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Well…

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…that’s a bit more dust than I realized.

Slowly, slowly the return to the blog goes.  To be honest with you, I’d forgotten I had it until I got my renewal notice last week.  That is mostly because of the success of what I’ve been doing over here at http://www.fromgardentojar.com/site/page/home, among other things.  And while I’m really enjoying my little business (and my consulting business…homeschooling…fundraising projects…my son’s THREE sports…), I’m needing a bit more in my life; something just for me.   And a lot less social media.  So I dusted off my camera and filled up a few Moleskine notebooks, reset my WordPress password and now we’re off!  Thanks for joining me (again.)  Here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to, and what’s to come.

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Testing 1, 2…is this thing on???

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Just clearing out some of the dust on this old blog before I post.  SO MUCH happened since my last post on August 26, 2012

  • I learned about the heartbreak that happens when you work for a friend
  • I started a company
  • I somehow became an in demand consultant
  • My kindergartner became a 1st grader
  • We decided that the institutional education system in the US wasn’t working for us
  • I somehow became a successful business owner

Like I said, let me tidy this ol’ blog up and I’ll fill you in.  

One Week.

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Dear Nate,

It’s late…12:45am on Sunday August 26, to be exact.  And Mommy can’t sleep.  In fact, all mommy can do is cry right now.  And it’s mostly because mommy is sad in a way you just won’t understand right now.

Oh, Natey, has it been 5 years already???  Where did the time go?  The first 6 weeks of your life I was terrified.  Watching you in that incubator.  Spending hour after hour staring at that damn monitor making sure your heart was beating and your lungs were filling and emptying like they should.  I’d come in every day by 7am armed with a gallon of mother’s milk tea (iced) and an empty bladder so I could hold you as long as possible.  Sometimes we wouldn’t move for 3 hours.  Because once I put you back in that box, I wouldn’t get to hold you again for a few hours and that just killed me.  I lived in fear that one day I’d walk in and not be able to hold you at all.  So I did everything I could to not have to put you down.

When you came home it was the happiest day of my life, but all too soon the rest of the world came crashing in.  Meals had to be cooked. Laundry had to be washed.  Floors had to be cleaned.  The reality was, none of that needed to be done, but I felt obliged.  So you would watch from your chair/swing/carrier while all those “necessities” got done.  Then I had to go back to work.  It was only part time…two and a half days a week.  But those two days away from you KILLED me.  Every Sunday night I’d cry myself to sleep knowing I’d have to leave you the next day, praying for a way to be able to stay home with you.  And by the time you were one and a half, my prayer was answered and I got to stay home with you.  It was hard work for Daddy and for me, but we were happy knowing that you were being raised by your parents and not a stranger.

We had a good time, Natey.  Weekly trips to Kindermusik, the zoo and the park and our friends.  We’d see Gramma and go for walks.  We’d lie under the trees and watch the sun through the leaves. We’d get morning buns at La Farine on Fridays.  We’d sit on the bench outside and watch the buses, and cars and people go by.  You’d drop crumbs to the pigeons. You loved home made soup, dry cheerios, and apple juice.  You had LOTS of ear infections. We had lots of rain and you had well worn rain boots.  There was lots of scrimping and saving, and more chores as a result of cutbacks, but there was also LOTS of time to focus on being with YOU.

At two we found a preschool, and you found an independent streak.  I didn’t know how to deal with the “terrible twos.”  You dropped your 2nd nap about 3 minutes after your 2nd birthday.  You wanted me to play with you, but not play with you.  Just sit there and watch, but not touch and not speak. And so I started to feel a bit restless and picked up some work again.  And soon some work turned into lots of work. And by the time you were 3 I was working almost full time, but on a flex schedule so I could still be with you when you weren’t in school.

But was I?

The thing about working, for me, is that I’m never NOT working.  You’d want to play and I’d be checking email.  I worked a flex schedule so when we got home, while it was rightfully YOUR time, I’d be working and telling you “Mommy can’t right now.  She has to work.”  That got worse your last year of preschool.  And your last summer before kindergarten, it got even worse.  I’d planned some weeks for us to do the fun things we used to do like go to the beach.  You so love the beach.  I wanted to take you to the beach.  To just run in and out of the waves and eat sandy peanut butter sandwiches and drink apple juice.  But I worked instead.  I even brought you to work and left you in the front room, alone, for 3 hours with a iPad loaded with Angry Birds.

