Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's cooking

I spent much of the weekend cooking, something I haven't done since Kaelen was born.  Now that we're on a very tight budget (and because Gene doesn't give a rat's patootie about variety if left to do it on his own), I wanted to have as many things pre-made as I could.  It prevents temptation on those nights we don't feel like making anything.

Besides, I like cooking.

The weekend's haul turned out to be pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.
  • 2 lasagnas in 8x8 pans
  • Greek yogurt
  • double batch of rhubarb big crumb coffee cake
  • 1 loaf of 100% whole wheat sandwich bread (which I neglected to remove from its pan right away and it steamed its bum soft)
  • 2 pans of chicken verde enchiladas, made with chicken and my home-canned corn
  • double batch of pizza dough, half of which I froze and the other half Gene made into decked-out pizzas
  • minestrone soup
  • a batch of pureed cherries for the kid
I froze everything except 1 batch of the enchiladas, which we're going to have for dinner tonight, and the coffee cake.  Gene took a good amount of the coffee cake to our neighbors from whose yard I pilfered the rhubarb at 7:00 this morning.  My rhubarb out front bolted and the year-old rhubarb in the back yard has stalks that are not much larger than pencils.

Lunch tomorrow will either be leftover gyros or the end of a not-so-exciting concoction of braised beef, egg noodles, tomatoes, and edamame I made last week.  Hey, I said we've been working on eating what's on hand... sometimes the results are odd.

Some laundry, bathe the kid, glass of wine, and I'm done.

I'm pooped.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More changes coming

Gene left his job yesterday, and it's a good thing.  He's going to start working for a start-up that's building cruiser-style electric motorcycles.  Check them out: they're sexy!

Please buy one of you're so inclined!  They're only $45k for the base model, which includes a weekend trip to Las Vegas to customize the bikes with the company's founders, Chris and Gene.  There are some exciting things in the works that I'll share as they get firmed up.

Until business picks up and there's an actual payroll, we're watching our pennies more than ever.  We used to watch our budget fairly closely but now it's a matter of managing finances to the penny instead of just making sure that we have the cash for our purchases.

I've cancelled my newspaper delivery.  We've cut out the milk delivery.  We're selling one of our cars.  We've been very mindful of eating out, buying espresso drinks, paying down debt responsibly, and spending money frivolously.  We're debating whether we'll keep our Netflix or leave it: that's another $11 per month.  For now we're keeping it.

Seeing this in black and white, I realize that this sounds more dire than it is in reality.  I've been neglectful in reading the paper since going back to work. 

While I'll miss the convenience of the weekly deliveries, the minimum order amount has gradually crept to $10.  We've been buying things we really didn't need just to have someone leave a gallon of milk on our front porch every Friday.  I've got a loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread started on the counter right now.  With planning, and a husband who's willing to finish up the bread-baking process, we can have homemade bread delivered straight from the oven instead of delivered with our milk for $4.

As for the car, I live just 3.5 miles from work, where I can get a subsidized bus pass for just $20/month.  I'll be more strict with myself about riding my bike to work.  The bus allows me to catch a ride up the massive hill between my work and home, while still giving me the opportunity for exercise, fresh air, and errands if I hop off at the top of the hill.  With Gene working from home now, we don't really need a second car and its related expenses.

We've been diligently eating our way through the pantry and freezer instead of buying things we don't truly need.  We're very close to finishing off the freezer contents, which we've never before had the discipline to do.  Though it's just a small freezer, things get lost in its artic recesses and we wind up chucking out unrecognizable chunks of ice two years later.

Kaelen's eating solid foods now.  It's a great for working our way through the canned goods I've squirrelled away and allows me to make room for putting things up later this summer.  It's just a matter of draining off the liquid, whirring the contents in the food processor, and spooning the resulting puree into the baby bird's awaiting mouth.

With Gene home more often, perhaps I can get some gardening done and maybe, just maybe, plant some things like lettuce and my languishing tomato plants.

Scary changes, good changes, but necessary changes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Catching my breath

Spring of 2012 is hereby deemed the "Season of Suckage".  Thank goodness the summer solstice is nearly here, because I'm ready for the wretched awfulness of this past season to come to an end.  Spring, normally a time of new life emerging form the wintery darkness, has proven a time of trial and death for my loved ones and me.

The Grim Reaper has visited my family monthly since March, taking with him two of my grandparents, both of my cats, and one of my favorite hens.  My gramp died a week ago Tuesday.  In his final days he had a constant stream of people visiting him and sharing with him how much they loved him.  Would that we should all be so fortunate in the end, to have those we love the most nearby. 

I got home from work that Thursday to find Rudy hiding in my closet, succombing to intense pain in his back legs.  Gene and I had had many conversations leading up to this point: what we would when the aging cats' health became unmanageable?  Because we'd talked about it, our next step was clear, although still difficult.  I truly believe it's an important choice to make before you're in the moment.  We decided long ago that when they got to the point that they needed expensive treatments to prolong their lives past what seemed fair to all of us, we would bid them farewell in a kind and gentle manner. 

It was heartwrenching to say goodbye to my sweet boy kitty last Friday morning.  He'd been my steadfast friend for 14 years, adjusted surprisingly well to the arrival of the husband, dog, and baby, and loved nothing more than to sit on my lap.  I miss you, little buddy.

(Aside: I need to bitch for a second that the Animal Emergency Clinic charges $50 to administer the euthanasia, PLUS $90 if you want to be in the room with your pet when they do it, PLUS $30 for a cremation.  I would have laughed at them if I hadn't been sobbing.  The Tacoma Cat Hospital, however, had very gracious staff who got me in quickly, listened to my concerns about Rudy, agreed with me, did the deed quickly with me right there the whole time, and took care of his remains.  Their total price was $56, which included as much Kleenex as I needed to make it through the ordeal, kind words from the veterinarian, and even a condolence card in the mail the very next day.)

