Ghosts of consumerist past

img_1102This is Stella.  I’ve never had a cat before.  I’ve never really had a pet before.  J., on the other hand, grew up with cats and couldn’t resist but make friends with every stray cat the crossed his path, cooing “Hello Cat Friend!”  It took all of a year and a half for me to break down and get him Stella from the shelter for his birthday. 

However, I made some very stupid ground rules. #1) she could not come in our room at night — well, she shredded the carpet outside our door and showed me who’s boss. #2) she would sleep in a bed we bought her — yeah, cat’s apparently don’t like scheduled bed-time routine. and #3) the stupidest rule of all, I didn’t want to have to deal with cleaning icky cat poop, so I fell prey to some infomercial about a self cleaning electric liter box.  It is ugly.  It is loud.  It requires custom containers to catch the poop that run out in, oh, 2 weeks, and it never really worked properly to begin with — running non stop and freaking out the cat.    

About 2 years have passed since we got the liter box.  We treated it like a regular box, not making use of the electric self-cleaning (HA!) feature, but rather scooping in the traditional manner.  Stella has gotten too long (or fat) for the liter box.  So, we had to upgrade her to a normal liter box and now we have to get rid of this thing.  This stupid purchase haunts me.  I don’t feel like I can sell it on craigs list, because I don’t think it functions properly.  I even feel guilty giving it away to an animal shelter who will look at me like I’m an idiot for getting it in the first place.  I was a different person when I bought this thing.  How many other big stupid purchases have I made?  (Parafin dip machine: you’re getting to close to being on that list!)

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Giant Belly, Revisited

I’m fresh out of insight today.  Max (our soon-to-be son) has been kicking me like crazy and various other charming pregnancy symptoms have kept me from having a decent night sleep recently.  We are T minus 15 till the due date.  Here’s the first belly pic on this site.   My sister’s due date is today — still no action on either front.  I’m closest to the Turkey — a 20 pounder that is dwarfed by our size.

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Buy Nothing Day & Dark Days Update

In years past, my mom and I would go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.  Now, we wouldn’t be one of those folks getting to the store at 5 am — just at some point during the day we went shopping.  Last year was the first year I celebrated “Buy Nothing Day.”  I had so much fun with it, I turned it into a stuff-less Christmas/Hanukkah (interfaith marriage = double holidays).  We took my husbands father and girlfriend and my folks out to a nice dinner at a great green restaurant called Flea Street Cafe and had a great time.  We got admission to a golf course for brother-in-law, etc.

This year, with the babies (mine and my sister’s) coming, we’ll have to think a little more creatively about honoring the day.

Dark Days Update

ddaybug08-09Our dark days meal of the week was one of my favorite comfort foods.  Tortellini in a white sauce with ham, mushrooms and onions.  It’s one of those meals where I really enjoy the leftovers — but sadly, there were none this time around.

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The pasta was a wholewheat tortelini made by the Monterey Pasta Company.  The milk was from Straus Organic Dairy in glass containers we return for a deposit.  The Mushrooms and onion from the farmers market.  The ham, not local, but organic and pasture raised.  The chives on top from my one surviving herb plant from my window sill.  Normally these days I make my own rue, but I noticed at the back of the cabinet I had a package of white sauce — God knows how old that is.  Decided to declutter life and use it up.  Not local or organic but still satisfying to use it up. 😦

Rain + Laziness + Giant Belly = Making My Own Pitas

Our pre-set dinner plan last night was to eat pitas with a ground beef sumac (arabic spice) mixture, veggies and hummus.  However, I’m pretty picky about my pitas.  I find most grocery store brands have the texture of cardboard and the flavor is not much better.  There’s one store near my parents that has good pitas (frozen) that remind me of the authentic pitas of my childhood. 

However, pregnancy brain hit in and I totally forgot to pick up the pitas earlier this week when I was by that store (about 25 minutes away).  It was raining yesterday, and I couldn’t justify driving 25 minutes for a bag of pitas no matter how pregnant I am.  So, fresh off my confidence of the bread baking last week, I decided to try my hand at making my own.  I used this recipe and here are the picks.  We were thrilled with the results.  We may use this recipe for making mini pizzas, too.  This was a lot less fuss than 20 hrs of letting bread rise.

