A Photo Update…I hope

Let’s see how far I get with this – we’ve been too busy living to spend time writing about living lately!  So here’s what I’ve got saved up…

According to my camera, this is from last June.  But I think the date is wrong, and it was actually October.  Either way, it’s been a while since I went through the pics on the camera!

Here is the little altar I put together for the Day of the Dead.  Mom’s only in the picture because it was the best/most easily accessible one I had of Dad.  The had and cookbook are my grandmothers (Eva Krivanek), gum drops were one of my other grandmother’s favorite treats (Margaret Courtney).  The box and frog puzzle my dad made, and the peanuts were one of his favorite snacks.  The rosary was also Grandma Krivanek’s, and the little pictures on the right are of me with my grandmothers.  That was all I could dig up at the last minute when I did this, but I’ll be a little more prepared this year (if the things aren’t still in storage!  More on that in a later post…)

This was in November.  One of them was confused about the weather forecast.  If I remember right, it was Samantha.

They take good care of each other…

…and Pooh Bear.

The nativity set the girls played with.  They’re taking a nap while they wait for baby Jesus.

The meltdowns have begun, so I’ll have to finish this later.


…of various sorts has been ours lately.  I’ll have to come back to the posts on the road trip, but here’s what’s going on more recently.

Lucy has finally given in and decided that she is, in fact, old enough to poop on the potty.  We are jubilant.  And it’s consistent, it’s been only one diaper since we got back from Fargo.  We even tried sleeping without diapers for a couple of nights (at her request), but that went less well.  Apparently if she sleeps in a diaper, she waits until she gets up to pee, and if she doesn’t, well, she doesn’t.  But maybe soon.

Craig is now putting both girls to sleep every night, which means I have unimaginable amounts of time to my self for the moment.  I nurse Samantha, then he takes her while I read to Lucy, then Lucy joins them in bed and everyone is happy and sleepy, at least for a couple of hours.  Samantha has been making it to 3 or 3:30 often, which is great, and Lucy usually stays in her bed until Craig’s shower wakes her up in the morning.  For comparison, a couple of weeks ago I was still nursing Samantha to sleep every night, she stayed in our bed all night, and woke up several times at least.  Craig had been putting Lucy to bed most of the time, but whether she stayed there was pretty hit-or-miss.  So this is going really well (knock on wood!) so far.

Samantha’s vocabulary is growing fast, and she is saying some really cute things that I think should be recorded.  Here is the list that comes to mind (spelled as phonetically as I can manage):

Lucy = see-see

Theresa = see-sa

cookie = key-key

cracker = ca-ca

when she hears a train whistle = tain tack (train track)

Mikey (the dog) = bike-y

Mr. Bob, who is supposed to be “B-Bob” = Bob-B (which the kids on the corner used to call him, also)

I’ll have to add to the list as I remember more of them, but these are some of the best.

Our real excitement today was that Craig bumped the spicket in the front yard with the lawn mower and we now have a gigantic leak.  He used some over-the-counter remedy to slow it down, but we’re still having to turn off the water at the street while we’re not frantically trying to get all wet things done at once.  The leak is between the main line and the house, and there’s nowhere to turn it off and still have water in the house.  So we’re getting a taste of Little House on the Prairie.  Or something.  I guess this will give us an idea of just how primitive we can stand should we ever get around to moving to a farm.

On the farm note, I am looking into chickens.  A movable pen and coop, and just a couple of layers to provide bug control and fresh eggs.  Chickens are cheap, coops are not.  If anyone has a favorite chicken tractor design, I’d love to see it.  Or advice on breeds.  The catalogs are in the mail, and this is all very exciting.

