Thursday, September 27, 2007

End of tomato season and a recipe

Tomato season is pretty much over here in Seattle, in what seems a few weeks earlier than last year. There hasn't been a frost yet, but daytime temperatures have dipped down to the low sixties at most, often high fifties, and although we're having some gorgeous fall weather, it just isn't hot enough now for much more to ripen.

I'm okay with it. Tomato season is an intense, nearly religious experience for us here, and by the end of it, having stuffed myself on tomatoes every single day of the whole, entire summer and devoted unbelievable amounts of time and energy to buying, planting, staking, roping up, pruning, picking suckers off of, spraying, harvesting, and eating tomatoes, I'm ready for the change of seasons. The ol' circle of life. Time to buy squash and make soup out of root vegetables. I'm down with it.

I've taken the radical (for me) step of taking some of the plants down early, which I don't usually do - but most of them are done producing or nearly so, and tomato plants make up for their early season gorgeousness by becoming blighted, rotted, gnarly eyesores in the early fall. And when you have fifteen blighted, rotted, gnarly, eyesores on your front porch, it makes a statement. That statement is, "Hey, someone call the health department!" or maybe "Don't let your kids trick-or-treat at that house."

Gone are both of the Sungolds, the Taxi and Glacier, the Grushovka, and the Silvery Fir. Severely pruned back to just a few remaining branches with ripening fruit are the Dona, Black Prince, Green Zebra, and Stripey. The ones in the ground are faring better, not rotting and dying like their potted counterparts, so I've left those for now - Isis, Jaune Flamme, and Brandywine. But I don't expect much more.

I'll post tasting notes later about which ones are coming back next year and which ones aren't.

Last weekend I picked about sixty tomatoes - mostly small ones, but they filled an entire collander - and made a huge pot of one of the best pasta sauces I've ever had. So, so good. I like my pasta sauce simple - nothing fancy, not a lot of spices. We froze a couple portions to bring some joy to a cold, rainy winters day a few months hence.

Here's the simple recipe I use:

Basic Pasta Sauce

  1. Seed a bunch of tomatoes by cutting them in half horizontally and swiping them out with your fingers. (Doesn't have to be perfect but the more the better - the seeds make the sauce slightly bitter.) Chop the up roughly.
  2. Heat up a couple tablespoons (I never measure it) olive oil in a big saute pan on medium.
  3. Slice up 2-3 onions in a rough chop and saute medium-low for a really long time, stirring occasionally - let them turn all brown and caramely over at least 45 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt to help them break down. Patience here is the most important step.
  4. If you want garlic, add it for the last few minutes before you put the tomatoes in and saute briefly. I use 3-4 cloves chopped up.
  5. Add a hunk of butter (2 tb or so), melt it down into the onions, then add the tomatoes. Stir and raise the heat a little to get them started with breaking down. I often take a potato masher and smoosh them up a bit at this point, just to help make it more saucelike and less like whole pieces of tomatoes.
  6. Add seasonings if you want them - I often use just a big hunk of dried or fresh basil and nothing else, but oregano is good and you could go nuts and add all kinds of other things -- and simmer on med-low for 45 minutes or so.
It'll get really soupy from all the liquid in the tomatoes, so don't feel like you need to add any broth or water. I always feel like I should at first and then am glad I didn't. You can also cook it down for longer if you want it to dry up a bit. Other recipes often add sugar, too, but with really fresh homegrown tomatoes this is really delicious.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear baby...

Dear Baby,

I respect your desire to be spontaneous. To not get tied down by routine. To always be out there pushing the envelope, trying new things. I really do. Who says darkness must equal sleep? Who says that children need naps? Who says pulling mommy's new silk wallhanging off the wall with your fists is such a bad thing? Why is it so wrong to hit people?

But could you just try to consider the following two points:

1) No one will think you're stuck in a rut if you sleep well two nights in a row. It's possible that you may be overdoing the spontaneity bit by sleeping twelve hours one night, three hours the next, and following that up with a night where you sleep eight full hours but only in thirty minute increments, punctuated by crying.

2) If you succeed in killing us via lack of sleep, you'll miss us.

Thank you for your consideration.

- Mom

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The J-Lo

Someone today pointed out that Sofie was dressed just like JLo - the snazzy velour tracksuit, the rock and roll tank top with the gold blazoned electric guitars on it. It's Sofie-from-the-block! Never say my kid ain't fashionable.

