Thursday, February 26, 2009


it is just possible that the resurrection of the washer/dryer has been exaggerated.

Zombie-like, they are up and running, albeit with a couple of quirks: the washer seems to run hot water when asked to use cold. (guess how I figured that one out, hey?) By contrast, the dryer tosses the clothes around nicely, but doesn't deliver any heat.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the first thing I tossed into the wash was the boys' winter jackets...they are now clean, warm and slowly drip-drip-dripping over the tub. Oh, dear. Those are sort of useful around here.

On the other hand, my sense of status quo is now restored as the Mike virus rolls on. May I suggest thinking hard before offering to let us use your machines?

Like any sane woman, when this sort of thing goes on around me, I start searching for chocolate. Having inexplicably failed to find some in the house (that is, find any palatable stuff), I tried making blueberry jam instead.

Yes, yes, I know, blueberry jam is not theobromos, but picture this: to make the stuff, you rinse blueberries, pour them into a big pot, grab your potato masher and squash the hell out of the things. Believe me when I say that this is extremely therapeutic. And the outcome is a low-sugar jam, which I'm hoping to use in a barter for sewing expertise. 

So, no. Not chocolate. But the small accomplishment suited me fine, and the process definitely met a need or two...

take that, blueberry. Mess with my machines, will you? I. Think. Not. Heeee-yah!

Note: the recipe linked to above is the one I used, with the natural (sugar-free) pectin. In the end, I added a 1/4 c of sugar to the 8 cups of fresh blueberries, plus 3 cups of juice. So much for sugar-free, eh? More to the point, the recipe I used was hard to follow - great photos, but the layout makes it tricky to read. But the results taste pretty darned good...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

return of the Mike

Oh, said the Mike as the door swung open. Wasn't I just here?

Yep, I nodded. This time, you're here for the washing machine.

It's with a sense of deja vu and a strong urge to buy some sage to smudge the place - or possibly hold an exorcism - that I must report that our washing machine has chosen to follow its sister into oblivion. Oh, dear.

It is mere coincidence that I am a full. two. freakaaarghing. months. behind. in my commitments, but it's an unhappy one: I am hauling loads to friends' homes, spending time at the laundromat, and watching impossibly precious time slip farther through my fingertips as I drop writing and editing in favor of enough underwear to go around. Got to have priorities. And, apparently, friends with laundry facilities.

And so we trudge along, using a verb that's pretty accurate right now. It's hard to stride boldly, calmly or otherwise with a ginormous sack of laundry on my back, let alone a value-sized bottle of Not Gonna Give You Grief dye-free, stink-free laundry detergent. But you can imagine the trudge as determined and strong, if you like.

Somehow, it had not occurred to me that we might be hauling our karma along with our fershtunken socks. Or perhaps I've been too wise to be that self-centered. The world doesn't revolve around us, right? Events do not spiral outwards from us, right? Right. But today's laundry locale of choice (yes, but if we have the playdate at your place, I could - perhaps, if it's not an imposition - do some laundry?) was unexpectedly zapped, mid-Imperfect load. The clever eco-friendly washer failed to spin, the clothes needed to be bailed out with measuring cups and saucepans and buckets, and we trudged off with damp (but clean) clothes, wondering if maybe we should get extra bundles of sage?

Just in case it's catching? (Still not the Center of All Things. Nope. No way. Just oddly close to it, maybe?)

One friend's home had been pre-zapped, and I folded laundry while he disassembled his dishwasher. (been there, I murmured. But not really - we had had a Mike disassemble and haul ours away.) And another had been preemptively zinged: sitting in my now dusty inbox is an email from another friend, surprised to find that her washing machine is broken. And we hadn't even called them yet, laundry bag in hand. Damn, but that karma thing is zipping right along there, isn't it?

Because it's definitely not trudging...
This is the week of fix, QG announced two weeks ago, and I'm sorry to say that she might have understated the case. This is the month of fix, and this is the week of cancel. And the weeks of facing up to reality, nostril to nostril. Toenail to uncut toenail. After months of watching the treadmill speed up, I realize now that in fact, the damn thing has been moving at the same speed, all along. It's not me, it's you, hissed the machine, and yep. Okay.

