Loren Won

How Big is a Bushel?

We split a bushel of tomatoes with M's mom, and spent the whole afternoon helping her to process and can her half. Well, half of her half. A bushel of tomatoes is a lot of freakin' tomatoes. She made half of them into salsa fresca and half into tomato sauce.

I hope to take some pictures tomorrow to show you how we put ours up. However, a concrete plan to that end has yet to be made. Instead, we're going to watch football and play Scrabble with Matt and Loren.


Happy Anniversary!

My parents are celebrating their anniversary this weekend. They've been married a darn long time. Best wishes for a fun weekend in Niagara!


What kind of meeting?

I went to a La Leche League meeting today. This is a breastfeeding support/activist group that was started in the 1950s when breastfeeding was much more discouraged by the medical community and society in general. I mainly went out of curiosity and because it's free. I do like me a bargain. Come to think of it, that's kind of why breastfeeding appeals to me. Free food for your baby! Who could pass up that deal?

There were a few other pregnant women there, and mamas with babies and kids of all ages. The meeting was "baby-friendly" which basically means loud. Honestly, the babies were not loud, it was more the toddlers and older kids running around. It was pretty informative, and I got some good advice about "must-have" baby gear. Apparently the "Boppy" really is all that.


Peanut Butter Spinach Time!!

When we went to Uganda last year, we discovered the joy of Peanut Butter Spinach. I'm not sure what they actually call this in Acholi, the cooks were all kind of vague about the names of dishes.

I did not take a picture of this because it doesn't photograph well. It looks a little bit like baby poo. But I can assure you it's very, very delicious.

First we shelled a bunch of peanuts. This is a very soothing activity and helped us to make the transition from our frustrating lives at work to our tranquil home. I would say we got maybe a cup and a half of actual peanuts shelled. Next, M cooked them in some oil. He ground them up with salt in our pitiful little food chopper (of all people who should have a full-size food processor, we are at the top of the list, but a nice model is pretty expensive, and we just kill the cheaper models way too fast). He then mixed in some frozen spinach (about two packages worth), and chopped that up, too. In the meantime, he sauteed one finely chopped onion and the last three small tomatoes from our tomato bush (Thanks DC and Lori!). He put it all back in the pot, salted it liberally and heated it up. Simple and delicious.

We also ate roasted turnips and sweet potatoes. And rice of course; we're still working through that 25 pound bag.

Not sure how this meal stacks up nutritionally. I supposed it has a fair amount of nutrients from the spinach, turnips and sweet potatoes, and some protein from the peanuts. There was also a lot of salt in the meal. However, I recently read that adequate salt intake is actually quite important for women in the third trimester, and it can help prevent toxemia. The American Pregnancy Association still recommends laying off the salt, but this source indicates otherwise. So, who knows?

When I first got pregnant I knew nothing about how I was supposed to take care of myself, other than giving up alcohol. I read a whole bunch of books and spent too much time on the Internet, only to become confused by the conflicting information. So, I developed my own principles for eating, based mainly on the very non-scientific idea of following my cravings. In months 2-5, this mainly consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches and popsicles. Thankfully now I have shifted to a more normal diet.



I rarely have anything good to say about Port Authority, but today something happened on the bus that positively brightened my whole day.

Sugarput was driving the 71C.

Back in the early '00s I shared an apartment with my sister in Shadyside. We were both students, and since neither of us had a car at the time, we spent a lot of time on the bus getting to and from campus and work. At the time, I thought Port Authority was the greatest thing ever. Having formerly been carless in the suburbs, and now empowered by my student ID which allowed me free passage anywhere in the county, I was suddenly liberated. For some reason, I didn't even care that the bus rarely arrived on schedule and even occasionally passed my bus stop completely without stopping because it was already filled up. I took these minor inconveniences as something one just puts up with when relying on public transportation. Eventually I got there, wherever there happened to be, and that was good enough for me. (Although I must point out that there are many places in the Burgh where "you can't get there from here" applies. But I digress.)

