Saturday, May 22, 2010

Vegetables, and flowers and tractors (and a beauty queen) - Oh My!

A few weeks back, I joined the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - you are buying a share of the farm) at our local nursery/farm.  Starting sometime in June, each Saturday morning we'll go pick up a box full of local produce - enough to feed a family of four.  I'm REALLY excited about this.  We have our own garden, but it's showing some wear and tear, and JC is working on correcting that.  So we'll get some things planted in there, but we're not sure exactly what and when at this point.  So after hemming and hawing for oh, about 6 months, I finally bit the bullet and signed up.  Had I made this decision prior to January 31st, I could have gotten a 5% discount.  Oh well - live and learn.  There is a bit of a gamble involved when you sign up for a CSA.  First, you don't know exactly what you'll get each week.  But I find that exciting, and hope it will inspire me to try new things.  And maybe I'll get those picky eaters I live with to try new things as well.  Second, if it's a tough growing year, there may not be a lot to pick from.  But the the thought of all that fresh, local produce has me practically giddy so I'm willing to take the chance.  Third - it's pretty much a given that come fall, we'll be getting butternut squash in our box.  I DESPISE butternut squash with a passion, and never cook it for my family.  But I know plenty of people that do like it.  Maybe I'll put a bow on it and give it out as Christmas gifts!

This morning they had an open house, so I took JT and LW down to check out the tractors.  They had a blast!  They also managed to turn on the lights on each of the tractors, as well as an alarm on one of them, requiring employees to come over and figure out how to turn them off.  I had a very hard time getting LW to get off his favorite.  But I did need to buy some flowers and a couple of tomato plants (we'll surely be getting some through the CSA, but I think it's in my genes to grow tomatoes.  I'd feel strange if I didn't) so over we went to select our plants.  I think JT may have smelled every single flower in that greenhouse!  And thankfully, somehow I managed to keep LW from picking any of the "fwowers".  As we were getting ready to pay, we were informed that a photographer (and his student intern) from the free monthly paper wanted to take pictures of the boys because they looked like they had a lot of fun on the tractors.  Well being the proud Mama that I am, I said of course  - despite knowing that I'd once again have to deal with LW's tantrum when it was time to get him off the tractors (oh two is SUCH a fun age!).  JT LOVES the camera!  He has the biggest, brightest smile I've seen, and is glad to pose whenever asked.  LW is in his own little world, determined to do whatever he has his mind set on.  So you may get some good shots, you may get lots of shots of the top of his head!  But I'm pretty sure they got some good one of both, so I'll be looking for the June issue of that paper soon!

By this time, we had been there longer than I anticipated and it was getting to be time for lunch.  Somehow I managed to pry them off the tractors once again (though not without a few tears being shed).  Then the photographer announces "there's Mrs. Massachusetts".  She was scheduled to be there, but arrived early.  When JT saw her, he said "she's beautiful".  How sweet is that?  Then as she got closer to us, he told her she was beautiful, showed her his binoculars, then proceeded to talk her ear off!  She was very sweet and gracious with him.  All the while I was trying to keep LW from running out in traffic and whatnot.  But eventually I managed to pull them both away, and off we went. And I figure it will take me about a week to do an hours worth of gardening and get those petunias and tomatoes planted, since no matter how engrossed the little ones are in whatever they are doing, as soon as I start they are right on my heels.  Sigh....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Marinated Eggplant

When I was a kid, I didn't like eggplant much.  I thought eggplant parmesan was OK, as long as there was enough sauce and cheese covering it.  But there was one way I did like it...very much.  Marinated Eggplant. I was always very happy to see that jar or bowl of it in the fridge after my mom made some.  So the other day when I went to the farm store and saw some beautiful eggplant, I snatched up a couple with this recipe in mind.  And so I share it with you!  I always at least double it, especially when eggplant are growing in my garden .