I've been whizzing through the house for a while now, pausing to shriek about not being able to keep up, to explode about whatever effort du jour isn't sustainable, and finally settling down long enough to really inject the delight into a rare dinner with the Man, by steering us to a discussion about our choices. Our priorities. Our relationship. Our habits of getting roughly 4-5 hrs of sleep a night.

And then looking astonished, when we realize that we're tired.

I'd love to say that stances were taken, and dramatic changes are underway. Remember the bedtime pledge? We both failed absurdly: I managed two nights of bed-by-midnight, mostly because I was smacked down with a stomach nasty on those nights. The Man ducked the virus, and managed none.

Let me be clear: this is not a whine. I'm too tired to offer up a good whine, anyway. It's also not a rant, for the same reason. Instead, this is a standing in my tracks, swiping aside cobwebs to have a clearer look at our realities. Time to look a few in the hairy eyeball. See if they blink.

(damn. They didn't.)

reality: our family is not low-maintenance, between the food and the variable approaches to clotting.
reality: the Man's workload is not likely to lighten up in any forseeable future (nor is anyone hiring). He earns a paycheck and is our source for health insurance - his work is a priority. This is inarguable, however irritating it might be for those of us doing the relationship thing.
reality: the writing I do is fundamentally important to me. It's therapy and a stepping stone to? well, something. It is necessary.
reality: my writing time is extracted from household/family/mothering time. It is a privilege.
reality: a preschooler without a preschool, is a child being homeschooled. They are also a child without a school for next year. Finding such a school takes a surprising amount of time, now that we've missed any number of autumn registration/application dates.
reality: staying up late at night to work will not let us scrape up extra time. Nor will it allow us to produce stellar results. It will just make us tired, and our work slightly cracked. As we go on, the cracking becomes positively baroque. Oh, dear. Is this why I just lost a feature article to another staff writer? aaaaargh.
reality: the kids do not give a flying crap about any of this. Their needs will not change according to their parents' convenience, and I watch the Man soak the boys in nightly, finding love and comfort and a quiet grounding in the small, flying bodies. Oh - perhaps that's necessary, too?
reality: we are blessed with friendships, with people who would probably (and have poked me, to remind me so) be happy to pitch in from time to time, offering their own precious time and resources and caring. So stubbornly in the habit of self-sufficiency, we've got out of the habit of leaning on others.
(unfortunate) reality: tired people are not patient. Tired people are not as gentle, or loving, or even just plain happy as people with a basic allotment of sleep. And tired people who are stressed with drop their bi-annual dates down the toilet of oh, shit, how did we end up here?

Caught between these realities, we're hunting around. We can't throw money at this problem, as much as we wish we could. Even before the Mikes turned up, one of my challenges has been to try and reduce our monthly costs. It's still, alas, one of my challenges. So, there's no money trapdoor here. But somewhere, there must be possibilities to soften these realities, right?

possibility: food could be canned. (but not frozen - the freezer is tiny and full) Meals could be simplified, time could be saved.
possibility: we could - we should - well, now, and here I'm a little stumped.

I'm not asking for sympathy here, because there's nothing tragic here. Nor is there anything sad. Ours is a wonderful and extraordinarily complicated life, and hey, a good one. Not simple, not easy, always made from scratch and ultimately yummy. And for however many months going back, and however many months going forwards, it's going to be a little tough.

Nor am I hoping for suggestions or solutions here, because how could I? There's a thousand pieces of this puzzle, like the lack of jobs in our area (the Man must keep his), my sense of urgency about going to grad school....someday (and the need to feel like I'm preparing for that, somehow), some medical whatnot (private and otherwise - but no, none of them involving my ovaries), the budgetary and practical and psychological specifics of seventeen hundred and three things that serve to shape this cumulative reality, right down to the freakin' tiny freezer. So. Delicate moving parts, stubborn people, good love, lots of dents, and maybe the odd straw on the back already.

Oh yes, and did I mention the Mikes? (hi, guys)

As we wrestle, cancel meetings, visits and yes, I call to do some painful resigning from writing/editing, there must be a bright spot. And indeed there is.

(You didn't think I would leave you hanging, did you?)

