My saintly parents went home on Saturday, after more than 2 full weeks of nonstop cooking, cleaning, Emmie-watching, and mostly driving. My dad drove Peter to and from work each day, for about 2 hours of drive time every day. Peter is technically able to drive himself (and has), but we all felt that it was a better use of Peter’s cognitive resources in the first weeks of school to worry about lesson planning (and simply getting through the day) than driving. Add to that all of my various doctor’s appointments, plus a few fun adventures, and it all added up to a LOT of miles that both my parents drove. We absolutely could not have done it without them (entertaining Emmie alone can take two people), but it is a little bit nice now to try to figure out how to get back to “normal,” at least until my appointment at Sloan-Kettering. Peter caught a bad cold, thanks to back-to-school germs I’m sure, so Emmie and I solo’d it most of this weekend. I was pretty darn tired by late afternoon yesterday, but I think that’s normal. We went to the park with a friend and her son, and I ran around with her a decent amount, and later another friend and her sons came over and we played, so it was a busy day. Thankfully, the second friend also brought dinner so I didn’t have to cook because I *really* don’t think I would have survived then! Today, we went to Emmie’s very, very favorite place, kind of like a mini-water park run by the city, and we definitely went down her favorite water slide (the big kind with tubes) at least 7 times. When we came home over her protests of “I’m not cold!” said through chattering teeth, she absolutely did not want to go in the house yet in spite of her extreme exhaustion, so she just laid down on the grass in front of the house. My heart leapt because I had just been daydreaming about how much I wanted to lay on some green grass under a huge shady tree and look up at the sky with her, and I of course I always have the vague thought that I might not be here the next time this season rolls around again (I’ve had this awareness on the edge of my consciousness for the past three years) and there she was! Laying under our beautiful, huge shade trees! Already calling out to me the things she was spotting in the clouds! So I dropped the thirty-five enormously heavy bags of towels, snacks and wet swimsuits on the sidewalk and laid right down to join her. I can’t remember what she or I saw in those wispy clouds set against the bright blue sky, but I do remember that I felt so complete and happy. My sweet girl and I had a beautiful moment together, just as I had hoped and pictured. I think I need to start picturing more moments, like seeing her start kindergarten… elementary school… her first dance recital… maybe even her wedding day?
We are heading into “preserving season,” which is always fun but SO much work. It feels like the early-to-mid season veggies we grow tend not to be things that need preserving (or we prefer to give them away, like the MOUNTAINS of zucchini and summer squash we always grow). But now as the summer squash are ending their production (I’m ripping the plants out this weekend), I’m eager to preserve at least a few of them, if only in a few loaves of zucchini bread or muffins. At the same time, the production of tomatoes is rapidly increasing. Now that Mom and Dad have left, we have fewer mouths to snack on their deliciousness and we can’t keep up simply by eating them. Last night, I made a cherry tomato/eggplant spread that supposedly can be used for bruschetta, pizza or pasta to freeze. I don’t know how we’ll end up using it, but it certainly is delicious! Today, I made zucchini muffins (with summer squash, subbing coconut oil and adding craisins), zucchini oat chocolate chip cookies (again with summer squash so Emmie doesn’t freak about about the green bits, reducing butter and sugar for high altitude, and using 1/3 white whole wheat flour, 1/3 coconut flour, and 1/3 all-purpose flour. The coconut flour SUCKED up the moisture, so I added 1 TB coconut oil and a splash of milk). They both turned out really good and I ended up wishing I had doubled both recipes so I could have more to freeze since they got inhaled. Also, both recipes only used used one medium (for us) summer squash, with some left over. Peter consolidated he various little piles of zucchini and summer squash lying about and we now have an enormous mound to use up and/or preserve. I would literally have to make 40+ batches of what I made today to use them all up (or more!). I do want to be sure that we freeze a lot of it though. Those squashes are such a great way to add veggies to the one thing Emmie will consistently eat (bread products), so I really want to make the most of them. An important point: The only reason I have been able to do so much freezing of foods and produce has been because of an extremely generous group of friends who got together to buy a huge chest freezer for us. It has been such a gift, in the deepest sense of the word, to be able to stockpile good foods for the future, and not have to worry about our extremely limited space in our regular freezer (it was a pretty regular occurrence to have a frozen hunk of meat fall on your toes when you opened the freezer door). While I am loving my new way of eating, it’s really, really hard to make real food for every meal each and every day, so any kind of prep ahead is really helpful. And I haven’t even been doing this on my own yet! We have so many amazing, wonderful friends who have been bringing us meals a few times a week, which helps to ease the burden SO much. This is also why I’ve been able to “get ahead” in cooking and freezing meals for the future, because normally I would be doing DARN well just to have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour every night. I also have something to say about that as well. I didn’t know this, but apparently every single one of my friends is a stinking amazing chef. We have had the most delicious dinners I can remember and they have all been so healthy! I really need to start asking people to include their recipes (or guidelines) with their meals so I can attempt to recreate some of these creations. I’m pretty sure Lisa’s delicious curried vegetable soup even converted Peter to liking soup. (I’ve mostly been making soups to freeze. Poor Peter!). I really need to learn more about cooking, apparently, because nothing I ever cook tastes as good as every meal my friends have made. Maybe the not-having-to-cook-it part also increases the flavor? Ha ha! And with that, I really should go upstairs and start on the pile of dishes that all that cooking inevitably makes.