And I am so sorry, Natey.  You are SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than work.  And I made work more important.  That one week…our last, carefree, preschool week of summer…should have been yours and I fucked it up.  And while I’ve apologized to you and told you I’m so sorry and you’ve seen some of the tears I’ve shed over my stupid, STUPID decision.  It won’t be until years from now that you fully understand just how sorry I really am.   I am absolutely devastated that I wasted the most precious thing you and I have in this lifetime-our time together.

And now that week of summer is gone and that preschooler is gone.  In less than 30 hours there will be a Kindergartner in his white polo shirt and blue shorts on my front porch with his backpack and a nervous smile posing for me as I get that “1st day of kindergarten” photo.  And while I am SO PROUD and SO EXCITED to see you into this next chapter of your life, I am mourning the loss of my preschooler.  I’m mourning the loss of freedom and flexibility we’ve had for the last few years. But, mostly, I’m mourning the loss of my ability to make a good decision and of my priorities and of that one week.

But, Natey, know this.  Mommy learned her lesson.  I left my career for a reason and that reason is YOU.  And it was wrong of me to replace my plans with you for the demands of a stupid job that doesn’t even pay me 1/3 of what I used to make or a job that pays me 1000 times what I used to make.  You are my Natey, my gift from God, and my priority. Ensuring you become a happy, well adjusted, productive man one day IS my priority and mommy will never make that mistake again.

It’s likely I’ll cry when it’s time for me to leave you at Kindergarten.  But now that I’ve gotten this off my chest and can walk you to school with a new outlook and focus, I can honestly tell you that they’re happy tears.  They’re tears that express the joy of being blessed with you, and daddy, and answered prayers.  They’ll be tears of pride; proud of how you’ve grown to be so kind and smart and fearless.  They’ll be tears of gratitude to God for bringing us out of that  NICU to the steps of your elementary school.  And they’ll be the same tears I’ll shed on every 1st day event for the rest of your hopefully long and wondrous life.

I love you, Natey.

The No Grocery Store Challenge: Prelude to The big catch up

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*SIGH*

This was going to be such a great run of posts.  My urban life sans grocery stores.  Then life got in the way.

My mother in law, we’ll call her C,  is 85 years old and lives alone in a small town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  Seven years ago she was living with us, quite accidently, due to a string of unfortunate medical problems (a drug resistant staph infection, two strokes, one long leg bypass, and a hematoma on her kidney just to name a few) and while we wanted her to stay, she was going to have nothing to do with it.  So my husband went back with her, arranged for folks from the county to come in and provide weekly visits, and housekeeping services.  He brought all of her medical records along and sat with each of her doctors so everyone was up to date on her medical history, reluctantly he got her a new car to replace the ’84 Toyota stick shift she’d been driving.  I got her bills and prescriptions organized.  We got a POA to give us decision making authority. We got her a membership to the YMCA so she could go and walk every day (essential to managing the severe peripheral vascular disease that has been threatening to take her legs from her for the last decade), we did everything we could so she could return to an independent life.  And it was working…or so we thought.

When I posted that I was dealing with a family issue and would return soon I had no idea that I was dealing with the end of that chapter of her life.

It started with cataract surgery which for most people is simple.  And had the eye surgeon known about her medical history and had taken the appropriate measures it would have been.  But somewhere along the way, and without our knowledge, C changed doctors.  And her new doctor either didn’t know of how extraordinary her care needs were, or didn’t care, because none of that information was passed on to the surgeon.  So, of course, that simple surgery went wrong.  An operation that should have taken 1 day to perform and recover from took 3 weeks.  And all those services we’d put in place were gone too.  Turns out that if C didn’t like someone who was replacing her original visiting nurse/housekeeper/aide she’d just cancel the service then lie to us about it.  And while we were scrambling to figure out what happened with everything we’d put in place, and trying to find replacements from 3000 miles away our worst fear came to fruition.