Anyway, one of our favorite things about riding the bus was the exhuberant and talkative bus driver, we affectionately referred to as "Sugarput", her signature phrase. Some drivers seem gruff when they admonish you for paying at the wrong time (PAT has a very strange system of payment which alternates according to time of day, route number of bus and phase of the moon), but this driver attached a friendly "sugarput" onto any instruction and she just sounded like somebody's loving auntie. No matter how crowded the bus was, you could always get on...she made everybody move to the back of the bus like no driver I have ever seen, and she made them love it. If you somehow missed the charm of her banter when you entered the bus, you would immediately know she was driving by the smiles on the faces of all the passengers.

I had completely forgotten about this lady, until today. I was feeling grouchy because school is starting again and now the bus is polluted with CMU and Pitt students who don't understand proper etiquette, and fill up the seats on the front of the bus, where the, ahem, old people and pregnant people should be sitting. Ahem.

Anyway, as soon as I sat down I noticed the running commentary of the driver and something about it sounded familiar. She greeted every passenger as if they were a long lost friend. She complimented a baby, and helped a young Asian couple figure out how to get to the right bus stop. She got a very old man to pick up some litter on his way onto the bus. She made everybody move to the back when it got crowded.

En route, she told a story about how some lady left a baby on the bus when she first started driving, and she had to call the police. This was followed by another anecdote about a passenger stripping off all her clothes on the bus. All stories and commentaries were punctuated by "lord have mercy" by both Sugarput and the old ladies sitting up front.

And then, the signature move...a girl tried to get on the bus before everybody could get off, "Hold on, sugarput," she called out, "Let these people out."


Enchilada Factory

M and I finally got our food groove back. Morning sickness, graduate school, and work have seriously interfered with our ability and desire to cook over the past year. We were rarely in the house at the same for meals, and I was eating a lot of miso soup and egg sandwiches for dinner.

I am definitely the sous to M's chef, but we make a very good team. M has a natural ability to season food and experiment with recipes, and I am very good at following directions. Yesterday we cooked up more beets (they are excellent in the crockpot), sauteed beet tops, marinated tofu, and corn on the cob. Jack joined us for dinner and it was scrumptious. I should have taken a photo, but I was intimidated by my favorite new food blog. Their food photos are just so darn pretty!

M, of course, has been tending to his pickles, which are progressing nicely. He also whipped up a batch of homemade enchilada sauce, and refried some pinto beans that we had leftover from last week's burritos. And after work today, we had a little enchilada factory (very similar to the kimchi dumpling factory), the results of which are in my belly right now.


31 Weeks

No longer any doubt that there is a baby in there...I can feel actual body parts squirming around! I'm definitely slower, clumsier and more tired than usual, but I can still walk in the park and do yoga. I'm getting a bit past the "cute baby bump" look and more into the "good lord, somebody get up and give that woman a seat on the bus" stage, but I have to admit that it has its perks. When I go to wait in a long line at a public restroom now, I am usually hustled to the front of the line by kind, matronly women. Also, I can unapologetically take a nap every day. I could probably go on a bit about the less pleasant pregnancy symptoms (as I'm sure M could), but really, in the whole scheme of things it's not the most unpleasant thing I've ever done. Now, in a couple of weeks we're going to childbirthing lessons, so I may be singing a new tune after I learn all about the gory details of that. But I feel like I can do anything with M at my side.


M is Running

Not from the law. Not from a bear. Not to beat the rain. Not to catch a bus. Those are pretty much the only reasons that I will run. No, M is running for kicks, to stay in shape, to challenge himself, and to finish this 5K race in our neighborhood. The Run Around the Square is an annual event that takes place in Regent Square and Frick Park and it was quite a to-do. Lots of sponsors and thousands of spectators, a DJ, and trophies for the winners. All the neighbors line the streets and cheer. Before the 5K starts, there's a shorter fun run for kids and dogs. And free beer and hot dogs from D's and McBroom's at the end. Considering this was his first race ever, and he only started his training program a few weeks ago, I think he did pretty good.


