Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hey good looking', what you got cooking?

My idea of heaven....70 degrees every day with wispy clouds and a delicate breeze. Columbus was NOT heaven this weekend - searing blue sky; searing 95 degree days; thick, stagnant air. But we were on a mission to get some planting done so we toughed it out and harvested our collards and turnips then planted more beet, squash (sweet dumpling and ronde de nice), basil (Thai and Italian) and marigold seeds (to fend off nematodes around our tomatoes and tomatillos) and transplanted our eggplant seedlings (Thai, Chinese, and Italian) and two more varieties of tomato (currant and Costoluto Genovese) into pots. Joe staked around the strawberries to hold netting in an effort to defend against marauding squirrels and I added some baby coleus and impatiens plants to our expanding flower beds. Mulch was laid and sunburns were obtained by all.

Aside from the gardening, we mainly just laid low during the day and tried to keep our core temperature slightly below reactor meltdown levels. Luckily Taran manages to amuse himself regardless of the weather. A major highlight was cooking himself into a Taran, ukulele and K-bear Stew with a dash of bunny Sam and B Dog (they're in there somewhere, I promise);

Splashing around in the buff on his new sea creature sprinkler mat (oops, forgot the camera because I was too busy parading around in my underwear through the sprinkler convincing Taran that really, it was fun. This did work eventually, but I'm hoping that the neighbor wasn't at her window at the time. I'm banking on her recent hip replacement having kept her grounded);

Giving a butter knife concert while modeling his new suspenders;

and living it up in Mama's fancy high heels.

Speaking of living it up in fancy high heels, I got to do a little of that as well this weekend. On Friday night, Joe is usually still working and rather than watching him from the couch across the room or flicking spitballs at him, I decided to take myself out on a date. So I went to see my friend Esther's students perform Dirt at an agricultural arena - by arena, I mean a large dirt pit where cows are usually brought in and displayed on show.

Essentially, the venue was a cow barn with amphitheater seats. As hot as it was outside, it was 10 degrees hotter inside. This served to put me in a trance-like state that might have been just perfect for soaking up the unusual performance. The dancers were beautiful and wild and reckless with their bodies (and their immune systems) on the shifting soil floor beneath them and watching them made me miss dance so much that my throat constricted and my stomach clenched. This makes it sound like I was ever a beautiful, talented dancer. Neither of which is true. I was an all-elbows-and knees, played-a-chicken-in-sleeping-beauty-while-my-classmates-played-fairies-and-princesses, awkward-teen dancer. But I love it and I miss it and the Zumba class that I take twice a week with the other aging Moms at the community center down the street does nothing to quench my desire to really dance again. 

I used to take myself out on dates all the time pre-Joe and pre-Taran and it's something I've always loved. Like I love traveling to new places alone. I feel like I remember to breathe, have new thoughts, re-arrange my atoms. The entire performance was only an hour, and then I returned home, but it felt like an entire journey.

On Saturday, our friend Peggy gave us an amazing gift - date night TOGETHER! I think this is the third time this has happened since T was born. So I exchanged my gardening Teva's for flower strewn, Sex and the City shoes, 

and Joe and I headed out to my favorite restaurant and ate beautiful food on the patio of a little haven of loveliness - Basi Italia. We had wild boar sausage with brandied cherries, watermelon-mint salad with aged ricotta, ribeye in a fruity demi-glace and lobster pasta with vodka sauce - all washed down with a yummy ale from an Ohio microbrewery. Then we headed off to see The Avengers and cuddled and laughed and thoroughly had a good time. Thank you, Peg!

Tonight we just stayed home and cooked, but it was equally wonderful. We had picked up some garlic scapes yesterday morning at our farmer's market down the street and I blended them up with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to make a pesto,

tossed with orange bell pepper and baby spinach over pasta.

Joe's had a vision for our collard greens all weekend, so we picked up some bacon from our favorite vendor at the farmer's market (Oink Moo Cluck), and he harvested half of our collards and slow cooked them up southern style with crispy bacon and onions. Words cannot describe the deliciousness. Neither can this out-of-focus pic, but it was the best I could do - I ran out of patience trying to capture it, the food smelled too good.

Boy did this weekend fly by too fast!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Terrible Twos?