Working the tracksuit hoodie - never mind the food stains on the knees

Up close look at the guitars

In other news, she's finally figured out the walking thing, five or so weeks after she took her first stumbling steps. Finally, she's tottering around the house with some amount of control, although in that funny way all early walkers have where their legs are much too far apart and their hands are out in front of them like Frankenstein. Mama's so proud.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Eating Cake

MollysFirstBirthday020 (Medium)
Originally uploaded by Phinney Zoo

Sofie got a lot better at eating birthday cake after her own party was over. Here she was last weekend shoving an entire piece of cake into her mouth at Molly's first birthday party. By next week, at the next party we're invited to, she may be devouring the entire cake.

A couple other favorite pictures from that day...

Since I'm being all nostalgic, a few more:

Brett and his dad get down, Zalkan style

Recessional, trailed by my nephew Nick

The Mariner's Moose came to our reception! Yes really!

Isn't he handsome?

I was very happy at the reception.

Us doing our silly swing dance to Waterloo

Four years ago today

And just to show that he didn't wear the Mariner's shirt all day:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sleep! Sweet, sweet sleep!

Sofie is napping. Right now. In her crib. By herself.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it's only the second time in the last month that she's taken a nap without me holding her or sitting next to her on the bed. And I'm so excited by it that I feel like having a little party! Yay! Mama gets a little break.

I've come to the realization that we need start a little bit of sleep training. I've been fervently against crying-it-out sleep routines since she was born -- I just couldn't face letting her cry alone in a crib. Plus I was (and still am), to be honest, head over heels intoxicated with this little creature and there were few things as sweet in the first months as watching her fall asleep in my arms.

This quickly became the routine for both naps and bedtime -- hold her until she falls asleep, then gently ease her over to her crib, deposit her, and creep away hoping she wouldn't wake up. Most of the time, lately, she does wake up, and the whole process starts over, or in the case of naps just gets abandoned as I resort to sitting with her on the bed so at least she'll get a little sleep.

Comforting for her, yes, but the end result is that our baby is not learning how to soothe herself to sleep. And I'm getting increasingly frazzled by nap routines that take huge chunks out of my day, making it hard for me to get anything done around the house, and bedtime routines that can last up to two hours.

So - time to change things. Today, for her afternoon nap, I gave her her bottle, cuddled her until she was sleepy, and then put her in her crib. Awake.

Miss Sofie did not like this at all. She protested. She thrashed. But I sat on the floor next to her, stuck my arm through the crib slats, and patted her until she fell asleep. And then I inched my way out of the room a little at a time, freezing each time she sensed movement and almost-but-not-quite woke up, and finally made my way to the reading chair at the other end of the upstairs.

She slept fitfully for the first ten or fifteen minutes - waking up to cry every few minutes - but the longest she cried before getting herself back to sleep was three and a half minutes, which meant I never reached my "I'll go back and pat her some more after five minutes of crying" limit.

And now? She's been fast asleep for over an hour.

And me? I've swept the floor. I've cleaned the playroom. I've put in some laundry. I ate a very small chocolate bar and had some diet coke. I've read a chapter in a book. And in my head, I'm spinning in a meadow like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. My baby is sleeping! Alone!


Naps first. If we can get this consistently in place as the nap routine, we'll start working on bedtime in a week or two. We're definitely not going to hard core Ferberize her, but I think we can put together pieces from a lot of different plans and methods and come up with something that's going to work a lot better for all of us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Separated at birth?

At least once a month, someone stops me when we're out at the grocery store or shopping somewhere else to tell me how much Sofie looks like Suri Cruise. What do you think?

And also? I wouldn't trade lives with Katie Holmes for anything, but oh man, I covet the shoes.

Photo from Celebrity Moms.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Running afoul

My running plans have taken on a few slight hitches lately. First and more seriously, I started developing a fairly bad case of shin splints about four weeks ago, right after I decided jump roping on the days I wasn't running was a swell idea. Swell it was not. The added impact ripped the bejeezus out of my shins and over the next two weeks they proceeded to get worse until I reached the point of lying awake at night throbbing in pain.