I hope everyone out there has a happy Thanksgiving.  This is the meal my family and I look forward to most every year.  Here’s hoping my little sis’ (at 40 weeks now) doesn’t go into labor with a half-cooked bird in the oven.

Pumpkin Rescue

I don’t know if it’s simply a new found appreciation for eatting with the seasons, or pregnancy cravings, but I haven’t been able to get enough of the pumpkin this season.

I was at a friend’s house about a week ago and she mentioned that it was time for her to throw away the pumpkin decorating her doorway.  I looked at it and it looked fine to me, but what do I know.  Nevertheless, I volunteered to take it off her hands.

I took it home and roasted it and turned some of it into a pumpkin souffle.  It was good.  I took pictures of all but the finished product. D’OH!  The hardest part for me is slicing the pumpkin in half to make 2 dome shapes.  I think a kid’s pumpkin carving kit would make it easier — but any sharp knife would do.

After you cut the pumpkin into 2 domes (top and bottom, not side and side), take out the guts.  Keep the seeds for roasting.  Then place domes face down in a roasting pan.  I roasted this pumpkin for an hour.  The steam helps the process, so try not to check on them.  If you underroast it, it will be hard to separate the pumpking meat from the skin.  If you do it right, it should come apart almost on its own.  Then I mash the insides in a bowl with a potato masher.

Yes we Cayenne!

When I grew up, my parents — my mom in particular — avoided spicy foods.  Now, nearing retirement, they somehow can’t get enough of the stuff.  My tastebuds haven’t quite matched theirs. 

As I was strolling through the farmers market a few weeks back, I enjoyed seeing cute little pepper plants from Cole Canyon Farm.  Having no outside space whatsoever, I can’t grow anything yet.  But, my eye would always wander towards those cute little seedlings and starter plants waiting to be coaxed to their full potential.

It occurred to me the other day that one of those pepper plants would be a great Hanukkah gift for my parents.  Normally, I’d file that info away, and forget about it — somehow not managing to pick up the plant in the hub-bub of holiday time.  Well, not this time. Carpe Diem — sieze the pepper.  Our hands full with the farmer’s market bounty, we vowed to come back and pick up that sole Cayenne plant.   Truth be told, J. went back to get it because I was too exhausted.

Why wait till an arbitrary holiday day to give the present if the moment strikes you now?  We went over to my folks last night and brought the plant and it was very well received.  We hope it thrives in their care.

Cayenne plant with Obama image reflected in furniture

Cayenne plant with Obama image reflected in furniture

This is how we learn

And after 14 hrs of rising, reshaping, 2 more hours of rising, an hour of cooking. Easy peazy?

And after 14 hrs of rising, reshaping, 2 more hours of rising, an hour of cooking. Easy peazy?

For some reason, this picture didn’t make it into my last post — and since I thought I was going into labor, I didn’t have time to fix it.  It looks pretty and tasted good and we were saving some for later.  Here’s a tip:  don’t put freshly baked bread into a plastic bag even if you think it has cooled sufficiently.  We found out today that it let off steam in the bag and molded.  Oh well, this is how we learn.

On the other bun in the oven — am not in labor yet, but I took my body’s craziness as a sign that it was time to get a jump start on the maternity leave.  And so I did and I feel great about it.

Shake and Bake

As I posted earlier, I decided to face my irrational fear of bread and make the famous New York Times no-knead bread recipe.  The only change I made was to add an additional 1/4 tsp of salt, and to substitute one cup of regular flour for whole wheat flour.  It was a hit! (though, I could go for more salt next time — if it doesn’t screw with the chemsitry.  I think the timing for me has to be a friday night start to the process, and then a late lunch on Saturday to appreciate the bread.

 

after initially mixing the ingredients

after initially mixing the ingredientsAnd after 14 hrs of rising, reshaping, 2 more hours of rising, an hour of cooking. Easy peazy?

So, that covers the “bake.”  Now for the “shake” — as in, shaking in my boots.  I think I may go into labor very very soon (hours? days?)– and I’m not due for another 3 weeks.  Don’t have a bag packed. The diaper delivery service isn’t scheduled to start for another week.  I’m mentally not ready, and have no idea what I need to get me ready.  I hope I’m just having a mental moment, and I have more time to get ready.

