A Marigold’s Tale

The subject of this week’s Spin Cycle is “Best and Worst.”

I can do that.

Okay, so you know Beloved’s we’ve gone off the deep end with our back yard gardening.  Not surprisingly, this has turned out to be a mixed blessing.

Best:  Sprouting our own seeds, replanting them in the back yard and knowing they’ll likely survive.

Worst:  The back yard garden has begun to take over our living room.

This has engendered some interesting conversations, though.

The G Man, as he hangs over the back of the love seat:  “What’s wrong with the lids on the plants?”

The Young One:  “It’s called ‘condensation.'”

Best:  Nurturing all of our plants, knowing they will eventually be blog fodder dinner.

Worst:  What – I need to water and weed AGAIN??

It should be noted that I am not the most trustworthy person to weed; I often cannot distinguish between the seedling of something I’m really going to want to eat later, and the weed I won’t.

Best:  Loving the Spring weather in Ohio even more.

It amazed me when I first moved here that you could practically just throw stuff in the ground and it would grow like gangbusters.  We had a beautiful ornamental garden in our back yard in Texas, but due to the searing heat 7 months of the year, we had to be very careful about what we planted, and tend it vigilantly.  Up here, we plant stuff, water it occasionally and that’s it – we have a gorgeous bed of impatiens in our front garden all summer long every year.

Worst:  Learning to HATE The Weather Channel.

The same Weather Channel that promised our over night low would be 38 F.  He Of The Green Thumb was out of town, leaving Hopelessly Inept Gardener on her own for the week.  Hopelessly Inept Gardener thought it would be safe to simply water the garden, rather than covering it, before retiring for the night.

You don’t know terror until you’ve left your husband’s precious garden uncovered all night, only to wake up at 5 a.m. and realize it’s 31 F degrees outside.

Best:  Having He Of The Green Thumb declare that the damage isn’t as bad as you thought; all of the cold/cool weather plants (lettuces, peas, collards, carrots, parsnips, beets) are fine and he shouldn’t have transplanted the peppers, squash, okra and tomatoes outside so soon.

Worst: The realization that the marigold your precious grandson started from a seed at preschool, and which was on the verge of blooming, was one of the items that had been transplanted outside too soon.

You have never seen two people search for a marigold at the local gardening centers quite as frantically as Meema and Papa.

the Marigold

Fortunately, three-year-olds have a limited grasp on the fact that marigolds don’t grow so large quite so quickly.

 

The Young One’s Strange Diet

I am incredibly busy this week, getting ready for graduation and out-of-town visitors, and filling out tons of paperwork to get this child into college in the fall.  (Is there anything more fun than wrangling with the intricacies of financial aid?  I didn’t think so.)  Here’s a guest post I wrote for the Paleo Parents in January; I never got around to posting it here and thought the subject matter would be appropriate, considering the circumstances.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a recipe.

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I am an old parent. Yes, I am. My eldest will be 30 in June, and my youngest is going off to college in the Fall, when I will enter the fabled land of The Empty Nest.

It apparently does exist, after all.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though. No, I’m here to tell you about the kid that’s going off to college soon; I call him “The Young One” on my blog. Three months premature, weighing a whopping 2 lbs. 4 oz., he was known among the staff at the hospital as “the miracle baby.” Born January 27, we took him home on March 17, just a little over six weeks later; there were babies in the NICU that had been born closer to term and weighed more who spent much, much longer there. And aside from surgeries to correct a hernia and strabismus in one eye, he never had the health problems many other preemies faced.

But there were developmental and behavioral issues – issues not fully resolved until he was in middle school. Knowing what I know now about diet, I think back to those days and am angry – angry with a society that tells us “foods” laden with chemical additives, dyes, industrial seed oils and HFCS are perfectly safe for growing little bodies and minds. Angry with myself for not knowing the difference; I can make all the excuses I want that the wealth of information available today simply wasn’t there nearly 20 years ago, but it does little to assuage the guilt.

Even if I’d known then what I know now it would have been a struggle. You see, The Young One is what is politely known as “a picky eater.” Naturally lean and wiry, it was a struggle to get him to eat anything beyond a few (very few) foods as a small child. For years, every meal was a battle, and every new food tried a triumph. Of course, as he’s matured that’s become easier, but there are still foods he simply will not eat – don’t even bother to put that zucchini or those collard greens on his plate, because they’ll just…sit there. The dog might eat them, but The Young One will not.