So I had to stop running for a little while, to let them heal, and I had to get some new shoes. I stopped running for almost two weeks, started back up today. And earlier this weekend, I went to Super Jock and Jill in Greenlake where the knowledgeable folks who work there made me run up and down a hill next to the store in about forty different pairs of shoes while they watched my gait. Intense, yes, but worth it. I walked out with a great pair of New Balance running shoes, big stable clown-like oddities, ugly as sin but specifically for pronaters and shin-destroyers like me, and am feeling much more hopeful.

The two week break in training? Wow, did that have an effect. I went out today and got exactly half as far as I used to before I wanted to stop. But I'm hoping that it'll all come back quick. And I'm not aching and miserable after today's run, so I think we're on the way to full shin recovery.

Second glitch is that the hubby bought plane tickets for us all to go to Hawaii. Except that we're returning the day AFTER the 5K. Which I realize smacks of "Oh, poor me, I have to go to HAWAII instead of trying to run a 5K. Oh WOE is me." But seriously, I'm a little disappointed that I don't get to do it. I was looking forward to having something formal and set to work towards.

Good news is I think I've found an alternate -- I'm going to do this one instead, on November 4th, in Kirkland. That gives me another eight weeks or so to increase my mileage.

Apologies to the at-least-two other people who signed up for the Pumpkin Push 5K because of me -- I'm sorry we won't be there! If it helps, signing up for the Kirkland one means I have to take my running shoes to Hawaii with me and get in at least a couple runs on vacation.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Daytrip to Portland

Yesterday, Sofie and I and our friend Jacki headed down to Portland for the day, via Amtrak. We had two objectives -- see the gallery show of my friend Elizabeth Brinton, and go to Powells to hunt for books.

And, secretly, I had another agenda point -- survive intact. This was potentially a very long day for Sofie; the morning train left King Street Station at 9:30 a.m. and the evening train pulled back into Seattle at 11 p.m. Once we got on that morning, we were COMMITTED, regardless of whether she ended up having a good day, bad day, or somewhere in between. Would this be fun? Would this be hell? Who knows.

The answer: it was excellent. Sofie may have just proven herself the most game little baby ever. She LOVED the train, and boy did it beat car travel. It couldn't have been roomier or more comfortable, especially on the way down, when we were on a Superliner with ultraroomy seats and tons of space for her to play on the floor at our feet. She stared out the window, mesmerized, for hours, played with her toys, read books, ate second breakfast and lunch, took turns laying across either one of us, and finally ended up napping for about an hour on the way there.

On the way home, she curled up and went to sleep right at her regular bedtime - about 8:15 - and slept like the dead for the next three hours. Even the older ladies in front of us who looked physically pained when they saw us settle in behind them with a potentially whiny baby complimented us on what a quiet girl she was.

(The only bad thing I'll say about the trip home is that it's remarkably difficult to hold a dead-weight, 22 lb, sleeping kid for three solid hours. I was ready for a professional massage when we got back. I had muscles go numb that I didn't know existed.)

Our day in Portland was really nice too! Sofie continued to be amiable and amenable to whatever we had planned, from our big sushi lunch to our stop at the gallery, which was gorgeous and inspiring. Alas, we didn't see Beth - I'd misunderstood that she'd only be at the gallery in the evening, and our tight train schedule wouldn't let us stay that long. But we browsed and enjoyed all the works on display, and I ended up buying a gorgeous, haunting little etching from one of their bins that I'm happily staring across the room at now. (I'll post a picture of it as soon as I figure out whether that's copyright infringement or not.)

Aside from that, we did stop in Powells, played on the swings in a cute little park in the middle of the Pearl District, shopped for picnic dinner items for the train home at Whole Foods, and otherwise just explored this one small section of Portland for the afternoon.

So - yay train travel! I'd do that again in a heartbeat. Nothing beats having room to spread out and move around, and being able to give your baby your full attention when she needs something instead of having to pull over, stop the car, and get in the back seat to attend to her. Perhaps we'll have to start a series of day trip adventures.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Happy birthday

Dear Sofie,

Today was your birthday! All week I’ve been making myself weepy about how the end of your first year was arriving, and how you wouldn’t be a baby anymore after today. But it was a really nice day and I wasn’t really sad at all. You’re still the same cuddly baby you were yesterday, and you’re also starting another really exciting period of your life – toddlerhood. By the end of this next year, you’ll be talking more, walking and running, feeding yourself, and who knows what else. I can’t imagine you changing that much.

