Tuesday, April 27, 2010

greens and things

So yesterday I came to a conclusion. Whether or not anything will come of this conclusion remains to be seen. First let's back up. The other night I was cooking some of the turnip greens and spinach that came in my most recent CSA basket. I turned away from the stove and got ready to wipe up the counter top and do a few of the dishes in the sink when I saw one tiny (tiny tiny) baby slug crawling across the counter in the direction of the compost bowl. {She was obviously a wise and intrepid slug who knew what she wanted and where she was going...} I looked around for more. Nope. Just one baby slug crawling across the counter. So I scooped her up and took her outside to the lemon balm on the back patio.

When I came back inside I looked around again for more slugs. Usually there are more, right? This was my thought when I looked over at the greens cooking on the stove top. Thoughts of cooking baby slugs in my greens made me recoil and I thought ack ack ack and blech over and over in my head. Felt the words {and the slugs} in my mouth. Ugh. I am not cut out for eating baby slugs. It's not good for me or the baby slugs. {Yes, yes. I know, I know. But still.}

I looked around in the greens. Scooped them back and forth. Examined them very very closely. So far, no slugs. Nothing even resembling a slug. Sigh. Relief. I ate my greens with macaroni and cheese. No slugs. I checked the greens in the morning. No slugs. I looked very very closely {again}. No slugs. I ate my greens on toast with melted cheese. No slugs. And thank goodness those greens were gone now. No more slugs-on-greens to bother about. I could move on to eating other greens. Different greens. Greens that weren't in question.

So last night I was making one of my very favorite things to eat these days- spicy greens (or any greens, but spicy is much appreciated) with these spicy sesame noodles New Seasons makes. I make my own as well but New Seasons has this chili infused oil that can make theirs extra special. (Eva is sick and I went to New Seasons yesterday for sick-snacks and picked up some noodles for me.)

I chopped up the greens, added in some spinach, tossed all the greens with the noodles. Looked around for extra garlic. Took a bite. Then another. I got a container out and started dumping the extra greens in it for later. More greens! Did I take another bite of the noodles and greens? Maybe. Or maybe I saw the cut-in-half carcass of the rollie pollie bug first. And that stopped me in my tracks. I looked closely and saw a little leg on the knife. A little bit of the head next to the carcass. The main part of the carcass. I looked at the bowl of greens and noodles. I looked at the rest of the greens I was scraping into the storage container. Good grief. It was worse than eating cooked baby slugs. It was eating raw rollie pollie bug. Oh. My. Gawd.

So I looked through the extra greens. I looked through the bowl of noodles. I even dumped them out on the cutting board and scraped through them. No sigh of a little leg. No sigh of an antenna. Egads. No other part of the body. Had I already eaten it? In one of those first couple of bites? Those first couple of blissfully ignorant bites? Possibly. I will never know. I talked myself into eating a few more bites of the noodles and greens but it was no good. It never took. I finally just dumped the rest out. After the slug event the night before and now this with the chopped up rollie pollie bug, I decided to have some smoothie and call it a night. I'd definitely lost my appetite.

So here's my conclusion. I know that people all over the world eat bugs. By choice. That's what we're told, isn't it? That our food system is so messed up that we eat chemicals and all manner of artificial goo but are grossed out to eat a really very natural form of {let's face it} protein. I mean, a rollie pollie bug is even a crustacean. People definitely eat crustaceans. Shrimp. Crabs. I mean, I don't. I'm allergic to shrimp. But other people do. I know that for a fact. So it's obviously completely cultural what we decide is edible and what isn't. I'm hip to that fact for sure.

But I am not one of those people who is chomping at the bit to eat bugs. Not insects nor arachnids nor even crustaceans. And of course I know that bugs are a part of the garden. I go out of my way to share the garden with any number of bugs every day. And I know that I eat all kinds of really tiny bugs all the time. It's the bigger ones, the ones who leave foot prints, that are bothering me (as illogical as it all seems. I know that too.). So what I decided was that if I am going to be so ridiculously civilized and uptight about bug eating, I am going to have to get a little bit more uptight about how thoroughly I wash my greens. It's not doing me or the greens or the bugs any good to keep half eating them and them turning away from the kitchen entirely.

