Monday, July 31, 2006

We're on our own

(Originally posted on Monday, July 31, 2006 by Tim)

Carol and Jim left for home yesterday. If you?ve been following, you know that Carol has been here since Cat went into labor. She has been a tremendous amount of help over the last three weeks. We?re going to miss her.

Baby Dal has been getting much more awake and alert. We wanted to demonstrate this with an eyes open picture. Unfortunately, we?re not all that good at capturing these things. I could have posted several blurry (and cute) pictures with Baby Dal?s eyes open. However, I?d rather not post something that looks like a NASA reconstruction of the moons of Saturn. Instead, you get a focused picture of me holding Baby Dal with his hands in front of his face.

I?m going to keep it short. It is 10:30 pm and I haven?t been able to shower yet. I woke up with modest plans for the day and managed to get hardly anything done. I can say that we managed to work out and cook ourselves dinner (it contained squash). We also got the materials together for the first four pages of Dalton's scrap book. Hopefully we can find time to put those together tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2006


(Originally posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 by Cathy)

Dalton's two week check-up was yesterday. [For the benefit of our single friends: babies lose weight after birth and are supposed to be up to their original birth weight by two weeks....] Mom, Tim, and I were running a pool on what Dalton was going to weigh. I was guessing 9 pounds 8 oz, Tim guessed 9 pounds 7 oz, and Mom guessed 9 pounds 11 oz. Mom won; we all guessed low. Dalton weighted 9 pounds 15 oz. Of course, that was right before he peed all over the scale in the doctor's office. I figure it was revenge for the nurse having called him Johanna. Apparently having three last names is going to be confusing.

Family Picture Day

(Originally posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 by Tim)

Today we decided to make a family picture. This was more of an epic experience than you might expect. First off, I haven?t had a haircut in months. My morning started with a trip to Walmart where there is a Cost Cutters.

Yes, I know that Walmart is evil.

Usually I get my hair cut in Radford, but I need an appointment for that. I would have made one earlier in the week, but I can?t seem to remember the name of my stylist. This makes it a little embarrassing to call in my appointments.

Me: ?Hi, I?d like to make an appointment to get my hair cut.?

Stylist on the phone: ?Ok, who would you like to make an appointment with??

Me: ?Um?I can?t ever seem to remember her name. She?s the crazy woman down by the window who?s always complaining about her ex-husband.?

Stylist on the phone: ?Oh, hi Tim! I can get you at 3 pm. I?ll make sure the scissors are good and sharp.?

Once my hair was cut, I had to break the bad news to Cat. Not only would she have to wake up, but she?d have to shower and put on nice clothes as well. This process took something on the order of two hours.

Many parents get a professional photographer for these sorts of pictures. Unfortunately, that won?t work in our family because Johann genes are involved. My family has the dreaded anti-photogenic gene. This is particularly evident in wedding pictures. Having been married twice, I actually have two sets of these for comparison. In both cases, my family members have closed eyes, open mouths, and generally goofy looks. In contrast, the other family sports the relaxed happy smiles you see on television anchorpersons and on models in magazines.

Another example of my anti-photogenicity is the picture I have up at work and on my web page. This photo was taken by the department secretary who frankly snuck up on me. I thought it looked pretty good, actually really good for me, but I wanted something that didn?t have a diet coke can in the picture. I convinced the secretary to hold off on the photo so that I could have Cat get a better one of me. Thirty photos later, we still didn?t have one in which I didn?t look either goofy or psychotic. I?m not sure whether the Johann anti-photogenic gene is dominant or recessive. We will have to see how things turn out for Dalton.

It?s the anti-photogenic gene that keeps us from being able to use a professional photographer. The sheer number of photos that would need to be taken to obtain one where we all look decent would drive any professional insane. They just wouldn?t agree to it. For that sort of imposition, we needed family. I?d like to thank Cat?s parents for their patience with us today. The final family portrait is shown above. If you want a good laugh, you can view the attempts in this electronic album. I deleted a few, my hard drive isn?t infinite in size, but most of them are included.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This blog post composed one-handed

(Originally posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 by Cathy)

Yesterday's big event (which I was too tired to post on) was that Dalton's umbilical cord stump fell off. It had been hanging by a thread (err.. a slimy thread, perhaps) for the last few days, but I'd been resisting the urge to pull on it.

