Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Am I Breaking teh Rulez?

So, I have a tracker thing on this here blog. Which means I know what searches people use to get here, what links they use to get here, and what town or city their IP address indicates. (not sure if that's technically what it's telling me, but it has a city name attached).

And I couldn't help but notice that someone from Sugar Grove, VA has been here the last couple of days. So what, you say. Big deal. But it is a big deal because I grew up there, and it's a tiny town. So I'm curious. If you're willing, I'd love to know who the Grover is who's reading. Considering that only about 5 people have ever been here, it's either a strange coincidence, or I've put something about the Grove in here and then forgotten I did so. Or something.

Anyway, I'm dying to know. If you're not willing to out yourself in comments, and you know me IRL, let me know and maybe we can get in contact another way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hmm. Failing. Not Quite Giving Up.

So, I got sick over the weekend. Sick + Six Month Old + Sixty Hours Worth of Work that needs to be done at my job= No blogging.

Basically, my life is winning in this round. It's all wonderful and exhilarating and I couldn't ask for better. But still, I'm getting sick frequently and falling further behind at work. I think it's because there's more work than one person can do, but maybe it's just because the person trying is me.

As I say, things are really going pretty well, just tiring and sometimes overwhelming. Calamity is a charmer, and is generally loving and happy. She just sprouted her first tooth, by the way. Which of course means more fretting and up nights more. She's taken to getting up every couple of hours to nurse--hard on a full-time working mama, but I know it's what she needs for comfort, if nothing else.

We've got a sporadically recurring tear-the-house-apart project to continually cull and revise closet and furniture layout to make more living space and keep from being buried.

By the by, here's what we've got on the baby stuff front. I'm fairly proud of keeping it to what I consider a minimum--no bouncies, no rolling command central thingies, no lights and whistles. And it's nearly all thrifted, handed down or borrowed. But still, it's a lot of stuff:

a highchair
a crib
a backpack
a couple of soft cloth carriers (Moby and Babyhawk, if you care)
a rocking chair
some soft toys
some wooden toys
a changing pad on top of the dresser
a little rocking baby seat thing that she's really outgrown and we haven't gotten around to passing along
a moses basket on a rocking stand that she's really outgrown and we're in denial because we love it so
a mini-cosleeper that we've already passed on to another family

It's not that much, really. The crib's in the bedroom, the tall dresser's in the hall, the secretary dresser's moved into a closet that will eventually be Clem's little sleeping hideaway, with a futon on the floor. The highchair replaced a grown-up chair and the basket rocker sits in an alcove in the kitchen. It all fits, but not without effort and planning. We're in a 592 square foot apartment and we're quite cozy.

And even though I've failed at NablopoJuly and daily food posting, I'll make sure to get a food bit in here. Tonight we had a quick broiled salmon, some steamed green beans with basil and garlic, and Moroccan potato salad for dinner (potatoes, black olives, cumin, paprika, lemon, olive oil, red onion). And fresh raspberries and blueberries plain for dessert. Delicious. I'm determined not to devolve into snacky eating habits, and do my darndest to cook a real, good, healthy dinner at least every other day. The in-betweens tend to be slapped-together burritos, hummus/pita sandwiches and the like. But even those include home-made hummus and cooked beans from dried. I've not been making homemade salsa because we don't usually have local tomatoes, and because I'm lazy.

Calamity ate green beans for dinner. She loved them the most of any food yet. Others of which, for the record, have been: applesauce, banana, nectarine, cantaloupe, zucchini and carrot. She's also getting the hang of feeding herself with her little wooden spoon, though lots of it ends up in ears and hair.

We're going home to Virginia later in the week, and there will be a gap in blogging. Unavoidable. Mom's not on Internet at the moment. We're looking forward to the break, and to seeing all the family, including a new niece, 8 weeks old or so. It was kind of a last-minute change of plans, but I can't wait.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No sleep, no post.

I missed one. So, shoot me. When I have loyal readers, plural, maybe I'll feel some compunction.

I got the application in. And I even talked to my boss about it. Whew. That's a load off. I have no idea what it will come to. I also told a couple of co-workers who depend on me for a major project. They'll be taken care of if I leave, and there's even a plan to hire someone now who could step over to cover if the need arises. So when we all talked over noodles at Pho Saigon, it was all okay.

Pho Saigon, noodles. Did you catch that? Now the post is about food. I've gotten about 4 hours of sleep each of the past couple of nights, so I'm signing off now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shhhhhh. Don't tell.

I'm applying for an amazing, exciting and important job. It's related to food.

I can't do a real blog post because I have to write carefully crafted answers to supplemental questions instead. Here's one of them. I feel bold and cool and a little scared for writing it so casually, but it does answer the question:

4. This job will require creativity and problem solving skills. Please describe a situation when you were required to use these skills, and how you affected the outcomes.

