Oct 31 2010

Happy Halloween!

Here’s our Halloween away team, preparing to gather data on the native custom known as “Trick or Treating”:


We have a pretty able commander in Captain Robin Phillips, backed up by Science Officer Daddy, but I frankly have some suspicions about our Navigator. I don’t think he knows what quadrant he’s in most of the time, let alone how to make warp speed. Maybe it’s not fair to blame him for our technical limitations, as we lack an Engineering division entirely—but nobody wanted to wear the red shirt.

When dusk fell and we set out on our mission, we were at first a bit dismayed to see that our street was oppressively dark and quiet. I left a bowl full of candy on our porch by the jack-o-lantern and we set off to look for houses giving out treats. None of our neighbors had their lights on, but we could hear the sounds of revelry coming from pretty close by; we turned a corner and noticed another group of kids on the sidewalk. There were three or four houses on that block that were lit up and handing out candy, so Robin got to practice saying “Trek or Treat!” (yes, ours is the starship Dorkus Maximus) a few times before we hit the real paydirt, which is apparently a little street called El Camile that runs parallel to ours two blocks up. This street does Halloween like some blocks do Christmas: each house striving to outdo the next, with lots of lights and elaborate decorations. Robin was actually a little bit scared by a “creepy clown” themed driveway, but we just gave that one a wide berth and continued on. He seemed to recover right away so that was good. He certainly figured out the whole “I knock on the door and they give me candy” premise in no time flat—he was very eager to go running up to each new house. He’s not even had a lot of candy in his life, but I guess it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the stuff in the brightly wrapped little packages is desirable. Also, he’s a friendly kid, and I think he may have just enjoyed the chance to say hi to a lot of people, and to mingle with groups of other kids.

When we got home none of our candy had been touched and no trick-or-treaters were evident on our block. I was pretty bummed—but a bit later we had a group of older kids come by. I know it can be annoying when teenagers trick-or-treat, but this group was dressed up pretty adorably: there was a black cat and a ladybug, both age-appropriate (i.e. not a “sexy” ladybug) and a dude in a rubber ghoul mask. I happily gave them fistfuls of candy. I hope next year we get more kids. Maybe if we step up our Halloween game—some fake spiderwebbing, some jokey tombstones—our neighbors will be shamed into leaving their porch lights on and forking over some mini Snickers bars.


Oct 27 2010

Our Cloth Diapering Adventure

So we recently switched Davy over to cloth diapers. It’s going well: we’re using FuzziBunz, which are one of the new generation of cloth diapers. No pins, no folds—instead they look like this:


The one on the right is outside-up, the one of the left is inside-up, and in the middle is an insert. The inserts, as the name suggests, go inside a pocket in the diaper, like so:

Here’s what it looks like when Davy is all diapered up:

fuzzibunz model

They’re a little bulkier than disposable diapers, but the fabric feels like it would be a lot nicer to have against your skin. In fact I have to admit that the main reason I like cloth diapering so far is because it turns diaper-changes into a much more pleasant visual and tactile experience. Poop is still poop, of course, but Davy only poops once or twice a day; most of his diapers are wet, and handling wet cloth isn’t really so bad. The FuzziBunz come in a whole range of colors, so it can be at least a little bit fun to decide which color I’ll put him in next, and they’re extremely soft and, well, fuzzy, so it feels nice when I snap the baby’s clean butt into a new diaper. Dirty diapers go straight into the diaper bag, which I dump into the laundry every morning. They get a rinse cycle first, then a hot wash on delicate cycle, then a lot of drying (because they’re so absorbent, they take a while to dry). I’ve been using our regular Method detergent, although I just put in an order for special Rockin’ Green detergent designed to be used with cloth diapers. I also got a stack of cloth wipes.

The FuzziBunz require a significant up-front outlay of cash (they cost about fifteen bucks apiece, and we bought a dozen, which is about what we go through in the course of a day). Because we were paying as much as is humanly possible for the Whole Foods brand of disposable diapers, I figure that it would only take a few months for the FuzziBunz to start paying for themselves; unfortunately, Davy is going to need to graduate from the “small” to the “medium” size well before that. I didn’t quite time our entry into the cloth diapering world perfectly, but it doesn’t really matter as I’ll be able to reuse the small diapers for the next kid. FuzziBunz also makes a “one size” line of adjustable diapers that you can supposedly use throughout your kid’s diapering career, but I was a bit afraid of leaks, so I went with the sized model. And we haven’t had a problem with leaks, so I’m happy!

Oct 25 2010



Oct 24 2010

What’s for Dinner

Sunchoke report: Sam handles them fine but I do not. (I only ate a little and the aftereffects were mild, but it was enough to steer me clear of sunchokes in the future.) We didn’t give any to Robin.