I hadn't changed any diapers yesterday morning, so I thought at first that Mom and/or Tim had just forgotten to tell me that Dalton was now cordless. Turns out that the cord had just fallen off, as I found it in the changer when I picked Dal back up.

So I showed Tim the cord, which may have been a mistake. I was going to throw it out, but Tim's threatening to save it. A family friend gave us a memory box with containers for "baby's first tooth" and "baby's first haircut." If Tim has his way, we're going to need more containers: "Baby's first diaper," "baby's cord stump," and "baby's first fingernail trimmings," just to name a few. Oh, and don't forget "baby's first spit-up!"

Dalton's threatening to wake up, which means I'm going to stop having even one hand free for typing, so I'd better sign off here. Ya'll have a good one.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Baby Calisthenics!

(Originally posted on Monday, July 24, 2006 by Tim)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

More Sleep Deprivation

(Originally posted on Sunday, July 23, 2006 by Tim)

Last night was a rough night. Dalton has become more complicated than feed or change me when I cry and I?ll go back to sleep. He?s been looking around a lot more over the last day or so. He still isn?t really focusing on anything yet. Cat says he likes to look at contrasts between light and dark.

Last night he was fussing for the first half of the night and feeding and changing didn?t seem to get him back to sleep. At 3am, Cat asked me to take him away so she could get a little sleep. I carried him into his room and tried rocking him in the dark. He wasn?t having any of it. I then turned on the light and he calmed down and started looking around. I spent the next hour changing his position, shaking a rattle near him, and singing to him ??over the ramparts we watched??. I?m pretty sure there were a few diaper changes in there as well.

It?s partly our fault that we?re sleep deprived today. Dalton was sleeping pretty heavily from dinner until bedtime. At 9pm we decided to watch a movie while he was sleeping rather than go to bed. I hope we?ve learned out lesson. We?re at out of movies for the moment so tonight should be safe.

Speaking of singing, yesterday?s post reminded me of the time I got through Canadian customs by knowing some of the ?Star Spangled Banner?. I had flown into Montreal for a friend?s wedding but had not brought a passport or a birth certificate. It was pre 9-11 and I didn?t think I would need one as all you need is a driver?s license to cross the border. I was stopped by a really cute customs agent with a French accent (which made her even more cute). After explaining that I didn?t know I needed more than a driver?s license, she said, ?OK, I?m going to let you prove to me that you are an all American boy. Sing for me the Star Spangled Banner.? I was flustered and didn?t know the words any better than I do today. Worse yet, I was so nervous that I started with ?My Country Tis of Thee?. I eventually got on the right song, managed most of the words correctly, and she let me through. I still wonder if she was flirting with me. I didn?t have the guts to ask her for her number (or whatever you do with French Canadians).

It?s been three days of squash meals and we are starting to beat back the beast in the garden. Yesterday, Cat and Carol made a yummy squash fritter recipe. I?ve posted it below in case you encounter a squash invasion yourself.

Yellow Squash Fritters
1 big squash (lots bigger than they let them grow for the grocery store), 3 ½ cups grated
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs beaten
8 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons cornmeal
Oil for frying
½ tsp salt
repeated vigorous grinds of pepper until chef is bored

Squeeze grated squash to remove excess water. Combine with the parmesan, eggs, flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Knead together with hands until reasonably mixed. Pour a thin layer of oil in a pan. Add a quarter of a cup of fritter mixture to the pan and heat over medium heat until golden brown*. Flip the fritter and cool the other side until it is also golden brown. Feel free to cook as many fritters as will fit in your pan.

We served the fritters with crystal Thai sauce. It is a very sweet and hot sauce that we?ve made to go with our spring roll recipe. I?m tired and it?s a little complicated so I?m not going to post it tonight. Suffice it to say that any sauce that goes with fritters is good with this recipe. I think they would be great dipped in maple syrup, but what isn?t.

*The fritters will be bright yellow if you?ve used yellow squash.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Oh say can you see...