Also in garden news, we had our most exciting crop from the yard today: one large and one small cantaloupe.  The small one had split a little, so we cut it, and it’s gone, mostly eaten by Samantha.  The flavor isn’t spectacular, but I was impressed that the little, almost dead, three-for-a-dollar plants I picked up to fill in the spaces where my own seedlings had succumbed to slugs produced such bounty.  And there’s one rock hard, very green little melon left out there.  And all the things I thought were dead in the garden have sprung new life since it’s rained every day for nearly a week, so maybe it was not all a bust after all.  (The only thing we’ve had enough of to use all summer was basil – and more of that than I can stand to use!)

So there’s the update.  If you know a good plumber in our area, let me know, I’ll be making lots of those calls on Monday.

This week’s news

It has been a week of visitors.  We managed to have someone over for a meal every day last week.  After Taylor’s wedding, my mom and brother came over, so they were here Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  (Their visit also included a shopping trip to the French Quarter and a trip to the Aquarium.)  On Wednesday Craig’s brother and his girlfriend came for dinner and so that Craig could help Sean with calculus.  Thursday’s dinner included some of the usual suspects, Theresa and Paige.  (Eric Parrie – I am calling you out publicly for standing us up!)  Friday Fr. R.B. spent the night.  Which I guess means I could count Saturday breakfast, too, but then Theresa brought a little girl she was babysitting over to play and have lunch.  Seven days in a row!

After which, Craig took Lucy to Baton Rouge and I stayed home with Samantha and slept.

Our other exciting event of the last week or so is that a litter of kittens has taken up residence in the back yard.  I first discovered them, just starting to walk, in the shed.  Since then they have moved the bushes on the other side of the yard and they were last seen under the house this morning.  The mama is black with a few white features, and the five kittens run a full range of color: one almost white, one grey, one calico with a lot of brown, one mostly black calico, and one almost all black.  Needless to say, the girls are enthralled.

While I’ve been writing this, Samantha has managed to color significant parts of both of us with blue marker, and is now very upset about the color on her hands, so I’m done.

A Community

Ah, it’s time again for me to write about something of substance.  Or something.

We talk often about trying, someday in the future, to live in an intentional (Christian) community.  We liked what we had at the Tulane Catholic Center, we’ve had retreat/camp experiences that were short term communities, and we liked it, so we’d like to do something similar full time.

Funnily enough, Craig’s parents already practically have this.  We borrowed their house over the 4th of July weekend while they went on a vacation to Boston.  Here is how our weekend went.

We drove in on Saturday afternoon and set up shop.  Before we could decide what we would do for dinner, Miss Mary Lou and Mr. Bob next door invited us over for ham, corn on the cob, and potato chips.  This, of course, led to an evening of conversation, running children, and general fun.  It was a good way to start the holiday.

On Sunday, we went to Mass (after which the youth group help sparklers to liven the spirits of those exiting the church – Fr. Tom’s idea, not ours!) and then spent a long time talking over donuts with Rusty (who we found out lives two blocks from Craig’s parents) and Anna who is the 13th of 18 children.  We were almost the last ones to leave.  But we went back home and cooked hot dogs for Bob and Mary Lou (aka B-Bob and Mimi) while the girls swam.  Dinner was kindly provided by Mr. Joe and Miss June across the street, and B-Bob and Mimi, the neighbor next to Joe and June, Mr. Darwin, and the couple two doors down were also there, along with a good part of Joe and June’s family.  So far – five meals, four of them in communities.

The other thing with Mr. Joe is that he invites everyone who lives around him over for beer every afternoon at 4.  Accommodations are made for little ones who can’t drink much beer.  And Mr. Bob spends 9/10 of the day, rain or shine, hot or cold, on his back porch (which might as well be his front porch) open to company.  We barge in frequently, and often return with ice cream.

Monday we had Mr. Darwin and B-Bob and Mimi over for dinner (Craig made some amazing meatballs, I’m sure he would be willing to share the recipe if he remembers it!) and then went to a youth group softball game.

