Monday, July 21, 2008

Brian's Farmers Market Sandwiches

Brian has made these sandwiches the past couple of Sunday nights, made almost completely with goodies we bought at the farmer's market that day. The measurements are approximate as we didn't really measure anything.
  • 1 small Italian purple eggplant, cut into 1/4-inches slices
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes, sliced and seeded (we've been using the "celebrity" variety from a farm in Paso Robles, which are firm and a bit tart)
  • 4 slices of bread (The first time we used the excellent honey whole wheat sandwich bread from the Great Harvest folks and they were good, but Acme Bread Company's levain is much sturdier and holds up to the grilling )
  • cheese (we used queso bravo last week, but I preferred the mild gouda we used last night, next week I want to try their edam)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • handful of chopped fresh herbs (we used mostly basil with a bit of oregano)
  • canola oil
  1. Brush the onion and eggplant with canola oil and grill until they are tender and have thick grill marks on them.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and herbs.
  3. Assemble the sandwiches, brushing the vegetables with the herb mixture.
  4. Grill the sandwiches until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty.

A year ago, today, a year from now

A year ago today I was surrounded by boxes in our new apartment, reading the new Harry Potter book while Brian unpacked and minded the baby. I felt slightly guilty, and kept reminding myself that he had been warned months in advance that he was on baby duty once that book arrived. Was it my fault that the book's release date happened to fall on the first Saturday after we moved in?

Today I rode my bike to a La Leche League group in the morning., ate lunch with Adriana out on the deck after we got home, and then put her down for her nap. We'll do the grocery shopping and a bit of planting this afternoon.

It's hard for me to wrap my mind around a year from now. What is life with a two-and-a-half-year-old like? Before I had a baby I could envision my life a year or two into the future without much difficulty, but now things change so quickly that it's hard to say.

Friday, July 11, 2008

18 months

For forty-five minutes once a week, things are fantastic. I mean, things are pretty good most of the time, but this month Adriana started a toddler gymnastics class, and for the forty-five minutes we are there, we are essentially in the proverbial padded room. She climbs and slides and bounces and balances, and if she falls she will land on something soft. It is still my instinct when I see her start to fall to reach out to catch her, of course, but the other day I just slowed her fall and let her tumble gentle from the structure she was climbing from to the mat. She rolled over, pushed herself to her feet, caught sight of a tunnel to crawl through, and headed off towards it. I felt a little funny signing her up for gymnastics. I mean, classes? At one and a half? And the last class we tried out didn't go so well. But at this age the class has no structure--it's just free play in a padded room, and the teacher will give individual instruction if we ask--and Adriana is clearly having fun. She runs in circles on the big trampoline, falling and picking herself back up, over and over again. She holds my hand and concentrates as she puts one foot carefully in front of the other on the balance beam. She does her funny, floppy somersaults uphill on the wedge-shaped mats. And she hides behind my legs and peeks out at Teacher Russ if he tries to talk to her (although at the end of class, when he gets out an ink pad to give each kid an animal stamp on their hand, she runs to him and holds out both arms for stamps).

Adriana is a pretty flexible kid when it comes to the schedule and pattern of our days, but I am discovering that she likes other things a certain way. Before she get in her high chair to eat, she likes to have her monkey, panda, and baby all lined up to watch her. If I don't close a drawer or cupboard in the kitchen completely, she'll run to close it for me, or, if she's trapped in her high chair, whine and point until I do it. When she catches me without my glasses on she'll sign for glasses and point to them until I put them on again. If water splashes on the floor while I'm doing dishes, she'll get a towel to wipe it up.

It's fun to notice the things she has figured out. These days she knows all about getting ready. If she joins me in the bathroom after I shower, she points to the deodorant and motions as though she is putting it on, then indicates the lotion bottle, knowing the routine. After I've dried her off after her bath, she spreads out the towel on the floor and lies down for me to put a diaper on her. Her grandma had gotten out a baby silverware set when we visited last week, and Adriana picked up the pusher and immediately pulled it along her cheek, since it looked to her like one of her daddy's razors.

She wants to do everything I do. If I am on the phone, she goes to get hers. When I get out the vacuum, she follows me around with her popper. When I fold laundry, she takes clothes and towels out of the basket and hands them to me, one by one. She follows me around and inspects all the plants that are at her level when I am watering them.

She has become a better eater, but it still surprises me when she eats an entire banana or gobbles up the potato salad I just put on her plate and then demands more. One of her favorite foods is strawberries, which she demands whenever she sees me slicing them up for my cereal. I am more than happy to feed them to her, because although she eats dinner every day and lunch most days, in the mornings she doesn't eat much. I suppose it's because she nurses as she wakes up, or because she is too busy watching Brian get ready for work and checking out all her toys (sometimes it seems as if she is surprised they are still there). This past week, though, she hasn't eaten nearly as much. Instead, she is nursing--often and for long periods of time. I keep blaming the heat, since I often don't want to each much in the 90-degree weather we've been having, even though that seems a bit weird, since warm milk and snuggling don't seem that appealing in the middle of a heat wave either. Whatever it is, it makes me hungry and thirsty to be nursing so much, even if it is hot, which is totally why I need so much ice cream and lemonade.

Signing is definitely Adriana's language of choice. She hasn't added any actual words in the last month, but she has over 50 signs now, and they seem...unconscious: one night when we were in Colorado, Brian and I both woke up and watched Adriana as she squirmed and cried between us, signing "ball" with her eyes closed. This morning as she woke up, she signed "toothbrush please," and then she nursed and fell back to sleep.