I'm sliding in just under the wire with my selfie this week. Here I am with my veggie bouquet picked from our garden this evening - arugula, collards, red leaf lettuce and kale.  This symphony of green was so alluring and I wanted to capture it's beauty but daylight was slipping away and I still haven't figured out how to use my camera. Here's another one that I tried to capture one minute before the sun sunk below our neighbor Linda's roof line.

There is something so deeply appealing about feeding myself from my garden, but even more so, feeding my family. Last week we harvested most of our baby bok choy and served some up to Taran raw, chopped, and tossed with some sesame goddess dressing. He inhaled an entire bowl and then, with a total sense of urgency...."more, more". I can't tell you how inordinately pleased this made me.

But I shouldn't get too excited. It's entirely possible that were I to try the same dish again tomorrow, it would end up oozing down the window or ground into his hair. These days, we can barely keep up with his likes and dislikes and I found myself caught in a mix of admiration and exasperation at his amazing, fiery will.  

You so often hear about the "Terrible Twos" and I guess we are just entering into the throes of it.  But the word "terrible" seems to do such a disservice to the awe-someness of the whole experience. I guess at 4:45 am when he is inexplicably sobbing and won't go back to sleep, or when it takes 20 minutes to get one pass of the toothbrush over his teeth, it feels more on the terrible side. But there is an incredible amount of joy in our lives right now too watching his explorations, 

the games he makes up for himself when he has a quiet moment to himself,

and his developing sense of humor

Even when his mood is less than happy...

...I get such a kick out of his expression of self and I love getting to know him more everyday as he gets to know himself. My two favorite new things that he's doing - singing (a bit more like bellowing really) to his favorite songs and trying to interact with all the things he finds fascinating in his books. It cracks me up every time he tries to pinch things off the page and says "Hold it". This is where words fail me because nothing I write here will do justice to the determined way he exclaims this with an extra emphasis on the D and the T - "holD iT!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Horrified Fascination

Here's my gruesome little Haiku for the day. 

Slimy snot bodies
Threatening pea survival
Drown you in salt, Die! (insert evil cackle here)

Yeah, I know, perhaps a little unduly violent, but the slugs have decimated our pea plants and we're feeling a little upset about it. So we've waged a daily war on those darn slugs and every morning we are out there before the morning dew dries and the slugs move undercover. They are ripe for the picking in early morning - all plump and glistening in the early sunshine. All fat and happy on pea leaves and turnip greens. As a math biologists I shouldn't be so grossed out by the things, but really people, there is a reason I studied theoretical ecology. Computer simulations are my friends. Unlike those pesky slugs. Despite the all out declaration of war, the outlook for a pea harvest is looking a bit grim.

But the rest of the garden is just thriving. Take a look:

Our potatoes have gone from this (back in March)

to this

and we have all kinds of greens and roots (turnips, beets, carrots, rapini, collards, baby bok choy, kale, red lettuce, microgreens) that the slugs haven't devoured yet. 

And although we never actually planted it ourselves, this beautiful chive plant comes back year after year. 

Joe made a gorgeous red potato and chive blossom salad this week with kalamata dressing. Check it out!

We have strawberries (I just harvested the first two!!) and blueberries and are breaking ground for a sweet dark cherry tree. 

Joe and I are a bit obsessed about our garden. We were pretty excited when we first found our house and discovered there was already one raised bed in the back. We have since added two more raised beds as well as just digging up random patches of our yard for lettuces, jiu cai (Chinese garlic chives)

(from Wikipedia)

and wildflowers. Right after T was born, Joe gave me a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle on CD, realizing that I spent hours of my day, immobilized and nursing. Although in the end, we saved it for car trips up to Cleveland to visit family. It took us months to complete the book this way, but it made the trips really special and we would find ourselves staying up late at night in bed talking about the book and dreaming of our future garden.

Luckily, we aren't the only enthusiastic gardeners in this house. Taran is also big on "helping".

"What?! You weren't actually using these tools, were you?"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Intrepid explorer

On Sunday morning, we all took a walk to my favorite place in Columbus - the Prairie down in Whetstone Park. It's a lovely meadow on the edges of the park where wildflowers grow, bees hum and ephemeral ponds glisten in the sun if you come at the right time of year.

I took that picture back in March on a crazy warm day when all the snow had melted leaving behind these vernal ponds.

