Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wren is 10!







My baby girl is double-digits old now, and I'm so grateful for her presence in my life. After losing Atticus, we had a hard time getting pregnant. I remember taking a long drive with Justin, sobbing and screaming because I couldn't do anything the 'natural' way; I couldn't have a vbac because I had a huge T-incision in my womb, and now I couldn't even get pregnant without fertility drugs. We talked about not having any children at all, shutting that door and opening a new one. I dreamed about going back to school to study forensics, applying to culinary school, starting an alternative school of my own, homesteading, moving to Europe, and all kinds of crazy things that, in another lifetime, might have worked out fine.

But I wanted children. So I made another appointment with the gyn/fertility specialist and she recommended clomid. I had to take a pregnancy test to rule out the impossible before beginning the treatment. A week after the appointment I was cleaning our apartment when the phone rang. I had a wild thought that this would be Dr. Kennedy, and that she was calling to tell me I was pregnant. I answered, and as soon as I heard her voice ask "Mrs Cooke?" I knew it was real. I drove to the card store, picked out one of those Anne Geddes 'baby' cards that were ubiquitous in the late '90's, and scrawled "Guess What!!!???!!!" inside -- hardly an original way of announcing a pregnancy -- and raced over to the dealership where Justin worked as a mechanic. I tried so hard not to smile while handing him the card, but I was beside myself with joy, and he knew before opening the card.

Seven months later (I'd been 4 weeks along, and she was 3 weeks early) on October 20th, 1997, Wren Marian was born late at night via c-section. I was in lala land immediately afterward, but Wren was bright-eyed and alert, and fascinated by the recovery room lights. She charmed all her father within seconds, as well as her grandparents who'd rushed to meet her. She was the sweetest, most peaceful little baby imaginable and her infancy was one of the happiest periods of my life.

She's a little feistier these days, and we have our differences, something that I wouldn't have believed possible during her first 3 years, but she remains a kind-hearted, affectionate, and sweet-natured young lady. I'm a very lucky mother.

dinner tonight (in lieu of the weekly menu): whole wheat fettuccine with spicy garlicky broccoli and fontina cheese

Monday, October 08, 2007





I bought this Spicebush, along with a Serviceberry at a native tree sale this weekend. I'll eventually need at least one other Spicebush, unless I'm very lucky indeed, because it's one of the few dioecious plants. Dioecious plants have either male flowers or female flowers, and so require two of opposite genders to set berries or fruit. If I'm very lucky, my spicebush will be one of the odd specimens that has a few flowers of the 'wrong' gender, or a few 'perfect' flowers. A perfect flower, you may have guessed, has both boy and girl parts (stamens and pistils) and so can pollinate itself. I think. I'm no botanist, and this is what I've gleaned from about 30 minutes of research. The Serviceberry is self-fertile but will set more berries if it has a mate of the same genus (Amelanchier). Apparently apples are like this as well. My current Serviceberry had flowers in the spring, but no berries in June, so I'm hoping the two will inspire fecundity in one another. The berries are, of course, mostly for the birds, though I'm sure the kids and I will snack on them now and again. The trouble is that the birds eat them before they're quite ripe to human tastes. Sneaky! My distant dream is to have a flock of Cedar Waxwings visit my spicebushes one autumn day, and spend the afternoon eating while I look on in wonder.

My weekly menu:
Black bean and corn tortillas
Orzo and feta with lemon caper dressing and kalamata olives
Spaghetti with bacon and spinach

Fried tilapia, spicy black beans, salad

Moroccan chicken stew with sweet potatoes

Maple baked beans, brown bread, applesauce and braised greens

Roast turkey breast, baked butternut squash, and green beans

Monday, October 01, 2007

Menu Monday!!

I would love to live within easy walking distance of a daily, open-air market so that I could do as so many of my favorite cookbook authors do, and plan each evening's meal based on what was freshest and best that very morning. I make do with a good weekend market and several good grocery stores and ethnic markets, several of which I can walk to, and all of which are an easy drive or a torturous* bus trip away. I go to the markets with some ideas in mind, and adjust to what I find. Even if I haven't had time to plan anything, I have enough meals in each season's rotation that I can usually shop without a list. The fun begins when I get home and shape my market haul into the week's menu. I try to have one chicken and one fish meal, and the rest either vegetarian or nearly so (by which I mean any meat is more by way of a flavoring agent or condiment than a main course) and at least one bean and one pasta meal, for econcomy's sake. I usually end up at the grocery store, conveniently located next door to my local coffee shop/book store, several times a week, so I can pick up any bits and bobs that I need along the way. I've been struggling with keeping our grocery spending within budget lately, so I thought I'd start posting my menus each Monday ('cause I can't resist an alliterative title!) and review them each month to see where the extravagence comes in, and where I might cut back. Of course, I also just think it's fun to read and write about food, cooking, and menu planning!

Sunday: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Monday: Parsnip Soup, Cranberry Nut Bread

Tuesday: Arroz con Pollo

Wednesday: Curried Lentils with Basmati Rice, Peas, and Carrots

Thursday: Black Bean and Corn Burritos

Friday: Fried Salted Cod, Skordalia, Salad

Saturday: Meatloaf Muffins w BBQ sauce, Smashed Potatoes, Green Beans (courtesy of my children and Rachael Ray)