Monday, April 30, 2007

Book Stack, oh my! And it's a big one.

In which I detail my own connections among the various books around me, nearly all of which are from the library.

Stacked on the buffet, to inspire our spring/summer cooking.
- Barbecue, Biscuits, and Beans: Chuckwagon Cooking
- The Big Book of Backyard Cooking. Food for the grill, side dishes, desserts, drinks, condiments -- yum!
- The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (James Beard & HE Brown, 1955). I rediscovered my Spider Bread recipe, hurrah!!

Also on the buffet, to help me learn about Mexican cooking from the great lady, and see what Raichlen has to add.
- From My Mexican Kitchen (Diana Kennedy)
- Steven Raichlen's Healthy Latin Cooking

Our three-county library system here in Oklahoma is sponsoring "The Big Read," encouraging everyone to read The Grapes of Wrath. I will, sometime, but as my choice for my nonfiction book club's June meeting I picked another book about that time in Oklahoma's history. And a bunch of "go withs" for me.
- Letters from the Dust Bowl. For the book club. Letters from an Oklahoma farming woman that were published in big newspapers across the country, giving readers a sense of the realities of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression from where we live now.
- Rethinking the Great Depression
- The New Deal: Pulling America Out of the Great Depression
...and some children's books on the Great Depression. If Mom's thinking about it, why not add related books to the kids' book stack?

I'm thinking about serving a Depression-inspired meal for our June meeting.
- Depression Era Recipes
- Whistleberries, Stirabout, & Depression Cake

Switching topics to water and gardening:
- When the Rivers Run Dry: Water, the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century. This is my current major focus of all of these books.
- A Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold). One of several environmental/conservationist classics I've never read.
- The Natural House (Chiras). Supposed to be a great resource for rethinking how your house and land fit with sustainability etc.
- Creating an Oasis with Greywater and Water Storage, both by Art ---. To help me see what is really involved with rainwater harvesting and use. Graywater from the sinks and shower? Maybe someday.
- Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Growing, Seed Saving, and Cultural History. Neat book, tons of great information. Better for the slow winter season rather than Must Plant Immediately!!! season.
- Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children. I'd like to do something fun with an arbor or other shade for our southwest-facing living room window; this might help the boys and me make some magic.

- Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. My progress with this has slowed way down because all of the others are library books!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Play ball!

The practices have been scheduled. To get ready for the season, which starts in about two weeks (yikes), Son1 will have three practices per week, and Son2 will have two practices per week. Oh my. Now every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening, at least one of our boys and a parent will be at a baseball field somewhere, and Saturday mornings too.

Well, that is, until the games start. Then our Friday evenings will often be booked as well. Shortly, we will be masters of the fast, light supper before several or all of us dash out the door, baseball gear and all.

Play ball!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Baseball creeps in

The boys and I play catch on the driveway every few days. We're all getting back in practice. Of course I am much more of a beginner than they are. If we move much farther apart, the ball smacking my bare palm will hurt! I need a ball glove. And yet, it's fun. This coming week I'm going to start throwing grounders to the boys in the park. After I get a glove, we'll also keep moving farther apart so they get a good practice in while I improve.

Last week I got a bunch of baseball-related books from the library. Picture books: Home Run (on Babe Ruth, illustrated wonderfully by a local artist), Roasted Peanuts (friendship and baseball), and Baseball Saved Us (kids playing baseball in the context of Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II). Story books: Amelia Bedelia Plays Baseball, Sports Shorts, Abner and Me, Satch and Me, Babe and Me, Shoeless Joe and Me. The boys read all of them in the first two days except Sports Shorts and Home Run.

Gear needs: I hope their cleats and ball gloves from last year will do for the first couple of practices for each boy. I hadn't even thought about cleats until right before Son2's first practice, and he was wearing other shoes anyway. Son2 needs to move up from his T-ball glove to his first baseball glove. I'd really like to get a batting glove for Son1 just to show him a little love! And I remember that last year in the first month of games there were more than a few that were so cold I wished the boys had a long-sleeved warm layer they could wear under their jerseys; I'll look for that, too.

We've spoken with both boys' coaches and had the organizational meeting for one team, with the other coming up in a few days. Two days after the first meeting, we missed a team-related activity by forgetting about it. That happens every year in the first week or two, sigh. May we get our act together quickly!