So that's it. That's my conclusion. It's simple, really. Either make peace with the bug eating once and for all or wash the heck out of those greens. (And then I'm going to lay them out on a towel and give the bugs a chance to crawl away just like we used to do with berries when I was a kid...) But here's the caveat. If I choose to wash the heck out of the greens, I have to let it go after that. I have to actually let myself eat and enjoy the greens. Trust in the washing. Trust that the bugs are gone. And be done with it. Where, after all, is the peace in washing the heck out of the greens and then never getting around to enjoying them? I guess either way I look at it, there is some peace to be made around eating the bugs. My hope is that the cleaner the greens, the easier that will be. We shall see. I'm not sure I'm up for trying out my new system right now. Maybe by lunchtime. For breakfast, though, there will be eggs without greens this morning...

Friday, April 23, 2010


There are some days when Eva makes a list of things she wants to do (or things she would like me to do) on that day. Yesterday her list was-
be swung on the swing
read Fox in Socks
read Garfield
read Watership Down
play another game of The Settlers of Catan

Samuel's list went something like this-
play another game of The Settlers of Catan (he got this for his birthday and is really really enjoying it)
play a game of backgammon (for money)
get an icee
buy Wii Monopoly
play mancala

My list was-
mow the lawn
{and I added} get Indian food {later on}

We ended up playing The Settlers of Catan and backgammon (not for money), reading Fox in Socks and a few other books, and getting Indian food. I did indeed mow the lawn over the course of the entire afternoon and I also did a little garden work here and there. We did not swing and we did not buy Wii Monopoly. No matter now as we did those things first thing this morning.


And now off to play some mancala with Samuel...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


updates. in case you were wondering-

after the going away party yesterday, there were no more ants today...

here's the cleared-off-table in action. see how the children magically appear at the cleared off table? where better to play a robot game?

i was also able to make it to the yarn store today with a somewhat healthier, although not entirely cured, samuel. second leg warmer here I come. just as soon as i play some dominoes and backgammon, the current games-du-jour. where will we play these games, you may be thinking? why, at the cleared off table, but of course...

Monday, April 19, 2010

ant season

We have been a little preoccupied with ants over here lately, it being ant season and all. This time of year always brings a certain number of ants inside the house and a huge number outside the house. I have plugged up most of the places that I can find where the ants come into the house and am fine letting the one or two who I find wandering around to continue to wander. They come and go and eventually ant season mellows out and there are no more ants in the house. This year there even seems to be extra spiders in some key places helping to keep the ant population in the house to a minimum. Eva and I really enjoy keeping tabs on the spider families as well as watching the flow of ants- particularly queen ants- making their way, both inside and outside.

The best ant watching by far, though, has to be out on the patio. Most of the year you can find at least one or two ants walking back and forth across the patio (to where or for what, we don't quite know) along the ant path. Eva and I are well trained in stepping over the ant trail, particularly at this time of year. We love watching the different ant styles- the small ants, the medium ants, the large ants... How cranky they seem to be with one another. How the larger ants look slightly perplexed. How the small ants swarm more around their ant hill openings. How the ants come out of their holes sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. How when they are in groups they snip at one another and seem confused by so many other ants being around. How they are all going in the same direction, along the same path, with such a purpose but still seem slightly absent minded about the whole thing. Unstoppable. Not quite comprehensible to human minds.

Right now the queens are coming out of the medium and large ant colonies in large numbers and yesterday Eva and I had fun helping the ones who were trapped by the patio screen find their way out- helping them with their life purpose and all that {what queen ant doesn't dream of flying off to start her very own ant colony after all?}. There were so many queens out yesterday they were practically swarming in the patio and you can imagine my surprise today when I went out on to the patio and saw even more queens with so many helper ants all around them, ostensibly helping them find their way? Making sure the coast was clear? Making sure the queens don't get cold feet and go back into the colony? Just milling around chatting with one another about the big day? Eva thought some of them were trying to decide if they might want to go off with the new queens to help set up the new colonies? Who can really say except the ants. Maybe some of those ant scientists out there fearlessly studying the social lives of ants? Don't tell me they aren't out there. I haven't tried googling yet. The last time I googled ants I got discouraged because the majority of the information I found was on how to um exterminate them. So not quite the information I was looking for. Ahem.

