Tuesday, July 29, 2008


So I had this teeny-tiny meltdown last night...we had just come off a two-week marathon of visitors (my parents and my youngest brother and sister--age 17 and 19--remind me to write a post sometime about how scared I am of having three teenage boys in the not-so-distant future) followed immediately by two dear friends and their darling children, winding down with going to a party where I knew no one and hiking with another friend Monday.

So lets just say by last night I was tired, SOOOO tired, and I was feeling kind of discouraged about how much we cheated on the modified 100-mile diet while we had visitors and about how C keeps using the white flour, which is only supposed to be for bread, for other things and about how we are going on a 4-day camping trip next week and how I really just want to buy spaghetti sauce in a jar (horrors!) and brownie mix (shocking!) and not spend the entire week eating homemade granola that has nothing in it because nothing GROWS here.

Then I just happened to notice one of our totally gross, grungy, baked-on, caked-on, slightly singed potholders sitting on the counter and I lost it. "I quit!" I told C. "I quit the 100 mile diet and the buy nothing year!" I was ready to run out to the health food store and buy a pair of those lovely, luscious potholders made from handwoven fabric from Guatemala. I mean, really go crazy (the only thing that saved me from this horrifying breach is the fact that the health food store was already closed, and I was so, so tired). Instead I crawled into bed with a cup of tea (Sleepytime--not chamomile from my garden because the seeds never even sprouted!!)

As I looked at my book choices for the evening--a collection of short stories by returned Peace Corps Volunteers or "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway, I thought of something M said to me last week while I was giving him his bath. He was demonstrating to me how the could hold his breath under water while I counted out loud. I counted to seven. He said that he could have held it longer, but he was going for seven.

"Why didn't you try for 10?" I asked.

"I don't have to be this Master Kid, you know," he replied.

Ah-ha! Perspective. I spend so much time trying to be more creative, trying to lessen my impact on the earth, trying to cook fantastic meals, trying to do all of these things that are all worthy and good, but if they wear me down to the breaking point, something's amiss. I don't have to be this Master Human, you know. It's OK to buy spaghetti sauce in a jar once in a while, or a sliced loaf of bread, or to daydream about nice potholders. And it's OK to read something that will in no way better me as a person. So I took an old-fashioned suspense novel off the shelf (and by old-fashioned I mean vintage 1960s Mary Stewart) and settled in with my tea and my slightly eased conscience.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Second 100 Miles

Last summer, mostly just to see if we could (and also it’s good for the planet, your health, blah, blah, blah), we practiced a modified version of the Hundred-Mile Diet, and from July 1 through the end of September, attempting to eat only food grown/processed/produced in Maine. I had a lot of personal growth experiences that had to do with making peace with beets, finding and making peace with raw milk, and figuring out (duh) that back when people made their own butter and jam and bread and cheese, they did not also go sit in offices eight hours a day. I will probably devote a whole zine to our experiences some day.

In any case, we’re trying it again, chugging toward week 2. This year I’ve allowed some exemptions up front: coffee (b/c C would buy it anyway), necessary ingredients (e.g. vinegar for pickles, pectin for jam, yeast for bread, baking soda/powder, etc.), oil (because we ran out of both olive and safflower in the same week last summer and, unbelievably, it turns out not everything tastes good fried in butter), all-purpose (white) flour (because I am going to pick myself up off the can’t-bake-a-loaf-of-bread-to-save-my-life dust and try again) and lemons (because I don’t want to go a whole summer without lemons, dammit, plus a lot of vegetables just taste good with a little lemon juice).

I was going to start after my family left mid-July, but since their trip got delayed I decided to plunge in and start July 1 again, almost as unprepared as last time (last year we returned from a three-week vacation June 30 and started the diet the next day). And somehow I’m not managing to muster a lot of enthusiasm this year. The first week we mostly subsisted on what was left in the house and a whole mess of strawberries from our recent pickings, but by yesterday I was feeling a lot like I did during the first mile of my long bike ride—ready to turn around and go home. I was hungry (we were out of bread, eggs, fruit and our garden is in a lull between spring greens and everything else), tired, hot, cranky and my kids were downright mad that all we have is granola and not Shredded Spoonfuls or Shredded Oats or Puffins on offer in the mornings (they make up for it with bowls of Frosted Flakes at daycare—oi!) I was feeling like I was making my family suffer just so everyone else can go on living their gluttonous lifestyles.

