Wednesday, July 28, 2010


A while ago, I was pointed to this article by another blog I read. Although the article talks about dads struggling with work/life balance, the sentence noticed by the particular blog was the following:

"When both husband and wife work outside the home, the woman spends about 28 hours a week on housework."

28 hours a week = 4 hours per day, 7 days per week on housework. The blog asked, Where do they spend all that time?

Now, most people think housework is cleaning, but re-reading the article, I think they're lumping cooking and child care in there with those 28 hours. When we do that sort of lumping, I easily spend more than 28 hours on housework.

Take last weekend, for example. After cleaning the kitchen floor, I played in the basement with Jonathan. He wanted to drive his trucks around, and I wanted the plastic lions to attack the trucks, which was only fun for so long -- for both of us. So after a half hour or so, I continued to supervise from the couch while he pulled out the space ships, and an hour later I woke up to Star Wars toys all over the basement, and one happy little boy still playing away. Child care. Quality child care by me, the mom. That plus the floor mopping adds up to nearly 3 hours that morning alone.

And I also get to count afternoons. Lately, Jonathan and I come home and play video games together in the afternoon. I resurrected Dance Dance Revolution, in my continuing quest for my 22 year old body. I play a round, he plays a round, I play a round. I get stars for housework and exercise at the same time. I think I count as a super parent.

And then Sunday. Sunday we all went to church as a family. If church doesn't count as housework, I don't know what does. And I've been making fruit leather. Each batch takes about 6-8 hours to dry. Three batches over the weekend and woah! I'm spending way way more than just 28 hours per week on housework. I'm spending way more than 28 hours per week on housework in just a single weekend.

Who are all those lazy moms who spend less?

Irrelevant fruit update: (for my own future reference)

I am still picking raspberries. Huge patches of them have dried and shriveled on the thorny bushes, but there are enough juicy ones still out there that I'm hauling in multiple pints every other day. But we're all pretty tired of raspberries, which means, I suppose, that there is an end in sight: We will simply abandon them very soon.

The cherries are done. All picked and dried and stored. Yes! Accomplishment.

The apricots are turning orange, and we've picked and eaten a few, and they've been really really good -- far better than anything I've found in a store recently. However, the tree is still covered with enough green fruit that we can't strip the thing yet. I'm guessing that will be this weekend's project.

However, lest you worry that with cherries finished and raspberries abandoned we will have no projects until the weekend, it turns out that a tree in the corner of the back yard produces summer apples. Last year it was empty, and so we thought perhaps it was decorative only, but no. This year it is covered in fruit. The fruit has grown large, turned from bright green to pale green, and has started falling off the tree. It is kind of a sweet-tart, and definitely ripe. And so we get to do apples now. Tim and I (mostly Tim) picked a huge cooler full of the fruit this evening, and he's really only removed about a third.

What are we going to do with all those summer apples?

To make the whole fruit compulsion thing worse, I've been reading a novel in which the moon is whacked out of orbit and the tides wipe out all coastal cities and volcanoes choke out the sun and kill off all crops and everyone is starving to death. Which makes me even more eager to pick and process and preserve all those apples so that we don't die when a giant asteroid really crashes into the moon. Except that if we only eat apple sauce for a year, we will surely suffer death by diarrhea. But we will be ok up until the bitter end, because recall we've got large quantities of apocalyptic toilet paper stored away for exactly such an event.

Irrelevant fruit update ended somewhere back there. (In case you were looking for that clue to pick up reading again.)

Anyway, picking apples and raspberries definitely counts as housework. We're up past 37 now since Friday. All this housework is exhausting. Off to bed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adventures in fruit

As my dear followers know, we have a garden. It's actually a relatively small plot of land, but it's nearly completely covered in raspberry bushes and fruit trees. Now that it is July, and the raspberries are in season, I am in a desperate fight against time to save all that fruit before it rots away.

Why, you ask, do I bother?

Because all that fruit is good! And expensive if purchased elsewhere. And honestly I don't know. But for some reason, we are compelled to harvest and freeze and dry and store, in preparation for the long cold winter in which nothing grows for months and months and months. I actually think it's some sort of biological compulsion. The longer you live in places with miserable winters, the more your genes tell you to gather food like mad in the summer.


