Monday, July 31, 2006

View from a windshield

This weekend we drove round-trip from Atlanta to northern central Illinois, a trip of about 700 miles each way. We went because my paternal grandmother passed away last week at the age of 93, after enduring years of failing health.

We passed through lots of country that looked like this.

As we got closer and got off the highway, it looked more like this, a view that will look very familiar to people who grew up there. I have even more rural farm pictures here.

Grandma lived a long and eventful life. Even though the end had been near for a while, it's always hard to say goodbye. But even our short visit to the farming towns where generations of my family lived and carved out lives for themselves has given me a new perspective.

Sometimes I find that I let myself get caught up in the craziness of life and I start whining about how busy I am and how hard things are. But you know, I'm not a single parent to nine kids with no source of income other than selling the eggs from our chickens. I don't have to chop my own firewood like my great-grandmother did, and figure out how to feed an extended family on nothing but a pig or two a year, a small vegetable garden, and the peaches from the peach tree I grew from a peach pit. Generations of people I come from just set their collective Norwegian jaws and made things work the best they could with no complaining. And for the most part, things did work out.

After 1400 miles of discussion and introspection, I think the best possible tribute I could give Grandma is to emulate her work ethic and her independence, and to make things work out regardless of circumstances, no complaining.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What yeast doesn't like, cont.

This was originally intended to be a part of the previous post. However Blogger has not been cooperating in the picture department for the past 24 hours, so you get it split into two parts.

Anyhoo, continuing on.

When I initially envisioned this diet, I pictured myself shopping at places like this,

and coming home laden with beautiful, healthy produce to whip up delicious dinners like this

and lunches like this.

Alas, it was not to be. Without any recipes and only a list of unusual and very limited ingredients, I wound up with soup made of water I boiled chicken in, the chicken, kale, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, spinach and a TON of garlic. Also some tarragon. That was the most edible thing we've had so far. And how interesting to have nice, hot soup (and only soup -- NO crackers) when it was a chilly 100 degrees in the shade here.

The next night we had spaghetti squash, which I had never had, and which I had hoped to fool people into thinking was actual noodles. Again, no. Although 80% of us did eat it, and Tim and I even thought it was pretty good when you consider we ate it completely buried in our regular homemade spaghetti sauce.

Two nights ago I found a recipe for smothered cabbage which only used approved ingredients. It took much longer to cook than expected, so we ate 2 hours late. And after all that it was not as popular. So we have lots of "purple dinner" left over.

But last night was my masterpiece. We had the all-purple-and-green dinner. How often can people say that? It consisted of leftover red cabbage (did you know red cabbage turns blue in the fridge? Neither did I!), fresh steamed zucchini with a butter/red onion/ginger sauce from my new book, and boiled chicken with spaghetti squash and pesto (which turned the whole dish green). Verdict: the cabbage was okay, the zucchini was scrumptious, and the chicken/squash/pesto mixture was yucky.

Funny, but the people who seem to be suffering the most are not Charlotte, who has to eat rolled up lunchmeat and raw vegetables for lunch every day, but Nate, who is a complete vegetable-phobe, and Tim and I. We didn't think we ate that many sweets, but now that it's been a week or more with little or nothing for dessert, after the kids are in bed we've been reduced to pawing through the pantry for forgotten Halloween or Christmas candy that might have fallen down behind the shelves.

So what step of the recovery program is that?

Beautiful photos of lush meals found here. Scary shots of weird-looking dinner items are my own.

What yeast doesn't like

Yeast Free cookbook
Originally uploaded by 3 to get ready.
Something momentous happened to me today. My order from Amazon finally arrived.

It might not seem like much, but I was incredibly excited to get it. For the last week our family has been on a (mostly) yeast-free diet. Because Charlotte has some kind of "bad yeast" in her digestive system we have to starve it out by not including anything that "yeast likes" in her diet. This would include 1) yeast and 2) sugar.

When the doctor told us about this diet, I thought it would be perfect. I'd been wanting to try out a more healthful, natural diet anyway, and with Hattie being diabetic, I thought we could definitely stand going without sugar.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

Not having yeast is one thing, but as it turns out the first, most restrictive phase of this diet excludes all grains of any kind. No oats, no whole-grain anything, not even barley or spelt.

Also obviously no starches like pasta, but also no rice and no potatoes. Also no milk and no milk products (except plain yogurt), like, oh, CHEESE. And no fruit or nuts. You can just forget about dessert.

Try feeding a family of 5 with 3 small kids on THAT menu.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How was your Monday?

Nothing like a peaceful Monday. And this was nothing like it (ba-dum-DUM).

First, an overview of our agenda -- at 9 a.m. the tree guys were scheduled to come take down several trees endangering our house. At 11 a.m. (but be there by 10:30) Charlotte had a routine follow-up but fairly complicated urological test scheduled at the children's hospital. Charlotte's urologist wanted us to come see her directly afterwards, but their office is closed from 12 to 1 for lunch, so we would have to go to lunch ourselves, and then come by no earlier than 12:45 to talk to the doctor about her results.