I went to the bakery for bread (really I’m going to learn how to bake bread this summer!), but they only had one loaf of white. Instead I bought myself a croissant sandwich with tapenade and a chocolate no-bake cookie (major cheat…but like I said, our cupboard was bare) and went to the local health food store where I picked up bread and a few acceptable exceptions (flour, lemons, yogurt starter). I picked up milk and maple syrup from the milk farm and eggs from the egg farm on the way home and I felt better when I got there and C had made pizza (with the last of the mozzarella—until the farm makes more, or until I try my hand at cheese). This morning I decided to make some milk that had gone a bit off into yogurt and kefir, I put it on to heat up, left the room and came back to find it had come to a boil and separated into curds—perfect paneer without even trying! During my lunch break today I went out into the sticky, hazy, ozone-y, particle-y, mid-Atlantic-style weather and drove to the farmer’s market. There I purchased tomatoes (already!), new potatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers, zucchini (this summer’s personal growth project, other than the bread-baking: make peace with squash), kale and cinnamon rolls.

There in that hot parking lot I crossed the first road, the pedaling became easier, I started listening to the birds…I think I’m enjoying the ride, and I can’t wait to eat!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Boob Toob

This is the scene I walked into last night, coming home from work a little bit late because of printer issues [and on the way homeI stopped at the farm up the road for honey to make strawberry jam, and because we love honey, and the farmer and I chit-chatted a while about this and that, which is why it's nicer to buy honey (and milk and eggs and veggies) right at a farm and not at the Hannaford]: TV upside down on the floor, DVD player, rabbit ears, new digital converter box (purchased by C, because we had one of those FCC coupon things--which doesn't appear to work very well...) various DVDs watched over the last week on the floor, in addition to the usual household chaos (i.e. every toy, couch cushion, blanket and recently-worn article of clothing also on the floor) and four shell-shocked boys. The funny thing is, our house is such a mess that I didn't even NOTICE the TV until someone pointed it out--I was focused on the drawers of the TV stand lying on the floor, their contents (several dozen decks of cards and children's games) spewed all over.

Allegedly, the twins wrapped my yoga strap around one of the drawer pulls and pulled the whole thing--cabinet, electronics, everything over. Fortunately neither of them was hurt. (I would have taken a picture of the whole mess, but C started cleaning it up before I had a chance, and I would never have gotten it downloaded onto our computer, stored on my memory stick and transported to an undisclosed location with high-speed Internet by today--how do those bloggers do it?) E and Z clearly had just stopped crying (I think I could hear at least one of them when I drove in), M started crying when I asked if it made a loud noise and scared him, and C was clearly very, very annoyed.

We sat down to dinner, mess still in place. Z bounced around eating fresh pea pods from the garden, but nothing else, M kept asking if the TV was going to still work and I, because I absorb other people's emotions into my body (make that, I absorb other people's negative emotions) and try to suppress stress with food, devoured four plates of C's home-made pasta with greens from our garden and cannellini beans and lots and lots of garlic and Pecarino Romano.

As I stuffed myself, I contemplated what my reaction to a broken TV would be. First, I would be worried that the 10 pounds or so of lead and other toxic contaminants inside of the TV would have spread into our house (since the outside box and glass of the TV did not appear to be breached, I wasn't too worried). I briefly tried to relish the idea of a TV-free summer. I thought we'd have to cancel our Netflix subscription, until I remembered the laptop. I would miss my Sunday nights with Masterpiece Theater. The thing is, I would really, really miss being able to sit my kids down in front of the TV.

This sounds a lot worse than it is--we really watch very little TV in our house. We rarely turn it on between Monday and Friday. C and I watch our two Netflix a month on Friday nights, E and Z occasionally turn on PBS the mornings we're home, M tries to watch Sesame Street on Sunday mornings and watches a Superfriends episode or a movie on DVD once a week give or take. Sometimes we all get ready for bed early and put on the Muppets. This is not meant to criticize people who watch a lot of TV--we just don't have the time, and I'd rather throw the kids outside...but sometimes, sometimes, I just need these kids to sit down and turn on their meditative brainwaves (really I read that in a book!) and give myself a break.

So we all sighed a bit of relief when C set the TV back on the cabinet, plugged all the bits and pieces back together, plugged it in and...tada...it worked!

New GEMINI on its way...

Inside Issue #8
My creative balancing act
Slipping on the ice...and getting back up
Memorial Day madness
Help Wanted
Meet the Gemini family
and More!!

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