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 22, 2006 by Tim)

Now that we have a baby, I have need of a skill that I haven?t used much since junior high school. When I?m trying to calm Dalton down when he is fussing or when I?m just trying to entertain him when he?s awake, I?ve been singing to him. I?ve clearly not been singing out loud much for the last 20 years as I can only remember the words to a few songs. Cat knows all the words to a whole pile of songs. She sings to him about dancing bears, pirate ships, and she knows all the words to multiple songs from Mary Poppins. Furthermore, all her singing is on key.

In contrast, I can?t seem to remember all the words to most songs. I even have trouble remembering the tunes to many songs when I try to hum them. I?ve been falling back on the Christmas tunes and I still can only remember the words to a few. From me, Dalton hears ?Silent Night?, ?Jingle Bells?, and the ?Star Spangled Banner?. I need to find some time to learn the words to more songs. The best way to do this might be to find some appropriate songs to load on my iPod for work.

I suppose Laura would point out that this would be an excellent opportunity to learn all the words to ?American Pie? before the next Catotti family wedding.*

*Those of you who are not Catottis or related to one through marriage will have to forgive me for this inside joke. You have to have attended my wedding AND Jessica?s wedding to really get this one. I suppose those of you who are not chemists or gamers may have cursed me several times already for inside jokes. Just wait until I start making jokes that only Catotti, chemist, gamers will get.

Friday, July 21, 2006

If you keep doing that with your lip, it's going to stay that way!

(Originally posted on Friday, July 21, 2006 by Tim)

Dalton was well traveled today. He spent most of the day in Roanoke. First we took a tour of the Salem Montessori School where we are thinking about having him stay when Cat goes back to work in January. We were disappointed when we found out that they can?t guarantee that he will get in. I guess some of their infants have to graduate toddlers first. It means that we will have to find some other sources of day care and get on their waiting lists as well to make sure we have something lined up.

After the Montessori tour, we went out to our favorite Thai restaurant for lunch. Cathy pulled no punches and had a Thai iced tea (caffeine) and a spicy entrée. We?ll see if anything gets transferred to Baby Dal and turns into cranky behavior tonight. So far so good although he did let out the biggest belch to date a few minutes ago. That?s my boy!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Look what we grew this summer! *

(Originally posted on Thursday, July 20, 2006 by Tim)

I have alluded to the existence of a garden in our yard in previous posts. Cat and I put it in this Spring. It is a 10 foot by 10 foot raised bed that is a mixture of the orange clay that passes for dirt in our yard and some purchased topsoil of dubious quality. We contained the ?soil? with 10 foot by 6 inch by 1 inch pine boards. I know that pine won?t last all that long, but I wanted to avoid using any chemically treated wood. The whole garden is an experiment. Once we settle on a size, I?ll likely replace the pine with more expensive cedar.

In addition to the structure of the garden, the plants are also an experiment. We wanted to see what would grow well this year. As part of this experiment, we planted one yellow squash plant. As you can see from the picture above, the squash has been an astounding success. Frankly, we can?t keep up with it. I know that I?m supposed to cut the yellow squash when it is an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. It seems like I can?t turn my back on the thing without it producing squash that rival hard to deliver babies in size. It?s even more difficult to keep up with it in the kitchen. I think we?ll be eating a lot of squash this summer.

Our response to the two monster squashes you see above was to bake them, spoon the innards out, and fill them with stuffing.

Stuffed Squash
Two squash (can be summer or winter)
½ cup cheddar cheese

Cut squash into halves. Bake in oven upside down on an oiled tray for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spoon out and dice the insides of the squash. Add the insides to the stuffing. Fill squash with the stuffing and sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top. Bake an additional 10 minutes or so until the cheese is melted.

I didn?t get a chance to post yesterday, but we had another first. It was our first meal at a restaurant with Dalton. Cat?s aunt Jan and uncle Don were visiting with their kids and we went out with them, Carol, Jes, and Larry for pizza. Dalton was a good boy. He nursed a bit and was quiet for the whole meal.

We will be taking a tour of a Montessori school tomorrow. The school is our current top choice for Dalton daycare when Cat goes back to teaching in January. The school is also near our favorite Thai place in Roanoke. Since Dalton did so well at the pizza place, we?re going to try going to the Thai place tomorrow. We?ve eaten there a number of times. The staff know us and I?m sure they will get a kick out of seeing the baby.