Surprisingly, he’s always been pretty good about meat; even as a small child I used to tell people that my son lived off of meat, cheese and chocolate chip cookies (even if he did eat them in frustratingly small amounts). If it flies or walks on four legs, that boy will eat it (alas, he’s not so fond of things that swim). So when we “went Paleo” it wasn’t really difficult to bring him along for the ride. In fact, it was downright easy once he got over the disappointment that there would be no more junk in the house. And he has thrived.

Flex

But there have been repercussions that I, for one, didn’t foresee. You’d think after five children I’d remember what social, herd-like animals teenagers are and realize he would receive some negative feedback about his new diet from his friends and classmates. No chips? No cookies? No soda? No ice cream, cupcakes, candies or even cereal, for crying out loud? Did he really like those carrot sticks, all that celery stuffed with nut butter? Grapes? Apples? Bananas? Raw milk cheese? Sandwiches on LETTUCE?? As far as his friends were concerned, that wasn’t lunch – it was some sort of dietary purgatory.

His very best friend was especially hard on The Young One, since the friend’s mother is still a member of The Low Fat Tribe (she is, in fact, their Queen). Her kitchen is filled with every low fat/fat free “food” and treat in existence, because fat – especially all that nasty saturated fat – is just going to clog up your arteries and kill you faster than you can say “Hollandaise sauce,” don’t you know. I don’t try to enforce our diet outside of home and school lunches (it wouldn’t work, anyway) and he often “indulges” when he spends time there…and comes home complaining of headaches, digestive issues and the nastiness that is turkey bacon.

We won’t even go into the complaints of this friend when he’s at our house, where there’s nary a Lean Pocket nor Snackwell cookie to be found, although I’ve yet to see him turn down the nuts, cheeses, seasonal fruits or “paleo-ized” goodies we always seem to have on hand. (This is also the same young man who, after having whole, non-homogenized, grass-fed milk at our home for the first time, asked me, “What have I been missing all these years?” I told him, “Real food.”)

The Young One handles it well, though, and some of the criticism has begun to wane, perhaps due in part to the fact he’s getting kinda ripped with next to no effort. But six-pack abs and bulging biceps aside, he’s never tried to pressure us to bring foods into the house we would not eat ourselves. For the most part he likes the way we eat now.

Barbecue sauce is about the only condiment he’ll eat, but that’s okay – it makes Barbecued Beef Liver one of his favorite dishes and it makes a great dipping sauce for another of his favorites: Crispy Fried Chicken Livers. When I sourced a goat for our freezer, he ate things like Moroccan Goat Stew with abandon (minus the butternut squash). Surprisingly, he enjoys spaghetti squash and dishes such as Venison Bolognese and Cincinnati-Style Chili have been huge hits with him. Heck, even his friends will eat things like Whole30-complaint Chili Dogs and Bacon-Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken Strips.

I still worry a little about him going off to college – the food options on campus aren’t exactly the best, although I secretly cheered when he expressed dismay and disbelief over the fact there’s a full-service Quaker Steak and Lube in the student center. And I wonder just how often he’ll be home to raid the refrigerator in the months to come.

Apple, Meet Tree

It might surprise you to learn that my kids are a bunch of, well, smart asses.

Then again…maybe not.

This week’s Spin Cycle is “Apple/Tree.”  I could carry on about how my kids are just like me (especially in the smart assery department) all damn day, but it’s all been pretty well documented here.  And here.  And here.  (And several other places that I don’t have time to hunt down.)

They’re all tremendous geeks, as well; something else they come by honestly.  I’m a huge fan George Takei and his internet memes and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  So when he posted this the other day, I just had to share it on my own Facebook wall:

Yesterday's Tribble

It didn’t take long for Oldest Son to comment.

“And now it looks as though they’re here to stay…until Scotty beams them over to the Klingon vessel.”

He and Darling Daughter are flying up to Ohio in June to watch their baby brother receive his high school diploma and so we can celebrate Oldest Son’s 30th birthday.  If I give them enough beer food, I may convince them to let me make a video of a family sing-a-long of Yellow Submarine while Darling Daughter accompanies us on the ukelele (trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds – have I mentioned that they’re all enormous hams, too?).

Our license plate reads “WEIRDOS”  for a reason, you know.