I'm really hoping that last week was the Grim Reaper's grande finale.  If he's got more in store for me, I'm not sure I can take it.  So far this has been a good week.
Things are starting to look up again.  Yes, my yard is still an utter mess.  I've weeded only a few times, not that you can tell!  The tomato plants I bought in May are still in their pots, as is the hydrangea I purchased to replace the ugly rhodie in the front yard.  It was damaged in last winter's ice storm and I never liked it anyway.

The apple and pear trees I planted last year survived the harsh winter.  We got a few apples last year and I'm hoping that our neighbors' asian pear tree is close enough for cross-pollination.  My favorite clematis died (dang those chickens) but my new honeysuckle has been attracting the hummingbirds.  My hope for the honeysuckle is that it'll grow along the fence and create a wall of green and orange.

I surprised Gene in May with a new patio in the backyard and we're spending more time outside as the weather warms.  I sit in the stillness of our miniscule oasis, breathe deeply of the scented flowers all around, and take a few moments to enjoy the simplicity of being. 

Kaelen is a robust 6-month-old who's growing at the rate of over an inch a month, sleeping reliably through the night, making the miserable times bearable, and reaching for Rosemary every chance he gets.  We adore him with every fiber of our being.

Life, as difficult as it has been of late, moves ever onward.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Life and death with bebe

Life has marched ever forward since my last post. 

My yard is such a mess that I want to put an apologetic sign out front that says "Sorry!  We've got an infant."  If I could get my act together, I could probably sell them on etsy and make some side money.

I have returned to working full-time, cramming my workweek into 4 10s.  Gene stays home with Kaelen Mon-Thurs.  He leaves for work on Friday morning and stays until Saturday evening.  Sunday is our sole day as a family and we do the best we can to catch up with each other, more often than not leaving yard work for another day.

In May I bought some tomato plants, tarragon, and some squash to put into the front veggie beds.  They're still in the pots in the back yard.

Last week a teenaged boy stopped by with an offer to mow the lawn for a mere $8.  We asked him to return the next day because we had no cash.  It poured the next day and our lush, green lawn is embarrassingly tall.  (note to your entrepreneurs: have enough cash to break bills)

Oh well.  Our time together is more precious than mowed grass and organic squash growing on the parking strip.  As the weather worms up - I say that optimistically because we've been hovering 10 degrees below normal - we'll take the baby outside and turn the outdoors honey-do lists into honey-done lists.

Last week Kaelen cut a tooth and rolled over on the same day.  Tooth #2 is threatening to erupt any day now.  He's a content baby who sleeps at night like a champ.  We're so blessed with such an easy-tempered little guy.

We've started him on solids - homemade, of course - and he has yet to refuse anything offered him.  He's sampled many typical baby foods, such as pureed fruits and veggies, and some atypical things like pad thai.  I've read a couple of books about introducing children to healthy foods and hope to have him on the right track.  Just this afternoon I whirred some peas in the food processor and gave him a taste from my fingertip.  He was so eagerly appreciative that I pulled out one of his brand new baby spoons and fed him what remained in the bowl.

When it comes to Kaelen, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  He's slept through the night since he was 6 weeks old.  He's healthy, happy, and spit-shined by the dog on a daily basis.

In other areas of our lives, however, the other shoe has most definitely dropped.  I made the difficult decision in May to have my 15-year-old cat, Mira, put down.  My favorite hen, Gwen, died unexpectedly during my visit to New England.  Sad events, but they come with the territory of animal husbandry.

Every damn shoe in the closet fell about a week ago when my gramp in New England got a devastating diagnosis: metastatic bone cancer in his pelvis and thigh bone.  He has very quickly progressed through the final stages of his life.  My brother is set to fly out this Tuesday but we're not sure he's going to arrive in time.  Not even skype has been an option, Gramp is so sick.

And so here I sit, for the second time in three months, again grieving a beloved grandparent before the fact.  My phone, rarely off of the vibrate setting, has its volume turned up as we await the inevitable news of his passing.  He's been in so much pain that morphine hasn't even helped.  We all hope, for his sake, that his passing happens quickly. 

Like when my grandma died in March, I again find myself thankful for the time I had with my gramp in the past year.  Gene and I went to New England a year ago so that he could meet my family there.  On a whim I whisked Kaelen away for 10 days this last spring.  I think we all knew, but didn't acknowledge openly, that it would be the one and only time Kaelen would meet his great-grampy and that Kaelen would be the only great-grandchild Gramp would ever see.

I take solace in and enjoyment from the things I can control  Time with Rosemary.  Knitting a challenging and interesting shawl for myself.  Visiting the farmers market with Gene and Kaelen.  Figuring out what makes Kaelen giggle uncontrollably.  Cooking for my family.  Heading to Seattle for once-in-a-lifetime exhibits.

And life goes on.  In time I'll teach Kaelen some of the silly things my grampy said.  Better yet, I'll make sure my dad passe along those parts of his father.  Grampy was always a man of few words but when he did speak, you had better pay attention because it was usually going to be clever.

He'd laugh if he knew that I'll think of him any time I see bird poop on my car.  "Look," he'd exclaim, a bird wants to buy your car!"  When given a quizzical look he'd gleefully deliver the punchline: "See?  He left you a little deposit".  That joke cracked him up every time.

Fly free, Grampy.  And on your way, leave as many deposits on cars as you want.  I'll tell Kaelen what it's for.