Wednesday, July 28, 2010


In the midst of all this crazy limited-diet business I've gotten to thinking about the types of food we eat as a family, and have been considering ways to improve on all of it. From a nutrition standpoint, we are pretty balanced eaters, and we have the good genes and youth that make the occasional package of Oreos (consumed by two people in two days) not matter a whole lot. Like most people I know I'm starting to buy organic foods when I have the option, and trying to fit more fruit and vegetables of all kinds into our meals.

But my month of reading EVERY ingredient on food labels has had me thinking that packaged, processed food needs to find its way out of our kitchen. My best example of this is bread. It is difficult to find a loaf of bread in the grocery store that does not contain milk ingredients. It is impossible to find one that does not contain soy. Most basic bread recipes in my baking book do not contain either (or can be easily modified, in the case of milk products). So I have revisited the homely task of bread baking.

Making bread from scratch is, for me, a bit like knitting - I always think it's going to be much more fun than it turns out to be when I'm actually in the middle of it. In my tiny kitchen in my tiny free time making bread is one big sticky, floury, hasty mess. And I am not usually a sticky, messy, hasty person, so this bothers me.

About two weeks ago I made a sourdough starter. (I should include the recipe, but I simply don't have the energy for that tonight). This actually worked quite nicely. I left the yeasty mix on top of the dryer for over a week, and sure enough, it fermented and smells like beer. I used some of the starter to make a basic sourdough bread yesterday. This is where the messy part came in. No amount of flour made the dough workable in this humidity, and after letting it rise I didn't have the enthusiasm to knead it again so I just plopped it (in what was supposed to be two rounds) on a baking sheet and tossed it in the oven, and, well...

But it actually tasted great! Despite almost giving up on it, this was probably the best loaf (loaves?) of bread I have ever made. Go figure.

So maybe my dream of baking all my own bread still stands a chance. Perhaps a bread machine would be a nice compromise? I'm still thinking it out. Consider this the first installment of The Rudy Family Goes Natural...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Today's Numbers

2 months old, my sweet William

11 lbs, 12 oz at today's doctor visit

6 trips from one end of the clinic to the other

4 people required to successfully draw a blood sample from my poor son

8 diseases vaccinated for and 0.6 mL of tylenol administered

7 days of being totally and completely dairy-, soy-, and egg-free

48 hours to process a referral to see a pediatric GI specialist

2 on a scale of 1-10 of how "worried" I am about my boy, despite

65% of my free time spent educating myself on dietary protein-induced proctocolitis

10 minutes spent sewing

100 more minutes I wish I spent sewing

3.5 height in inches of the stack of stuff in my "inbox"

102 degrees in the parking lot at 11:30 this morning

12 times (at least) that Amy and Don acted out the troll scene from The Hobbit

2.2 times singing "Winnie the Pooh" before Amy fell fast asleep tonight

78 minutes, length of the movie, Taking Chance, which sat next to the TV for

42 days before we got around to watching it, making the cost of this one rental from Netflix roughly

8 dollars (totally worth it, by the way)

10 minutes until I should be in bed

5 things on the list for a trip to Target (or Walmart?) tomorrow

38 hours until I see my brother and sister-in-law, which will make

3 separate sets of visitors we have had in

1 really, really busy week

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New (Old) Dresser

After shuffling the bedrooms I was pleased to have enough room to fit a real dresser for little D's clothes and baby paraphernalia, but not sure where I was going to find one that didn't blow our budget. On a whim I went to the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, not really expecting to find anything, but - I did!

Now, I have generally been a bit of a snob when it comes to other people's stuff. I like new, even if it is cheap new. But since we are trying VERY hard to stay on track financially, and I am spending a lot of time thinking through our general consumption habits (a large subject for another day), I decided that I need to start getting over my aversion to hand-me-downs. (Actually, I suppose this chair was really my first step.)