Yesterday in our box we got kale, bok choy, lettuce, basil, four plums, two leeks, carrots, celery, broccoli, three heirloom tomatoes (wish I knew the varietal!), six of what look like Yukon Gold potatoes, and six of the little crisp apples that Robin loves. We’re lucky enough to have Nonna and Pappy with us for the weekend, so last night I whipped up a batch of pesto and left it for the boys and their grandparents while Sam and I went out to celebrate our anniversary at Farmer Brown in San Francisco. It’s a restaurant close to where we used to live; we talked about going there a lot, and never did. Basically they do Southern food tarted up in a fancy way. I guess I’d have to say that in general I prefer my Southern food non-tarted, but I was able to get fried okra and that’s a win even if it did come with a wedge of lemon and some remoulade, exactly as if it were calamari. Sam’s fried chicken was pretty underwhelming, but the collard greens on the side were perfect, so good I traded him my cheesy potatoes for his cup of greens. My hangar steak was wonderful. The place was really loud but the crowd was diverse and attractive and jolly: I guess everybody was all jazzed about some sportsball thing? Something about the Giants and the World Series. “That’s baseball, right?” I asked Sam, inadvertently provoking a whole conversation about baseball, during which I nodded and smiled while privately admiring Sam in his spiffy corduroy jacket and plaid checked shirt. I think he totally looked like he could be an incarnation of Doctor Who. Doctor Who, by the way, is the best Halloween costume ever, because you don’t have to imitate a specific Doctor! You just have to kind of capture a Doctor-ish air. And then when anyone asks you what you’re supposed to be dressed up as you look at them and you say “I’m the Doctor!” When Sam seemed to have stopped talking about baseball leagues I made him say “I’m the Doctor!” and it was so hot.

It was nice walking back to BART after dinner, because the whole city was in a good mood over the sportsball thing, but not in such a good mood that they were turning cars upside down or anything. They were just, like, honking and cheering.

Anyway, tonight I’m going to make pork chops smothered in apples and a salad with roasted beets, and some warm gingerbread for dessert. We got a big pumpkin and we’re going to carve it, so I’ll try and get pictures. Sam and his dad were also planning to build a fence around the backyard today, but it’s raining pretty hard so I don’t know if that’ll happen. Tomorrow I’ll roast a chicken along with the carrots (and maybe the broccoli), and then I’ll make broth from the carcass for a soup on Tuesday—Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for “colcannon soup with kale” that I’m going to try out. Always good to have another kale recipe.

Wednesday I’ll make ratatouille with the tomatoes and some zucchini and eggplant I bought at the store. The bok choy I think we’ll eat as a lunch, and the plums for breakfast, so that will take care of the veggies. I’ll make pasta or something on Thursday, and Friday we can have leftovers.

Oct 16 2010

What’s for Dinner

This week in our veggie box, we got: kale, bok choy, celery, three gorgeous big heirloom tomatoes (our first real heirlooms of the summer, in October!), five strikingly pale white potatoes (wish I knew what variety they are), two leeks, a cauliflower, four plums, three big nectarines, six apples, and these funny things:


They look almost like ginger, but are clearly some kind of root vegetables: when I cut one open, it tasted like jicama. After a bit of research (“gnarly ginger jicama” was the Google search that worked) I pegged them as Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes: native to North America, and actually a species of sunflower. Intriguingly, the site I landed on explains:

Although not widely used (perhaps because of its awkward appearance or anti-social effects – see NUTRITION), they are an inexpensive and versatile food that can be used both raw and cooked and make a delicious soup.

“Anti-social effects”? Here’s another site that puts it more plainly:

It turns out that consuming large quantities of sunchokes can have very, very uncomfortable consequences. Let’s just say—oh, how to put this delicately?—that they caused my insides to react just like the Hindenburg. Which is to say, explosively. My guts were all tied up in knots for no less than 24 hours.

HMMM. Well, I guess I won’t be serving these at a dinner party anytime soon. I think I will try them, though, probably roasted simply just as the poor blogger above did: it seems that some people can handle them better than others, so we’ll just have a little bit apiece and see what happens.