During my graduate education, I was living in Wales on a tight budget and without a car. Normally this did not present a problem. However, it became a serious challenge when the time came to design and implement an interview-based thesis project in one of the most rural (and touristy) areas of England during the height of summer holiday season. I needed to have a home base in the County where I’d be conducting research without paying the exorbitant prices on vacation lodging and also to be mobile enough to reach farmers out in the countryside. I decided to join World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms to seek a work arrangement on a Cornish farm in exchange for housing and some meals. I ended up on a working woodland project with a family who only needed part-time work and allowed me to stay in their camper van as a base for my project. From there, I could walk to the County fair to start to network with farms in the region, and when the time came for interviews, I could walk to the village, catch a bus to town and from there most corners of Cornwall were only a train-ride and a hike away. This plan allowed me access to insider perspective on the region and its farming communities through my host family, a lovely cultural experience, an opportunity to toss hay bales and compost in exchange for sleeping arrangements, and a friendly base for exploration and serious work. In my travels by bus, train and walking, I gathered a sense of the rural and economic landscape better than I ever would have driving from location to location, and I also earned the respect of some famously skeptical Cornish farmers.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I have this beautiful post in my head, complete with a well-lit art photograph of the spoon Kolya carved today to feed his baby Calamity Jane.

We had been trying this baby-led weaning thing, wherein we don't offer any food besides breastmilk for the first six months (check. That was easy. Feeding a baby actual food is way more of a pain than just popping her on for some lunch.), and then offer her foods that she can pick up and feed herself, with the idea that she will develop habits and attitudes about eating food when she's hungry and having control of what she consumes, etc. etc. Sounds cool. And I'm always up for doing science experiments with my kid (of the harmless variety). So I gave it a shot. But anything she can gnaw on and actually ingest without teeth is just too hard for her to get a good grip on. And she seemed generally not very interested. So we let it go, and don't even bother to offer her foods for a day or two and then try again now and again. She's getting plenty of nutrients and calories from breastmilk, so she's fine. We'll wait.

But Kolya decided we should try some mashed up food, trad-style, and I said okay, but I want to get a wooden spoon, because I see no reason for her to have plastic in her mouth (or in our house) if there's an alternative. So Kolya decided to make one. He pulled a piece of board out of the closet this morning and started cutting it down. I was skeptical and vocal about it. I wondered whether that kind of wood would have splinters, or whether he'd be able to cut a spoon small enough without breaking it. Basically being a sucky partner and for no good reason.

When I came home from work, he showed me his handiwork. It's beautiful and smooth and I can't wait to try it. But hte food-grade oil needs to cure overnight. So we ran some nectarine through the grinder our friend Sara handed down to us and gave it to her in an iced tea spoon. (Do people not from the south call them that? You know, the long handled ones with small bowls?) She loved, loved, loved it. She made the most sour-puss face with each bite (it was kind of sour) and then ate more and more. And she grabbed the spoon and pushed it in herself, so she was in control of what went into her mouth, so there.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What to do with Preserved Lemons.

Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

3 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp crushed saffron threads
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 chicken, cut into 6-8 pcs.
salt and black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tb chopped coriander (cilantro)
2 Tb chopped flat-leaf parsley
peel of 1 large or 2 small preserved lemons
12-16 green or violet olives

In a wide casserole or heavy-bottomed pan that can hold all the chicken in one layer, heat oil and put in onions. Saute, stirring over low heat, until they soften. then stir in the garlic, saffron and ginger.

Put in chicken pieces, season w/ salt and pepper, and pour in about 1 1/4 cups water. Simmer, covered, turning the pieces over a few times and adding a little more water if it gets too dry. Lift out breasts (of chicken, unless you like a little exhibitionism with possibly splashy cooking) after about 15 minutes, and put them aside. Continue to cook the rest another 25 minutes or so, and then put the breasts back.

Stir into the sauce the lemon juice, the chopped coriander and parsley, the preserved lemon peel cut into quarters or strips, and the olives. Simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes, until the reduced sauce is thick and unctuous. (yep, it says unctuous in the cookbook!) If there's too much liquid, lift out the chicken pieces and set aside while you reduce the sauce further, then return the chicken to the pan and heat through.

Present it all on a plate. The end.

This recipe is from Claudia Roden's "Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon". It rocks.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Burning calories, rather than eating them, for a change

Today we walked for miles and miles (like 5, but still). If you're in Seattle, which I'm pretty sure my one or two readers are not, this will mean something to you: We went from Capitol Hill through Allentown to lower Queen Anne (at which point little 6 mth old critter decided this riding in a backpack thing wasn't for her and basically had to be carried for most of the remaining trip), then up and over the QA hill and down to Fremont, then up to 45th where we caught a bus to the comic book shop in Wallingford, then walked down to the U District bridge and up to Capitol Hill. Hmm. I think that might be more than 5 miles. Not sure.

Not much to say in the food department today. I made cookies from a recipe by Sonya, but they were for someone else. Hardly even cookies at all, with all the additions that make the bulk of them: oatmeal, chocolate chips, raisins, toasted walnuts.

BTW, I am a big fan of photo blogs, and this one will get there eventually. But I don't have time these days, so I'm just forging ahead the lazy, boring way.

I think I'll make a little burrito now, even though what I really want is pizza.