Tuesday Craig went to work and the girls and I met Bob and Mimi at the donut shop, where they meet their friends Bill and Mary (and anyone else who comes in!) every day.  Lucy enjoyed her pink sprinkled donut, and the shop owner gave them donut holes when she saw that Samantha hadn’t touched her pink sprinkled donut.  Chocolate milk was enjoyed all around.

We finally headed home Tuesday evening after Craig took some youth to visit a local nursing home.  On the way back I was counting (we had 6 of 9 meals in community – and 7 if you count dinner with his parents after they got home!) and realized that the community we would like to build could look very much like this:  neighbors watching out for each other, feeding each other’s dogs, drinking each other’s beer, (occasionally accidentally feeding each other’s beer to each other’s dogs…) talking, talking, talking.  Most of the world’s problems have been solved at least twice on Bob’s back porch.  But there is one thing that makes it all happen – people take the step to invite other people to share with them.  Then the trust builds, then the back porch is always open.  It was a good lesson for me.

A month in the life of the Bakers

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Nearly a month, actually.  If you’re still checking, I’m impressed.  There has been a lot going on, including my going offline for weeks at a time and some serious writer’s block.  But here’s the update.

School ended, thank God.  Everyone survived.  Summer is hot, hot, hot.  There will be not trips to the zoo any time soon, membership or no.  The goal is for everyone to survive the summer.

We’ve been keeping busy.  I can’t actually remember what happened right after school got out, but we spent some time at Craig’s parents’ house (mostly in the pool) and then came back to spend a day canoeing with Theresa and her friend Paul, and then a day of rapid laundry and packing, and off to Bunkie.  For nine days.  If you don’t know where Bunkie is, it’s in central Louisiana, near Alexandria.  It does not have its own Wal-Mart.  That tells you how small it is.

So we were on the outskirts of Bunkie, LA, helping to facilitate a leadership retreat for some of the finest Catholic youth of the Baton Rouge and Lafayette Dioceses.  It was really good (I think there are some pictures attached in some way I don’t understand to Craig’s Facebook page…or maybe he can see them but not share them…I don’t know) and we had a lot of fun and great prayer experiences and spent time with wonderful people.  The down side was the ridiculous number of chiggers and mosquitoes (which I am still scratching) and the two poor baby sitters who were left with my attached baby most of the day.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  There’s only one danger with attachment parenting – they might actually become attached.  And Samantha definitely is.  So that was hard on Samantha, me, and the two patient young ladies who volunteered to spend their week watching the facilitators’ kids.

Also, the camp is run by the Department of Education, so we had school lunches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week.  On the last night, vegetables were brought out as snacks.  I have never seen teenagers attack bell peppers and carrots, watermelon and cucumbers like that before.  The cookies were abandoned.  The granola bars, abandoned.  The Big Cheez-its were not abandoned, as they apparently complimented the vegetables.  This should tell you something about the nutritional content of school lunches.

[I have been told that the nutrition in school lunches “balances out” over the course of a week – sure, sometimes it’s pizza, but sometimes it’s meatloaf.  That only worked for our week if all the students were pregnant and needed 80 or so grams of protein a day, but only needed one serving of vegetables per day.  Over the course of the week we had corn twice and carrots (overcooked and drowned in sugar) once, plus the lettuce for hamburgers and tacos, which I don’t count.  I do not call eating French fries at least one meal a day balanced.  But I digress.]

So we were happy, after another two days at Craig’s parents’ house (for meetings and a youth group softball game – which we won!), to return to our garden and our kitchen.  We had pizza with chocolate bell peppers, a tomato, and basil and parsley all from the garden for dinner tonight.  We’ve also had two yellow squash now, a couple of other tomatoes (including a beautiful Cherokee), and delicious purple beans which have all been eaten raw.  There weren’t really enough of them to cook, anyway.  I have battled slugs in the squash/melon patch, and finally have plants large enough to survive their onslaught.  There are now beautiful yellow, black, and white caterpillars eating my dill plant, but the thing was taking over the garden, so I’m letting them go to it.  They don’t seem to be bothering anything else, and Stephen Locke says they make pretty butterflies, although he couldn’t remember which kind in particular.