Last Friday, I took my third shot at jam. The first try, a marmelade, was sunshiny-sweet. Too sweet, judged a friend, and suggested minced crystallized ginger. The second batch followed her advice, while the third batch changed gears and went raspberry.

Raspberry jam glows in the sunlight, did you know? It warms the hand and the eye, and it mattered remarkably little that novice that I am, I had boiled the jam until it cooled into a raspberry toffee. It's still deep and warm and lovely, and the Man and the boys and I spooned it onto homemade scones with pleasure.

hmmm. There's a metaphor up there somewhere. Nah, there's just another -yawn- instance in the Imperfect trend. Effort, challenge, food, pleasure. So what else is new?

*the scone recipe is here. Of course, we tweaked it: I added a half tsp of nutmeg, and possibly a dash of vanilla. And nope, I don't cut mine up - can't be bothered. I smoosh them into a cooking-sprayed pie plate, and try to artistically scatter demerara sugar on top. Takes perhaps 25+ minutes to bake.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

a birthday

There comes a time in a mama's life when she looks at her son's birthday cake, made without benefit of egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut, sesame, any number of legumes (but with soy), wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kiwi or a range of unlikely squashes, and say to herself: wow.
And then, as the last lick of frosting is swirled on, the sprinkles sprinkled, she looks again and thinks, eeewwww. I just took a perfectly nice cake, and covered it in congealed fat and sugar. Gross.

(forcible eviction of the nutrition police from neural pleasure centers)*********************************
We had a birthday party this past Sunday, a patiently awaited rerun after a snowy non-birthday party. As you can imagine, we have a formula for our birthday parties, and it's served us well for years. The Eldest is allowed one friend per year, plus cousins (a necessary compromise), and he is given a budget for choosing crafts or activities. This year he did especially well, choosing activities that would appeal to his guests, as well as to the Eldest himself.

We had: make your own foam airplanes, build a paper drum and beading. And of course, the kids could start off the party by decorating their gift bags, aka craft repositories. I figured that the airplanes would give the kids running and throwing time, the drums would be moderately loud and silly, and the beads would offer a quiet corner. One cake, three kinds of hummus, many many carrot sticks and melons later, we had ourselves a party.

Things went beautifully for about twenty minutes, and then:


Delighted by an anti-craft ringleader, the boys formed a pack, rampaging through the place. Would it be too sissy to break out the vacuum cleaner? wondered the Man. Glitter, markers, paper, beads, broken drums, cushions, and Rubix cubes littered the floor, while I grinned at the kid wrestling futilely with a newly childlocked cabinet. Take that, you whippersnapper. The kid growled, and set up a screeching contest.

In a corner, two children sat, one carefully designing a drum for her brother. The other drew a picture of a castle, beset by dragons. When the pack roared in, artists looked stricken. I shrugged and grabbed a memory of my first grade teacher, a terrifying woman with no sense of humor. Grinning fiercely, Mrs J swept the pack through the hall, while the artists breathed a sigh of relief.

We regrouped briefly, placating the mob with cake and fruit, until one of the artists turned traitor. With twenty minutes to go, the artists helped the pack make war banners, build roadblocks, and assemble a strategic plan of attack while the adults huddled in the kitchen, wondering. One kindly soul decided to offer fair warning to the enemy, like so:

As the parents arrived, I happily sent them into the war zone to retrieve their children.

Now, I admitted, I understand why people shell out for birthday parties run by someone else. Somewhere else. With a small bottle of scotch tucked in their bag.

Cripes. But: happy birthday, Eldest, regardless: if a 7th birthday comes with a roar of Independence, well, I can respect that. Just do me a favor and get rid of the caltrops before I have to vacuum, okay?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

an Imperfect stimulus package

Note: the theme for this post can be found here

Um. Yes. But some weeks that's easier than others, hmmm? This week, my house is festooned with laundry. Laundry is not really compatible with enjoyment in my book, unless it's clean and en route to drawers. Right now, it's clean, dripping and doing nasty things to the wood trim on the stairs. Oh, and did I mention that it's everyfreakingwhere?