Those Sons of Pitches!

We had the last game of our softball season last night, against Team Red, also known as the Diablos. Along with their devilish name, they came with an impressive record, several very large men, and one tiny, but incredible, shortstop who clearly has some experience playing collegiate softball. The odds were against us, but once again the Sons of Pitches pulled it together. I don't think I blogged this yet, but the S.O.P.'s had their first win last week against Team Gold.

Did we win last night? Well, no. But it wasn't a total blowout. I think the final score was 13-7. The game was played quickly, through a bit of rain, and in the presence of some very unnerving lightening, and also possibly because nobody brought beer.

The official from the league complimented us at the end. At least I think it was a compliment. Team Red is very good, she said, your team has really improved this season. (She had witnessed some of our more staggering defeats.)

Nobody lingered at the field after the game, and we didn't go out after. The storm was hovering just on the other side of the river, and everybody raced to their cars and went their separate ways. However, I think M did a good thing in organizing our team this season. Everybody learned a lot and seemed to have a good time. PSL has a ton of sports leagues that go on pretty much all year, so maybe somebody else will organize another team.


It smells real good in here....

We bought a bunch of tomatoes at the market yesterday and made some sauce. It's simmering on the stove right now and smells divine. We also got some hot peppers, a cantaloupe that absolutely melted in our mouths, and tons of miscellaneous vegetables that M pickled. But the beets were what really made my day. First of all, it's fun to talk to the farmer while you are picking out beets and hear about how much she loves them too. Then it's fun to scrub off all the dirt, and chop off the green parts to saute, and coat them in the tiniest bit of oil before popping them into a hot, hot oven. Then to hear them sizzle and squeal, until you can't stand it anymore and poke them with a fork to see if they're done and bright pink juice squirts everywhere!



Health Care for All?

The health care debate is baffling to me. I've been following some conservative talk radio on the subject, which led me to the conclusion that most of the debate is carried on by greedy doctors, greedy insurance executives, and the paranoid elderly. However, I can't say much was cleared up by my visit to the President's website either. What exactly is in this bill?

The health of Americans sucks. That we can all agree on. Preventable diseases like obesity and diabetes plague us. Women are often not covered, even if they have insurance, for basic, necessary preventive care for things like pregnancy. We allow drug companies to advertise their medications on the television. Patients should not be "asking their doctors about what Mr. Jones' Magic Snake Oil can do for you!" That's absurd. Doctors should be well-versed in diseases and stay up to date on advances in treatment. Asking your doctor about a medication should not be confused as the only requirement to being an educated patient. As a young adult, I have witnessed my peers go without medical treatment, until the situation turned critical (and incidentally more expensive), because they did not have insurance. I personally have gone through the process of buying private health insurance. (It was expensive and filled with loopholes, and in the future I would probably just take my chances and go without, since any major medical crisis would have bankrupted us anyway.)

So, clearly there's a problem. I'm really excited about Health Care Reform. But I'm not sure this bill is going to make things better.

When I looked this morning to find some answers about this bill, I realized it will be a time-consuming process.

The one thing I am certain about is that insurance companies, as they operate now, do not have patients' best interests at heart. They want to make money, and without regulation, they will do that in any way possible. Corporations are not safer custodians of our health than the government.



The grant I was working on for the past year is finishing up and I had my last day at the end of July. I am also pleased to report I got a 4.0 during the summer semester! Taking so many classes in such a short time was tough, but I think it paid off. I only have two left that are required for my degree and I'll be done. And remind me to take a few years OFF from school when I do finish up.

A lot of people are asking what my plans are, since our family will be expanding this fall. I have a part time graduate student assistant position for the upcoming school year. I will be training undergraduate students to be reading tutors, and providing support to them once they start tutoring. As part of the position, I also have to take 6 credits. Luckily I have one online class and one class that is sort of a master's level dissertation credit, so I will not have to be on campus for any of that. Part-time work in Graduate Student Land means 10 hours a week, and I can do a lot of that from home.

