Friday, June 29, 2007

Do It Yourself Haircut

I started cutting hair when my brother decided to risk letting me try on him. Mom just couldn't do what he wanted to it anymore. I seemed to have a knack for it. I actually really enjoy cutting hair, though my haircuts do take a long time. Gibbie's first haircut sure wasn't stressful or traumatic, as it happened right in our living room. He seemed delighted to sit still for me, and be the center of my attention.

I've noticed a lot of moms who cut their own kid's hair have trouble doing anything than cutting straight across. I picked up layers and thinning by watching closely when I went to a professional (as my own hair was cut, and around at the other chairs). Library books helped confirm my ideas. That, and having a family willing to sit patiently for 45 minute cuts. Eventually, I had the confidence to try cutting friends' hair as my own family got compliments. We keep a little box in the linen closet with a smock, good scissors, combs, clippers, hairclips, and thinning shears.

You can put cut hair in the compost bin or give it to the birds for their nests, if it's not long enough to donate to Locks of Love.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Painfully Homemade

It wasn't painful to make. Or eat. Simply painfully evident that it was homemade!
This is a birthday cake for our now three-year-old freind Gabriel Benjamin. As per Gabe's request, Gibbie and I made a Lemon Dinosaur cake. I used a classic sponge cake recipe for the white layers and homemade lemon curd between the layers and to flavor the icing. We frosted it ourselves too. Can you tell?
Gibbie (and Paul!) helped to color the paper dino you see on the cake's summit, as well as other dinos and fanciful beasts which we taped up aroung the birthday table. We had a lot of fun. The cake itself turned out dry, so I won't post the recipe, but the lemon curd only took two lemons and was surprisingly easy and delicious. Surplus lemon curd may show up on some tarts at a certain graduation party this weekend.

Lemon Curd: slightly adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine by Rose Elliot
6 Tablespoons butter
the grated rind and juice of 2 large, well-scrubbed lemons
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten

-put all ingredients into the top of a double boiler
-stir until the sugar is all dissolved, the cook gently until thickened, around 20 minutes
-strain into jars. Cover, seal, label when cold, and store in a cool dry place.

The whole cake is easily dairy-free with soymilk in the butter frosting as the sponge cake and lemon curd don't need milk anyway. Happy Birthday Gabe-uh-gah!

Why do we take so long returning phone calls?

Rest assured, they are all better now. No, he's not a neglected orphan waiting for a new family. Our never-sick Ezra came down with something. A virus, a fever, an ear infection, thrush, a cough, and puffy, red, goopy eyes.

Before I had kids, I thought I would never let anyone in my family have snot on their face. Ever. I mean, why not just wipe it off?
It's because when the kid's already miserable, and liquids and semi-solids are pouring forth ceaselessly, a tender mama and papa just may not have the heart to attack his little face with the hankercheif again right now. It may only get wiped away periodically.
He spiked a fever of 103.9--luckily there was a doctor in the house (and more than one next door!) to assure and assist us.
Once again rested and well, thankfulness for all our working parts is renewed. We are so grateful.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Purlieu Weekend

It's been a busy couple of weeks and we've got a lot of back-blogging to do! Two weeks ago we took a long weekend in Wisconsin. It started around a close family friend's graduation party and turned into a good excuse to spend a couple of days at a cabin in the woods. If I've got the history of the place right, it goes like this: Libby's dad and some friends decided to form a sort of farming co-op back in the '70's and bought some land in Dunn County Wisconsin. The whole farming aspect didn't much take off, but they built a couple of cabins and have had various projects going on the land. We've been spending time there on and off for years and love the rustic (no electricity, pluming, etc.) accommodations. Libby would come here in her childhood and thus learned to love the same landscape that I enjoyed growing up just a few miles south of here.

This was our first time bringing the boys to Purlieu (as it's called). We thought Gibbie would love it, since he so much enjoys the large wooded parks we frequent in St. Paul. Some aspects he took to right away, like the large field with a hill to run or roll down.

There was one unexpected obstacle to his nature enjoyment, however. Bugs. I guess we just have a lot fewer bugs in the city. For the first day Gibbie went around with his hands over his ears trying to block out their buzzing.
Eventually, after talking with him about it for a while, I figured out why he was so scared. He's really good at taking a concept and generalizing it. He knows that bees buzz, therefore he figured that anything that was buzzing around his head must be a bee and could hurt him. No wonder he was freaking out. He didn't completely get over the bug thing until our last day out there.

On Sunday morning we decided not to drive back into town for Church. Instead, we went down the highway just a mile or two to the Hay River Lutheran Church. I had expected this little country church to contain a handful of old people singing feebly and slowly after listening to an old pastor preach feebly and slowly. I was wrong. It was a small church, but it was full, and full of people of every age. The pastor had a wonderful conversational style of delivering a message true to Jesus' character. He also had quite an accent. Someone said he was from Colfax (another small WI town). We later learned that came from Australia before serving in Colfax! When we went downstairs after the service for coffee we met people who lived all around the Purlieu land. They knew about the land, and a little about the people who owned it. They were impressed that we knew the old farming couple who used to live next to Purlieu, in fact one of them was their niece. It was a joy to see some life in that little place, and to meet many of the friendly folks who live around the cabin.

