Friday, January 07, 2011

More Than a Thousand Words

Where were we? Oh yeah, so I went back to work regular-like in September and it's been interesting. Some weeks are better than others - field work wreaks havoc on our schedule. Weeks that I'm in the office or working at home are much easier to manage. But here's the thing. I can't do it all. That's the bottom line. I am still knitting and doing a little painting. Still cooking from scratch as much as possible, still taking care of the chickens (they're well). Still keeping up with physical therapy, ballet and other necessary appointments (Maia has been in much better health so far this cold season). One thing that has changed is that I have no time for this blog. Maybe we're still working out the kinks, maybe it'll still happen. I'm going to try. When I said to Chris recently that I'd all but given up on the blog, he said he wished I wouldn't - that it was a good journal to have. I agree. Moving on.
I love this photo. I love this photo because I love all the people in it and they all look so content but I really love this photo because it represents how so many things are different from just 2 and a half years ago.

We took our sweet time driving up to the Bay Area for an after Christmas rendez-vous with my family. We stopped at Oso Flaco Lake on the first day. It's funny, I just went back through my blog to see if I had mentioned this place before, and I hadn't. We went here back in summer of 2008, when we were headed up north for my cousin's wedding. We stopped for a night in Los Osos and someone told us about this place (Oso Flaco Lake) which is at the southern end of Pismo beach. It's about a mile walk from the parking lot through some trees, onto a board walk that goes over the lake, and then through the dunes to the beach. It is just beautiful.

At this time in 2008, we were struggling with Maia. We knew in our hearts and minds that her doctors were wrong about her diagnosis but we were getting nowhere with them. She had a terrible time doing this walk. She was in pain and Chris carried her quite a bit. We were beside ourselves. Didn't know what was going on. This time she did great. Granted she complained about a spot on her foot where her orthotic was rubbing but still, she ran, she skipped, she played. So much better now. I don't have any photos from our first visit because our camera was stolen out of our car after my cousin's wedding (several large errors on our part) - we lost some great photos from that trip, but as you can see, we replaced the camera and that great 50 mm lens and all is well with the photography in our family.

I have so much to share but drat! have to go - Ponchos for one. I knit furiously through December two ponchos for the girls. Love them. I'm knitting another sweater. I finished one Brougham painting and started another. I scaled back Christmas cards this year (boo!) but hopefully will get back to that Gocco some day soon. Happy New Year - hope to post more soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some time alone

Not very often, we split on the weekend and do separate things. Chris took the girls to the Santa Barbara Zoo today and I stayed home to work on a painting and hopefully do some fix-it sewing (hemming and such).

I've made some good progress on this painting and I need to stare at it for a while. I'm going to break and switch gears to sewing, laundry, vacuuming and scone making. Nice to have a little time alone, if nothing else to crank up the music without anyone complaining.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Good Things About This Week...

1. We camped at Montana de Oro with some friends last weekend. Good times.
2. Rosie joined Tulip and laid some eggs. Yay!
3. I went to work for a regular 24 hours. Regular. Yesssss.
4. The chickens dismembered a lizard and ate it. Ok, maybe this one doesn't qualify as good, but we had a good laugh talking about lizard flavored eggs. Ewwww.
5. Sofia and Maia spent a couple afternoons with their "manny", Justin. All is well.
6. Chris' Swedish cousins arrived in California for a two-week tour. They stayed with us for two nights and will be back at the end of their trip. So nice to visit with them - their girls are 14 and 18, last time we saw them they were 1 and 5. We're hoping to take the girls to Sweden sometime - they've got horses.
7. We are having a heat wave. The good part is that maybe those million tomatoes and tomatillos I bragged about will actually ripen.
8. Chris and I went for a 6 mile hike on Friday in the heat. Good company, good exercise.
9. Sofia is making banana bread this morning, almost by herself. Yum, can't wait to try some.
10. We are having some friends over for wine this evening. More good times.

