Sunday, September 18, 2011

Birth Soup

When I went into labour with my first child, my mother-in-law busied herself in the kitchen chopping potatoes and beets to make a pot of soup. Soon the sweet smell of borsch permeated the house and accompanied me through contractions. The brilliant red broth nourished all of us, spoonfed to the tired mama in the birthpool, steaming bowls served to Lonny and the midwife through many hours of birthing.

Three years later, as soon as I knew that my second baby would be joining us, Grandma brought out the large soup pot and began to make our birth soup, this time with the assistance of Maia who happily peeled carrots by her side. The sweet smell filled the house, and a little brother was born a few hours later. After a bowl of borsch eaten while snuggled up in our big bed, Lonny and I fell asleep, a new life amongst us.

Today there is a pot of birth soup simmering on the stovetop. Kieran is peeling potatoes by my side. No contractions today, it's my turn to cook and I'm making a double batch for a mother in my parenting group who gave birth to triplets. Triplets. Oh my. I can't imagine how overwhelming welcoming three babes must be, with two older ones to look after as well. I would have tripled the batch but my soup pot isn't large enough! Today we're making a vegetarian version, following the recipe from one of my favourite cook books, Taste This by Birgitta Hellman, a gift from Grandpa Steve. I am omitting the cabbage and only using half the onions for the nursing mama.

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend. Here's to babies, good food, and traditions!



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Little Green Steps

No more disposable cotton balls or pads for us anymore! Got these yesterday, and they are so soft. Kinder on my eyelids than cotton makeup remover pads, in fact. And love that they come with a little bag for washing. And really happy that everything was sent to me without any plastic packaging.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Stroll along the beach in La Tranche

Summer has arived in Seattle! And we feel very spoiled because although our friends and family here in the Pacific North West had to wait until the end of July for this to happen, we escaped to France at the end of June, where it already felt like August. So it's pretty much been 5 weeks of gorgeous sunshine for us so far, with a few sprinkles of rain here and there, and it's been divine. And for the first time in years, I have a tan! Despite sunblock and sunhats and always seeking out shade, we haven't escaped getting sun-kissed and freckled. And here I was convinced that Titanium white with a slight tinge of blue was my only possible colouring.

And France was, well, French. Warm summer days filled with friends and family, fabulous food and gorgeous light, old stones and siestas. It was still definitely home too, the family house and small village a huge anchor in a world full of change. I loved seeing familiar faces, visiting with old friends, introducing our little ones to my old preschool teacher...I miss it already.

And after a week in Montaigut, we drove our little VW rental car West to the beach, where the smell of pine trees and my grandparents' little white house welcomed us. This was our first time bringing the children there, and it was very moving to step into the house with the third generation of little ones. It really doesn't seem all that long ago that I sat at the dining table, eating breakfast with my meme and pepe.

The children are so happy to be home though, and our little 50's house certainly felt like home as we stepped through the door, with our four-legged family members awaiting us, the garden gone wild, and the phone blinking with messages from our dear friends and family here anxious to see us again. And I shouldn't say our little house! After 3 weeks in France, this house is HUGE. The washing machine is huge. Our car is huge. The bed is huge. And the fridge, well, it's bigger than huge. Don't get me started on the television!

Well the sun is out, which means one thing: I have to get off this machine and outside. Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!



Visit with my mother's Godmother, Jacqueline.

Une promenade en famille.

The local market.

Seeking shade in the heat of the day.

Our bedroom window.

Hanging out with Uncle Tristan.

Babette's salade Nicoise.

Blue sky above La Colombelle.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

:: A story written and illustrated by Miss Maia while at school ::

I am finally coming out of hibernation. After weeks of hobbling around with a cane like an arthritic centenarian, I can now finally walk somewhat normally. If you've never had a back injury, let me tell you this: never take your back for granted!! Trust me, it's kind of essential. Not being able to walk or put your own socks on sucks. Big time. What happened to me? Well, after two pregnancies, lots of baby holding, and doing silly things like ripping up bathroom floors and attempting new yoga moves all in the same day, my back gave out. Big time. MRI shows three slipped discs and one severely pinched nerve. I could have told the radiologist about the latter. Made childbirth seem like a walk in the park.

This injury was certainly a good, albeit painful reminder not to take anything for granted. It has made me appreciate my slow but steady return to health, and just how lovely it is to be able to care for my family again. The floors are covered in dust bunnies and toys, but that hardly seems important when I can now manage to cook dinner, join the family for walks around the neighbourhood, and put my own socks on again.

And the sunshine is out. It's flirting with us, in true Seattle style, but hey, I'll take that over battleship grey. The kids are outside getting covered in dirt, driving their trucks over two sunbathing greyhounds. All sorts of things are growing and the garden is full of freshness and bright greens and colour again. Life is good. I hope everyone is having a good day and is able to take a moment to appreciate all that you have and all that your beautiful body allows you to do!