(food photographer I am not, but it would be weird to post a recipe without a picture! Not sure why the picture stretched out though)

1 small eggplant
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped pimento (roasted red peppers work well too)
Small clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbs chopped capers
2 Tbs chopped parsley (forgot to buy it - oops!)
1/8 tsp powdered dill (I used regular dried dill)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/3 cup oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup vinegar (I use white. White wine vinegar might work well, but I'd stay away from a colored vinegar)

Peel and cut the eggplant into cubes.  Cook until tender. (I steamed mine this time using this micro-cooker from Pampered Chef, my new favorite kitchen gadget).  Then combine all ingredients and chill.  I always leave mine in there overnight.  It works really well as a relish or side dish, especially for a summer barbecue.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Adios Amigos! And other cute things my kids say

Since JT is 4.5 years old, his speech is USUALLY pretty clear and understandable. At least to us.  But he still has a few words that he just can't seem to say right.  Like "mucis" instead of music, and the proverbial "pasghetti" instead of spaghetti.  I only make a minor effort to correct him, because it's just too darned cute, and I'll miss those words when they're gone. Now however, he says phrases or sayings that make us chuckle.  For instance, a couple of months ago at preschool they used "101 Dalmations" as a way to teach numbers.  So now he points out the number 100 if he sees it, and wants to count to 100 together.  And he also started telling us he has "100 energy".  He doesn't know what it really means, but I still don't like the sound of it!  So today when I went to pick him up at preschool, I couldn't go in because LW has been getting up before the crack of dawn and fell asleep on the way there (again!).  They sent him out the emergency door (after disarming the alarm!!), right in front of where I parked.  Normally when you go in to pick them up, they have a white board outside his class with a little description of what they did that day.  Of course I didn't get to see that today so I had to get all my information from him. A 4 year old...enough said!  Before we even got in the car, he said "hey, there's AJ!  Adios Amigos!".  To which AJ's mom and I both chuckled.  I assumed he got this from Dora the Explorer, though thought it was an odd time for him to start using the phrase.  Well after we were in the car and started leaving, he had his window open, and started yelling it to everyone he saw!  After I shushed the heck out of him so he wouldn't wake up LW, it dawned on me.  Today is Cinqo De Mayo so they must have done something about that in school.  When I asked JT, sure enough they had indeed had a Cinqo De Mayo snack and taught them Adios Amigos.  How about that...he really does learn while he's there!  Now I just need to figure out what they had for snack.  Despite the fact that as usual, snack was his favorite part of the day (and apparently "delicioso", pronounced as well as he pronounces spaghetti), he couldn't remember what they had.  The description I've gotten from him, in bits and pieces, is it was long and orange, not cheese or sweet, and the teachers got it from the refrigerator by the door they go out for recess.  Okey Dokey!  Any ideas?

Then there is LW.  He is going through another language explosion. He doesn't just come up with new words everyday (my favorites being Chocweet for Chocolate, though it's often used to describe other brown food items, and "HUG!") he's also using/repeating phrases ("Hey? Where'd it go?" for one).  The other day we were chatting with a neighbor as he walked by.  S is a friendly guy and will talk your ear off.  Well he's no match for our chatty little boys, who run to him as soon as they see him.  You can tell he doesn't understand LW, but he plays along.  After the conversation was finished and we were saying goodbye, LW chimed in with "haveaniceday"!  It ran all together like that, but was clear as day otherwise. Not something I expected to hear from my not-so-little-anymore boy.

Listening to their language development is one of my favorite parts of motherhood.  Hearing the little voice repeat something in context though they probably don't understand, or later realizing they DO understand what they are saying, is just amazing.  Their little minds absorb so much information in a short time.  But it's one of those bittersweet moments as well, because as I watch them develop in leaps and bounds, I realize this is one of those things I'm really going to miss when my boys are all grown up.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

I created this blog a couple of months ago.  But I've had a hard time getting it started.  I have post ideas in my head, but none really seemed right for the first.  And I'm not really sure if this one is any better, but I'm feeling inspired.