Also today is the day we start a doctor-ordered yeast-free diet for Charlotte wherein there is NO YEAST allowed. (Or fruit, or cheese, or peanut butter, or anything else that I give her regularly. Only things like turban squash, kale, and other things no 4-year-old in their right mind will eat. Okay then.)

This is what actually transpired:

I went out nice and early to move the camper van to the neighborhood pool so a tree wouldn't fall on it. In so doing, I discovered that one of our lovely children had left the radio on. For about a week. And so it wouldn't start. (bad)

No stranger to jumpstarting cars, I figured I could jumpstart this one myself. Except this is a 1984 VW van, so, after putting it in neutral and rolling it back and forth by myself, I discovered that the battery isn't anywhere near the engine. (also bad) (FYI - for those who might be curious, it's under the front passenger seat. Which doesn't really move much in this particular car.)

So after a panicked (yet grumpy) call to my parents, I decided to call AAA, who told me that they were a little backed up (ya think??? -- metro Atlanta at 8 on a Monday morning?). Like 90 minutes backed up. Nevertheless, about 15 minutes later an extremely cheery AAA guy called to tell me he was in my driveway. YAY! (very good)

Except he had never worked on a 1984 VW van, he had to ask me where the battery was, and even after I told him, he couldn't get to it either. (bad)

But he could haul me up my slanty driveway to the road, where I could pop the clutch to start it. And that's what finally worked. I let it run about 45 minutes, until we had to leave for the doctor. However, at 9:40 the tree guys still hadn't come, and they were about "20 minutes away." The kids and I took the van down to the pool where we parked it, turned it off and it resolutely refused to start again. We walked back to the house where there were no tree guys. I would have to leave without seeing them. (bad)

Had excellent traffic (unheard of!) all the way to the doctor and got there 10 minutes early. (very good!) Managed to get 3 kids through admissions, Charlotte's testing, and out of the parking garage through a construction exit (inadvertently), and therefore did not have to pay for parking. (also very good -- much patting of self on back)

Got kids to lunch at sandwich shop, managed diabetes (Hattie) and yeast-free diet (Charlotte) issues semi-competently, and got to follow-up doctor's building 10 minutes early. (good)

However, Charlotte tripped in the hallway right in front of the doctor's office and so was ushered into the waiting room bawling, with a bloody knee and a rising bump on her forehead, complete with embedded carpet weave pattern. (very bad)

The doctor said Charlotte's kidney valve issues were very mild and (although she really fought committing to this) seemed to agree with me when I asked her if the condition was improving. (good)

Left the doctor's office and got home with everyone essentially intact to find the tree guys hard at work cutting down lots of trees we had agreed on and some others I didn't think were going to be, but not the ones right next to the house that we were really looking forward to having removed. (bad)

Turns out that this was not really their fault, as much as I got confused when getting different quotes on the job, mixed up who was taking out which trees, and in my haste to get the lowest bidder, selected the wrong contractor. Although maybe we would have discovered the discrepancy in our expectations if they hadn't been an hour late and missed me altogether. (very bad)

The sales guy for the tree company (short guy; former Marine; originally from Bar Harbor, Maine; wearing high-heeled over-the-calf boots with his shorts, oh yes) told me (as he spat almost continuously into my yard) that he could do all the remaining trees for a mere $1,800 (very bad), which was a "very strong" quote. Especially because we were lucky to have working for us today the accomplished Randy, who was named #1 or #2 in the state by Vermeer. No, not the 17th century artist -- the tree-cutting school (what do you mean you haven't heard of it?). Apparently Randy's very hard to get, now that he just got out of prison.

You don't say.

I think it's time to go hide under the bed before Tim gets home to find that the kids have been entertaining themselves all over the house and there's no yeast-free dinner prepared.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Home from camp and quilt tops

Nate and Charlotte came home from Grandma and Grandpa's today, where they had been staying for a whole week, all by themselves. Nate went to aquarium camp and Charlotte played with Grandma and Grandpa.

Among the many fun things they did: playing on a playground,

going out for tea with Grandma,

and playing in the pool.

We all went up to drop Nate and Charlotte off last weekend, and I came home with two quilt tops made by my great aunts in rural Illinois, probably sometime in the 1930's. These pictures are unfortunately horrible (as a color reference, that carpet is salmon) (I know -- it came with the house), but I am thrilled to have such wonderful examples of family handiwork. It would have been great to learn from these ladies, since they were obviously very accomplished quilters.

This first one looks like it was made with whatever scraps they happened to have, although I didn't notice that there was a pattern in the middle until I looked at it through a camera.

This wedding ring one was obviously the result of a lot of effort on someone's part -- every piece is very carefully selected, and the same fabrics recur throughout.