Tablecloths dangle down the stairs, towels are drying into something stiff and regrettable, socks are hanging from slightly open drawers, and the Eldest's undies are best left undiscussed. Still, this is all in service of a good cause: in the midst of a recession, the Man and I are making a sincere effort to support Mike the Service Man. This month, Mike has been a mechanic (I'm sorry, ma'am, but your car won't pass inspection), an oven repairman (you are smelling gas when you turn on your oven?), a washer/dryer repairman (oh, wow. your motor blower is completely burned out), and finally, a pair of rheumatologists. Clearly, we Imperfects are doing our best for the economy, by pumping astonishing amounts of cash into the hands of the nice folks who are trying to help us.

- thanks, guys -

Hooray for the Mike who replaced the tires on our car, especially the three with balding treads and cuts. The fourth was a bonus - just like the unbroken passenger side mirror. The spark plugs were rather more necessary, but I can't speak for the quetzl. Or the mrgfnlap. Driving in snow and slush has been rather easier since Mike set to work - must be the new mrgfnlap that did the trick.

Hooray for the Mike who replaced the igniter in our oven, and let the nasally functional Imperfects relax. And look! The oven can reach 350F in under 25 minutes now, thereby enabling QG's birthday muffins.

We're reserving judgement on the Mike who came out and oohed and clucked over our poor dryer. He's still ordering the part. Um. I'll get back to you, says Mike. Grkltfp, say I.

And oh, so nice to be done with the Mikes from the rheumatology department, who patted and flexed the Eldest this morning, trying to solve a mystery. The delights of these Mikes were rather mixed, alas, as was their success. But hey, it's all part of stimulating something. My temper, perhaps? My not so latent ability to worry? Whichever it was, mission accomplished.

I would, however, have preferred less mystery and less Mike. Ah, well.

The story of the rheumatologists (hastily explaining here, before some local readers head over to beat my head in for amusing myself/being cryptic) is the story of a two year-long mystery.

Last autumn, the Eldest started school and promptly began to have a number of hand bleeds. Except that they didn't quite look like hand bleeds, because his hand would swell up oh so fast (poof! ten minutes, and there was Michelin man hand). There was no serious pain, no bruising* and the swelling would go down in a couple of hours. So, said the Man, was this a bleed?

We argued about it throughout the autumn (treat as if it is a bleed, said the hematologists - but-but-but insurance! irresponsible use of resources! spluttered the Man), and into the winter. At our annual visit to the hemophilia clinic, the hematologist frowned. No, he said. It doesn't sound like a bleed. The Man looked smug, and I sat up straight. Fine, then. So what is it? The hematologist shrugged. Not a bleed, he repeated. Maybe it's an allergy thing?

Five months later, the allergist listened carefully. Could be caused by allergy, he said, but given the circumstances, it sounds unlikely. But ask the NY team.

Three weeks ago, the New York hotshot allergist tilted her head to one side. Hmm, she said. You should treat it as if it is an allergic reaction, but out of curiosity - is there any angioedema in your family? I frowned, half-relieved that she was taking this seriously, and half-disliking her line of thought. No. No angioedema that we know of.

One batch of bloodwork later, we were on our way to this year's annual hemophilia clinic visit. The hematologist looked at the lab results, and repeated them, ordering a full panel of not my specialty tests. They came back, predictably, funky in entirely different ways. Not my specialty, sighed the hematologists. Not my specialty, pointed out the allergist. But treat it as if it were.

I went off to find my favorite head-banging spot, and indulged in some therapy. Ow. And sat down to think.

As far as I could tell, we had a number of challenges here. First, was perspective. It's tricky to turn off the medical mama eye, and to decide when you have a normal level of weird, and when you have a worry-worthy level of weird. And, once you realize that your kid is medically cracked, the naivete that might stop you from looking for more cracks vanishes. What else is lurking, asks the newly-realistic mama. What else is coming? It's a tense way to parent, waiting for the next diagnosis, even looking forward to the next diagnosis - after all, the diagnosis is the sigh of relief that follows a freakin scary unknown patch. Pessimism or realism? Medical microscope or reality? I tossed the Eldest into the car and drove while his hand ballooned. Oh, boy, said the pediatrician. That is odd. (perspective: check.)