Our Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of this month are filled with Scouts and one son's baseball practices, and we don't yet know what the other team's practice schedule will be. My pen is virtually poised over my calendar, but we just don't know yet.

Time to keep an eye on the local college and high school baseball schedules. I want to catch a game on an open afternoon or evening with good weather now, before the boys even start their season. And keep it up during the season.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Book Stack news, some environment study (in frustration)

Until today my library book stack was down to three: Nourishing Traditions, The Story of French, and, for my nonfiction book club this month, The Other Face of America: Chronicles of the Immigrants Shaping Our Future.

I did some serious book browsing online Friday evening, between some links to Amazon, other books they led me to, and our library's online catalog. Here's what was waiting for me when I got to the library today.


How to Grow More Vegetables (and fruits, nuts, berries, grains, and other crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine, by John Jeavons.

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History, by William Woys Weaver, because I'm gonna grow some old varieties of veggies.

Earthly Delights: Tubs of Tomatoes and Buckets of Beans, by Jack Kramer, a slim paperback on the basics of growing veggies and herbs in containers.


A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. One of several environmental classics I have not read. It is a very local book, based on his land in the northern Great Plains.

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water -- the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century, by Fred Pearce. I couldn't believe our library system lacked Cadillac Desert. I'm afraid this book is going to make me angry and depressed.

Our region depends very much on the Oglalla Aquifer, which I've heard is being drained beyond its capacity to recharge. That plus global climate change, which will make dry places drier (including where we live), equals time to conserve, change to drought-tolerant plantings and runoff-capturing landscaping, and think seriously about rainwater catchment. Those books are on interlibrary loan request.

I ended up with these two books after...

I did a little research on environmental education, hoping to find something helpful to use with the boys for exploration of our part of the southern Great Plains. I easily found nationally respected programs focused on birds (Project Backyard Habitat, or some such thing), animals (Project WILD), forests (Project something else), and wetlands (Project some other thing), and even a sort of interesting program focused on agriculture (but a bit too "monster-scale farming is great"), but I was getting a bit frustrated. Oklahoma is not generally known for wetlands or forests, and animal study does NOT float my boat, though the backyard birds thing might do.

I began to wish for something like Project Plains, or Project Grassland and Stream Hollows and Farmland, or Project Living Locally, or Project Know What Your Way of Life Relies On (but not funded by chemical or oil companies). Maybe even Project Wendell Berry. Not so much luck with those, but I did find some stuff based on Aldo Leopold's writings: The Leopold Project: Education in a Land Ethic. So... I figured I'd better read the book first.

If you're interested in Project WILD or other such programs (oh, and the trees one is Project Learning Tree, and wetlands is Project WET), there are great lists at Classroom Earth.


Finally, I checked out a historical fiction book from the Teen section of the library after Son1 read the description on the back cover and rejected it. Silly boy! It looked great to me: a 1947 Newbery Honor Book set in and around England's Glastonbury Abbey in 1171. The book is The Hidden Treasure of Glaston, by Eleanore M. Jewett.

Old postcards, by state

How fun this is! Look up a state you're familiar with, and enjoy a few glimpses of the past. Penny Postcards.

I've looked at the Oklahoma and Washington postcards so far; on to Pennsylvania, California, Florida, ...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week and Easter around here

About two years before I became an Episcopalian at age 30, Holy Week was a wonderful discovery. In Holy Week, the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, the various Episcopal churches we have attended in different states have all held special services on each day of the Triduum -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. I don't usually go to most of the services, but rather take time during those days to remember the events. One year I attended all of the services as a temporary (Holy Week and Easter) member of our church choir; that was incredibly wonderful but unusual for me. Instead, I have looked for ways to observe and honor and focus on the multi-layered meanings in Holy Week... at home.

By Maundy Thursday I try to have the house pretty much ready for Easter; groceries, laundry, and other errands and chores done, and simple meals planned. I intend each year to make hot cross buns for Good Friday morning, but never quite manage it.