RTT: Sex and The College Boy

Oh, look – it’s Tuesday and I actually have some Random!  Yay!  You guys know the drill…

Stacy

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We were incredibly fortunate to be gifted with a deer for our freezer this year – this makes me especially happy because we decided not to get a goat again this fall.

We went to pick her up after she’d been processed and packaged this last Saturday, and while we were perusing the freezer cases at Whitefeather Meats we noticed they had some nice-sized domestic rabbits, already cut into pieces, for sale.  Our last two forays into cooking rabbit were quite successful, so I grabbed one and added it to our purchases.

It wasn’t until we were headed home that I realized we had both Bambi AND Thumper in the trunk of our car.

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‘Tis the Season, of course, and The G Man has informed us that what he wants most from Santa is a “hewicopter wif a ‘mote” and…batteries.

Yes, he asked for batteries, and at the rate he’s playing with all of the battery operated decorations on the tree and around the house we, at least, are going to need them by Christmas.

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As I’d noted earlier, The Young One has been accepted to Kent State University and we did the obligatory campus tour yesterday afternoon. He’s bound and determined to live on campus and I’ve resigned myself to letting him go, even though we live close enough for him to commute if he wanted to.  I have to say, it’s a nice school and I’m excited that he’s so excited about going there.  But they certainly seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time assuring me how safe the campus is.

I guess as long as they keep the National Guard away, I’ll be okay.

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Kent State is a big school; I’m a bit worried about the quality of the food available to The Young One while he’s there – at one point I thought I’d wandered into the food court of a shopping mall.  It seemed every kid we passed on our tour was sipping a Pepsi, and I was absolutely appalled when we were told there is a Quaker Steak and Lube in the student center.

Is it inappropriate to send him care packages of pastured eggs, raw milk cheeses and grass-fed ground beef?  I hear you can accomplish amazing things with a microwave if you know what you’re doing.

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One of the things we learned while touring the campus is that he can buy just about anything on campus (apparently as long as it’s a product of PepsiCo or ConAgra) with the exception of toiletries, which he’ll have to buy in town.  He was pondering that as we drove away, when we passed a CVS and Walgreens, right next to each other and right off the college grounds.

“Oh, look, hon,” I said, “You won’t even have to go all the way in town.  You can go right there if you run out of toothpaste or shampoo.”

He turned to me and grinned.  “Or condoms!”

Why…oh, why, did he have to say that.

RTT: Fame, Food and Anarchy

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Oh, look…I’ve got some Random today.

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I was pleasantly surprised last week when I received an email from someone at Huffington Post – not my favorite publication by any means, but when they tell me they’re doing a feature on recipes using apple cider in the Taste section and would like to make my Autumn Beef Stew part of the article, I think I can find it in me to like them just a little bit more than is normal.

The recipe is #19 in the list, but if you check the little box at the lower left-hand corner of the slideshow next to “sort by ranking” you’ll see it’s #1.

W00t.

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We have The G Man all week, and we’re both a wee bit frustrated with each other when it comes to breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner.  He’s frustrated because he can’t have peanut butter and jelly and chocolate milk for every meal, and I’m frustrated because he wants peanut butter and jelly and chocolate milk for every meal.

I can get him to eat part of a scrambled egg if I sneak it into a grilled cheese sandwich (he is surprisingly accepting of my choice of sprouted oat bread), but generally will only eat half of it.  So this morning I only made half a sandwich…of which he ate half.

We won’t even go into the fiasco of the Swedish meatball and broccoli dinner last night.

One of us is going to persevere, ahem, and I can only hope he will still love his Meema when Mommy comes back from her cruise on Sunday.

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He’s an amusing and surprisingly adroit little bugger, though.  One day when Jolly picked him up from the sitter, he had scribbled all over his arm with a marker.

“What’s on your arm?” she asked.

He looked at her like she’d lost her mind.

“My fingers, Mommy.”

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Since yesterday was a holiday here in the states, The Young One had the day off from school…but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a thing or three to say about it.

“Columbus Day?  That’s stupid – Columbus didn’t discover America, the Vikings did!”  (Yes, we too shall conveniently ignore the Native Americans for the time being.)

“So, what – you want ‘Erik the Red Day’ instead?”

He shrugged.  “Works for me.”

This coming from a kid whose friends have formed an Anarchists Club at school – if you show up for a meeting, you’re kicked out.

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Okay, I’m done.  Go forth, visit Stacy and behold more Random Tuesday Thoughts.