It's shortly after 9am on a Sunday, and I've been up for almost 4 hours.  YAWN!  No, I'm not a morning person.  But I have small children.  And the youngest - The Little Wanderer (LW), who turns 2 in just two weeks (sniff, sniff) - recently discovered how to get out of his crib.  So he does at every opportunity.  Last night it took almost an hour to get him to stay in his crib.  And well, this morning at 5:20 he was ready for the day!  Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person?  ANYWHO....I am sitting at my kitchen table, trying to keep LW out of the cabinets...everything really.  And yelling upstairs to his big brother (JT - 4.5 yrs old) that the neighbor's dog Stanley is indeed a boy, and he got that way because that is how he was born.  And I hear Daddy up there, explaining that he (JT) will always be a boy.  We love our neighbors.  They are a couple in their late 20's, who moved in last June.  Just as we were when we moved here 10 years ago.  T is out there with his Dad, tilling some land for his new garden.  T is great with kids.  He doesn't seem to mind when they come running over to play with Stanley (LW prefers to sit on him).  Despite not having his own children, he does not seemed bothered...or JT's endless questions and seemingly random comments.  If you have children, you know what I'm talking about!  S is nice, though not quite as outgoing as T.  And she's more nervous about the dog with the kids (they only recently adopted Stanley, a 4 yr old golden lab).  But that's OK too.  Really, we couldn't have asked for better neighbors to move in next door (this is in NO way influenced by the yummy cookies they brought over at Christmas!).

I feel a tinge of sadness when I say that.  When we moved in 10 years ago, we also said we couldn't have asked for a better neighbor.  A few weeks after we moved in, Ginny (in her late 70's at the time) came over (in her blouse, slacks, and flats - a sight we grew accustomed to over the years) while we were outside and apologized for not coming over sooner.  Her husband of 50+ years had passed away the previous month, so she was not herself.  That was just a hint of the kind woman we grew to love.  She had been in that house over 50 years, so she knew EVERYBODY, past and present.  We had many conversations about the neighborhood - and our house (built circa 1900 - it had gone through many transformations and tenants in her time).  But it was not gossip..she never had a bad word to say about anyone.  She didn't call children bad, they were "spirited".  The terrible two's were 'trying twos'. She let people be who they wanted (including her children and grandchildren) as long as they were happy.  She would often say how much she loved this neighborhood, because the neighbors were always there if you needed them, but not if you didn't.  She also loved children, and was so excited when we told her we were expecting our first.  When the time came to have him, she knew I went to the hospital to be induced.  JT was not quite ready to be born, so we were there for a while.  She left a few messages on our machine wanting to know what was happening.  When we came home, we saw she was there so we went over to introduce him to her even before we came in the door!  And over the next few years, JT and I had many delightful visits with Ginny, sitting in her kitchen, chatting about whatever was on our minds. And she always thought of JT at Christmas and his birthdays.

But Ginny was getting on in years, and her health began to decline noticeably about 2 years ago, just before LW was born.  She had always been an active woman, but was finally forced to slow down, much to her chagrin.  I hadn't seen her that much while I was pregnant with him, partly because it was winter and partly because I was sick as a dog much of the time.  When I brought LW over to meet her, she was having a hard time breathing.  But she was still delighted to meet yet another new life, since she loved children so much.  Over that summer, we didn't really see her much.  I didn't know how I'd contain JT as well as LW. That Halloween, she was having an even harder time breathing, yet she insisted on handing candy out to all the children she loved so much.  That was the last time we saw her.  As the winter approached, so did our colds and other illnesses, and I didn't want to pass anything on to her.  She passed away that March, but I didn't find out until about 10 days later when I noticed her house being cleaned out, then found her obituary online. I felt guilt - boy did I feel guilt!  That we hadn't been able to say goodbye.  But more so, I felt sad that we had lost a dear friend and neighbor, and that she had suffered so much at the end. To this day I shed an occasional tear when I think of the neighbor we are missing, and the fact that though JT enjoyed our visits as much as I did, he no longer remembers her.

But I've learned a little from the experience too.  Don't assume that it's a bad time to visit.  Maybe it wouldn't have been a good idea to bring the boys over in her last year, but I certainly could have gone over myself for a few minutes.  To chat, or even just to say hi and see if she needed anything (not that she would  have accepted the offer!).  And I certainly could have called!!  So I'm trying not to be as shy or socially awkward as I once was.  I'm not in any one's face, but I'll be there if they need me.