Anyway, I spotted this dresser just as I was about to leave empty-handed. It was exactly the size I was looking for, in good shape structurally, and pretty clean on the inside. The price was $15, and that included a butt-ugly headboard and mirror. I asked to pay full price for just the dresser, and in a matter of moments one of the volunteers was loading it in the back of my car (my one regret - scuffing up the interior of our nice new Subaru - boo).

This piece weighs about 600 pounds, without the drawers. It is just a standard particle-board, laminate number, but the drawers are on real runners, and I really liked the oval detail on the top drawer and the wainscoting along the top.

So, much to my own amazement, I actually started work on it that afternoon - and didn't even write it on a list! I peeled off the paper laminate on top, removed all the hardware, gave it a good scrub inside and out, sanded and primed. The next morning we went to Lowe's for new drawer pulls and white paint. It took about 3 coats to cover up all the blemishes, and I was able to sneak in painting sessions throughout the weekend. A second trip to Lowe's was required to get longer screws for the hardware, and I realized a bit too late that the pulls I selected are actually not the right spacing for the existing holes, but they are holding on very tightly with just one screw, so it's good enough for me. Just don't tell.

After feline help... and Amy help... and Don's help hauling it upstairs... ta da!

I'm so pleased with how it turned out, pleased that the whole project totalled less than $50, and even more pleased that it's not still sitting in the garage. Now I just need something to hang on the wall above...

Oh, and look closely and you'll see the only accessories currently on top of the dresser are a couple of specimen cups and biohazard transport bags - that would my mommy homework, collecting poor little D's, ehem, poop, so that we can pin down his apparent protein allergy. Not exactly fun, but all in a day's work. He remains happy and good as ever, it's only his poor mommy who is rather hungry, trying to avoid eating all the things that might be irritating his little intestines. More on that another time. No worries though, all is well here!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Homeless Quilts Find Walls

This all started with me staring at the ceiling on Friday night when I should have been sleeping. It continued with me making Don nervous by pacing around our bedroom with a tape measure on Saturday morning. It ended (for now) with freshened up bedrooms, really well-vacuumed carpets, and homes for two of my own handmade quilts.

A bit of background: Our house has only two bedrooms, and while we had the option to move to a three-bedroom house before little D was born (one of the perks of military housing), we decided that we wanted to stay put. Our plan was to have both kids share a room once D was 3 months old or so and sleeping reasonably well at night. After switching Amy to her big girl bed we kept the crib in her room, and it really fit quite nicely. I still like the idea of having both kids in the same room, but in practice I found the problem to be not bedtime but naptime - if Amy wanted to play in her room while D was attempting a nap it just didn't work out well.

So I thought that perhaps, by rearranging our bedroom a bit, we could make room for the full-size crib (instead of just the pack and play) and keep D with us for now.

Here's how our bedroom was set up before:

And here is how it looks after:

I realize I'm not scoring any decorator points by lining up our bookshelves and dressers and having everything slightly bunched up on either side of the bed, but there is plenty of room to walk, and plenty of space around the crib. I'm planning on getting rid of those plastic bins once I finish painting a dresser for the boy (will share about that in another post).

Oh, and the quilts - the pinwheel quilt is the second quilt I ever made and while it doesn't really match the quilt on our bed at all, I think it adds a lot of interest to what was otherwise a very blank wall. Hey, nothing in our bedroom matches anyway. And on the very blank wall in Amy's room where the crib used to be, I tacked up my most recently completed blue and yellow quilt!