On Good Friday usually I participate in one of the afternoon services at our church with other Daughters of the King; our parish does something different each hour from 12 to 3 (ending at 4). The boys will go with me this year. When we're at home instead, sometimes I light a candle to burn from 12 to 3 (the hours Christ hung on the cross) and remember. We eat very simple, meatless meals on this day of all days (though sometimes I just do what I can!).

On Holy Saturday we make quiet preparations for Easter. We dye eggs. I make a rich bread like brioche, or overnight cinnamon rolls or a sausage breakfast casserole. I forget what else we do; it seems to take up the day, anyway!

At dusk on Holy Saturday, sometimes I've taken my oldest to the Great Vigil of Easter, which I LOVE, but it has so much talk -- many readings, prayers, and a sermon -- that it was really hard for him, at least the years he was 7 and 9. Well, the year they scattered burning coals from the incense onto the carpet during the procession was silently exciting and quite memorable!

When we stay home I read the Bible readings and liturgy of the Easter Vigil for myself. They are so wonderful; the vigil is the true focus of the Easter celebration! This year the kids and I are working our way through the readings and liturgy over the last few days of Holy Week. The readings and prayers tell the entire salvation story, and quite beautifully include powerful symbols of our faith: fire, water, light. Now that we have a piano, I am playing through all of the Holy Week and Easter hymns as well -- a window into the hearts of Christians in different times and places.

After the kids are asleep on Holy Saturday, I decorate the table for Easter morning, with little "alleluia" paper banners we made one year, another pair I made that say "Alleluia, Christ is risen! / The Lord is risen indeed!", our collection of wooden and ceramic eggs painted at church in various Lents, a flowered cross made by our oldest one year in Sunday School, small Easter baskets with candy eggs, jellybean eggs, etc., and a little paper banner that says, "Happy Easter! Daddy & Mommy say you can eat five candies before church." Hahaha! I try, anyway!

On Easter morning, after candy and some attempt to get protein into the boys and some yummy Easter breakfast treat into all of us, we will dress WARMLY (today through Saturday in the mid 40s feels arctic after last week's 80s!) and head to church. Son1 will acolyte at the mid-morning service we will attend. Then both boys will hunt for eggs in the parish egg hunt while dear husband and I drink coffee, eat a treat or two, snap photos of the kids and of friends, and enjoy the morning. Er, perhaps really bundled up. An Arctic Easter?!? Other than the weather and the acolyting, this is our normal Easter morning. We have a relaxed afternoon; the kids eat candy and we have some phone calls to and from far-flung family. Then we have some sort of Easter dinner that reflects spring (strawberries, asparagus, green salad, ham, rolls). Last year we spent Easter afternoon and dinner at the home of some good friends, and will do so again this year. In last year's balmy weather we grilled burgers and hot dogs while all of the kids played, and had strawberry shortcake for dessert; this year we may be drawing on our late-winter menus for oven-centered ideas! It is very good to spend time on Easter with friends (all of our family is in the category of far away).

So, that's what our Holy Week is like around here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

If I had a dogwood in bloom...

I'd really, really want it to look like the last one in this series of photos: Dogwoods, at Suburban Tomato Liberation Front.

I set it as my desktop background, surrounded by a very pale sage green. Yowza -- so wonderful to drink in that stunning spring moment every time I use my laptop.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gotta blog while I wait - Scouts, food, garden

So Son1 is at his Scoutmaster conference, the last necessary thing for his Arrow of Light (!!!), and I'm nervous on his behalf. In our Pack/Troop they do this at a monthly Board of Review for the Boy Scouts, apparently because the Arrow of Light helps these Cub Scouts enter Boy Scouts at the rank above Tenderfoot? So I'm nervous, but this afternoon Son1 seemed be well prepared, confident, and excited.

The Cub Scout pack's spring Court of Honor is in about a week, at which badges and other awards will be given out and the rest of the Cub Scouts will advance to the next level. Son2 will receive his Tiger Cub rank, and his den (and dear husband, their den leader) will move on to the Wolf year. Son1 -- I'm not sure. I think he and the other Webelos II boys will receive their remaining badges and awards at the Court of Honor, but maybe that won't happen until their Crossover ceremony in about three weeks. I know the Arrow of Light award will be given at Crossover, and the boys will say goodbye to their Cub Scout pack and become Boy Scouts. This pack normally does Crossover in late February, but this year for a variety of reasons we ended up delayed until late April.