*Thanks to Jessica for the idea for the title.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Our First Date (Since the Birth)

(Originally posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2006 by Tim)

I?ve been trying, and failing horribly, to get back into emailing friends and relatives since the birth. What emails I have managed to send may not have been the most interesting. Between sleep deprivation and primary focus on the baby, my ?prose? has been something less than scintillating.

I?ve read that having a baby will result in the loss of your single friends. I?m not sure if there is a gender bias to this, but I think I?m going to have to be careful. I received an email from a friend of mine where he talked about his yard and video games (two of our normal topics). He finished up his email with, ?As for nipple guards, waaaay too much information.?

As a result, today?s post will be devoid of any discussion of breast feeding.

As most of this post is about yesterday, the picture above is also from yesterday. I think he looks really good in blue.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. My mom and I picked raspberries (over a half gallon) in the back yard while my dad mowed. It really looks good back there now. My parents also made a delicious vegetarian lasagna for dinner. They have been a ton of help with the house and meals during their visit. In addition, my parents and I have been sneaking off to the gym while they have been here. Counting today, I?ve managed to get four workouts in a row.

I want to make sure to give Carol credit for all the support she has been lending as well. She has been fantastic in supporting Cat and keeping the house from turning into a disaster zone. She asked how long we?d like her to stay the other day and my thoughts were that January would work just fine. Unfortunately, she has this pesky job thing that she has to get back to in a few weeks.

Another thing that made yesterday a good day is that Cat and I had our first ?date? since the birth. It wasn?t all that fancy a date. We went out to Coldstone for ice cream. For those of you that aren?t familiar with Coldstone, it is essentially the Starbucks of ice cream. You walk up to the counter and select the type of ice cream you want and then a series of toppings. The student (we are a college town) behind the counter takes your ice cream, places it on a cooled marble slab, and folds your various toppings into it. You then go to the cash register and exchange a week?s pay for roughly a week?s worth calories.

I let Cat order since I was planning to only have a few bites (I ate half of course). She ordered a decadent quadruple chocolate monstrosity. It was chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, and chocolate brownies. The only thing that was not chocolate was the cone (I guess she missed on that one). I thoroughly approved of her choice. In the past, she has ordered what I like to call ?Strawberry abomination?. It is composed of strawberry ice cream with chocolate chips. It?s not that I don?t like strawberry ice cream with chocolate chips, it?s just that a place like Coldstone is all about self-indulgence and excess. For the price I pay in dollars and calories for a dessert there, I want them to contract a mad scientist to research arcane ways to bend the laws of physics to pack more chocolate into my cone. I also expect that the cocoa beans used to have been backpacked out the Himalayas by a caravan of Yeti. Strawberry ice cream and chocolate chips is just?well kinda boring.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Spell-checker strikes Tim again

(Originally posted on Sunday, July 16, 2006 by Cathy)

Quote (from Tim, on 7/14):

"Cathy tends to be better about not overeating to things than me."

While this is true, I'm actually pretty sure he meant overreacting.

Dalton latched on and did his best nursing yet this afternoon. Unfortunately, we did it with a nipple shield, but in the grand scheme of things a nipple shield is vastly more portable than a pump. So we'll get good at this with the shield, then we'll break that habit.

p.s. I've saved our more innocent readership from having to google for images of "nipple shield"s. Thank me later, after I stop trying to claw out my own eyes.... Thankfully, Dalton's eyes were closed...

Today Was a Good Day

(Originally posted on Sunday, July 16, 2006 by Tim)

I?ve been asked about the dates of some of the baby pictures I?ve posted on the web site. Unless otherwise noted, the picture has been taken the day of the post. I?m hoping to post once a day. That way we?ll have a visual and verbal record of our experiences. It will be nice to look back through these posts and see how Dalton grew up. I?m not sure how long I?ll keep at this. Obviously, it?s going to be hard to get Dalton to pose for a picture for a post when he gets into his teen age years.

We had a good day today. Dalton slept 5 hours straight last night. He then woke up and was active and ?ate? for about 2 hours. He hardly cries at all. We had a checkup from Hannah and his weight and his color are looking good. She drew some blood to test for a number of different genetic disorders. Hannah drew what looked like a milliliter of blood from his heel which did result in crying. He pretty much stopped after the blood draw.

