Friday, September 22, 2017

CSA Week 16: The Size of the Kohlrabi!

This week the bag I was heavy. That is all.

Bok choy
Tomatillos
Jalapeno (x2)
Sweet yellow peppers (x3)
Carrots
Garlic
Red onions (x2)
Rainbow chard
Parsley
Kohlrabi (a giant bulb)
Okay, you guys. Why so much bok choy this year?  I don't know.  I meant to make a boy choy risotto with the last bunch, but by the time I got around to it, it wasn't fresh anymore, so I get a redo. I already have all the ingredients for it.

I have part of the Napa cabbage from last week left (I didn't make the kimchi because it seemed like a lot of work for something I probably wouldn't like), so I'll use that and part of that giant kohlrabi in a slaw.

I'll eat the carrots and sweet peppers raw.

We'll use the chard in an egg dish. I'll make some salsa verde for book club with the tomatillos.

The garlic, onions, and jalapenos will go in the fridge and a month from now I'll throw them out. I'm just being real with you now.

If you're paying super close attention, you might wonder what these are.
These are pawpaws, an American fruit that is relatively rare and mostly unknown outside of a few strange diehard fruit people. I ran into my farmer at yoga class earlier this week (SMALL TOWN, PEOPLE) and she had been to a SECRET LOCATION where there was a top secret pawpaw tree and picked a bunch. She gave me a couple and I let them ripen on the counter for a few days and then I ate one and it was disgusting and made my tongue itch.

So, I don't think I'll put buying a pawpaw tree on my bucket list anytime soon.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is frequently recommended as a young adult fantasy author that someone who enjoys Harry Potter should read, so I randomly picked Howl's Moving Castle as my jumping off book.

SPOILERS ARE COMING PEOPLE. This book was published 30 years ago, so DEAL WITH IT.

It had a promising beginning. We're in a world where magic happens and is accepted. We get the idea that our main character, Sophie, can do magic, but she doesn't know she can. And there's a witch who gets jealous of her (?) and casts a spell on Sophie to make her an old woman and as an old woman Sophie starts work as a housekeeper for the Wizard Howl. I like this world and I'm all ready for a good time.  But, if I'm being 100% honest with you, this is where the basic plot of the book breaks down for me. Sophie's trying to get help to break the curse she's under by helping a demon (?) who lives with Howl break his contract with the wizard and there's a lost a prince and fighting and Howl is seducing women and Sophie's kind of scared of him and they fight all the time and Sophie's sisters are switching places with one another and I was like ?????? for huge sections of the book. And then there's a brief three pages of explanation that I had to read like five times to figure out AND then I consulted Wikipedia to make sure I hadn't lost my damn mind.

So I liked this book until page 62 or so is what I'm saying.

If I had read this as a young adult, I think I'd have 1) died of boredom of Sophie constantly darning clothing and 2) been confused as anything because the abbreviated exposition at the end of the novel was simultaneously too short and too convoluted.

There's a quote from Publisher's Weekly on the back of my library copy that reads "Thoroughly enjoyable - a wonderful blend of humor, magic, and romance" and I spent the first 99% of the novel attempting to figure out if PW meant that "romance" metaphorically or in a Capital R Romantic way. Then Sophie and Howl get together in the last two pages and HOW? WHY? They sniped and bickered the from page 56 until the last word of the novel and this is not how we want young people to think relationships work. If not for this end scene in which these two get together, I would have just thrown the book across the room and decided Jones is not the author for me, but instead I threw the book across the room IN ABSOLUTE DISGUST and proceeded to vomit out hundreds of words about how upsetting the book was.

Upsetting and weird. 

So, any Jones fans out there? Can you tell me what I'm missing here?

Friday, September 15, 2017

CSA Week 15: The Biggest Cabbage Ever

I managed to eat all the peppers last week and while I'm still overrun with greens, that's fine because we didn't get any greens this week, so I think I can catch up. Here's the scoop with the basket this week.

Napa cabbage (it's so big)
Garlic (2 bulbs)
Onions (2)
Hot peppers (2)
Broccoli (2 tiny heads)
Cilantro (gag)
Carrots
Sungold tomatoes

Because the cabbage is so big, I think I'm going to make a slaw with it AND try some of the kimchi recipe that was included in the newsletter this week. That kimchi will use the hot peppers, too. I'll eat the carrots, broccoli, and tomatoes raw. The rest of it is is basically storage vegetables (onions, garlic) that I'll throw in the storage and someday use maybe.

