The harvest season is upon us, and as you may know, this makes me very nervous. Being that our kitchen is already full of enormous jars of saurkraut, thanks to the abundance of cabbage all summer, I just knew that M's enthusiasm for the Fermenting Arts could render the rest of the kitchen unusable. Ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit. But M's mother did bring us four quarts of cucumbers from King's Farm the other day, most of which became pickles. The first step is to wash all the cucumbers and cut off any weird blemishes.Next, find some jars. Make your brine. You can add anything you want, but M put in bay leaves, fresh dill, peppercorns, and a few hot peppers, and tons of garlic. The salt water is 6% brine - about 2.5 oz of salt to a gallon of water. Cooking is like science, and it comes in handy to have lots of measuring devices and scales so your kitchen looks like a lab and you can make sure your brine is the right proportion.

After you mix up your brine and chop your pickles, just jam them into the jar and let sit. And if you have trouble getting all the pickles into the jar because your hands are too big...well, just ask your small-handed wife to take care of it. And that is how M and K make pickles.



Really. That's how we do it.


The Other Part of the Story

I neglected to tell you about the other part of my weekend...the part where Tony and Rita and Mark and I went out to Freeport to ride on the rail trail that (supposedly) runs to Butler. I anticipated a leisurely, flat, shaded ride, which is exactly what we got for the first 15 or so miles.

Then we hit the "undeveloped" part of the trail. Technically, the trail runs from Freeport to Butler, but up until Herman, it is a lovely, developed, fairly flat and pothole-free surface. After that, they din-get-tha-fah, as our beloved, former math teacher, Ray Peters, would say. They removed the rail ties, but that is pretty much it. We carried on even after the sign that warned us, "Rifle Range Next 3/4 Mile".

But really, the best was when we encountered an enormous pile of railroad ties across the path...clearly a sign that the TRAIL WAS CLOSED. Nonetheless, we hoisted our bikes and clamoured over and kept going. That is, until M could literally go no further.

Well, after that, nobody wished to go back on the 6 miles of bumpy rocks, eerily red industrial run-off, and rifle range, so we decided just to take the road that appeared to be parallel to the trail and then get back on in Herman. Well, let me tell you, rail trails are flat, but roads are not. Rita was not happy. Also, after a little while it became apparent that we were no longer directly paralleling the trail, so I had to go into a little country biker bar and ask for directions. And I have to say that some members of our party resembled my little friends from yesterday's post in that they sat down in a stranger's yard and refused to go any further until we threatened to leave them.

Don't worry, everyone survived the journey. Here we are enjoying icy cold beer at Red Robin after we finally finished. We biked about 40 miles, but it took us literally, all day, what with the getting lost, and trying to mountain bike with our road bikes, etc. Next time, I will turn around after the first mile or so of really bad trail, instead of assuming it will get better very soon. Also, we plan to volunteer as soon as possible to help get this trail completely finished.


The last thing a mother wants to hear...

No, it's not, "Um, your kid fell in some cinders and I tried to clean them out but they are sort of stuck in his knee and he screams bloody murder whenever I come near him, so I just gave him a popsicle, and it will probably be ok, but you might want to keep an eye out for an infection."

And it's not, "Your kid kept saying 'sh*t' today, and he said it's something YOU say."

But when you hear your kid say, "But I don't want Katy to leave! Waaaaahhhhhhh!" - I can see how that would be really, really annoying.

My general goal in childcare is similar to my teaching philosophy...to provide a supportive learning environment in which children master skills that they can apply to ALL their environments - not just when they are under my supervision. So I feel kind of bad when I work really hard to eliminate temper tantrums from the kids, only to have them punish their poor, hard-working parents when I leave. I would much rather leave smiling, happy children in my wake.

Today, Twin #1 told me, "Katy, yesterday I cried, and I had a fight with Mama. I wanted to call you on the phone and she said no."

"Ahhh," I nodded, thinking to myself that I was glad Mama stuck to her guns on that one...as much as I love these little guys, their telephone skills leave something to be desired, and I have no desire to waste my precious cell phone minutes listening to heavy breathing while Twin #1 forgets what he wanted to say to me.

I decided to take them to the Trader Joe's because I had a few things to pick up (they have the best prices on nuts), and riding the bus there would burn up a good half hour of the afternoon. But it didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, so I took them to Melon Park, where there is a fabulous sprinkler in the playground perfect for a hot day. They were slightly intimidated by some of the other kids at the park, but I encouraged them to throw a few elbows and claim their turn on the swings, which they did.

I then tricked them into walking the rest of the way home instead of waiting for the PAT bus again. (I just googled the mileage, and I got them to walk 1.1 miles - this is pretty amazing for three year olds - I think they will sleep soundly tonight.) About halfway home they started sitting down in random yards, declaring that they were done walking and would be living in this or that house instead. I lured them on with cookies and juice, and we made it in under an hour.

They start daycare in September, which will put an end to my brief adventures in pre-school childcare.

I wonder if they will remember me....


Now that's a lesson....

I gave up on participating in experiments in lieu of taking on babysitting gigs. Neither are particularly lucrative, however, nor are they particularly taxing. It's also cash in hand at the end of the day, which I like.