Probably more significant is that he has started nursing from Cat?s breast with the help of a nipple shield. She is still way ahead of him on milk and so she still needs to pump to keep her breasts from exploding or something like that. I assume her body will slow down or he will catch up and it will all even out. Regardless, it is a great improvement and we?re all very happy about it.

We?re all lying in bed at the moment and I wanted to share an interaction we?re having.

Dalton: (slight screech)

Cat: What?s up baby?

Tim: Do you want me to change him?

Cat: I don?t think he needs changing.

(no time passes)

Dalton: Brraatt!

Cat: (To Tim) Looks like you?re on.

One thing that has been very helpful has been having Cat?s mom and my mom and dad in town. They?ve been a great help with keeping us sane. Despite the fact that neither Cat nor I seem to know what day it is, the house is clean and everyone is well fed.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Too Tired for Blog Post

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 15, 2006 by Tim)


Friday, July 14, 2006

Dalton Discovers Computers

(Originally posted on Friday, July 14, 2006 by Tim)

I want to thank everyone for their encouraging emails. Cat has been somewhat restricted to the upstairs so I brought her my tablet so she could read them. As you can see from the picture, Dalton is showing an interest. This is great news. If I can teach him to play Diablo II, we can have a three person group for our games. He would be a great help in my accomplishing frivolous life goal #3. Of course, this assumes that he isn't a PK.

On a more serious note, taking care of a baby is exhausting! We?ve had tons of support. Cathy?s mom and my parents are here to help and I?m still worn out. While I planned to stay home once Dalton was born, I had the hope of working half days in the back of my mind. Hope is an important thing to have, however, I?m having trouble finding time to do simple things like returning phone calls right now.

I did expect Dalton to be a lot of work, but not in the ways he has been. Our biggest problems are centered on breastfeeding. I never anticipated that this would be a problem. I figured that when the baby cries, you feed him and he eats. Last night was a very frustrating experience with Cathy fighting with Dalton and trying to get him to feed directly from the breast. He essentially starts screaming as soon as the nipple is in his mouth.

I was really worried last night as his weight was down about 10% and he was a bit jaundiced during our lactation consultation visit yesterday. Just in case you didn?t know, my job in the family is to worry about things. Cathy tends to be better about not overeating to things than me. Needless to say, neither Cat nor I got much sleep last night between worrying about Dalton?s weight and fighting with him over feeding.

Today was much better. We essentially gave up on trying to get Dalton to directly breastfeed and have been finger feeding. Cat?s milk has come in as well and pumping has been much easier for her. Now that we have temporarily given in to his refusal to breastfeed, Dalton has been eating a lot. As a result, his weight was back up today. We also had an appointment with our family doctor and she didn?t think he was alarmingly jaundiced. We are all much relieved.

We are going to meet with the lactation consultant again in the next day or two. We need to come up with a plan to transition Dalton over to breastfeeding while still keeping him healthy and keeping Cat and me sane.

Small correction

(Originally posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006 by Cathy)

Ok, so I made it down stairs, at least briefly. (We had to take Dalton in for a lactation consult, more about that later, but things are improving, even if I'm having to pump some of his meals...)

I was actually in labor for somewhat less than 24 hours, although it sure FELT like a day and then some. I thought I was maybe in labor by 1pm, was pretty darn sure by 5pm, at which point Tim headed into the kitchen to make dinner and I called the midwife. By around 7-8pm, I was in active labor. Dalton's stuck shoulder and arm put in an appearance at 8:50am the next morning, and we were done with the placenta about an hour later. So it was 21 hours if you count -everything-, and more like 14 if you just count the active labor and pushing.

It was hard, because I had a lot of back labor (and thus a lot of pain, even between contractions). Apparently Dalton's stuck hand had a similar effect to a posterior baby, without any of the approaches used to turn a posterior baby actually working, since he wasn't actually posterior. In total, the labor time wasn't all that large for a first birth, it's just the pushing time that was waaay above average. I feel very lucky to have been at home, since I do NOT think I'd have gotten the five hours of pushing required if we'd been in the hospital.

And on that note, it's time to go pump again. MOOOOO.

Demoted to Dog

(Originally posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006 by Tim)

...and you thought you would get a baby picture.

