Outside my window: Sunrise. I'm facing west and looking at the trees in my pasture, the small sycamore in the "back yard" area, the floodlight pole. The windows on the back of the house are of the 1980 variety of just not quite big enough. I miss my big dining room picture window. In fact, I miss quite a few things about my old house, but at least this house does not make me wheeze. Being able to breathe trumps picture windows.
Weather for today: Ridiculously warm and sunny. Back into the upper 80's and low 90's again. Temperatures dropped down into the upper 60's this past weekend. We saw people wearing toboggans and laughed. The weather has been a little beautiful, though... the land is parched and so in need of rain. Leaves and grass crunch underfoot. It looks like they are trying to predict a "few showers" for Gareth's birthday next week, so we can hope!
In my yard: The beginnings of a potager ... some unidentified red flowers (from bulbs) that have pushed up through the soil in Azaela Garden ... pecans and persimmons falling... a mockingbird that sits in the magnolia tree in the paddock and sings to us in the morning.
In my kitchen: Oh my, the kitchen. Where do I start? The kitchen has been my focus in one way or another since we've been here. First it was just trying to set things up so we could eat decent food instead of the fast food and convenience food we'd been eating since June. It felt good to cook fresh hulled black-eyed peas bought at a local farm stand on rice, even if most of my kids turned up their noses and only ate the bacon and rice. It felt good to find a farmer's market and eggplant and tomatoes and make ratatouille. It felt good to discover that Hot Chow Chow is one of the more addictive foods on the planet, and a little mournful to realize that the lady you bought it from had just sold out her stock. Cooking, though, has also become a little bit of something else for me in the time that we've been here. It's the one thing I can almost sometimes control.
Here is where I have to begin again, and it won't be anything about the kitchen, except that it all links up in the end. This is where I have to write down what has been ordering our lives -- or disordering them -- for the past two months, and it's not boxes. On the day before we arrived in town, my father-in-law had a heart attack. He did not go to the emergency room. He drove to meet us at our new home the next day to give us the keys. It was 103 degrees and about as humid as a steam room. Andy's mom said that he was having chest pain and his shoulders hurt so he would not be wandering around our new house with us but sitting somewhere in the air conditioning. That Monday, he went to the doctor and discovered he'd had a heart attack.
Then began a month of tests, culminating in bypass surgery, 9 days in the hospital, a few days at home, then 4 more days in the hospital, and -- thank God -- now he seems to be recovering. Andy has spent a lot of time with his dad. I have spent a lot of time taking care of kids late at night. And feeding them. And trying to feed Andy, when he's here. And sometimes making food for my inlaws. And talking to Andy about diet. And reading about food. And thinking about food.
It's situations like this that make it clear how important the cook's role is in a family. My husband (to some extent) and kids don't choose what they eat too much. They depend on what I cook, what I buy. Am I feeding them the right things? Or is what I'm cooking going to contribute to heart disease down the road, to 13 days in the hospital and many weeks of recovery at home?
All my reading has convinced me that real food, real meat, real fat is best. I feel better when I eat it. My husband feels better. My kids calm down. (Give them a slice of commercial birthday cake and watch them zoom into the upper stratosphere.)
But it's hard to ignore all the conventional, "expert" advice about saturated fat. Hard to believe that all the experts are wrong in their touting of a low-fat diet, high carbohydrate diet, but then again, I do a lot of head scratching when I look at the data and wonder why all the "experts" seem to be ignoring it, too. Gosh, it feels like deciding to homeschool all over again.
It leads to a lot of frustration at the grocery store. We're trying to make two house payments right now (and don't even get me started on the situation with the other house). We have some padding in the form of a savings account, but we want to keep the padding, so we're trying to be very frugal. But how frugal do you get when it comes to food? (I've been reading all the saving-money-on-groceries blogs, which usually just make me feel inadequate in completely new ways.) Do you buy the cheap milk that says it contains skim milk even though it's sold as "whole milk"? That has to mean it contains powdered milk. So -- no -- I go out of my way to find better milk. (Note I'm not talking raw milk here or even organic milk, just milk that doesn't have "skim milk" or hormones added to it and isn't ultra-pasteurized.) Do you buy the $.49/lb chicken leg quarters in the 10 lb bag? I tried. I couldn't. They looked horrible. Maybe I'll buy the $1.78/lb chicken breasts, although I stand there at the meat cases and think about conditions on industrial farms and food-borne diseases. When we first moved in, we bought some "all natural" hamburger -- not grass-fed, but we had to eat. The fat that came off that meat turned into an orange sludge. Now I am never tempted to buy cheap hamburger. I often wonder if we shouldn't just be vegetarian for a while, but then I'm nursing a 3 1/2 month old linebacker and there are times when I really crave meat.
Fortunately we have found a nearby farm that sells grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork by the quarter, side, and whole. If we can make it to January, we'll have some decent meat in the freezer for less than the price per pound of Whole Foods' grass-fed hamburger (including cuts like Porterhouse steak and all sorts of roasts.) The moral of this story is: support your local farmers!
Coaxing order from chaos: Moving on... down from the soapbox... after a bit of a down point this week as I sniffled through a cold and we had to run Gareth to urgent care and I contemplated all the business trips Andy has planned... I've concluded that the best way for me to cope with the house at this point is to close the remaining book boxes and move them back into the garage. We had to leave our two biggest bookcases in New York because nobody could figure out how to get them out of the hallway. (They were moved into that hallway, but neither I nor Andy could remember exactly how.) We were already pressed for shelf space, although I donated boxes and boxes of books before we left (including a few books I now wish I'd kept!) So now I'm being even more ruthless and donating more boxes. Hopefully at some point we will become proud owners of some new Ikea bookcases.
Are they learning anything?: Well, gee, I hope so. I've been a little frustrated at my inability to keep the little boys to a decent schedule, but then I remind myself that I have a 3 month old baby. He sleeps at night pretty well and with all the other stuff that's been going on, sometimes I forget how little he is. But even happy, peaceful, good-sleeping babies need to be held and nursed and walked and played with and enjoyed. So at those moments when I am frustrated that I am not accomplishing enough, I stop and take a deep breath and remind myself to be patient. We've been saying our prayers every day, and the big kids are reasonably independent with their baskets and shelves of books. For the twins and Farmerboy, I am focusing on reading lessons out of Phonics Pathways. If I pray with them and work on reading, I know I've done the most important things.
We have managed to set up some rudimentary art shelves. The kids were happy to find the watercolors.