We've lived in this house much longer than we've lived in any other house, and barring any big changes we'll be here for almost two more years, so I'm finding it necessary to switch things around a bit to keep it seeming fresh. It's also useful to keep evaluating our stuff and make sure we are making the best use of our space as our family grows. There always seems to be room for improvement!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden Tour

While going through pictures the other night I realized I had taken hardly any outdoor/garden pictures so far this year. The boy has definitely been hogging all the camera time, but also I haven't been quite as wowed by our garden as I was last year. Most things have been doing reasonably well, but it has been H-O-T here, and extremely dry, and we've had some pest problems, so in general our backyard isn't quite as tropical and lush as it was last year. Anyway, I went out there with my camera this evening and here's the rundown:

We had cannas in every corner of the yard last summer, but after a very cold and snowy winter, only the ones up against the house made it. Just as well, because we wanted to reclaim some area for other plants. These here are undoubtedly overcrowded, and shorter growth and fewer blooms seem to be the result.

Once again, the "volunteer" sunflowers (from dropped bird seed) have grown much better than the sunflower seeds I purchased. These in the corner aren't as big as last June's roof-scrapers, but some have multiple flowers and are quite pretty. As soon as they are done I want to pull out this garden and all its weedy growth and return it to the lawn - the corner location makes it too hard to tend. Also in this photo: petunias that are suffering from the heat and my failure to dead-head, and geraniums that had to be moved off the fence, also because of the direct sun and extreme heat. They are doing better now with a little shade.

The blooms are spent now, but our astilbes bloomed this year, and they were gorgeous. At the far end of this shot is half our vegetable garden. The other half is in the raised bed that Don built back in March. We started off with zucchini, green beans, and carrots there. The carrots are still growing, the green beans are pretty much done (but we did have enough for several dinners), but the zucchini plant got demolished by... something... Don reported it suddenly and completely wilted while the kids and I were away. We did get one big zucchini before it bit the dust, and I made zucchini bread this week.

Anyway, in the veggie garden shown above we have tomatoes that are doing well despite some mysterious wilt early in the season, and a ravaging by four huge tomato hornworms a few weeks ago. Some green peppers are coming along, as is the basil (I've already made pesto). Glads are in the corner but they don't seem terribly enthusiastic.

The 2010 Most Enthusiastic Flower award goes to this Mum. I planted a bunch of mums in front of our first house in Rhode Island - when we moved across the neighborhood there I dug up this mum and a little rose plant and they lived in pots for the next three years, even surviving the trip to Maryland. This spring I thought I'd clear up some clutter by putting them both in one big planter, not expecting much from either. But this mum completely exploded in its new digs! The poor rose has been completely taken over, and I now feel a bit foolish for combining the two. Also tried a few freesia bulbs in the front of this planter - one bloomed, but they, too, were completely taken over by the mum.

Stayed tuned for an interior tour in an upcoming post - we've made some big changes!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dinner Guest

Don was at work through dinnertime today but Amy found a friend to invite to dinner instead. "Balloony" is the bright red mylar balloon that we picked up at the grocery store, and yes, he was our dinner guest.

We went to the store at 4:30 in the afternoon, something I hardly ever do. I didn't even bring a list. Whoa. We needed just a few things but took our time going through the aisles because the store was quiet, little D was sleeping, and it was just nice to be out of the house for a bit. As she always does, Amy spotted the balloons on display throughout the produce section, and since I was feeling generous I let her bring one home.

Totally worth the $3.48, since this balloon was her "best friend" for the rest of the day. In one hour's time this balloon danced with Amy, played hide-and-seek, got a checkup, rang the doorbell, was sad (Amy even worked up real tears on Balloony's behalf), and of course, joined us for dinner. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

She and I are very different people, I am learning. While I am coaching her through a jigsaw puzzle and trying to explain about edge pieces, she is telling me a story about the people who live in the little house in the puzzle picture. When we get out crayons I am coloring neatly in the lines in her coloring book while she pretends that each crayon is a different family member and has them talking to each other. She is amazing, and her imagination completely delights me, but keeping up with her leaves me a wee bit exhausted by the end of the day.

But now Don is home and is upstairs reading stories to Amy, and I have got my little D, my sweet William, next to me. I get the sense that he might be my kindred spirit child, and for now we are enjoying some peace and quiet together.