Right now I'm watching three-year-old twin boys. Despite a rocky start (Twin #2 screamed nearly the entire first day, and both have a tendency towards tantrum-throwing), we are really hitting it off. Every day, I ride my bike up to their house and I hear scampering little feet running to the door shouting, "She's here, she's here!" Then, we spend the next eight hours riding tricycles, walking to the park, shopping at the corner market, drinking copious amounts of juice, and scribbling with sidewalk chalk. When this gets old, we move on to my favorite child care strategy....PAT bus tours. PAT takes a lot of criticism, and like most forms of public transportation, I do not rely on it heavily for its punctuality. However, this can really work to your advantage when you are trying to entertain three-year-olds for hours on end. Waiting for even one bus ride can usually burn up at least a half an hour. If you ever ride the bus, you know about the jerky, sudden stops and lurching gait one acquires while attempting to make your way to the front. When three-year-olds are busy clinging to your hand and the rails to keep from tumbling over, they are too busy to be making trouble or throwing tantrums.

Twin #1 is in the "but, why?" phase...this is his standard response to everything. So, yesterday, as we were getting off the bus and getting ready to cross the street, I warned them about the dangers of running into a busy street, and made them hold my hand. Twin #1 launched into his "but, why?" thing, which continued even as we safely made it across the street.

Just then, some punk kid went running across the street, against the light, and got hit by a car. Bam! Never have I been presented with so relevant an answer to a "why?". (Don't worry, the kid was a little bloody, but was still up and moving around.)

And that's WHY, Twin #1...so there.


What are you doing next Wednesday?

Maybe it should be this.

The Most Important ID Card I Carry

I got my student ID today.

All my official papers for my graduate student researcher position are in order, and I am registered for classes.

I have a slight urge to shop for school supplies, maybe get some folders.

I'm excited about being a student again, and doubly excited to have a chance to go for free. Which brings me back to the student ID. Not to detract from the actual Going to School part, which I'm sure is going to be very cool, but this ID has many benefits.

First of all, I can ride the bus for free again. Not just the campus shuttles, but the county bus. I can also print something like 900 sheets per semester in the computer lab. That's a lot of paper. I can go to see a movie at the Harris Theater for $3. I can use the student gyms and swimming pools. I can visit the Carnegie Museum. I can visit the Andy Warhol Museum. I can even ride the Incline!


Egad!! Where does the summer go?!

I have been a bit lax in keeping this blog updated. Sorry for that. It is mainly because, since New Orleans, we have not had any wild adventures to report. Frankly, going to Africa set a rather high bar, and I'm not sure what I can do to top it.

However, I have discovered a few new things over the course of my slow-paced summer, and I guess I may as well share them now. First of all, shampoo is bunk. I realize I am a bit late to this, as I am to most internet phenoms (like Twitter and the Peanut Butter Jelly Banana video), but as they say, better late than never. I last washed my hair with shampoo over 3 weeks ago and it is shinier and healthier than ever before. Now I know that those of you who have seen me in my Jesus rope sandals probably have an image of a dread-headed hippie. Yes, I will admit that I am certainly leaning in that direction these days. But the lack of shampoo has not created dreads for me, in fact, quite the opposite.

The "no-poo" method is springing up on green blogs everywhere. I have wild, thick, wavy, course hair and have never found a hair care regime that worked for me. Even hours spent carefully straightening my mop would result in its springing back to its original state within a few hours.

I think the key to this method is to experiment with the proportions, because the pH on your scalp is unique. Mine apparently, was so unique that no shampoo manufacture had ever created a product for it. So here's what I do, although this varies somewhat with the directions I read on the internet.

About twice a week, I dilute about a teaspoon and a half of baking soda in about a cup of water. I carefully pour it on my scalp and massage for a minute or two, then rinse thoroughly. Once or twice a week I dilute a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a cup of water and pour it on my hair, more towards the end. I let it sit for about 5 minutes and then rinse it out. I also made this crazy flax seed hair gel, mainly because I have a TON of flax seeds in my freezer. If you follow the link, you can watch a very informative video about how to make it. I personally do a lot of things in my daily life, like ride my bike all around town, that make my head all sweaty and dirty, so every night when I take my shower, I rinse my head off with water. Then I put some flax gel on my hair and let it air dry. I have had really bad dandruff my whole life, even when using prescription strength products, but this has cleared it up, making me happy on one hand, but also irritated that I have spent so much money and time trying products that were not effective. Capitalism made me do it.

The other thing I discovered is that if you have a high powered blender, you can grind up kale and spinach in your fruit smoothies, which turn them bright clean, but they still taste like fruit! Not like a weird health food! You can eat at least 2-3 servings of dark green, leafy vegetables with very little effort, which is very important for nutrition, and also very cheap at this time of the year when you frequent the farmer's markets and buy way too much produce to possibly eat without actually grinding it up.

Yeah, I've been real busy this summer. Smoothies and hair care. Please don't ask me how the book is coming.

Also, for those of you who read this and also live close to us, please save us some boxes. We're going to be moving sometime soon, and for once, it won't make sense to sell all our stuff!


Happy Anniversary, M & K!

Five years ago, this very day, M and I walked down the aisle of Sacred Heart Church to profess our love and devotion for each other. Then, we proceeded up the street to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts where we rocked out with friends and family. And THEN we went to New Orleans for seven days of excessive consumption. This year, we unexpectedly found ourselves back in New Orleans, delighted that vegetarianism in Nola is not only possible, but absolutely delightful. Happy Anniversary, M! Thanks for the best Secret Anniversary Get-Away Ever!