Hope you're having a good week, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Lady Tulip

Imagine my shock on Tuesday when I opened the sleeping quarters in the coop (to do some periodic cleaning) and discovered 4 little brown eggs. A little clutch. It appears that our Tulip is all grown up now.
So I immediately ran and got the camera of course. Then I brought them in to take some more photos. (The big one in the back is a large egg from the store for scale.) They are smallish because she still has some growing to do.
Then I took them back outside and placed two in each of the nesting boxes. Egg #5 was in the "wrong" place but she laid Egg #6 in a nesting box. Smart cookie, that Tulip.

Yes, we ate them. Yes, they were delicious.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


That's Maia's silly name for ratatouille. Gotta love 5-year old humor.
Ratatouille was a hit - now I just need a movie called "Broccoli Soup" and "Turkey Sandwich". I used a combination of several recipes but started mostly with this one from epicurious making some significant changes based on the comments. I also looked at Julia Child's ratatouille recipe and a version that was supposed to be like the one in the movie. Here's my summary:

2.5 lbs tomatoes
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
thyme* and herbes de provence*
1 T sugar*
tomato paste*
1 cup chopped parsley
olive oil (I used significantly less than what was called for in the recipe)
2 small eggplant (I think they were the Japanese variety)
2 large onions
3 bell peppers (I used 2 green and one red)
2 medium zucchini (I sliced mine thin, instead of in chunks)
1 other squash (it was green and round, quartered and sliced thin)
black pepper
* added based on comments in recipe

- I made the sauce per the directions in a 5 quart oven safe sauce pan, adding a few different ingredients, and leaving out the basil. My understanding is that basil is not a traditional ingredient in ratatouille.
- Then I tossed the cubed eggplant in salt as directed.
- I cooked the vegetables as directed but with much less oil and only sauteed the squashes briefly. I added the onions, eggplant, and bell peppers to the sauce as each was cooked.
- Instead of cooking longer on the stove, I layered the zucchini and other squash on top of the other vegetables and put a buttered piece of parchment paper (cut to size) on top of it all and put it in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

I could imagine using individual ramekins to cook in the oven and serve and it would look prettier on the plate. I could imagine more eggplant too. I think mine were a little too small.

I'm supposed to start working next week a regular 24-hour per week schedule. I still haven't worked out all the child care details but hopefully it will all come together. I am looking forward to the regular paycheck but I am a little (hehe, understatement) anxious about how "it will all get done". I don't want to give up my cooking adventures, my garden adventures, my trips to the farmer's market. I'd gladly give up some of the more mundane tasks of the week but of course I can't abandon that stuff either. So I decided to start a painting. I know, there's no logic but it will all work itself out. Hopefully. More the on the painting soon. Hopefully. There's that word again.

I have a new name that bird - can't believe we've lived here 6 years and we've never seen this little one. Any guesses out there?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Garden Fun

When we got back from vacation last weekend, we found that our garden had exploded. In a good way, not literally. Tomatoes took off, tomatillos too, spinach grew, basil, cilantro, parsley, pumpkins - oh my goodness - I think the pumpkins may try to take over the entire yard. It's been fun. Maybe it's the cool summer we've had, but things take longer to grow and mature than I expected. Growing some of my own organic food has made me appreciate what organic farmers are doing even more.

The other night I made a frittata using zucchini, tomatoes, and basil from the garden. This time next year, I'll be able to make it with eggs from the chickens, too! It was delicious. It also had goat milk cheddar and came from an egg recipe book I purchased recently. I'm getting really excited about the eggs (hence the egg recipe book)... none yet, hopefully sometime in October. Chickens are doing great, looking mostly mature but their combs and wattles are not fully grown or bright red yet.