On our way back to St. Paul we stopped for lunch at that very farm once owned by the old people I mentioned. After they moved into town for health reasons one of the Purlieu members bought their land. It's a beautiful little valley with a creek running through it.
Looks idyllic, doesn't it? What you can't see in this picture are the wood ticks. Hundreds of them. All over us. They weren't bad at the cabin, but here there was a steady crawling stream of them. When we sat down for lunch here Libby said, "Oh Paul, you've got a tick on your pants... and one on your shoulder... another on your shirt... here's one on Ezra's head..." and so on. She didn't mind it so much (that's the ex-wilderness guide in her.) It really bugged me, though, and I was already in a bad mood because the Mercedes was running funny and I was worried about making it back home. So Libby pulled out one of her tricks from camp counseling: the Tick Stick.
See that brown mass on the diaper pin? That's a stack of impaled wood ticks. They still wiggle a little like that. It's great for grossing out Junior High campers.

We did make it home in the Mercedes. It was a good trip, but I think the next one will be even better because the boys will have already gotten used to the accommodations. I forgot to mention how much Gibbie liked the "potty house"!
This last picture has no significance except that I think it's a good photo. (Check the texture on the wood and old chair.) Gibbie is being a bird in his nest on the porch of the cabin.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Early Summer Greens

This is my own pasta primavera. I would call them spring greens, but spring is surely over. Here in the Northland, our salad greens are just really getting going now. Hmmm. Just in time for them to wilt in the heat. Alas. Enjoy these tender greens while they last!
I love white sauce and parmesean with spring greens. It would be magnifico with garden peas, but will be a while before they are ready. If you make this, let me know what you think of the sauce; I found the savory pairing of the acid vinegar-tomatoes and the creaminess really satisfying.

Pasta (I like semolina or fine whole wheat)
Sun-dried tomatoes, plain dehydrated (in the bulk section of your co-op)
good balsamic vinegar; a glug or two or three
Olive Oil
a few cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced
a spoonful of butter
a small handful of white flour
a big slosh of milk
mixed garden greens for sauteeing: I used chards, spinach, and daylily buds from the garden
mixed fresh greens, chopped: I used pea shoots (the tender tops of young pea vines), sour grass, and lamb's quarters (two common wild weeds, both mild, edible, and tasty) and a few snipped chives
real parmesean cheese, grated

Chop the dried tomatoes. Heat balsamic vinegar in a frying pan with chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
Put water for the pasta on to boil with a dash of salt.
When the liquid with the tomatoes begins to disappear, add a splash of water. Keep an eye on it and refresh this periodically. This will rehydrate the tomatoes and begin to carmelize the sugars in the vinegar. Chop up garlic and greens as necessary, occasionally stirring the tomatoes. After a while, add the chopped garlic to the pan with some good olive oil, at a point in cooking when there is little liquid. Cook it down a few more times with splashes of water and remove to a bowl.

While working sauces, rinse, sort and de-stem greens. Chop as you see fit. I think the all the greens I used would be lovely whole, but I chopped the fresh ones to mix in the sour of the sourgrass and to not weird anyone out with the corkscrews on the pea shoots. They would look charming whole, however.

When the water boils, toss in the pasta.
Make a white sauce; melt a blob of butter in the pan. It's fine if there are remains of tomatoes and vinegar in the pan. Turn the heat down and mix a handful of flour into the butter. Work it with whatever you've been using to stir until any lumps are worked out. Stir or whisk in milk gradually and stir until thickened.

Mix this with the tomato redux. I served these separately, not knowing how they would pair, but they were beautiful together.

Gently saute greens until just wilted. Portion drained al dente pasta onto plates. Spread sauteed greens on pasta, pour on sauce, pile fresh greens on top. Garnish with chive flowers (in bloom here!) or pansies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Friendship and Time, How to Comment

Paul and I started this blog because we are bad correspondents. We want so to keep in close touch with our loved ones; friends and family, and find ourselves falling short in this regard. If they gave awards for being bad at keeping in touch, I think we might get one. This isn't the way we want it to be, however, and so we started blogging in hopes of finding a way to share our lives and keep those lines open.
We also want to share with anyone curious all kinds of wonderful, beautiful things we are discovering.

There are so many things we want to post about that we haven't yet. Much of what is dearest to us, we haven't even touched upon. (except the kids.) Part of this is in the difficulty of writing and writing well about Big Things. We're new at this and often it's easier to post on a simple project than on something more complex. Certainly another element is that we can't share stories that aren't ours to tell, though they may hugely intersect with our own path. Still figuring out how and what to communicate here. There are natural limitations--this can never be a totally full picture of us. We do, however, have some big things in the works we may be able to share about soon; stay tuned!

All this is to say; please leave a comment! Say hi, say what you think, tell us about yourself; we welcome your comments!
How to Comment: At the bottom of each post, you will find a link to comment. It will say "0 comments" or "2 comments" or whatever.
Click on it. You will get a screen that lets you type in a comment.
You can post anonymously if you want. Click on "other" and you can put your name (or pseudonym!) and web address if you like. You don't have to have a web log yourself or website or anything else in order to comment! It's just like a leaving a note on our door.

I'm not giving up on old-fashioned correspondence, either; just admitting my weakness and trying another avenue. I actually regularly write paper letters that always seem to get lost en route to the mailbox! Nothing new, alack!