Next, was information. If a hand swells, does that mean we could see a foot swell? A leg? A neck? Without an understanding of the process and it's implications, we couldn't judge this. Nor could we direct ourselves to the appropriate specialist, while our own dithered. (information: blank)

I'll admit that a third challenge was sheer irritation. I dislike being shuffled from pillar to post. I especially dislike people not taking responsibility. And I distinctly dislike not having a plan in place to respond, should that swelling do something exciting like push the Eldest's airways closed. Yeh, definitely not so much liking that one. And, I admitted to myself that, post-pre-school imbroglio, I was also a little touchy about people not taking me seriously about my boys. (irritation: working on it)

Enter one of my favorite ob/gyns, and her immunology textbook. She produced definitions, prodded a friend for a quick fly-by opinion, and then for a reference. Enter a Mike the younger, a thoughtful fellow, gentle with the Eldest and carefully listening to me. I slapped on my best non-crazy mom face, did my best to ignore the hot chocolate drying on my pants (oooh, itchy), and worked to be precise about something that echoed in my head as what the hell? Mike the younger listened carefully, explained the possibilities he was considering, and why. He grinned at the Eldest's jokes, quirked a pleasant eyebrow at me, and went to find his boss.

Mike the elder walked in, smiled - and whipped a couple of chocolate pops out of his pocket. He held them out to the boys, who stared at him. Want some dum-dums? he asked. The Toddles looked at me. That's so sweet of you! Do you mind if I look at the ingredients? I offered an apologetic smile. The boys have a lot of allergies. The pops disappeared back into his pocket. Oh, said Mike the elder. Allergies I don't know. Kashrut, though, I do.

Yes. He did. I could tell by the sudden stiffness of his shoulders. (note to self: don't make the doc cranky)

Mike the elder quizzed the younger, correcting and interrupting him as he saw fit. In the face of this certain superiority, I found myself wanting to argue, but I could see the barest outlines of the elder's analysis. He dismissed this bit of information, focused on that - it was hardly pleasant for Mike the younger, but it was unarguably educational. As the Mikes had their pedagogical moment, the Eldest and the Toddles discovered the snack in my bag. Quietly, they began to bicker.

As Mike the younger's skin was thickened by his mentor's methods, my boys ratcheted up the bicker. Cooperatively, the Eldest hopped up on the exam table, ignoring my peacemaking while stretching for a Mike. A Mike pronounced something about the Eldest's heart rate, while the Toddles did an end run around my hands and the see, honey? won't this be fun/yummy/keeping out of trouble-worth? The Mikes frowned over the Eldest's hyperflexible joints, informing me that these were not a wonderful thing in a child with hemophilia.

Oh, I said, thinking this over. I have hyperflexible shoulders, or so my yoga instructors used to say. He must have got it from me.
Mike the elder frowned at me, unamused. Yes. But you don't have hemophilia.
I spent a completely unnecessary fourteen seconds explaining that yes, in fact I do. And then spent nine horrified seconds watching Mike the elder frown at me. (Ohno the doc thinks I'm an idiot what will he do he won't take me seriously he won't treat the Eldest must fix he's mad ohnono)
Oh, I tripped over myself. But that would be different for severe hemophilia. Mike the eldest forebore to glare. Right, I babbled. More significant for a severe.


In the corner, the Eldest grabbed a cracker from the Toddles' hands, leaving the Toddles planning his vengeance.

Mike the elder chose a diagnosis that Mike the younger had marked as unlikely. He explained other diagnoses as improbable, whisking through a quick explanation of inflammation without wondering if I understood words like osmosis and idiopathic, but certain that I wouldn't understand plasma, or vascular pressure. (score: 7.2) Mike t.e. won points for his certainty, and for choosing the diagnosis least likely to involve life-threatening outcomes. He did not, alas, persuade me of his diagnosis' accuracy.

Mid-lecture, the Toddles made his move, swooping past adults to belly up to his brother. I want some crackers, the Toddles shouted. Give me some! (I said something ignorable) The Eldest, coming late to his share, stared his sibling down. They are MINE, said he. (I caught the Eldest's eye, and said something similarly ignorable) The Toddles inhaled deeply, and Mike the elder leaned over. Grabbing the package, he looked the Eldest in the eyeball. I am trying to talk to your mother, he said, and I can't do that while you are being loud. Give. Him. Some. Crackers.