Ant watching 101. The ant path with strings of ants marching along on their mission. The ants on this path are all medium ants. Usually there will be a large ant here and there but they are definitely in the minority. I think the large ants are my favorite type of ant. Unless you count the very wee babiest ants of the small ants who are the smallest of the small and who elicit a squeal of delight from Eva.

Large queen ant making her way to her destiny. Swarm of medium and large queen ants (and helpers) coming out of one of the colony doors on the patio.

april knitting

Here's what I made with one skein of Noro taiyo yarn (color 18). Let me say that this is one yummy yarn. Delicious to work with and gorgeous to look at both knit and unknit.

Noro taiyo- 40% cotton, 30% silk, 15% wool, 15% nylon. One skein is ~100 grams/ 200 meters. I got a gauge of 4 stitches/ inch stocking stitch in the round with #8 needles for the baby hat. I used #3 needles for the fingerless gloves which were roughly ~5 1/2 st/in in pattern and #5 needles for Eva's leg warmers (she is 7 years old; co 36, k1p1 rib for 12-13 inches {she wanted them past her knee}).

One pair fingerless gloves for smaller adult hands, one baby hat, one leg warmer for a 7 year old girl, plus a little left over. You know what that means? I have to get back over to the yarn store lickety split to pick up another skein of this yarn so that I can knit up that second leg warmer pronto. Too bad they are closed on Mondays.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

a little fluff on what i froze last winter

I am making tamales tonight. They are a great way to use up left over chicken and corn from last summer. I have been going through the freezer trying to use up what is still in there from last year's bounty and because last year was such an amazing year for corn and because I subscribed to not one but two CSA's last summer and because I thought the kids would be more into the frozen corn over the winter than they actually were, I still have some corn left. A little. After making the tamales, there is a little less. Corn isn't my favorite vegetable by a long shot and it was a stretch for me to figure out what to do with all of that corn. Tamales work out really well. I wish there was something like tamales for me to do with all of those green beans.

Green beans obviously make the list of vegetable I-shouldn't-have-frozen-so-many-of. Zucchini too. Definitely yellow squash. At least with zucchini I can make muffins. The yellow squash and most of the green beans simply lingered. I ate all of the peas. All of the tomatoes. None of the hot peppers. {Here's a good rule of thumb. If the peppers are too hot for me to eat during the summer, I will not magically want to eat them in January, no matter how cold it is outside. Yep.} I could probably do with a few more jars of canned tomatoes, but not really more than that. Hmmm. More broccoli. That is always appreciated by someone. Maybe some more chopped greens like kale and chard for when they are sparse? This winter was sort of a bummer for greens because all of the cabbage froze in December. I hadn't realized how much I had come to appreciate cabbage in January. One of the nice perks of having a CSA is learning about and looking forward to which vegetables will be around when.

Going to check on my tamales. Mine aren't very traditional and haven't been wrapped in corn husks. I use parchment paper and like to think I am wrapping up little packets off goodness when I fold them up. Hoping they are done so that I can share some of that goodness with Eva. And then off to push my girl on the swing. I know when she says, "Do you think you will have time today to push me on the swing?" that it is time to get pushing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

inspiration where it finds you

Eva surprised me yesterday with a picnic in the backyard. She brought out a table cloth and spread it on the grass under the apple tree so that we could look up into the pink and white blossoms above. The sky was blue, the sun was shining. She brought crackers, tortilla chips, Parmesan cheese and some of the boysenberry-peach crisp I had made for her earlier in the day.

Later on she spent some time with the cleared off patio cement and some sidewalk chalk drawing chalk robots Forinor, BeBe and Kenos, rabbits Cuddly and Carrots and some chalk people I helped her trace, Eva and Lucy.

We never did get around to making sugar crystals on the cleared off kitchen table. I guess the cleared off patio was the inspiration for the day this time...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

clear off your kitchen table or how to seize the day

I tend to think that a cleared off kitchen table (or wherever your table) is one of the best ways to feel a fresh start. When I walked by the cleared off kitchen table first thing this morning it felt so open and filled with possibilities. No matter what else is going on in the house, if I can clear off the kitchen table and have the dishes done, things seem infinitely more manageable. I know the flylady swears by a clean kitchen sink- I mean really clean. Bleached out and ready to go. There is something about having grime and crumbs lingering in the sink after all the dishes are said and done but I still don't usually get around to actually scouring it, at least not every day.

