with some beef stock and the flavor packet that came with the corned beef. He used about enough liquid to come about halfway up the side of the beef – not enough to cover. Then he put the lid on the pot, put the whole thing in the oven, and braised it for about four and a half hours.
When we took the corned beef out to check on it at that point, the meat just fell apart when the fork touched it. Really. It was that tender.
And it was delicious. And tender. Did I already say tender? I’ll say it once more. Tender.
One of the things I never like with corned beef is that it just gets so…tense. Sure, slice it thin for sandwiches the next day, or slather it with mustard. But still…I just don’t think boiling does this cut of beef (the brisket) any favors.
So henceforth, when we feel the need for any sort of corned beef and cabbage dinner, we’ll braise the corned beef and serve it with fresh slaw. And then, the next day, have our Reubens with homemade sauerkraut.
Boiling? No more.
Oh, and also – for dinner tonight, we had breakfast – corned beef hash and eggs. So good.
I walked into the living room earlier today and this is what I saw.
Actually, what I saw was Scratchy sort of wrestling with/chewing on the little pink elephant. When I came back with my camera, Scratchy saw me and froze. Like that.
The elephant’s name, by the way, is “Purple Ears.” It’s Julia’s, in case you hadn’t figured that part out. Or, rather, it was Julia’s.
I check my “stats” periodically just to see where readers are coming from and which posts are currently popular. There are certain ones I see visited often, so I’m used to them, but then something completely unexpected will be the #1 post of the day.
Like yesterday – apparently a whole bunch of people came over via a Reddit link that referenced my “Herbivores of the African Plains” cake – Julia’s birthday, 2011.
Here’s a picture of the whole cake:
Two weeks since my last post. Didn’t realize it was so long.
Winter break was last week, so everyone was home and the week sped past. My neck hurts from watching it, it moved that quickly.
I had a weird moment a few days ago…maybe not a moment…more like a drawn-out look through a different looking-glass. I was watching some cooking show – I think it was one of those international kinds of things where the host travels to various cities in a given country and samples the local food, in this case, lots of (yummy looking) street foods.
But it wasn’t about the host, or even the food. No, there were other people standing there during various segments, and a couple of them were speaking about the local food, and on the screen the person’s name would appear, and beneath it, the descriptive “Food Blogger.”
And I thought “hunh.”
Profound, I know.
I think I used to consider myself a food blogger, not that I like labels really, but if you had to describe what point on the blogging map I lived nearest to, I guess “food” was it. Closely followed by family. And aimless babbling.
Lately, however, say, within the past year, I feel myself parting with the “food blogger” affiliation. I still cook, of course, and bake. We must eat, after all. But I feel less like writing about it now. That could be because cooking is now my job, not just a useful hobby. I love my job, and I’m so happy – and even still a bit startled – to be doing what I’m doing. But…now that I am surrounded by people who have been cooking professionally far longer than I, I am – and I’ve written this before – feeling a bit humbled. Less…peacock-like about the things I cook. Not always, but a lot. So I just don’t photograph my cooking so much now. And on my days off…I tend to drift toward other hobbies instead. Those window quilts. The denim potholders. Stuff like that.
Or, very very occasionally, I spend part of my day off relaxing. It’s a strange endeavor. I always feel a little uncomfortable, a little guilty, doing NOTHING. This morning I had breakfast on the couch, watched old stuff on tv, and, at some point, actually dozed off. Yes. I took a nap. I woke up a little before noon feeling puzzled and too warm and more clear-headed than I’d felt earlier but still kind of sluggish. I figured since I’d slept the morning away I should GET UP AND DO SOMETHING, in order to make the most of my precious DAY ALL TO MYSELF. But. I had too many possible things to do and no idea which one to choose.
So I skipped them all and worked on trying to organize a few things for the household – paperwork, bills, finances, shopping…that sort of thing. Soon, very soon, I want to tackle our filing cabinet. Four drawers of the past, crammed in and mostly forgotten. It needs cleaning out and reorganizing.
So do other sections of this house. I went upstairs and put laundry away, and then reorganized the drawers in my bureau and rearranged the furniture a bit. I wanted to rearrange Alex’s room but he wouldn’t let me. I had Julia clean off the desk in her bedroom, and we added a lamp so she could do her homework there, and I was satisfied. For now.
Still so many projects to tackle. I scribbled a lot of them down on some lined paper I snitched from the kids’ supply, and I felt better just getting that on paper.
And that’s about it. Made excellent macaroni and cheese for dinner, fried some hotdogs to go with it, and that was that.
Now? I think I’ll go stare at my fabric for a while and see what it wants me to do.
Sometimes I just feel like I don’t have anything GREAT to write about so I just skip posting. I think I shouldn’t just sit here and ramble on and on about nothing, because it’s not good reading for anyone.
But sometimes it’s all I’ve got – the rambling on and on. It’s like talking to my sister – we just ramble on and on. Sometimes we have a purpose to our conversation, but mostly it’s just…like sitting at the kitchen table and chatting over coffee.
Well, I’ve got my morning coffee. Do you need yours topped off?
I have spent too much time (or wasted, probably) not doing things because I was afraid I’d do them wrong. If I didn’t think I could do something perfectly, I just wouldn’t do it. So many roads not taken.
But that’s okay – I’m in a good spot at this time in my life.
Maybe that’s why I actually finished window quilt #4 today.
Or solitary egg, in this case.
When I was a kid, my mother used to make this dish sometimes on Sunday mornings. It’s a slow-morning kind of breakfast, and Dad’s photography business was closed on Sundays.
I haven’t had savory baked eggs since that time, and lately it’s been on my mind. So I asked my Mom for details recently and here we are. The ingredients are simple – onions, butter, salt and pepper, eggs, cheese. The end result is so simple and incredibly yummy, I’m kind of annoyed with myself for not giving this a try years ago.
I went back to work yesterday after a few days off (see previous post for all the fun), and was so happy to be back there, not just because I love my job, but because of the people I work with. I love being surrounded by people who are good at what they do and are passionate about it. And the fact that they’re all so much better cooks than I am gives me something to work toward.
But it’s not just that, either.