29 June 2010

many milestones

cosmo is riding a two wheeler. now, with pedals! two days ago, he sat on the bike he got for his fourth birthday (back in november, thanks nani and papa!), to find out if his feet touch the ground yet. they did. then we went out to try to ride.

and he rode.
just like that.

okay, so...there was cotton candy involved, but he picked it up so fast, it blew my mind. he was riding, and i was actually stopping him, out of...well...fear. my own fear, that is. he loved it! he kept saying, "let go, mom, let go now." it made him giddy, the way learning to read made him giddy. the next night, we tried again, and it was as though he had been riding his whole life. in a way, he has. for nearly half of his life, anyway. he got a balance bike when he was two and a half, and became proficient on it rather quickly. it rides so much like a regular two wheeler, the jump to a pedal bike is pretty smooth. plus, he has been riding behind my bike, or carl's bike, on the trail-a-bike since early spring. that has pedals, but we do the balancing. the balancing and the pedaling all fell into place this week, and he got it.

yesterday, we walked our bikes (and rode a little) several blocks to the b-line trail, and then rode the trail all the way up to city hall. the trail is so relaxing, with no traffic to worry about. today, we loaded up all of our bikes, and headed out to the clear creek trail. there we rode for nearly 5 miles total, on a lovely paved trail that follows the creek. the temperatures were in the seventies, with low humidity...absolutely perfect. he's getting really good at using his hand brake, and getting out of the way when others approach. it's wonderful.

he's also making great strides in swim class. he floated on his back for the first time, on his own, with the help of a life jacket (rather than the swim teacher)

and, cosmo and justin figured out vision, a complicated room escape, computer game that they've been working on for quite a while. it was a delight to hear him tell the story of their accomplishment, in elaborate detail.

i also took him to his very first movie-in-a-theatre (not counting the cry-baby-matinee in houston, when he was 2 or 3 months old). we saw toy story 3. it was a great way to spend two hours, in the heat of the day last week, and he really enjoyed it.

in other milestone news, cosmo read pond, by lizi boyd, to carl and i, at bedtime. it is an extremely simple board book, with only a few words on each page, and reads like a poem. cosmo has read much more difficult texts, but it was particularly moving to me, because it is one of three books that we read to cosmo each and every night when he was a baby/toddler--when we were establishing bedtime rituals. carl and i pretty much have it memorized, and it holds a special place in our hearts. to hear his sweet little four-year-old voice reading those familiar words was heartbreakingly precious.

25 June 2010

it's a jungle out there

i never realized that gardening involved so much cutting up of old t-shirts. i feel like that is all i have been doing for days now. my tomato-super-structure, crafted from bamboo, twine and various other pieces of junk i scrounged up from the yard, has turned out to be inadequate for this tomato jungle. when i first planted those frail little seedlings, nurtured under the grow lamp in the basement, the structure seemed like overkill. now, dwarfed by the towering green vines, laden with blossoms and green tomatoes, it seems i grossly underestimated.

i learned, through research for my gardening internship, that there are two types of tomato plants, requiring two different staking methods. the determinates do best in cages, the indeterminates need some sort of trellising, and also require some extensive pruning. sadly, i did a piss-poor job of labeling my plants, so i don't know which is which, and in any case, they all get the same sort of trellis/staking method, cuz that's what i had on hand. however, i have been attempting to prune. i have not done a ruthless, dramatic pruning of anything, but i have done some, especially the nipping of the little suckers (that's what they're called--seriously! it's a technical term) between branches. but it is clearly not enough.

i am forever tying up the branches, so they don't snap off from the weight of all those yummy tomatoes, but i have quickly run out of things to tie them to, and i have cut up all the old t-shirts i can find. pantyhose are what everyone recommends, but i don't have any of those (big surprise, there), and t-shirts are almost as soft, and nearly as stretchy. but, the cutting into strips of old t-shirts is time consuming.

this may look like a lot of strips of cloth, but i seriously burn through a pile like that in about 2 minutes. at this point, i think it's safe to say i have given up. i'm just gonna have to let nature take it's course. if a branch is unsupported, and breaks off, so be it.

i have also picked off four GIANT tomato worms, which are as interesting to look at as they are destructive of tomato plants. as a child i had one as a pet. his name was tommy. i took three of the ones i found to show to the kids in the banneker youth garden club, and they went nuts over them. i could have spent the entire lesson on that. they were completely captivated.

in other garden pest news, i made the mistake of looking up squash diseases online. whew! there are an astonishing array of things that can go wrong when one attempts to raise cucurbits of any sort. bacteria, fungi, downy mildew, vine borer, various beetles--the list goes on and on. when i went out to inspect my plants, armed with all that new information, i identified at least four different diseases/pests attacking my little pumpkin patch at the base of the three sisters garden.

