Thursday, July 30, 2015

my deficiency

Last week when I went to the midwives for a routine check-up (I am not pregnant), I learned (from a blood draw that ran amok—have you ever had them pierce a nerve instead of the vein? I practically levitated right out of my chair) that I have a vitamin D deficiency. So take the vitamin D pills, the midwife said.

Back home, I read up on vitamin D deficiencies. From the research, it would appear that pretty much everyone has one. Those who are most susceptible include dark-skinned and obese people, as well as people who consistently use sunblock or stay out of the sun. Even though you can get trace amounts of vitamin D from food, this vitamin is actually manufactured by the body—exposure to sunlight is what triggers the production—which means that vitamin D is not an actual vitamin. While some sources said a supplement is adequate, others said that the only effective way to raise levels is through noontime sun exposure to the trunk of the body (insert elephantine trumpet sounds).

So I did something I never, ever, evereverever do: I laid out. Because I'm so pasty pale and ridiculously sun sensitive, I set the timer for just ten minutes before hoisting my shirt and making myself comfortable on the deck, my head on a pillow just inside the shady doorway. (Once I asked my husband to take a picture, but he refused, claiming the glare from my stomach was too blinding.) That evening I noticed that my stomach was covered in little red, raised dots. Did I burn that fast? Good grief.

the sunbather's view

Over the next week I continued to sunbathe off and on, never for more than ten minutes and sometimes for as little as five. The dots persisted. In fact, my whole stomach was a puffy, non-itchy rash. Was it hives? Did I have a sun allergy?

As luck would have it, this was the week I was scheduled to see my dermatologist for (yet another) routine check-up. After scrutinizing my stomach, she declared it a heat rash. It was perfectly harmless, she said. I could continue to toast my tummy in moderate amounts, should I wish. But why not just take the pills? She added that right now researchers are reevaluating the recommended range for vitamin D levels. Since so many people are deficient, they're questioning whether they might have set the levels too high.

So now I'm wondering how to proceed. Should I take the pills? Keep sunbathing? Ignore the whole thing? I'm at a loss.

PS. The dermatologist told me I have beautiful skin. After a minute or two of pondering that unexpected observation—I consider my skin to be functional, not beautiful—I asked what her indicators were for beautiful skin. No sun damage, she said. No sun spots and discoloring. That's funny, I said, because I had horrible sunburns as a child. Well, you've taken such good care of your skin that you've reversed the damage, she said. Huh. I had no idea skin damage could be reversed. Did you?

This same time, years previous: do you strew?, heading north, the quotidian (7.30.12), a quick pop-in, shrimp, mango, and avocado salad, and experimenting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

story of a trusty skirt

Alternate title: The Skirt That Never Dies


In the summer of 1994, I purchased a crinkly, dark-colored skirt, probably from JCPenney, in preparation for my semester of study overseas. It was one of two skirts I wore on rotation while studying in Guatemala that fall. When I returned home, I gave the skirt to my mom. I was thoroughly sick of it. I never wanted to wear it again.


My mother fixed the worn-out elastic and added the skirt to her wardrobe of thrifty finds. When she visited our family in Nicaragua a few years later, the skirt came with her.


This summer, twenty-one years after I picked the skirt off the clothing rack that fateful day, my mother gifted the skirt to my daughter for her fourteenth birthday.


My daughter is quite thrilled with her new relic.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (7.28.14), rest and play, the girl and the tea party, the girl and her friend, the boy and the bike ride, July evening, Indian pilaf of rice and split peas, and chocolate beet cake.    

Monday, July 27, 2015

the quotidian (7.27.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


What I'm sipping: cucumber lemon water.


Mint leaf ice cream: my husband's analysis, "It tastes like you're eating a mint patch." 
Which isn't exactly a compliment.


No braces, new glasses, and a bowl of Life.


Measuring muscles.


A good licking.


Kidding kids.


Heat shield.


Electrical Stuff 101.
(Re my husband's cut-off sleeves: he had a Pedro Moment.)


Learning to play.



This same time, years previous: we're back!, pumpkin seed pesto, the boy and the tooth, birthday revisited, roasted corn with lime and feta, classic bran muffins and banana bran muffins, spicy Indian potatoes, and blackberry cobbler.    