We had a couple of firsts today.

1. Cathy came downstairs for the first time from the birth.
2. Sam and Modi got to meet Dalton for the first time.
3. I changed my first (and second) diaper.

I'll let you decide which you think is the most exciting event.

Dalton is still slow on picking up breast feeding. We had a meeting with the lactation consultant at the local hospital today. She was great. She spent 2 hours with us and got Dalton to finally feed from Cat's breast. At two hours per session, it's no wonder they don't answer the phone. While we still have some work ahead of us, the improvement is very encouraging.

My parents arrived today and also met Dalton for the first time. Mom took this picture of her grandson. Note how Mr. Long Labor still has his hands up around his head.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Day 2

(Originally posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 by Tim)

I can already feel this web space threatening to become a string of baby posts and pictures. Over half our readership is probably grandparents so I expect it will be well received.

Both Cat and Dalton had a checkup from Hannah (our midwife) today. Both are doing well. Cat is healing fast and Dalton is progressing as expected. The only real difficulty at present is Dalton seems to be a little slow on picking up on breastfeeding. We?ve rented a breast pump and he is being fed colostrum from a syringe. Hopefully he will get things down in the next day or two. Regardless of the slope of his learning curve, he is getting fed.

Cat?s mom (Carol) was here for the birth. She actually made it just in time. The original plan was for her to come up here on the 10th after stopping in Tennessee for an appointment. Cat started having contractions early that day, but wasn?t sure if they were real since they were irregular. While talking together on the phone that morning Carol remarked, ?Feel free to get started without me.? Apparently Cat took her seriously. Carol arrived about an hour after Cat began active labor.

The picture above was taken today (Day 2). Dalton is being held by his aunt Jessica and is looking quite lively.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dalton S. J.

(Originally posted on Tuesday, July 11, 2006 by Tim)

Born early this morning after 24 hours of labor (12 of it active and 5 of that pushing). He had his hand up by his head and that prolonged the experience. Hopefully, he has learned his lesson and will steadfastly avoid causing his parents grief in the future.

9 pounds even
21 inches long
1 day early

Both mother and baby are doing well.

The father is still a bit freaked out by the experience.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

4th of July

(Originally posted on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 by Tim)

I hope everyone is having a good 4th of July. Cat and I are going over to a friend?s house for Middle Eastern food. Eating food from that region of the world on the 4th of July seems a bit un-American based on events of the last decade. Still, we like the food, so we?ll be off soon. I?m taking the precaution of eating bratwurst and baked beans before we go to try and keep us off the FBI and NSA watch lists.

The other issue with today?s dinner is that it is in Radford. Normally, this location is neither here nor there, but I was at work today and the entire city or Radford has no water. Our friends called ahead and warned Cat that there was only one flush left in the toilet. Cat got a double take out of me when she said, ?Oh, I?ll be fine.? As you all know, Cat is pregnant and due any day now. With the baby pressing on her bladder, she has to use the rest room every 10 minutes. Just this morning, she kicked me out of the bathroom in the middle of shaving because she couldn?t wait any longer. Now I know what you are thinking. Cathy could stand on her head at dinner and that would take the weight of the baby off her bladder. Unfortunately, it would put the weight on her lungs instead and then she wouldn?t be able to breathe. I suppose I?d better start finding some containers to load the car up with water to flush the toilets this evening.

On the bright side, these friends didn?t give us an option of something to bring and now we have something. I?ve been trying to think of an idea, but I keep coming up short. I was thinking about a bottle of wine, but they are wine people and always bring a really good bottle when we see them. I?ve been drinking very little wine the last few years and I don?t have a prayer of picking out something that wouldn?t be embarrassing. Another idea was to bring a basil plant over. Last time they were at our place, they commented on the basil hedge I had upstairs. Unfortunately, I haven?t prepared for this and I don?t have any basil plants ready to give away. Fortunately, I just thought of what they need. You guessed it, they need drinking water. Their entire town is out of water and has been all day. I bet their grocery stores are out as well. Water, it?s the perfect housewarming gift. We?ll pick some up on our way over.