Everything seems so adorable. She walks on tiptoe and gives kisses to her reflection in the mirror (also high fives and terrorist fist jabs) and dances to Ozomatli and Dan Zanes and Melissa Ferrick. If you hold her hand and ask her to spin, she'll go around in circles, but if she doesn't have a hand to hold, she just twists her body and shakes her head from side to side.

I still struggle a bit with parenting a toddler, but things are improving and I am starting to love this age. I can tell because when I sit down and think about what to write this month, it's all about gymnastics and funny faces and cute little moments. We're still dealing with early onset two-ness and what to do about the hitting, but those aren't the first things that come to mind.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Season with a prayer and song (and some fresh herbs from my deck)

Today I am longing to buy a house. I go back and forth on this. We have some money saved for a down payment, but what we could buy with that amount in the area we have chosen to live is pretty ridiculous. And buying just sounds so terrifying--permanent and reeking of responsibility. But from time to time we (well, I) get the urge to buy , so we (okay, I) look at listings and scoff at the prices and decide that our apartment is just fine, and also it comes with maintenance staff.

The other day I started pulling up listings again, and this time I limited my search to single-family homes. I didn't want to look at condos, because my house lust this time was actually yard lust. Or, really, garden lust, because it's not as though I just want a place to set up a swingset for Adriana--I rather like going to the park. It's sort of funny if you actually know me. I mean, Brian gave me a plant shortly after we started dating. I promptly forgot to water it, and in promptly keeled over and died. Nine years later, I'm sitting here thinking that it would be great to grow a vegetable garden. And all because I've kept some herbs alive on my balcony for a couple of months.

I would love to grow some of my own vegetables. I want to plant chard and asparagus, tomatoes and eggplant. We go to the farmers market nearly every weekend and I can get perfectly beautiful produce there.* In fact, I declined an offer to share a CSA box with a friend because I like going to the market every week.** But the entire process of growing things in post on my balcony has been so much fun, from picking out the plants at the farmers market and nursery, to getting my hands dirty while I planted them, to watering them and checking their growth, to finally being able to use them. It's incredibly rewarding to go outside to trim some basil for a pesto, some oregano for a vegetable stew, or mint for mojitos, and now I am getting greedy and wanting to grow even more.

Maybe a rental house?

*My friend Adam told me I was "such a housewife" last week because I mentioned something about the eggplants starting to show up at the market. So I informed him that corn was coming in, too, but cherries and blueberries are on their way out.

**Although I admit that I am not very adventurous, and maybe the CSA box would help me branch out a bit.

Four items

1. Adriana does somersaults now. She get into a sort of down-dog position and then I either help her flip over, or she tries to do it herself. Every now and then she really does a proper somersault herself. The rest of the time she just falls over to the side. Whichever way it ends up working out, she giggles a lot.

2. Last night Adriana ate curry so hot it made her nose run. And when she ran out of curry she started dipping all her other food in the leftover sauce on the highchair tray.

3. Early this morning Adriana woke up crying and I pulled her into my bed with me. After she nursed she got up, crawled back into her own bed, and collapsed back into sleep.

4. Approximately 4,956 times each day I ask Adriana for a big smile. Because it makes her make this face:

Where somebody knows my name

I was excited to move back to California last year. I knew I would miss our life and our friends in DC, but California was home and I was glad to be going back. But as much as I thought of California as home, it has taken some time for Mountain View to become home. The home in California in my mind, my heart, was our little house in Santa Cruz, our friends' home in Berkeley, my dad's house in Martinez. It was all the places I used to go to and the things I used to do. Mountain View was...Mountain View. It was nicer than I expected it to be, but it wasn't what I knew. It's been nearly a year now, but at last it is happening, at last I feel at home. It's not that I'm any more settled into our apartment or that I've finally found a routine--those things happened ages ago. It was just one simple thing: at last month's Thursday Night Live, I ran into someone I knew.

It's funny how that has made such a difference to me, and how happy I have been since then to wave to people I know at the farmer's market or have a friend suddenly sit down beside me while I'm watching Adriana play somewhere. When we moved here, I knew exactly one person in the area. I joined a playgroup and La Leche League and attended yoga classes. All of those things were hard for me. I'm an introvert. I joke with Brian that the reason I keep friends so long is that I'm terrified (and too socially inept) to make new ones. And while that may not be the reason that I keep my old friends around, the fear is certainly real. But being lonely is worse. It's not as though I've forged a lot of close, personal friendships here. Those will come with time (would they come sooner if it weren't so easy to maintain older friendships in this world of cell phones and email?), but seeing a friendly face and stopping to chat at the grocery store or the mall or the farmer's market or the playground has made an important enough difference for now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nature walk: Red Rocks

Brian and I recently spent a few days in Colorado. His cousin was getting married in a little town four hours outside of Denver, and it seemed like a good idea to tack a couple of days onto the trip. We spent several days staying with Brian's grandfather outside of Denver and also got a chance to visit an old friend in Boulder.

I am a person who loves the water. I am enamored of the ocean in particular, but rivers and lakes are also fine. I tend to forget that there is also beauty and peace in other landscapes as well. But when I was in Colorado there was no denying the beauty: the scale of things in the Rockies put everything in perspective, especially as we drove west on I-70 to get to Meeker for the wedding, and the light is different--more pale and more intense, in a way I could not capture with my camera. I definitely want to go back to Colorado. I want to spend more time hiking high up in the mountains, and perhaps explore some areas on the western slope--the Glenwood Canyon area especially stood out to me.

The only hike we did on this trip was around the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is not far from Brian's grandpa. We chose the Trading Post Loop trail, which was described as a challenge 1.5-mile back country trail by the sign at the trailhead. We actually found the trail to be fairly easy, but since we had a four-hour drive ahead of us, it was probably for the best that we did something quick. And in that mile and a half, I did manage to take about 100 pictures, so in awe was I of the geology.