Wednesday, December 28, 2011

RIP Digit

We came home tonight from our trip to Colorado and found Digit dead. He apparently passed away this afternoon, since he was alive when our housesitter came by earlier. We had had him since he was an 8 week old kitten in September 2000.

He was an unusual cat, incredibly sweet and affection and loyal. I always put my hands under his chin and pressed my forehead to his in a "Digit mind meld" while he purred. He loved having his belly rubbed and would turn over to get it rubbed at the slightest provocation. He purred all the time and loved everybody, including the veterinarian. He hated being picked up so he always left the room when Q told him "Heraus!" (German for "get out!") so he could leave with dignity. He always wanted to be near us and followed me from room to room.

Until I was heavily pregnant and slept sitting up, he spent almost every night of his life sleeping on my pillow, next to my head. He loved sitting right next to people's heads and strived to be allowed to snuggle Willow's head; he couldn't understand why he wasn't allowed to love on her the same way. A few weeks ago, with very careful protection, I let him lie down next to her and he sat next to her face, purring and purring. She was fascinated and reached up to touch him. After several of her groping pats, he got disgusted and moved...all the way up to above her head where she couldn't reach him but he could still be close. Best cat ever. I hope Marbles and Isabel don't miss him as much as I know I will.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sleep Training

Oh so much Christmas crafting is happening and this little grinner just rolls with it all. It's nice that she's still little enough that I can make her presents in front of her. I ended up with 6 sewing and 2 bookbinding projects for our list this year. Q has 3 woodworking projects. We both have granola to make and the hot chocolate mix (Alton Brown's - mmmmmmm) is done. I'll have to post pictures after the gifts are given so I can remember what everyone got this year. :)

We were nap training last week, not a wonderful experience but totally worth it because she's sleeping really well now and she almost never cries. Despite what many people say, I do think that sometimes the only way to create a good sleeper is to let them cry it out after they were put to bed drowsy. We have been using Dr. Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child since she was born and have found his descriptions of different stages to be spot on and his recommendations about solutions to be helpful. I was watching my poor baby wake herself up over and over when we were holding her because she wanted to continue being with us.

I am counting the days and hours of W thinking we are AWESOME and wanting to spend every minute of every day with us since I know they won't last forever, but it's best for our baby girl to get her sleep as well. According to this poll, many babies don't get the recommended amount of sleep. My guess is that this is partially due to a parent's unwillingness to make them unhappy for a few minutes. I'm so conflicted about this issue because I believe that there are a lot of good things about attachment parenting, especially in the first few months, but there are cases where it doesn't seem to serve Willow.

Similarly, we're strongly considering trying to move her out of our bed after we return from our holiday trip - verboten at 4 months in attachment parenting circles - because we're waking her up when we come to bed at 9:30 or so, after she fell asleep at 6 or 7. One compromise is to put her down in her crib and then I can bring her back to bed with me whenever she wakes up for her first night time feed, usually around 11 if she hasn't woken up when we go to bed. If any parent doesn't think it's worth it to invest time and energy into supporting their child's sleep, they haven't really imagined how wonderful it is for them to have time to get things done after the 6 or 7 pm bedtime or during a 2 1/2 hour morning nap. Bliss with the bonus of having a very smiley happy girl when I go in to get her.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where Food Comes From, Week 5

Dinner for December 3 - 9
Popcorn and Leftovers
Friend's Potluck
Sweet Potatoes with Meat Sauce
Hot and Sour Soup

We brought Curried Sweet Potato Coconut Soup (recipe at the bottom) to the potluck so I included those ingredients.

turkey stock
green pepper
diced tomatoes
dried shiitake
pinto beans
garbanzo beans
refried beans
Salsa De Casa
tortillas (local company, flour is from ?)

Should Have Been Local
kidney beans
green onion
bread crumbs
tofu (a company makes it locally although I don't know where the soy comes from)

Not Local
cheddar cheese (Tillamook)
sweet potatoes (red and white)
coconut milk
black fungus
dried lily
bamboo shoots
Sriracha sauce
red wine vinegar
rice vinegar
olive oil
sesame oil
soy sauce
spices (salt, pepper, bay leaf, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, curry powder, chili powder, white pepper)

Curried Sweet Potato Coconut Soup
saute - 1 lg onion, diced; 4 cloves garlic, minced; 1/4 c. ginger, minced; 2 T sesame oil

cook an additional minute after adding - 1 T curry powder, 1t cinnamon, 1 t turmeric, 1 t coriander, 1/2 cumin

mix in 1 1/2 lb. (about 2 large) cooked orange sweet potatoes

simmer after adding 1 qt. stock (vegetable or chicken)

add 1 can coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and sour soup is my go to meal when I have a winter cold but we've always had to go to a restaurant because we haven't had the ingredients on hand to try and make it ourselves. For once, we thought about it this weekend when we weren't sick. We had a family trip to the Asian market to pick up the unusual ingredients in this recipe and gave it a try.

Here's the recipe for what we actually ended up making. It has a lot more vinegar and some Sriracha sauce to give it more sour and hot. I followed the directions.