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My plastic-free shop

I posted a while back about going plastic-free, and my goal for this year is to have as little plastic in our kitchen as possible. Went shopping today at Top Foods armed with my roll of waxed paper, cotton mesh produce bags, and regular cotton drawstring bags. I was curious to see how many items on my shopping list would be available without plastic packaging. Some stuff was easy, other stuff not so much. Amazing how much is packaged in plastic. Even those cardboard boxes that look like they're eco-friendly are hiding a plastic sleeve/pouch inside to hold the contents.

Anyway, I did get some rolled oats from the bulk section in the natural food section, used my Simple Ecology bag and avoided the little twist tie thingie by writing the code on my hand.

I was happy to discover that Top has a bread section with unpackaged loaves, I was able to stick one of these in my cotton bag and put that in the freezer once we got home. Pillowcases would do the trick too!

The woman at the meat department was friendly and when I specified no plastic she wrapped the chicken breasts in what looked like brown paper...unfortunately it is lined with plastic so I'll have to ask her to use my wax paper roll next time.

The deli woman seemed amused and slightly annoyed by my request, but she did wrap the sandwich meat in paper (not plastic-lined, yay!). When I asked about unpackaged cheese and could I please get a chunk in paper, she didn't seem to understand. Looks like they have pre-sliced cheese available...but plastic wrapped. I think I'll have better luck at Whole Foods where they have a proper cheese counter and I can hopefully get something that isn't already packaged.

Produce was easy, although certain items use plastic bands and plastic tags. And beets are messy! I will simply have to designate one of my synthetic Envirosax bags for those.

And last but not least, the cashier was actually excited about my cotton bags! She liked the fact that the Simple Ecology ones have a tag with their weight to deduct.

All in all the shop went well. I look forward to the Farmer's Markets this Spring, and possibly doing a CSA this year. In the meantime, I'll be known as the crazy plastic-free lady at the local grocery stores. Just wait until I go entirely paper-free and come in with my glass jars! Here comes the crazy jar lady!

Monday, November 22, 2010

yes please

The family room. This is the room we spend most of our time in. The floors are cold, to put it mildly, and, well, ugly. Unless you like stained lime green vinyl. And chilblains. DesignSponge is hosting a giveaway, the winner will receive a beautiful, ethically made, 100 % wool Bev Hisey dhuri rug. And I wouldn't mind winning it, which is why I'm unabashedly posting this here pic of our lovely floor in the hope that it will soon be covered in something my little ones can play trains on without catching their death, and that I can actually look at without my artsy eyes having a conniption fit. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 13, 2010

recipe box

Our neighbours two doors down sold their home, downsizing to a more manageable place. They are original owners, their house was built, like ours, in the late fifties, and it will be sad to see the moving truck arrive this Wednesday. After going to their open house a few months ago, I finally mustered up the courage to ask if they would ever consider selling me their mid-century, Danish-looking which they replied: "What, those old things?". I am now refinishing them. Stripping is just not as much fun as I thought it would be! But they will look terrific in our living room once they are all sanded down, oiled, and sporting freshly covered cream cushions.

This afternoon there was a knock on our door. I found the retired engineer holding a box for me, things they no longer need from their kitchen. Many spices, some of which are vintage (I'm not joking), a set of cheery Christmas mugs, and last but not least, a small wooden box. A treasure. With fifty years' worth of recipes. To be honest, had he dropped off a box of his wife's knickers, I would have felt less uncomfortable. There is something incredibly odd and personal about looking through a woman's recipe collection that spans more than half a century. I know some families whose recipes are top secret, often taken to the grave. I feel like I'm snooping. These are mostly desserts, some are recent, many are cutouts from magazines and newspapers. It is obvious which were her favourites, tattered, corrected, splattered. And then there are recipe cards from friends. And I wonder, are these women still alive? Were they close friends? There are a few from Grampa. There is Mom's Favorite Tuna Casserole. And then there's the small stack of yellowed cards held together by a defunct elastic band, written with a fountain pen in a rather elegant hand. Some of the words are smudged, as though they have been rained on. Cried on? Were these given to her when she married? From her mother? Grandmother? How long have these recipes been in the family? And why me?? I see children and grandchildren visiting the house, helping with the upcoming move. I assume this box was seen and unclaimed, set aside with the other unwanted items. Perhaps none of them cook. Perhaps it is too much a reminder of their mother's decline into Alzheimers, her inability to decipher the once familiar words.

One day, hopefully, I'll get over the feeling that I am snooping, and I will have to give these a try. I've always wanted to make my own Buche de Noel, and Grampa's Stolle looks good, judging from the rather beat up recipe card.