The Eldest growled, and did.

Driving home, I reminded myself that a good clinician is not, alas, always equipped with good people skills. But it does not help persuade a mama as to the clinician's diagnostic skill. Although it does warm a sneaky cockle of me heart to see the Eldest, his hands firmly on the bag of crackers, pulling back as the Mike tried to yank it away....

* some bleeds are deep enough in the muscle or joint that you won't see redness or bruising for a long time. Sometimes, you might not see bruising at all, but you can see swelling, the child will show pain, and you can feel heat. Days, even a week or so later, the old blood rises to the surface, making patterns of blue, purple, browns and yellows. But that takes a while. It's unnerving to treat a bleed that you can't quite see with your eyes, and we're urged to treat quickly. Faster treated, faster healed, saith the hematologists - and indeed, it's true. The odd downside is that if you treat that quickly, you're much less likely to see any bruising later on, leaving the Man irked: he likes his empirical evidence. Me, I can deal.

Monday, February 09, 2009

fire and smoke

Fires are raging in Australia, after absurd heat and drought, drought and more drought. Healesville is burning, says the latest reports, home to our favorite non-zoo. This is, frankly, pretty unimaginable.

Is Bom's house burned? asked the Eldest, worried. I offered up the Grandmere as a voice of authority, and she assured him that no, Bom's house is safe. Later, she shared an email from a friend living in the danger zone: I heard one victim describe the fire travelling across his bare paddock as like water flowing and then his house burned totally in 6 minutes. Nonetheless, the advice is to stay home if you see flames: drivers are dying in smoke or the radiant heat.

When we were at Wilson's Prom, charcoaled tree trunks ranged along some of our paths. The dark, starkness of them was astonishing, but ferns grew knee high, birds were being orgasmic in the greenery around us, and tall spiking grasses grew so thick that the Eldest happily disappeared into them. There was some tragedy to be picked out of that landscape, but mostly there was a sort of harmony between fire and growth. The fire's aftermath was a quiet waiting as the landscape renewed itself. What's happening now, though, is almost cataclysmic.

Somewhere, someone is shouting things from Revelations.

With fire and worry dampening me, there's not much beyond the small to tell today. We are having another sick day here at chez Imperfect - the Eldest is home again with the latest tweak in what's either one virus with a sense of humor, or two. Either way, the Eldest himself is in reasonable shape, if a little testy. Loss of routine does not suit our lad, and he's not shy about demonstrating.

To my surprise, I recognized the pattern: he was having 5.30 pm meltdowns.

By 4pm, the Eldest is usually in the car and on his way home. He'll want some quiet time - just as the Toddles is chattering at him, excited to see his big brother. He'll want some talking with Mum time - just as I'm trying to make dinner. He'll want some playing time, and the Toddles does, too - but our tired Eldest will want a sense of control over the last of his fraying day, and heaps on rules. And instructions. And supervision that turns into oh, let me do that. I'm showing you how. Gimme. Hey! (grab) (wail) (wallop)


The Toddles, still delighted to have his brother home, will begin by playing along, trying to keep up with the rules and the changes in plan and the helpfully organizing and supervising brother. Right up to the moment when the poor kid realizes that he is THREE and his talents lie in directions other than the cooperative. And he's tired.

Moments later, (grab) (wail) (wallop) and the howling starts. Melody and descant - it's a lovely thing.

Thus we found the out-of-school Eldest, winding up for his descant. Except that the Toddles wasn't tired, and so there went the harmony....

Nonetheless, there was fun.

Of all the Eldest's endangered species, this one is perhaps uniquely so. So fragile that the brush of a hand could de-nostril it, we're proud to present the three-nosed elephant. The elephant's fragility was, alas, combined with a serious temptation to yank and run...a move not well recieved by the chair of the Endangered Species club. The chair has, apparently, a rather literal, Biblical respose to the loss of an elephant's nose. (The chair's mother seems to be more liberal in her sense of justice. And the miscreant was surprised to find a distinct lack of cities of refuge.)