So while I technically have a couple of weeks off right now, I'm trying to get in the habit of being productive while working at home, and to get a head start on some of the fall projects, before I completely lose my common sense and intellect to the fog of pregnancy brain. (Yes, it's true! I am getting kind of forgetful. And also, I drop everything.)

I'm a big proponent of using a timer to keep myself on track. I used a timer all the time when I was teaching special education and it always seemed to help my students manage difficult tasks when they knew when a break was coming. So I set my watch for 30 minutes of work, and then take a 15 minute break. I know! The work to break ration seems a bit high! But oddly, I get a lot more done when I do it this way. And I also remember to eat on a regular basis, which seems to be super important in the third trimester. I am almost 30 weeks pregnant, which makes it seem like it should almost be over! I have so much to do before the baby comes. But I am pleased to have finally created a registry, something I've been putting off for say, oh, about seven months.

Last night I ran into a lady that I babysit for. She asked me if I was ready, and I told her no, but then she gave me the most reassuring advice I have heard so far...she said nobody is ever really ready, and everything will be fine anyway.



A few weeks ago, we stole away to Chicago for a quick weekend visit with Thom and Colleen. We first met Thom at Pitt outside of Tower C a million years ago. Thom is an environmental crusader of sorts, using his powers as an attorney for good instead of evil. Take note, lawyers. Colleen is his lovely girlfriend, who also saves our planet for a living, and they are just two delightfully interesting and fun people.

Chicago was awesome. Although, I'm not sure I would feel the same in January. The weather was very pleasant, and our visit was very short, but eventful. We started off with a tour of a few sections of the Art Institute of Chicago. Here is some art that a Yinzer can really get behind. We also got a chance to hang out in Millenium Park, walk along the boat docks on Lake Michigan, and watch kids play in the many fountains that seem to be everywhere in that park.

And then we ate. Boy did we eat. We went to this very old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Colleen's neighborhood, and ordered a banana split. The fudge sauce came in a separate little pitcher, as you can see from this photo. I also want to point out that I did not eat this whole thing myself...we shared. We revisited the Chicago Diner, ate a real Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and had brunch at this place called Yolk, which was filled with baby-toting, hip young families, and had really, really good eggs.

So all that eating took up a lot of time. But there's more. We also went to the Bughouse Square Debates, and the annual book sale at the Newberry Library. This was really cool, because besides local activists who came out to have their say about everything from abortion rights to parking meters, there was also a reenactment of the Abraham Lincoln/Stephen Douglas campaign debates. Now, you may know that M was born on Abe Lincoln's birthday, and is known as Honest Abe by many a family member. But it was interesting to really listen to the content of the speeches, and sort of remove Abe Lincoln temporarily from his mythical pedestal. Listening to Lincoln and Douglas quote the founders of our nation reminded me that freedom can be a very loosely defined term.

After the Debates, we went to the Second City comedy club and I seriously laughed for about 2 hours straight. Very therapeutic for a pregnant lady. Chicago seemed to be pretty family friendly, and we look forward to our next visit, at which time we will likely have Puddin' in tow.


Happy Anniversary!

Six years ago, on an equally humid summer day, M and I walked down the very long aisle out of Sacred Heart Church, after being declared "Mr. and Mrs." for the first time.

Sprinted was more like it. I don't know if it was the length of the ceremony (Catholic, and very long), or the heat (M was in a wool tuxedo, I was wearing a many layered dress), or maybe we were thinking about the beer that was awaiting us in the reception hall, but we walked so fast down that aisle that our photographer barely got a picture of it!

I remember watching my grandmother dance, and eating delicious cake that was made by M's sister, and holding a glass of champagne for hours and hours without actually ever finishing it.

But really an anniversary doesn't celebrate the wedding day, so much as the time that passes in between, and the past six years have been a roller coaster of trials and trips and fun and sadness and unexpected turns and twists in the road.

I guess the thing that amazes me the most is how much we've done together in that time.

So, Happy Anniversary, M! I love you!