Thursday, July 23, 2015

vegetarian groundnut stew

The other night we had supper at our friends' house. I took a cucumber tomato salad, and they served a groundnut stew over brown rice, plus a raw beet salad (more on that later, I hope). It was the kind of meal that, had I served it at home, would've incited a minor revolt.

But. But! The children, my children, ate the stew, praised it loudly, and then two of them went back for seconds.

I was stunned. Was this a good behavior fluke? Did they genuinely like it? Had they suddenly undergone rapid maturation? Could I serve a groundnut stew at home and get the same reaction? I certainly wanted to try.


All the next day I kept thinking about that stew, wishing the leftovers were in my fridge and not our friends'. So after emailing for the recipe, reading a couple recipes, and picking up some fresh ginger in town, I made the stew. It was exactly what I had been craving, punchy with ginger, garlic, and hot pepper, sweet from the vegetables, and creamy from the peanut butter.


The suppertime results were as follows:

Boy One: enthusiastically thanked me before even sitting down at the table and then polished off a large serving.
Boy Two: didn't act very hungry until he learned there would be warm brownies and mint ice cream for dessert, after which he happily ate up every last bit of stew.
Girl One: she ate it without fussing, but slowly.
Girl Two: didn't touch it and didn't get any dessert.
Husband, The One and Only: one large serving and then another medium one, and he ate it cold for lunch the next day.
The Mother: she attempted to refrain from pigging out; she failed.


You know what's so great about this dish? Two things, to be precise:

1. It hits my ethnic food lustings spot-on.
2. It requires no fancy ingredients ('cept for ginger), relying only ordinary garden veggies, and lots of them.

Why, oh why, did I not discover this recipe until now???


Vegetarian Groundnut Stew
Loosely based on the recipe from Simply in Season, and including our friend's changes, and mine, too.

Don't be fooled by the word “stew.” This is less a cold-weather dish and more of a summertime curry. Eat up!

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 sweet green pepper, chopped
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (about 4-5 cups)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 large juicy tomatoes, chopped
1 generous tablespoon curry powder
¼–½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water
1 generous scoop chicken bouillon, optional (because then it won't be vegetarian!)
½ cup peanut butter
cooked brown rice
optional toppings: raisins, coconut, chopped peanuts, green onions, cilantro, etc...

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the carrot and green pepper. After several minutes, add the zucchini and ginger. Saute for a couple minutes, then add the tomatoes, pepper flakes, curry powder, and salt. Add the water and bouillon. Cover and simmer for about twenty minutes. (Actually, I just brought it all to a boil, clapped a lid on the pot, and turned the burner off. Thirty minutes was enough time for the flavors to meld and the veggies to soften.) Before serving, stir in the peanut butter and taste to correct seasonings. Serve over brown rice with the condiments of your choice.

This same time, years previous: curry potato salad, a riding lessonrellenitos, the quotidian (7.23.12), half-mast, cucumber lemon water, limeade concentrate, and Dutch puff.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

on his own

My brother wants a storage shed, so he asked my older son to build it. This is my son's first solo building project, and for pay, too. He calculated the costs and then gave my brother an estimate. He placed the order for lumber and had it delivered to our house. And then he started building.


My husband is being as hands-off as possible with the project. In other words, he stays away. He did show my son how to lay out the floor, and it just so happened that he day before my son was to start framing the walls, my husband re-built a wall at a neighbor's house and my son was able to watch and learn, and of course my husband fields my son's many phone calls, but for this project, my son is taking the lead.


When my husband returns home at the end of the day, I watch from my kitchen window, eager to see his reaction to the latest shed developments. His truck pulls in and then slows to a crawl as he examines the work from the cab. All those years of slap-dash forts that made my husband want to rend his garments and scream? The kid has come a long way. When my husband steps out of the truck, he's smiling.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (7.21.14), how to beat the heat, a free-wheeling education, braised cabbage, alfredo sauce, and salvation's chocolate chip cookies.    

Monday, July 20, 2015

the quotidian (7.20.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


In their skins: freshly roasted.


On their way to a potluck: monster cookies.


Summertime fast food.




Outside play on a dreary day.