And a close-up.

I love these vintage fabrics! Did I mention that all the blocks in the first one (although not the seams), and the entire second quilt are all hand-sewn? Amazing. So sad to think that this much effort hasn't been out of a box or drawer in more than 50 years. They really deserve to be finished properly. I would love to do it myself, but since I'm not a quilter, I may have to practice first on something else to make sure I wouldn't mess them up.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dinner anyone?

2nd angle
Originally uploaded by 3 to get ready.
Last night while I was fixing our dinner, Hattie kept herself busy in the other room, also fixing dinner, all by herself.

For quite a crowd, apparently.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday work not in progress yet

Even with swim practice over, we've been very busy. Hattie and Charlotte hung out in their "houseboat,"

and yesterday we went to meet Tim at the office and go out for lunch.

Which leaves us with with my work in progress for today: laundry

and we have just a little straightening to do in the playroom.

I have to say that I contributed the ironing board that isn't put away. If I get a chance, I'll take some shots of some actual sewing work in progress for today. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Just what I needed

Well, I'm sure what I needed to be doing was spending MORE time in front of my PC! Tim will just die when I tell him that now I've discovered LibraryThing via Juju loves polka dots.

For the last 18 months I have been saying how much I wanted to catalog all our books. Seriously catalog, like make a database and arrange the books on the shelves as you might find them in an actual library, but using the Dewey Decimal system instead of Library of Congress as I am a WIMP and would like to take the elementary school library approach as opposed to the college library approach that never seemed intuitive to me.

Tim and I each had a ton of books when we got married, and since then our library has probably doubled again, at least. We have two huge bookcases in our bedroom (again with the stuff in the bedroom!), two good-sized bookcases of children's books in the playroom, built-in shelves downstairs in what used to be the living room (now the LI-brey when I want to be pretentious) in addition to two floor-to-ceiling bookcases that are also in there. (That would be in the LI-brey, where all the books go, of course!) (Oh yes, and the piano so it can also be a music room. I told you I was pretentious.)

I had actually started a database last summer, but it was slow going, since many of our books are old and/or out of print since we get them at the Goodwill sales, in attics, and things like that. Many don't have ISBNs or really much else past title, author, and publication date. It was also slow going since I have so many other demands on my time during quiet periods of the day when I can sit down and type things out. I think I had gotten to maybe two dozen books in the last year using this method.

HOWEVER, this wonderful LibraryThing website allows you to enter a title and it will pull up all the pertinent info on a book in its many manifestations. You just click on the one you want and BINGO, it adds it to your personal catalog. I will say that I have had to make some concessions and select a book in paperback when we have it in hardcover, but I think that is a small price to pay. I can go back and edit it anytime I want. So far I've put in 70 of our books, in just the last hour.

Problem is, you only get 200 with the free account, as I'm sure some marketing genius realized that if you are geeky enough to want to catalog your books, no doubt you have WELL OVER 200 of them.


Scenes from a holiday weekend

So nice to have a long weekend! And even nicer that we actually got something accomplished other than catching up on our sleep (a luxury not to be underestimated).

On Friday Nate and Charlotte went to Tim's folks' house to have dinner, spend the night, and play with their cousins who were in town and also staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Since Hattie couldn't go, I told her we could do whatever she wanted for dinner, in or out.

Her choice was to "have a picnic in the camper van." So after Tim got home from work, we packed up dinner for three, headed out to a local park, and ate our dinner, pirate napkins and all.

The next night the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was playing a free concert in Piedmont Park, so we all trooped out there with a bucket of chicken for yet another picnic dinner. We pack all the kids, blankets, and various other items in the wagon, which Tim pulls, and I pull the cooler on wheels.

You can see the wagon (and the bucket from KFC) just over my left shoulder.

On Sunday I wiped down, sanded, wiped down again, and spray painted two filing cabinets I got when my sister's art gallery closed down last week. Spray painting was quick, but not nearly as easy as I had hoped. Getting the paint on evenly was really tricky. And it took 6 cans of paint!

But they needed cleaning up and since these will be going in our bedroom (yes, yes, I know -- don't tell the feng shui people) I thought I'd paint them a color that would blend. The tricky part now is going to be getting them up the stairs.

Please excuse the lovely photo styling in our garage, as I am incapable of moving these without Tim, and even then it's a major effort.

Then yesterday for the 4th we had a great time at my sister's in-laws' horse farm where they throw a big annual get-together. I took turkey/cream cheese rolls as an appetizer. I even had the forethought to make an extra roll-up which I ate for lunch today! Why can't I think like that all the time?

Here are Tim and Charlotte enjoying the pool, which I have to say was wonderful, since it was a very typical July day -- very hot and very sunny, just like you'd want it to be. I should have taken more pictures, but I was having so much fun that it was over before I knew it.

Hope everyone had a Happy Independence Day!