Otherwise, I’m excited about the tomatoes. I think I’ll make a bowl of panzanella tonight, using some of the celery too, and maybe a plum crisp if I get all excited. Tomorrow we’ll have steaks and the roasted sunchokes, and Monday, baked penne with cauliflower and ham. Tuesday I’ll use the leeks in a soup with potatoes and kielbasa. The kale I’ll use in my standard bulgur salad lunch, and I think the bok choy will also make a lunch, stir-fried with garlic and stirred up with soba noodles. That actually takes care of the veggies, so I’m not sure what I’ll make the rest of the week: probably there will be some leftovers, and/or we might get some Chinese food delivered. We’re still trying to find where the good places to order from are around here…

Oct 14 2010


fall collage

Today’s art project was a simple collage. We gathered up dried leaves and other interesting autumnal things at the park (despite what I wrote the other day, there are some trees that change color a little bit) and then we went to town with a piece of construction paper and some glue sticks. Robin chose the placement of all the items, though I helped make sure they were pressed down well enough to stick.

Meanwhile Davy chilled in his play area:

baby toys

Oct 11 2010

Nice Day

Yesterday Sam woke me up with coffee and a plate of french toast with apple topping. Every word of that sentence is nice, but the nicest part is the phrase “woke me up,” indicating as it does that I got to sleep in while he was making breakfast with the boys.

We all ate french toast in our pyjamas, and then we got dressed and went to feed celery to the animals at Tilden Little Farm:


Robin was super good all day. We looked at the cows, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys:


But his favorite were the pigs. He kept talking about pigs for the rest of the day. In fact he’s still talking about pigs now. He just came running up to me and said “two pigs!” (there were two pigs at the farm–we counted, many times).

I did not take any pictures of the pigs.

When it was time to go Robin didn’t protest at all, which is sort of amazing. We decided to take a short hike on a broad trail around Jewel Lake. I don’t know what sort of weird dance move Robin is doing in the background of this picture, but that’s Sam carrying Davy in the Ergo:


Robin was doing so well at walking by himself that we actually split off onto a more intermediate-level trail that wound up into the hills some. It was really fun because it had some places where you had to clamber over big tree roots, or duck under thick old trunks that were leaning across the trail. Robin walked the whole way although he did trip over roots a few times, and towards the end he was starting to get tired, which he would demonstrate by sitting down in the middle of the path. But it only took a bit of encouragement to get him to finish the trail.

I think there must be a word or phrase for the feeling that’s the opposite (in a way) of cognitive dissonance: the pleasant feeling you get when you find yourself engaging in activities that confirm your own sense of self. I think of us as the sort of family that goes on hikes with our dog on the weekends, despite the fact that we don’t have a dog and that our actual behavioral patterns would peg us as the sort of family that sits around and plays video games on the weekends. So it was not only very pleasant to be walking in the woods, it was ego-affirming on a deep level. It felt very much as if the dog had just bounded ahead for a moment.

Oct 9 2010

What’s for Dinner

Seasonal change in California is, visually, hard to note: or rather, it’s only obvious when it switches from the wet to the dry, or back again. It’s very striking when the bright skies recede into grey and rain, and the hills lose their tawny gold coat and turn green again. But we don’t get autumn like I did growing up in the Ozarks: no riotous display of fall colors on the trees, no nip of early frost. No frost at all, in fact. It feels like summer still.

But in our CSA box, autumn has clearly arrived. This week we got the season’s first butternut squash, and a big head of bok choy—I know I’ll be seeing more of that in the weeks ahead. We also got lettuce, spinach, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, green peppers, plums, nectarines, apples, and a bunch of parsley.

Tonight I’ll roast a chicken with the carrots; tomorrow night I’ll make stock from the carcass, and chicken salad sandwiches with the leftover meat; Monday we’ll have zucchini fritters and a spinach salad with fennel and apples; Tuesday I’ll put the butternut squash into a baked rice casserole; Wednesday we’ll have leftover rice casserole supplemented with a garden salad (using the lettuce and broccoli, and probably some bacon and a creamy dressing); Thursday I’ll use the bok choy in a pot of hot and sour soup; and Friday, grilled sausages with peppers and onions.

Oct 7 2010


Here’s a picture of Davy enjoying the little play area we’ve set up for him (it’s the HABA “Dream Meadow” playmat, which I had to get from eBay since they’ve apparently discontinued it. I just think it’s really cute.)


Davy likes it and will happily spend up to about twenty minutes lying there. Mostly he plays with his own toes rather than any of the crinkly rattly things designed to grab his interest. The only trouble I’m having with it is in dissuading Robin from climbing in with him!

Oct 6 2010

A Dialogue

Sam: You’re staring at me. Why are you staring?
Me: I’m trying to map my romantic fantasies onto reality.
Sam: Okay.
Sam: *sidelong glance*
Sam: Still?
Me: Under what circumstances would you be prepared to die for me?
Sam: Raccoons.
Me: Raccoons?
Sam: Yes.
Me: Ah hah ha ha. I think that’ll do.
Sam: Come back when you need more.