Ok people, this is really good. It's my very own recipe for tomatillo sauce. Here's what you need:

30 tomatillos, without husks
1 shallot, chopped coarse
2 cloves garlic, chopped coarse
1/2 t salt
handful cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 "Italian Roaster" pepper (I'm growing these in the garden, they're long and green, smallish, not spicy but of course you could substitute to your spiciness liking)

First you roast the tomatillos under the broiler for about 5 minutes on each side, so they start to blister but not blacken too much. Try to save the juice that inevitably spills out on the pan. Put the tomatillos and the juice in the food processor, along with all the other ingredients and process until smooth. I put the cilantro in last so you can still see some green flecks. If you find it's too thick, add some water. That's it. Super yummy. We had some on trout last night and I plan to use the rest on some roasted poblanos this weekend.
Here we are on vacation last week. We visited Chimney Rock Winery, where we married 15 years ago. Sofia and Maia enjoyed seeing our wedding place and had fun pretending to marry and then not quite as much fun while we tasted some wine. Afterward, we had a wonderful lunch in Yountville at a French bistro that served all kinds of "frenchie" things like rabbit and duck and other somewhat unusual choices. Among other things that weren't rabbit, we ordered their ratatouille, which was a big hit with everyone. Who would think that Maia would love ratatouille? I'm positive that the movie had something to do with that. That's fine. We need all the help we can get to broaden her narrow palette. Ratatouille is on my menu this week - let's see if the movie can help me too.

One final note, and hopefully won't sound too preachy. While we were on vacation, three of Chris' cycling teammates were struck by a car while on one of their regular morning training rides. Two were injured seriously, one requiring knee surgery, and one with multiple pelvic fractures, also requiring surgeries. He may be out of commission for the better part of a year. The third rider required stitches on his face. A fourth rider was able to avoid the collision. It was truly frightening for Chris (and for me). One of the riders is one of his best buddies. The good news is that they will recover. What struck me is the response I got from several people when I mentioned the accident. They said things like, "What are they doing riding on that road?" and "That's a dangerous road for cars even!"

Chris' friends were riding single file and obeying all traffic laws. The driver turned left in front of them. She said she didn't see them. I feel for her because I know we all make mistakes while driving. What I would like to point out is that cyclists have every right to be on the road and are protected by our traffic laws. We need to be looking for them. I love a cyclist. If you're reading my blog, you probably do, too. Let's keep our eyes out for them. So here's a new public service announcement slogan:

Share the Road. It's not just about kindness, it's the law.

Peace to one and all.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Happy Birthday, Stephen!

The Helgren family welcomed their second baby boy in the wee hours of July 4th, yesterday. His name is Stephen Christopher and he comes just a week shy of his big brother Thomas's 3rd birthday. We are very excited to meet him this coming weekend.
Look Stephen, we made these decorations for you! Well, actually we made them for our 4th of July dessert and fireworks party, but how cool is it that you'll get fireworks on your birthday every year! Once again, we failed to take photos from the party but it was fun. Lots of kids, lots of dessert and the annual walk over to the open field to see the fireworks. This year I made fresh fruit tart, brownies, blueberry crumble, and peach cobbler. Chris made peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies. The peach cobbler was the biggest hit.

I decided to try batik dyeing silk play scarves for the 4th of July party this year. First, you might ask, who in their right mind tries batik dyeing for the first time and decides to make 17 silk scarves all at once the day before 40 people are coming over? Me. Ok, so it was a little ambitious. But I have a reputation to uphold. Every year we've done this party, I've given some sort of creative, homemade party favor to the kids.

I certainly have a new appreciation for batik dyeing. The results of my efforts were nice enough, but not at all what I intended. Partly the problem was that I had limited tools and it made painting the wax much more crude and messy. I had all these intricate patterns in my mind (I know, silly me). Also, I was under the impression that the blue I used would cover the red better so I really intended these to be red, blue and white - not red, white with a tiny bit of blue. I think I didn't use enough dye and maybe didn't use enough of the fixer.

So, I won't quit my day job to become a batik dyeing professional.
Lastly, here's a view of the birds from the kitchen window while we were getting ready for the party. I'm off to Oregon tomorrow for some soil and groundwater sampling. Then I'll rendezvous with Chris and the girls in the Bay Area to visit with our new nephew and his family. Have a great week!