Meanwhile, Lucy has taken to singing made-up songs with repetitive words, which is pretty funny, and she is writing beautiful letter “L”s and upside-down letter “U”s.  Samantha continues to learn new words to say, and to mimic whatever Lucy may be doing.  They both swim fearlessly with floaties now, which is great except we have to make sure Samantha doesn’t get near the pool without them, because she will jump in and expect to float.

In case you were wondering, the pooping on the potty seems to have been a fluke on all accounts.  There have been no repeat attempts.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Or something.

I have tried to update my reading list, but the plug-in is on the fritz, so that will have to wait.  I’m busy with several sewing, framing, and card-making projects, which will hopefully be posted when they are done and/or delivered.  There are pictures, I just have to sit down and put them up.  I should really get Craig to work on that part I guess…

So for the rest of the summer we have a week planned with my mom’s family in Florida, and a week in North Dakota (actually, a weekend in North Dakota and the rest of the week driving there and back), and another weekend in Bunkie for Taylor’s wedding.  After last week’s experiences, I, for one, will be wearing eau de bugspray with my bridesmaid dress.  I’m still scratching.  And then the rat race starts again.  If, of course, you consider it ever to have stopped.

Things Lucy ate this week

For once, the pause in posting wasn’t my fault!  Last Saturday Craig put insulation in our attic, and bumped something that killed the electricity in the room with the computer.  So that was finally fixed yesterday, when Craig was home in the morning when it was cool enough to get up in the attic again and fix it.  But now we’re functional again, anyway.

We’ve been busy in the garden, and I’ll have to put up some details and pictures sooner or later.  But the exciting thing, we realized last night, is the variety of foods we’ve had this week.  Almost all of which Lucy has at least sampled.  Many of which are things I’ve only started eating recently myself.  Here’s the list, at least what I can remember, from the last week:

radishes (and their greens) dipped in vinegar

head cheese

frog legs

sushi of various sorts

her first icee

fava beans

I think those are all the interesting things, but I thought it was an impressive list for a three-year-old.

Garden update

The beans have come!  It’s garden time, and my first order from Seed Savers has come in, and is already in the ground.  Well, not all of them, but nine Flor de Junio, and nine Tejano beans (I only ordered the Flors, apparently the others were lagniappe) are in their appointed squares.  Prior to their arrival, we already had onions (some green ones we rescued from the compost pile and some seeds which are just coming up), orange, green, and “chocolate” bell peppers, jalapeño and Anaheim peppers, basil, oregano (which over-wintered) lemon balm, dill, chives, parsley, orange mint, salad greens (some of which have already bolted and been removed, including the bacon-flavored one, whatever it was), and several types of tomatoes.  The daffodils and tulips are bloomed out, and the iris are in full bloom now (some yellow and some white, with some white and purple on their way).  I put in some morning glory seeds in pots in hopes of getting them to climb the play ground the porch posts.  The orange tree is blooming (I wish I could send you a smell of it – it is amazing!) and the jasmine is almost there.  All the berry bushes (ok, they’re not bushes yet, they’re sticks) have new growth, so in two years, if nothing goes wrong, we will have berries, too!

And there is a dove nest in the tree-bush near the garden.  She’s sitting, so I’m looking forward to hearing the babies chirping soon.  Apparently the eggs take about two weeks to hatch, then another two to leave the nest, and then they might even reuse the nest.  I’m pretty excited about all that.

We’ve also had one big, black snake behind the shed, and more cats than we can keep track of coming through.  I found one tabby tom-cat sitting in the stroller we had left out a couple of weeks ago.  It looked ready to go for a ride.