There is also the technique of setting out goodies {on the table} for the day each morning to pique your kids' interest. I have tried this and even sometimes still do this but it is not enough a part of my natural habit{itat} to keep it going for very long, plus I get bored with this kind of routine. I tend to do it until it isn't inspiring any more and then I move on to a new system (thanks again to that article in Oprah several years ago for giving me this phrase and a giggle whenever I use it). Or until the kids move onto a new system. Let's face it. Just because I think it would be nifty neat to get all creative with blocks today doesn't mean it will necessarily match up with what my kids want to do. It might. It might not.

Today, though, I have an idea that I think might go over well with all of us. My first thought about how I wanted to spend the day {How do you want to spend your day?} had me thinking about getting outside and finding some newts. Or frogs. Or suchlike. Unfortunately, Samuel has been sick and I don't think he is really quite ready for that kind of outing. Fortunately, this time at home has given me the time to take care of a few things in the yard that I hadn't gotten to yet. Just when I think it is all a bit too overwhelming to really take care of any of it, I take a few small steps, do some one-thing-at-a-time thinking and there you have it. I am all set to conquer the last of the leaves in the front yard. {Lest you think I am as leaf-delinquent as our neighbor does, let me clarify. We have an oak tree in our front yard who continues to drop leaves all winter and into part of the spring. There's no way to ever really be done with oak leaves until the new leaves come in the spring. And that's now.)

So back to the day at hand. I plan to conquer the front yard. And! start that sugar-crystal-growing-experiment I meant to do months ago {and good grief, wherever did I pick up that how-to on growing sugar crystals? No idea. How did it happen that I don't know how everything that came into this house got here?}. The directions for growing sugar crystals showed up on the kitchen table out of nowhere yesterday and I got the idea to go through with it while clearing off the table last night. We'll see how it goes. If anything, it might get some other creative juices flowing. That's how it can be. The thing that you think is the creative thing might actually be the thing that *inspires* the creative thing to get moving. Just like that. You don't know how it will happen, just that it will.

This is a bummer to me sometimes. Sometimes I would really like to see the poetry unfold and know that this is the poetry. You don't always know it's poetry until it's over. Another good reason to love what you are living while you are living it rather than waiting around for when it gets really good. This might be the really good you were waiting for. Too many cliches for this early in the morning? I say not enough. Here's another one that Samuel threw my way the other day- carpe diem. When I told him it meant seize the day he threw his head back and burst out laughing and said, "Why not? Why on earth would you not seize the day?!" I kid you not. These kids are nothing if not complete and utter inspiration for living a life of love.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


little snippets from life that don't necessarily add up to a full post but are interesting nonetheless. things like eva is outside right now dancing with a stick of incense. showing the ants. and how earlier she and i had a conversation about just how busy ants are. how they always seem to be moving. how the only time they seem to be still is when they are eating. how, according to eva, that doesn't really count. if you are eating, you are busy. moving. how ants are infinitely busier than guinea pigs, for instance. how guinea pigs take it easy most of the day. eva corrected me here too and reminded me about how busy guinea pigs are when they are together, what with all of the rumblestrutting and all. how i didn't even know about the word rumblestrut until i had guinea pigs and how that alone has enriched my life beyond what i would have imagined. who doesn't like the word rumblestrut when they first hear it? or even second hear it?

and how samuel is sick and snuggling with albert and doesn't like the smell of incense at all and how i have to keep getting up to close the patio door so that the pungent yet relaxing smell of incense does not continue to waft inside the house causing him to make that gagging noise that triggers increased frustration in me. will it be the door or the gagging that eventually gets me to leave the room... but i digress. apparently there is a story in there somewhere, inside this little slice of life that is happening right now. or then, before i came back through to spell check and make sure it sounded as smooth on the second reading as it did on the first. and i think thoughts like, if this were the last time my child were ever sick or if this were the last time i were ever frustrated, would that change my experience of it, would i be able to step back enough to see that this *is* life. for all that it's worth.