It goes without saying that the cilantro did not come home with me.
I think I'll be able to make a bok choy risotto for my lunches this week, we'll use the rest of the kale we have in a frittata, and I'll even be caught up on greens.  Whew. This CSA business is exhausting.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Four Pieces of Furniture

Our mudroom (I insist on calling it a mudroom, despite the fact that every other person who comes in to our house calls it a sun porch or even a three-season porch, completely ignoring the fact that it is connected to both our kitchen and bathroom with no way of closing it off during the winter, making it, in fact, a four-season room, but I digress) needs some help. Currently there is a table and a cat tree in there.  Note: A better person would have straightened up some before taking this photos - I am not a better person.

To the right when you walk into the mudroom:
Extra bonus: Zelda photobomb!
I dream of a hall tree for hanging bicycle helmets during cycling seasons and coats during non-cycling seasons.  I am desirous of hooks on top and storage in the form of a bench seat under. I imagine putting cycling stuff there so we don't have pumps, lights, and locks littering our mudroom table all the damn time. I would like to put this a little bit to the left of where the table is and slide the table over to the right.  That would make me happy.


I am less desirous of a mirror on top of this piece, but most reasonably priced hall trees have mirrors, so I guess I might just have to suck it up. I also do not want any cushion on the bench because I have a cat who immediately thinks upholstered items are hers to scratch and I don't want to have to spend months training her not to scratch it.  I mean, I did that for the couch and loveseat and that's all I'm willing to do.

For this room, I'd also like window seating with closed storage under the windows right next to the door to the outside. This storage might be workout stuff. Or it might be winter things. We currently have a blue Tupperware tote the size of my desk filled with mittens, gloves, scarves, snowpants, and assorted other THINGS that we use for the five coldest months out of the year and it would be nice to have someplace we can just put those things and not have to keep moving it in and out of storage. Anyway. This also means someone can sit down and take off their shoes as soon as they walk in the door instead of TRUDGING ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE LEAVING WET FOOTPRINTS.  Ahem. Pet peeve.
Many benches have backs, which we don't want because it's going to go right under our windows. Others have upholstery which we don't want because cat. And others have open storage which seems like it would just be a place for the cat to hide/get fur all over everything. I thought this would be EASY, but I have been proven incorrect about this.

Okay, so let's move from the mudroom to the front room. It's a big room and we've divided it into two spaces. One space has our television and couches
Okay, YES, I could have cleaned up. Whatever.
 and then there's this on the other side:
The rocking chair will stay. We'll throw a blanket over it and call it good. Dr. BB's dad's friends have offered us a rug that will probably go there. And I want a desk here. I would LOVE a rolltop, but we're eying a secretary that we found at an antique shop recently.  So something like this might be nice between the windows.
We also need storage for workout gear. I access this near daily, so it can't be out of the way or I'll be annoyed daily which is the opposite of how I want to live my life, so we're going to probably just get an good old-fashioned steamer trunk. It will fit my weight set, yoga mat, balance ball, and assorted other move your body about accoutrements.


We'd also like to get new dressers to match our bedroom set, more bookshelves, and a new table for the mudroom so the table in the mudroom can go in the hobby room, but these four pieces of furniture are really my priorities right now and what I'm seriously stalking antiques shops for.

What should a reasonable budget be for someone who's willing to do some work hiking to antique-y places? I'm thinking $2000, but the desk we're looking at is $700, a hall bench I've been eyeing at an Amish store is about the same price, and I've yet to come across either a bench or trunk I love yet. Maybe that budget is a little low?

Anyway, what else should we put in that front room? It's a gorgeous space and I feel like it's just going to end up being storage!!! Help a girl out.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond is a heartbreakingly sad book based on ethnographic research Desmond did about eviction in Milwaukee.
This book made me so, so, so unhappy.  I live 50 miles from this place and I had no idea that any of this was going on. I mean, I know that there are people who live in poverty, but I didn't fully understand just how common evictions have become.

I know poverty. I come from poverty* and I clawed my way through luck and some advantageous use of governmental resources.

But.

This book.

The housing crisis has created a real problem for renters. People who had owned homes but lost them became renters and low-income renters were then pushed into ever more substandard rentals.  They can't afford to move, they can't afford to complain about living conditions because the landlords will evict them, and the landlords know they can't move, so they don't fix anything.  If landlords do start eviction proceedings, the buildup of fines, fees, and the destruction of your credit and rental history makes it impossible to dig out from debt.

