Friday, January 30

The gift of giving

I don't have much in the way of dispensable income. I don't want to give plasticrap gifts that will be thrown away in 6 months. I had a list of more than 25 people to give to. I couldn't sell out on Christmas altogether, primarily because I love giving. This year, my solution was to make the gifts. All of them.

My husband and I took turns making fudge and cookies and breads. I put together some tunes from our CDs or borrowed ones from the library, and he made a personalized CD insert, which we then distributed to the adorable young kids on our list ... including my niece and nephew, children of my sister-in-law, the one who doesn't send a thank-you card unless the item she received was on her list (she didn't send one this year, obviously).

In the end, it was a lot of work. We spent hours baking. I worried family and friends would think our gesture lame, not enough, cheap. Or maybe they'd be allergic to nuts. We might not have even saved that much money, since the ingredients were plenty and organic and mostly local. But it was a labor of love, and the warmth from the oven filled the house, my daughter saw us give our time to those we loved, I learned how to make fudge for the first time in my life. Despite the work and time it took, it was probably the least stressful holiday season I have had.

Saturday, January 24

Pumpkin eaters

OK, this is how many years I spent living in suburbia: I never realized you could eat a pumpkin. I guess I never really thought about it. Pumpkins were for carving on Halloween, and you bought them in a can for Thanksgiving pies. That's about it.

In comes my favorite gal at the farmers market this autumn. "Are those," I asked slowly, quietly, "for eating?" I pointed to the pile of organic sugar pie pumpkins and ducked my head, slightly embarrassed by my own question but curiously enough to ask.

"Yes," she grinned back, and looped one hand over a large one. "And they're delicious."

I lugged one on the bus ride home, among my other tasty finds from that day. I think it was the same day I stocked up on winter squashes, for the farmers market in these parts closes around the end of October and winter squash lasts a good couple months.

We displayed our pumpkin proudly on our kitchen table for a few weeks before I decided it was time to taste fresh pumpkin for the first time in my life. Apparently I'm not the only one who didn't realize you should eat these decorative gems, because nearly every Google search yielded recipes for canned pumpkin, not fresh. It took some searching, but I finally found a simple recipe to taste this simple veggie.

Roasted Bourbon Brown Sugar Pumpkin, minus the bourbon, is what we made that day. The smell of it baking in the oven was worth the effort itself. We saved the seeds and roasted them later, rinsing them and then adding a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and cinnamon before throwing them back in the already warm oven.

Yum! Fresh pumpkin has a simple taste, slightly earthy but more squash than anything. Which makes sense, considering pumpkin is pretty much a winter squash and a proud member of the Cucurbita genus. And yes, I had to look that one up after I ate it. :)

I hope this post demonstrates to you how woefully behind I am in blogging. Halloween in near-February? Right.

Monday, January 19

Happy MLK Day!

I've often complained about my office on this blog, but yet I keep going back for more. Just one reason why: tomorrow, on Inauguration Day, we are celebrating by watching Obama's speech on the drop-down projector screen while consuming copious amounts of free beer and pizza--all this in lieu of a staff meeting. Eek! Count me in! We're all bringing in treats, too. I thought about baking cookies and frosting them up in purple with the words "I Believe." Beast thinks I'm corny.

Would you believe my folks live right by DC and they left town for the week? I told my mom that even if you're a Republican, which she is, it's still a historic moment to witness. "Yeah, but they don't even allow umbrellas or coolers," was her response. ??! There's a limit to how far practicality will get you.

Snow, snow, snow. About a foot, maybe a little more, on the ground today. New England winters, sigh. From afar, they sounded so pristine and beautiful. Maybe we just live too close to the city, but they are awful, muddy and ugly, and constantly wet/icy! If Beast gets into grad school, we'd be headed for California--now that would be a welcomed change of pace. All my life, people have told me I "seem like a California girl." They didn't always mean it as a compliment, but I always took it as one. I can't imagine driving a U-Haul with two dogs, a cat, a baby, a husband and all our stuff cross-country. Oh joy. I moved from Chicago to New Orleans once, but that was me and my cat!

Sunday, January 11

Bean has a boyfriend!

For the holidays, I gave Beast* and Bean a joint gift: a daddy/mommy-and-me class for parents and babies 6-8 months. I figured it was a product-less gift that would be fun times/memories and Bean is at the stage where other babies are starting to be very interesting to her, so she could benefit from more social interactions through the cold, wet, mostly indoors winter we're having.

At their first class last week, the ten or so babies were placed in a circle, each with a toy in front of them. Bean played with her toy for a bit while most of the other babies stared at the teacher, who was sitting in the center of the circle. Bored of her toy, she decided to (show off and) crawl over to the boy next to her and take his toy. (Do I have a bully on my hands? :) Beast apologized to the boy's mother, who assured him it was fine. Apparently, this was a pretty coy move on Bean's part, because the boy then grabbed her hand and locked eyes with her. They held hands and their gazes for about two minutes before resuming their play.

Oooooooh! Bean has a boyfriend! His name's Eli and they see each other next week. Looks like I'll have to talk to her about the birds and bees before then ... Oh well, at least if I do it now she won't have a clue what I'm talking about.

P.S. BB--your comment that Bean will have a happy childhood resonated with me and really touched an emotional core. Thank you for believing that--if I can give her that, it would be the best gift a parent could give their child.

*Formerly known as Hubby. As I discussed with BerryBird a long time ago, I hate the words "husband" and "hubby," so why am I using it in my blog? I call him Beast anyway, so it'll be natural to write Beast here.

Sunday, January 4

2008 book list

The first time I came across Lake Loop and In Blue Ink, they had posted a list of the books they had read that year (like they did this year, here and here). I've always been the type of person to visit someone's house for the first time and immediately check out their bookshelves. Since I found their books to often be my books, I started "following" their blogs and I figured this year, I should return the bookshelf voyeurism. The following list is based on memory and hence very partial--it also doesn't include any of the pregnancy and parenting books I read.

Courage for the Earth/various
The Best American Short Stories 2005
The 100-Mile Diet (aka Plenty)/Alisa Smith and I can't remember her partner's name
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America/Barbara Ehrenreich
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle/Barbara Kingsolver
Rant/Chuck Palahniuk
Building Suburbia/Dolores Hayden
The Namesake/Jhumpa Lahiri
Affluenza/John de Graaf
In Defense of Food/Michael Pollan
The Botany of Desire/Michael Pollan
The Omnivore's Dilemma/Michael Pollan
Last Child in the Woods/Richard Louv
Freakonomics/Steven Levitt
Depletion and Abundance/Sharon Astyk (a Blogging Bookworm giveaway--thank you!)
Unaccustomed Earth/Jhumpa Lahiri
The Hour I First Believed/Wally Lamb (just started reading)