A new way to celebrate the new arrival

My pregnancy started about 8 months after J. and I got married.  Yes, this was very much a planned pregnancy.  Perhaps obsessively planned.  I started telling my close friends very early — too excited to wait till the ‘safe zone.’   What struck me, though, was that usually one of the first few questions after “planned?” “when are you due” and “do you want a boy or a girl” was “you’re going to have a shower, right?”

The third question was not so much as a question, as an order.  And my response in the negative has been quite controversial.

Now, here’s what goes through my head on this issue.  Admittedly, the first thought was: didn’t I JUST have a wedding shower and there were those 10% of people that I shamefully never got thank you notes to, and I can’t ever face them again.  But my second thought was that I wanted to make an effort to have a green-ish nursery, avoid plastics, stuff made in china, and choose sustainable products and not over-buy stuff I don’t really need.  I also thought about a friend who traversed the state for numerous showers, then confided in me that it wasn’t the present bonanza she had hoped for and still had to go out and buy what she actually needed.  Or the other friend who sat overwhelmed at her shower looking at the pile of toys that I bet she didn’t anticipte getting and had no idea where to store.  Or the friend who hates ducks and got almost entirely duck-themed gifts for her shower.

Because there is no centralized source for all things baby-orgnanic, I knew registering for gifts was not possible. And frankly, people over register for stuff because of the fear/horror/shame that there won’t be enough gifts for people to buy — hence, you set yourself up for amassing stuff you don’t need.

My approach has been to welcome the idea of getting together to celebrate the birth (maybe a girly mani-pedi day) but leave the stuff-getting to us and our immediate family.  I’ve welcomed second-hand stuff from friends who have had babies.  This way, if the baby is not into said item, I won’t feel bad over the money & resources used to make it.

While I think many still think this is part of my crazy hippy phase, I do see some new support.

My mother-in-law has given us a dresser that is 65 years old.  It was J.’s dresser as a kid — and I saw it as it looked under his ownership, complete with yellow/white paint and snoopy stickers.  Really cute.  J. and MIL have spent several weeks stripping the paint, sanding, refinishing, staining, etc. said dresser to get it ready for the baby.  I love all the thought and effort that went into it.  J. wouldn’t let me see it till it was done because of all the fumes involved in refinishing it.  I asked him what it looked like and he said, “it doesn’t look like new, but it looks well loved.”  Indeed, it is.

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Making do with what you got

Having missed the farmer’s market last weekend, my cooking was a bit thrown off.  I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  At the same time, I figured there was no time like the present to conquer my fear of making bread (post coming on that later).  Only problem was, we still had half a loaf of perfectly good bread, so I wanted to make something for dinner that used most of it up.

My first thought was making some sort of savory french toast for dinner.  Unfortunately, I only had 1 egg and didn’t feel like going to the store to get more.  After a half hour of searching through recipes online and giving up on the french toast idea, I got inspired re: garlic bread soup.

Here’s what I did:

On medium low heat, I rendered the fat out of 1 slice of bacon and 2 links of pre-cooked polish sausage.  After about 5 minutes add finely chopped 8-10 cloves of garlic and cook them till they are soft and brown a little — but you don’t want too high a heat on them because they’ll get bitter.  Then add about 4 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.   Meanwhile, take the old bread and cut it up into pieces that re slightly bigger than bite size.  In a large frying pan, melt over high heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon or two of olive oil and throw in a sprig of fresh rosemary to flavor the oil.  Then spread the bread in one layer on the melted mixture and brown on both sides.  Remove the rosemary and toss it into the soup pot to flavor it as well.

For serving, grate some cheese (I used a sage cheddar and some other truffled cheese) and chop some green onion.  Put some of the toasted bread, cheese, and green onion in a large soup bowl and ladel soup over and eat right away.  The bread maintains a little bit of its crunch and the cheese melts and it’s awesome!  Here are some of the pics:

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So, how did this do on the Dark Days Challenge?

Bacon – unknown based on quesionable Mollie Stone’s packaging.

Sausage – local, from farmers market.

Sage cheddar cheese – local farmer’s market.  Other cheese was a leftover from a party, likely not local.

Bread, local SF.

Stock – I made from all local leftover stuff.

Green onion – organic from Earthbound farms, but not local.

Garlic – from farmers market.

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