Lucy wants to plant potatoes and other food, so her square will be turned up from the tulips and daffodils, now that they’re bloomed out, but we’re not quite sure how that is going to work yet.  And Craig built a worm farm, so now all we need is manure and, well, worms.  The garden shop nearest us doesn’t sell them, so I have some searching to do.  Which means I should probably get busy before the girls wake up.  Happy Spring, everybody!

Blame it on Spring Fever

In an attempt to make up for the long, long silence, here are some pictures.  First, the “man pit” that Craig build over the old (dug out hole in the grass) fire pit.  It is now an oven and stove.  I picked up the brick off the curb, in my church clothes, no less.  Dad would be proud.

The roasted (in brick oven) vegetable quesidillas (cooked on brick stove) were really, really good.

We have done a little planting.  We’ve had several dafodills bloom, and the tulips and iris are ready to bust.

In other garden news, an orange bell pepper, orange mint, dill, lemon balm, dill, and chives are in the ground.  The lettuce which over-wintered is going crazy, and some of it tastes like bacon.  I don’t know what it is, because it’s from a mixed lettuce seed packet, and process of elimination hasn’t worked it out yet.  But it’s bacon-lettuce.  Who knew.

In Lucy news, she is fiesty as ever.  Wants to watch a movie every day, and rarely gets to.  But she likes “writing” scribbles and “reading” books she has memorized, or just looking at the pictures.  And she loves the zoo.

In Samantha news, she is getting the last four pesky teeth through.  She is running.  And she has a nice long list of words now, including Da, dog (which also means cat), doll, bowl (which also seems to mean spoon and basket), Papa, Ma, banana (which is sometimes “ba” and sometimes “nana”), ball, no, diaper, book, door, open, hot…those are all that come to mind at the moment.  She has been walking around the house “reading” books out loud over the last couple of days, which is really, really cute.

So that’s the update.  Craig’s working a lot, and I spent the day baking.  Which reminds me, happy St. Joseph’s Day.  Here’s the bread I made:

It’s supposed to look like St. Joseph’s beard.  Judge for yourself.  I also made egg-free chocolate chip cookies (surprisingly delicious, once you make it past the cookie dough that acts like toasted bread crumbs), vegetable broth, two pans of bread pudding, and dinner today.  I wish I could say days like this were the reason I haven’t written in so long, but it’s really been more a combination of distraction and laziness.  So hopefully more interesting things will happen soon for me to share with you, and I’ll feel like sharing it.  In the mean time, here’s a pic of the girls with their friend Cylis to hold you over.

A Charmed Life?

We have such beautiful girls.  Samantha is fighting her molars, but at the same time she has started giving hugs and kisses, and I don’t think there is anything in the world cuter than a hug from a 14-month-old.  We are truly blessed.  And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, with the NFP discussion going on on a friend’s blog.  Some people struggle to figure out their signs and when they’re fertile, and it leads to frustration, fights, and general trouble.  I, on the other hand, have a regular cycle and a hard time not knowing if I’m fertile, now that I know what to look for.

We have met two beautiful young men with special needs through the youth ministry now.  And I keep wondering, “Will we have a child like this?”  All children have their own challenges, of course, but talking to these parents, you can see the years of struggling to help their child get by in society written all over their faces.  Again, it’s something we just haven’t had to deal with, at least not yet.

And I’m meeting more and more women who have had to deal with miscarriages.  Growing up, I thought that was a very rare occurrence.  Now that I am an adult talking to adult women, and maybe the things brought up in polite company have changed since I was little, but I’m finding it frighteningly common.  My friend Julia wrote a beautiful, moving post about her friend who lost a baby in utero.  But again, we’ve only suffered through this vicariously, it has thus far passed us by.

And I’m left wondering, maybe it’s the flip side of what these struggling families wonder, “Why not us?”  Surely we can’t escape these hardships forever?