a bit overwhelming, to say the least. it is amazing to me that any organic gardener ever manages to harvest a single pumpkin. i scraped off some obvious squash bug eggs, killed a few beetles, tore out an entire plant, which i had determined was diseased, and sprayed the rest with a diluted mixture of miracle II soap. that last bit was basically out of desperation. i have no idea if that will do any good whatsoever, but i knew it wouldn't hurt. i'll keep you posted.

my biggest fear with the pumpkin is that it will never set fruit. i have tons of blossoms, but no fruit. i have never successfully grown anything in this family, so i have serious doubts. however, the cucumber plants do look lovely, and i saw one little baby cuke hanging on the vine yesterday, so, there is hope.

18 June 2010


as mentioned before, we are in the throes of summer berry picking, which also means canning. so far we have done two batches of mulberry jam, a mixed batch of serviceberry jam and sour cherry preserves, and most recently, red currant jelly. last year, i was impressed with the sparkle of the crab apple jelly, but the currants take the cake when it comes to beauty.

my photography skills are not adequate to capture the crimson glow of these lovelies, as they drip from the branch in grape-like clusters. the red is so red, and the translucence makes them seem somehow magical.

cosmo preferred frisbee golf to currant picking, but it sure made him thirsty.

i love the taste of a red currant, and certainly prefer them to the black currant for flavor, but they are a bit tart for most people's tastes, and thus, should be treated with sugar. i am still learning about how to make jams and jellies that feature the unique flavor of the particular fruit, but often they just end up tasting like fruity sugar.

we used the jelly bag this time, instead of the the victorino strainer, because i didn't want to take a chance on the juice being cloudy.

i use pomona's pectin, so that i can use less sugar, and that helps. with the currants, they have enough of their own pectin, so no need to add any, but i was hesitant to deviate from the recipe for fear that it would taste too sour, or worse, not jell as it was supposed to. when i use the pomona pectin, i just follow the recipe on the box, which has very short cooking times, and requires no "jell test." it almost always turns out just right. but with the currant recipe, i had to do do a jell test to find out if it was ready. this involves dipping a cold spoon into the cooking jelly, and then watching the drip, to see if it forms two drops than run together, and then break off in a sheet. i find this process maddening. i had to do it over and over and over again, forever cleaning spoons, putting more in the freezer, testing, freezing, testing and all the while constantly stirring the bejeweled boiling liquid. finally i got something that sort of fit that description, and i turned off the heat and poured the stuff into the jars. all that boiling, and i was left with just less than four small jelly jars.

four small, glistening, gorgeous, jelly jars, that is. that taste mostly like fruity sugar. but have ya ever seen a red like that, with NO food coloring added? (okay, well, imagine it a deeper, richer, more vibrant red than what is showing up here. i promise you, it is an astonishing shade of red.)

we are fast approaching peak black raspberry season. there are more berries to be picked, and more jammin' in store for this household. what's ripe where you are?

16 June 2010

take me out

baby's first ball game, courtesy of NANI! texas rangers vs. tampa bay rays.

there were peanuts and cracker jacks, hot dogs and ICE COLD beers (for the grown-ups).

he doesn't know a lot about baseball, but once cosmo realized there was a score board, he wanted to know exactly what was going on at all times, and, most importantly, "is texas gonna win???"

he root-root-rooted for the home team, and lucky for us, they won! they even scored three home runs, complete with fireworks.

he got to stay up 'til eleven (that's midnight our time) for the second night in a row, which meant he was NOT ready for the ft. worth zoo the next morning. it's hard to keep up with nani, but a nice nap on the car ride back to her place, and he was ready for more fun.

09 June 2010

why i garden

i garden for many reasons. digging in the dirt, fussing over baby plants, just flat-out makes me happy. there's also the deep satisfaction that comes from raising my own food. it gets me outside, enjoying the elements and working my muscles. we save money on produce, and decrease the amount of processed-packaged-shipped-from-far-away-food that our household consumes. but i think the number one reason, is cosmo.

i like that he sees me gardening, observes the growing plants throughout the season, and sometimes, he even helps out. but what pleases me the most is how much he enjoys the food, fresh off the vine. cosmo loves fruit, but vegetables are a much harder sell for him. unless he can pick them himself. he'll grab spinach leaves and pop them into his mouth.

he adores fresh, raw, peas, hand-over-fist.

and even broccoli and broccoli leaves. this year, we taught him how to cut a broccoli stalk, but he regularly strolls through the garden, and stops to nibble the leaves. such a sight fills this mama's heart with joy.