Happily, while there were some attempts at bloodshed, there was humor.

Rarely seen, yet rightfully feared, here is the superbouncyball pirate, complete with treasure map. The pirates spent some hours with QG, sailing in their boat, sunnyyellowapple, in search of treasure.

(can anyone tell that the Eldest's found the Robert Louis Stevenson on the kids' bookcases?)

Coming Soon: allergies and statistics!

waiting patiently

From the Man, a photo:

We're waiting patiently over here for spring, people. *******************************************

I was asked a few posts back about our pickle recipes. First, allow me to admit that we don't quite have one. I have a book, Pickled, that gives me my base recipes. Then I tweak - a little more garlic here, a bit of lemon peel there, etc. My current favorite pickle is a combination of the book's recipe and one I found here . I did add a little touch or two, and a spot of paranoia - I boil my brine, and pour it into the jar immediately after turning off the heat. And yep, I process my jarred pickles perhaps longer than need be, but hey, I'm a canning newbie and bacteria scare me.

I embrace my paranoia. Makes it easier for everyone, all 'round.

For the curious, some specifics: The latest batch of pickles got a vinegar, water and kosher salt brine with black peppercorns, dill seed, 3 allspice, bay leaves. In the jar, I packed cucumber spears, lemon peel, 6 cloves of garlic, fennel fronds (we were out of dill) and oh, what else? Oh, right - one jar was a little short on cukes, so I finished it off with fennel.

For you non-pickle eaters, we tried this Boston Globe jam recipe, and ooooh. It tastes like sunshine. (Budget warning: there's a good, inexpensive wholesale produce place in my area. Otherwise, yikes! the Meyer lemons aren't so much cheap.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

symbolic cultural objects...

We Imperfects are not a timely folk.

I was surprised to see that N was late to school 9 times, said a punctual mama. She paused, grinned, and asked, how many times was the Eldest late? I laughed. Twenty-three....

Nope. Not a timely breed, mine. And yet one day, we were early for a playdate. Realizing this, we did the sensible thing and stopped at Starbucks. The other playdate mother is a coffee drinker, I rationalized. I could get my (oh, ugh) white hot chocolate, her decaf, and still be appropriately slightly-late for the playdate.

And so we were.

Standing in line with the Toddles, we negotiated drinks (I want that green one! - it has kiwi - Oh. I want that big one! - it costs a lot more- What's that? -a sandwich. It has wheat.-) and practiced the 'I'm being patient' dance. Because, let's face it: being patient has very little to do with standing still, should you ask my boys. Dancing in place while on line is a compromise that suits us all, while amusing bystanders. What's not to love?

The Toddles does a great patient dance, and will happily take requests for the 'I'm being patient song.' Mid-lyric, he noticed something. Crouching to examine, he circled the object of his fascination, reaching out gently, gently, with a finger.

What's that, Mum?
I grinned.
Those are the heels on this lady's boots.
(looking at my heel-less, slightly scungy sneakers) Are you sure?

The lady did her best to ignore the Toddles, which was perhaps made trickier by his carefully rolling his orange juice up against the arc of her heels, curving inwards from the sole of her boot. I applauded both her aplomb as well as his fascination.

In the car, the Toddles mused a bit, then asked, why does she wear those shoes?
Because she likes them, and she can, I informed him. But I don't.

Happily, the playdate mother wears shoes even more sensible than mine. Nevertheless, throughout the day, I'd catch the Toddles eyeing my footwear speculatively.
Because Lois made me wonder, I'm now prepared to let you all know:

I am a Knife

You are precise, determined, and detail oriented.

You mean what you say, and you say what you mean.

You enjoy taking risks and living on the edge.

You are a controversial person. Your opinions tend to be divisive.

I am prepared to dispute this, of course...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

a spot of quiet to go with that tea, love?

and then it was quiet. The sun made a warm spot on the futon, and I curled up with my tea, and a copy of my latest book. The book, a long-delayed read, had some suggestions.* The tea did, too.

*The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel. It's currently being read by the parenting group at the Eldest's school, a group which isn't attended by parents of kids-in-tow. (um)