...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


In Transition

Remembering all the challenging yet precious stages
we've endured.
I still remember a few things from our Bradley Method birthing classes about the last part of active labor called "transition."  It can be defined as:

"...[marking] the shift to the second stage of labor.  This is the most intense part of labor. Contractions are usually very strong, coming every two and a half to three minutes or so and lasting a minute or more, and you may start shaking and shivering."
Would it be the slightest bit fair to make a comparison and say that at points in our (sometimes intense) transition into this new school routine that I have found myself shaking and shivering?  Or at least feeling like we're never going to get to the other side (as a birthing mama might feel as she's pushing FOR.EVER.)?

I made this new chapter of my life out to be so calm and wonderful and fantastic in my last post.  And it very well might be once we get through the transition stage.  For now I'm coping with the (likely final) disappearance of nap time and B and I are working on shifting the bedtime routine to balance out the sleep requirements that our active three-year-old still has despite what she thinks.  From Monday to Tuesday we went from one end of the spectrum--having one last battle over whether V would nap or not--to the other as we went out and about for the afternoon to the farmers' market, playing outside, preparing dinner.  I must say I prefer the latter and so I'm willing to finally let go of the idea of midday siestas for my little one.  I offer you a sigh of surrender.

Guessing it will take all of us a good month or more to settle comfortably into this new routine; then I think it will really be awesome.  Thank goodness, because Monday evening I was feeling exhausted, desperate, and hopeless as I vented to my husband.  "This is worse than before...I don't know what I'm going to do."  After all the major transitions and new beginnings we've endured, how quickly we still manage to forget that we DO make it through (sometimes with minor scratches and wounds) and soon thereafter look back at how we fumbled and fought at the outset.

Today I gave what was probably my last in-home sewing lesson for now.  The whole process has been great and earned Ben and I some "free" babysitting hours.  My student wanted to raid my fabric stash today to make some gift bags for her upcoming wedding.  This time we traded food for fabric.  I received two gorgeous dozen eggs from her own hens in exchange for several good size swatches of fabric.  I can't wait till we have our own hens (give me 5 years max!) so I can use the eggs as a
bartering tool.

No photo can do justice to the beautiful hues of these urban eggs
Speaking of the trials and tribulations of birth, this
looks like it hurt.
150 Best Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and More Slow Cooker Recipes CoverThis week I've also been paging through a slow cooker book  I randomly grabbed from the library.  I love Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese food and I love cooking hearty dishes in the slow cooker once the weather starts to get cool.  Dinner is already simmering away and the kitchen's clean.  Goan Chicken Xacutti on our plates tonight.  Can't wait!

Via this borrowed cookbook--which has slowly made its way to the top of my wish list--I learned a new technique.  All of you Microplane fanatics may have already figured this out, but I'm a late bloomer.  I usually just use my garlic press to get very finely minced garlic, but by using this very fine grater, one can actually make a garlic puree and get more essence out of each clove.  If anyone has ever, or still buys jars of garlic puree--Stop!  Spend a little money on what is one of my favorite and essential kitchen tools (perfect for citrus zest and finely grated hard cheeses too) and make your own--no preservatives added.

Love my microplane grater
For those of you who have been following my blog for more than a year, you may have noticed I haven't posted quite as much about my food preservation adventures this season.  For two reasons: I made SO many preserves last year (which directly correlates with how much more my daughter was napping then) that we're still trying to eat them up and I decided at the beginning of this season to simply take it easier on myself this year in both gardening and preservation commitments and just see how it feels.  I have definitely felt certain things missing, but for now, I think it was a wise choice.

Last weekend at our neighborhood farmers' market I was perusing the beautiful crates full of apples and pears at our favorite orchard's stand.  I noticed a crate at the end with lots of little happy Seckel pears and as I was eyeing them the woman next to me who was quickly surveying each little fruit said something like "grab what you want otherwise I'm going to take them all."  I asked her what she had planned and she said she was going to pickle them.  I'd never thought of that and had certainly never tasted them so I asked her about her recipe as I was loading a bag with my own pears.  Both of us found ourselves temporarily out of business cards, but she rattled off her website and I committed it to memory long enough to get home and look it up.  Ironically we haven't crossed paths before, but it was fantastic to stumble upon the musings of another local food blogger, especially one committed to eating locally.  Before I could connect with her to get her pickled pear recipe, I found my own in a library book I was just about to drop in the return slot at our neighborhood branch.  Here is another reliable version from the ever-popular The Ball Complete Book of Home Food Preservation.  Admittedly, I don't know what I'll use them for once I open them, but it will likely be a savory dish.  And after reading more this past week in the latest issue of Remedy Quarterly, a fabulous little ad-free journal of food essays, I may use the brine in a shrub.  

Whole spices, fresh ginger and lime (instead of lemon) in each pint
Starting to fill the jars--pints and couple half pints for gifts.
Yum!  Can't wait to taste them this winter.
My wild foraging activities haven't been as frequent this season as last year either, but I am starting to think about fall foraging and staghorn sumac is on my radar.  Last year I canned a few pints of sumac concentrate which I used in some spritzers at our recent garden party.  I also dried some of the fuzzy "berries" and ground them into a powder, which I then used to make za'atar, a Middle Eastern seasoning that can perk up salads, chicken, vegetables, or homemade flatbread.  You can certainly buy this specialty seasoning from our local Spice House, but it's fun and easy to make your own.

Homemade Za'atar in a reused spice jar
Mmmm, warm spices
So I felt like I got a little momentum today and after this crazy week and fun weekend I'm hoping I'll feel slightly more organized and level-headed.  Glad to have my friends and immediate family here for support right now just like the amazing group of people I had to physically and emotionally support me in labor.  Once I got through it, I loved what I found on the other side.

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