i come back again and again to making sense of this life and i wonder if on my own death bed i will wonder things like, what on earth was i trying so hard to figure out and why did i not spend more time on things like the sad sad cry of a guinea pig about to have his nails trimmed. and the fact that strawberry shortcake is indeed improved upon by adding chocolate chips. and watching the juniper trees dance in the wind. and marveling at the irony that of all the trees that i can watch, the trees that i am allergic to entertain me the most. and so i do. i do notice these things. and revel in them. and write about them. and i also think about them. and figure. and examine. because that, after all, is who i am. sometimes.

and i think that mostly, on my death bed, i hope that i will notice that i am me. that i have been me. that i have allowed it. embraced it. recognized it. rejoiced in it, even. that i will reflect on how i have spent this life learning to honor myself. most of all. if i can get that far, it will have been a good life no matter how much strawberry shortcake or how many guinea pigs i will have loved in the process. getting there. working on that. entails both the examining and the noticing. at least for me. but for who else would it be for, if not for myself? whose life is this, anyway? i remind myself over and over again. if this were the last time that i could appreciate myself, how would that change my experience of it... and then i stop and do it. and i notice how it feels to appreciate myself. and this life.

and so it turns out that snippets of this life can indeed be good fodder for blog posting after all. as usual. the trick is in the noticing. the writing. the flowing. and in the letting it all be as much as it really is.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

slinky zen

The kids have been playing with a little orange slinky that showed up around the house recently and came from...somewhere? I used to know where everything came from. I still know what is ours, what looks familiar, but I don't necessarily know where it all came from anymore- and that's literally and philosophically speaking. My guess is that the little orange slinky came from a goodie bag from a birthday party at some point and was unearthed when they were going through a few random baskets-of-stuff out in the garage. They had fun playing with it and fighting over it for a day or two and then Eva said she wanted another slinky, a bigger one that could walk down stairs, etc. The little one is fun but doesn't move the way the bigger slinkies do- there doesn't seem to be enough weight behind the movement, for one thing. It is also very susceptible to getting tangled, more so than other larger slinkies? Maybe. I know I catch myself sighing deeply when that slinky is brought to me to be untangled. {And I think zen thoughts like- if this were the last time you would ever have to untangle a slinky could you embrace it as it is and not wish it away...Yeah, I'm a fairly serious individual. Mostly. Except when I'm laughing at how absurd it all is. Really.)

So we took a short trip to Toys R Us because Eva had a gift card she got from her grandpa for her birthday and what better thing to buy from Toys R Us than a slinky? And a giant snake. And another package of nerf-stuff. And I have to ask- why is it that whenever we go to Toys R Us, we end up having to go back to return something and exchange it for something else either that same day {as in we never actually leave the parking lot} or the next? I take a deep breath when we get ready to go to Toys R Us. The knowledge that it won't be just one trip, that they will try to sell me batteries, that there is candy everywhere, that the thing Samuel really wants is actually one of those motorized cars for kids that cost $500. (Why don't they make a police car one, by the way? He has been asking this question since he was 3 years old.) Plus, all the other stuff that comes with one of those giant stores- the lights, the loudness, the fact that if I stay in there long enough I will buy almost anything just to get out of there.

We found the slinky and several of those zhu zhu pets (who we saw at my friend Sarah's house when we went out to visit her recently). We also found something that we would eventually- a few hours later, actually- return to exchange for something else. {Check. Now some batteries and candy to make it complete.} And I have to say, while I know it isn't about getting there, I felt a little closer to there as I walked through Toys R Us and I really didn't mind it {um. as much}. I was even extremely grouchy yesterday and I managed to keep it together and appreciate this experience with my kids. A.Ma.Zing. The meditating and being-with-what-is thoughts really do seem to help {if help means being able to get through a trip to Toys R Us relatively unscathed. And at this point I think it does, as least in part.}

So I continue- to think being-with-what-is thoughts, to look for the good in all things, to meditate, and to trust that my heart will take me where I want to go {Mostly. Except when I am afraid that it won't. Or that I'll miss it or some other somesuch.} Watch this short one minute movie. It makes the point very very well- that this life is ours and it is happening right now.