Early March morning
Bloated worm bodies floating
Vernal ponds return

I had hoped to get back to document the change in the prairie over every month, but sadly never made it back in April. By now, a lot of peridot green new growth and early wildflowers have begun to push aside the dry, gray brush of last year.

We loved wondering through, soaking up the morning sun and saying hello to every dog that passed our way.

The going was a little slow. Taran was decidedly not thrilled about being in his stroller

and preferred this mode of travel.

or occasionally even consented to this mode of travel

He's not tall enough to reach the handle from the ground, so we strolled for over an hour and half mostly doing this. My arms hurt just thinking about it.

Along the way, we saw all kinds of interesting things

like this circling vulture

some sort of tent caterpillars

And lots of dandelions,

which you may not find all that exciting, but Taran would beg to differ. Every time T sees a dandelion with all the seeds blown off, he looks at me very earnestly, nods and says "Mama, dandelions all done", and then after this statement he'll pause, think, think, and nod again for extra emphasis.

Somewhat mind-bogglingly, he's sick again. Normally he's a pretty cheerful, sweet guy, but even when he's feeling great he has incredible will and determination. Not the temper-tantrum type, but the dig-his-heels-in and imitate-an-ox type. This gets incredibly intensified when he's not feeling well. I tried to get a picture of the two of us, but this is the best I could do as he was slipping out of my arms.

I was a bit more successful with my portrait of Joe and Taran

I love being with him outside because even when he's feeling like an absolute yuck-ball, he still maintains his sense of wonder about the outdoors

and his impish good humour

This video was taken back in March on our first trip of the Spring to the Prairie

He was a little less wet and dirty after this adventure..... but not much.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Just the two of us

Joe's out of town for a couple of days at a conference - Boo! - but somehow, we are still managing to have some fun around here laughing over breakfast

Listening to the "Bee song" on repeat

and prancing around in Papa's shoes

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Nothing wildly exciting this week to convey. Just a sweet nothings kind of a week. Taran received an awesome present from The Bobbi

and he was so excited I could only get it half built while he was awake and had to drag all the pieces out to the garage to finish up while he was napping. He loves to put all his buddies in, leaving very little room for himself.

He's also been really into identifying shapes lately so we made a colorful shape collage with our Nanny, Jessikah

and a coral reef collage

But he wasn't the only one making things this week. I feel like my toddler food ideas have been a bit stagnate lately so I got all creative with fig-hoisin-soy marinated chicken wings; goat cheese, zucchini, kalamata olive pizza; grilled turkey, pesto, cheese sandwiches (the waffle iron is AWESOME for this)

and sausage-spinache-brown rice balls with dipping sauces.

Unfortunately, I think Joe and I were more enthusiastic about most of the items than Taran, but we'll just keep trying new things. I've found that sometimes he's more enthusiastic about trying things if he has a hand in cooking them. Here he's having an almost angelic moment helping me make marinated, baked tofu. 

Sadly, three minutes later he was hurling tofu everywhere so the moment was incredibly short lived. Then again, after tasting it, I don't blame him. So much for using recipes. I tend to be more successful with freeform cooking.

On Saturday it was rainy and cold (I'm not sure we ever reached 50° ) so we hit the North Market in Downtown Columbus. I love markets like some people love museums - the colors, the smells, the happy, milling people - my favorite thing to do. It's got a weekly farmer's market outdoors on Saturdays and the indoor part is open all week. There are cheese, wine, meat and produce vendors, small stalls selling prepared foods with everything from Vietnamese to Polish, Indian curry to ice cream (almost entirely sourced ingredients from local farms and incredible flavors like lime cardamom yogurt and Plum sake sorbet). 

For some unexplained reason, we haven't brought Taran here in over a year but now I think this will be our favored rainy day spot. There's an upper level

with tables that runs in a big square all along the perimeter of the market with railings so that you can look down at the action below 

and it makes for a fantastic toddler exercise track. On our first lap around the track we stumbled upon two guys playing the blues and they let Taran jam out on the drums while they played backup.

He was a bit entranced by the whole experience

but I think dazed expression aside, he actually enjoyed himself. 

Today we had a play date with some of the kids that he's met at the library story time. It's not easy keeping a roomful of toddlers happy and we definitely had a couple of hairy moments when everyone wanted the same toy at once.

But after we pulled out a few tutus and instruments, a good time was had by all.