Your Uncle Ira and Grandpa Art flew into town for your big day. You’d met Grandpa Art before but it’s the first time you met Uncle Ira. You really took a liking to him – you quickly decided that he was someone you could trust, and you let him hold and play with you and went so far as to curl up on his chest and take a nap one afternoon. This is a big deal for you, as you have separation anxiety about anyone other than Mommy holding you right now. But Uncle Ira knows how to talk and play with you and did a great job getting you to open up. It was great to see you like him so much.

Today we had a party for you with all of your baby friends – Molly and Hazel and Daniel from Gymboree, plus Jack and Ella from our PEPS group, and all of their parents. The neighbors came too, and Grandma and Grandpa Shult, and my best friend Erica, and your friend Christina, the waitress from Roxie’s diner who you’ve seen almost every week since you were born.

You were a little overwhelmed by the party – you cried when everyone sang Happy Birthday to you because you weren’t sure why everyone was staring at you so intently, and you couldn’t eat your cake until you sat on Mommy’s lap where it was safe, but then you ran your fingers through all that white frosting and mushed it all over your face just the way you’re supposed to. You liked the frosting part a lot better than the actual cake – you took a bite or two of the cake but then spit it out in disgust. I wondered where your Shult family sweet tooth was when you did that – maybe you didn’t get this trait from me. We Shults love chocolate.

Stop staring at me!

Much better

After a while a few of the people at the party left and things quieted down a bit, and then you had a better time. For the last half hour we all went outside and took turns giving you and your baby friends rides in your new red wagon. You all thought that was really great.

All day you clung to me and insisted on Mama taking care of you, and I didn’t mind one little bit, because I was feeling so sentimental. We took a morning nap all curled up in bed together, before your party, and when you woke up I told you about how you were born a year ago today and how much you changed our lives in ways we’d never imagined. The last year has been the most magical, wonderful year of my life, holding you and watching you grow. It’s gone by so fast that I’m half afraid I’ll wake up tomorrow and you’ll be graduating from high school. I’m sure it will feel like that.

You’ve been such a happy, goofy baby that every day of the last 365 has been a joy. It seems like you were born laughing and smiling. You talk pretty well too – as of your birthday, you’re saying “mama,” “daddy,” “papa” (for grandpa), “ball,” “cat,” “more,” “bye,” and sometimes “all done” and “cup” and “kitty.” Once in a while I think you say “Franklin,” for your moose or “cup” for water but I’m not sure. That’s a lot of words for someone your age! You also do a little sign language – you know the signs for milk, more, and food. You’re such a good talker, though, that I’m beginning to think sign language is a waste of your time. You’ll be saying most things before you learn the sign for them!

In the last month you’ve started singing – when we go out driving in the car you sit in the back seat and sing, very quietly and seriously, to yourself. Your little warbling voice is so beautiful to my ears! I get a huge smile on my face every time you do this. You love to go out in the world with mommy and are a great helper in the grocery store or just about anywhere else we go. Most of the time you’re terrific in restaurants, although you have your moments when you can’t keep it together. That’s okay – you’re allowed. But in general, you charm people everywhere we go.

“Mama” is your favorite word and you say it constantly all day long. You love your daddy too and light up when he comes into the room. You love your kitties and your grandma and grandpa across the street, your friends Molly and Hazel, bubbles and parachutes at Gymboree, Franklin the moose, the new ride-on bike you got for your birthday, the new puzzles Uncle Ira brought you, and your play house. You love your bed. You love dill pickles and green beans and apple slices and yogurt. You know that if you kick the tray of your high chair, any food that’s out of reach will bounce into hands’ grasp. That’s pretty smart.

New ride

You love to dance and listen to music. You love to hang upside down. You love to sit on Daddy’s shoulders, and to cuddle up with Mommy when you’re sleepy. You love to play peek-a-boo with blankets. You love to throw your toys behind the headboard of the bed and wait for me to pull them out again. You make jokes and crack yourself up constantly. You love to share and will hand toys to your friends that you were playing with yourself. You love young babies and will stroke their hair when they cry. You may be the funniest, sweetest, kindest baby who ever lived. I’m so, so, lucky to be your mom.

Happy birthday my one year old girl. I love you more than anything.

Love, Mommy.


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