Monday, July 3, 2006


(Originally posted on Sunday, July 2, 2006 by Tim)

Cat and I have an acre and a quarter of land around the house. Of this, approximately a quarter acre is adjacent and open to the road and the ?back? acre is fenced in for the dogs. We?ve planted a number of things in both parts of the yard since last Fall and we?re in the process of seeing what sorts of fruits and vegetables we can get here.

I?ll describe some of the things we have planted in a separate post. In addition to what we?ve done, there are three ?crops? that were extant in the yard when we arrived: Grapes, raspberries, and blackberries. We had a great crop of grapes the first summer we were here. I harvested a gallon or so of these and used them to make a very nice grape jam. Last year, we didn?t get any grapes. I?d speculate that this was due to a combination of a Japanese beetle infestation and my not pruning the grape vine during late Winter.

I have never raised grapes before and I wasn?t aware that you were supposed to prune grape vines. Apparently, you get your greatest quantity of grapes from new growth. As such, you are supposed to cut all growth back to the first or second bud from the main vine. This involves some pretty extreme pruning. I was worried that I had gone too far when I finished hacking back the vines this last Winter. This level of pruning appears to have been just fine as we have a vigorous and healthy grape vine this year with copious bunches of fruit.

The benefit of heavy pruning was supposedly discovered by a monk shortly before the fall of the Roman Empire. The monk was Saint Martin, who also is the French Saint of winemaking. As legend has it, he would ride a donkey to the vineyards in order to examine the crops. On arrival at the vineyards, Saint Martin would tether the donkey to a post and go about his investigation of the grapes. Now Saint Martin may be a patron Saint, but he was no Boy Scout. As such, he couldn?t tie knots very well. One day the donkey escaped its tether. When Saint Martin returned from his inspection, he was horrified to find that the donkey had been eating the vines and had chewed some back to the trunk.* He considered having the donkey shot, but being the 350?s it was not politically correct and gunpowder hadn?t been invented yet. To his surprise, the chewed grape vines grew back vigorously and produced the biggest crops the next year. Since then, heavy pruning has been an essential component in the process of winemaking.

The easier to maintain crops in our yard are the blackberries and the raspberries. In contrast to the grapes which require pruning, weeding, and spraying for insects, I have to hit the blackberries and raspberries with the lawnmower to keep them from taking over the yard. In our first two summers here, we largely missed the blackberry crop. The fruit begins to become harvestable in mid June and it?s not really worth bothering with by July. This year, we?ve managed to catch the crop and have harvested 5 quarts of blackberries so far.

We?ve been picking once a week. At that rate, we?ve missed a lot of the fruit on the vines. I think we will want to pick twice a week in the future. I would estimate that our yard produces 2 to 2.5 gallons of blackberries a year. Based on how things were looking a few weeks ago, I decided that I should get 1.5 gallons of blackberries out of the yard this year. I'm not sure what we'll use all those berries for, but it's a goal and I'm going to hit it!

Cat used the first half gallon of blackberries to make a very nice jam. I expect the second half gallon will be used for pancakes over the year. As for the last half gallon of blackberries, who knows? Maybe we will use them in smoothies.

* Previous to the 20th century, the rampages of poorly tethered donkeys was responsible for more than a 10% annual decrease in world wine production. Repeated attempts to breed donkeys that abhorred the taste of grape vines failed. Thankfully, this dilemma was largely solved in 1907 with the invention of the Boy Scouts in Great Britain.

Smooties, revisited

(Originally posted on Sunday, July 2, 2006 by Cathy)

Tim and I don't really agree on appropriate formulations for smoothies. His recipe is much too thick, and verges on being desert instead of breakfast.

So, I present you with....

lower guilt smoothies

  • One over-ripe banana
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1 to 1.5 cups frozen fruit (pineapple is my current favorite, strawberries are good too)
  • 1 cup plain organic yogurt (not vanilla, too sweet)
Blend until smooth, offer half to Tim, who will refuse. Put half in the fridge. Go look for it in an hour or so and discover it is no longer there. Blame a dog. (Alternately, pour entire blender contents into a 1L drink container and drink.)

Unlike Tim's recipe and typical coffee shop smoothies, this is a thinner, drinkable smoothie, not requiring a spoon. It is also much less sweet than a coffee shop smoothie, since it gets all its sweetness from the fruit used.