C was driving along a main road and had some sort of “incident” behind the wheel.  She sideswiped one car as she crossed the median and drove into on coming traffic hitting a car head on.  Fortunately, the top speed in her small town is only 35mph.  C was the only one to suffer any injuries and aside from whatever rendered her incapacitated those were minimal.  She returned to her home last Thursday.  Just not alone.

That’s right, C can no longer live alone.  C can no longer drive.  And C still refuses to leave her little town in Maryland or the house her youngest child (my husband) was born in.  Fortunately D has a sibling who was able and willing to pick up and leave his life in Texas behind to care for C in her home. So once again D traveled back to “the shore” to get C settled and to get services in place for both her and his sibling while I manged hospitals, insurance agencies and police as we all prepare for this next chapter.

Needless to say, staying out of a grocery store has been the last thing on my mind.  So maybe you’ll find it as surprising as I have that I still haven’t been in a grocery store.  We’ve eaten out a few more times than normal (twice a week instead of once), but we’ve stayed true to ensuring the food was whole, local and organic whenever possible.  As a result, we’ve found some great new places which I hope to post about soon.  But mostly it’s been our CSA’s and the milkman that have kept us going.  You’d think that feeding my family while working full time (on a flex schedule), being a full time home-maker with only 21 hours of child care a week, and managing everything regarding C’s care from 3000 miles away would necessitate regular visits to the local mega-mart.  With over 30 grocery store free days behind me I can very assuredly and gladly say that we’re both wrong.

The No Grocery Store Challenge Day 16: To Market, To Market…

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…to buy a fat pig!

Or pig fat to be exact.

And some cow.  Mostly cow.

SF Farmer's Market

Just across the bay in San Francisco is the world’s most amazing market; The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.  See all those umbrellas?  If you’re not eating under them, you’re buying something edible under them.  The full market runs on Saturdays where vendors wrap all the way around the building and The revitalization of the waterfront and this market were the only two good things to come out of that horrific 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  At its fullest there are 79 farms and 38 artisans bringing the best of what Northern California has to offer to the market.  Smaller markets run on Tuesday and Thursdays year round, and in the spring and summer there is a Thursday Night Market as well.  I really do love this market, but I only come maybe twice a year.  To me, the point of a farmers market is it being LOCAL.  And while it’s only a 10 minute drive or 20 minute ferry ride door to door, my favorite local market carries most of what I need on a regular basis.  But this trip was different.  I needed something I could only get from one of their Artisan vendors.

Corned Beef 

Sure I could have gotten a brisket on my side of the bay, but corned beef is WAY more than just a hunk of brisket.  Corning is a method of preservation, specifically salt-curing.  And good “Corning” requires a nice hunk of brisket and a savory brine of coriander seed, dill seed, mustard seed, juniper, allspice, bay, sugar and other heavenly spices in a combination that alludes me.   Fortunately, it’s old hat for the wonderful people at The Fatted Calf.   Thankfully the folks at the Fatted Calf realize that while organic and local is fantastic, most of us don’t have the skills to take a brisket and turn it into corned beef, or turn a liver into Pate.  Charcuterie  is an art form much like cheese making and I am happy to leave this one to the experts.

The only downside was the price.  You don’t get pasture-raised, 100% grass fed, organic corned beef  for $2 a pound.  You get it for $10 a pound. So that 3.5 lb slab of brisket cost $35.  OUCH.  That’s going to put a crimp in the budget.  Thank God St. Patty’s day only comes once a year because it’s quite likely we’ll never have another grocery store corned beef again.

The No Grocery Store Challenge Day 15: The Lunch Crisis (and a plug for paper)

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This post, and all posts until I get caught up are made possible by this

My trusty Moleskine notebook.  I’ve carried one of these EVERYWHERE for the last 15 years.  I know it’s old school, but for me sometimes its easier to just write things down.  Yes, I have a smartphone.  Yes, I have a netbook. Yes, I have a tablet.  But more than that I have a love of well crafted papers, the weight of a pen, and cursive writing.  So for as long as there will be Moleskine notebooks, there will be one on my person at all times.

***Now, back to our regularly scheduled programing.***

Two weeks in and I’ve hit my first crisis.  No bread for Lil Dude’s lunch.  I had made some as usual then my husband, the starch whore, sliced it up and served it with dinner.