Because all teenagers like to spend a morning alone playing Banagrams.


Brilliant: the trick that keeps Charlotte off the picnic table.


On the hunt.


After the kill: groundhog tug-of-war. 


Making do: there is no AC in the van.


The new driver: Captain Two Hands (and he better keep it that way).


After the rain.

This same time, years previous: this new season, a tale of two children, statements, all partied up, whole wheat zucchini bread, in my kitchen (and barn), shrimp with coconut milk. homemade shampoo and conditioner, zucchini-parmesan frittata, and the sex talk.

Friday, July 17, 2015

apricot pie

I realize that apricot season is almost over—I just whirled the last few golden orbs into a smoothie for the kids' lunch yesterday—but then I saw them in the grocery store so I know they're still somewhat relevant. And anyway, I keep doing this silly thing called Forgetting That The World's A Big Place. Our apricots may be done, but yours might just be starting. Amazing, that.


Actually, I do this all the time. Think egocentrically, I mean. I'm not being selfish, really, just chronically oblivious to the fact that other people have realities that are different from mine. For example, I'll read something fascinating but then won't bother to write about it or link to it because I assume that, since I know it, everyone else must already know it, too. If we have fresh tomatoes (!) and no apricots, then such is the state of the world. If my children hit a rough developmental patch between the ages of nine and eleven, then all children must do the same. This probably also explains why I'm repeatedly caught off-guard when people ask me questions about things that seem so normal to me, such as homeschooling. It comes as such a shock that my perceptions are not theirs.

All this to say: perhaps you have apricots, yes?


I skimmed through a bunch of apricot pie recipes before coming up with my version. Many of the recipes called for the addition of cinnamon or another fruit such as red raspberries. I'm sure they would all be delicious, but I wanted a straight-up apricot pie, no bells and whistles. This did the trick.


Apricot Pie 

1 recipe butter pastry
5 ample cups thickly-sliced apricots, pitted and unpeeled
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup thermflo (or cornstarch)
half-and-half and more sugar, for the topping

In a large bowl, gently toss the apricots with the sugar and thermflo. Line a 9-inch pie pan with one of the rolled-out pastries. Tumble in the sugar-covered 'cots. Roll out the second pastry, cut a few air vents in the center with a table knife, and lay it over the fruit. Cut off the extra pastry and crimp the edges together. Brush the top pastry lid with half-and-half and sprinkle liberally with sugar. (I want to try this method next time.)

Bake the pie at 450 degrees on the bottom oven rack for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes. If the edges start to burn, cover them with some foil. If the juices start to bubble over, slip a piece of foil under the pie plate to catch the drips. 

Cool completely. Serve plain, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (7.16.12), roasted beet salad with cumin and mint, Jeni's best ever vanilla ice cream, pasta with roasted tomatoes and summer squash, bacon-wrapped breadsticks, counting chicks, what's it worth?, and chit-chat.    

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ouch

Our rescue squad raises money by sending local residents information about the squad along with a donation request. Their most recent mailing included a shiny pamphlet with one whopper of a Freudian slip.



My raucous hilarity has an edge to it. I want to point and make fun—and I do—but it's a glass house-and-stones thing for me. I've played the fool more times than I even know (and please, don't tell me). I'm all too familiar with the shame of looking (alright, being) the idiot. It stings.

And yet, I can't stop laughing. Seriously, severing?

PS. BEWARE OF NEIGHBORS. THEY'RE DANGEROUS.

This same time, years previous: win-win, splash, zucchini pasta salad, in the pits, tangential thoughts, and cooked oatmeal.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

zucchini fritters

I went a little crazy when I planted zucchini. Eight plants—or is it nine?—might be considered going overboard, yes? But I had a rationale, I promise! I like to do all my work in one fell swoop. None of this a-couple-pints-here-four-quarts-there manner of preserving. If I'm going to be miserable standing over a boiling hot stove all day long, then I want it to be worth my while. As in, then I'm done and I don't need to do that again for another year. Also, sometimes my zucchini plants commit random mass suicide. I can never be sure how long they'll produce, so I figure a lot of plants guarantees at least a few days of pickings.