This book follows some families in Milwaukee who deal with poverty, addiction, eviction, and mental illness. It follows families whose children die, whose children are removed from their parents' custody, and whose children grow up quickly.  It follows white families and black families. it follows landlords/slumlords. It takes us into the bowels of the social services and criminal justice systems. It does all this with sympathy for all.

Why does a person spend all their food stamps on one dinner of lobster tail and eat ramen for the rest of the month? Why does a person who is college educated and once made upwards of six figures end up in a beat up trailer with no hot water and no mattress to sleep on? How do children do their homework when there are eight other people in a two bedroom apartment with them? You learn all of this and, if you're anything like me, you get a knot in your stomach.  The world is hard for all of us, but much harder for some.

It was a good reminder for me. I have slacked off on much of my volunteer work in the last few years. For many years, it was something that really and truly identified who I was. It was an important part of my identity - someone who spent much time and effort volunteering and being part of a solution to problems, but I haven't really found my niche in the volunteer world here in Wisconsin. But there's work to be done and I can't throw my hands up in the air and say it's out of my control, so I need to buckle down. I can't help every one of those people, but I can some.

Edited to add: Rural poverty is quite different from urban poverty. That is part of the reason why some of this book was so revealing to me.

Friday, September 08, 2017

CSA Week 14: Can You Pickle Peppers?

This was our first week of classes and I'm not going to lie, I considered just lying down in the street and calling it quits when I was about two blocks away from our house on the way back from getting the vegetables this week. When I thought about having to clean it all and put it away AND then make dinner and do the dishes, I almost gave up.  But I persevered. Also, I ate a granola bar.

This week is not looking particularly promising.

Sage
Peppers (1 pound, apparently, which is 5)
Bok choy
Kale
Onions (3)
Garlic
Beets (and greens)
This is a lot greens my friends. We'll probably use the kale in a frittata. I can probably saute the beet greens with some garlic and onion for a lunch side this weekend. We haven't actually figured out a way to use the bok choy, although we have an Instant Pot, so I might try some sort of magical recipe that I haven't quite found yet.
I could potentially eat the peppers (one a day isn't that hard, really), but I might try to pickle them.  We'll see.  Normally our farmers would include a recipe or two in the newsletter if they gave us this much of something, but nope. Not a peep this week.  A sage and beet soup I'll never ever ever make was included, but an idea of how to use this many peppers?  Not a word.

Does anyone in southeastern Wisconsin want these damn beets? We sure don't. I've tried various preps over the years and it turns out that I just don't like them. And if I don't like them, you can bet your booty that Dr. BB is not going to eat them.
Well, that's that. This week will be a challenge, but I know that squash is just around the corner and then we will LOVE the CSA again, but right now I find myself just the teeny tiniest bit pissed at the January Me who signed up us for this nonsense. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

At some point, I heard about Alas, Babylon as a follow-up to all the people who wanted more apocalyptic drama after the fervor of The Handmaid's Tale and its television revival died down. I recommended it to my book club and the next thing I knew we were reading a Cold War exemplum about nuclear holocaust just as one unpredictable world leader was leading a Twitter rampage against another unpredictable world leader and I was posting apologetic messages to our Facebook group about how I could never have anticipated just how much the book was resonate with us.

Anyway.

It was a pretty good read. I think I took away a number of disaster preparedness lessons from it.  Number one: I am not prepared for an actual disaster. Number two: If Next to Nowhere is not directly impacted by a disaster, the area is probably okay in terms of natural resources (water and food), but is not okay in terms of a communication plan.  Number three:  Maybe we do need a gun in the house, if only as an option for suicide in a real disaster. Number four: If there is a nuclear explosion, don't look directly at it unless you want damaged eyes. Number five: Times have certainly changed in terms of trust in government. The people in this novel really and truly believed that the government would come and save them at some point. I'm pretty sure that if an actual disaster struck me right here and right now, I'd figure we were on our own.

Anyway, many people in my book club said this was an optimistic take on the impact of nuclear war and I guess that it could be read that way.  For the characters we followed, it honestly could not have turned out any better. The on his way to becoming a drunk guy finds meaning in his life, couples continue to get married, have kids (in a nuclear war! - WTF? seriously, people, this biological urge to procreate has clearly skipped me entirely), and the community adapts.  Old hierarchies are adapted to the new realities and, at least for our main characters, life is not actually that bad.  I pondered whether or not it was purposeful government propaganda (copyright 1959 - it's not too out of line, right?).

Or you could read it as morality tale about how humans destroy everything they touch and we can never have a civilization that won't attempt to annihilate another civilization.

I'll leave it to you to determine how I read the situation.
 
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