2 small handfuls dried "black fungus"
2 small handfuls dried shiitake mushrooms
1 large handful dried lily (it comes in long strips, kind of like dried petals?)
2 qt. turkey stock
1 small can bamboo shoots
1/3 lb. breakfast sausage, pan-fried
2 t soy sauce
1 t white sugar
2 t salt
1 t ground white pepper
6 T red wine vinegar
2 T rice vinegar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c water
1 pkg tofu
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t sesame oil
green onions and Sriracha sauce for garnish

It was delicious. I doubt we'll ever need to get it from a Chinese restaurant ever again and it's going into the regular winter rotation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's like Discovery Channel in my front yard...

I was looking out the front window when suddenly a flock of 300-500 birds all landed almost simultaneously in the neighbors' yards. I think they were starlings. They were remarkable to watch. They would all fly up at once and do a sweeping loop up and over the roof of our house then return to the yard or all fly up to the telephone lines for a moment. Occasionally on the ground one would start up a little and there would be this wave of birds that flew up a couple of feet and settled back down. They kept an almost perfect circle of space around the crows that were also in the yard, with a radius of about two feet. A few minutes after they descended, they all flew up and are completely gone, as though they were never here.

I am an activity center

Have you seen these Fisher-Price commercials? Kind of makes you think the Geico robot daycare commercial is just a little less funny?

Don't get me wrong, Willow has toys and will have more as she gets older. Right now she has two wrist rattles and a small Waldorf style doll whose name, Bellbonnet, is pretty self explanatory. She also really enjoys one of my hankies with a knot tied in one corner. Daddy is making her a wooden egg rattle and wooden teething ring for Christmas (sssshhh...don't tell). We play on the floor and she reaches for these toys, occasionally grasping one and flailing wildly with it. She is even already able to entertain herself sometimes and spends ten or fifteen minutes on her back or side just staring at her hands, or the corner of the room or the flames of the fire. Most of the time, however, I am an activity center.

Parents really are the best activity centers and don't even require batteries. We can jiggle, swing and bounce. We sing an infinite ever-changing variety of songs and produce any number of other sound effects. Fisher-Price's tagline on their commercials is "How does your baby learn?" They then proceed to show some toy that the baby can imitate or that causes some response to the baby's action. Again, parents are extremely versatile in this way. When Willow "talks", I talk back. She plays at "scooting" by pressing her feet against Daddy's hands to propel herself up his chest. We laugh and she laughs back. Soon she'll learn to clap and wave bye bye and any number of other things by imitating what we do. I do occasionally wish that I could steal a little more time without my little cling-on. Cooking, dishes, and laundry do all take longer with her on my chest but she's getting priceless lessons in being a human and we've probably saved hundreds of dollars in baby gear.

I think what has really gotten my dander up is that it feels like toy companies are trying to undermine our worth as parents. "You can't possibly give your baby what it needs, let us sell it to you." And it always requires batteries. And it is always made of plastic which, if the company is lucky, will break even before baby number two arrives.

I'm not buying it. We are what our baby needs.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where Food Comes From, Week 4

Dinner for November 26 - December 2
Popcorn and Leftovers
Pot Roast with Carrots, Beets, and Spinach
Dickie Jo's (restaurant)
Turkey Spaghetti (recipe at the end of the post)
UO Employee Appreciation Evening

This week was a little weird because we ended up eating out twice, once because we got caught out and about way later than I could comfortably make dinner and once because it was free food. :) Everything else is proof that a 26 lb. turkey goes a long way after Thanksgiving if you only fed 8 people at its original roasting. Still so much incredibly rich, thick stock to freeze...

pot roast
chicken stock
Salsa de Casa
green pepper
tomato sauce

Should Have Been Local
white beans

Not Local
cheddar cheese (Tillamook)
cream of mushroom soup
canned mushrooms
olive oil
Worcestershire sauce
spices (cumin, cloves, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, pepper)

Chicken Spaghetti
roasted chicken or turkey pieces - 4 c.?
1 pkg. (14 oz.) spaghetti cooked
1 can mushroom soup
1 small can mushrooms
1 1/2 sm. cans tomato sauce (I use about 1 c. homemade)
1 large onion and 1 large green pepper (chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco, salt, pepper to taste
1/2 lb. grated cheddar cheese

Saute onions, garlic, green pepper and mushrooms. Simmer above mixture after adding seasonings and sauces - tomato sauce, soup, and 1/2 c. water. Add mixture and chicken pieces to spaghetti. Fill casserole half full - add layer of cheese - add rest of spaghetti mixture and top with remaining cheese. 350 degrees for 30 min.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Laundry Day

Contrary to the old nursery rhyme, this week's wash day was Thursday with folding, ironing and mending all rolled up into Friday. I actually find it satisfying to have a visible pile of work for the day that disappears as it gets done. Most of the time it just doesn't happen. For instance - teaching- seeing my pile of information disappear as I tried to impart it to the students would have been very disconcerting. Parenting, ditto, "Sorry Peanut, Mommy's pile of songs and nursery rhymes is all gone. We'll have to wait for the next delivery."

Best luck to everybody this weekend with housework, yardwork, present making and other seasonal delights!