At the very least, I can post our efforts here, and you may mock us from a distance. Ah blogging.

So the fruit season is in full swing here at Artax Orchards. The black raspberries have been ripening in shifts since the 4th of July. We've spent hours picking them. Each hour yields about 2 to 4 pints.

The red raspberries, which are hiding in and around the black ones, have been ripening for a week, but they're really just taking off this week. For future reference: Red raspberries one or two weeks after the black ones.

So far, we've been eating them and freezing them. Alas, we cannot get double cream in this country, and so we have been making due with plain old whipping cream on our berries. Still very nice, even if not perfect.

What else do you do with about 10 pints of raspberries? I am not inclined to make jam. Especially raspberry jam, with all those little seeds to stick into your teeth. I'm thinking lots of smoothies.

Aren't they pretty looking? Who wouldn't want to collect all those? Especially given those hunter - gatherer genes?

For your further edification, let me tell you about the two major downsides to picking raspberries. The first is the fact that the average daily temperature is between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I realize that my Arizona and Texas friends are not impressed, but let's just say those temperatures are not conducive to fruit harvesting. The other downside are the thorns, and the scratches.

Isn't that an ugly hand? It's mine. The scratches will fade away in just a couple of days, but I am stuck with the hand. It will grow uglier and uglier until I die.

Anyway, for future reference: Raspberries from the 4th of July through the 21st, still going strong. Some of the smaller ones have shriveled and dried on the vine. How do you get all your berries to be the big, fat, juicy ones?

Topic #2. Sour cherries.

For future reference: The sour cherries just began to ripen around the second week of July. We are trying to pick them early this year, before the cherry flies find them. Our tree is smaller -- we have been trying to prune all the fruit trees down gradually to manageable sizes -- but we've still hauled in several quarts.
What do you do, you ask, with sour cherries? Well, Jonathan eats them. The rest of us extract their pits:
And then try to come up with some other ideas. As we are not bakers, we are not going to make pies. Actually, what we've found that we like is sour cherry fruit leather.

For future reference:
Recipe (which I made up, so I am going to write down for next year):
2.5 cups sour cherries, ground in blender.
Add about 2 tablespoons sugar or more, to taste (these are really sour)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 can applesauce, for texture.

Pour immediately onto fruit leather tray in food dehydrator. Do not think, "ah. Now I am done with cherries. I will put this mixture in the fridge until tomorrow and then dehydrate." For future reference: ground up sour cherries contain a lot of natural fruit pectin. If you put them in the fridge, you will have lumpy jelly the next morning rather than smooth fruit for drying.

So dry overnight. Then wake up early to check them, and realize they still aren't dry. Give them another hour. Keep checking on the stupid things every hour for the entire morning. Finally give up and wrap them up still sticky. Remember that this happened last year -- even if the manual says 5 hours of drying, it will be 10. Remind yourself not to wake up early just to check on the dehydrator. Stupid thing.

Topic #3. Currants.

We have picked the red currants, dear Reader. But we don't have an excessive amount of these. So we don't know what to do with them. I asked Google, and apparently the only thing you can really do with red currants is make jelly. My friend Lena, who knows these things because she has an honest English accent, suggested a bread pudding recipe. So maybe we'll go there. Meanwhile, the currants are keeping themselves company in the fridge.

Now, you are saying that this is an excessively long and boring post about fruit.

Reader, you have no idea how long and boring our fruit has already become.

Stay tuned for next week: the apricots are beginning to turn yellow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spanish class

In case you were wondering, and why wouldn't you be? Jonathan loves his Spanish class. They do all sorts of fun stuff in there. Snacks and food, drama, exercise, art. They move from room to room playing games, thinking they are just having tons of fun, when secretly they learning all sorts of Spanish. The teachers are brilliant.

And then, when those kids thought they would just slip away home to normal life after school was over, the teachers presented each child with their very own CD full of Spanish language tunes. And now even I am singing in Spanish, all day every day.

This means, dear Reader, that I can now converse with you in Spanish. I can say useful things like, "I am a pizza" with "lots of cheese" and "no bologna". In case you ask, I can tell you that "this is the dance of the colors." Also, "we are all like the flowers in the garden of life." Or, just to shake things up a bit, I also learned how to say "everyone eats the flowers in the garden of life", in case that becomes important.