Maybe it’s just the rain outside today, but it’s strange the way the suffering of others can cast a gloom over our own bright times.  Or maybe it’s not strange at all.  Maybe, and I think Julia (see above) is right in this – we have the chance to bear each other’s burdens, even if only tiny pieces of them.  The Triune God did not design us to suffer alone, or to rejoice alone, for that matter.  Which is a little difficult for a loaner like myself to accept sometimes, but I can’t think of a time I’ve opened up my suffering and not been thankful for having done it afterward.

We’re hoping to have a crowd for dinner tonight.  And we’re hoping to pray the Liturgy of the Hours after dinner, despite the two (or more, depending on who comes) little ones bounding around the room.  It seems like this is where all my writing, all our work is tending these days.  Community.  For joy, for suffering, for prayer, for play.  Community.

Black beans and sweet potatoes?

Last week was black bean and sweet potato week here at the Baker house.  I know that probably sounds strange to you, because it did to me a couple of weeks ago.  But we (and by “we” I mean Craig) had purchased many, many pounds of sweet potatoes about a month ago, and they needed to be eaten.  And black beans are cheap (as were sweet potatoes, hence our abundance).  And I generally trust Moosewood cookbooks, so I thought I’d give the “black bean and sweet potato hash” a try.  Now, I’m not one to make hashes, as a general rule, so this involved a little bravery to start with.  Here’s the recipe, so you can see for yourself what I was getting into.

1-2T olive oil
2c chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
6c peeled diced sweet potatoes (1/2″ pieces)
1 jalapeno, minced
1T coriander
1T cumin
1t salt
1c frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 c black beans (15 oz can, drained)
splash of water or OJ
dash of salt
cayenne or hot pepper sauce
Heat oil in large, deep, nonstick skillet. Add onions and saute on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Stir in garlic, cook for a few seconds, then add sweet potatoes. Cover the skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Add jalapeno, coriander, cumin, and salt; then use spatula to turn potatoes, cover, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add corn and black beans, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. If potatoes are still too firm, add a little water or OJ, cover, and cook on low heat until potatoes are tender. Add salt and stir in cayenne or hot pepper sauce to taste.
3. Serve topped with minced scallions or chopped cilantro, or sour cream.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Hash

Not complicated, just a bit of chopping.  Let me just say, it was amazing.  And there was nothing in it that Samantha can’t eat!  And it’s all baby-bite sized.  That is always a bonus.  And it’s loaded with nutrition.  And the leftovers were amazing – I added cheese and put it in a tortilla and went to that happy place where rich, sweet, delicious things take me.

In fact, it went so well that I decided it required a follow-up recipe.  Namely, “Caribbean sweet potato gratin”, which again pairs sweet potatoes and black beans, but adds…well, see for yourself.

Caribbean sweet potato gratin

That’s right, lime.  Lots of it.  Now, I won’t claim this is “quick and easy”, because it’s not complicated (as long as you remember to shake the coconut milk first) but it did take a while.  But then I sat back and waited for deliciousness to prepare itself for my tastebuds.  I’m pretty sure this is the most nutritious thing I’ve cooked ever.  Yes, it’s fatty, but it’s better fat than Oreos or any of the other things I could have eaten instead.  And everything in it is rainbow-colored “superfood”.  Choose your diet, all but the coconut milk should fit in.

Craig loved it.  Lucy and Samantha ate it.  I was a little overwhelmed by the lime and cornmeal, possibly because I had been grating/juicing lime for a while at that point and reeked of it.  But it was good.  Sweet potatoes and black beans.  Who knew!

And I was thinking, it’s strange really that I write so little on here about food, since food takes up so much of my time.  (Actually, maybe that is why I write about it so little!)  I really like cooking, provided no one is wrapped around my legs and screaming, and I like thinking about cooking, and talking about cooking.  And it doesn’t bother me to be “tied up” in the kitchen for an hour or two making dinner.  (The dishes are a different story, but I’m working on that.)

Anyway, if you like sweet potatoes, you owe it to yourself to try the hash at least.  If you like lime, too, try both!  Let me know what you think.