Now I know that’s commonplace in most homes, but  I was not raised in a “Bread home.”  Vietnamese people don’t eat bread with dinner.  They have bread.  Thanks to the French, they have great bread.  And they use it for sandwiches.  It’s not served with dinner, especially if there’s already another starch on the table.  And, surprise, there usually is.  D was raised in a Welsh/French Canadian home so there was always bread at every meal.  So for 12 years now we’ve been having the bread argument.  If he wants bread for dinner he has to say something in advance and I’ll grab him dinner bread, but stay out of my sandwich bread.  It’s for sandwiches.  And discovering I’m out of sandwich bread when I go to make a sandwich because he needed toast to go with his pasta (the most mind boggling of combinations in my world, by the way) makes me somewhat homicidal.  Apparently not homicial enough because he’s still here and I was still without sandwich bread.

In addition to there being no bread there were no frozen chicken nuggets, corndogs or fish sticks to fall back on.  Nor were there any tortillas for quesadillas.  And, because you’re never going to have a lunch crisis when you’re actually running ahead of schedule I didn’t have time to make pasta either.  At this point I’m staring at a can of black beans and thinking “yeah, he’ll eat those without cheese or tortillas.”  When the reality is that black beans are simply a carrier vehicle for shredded cheddar, and only when wrapped in a flour tortilla as far as he’s concerned.  At this time it also occurred to me that I spent at least 5 years of my life living on the same bologna sandwiches every day because that’s what mom made for lunch.  Chicken Nuggets didn’t even exist when I was Lil Dude’s age.  Corn Dogs were carnival food until the Der Weinerschnitzel came to town. Vietnamese moms do not buy fishsticks because they buy real fish, so those were not part of our world.  And pasta was the only dinner that never had any leftovers.

All of which lead me to one conclusion-someone in this house was spoiled when it came to lunches.

Me.

Open the box, throw it in the toaster oven, set the timer, dump it in the thermos and out the door.  Fun stuff he’ll eat with minimal effort on my part.  But the reality is, making a lunch from scratch isn’t much harder.  And even if my corndogs are organic and vegetarian, it’ s still a corndog.  Sweet corn batter deep fried and on a stick made only slightly more healthy with a tofu dog is still junk.  It’s still overly processed.  It’s still creating a fondness for fast food.  And it needs to stop in this house.

But I’m still without a lunch and we’re still late.  One deep breath and a look into the cupboard later, we had lunch.

Those organic crackers left over from Disneyland with sun-butter and honey with a CSA apple and dried mango.  The Convenience gods saved me this time.  And my homicidal ranting must have improved because I haven’t seen one slice of bread hit the dinner table in a week.  But now we’re out of crackers.  Thanks to Stef at The Cupcake Project, that’s about to change as well.

Home Made “Ritz” Crackers

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp + another 1/2 tsp salt for topping
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt in the food processor.
  3. Pulse to combine.
  4. Add cold butter a few small pats at a time, and pulse to combine.
  5. Add vegetable oil.  Pulse to combine.
  6. Add water a little bit at a time.  Pulse to combine after each addition.  The dough should start to form a ball.
  7. Roll dough out as thin as you can.  Mine ended up being all different thicknesses.  Don’t sweat it.  They are homemade!  If you are really concerned, Jeffrey had luck using a pasta maker to make the dough all one thickness – great idea!
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough out.  You can make them Ritz-shaped or any shape that you like.
  9. Poke holes in the dough in the Ritz pattern or any pattern you like (smiley faces would be fun!).  Keep in mind that the holes are not just decorative; they help the crackers to bake correctly – so be sure to poke some
  10. Bake the crackers on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet for ten minutes or until the crackers just begin to brown.
  11. While the crackers are baking, melt the remaining butter and mix in the remaining salt (Some people said that my crackers weren’t salty enough.  Add more or less salt to your taste.)
  12. As soon as you remove the crackers from the oven, brush them with the salty butter
  13. Cool and eat!

Read more: http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2011/03/homemade-ritz-crackers-recipe.html#ixzz1pAiHqY5Y

 

I’m still here!

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Just dealing with a family issue on the other coast!  I’ll be back!