As the primary taxi driver between home and Spanish, I am more involved in Spanish than ever before. And not just music.

Yesterday, Jonathan's teacher asked if I would participate in a parent survey to help the school attract more students. I agreed. I assumed she would ask me questions like, "why did you decide on our school?" "Why is a second language important?" That sort of thing. And they kind of did ask the second one. But rather than find out why we chose Spanish summer school, given all our options, the questions on the survey ended up being a sort of psychological profile of me. The parent.

Seriously. They asked me to describe myself in a few sentences. They asked me to tell them whether the world is a safe place or a scary place. Whether good things or bad things typically happen to me. How people who don't know me treat me. What things are important to me.

I thought it was a little weird. Oh my psychologist friends out there, why do you think the Spanish school wants to know these things about the parents who select their school? Perhaps they are envisioning some clever advertising campaign. Since most of the parents who enroll are optimists rather than pessimists, they can increase exposure to their target audience by posting their signs on the sunny side of the street.

No really. I ask because I don't know. Please someone explain to me what might have been the point of the survey.

Meanwhile, please do not step on the flowers in the garden of life. "No pise las flores en el jardin de la vida."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A random summer post

I love the summer. I have already explained that. But I shall tell it to you all over again. And then again.

I love the summer. I love that my toes are always warm and that I don't shiver uncontrollably upon exiting the shower. I love that my skin doesn't crack open. I love the smell of the air outside. I love that my yard is green and my trees are growing and I have flowers in front of the house. I love having a yard and a house in the summer. You can take them in the winter. You can shovel the snow and spread ice melt along the driveway and sidewalks. That is fine. But in the summer, they are mine.

Don't look, but the summer is more than half over. AAAH! NOOOO!

I was going to be out and active all summer long, torturing my body back into its 22-year old form. How has that been going, you ask? I feel guilt. I get about 20 minutes of biking in each day. Commuting. That does nothing for my Michelle Obama arms. How, I ask you, am I going to get Michelle Obama arms on a bicycle? I will just have to wait until the fall, when I begin commuting by foot again. Oh wait --

Another thing I love about summer is having more time to read novels. Unfortunately, this summer so far, I have not done enough reading of novels.

Nor have I written anything on my own novel.

Speaking of novels, if one wanted to write a novel, where would one store one's draft? Particularly if one's husband is always in front of the home computer? And one didn't want to put the draft on one's work computer because, um, one does not want one's boss reading it? And one has considered Google docs, but decided upon reading this article that one would not like Wal-Mart reading one's novel either before its advanced release date, in case one decides to sue Wal-Mart.

If one is going to sue Wal-Mart, one must have an impeccable Google footprint. And Facebook footprint. Since I keep forgetting to see what all my Facebook friends are doing, I am pretty clean there. But the Google docs thing would totally ruin my case. Who can take seriously a law suit by someone who writes that kind of drivel? Of course, those Wal-Mart lawyers would be all over this blog as well, but that doesn't bother me. Knowing my secret yogurt recipe would not actually affect my case. No, no. The purpose of this blog is to prevent me from ever running for President. Oh, and for the record, Google also reads my email, but I also keep that very boring. For example, when siblings email about birthday presents for my Dad, I suggest socks. Nothing is more boring than emails about socks. I hope Wal-Mart enjoys reading them.

Let's talk about summer and what it means at work. Summer means I get to spend all my time working on projects and finishing up those projects I didn't have time to finish during the school year. But alas, I have not finished as many projects as hoped for. Boo. They keep expanding. Like the Blob. I try to contain them in my fist like a ball of playdoh, but they leak out between my fingers and grow and grow until they eat me in a terrible display of 1958 movie special effects. (Did you ever watch that movie? I don't think I ever sat through it, it was so bad. But that doesn't mean it doesn't make an apt comparison for summer research projects.) But I love my job in the summer. It would be much more painful to take on the Blob during the academic year.

What else? Recall that we live in an orchard here? People keep asking when we expect certain fruits to be ripe. Then Tim and I scratch our heads and look at each other and ask, "Now when did that happen last year?"