This has been a whirlwind eight months since we joined Cub Scouts in August. When I look ahead to Boy Scouts, more camping, and the activities the Wolf Cubs are encouraged to do, I'm excited about the coming year. But right now I'm a bit nervous, so I'm gonna blog about food and garden stuff...


Food and Gardening!

Did I mention that I bought four varieties of dry beans at a downtown niche foods store? I'm going to cook up and eat Painted Pony beans, Appaloosa beans (supposed to have an herbal flavor, if I remember right), Rattlesnake beans, and Marrow beans (bacon-y flavor?). I'm thinking about planting some Sonoran Gold tepary beans (lots of protein) and Pawnee Shell beans, as well as some green beans, small winter squash, and zucchini.

I want to see what it's like to grow dry beans... and everything else, actually! I want to be able to grow interesting varieties of dry beans for my cooking. We really like green beans, so I'm trying those as well. I want to try storing winter squash, and chose a variety, Buttercup, to fit our food tastes. Zucchini, well, it'd be fun to grow, I'll send the boys out to pick out flowers when we have too many starting, and I plan to saute and grill zucchini, maybe try a relish, and shred a bunch for the freezer. These are all vining or sprawling plants. I'm thinking up ways to use these vines to create shade for our south-facing ground-floor windows: one son's bedroom window, part of the sunroom windows, and the living room window.

The front garden beds look very different and much more open with the sad little bushes dug up and ready to go to the city's compost facility. I called a halt to garden work when we got FOUR INCHES of rain from Wednesday through Saturday morning! In a few days maybe I can plant some flowers and seeds in the newly renovated part-shade area, move the concrete edging stones a bit, and whatever else of my garden plans must be done next.

The bed near the driveway is full of perennial greenery and daylily greenery. The yellow coreopsis has set some buds, and so has the Indian Paintbrush, yay! There are new coreopsis and Mexican hat plants appearing, as well, yay again.

This is the season of juggling lots of garden plans vs. the weather, and trying to keep the energy up to get everything IN and DONE, because it lays the groundwork for the rest of the growing season. Wish me luck!


Son1 is home. His report: "Mom, I flunked." "April Fool!" Arrrrrrgggh. I am so proud of him ('cause he did great, as it turns out). A final YAY!!! and I'll close out this blog post.

Community growth possibilities

Last Thursday our community held the latest in a series of community dialogue meetings to help the city discern a path for its future. This one was on Smart Growth. At my discussion table we briefly puzzled over the definition of infill. I thought there was more to it than a brief pooling of our knowledge came up with (though it was fine for the moment).

Today I was moseying around the Web site for the community of Whistler, B.C., Canada, reading what they're doing to move toward a more sustainable community (while preparing to host the winter Olympic games in 2010!). Et voila, I found a great definition of infill! ...along with a concise, excellent list of the benefits.
A common feature in the evolution of communities of all sizes, infill refers to the incremental addition of new, renovated or adapted buildings within existing developed areas.

The benefits of infill housing include more efficient use of land, infrastructure and services; increased diversity of housing types especially smaller, more affordable units; and reduced pressure to develop previously unsettled areas that offer important ecological and/or recreational values.

~ Whistler, B.C.: Housing Authority Supports Infill Housing
My Web path went like this:

Now I'm about to explore the separate Web site for the Whistler 2020 plan. I'm very curious!

Our community dialogue meeting focused on three different scenarios, from lightly managed growth with no willingness by property owners or developers to pay appropriately for infrastructure including water, to moderately managed growth with a willingness to pay for what's needed, to highly managed growth with perhaps a situation where there's not enough housing. We discussed pros and cons of each (and the limitations of the scenarios!), and the community values each reveals.

We had a developer, conservationists and environmentalists, and other folks across the spectrum at our table. The developer held his own when the vocal participants were complaining about development. Interestingly we all seemed to agree on the importance of water supply and quality issues, infrastructure cost sharing, and green space (though wild vs. tamed/landscaped was not discussed!).

At the end of the evening we agreed that our community will remain split and entrenched in differences unless we can find common ground with both the pro- and anti-growth folks. We agreed that many of the managed growth or smart growth ideas seem to be where we can meet.