Well. It's been at least two weeks since the first picking and the plants still have not died. This means we are officially weathering an epic zucchini attack. So far, we're handling it pretty well. I made a double batch of my family's beloved zucchini relish and the whole wheat zucchini bread. I've grilled it a couple times. I've handed out large bags of zucchinis to various appreciative family members. The one who is suffering most from this onslaught is my older daughter since she's the one most frequently tasked with the daily pickings. “You want me to pick the patch again, Mom? Are you serious?”


Unfortunately, my family is not overly fond of zucchini. If I had my druthers, I'd pop it in all sorts of dishes—stir-fries, soups, spaghetti sauce—but knowing that my efforts will be unappreciated puts the breaks on my enthusiasm. I do think I've been a little lax, though. I should probably up my game, really dedicate myself to winning over the masses.


The other night I made zucchini fritters for supper. Half the family was not impressed, but the other half raved. Raved, I tell you! This, my friends, signifies a huge success. See, the fritter lovers didn't just compliantly masticate their food like obedient (and slightly traumatized because they are terrified of incurring my wrath) people. Oh no. Instead they prolifically praised my efforts and vigorously vied with each other to get their fair portion.


These fritters are a snap to make. The only slow(-ish) steps are the salting and draining of the zucchini (getting out all the moisture makes crispier fritters) and the frying process, but they're really no more complicated than basic pancakes. They'd make an excellent snack or hors d'oeuvres, but I served them as the main course, along with other veggies and applesauce.


Zucchini Fritters
Adapted from Simply Recipes.

The sour cream dipping sauce is an absolute must.

The fritters were a bit on the salty side, so I dialed back the salt a little (my changes are reflected in the recipe).

I used the herbs I had on hand—feel free to swap them for whatever you have. Fresh dill, with some feta thrown in, would be nice, I'm sure.

A double batch fed three hungry big people, plus three small and hesitant tasters.

1 pound zucchini, grated
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 egg, beaten
½ cup flour
2-3 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon black pepper
several generous glugs of olive oil
lemon sour cream dipping sauce (see below)

Put the grated zucchini in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon salt. Let rest for 20 minutes. Dump the zucchini into an old cheesecloth and squeeze out all the liquid. Mix the drained zucchini with the remaining ingredients (but not the oil and dipping sauce).

Pour the olive oil into a sided pan and set over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, drop in a scoop of batter and then press in flat with the back of the spoon. Repeat, fitting in as many fritters as you can. Let the fritters fry until golden brown on one side—about three minutes maybe—before flipping to fry on the second side. Place the fritters on a napkin-lined (or, old towel-lined) plate to drain. Serve warm with generous dollops of dipping sauce.

lemon sour cream dipping sauce:
½ cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch of salt

Mix together all the ingredients and serve with the fritters.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (7.14.14), Saturday nights, in the woods, zucchini skillet with tomatoes and feta, soft and chewy breadsticks, roasted cherry vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate, peas with prosciutto, and tempero.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

the quotidian (7.13.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


Along with the zucchinis and cucumbers, we're swimming in green peppers.


This flop was destined for the pigs, but then my parents ate it instead.


For the zucchini relish.


Foraging for wineberries.


Before going to work: a huddle with the dogs.



So many comings and goings!


My kids get loopy when I ignore them in favor of my writing.


In the reading corner.


State-of-the-art toilet paper dispenser.


Lately, lots of chess.


The corners of my house.


Captive audience.
At our most recent Fresh Air ice cream social, our neighbors' son, a police officer and game warden, did a demonstration with his search dog. Justice, a black lab, was the first search dog in the state of Virginia. He cost 32 thousand dollars and can track bear, deer, rabbit, duck, and trout. Plus, gun powder and humans. He's so well-trained that he asks permission before relieving himself.


She's 14! 
(I have gotten such a bad rap with birthday cakes that 
my kids have taken to playing it safe with ice cream.)


Before most of us woke up, my husband banged out this tiny dog house for the birthday girl's dog.
Leaving me to wonder: if it was that easy to build, why did it take him three years to do it?


And then there was light!


Bedtime bananagrams.

This same time, years previous: the puppy post, let's talk, a tale, er, tail, roasted carrot and beet salad with avocado, and what my refrigerator told me.