For future reference: The first raspberries were ripe over the 4th of July weekend. A week later, the first sour cherries are ready to be picked. Apricots are still a few weeks away.

I will try to update as necessary. Of course, sometime next spring someone will ask me when I expect the cherries to be ripe, and I will scratch my head and look at Tim, and he will say, "Didn't you put that in your blog?" and then I will look back through the archives and find this post and read it a little ways until I realize it is all about Wal-Mart, and then look somewhere else. So, buried this deep in pure text, this information is actually lost to the world. Lost.

Like summer in just a few more weeks. Boo hoo. I love summer. Ah. Warm toes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Local 4th of July -- For future reference

1. The fireworks won't start until after 10pm. There will be plenty of time to leave the store, drive home, put the groceries away, gather blankets and jackets, and walk up the hill to see the fireworks. Plenty of time.

2. No matter how hot it was at 3pm, when the sun goes down and the wind comes out of the canyon, it will be cold. Cold, I tell you. This is the mountain west. We are not in Texas anymore. Bring a jacket and an extra blanket to put over the legs. And a few dollar bills to buy glow sticks.

3. Just because you park the car in a quiet neighborhood doesn't mean it will be quiet later, after the fireworks.

4. Indeed, quiet neighborhoods are full of stop signs, and not the four-way-stop kind. Stop signs, as opposed to traffic lights, turn roads into parking lots after major events such as fireworks.

5. My own street is separated from the nearby larger street by a stop sign. It will be a parking lot for an hour or so after the fireworks. Therefore, do not even think about driving, even if the sun has already set and you are already in the car returning from grocery shopping. See number 1.

6. The hot air balloon launch is definitely worth seeing. If they launch at 6:30 am, be in the field by 6:00 am. That means be near the field looking for parking by 5:45 am.

7. If the balloon launch happens three days in a row, pick a day to attend besides the day of the parade and the 5K. The day of the parade and 5K, there will not be parking. Even at 5:45 am.

8. No matter how hot it is predicted to be at 12pm, at 6:30 am it will be cold. This is the mountain west, not Texas. Bring a jacket.

9. Although the hot air balloon launch is worth seeing, the parade really is not, even if it lasts two hours, with floats and marching bands. Two boring hours.

10. But if you want to see the parade anyway, and you send someone with a few blankets at 6:15 am, you still have a chance to get front row seats. For the record, Janice found places for our blankets near the very end of the parade route, even as late as 6:15 am. Thanks, Janice.

11. Of course, front row seats will be in the direct sun on the asphalt. And no matter how cold it was at 6:30 am, after two hours in the sun on the asphalt, you will be too hot.

12. Bring sunscreen. Send Earl to buy popsicles. Thanks, Earl.

13. And for goodness sakes, get the kids to bed on time the night before if you really plan on finding a parking place at 5:45 am.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Because I should write something

I got caught in a thunderstorm today. A loud one. It takes me about 30 minutes door to door to walk home from my office, and the wind was blowing and a few drops falling just as I left my building. By the 10 minute mark, the thunder crashed and the rain came down hard, diagonally. By the 12 minute mark it was lighter. Hard again at 15. Over by 25.

When I walked in the door, my dad said, "You don't look all that wet." That's because the wind blow-dried me dry in those last 5 minutes. And plus, it really only rained for 10 minutes all told. Not enough to cancel the sprinkler cycle.

My dad has been staying at my house. Tim is away for the week, so Dad has been helping out. My dad and I do not see things the same politically or socially or ... we can probably just stop with not seeing things the same way. He wanted to have a "heart to heart" talk Monday night, meaning he wanted to ask a lot of personal questions and then give me a nice lecture about how he sees the world and how it must, therefore, run that way.

I tried to be calm and polite, but I think the lecture bothered me more than I thought it was bothering me because I woke up at 3am later that night and couldn't sleep. My dad has some truth in his head, but I don't think it's quite taking him in the right direction. And I don't think he cares to see that.

In similar news, I was interviewed about my research for an article for a college newsletter. The interviewer had no background at all in my field, or in any field of my college, in fact, so I tried to give her a basic picture of the very broad types of problems I look at, and relate these problems to things she might understand. I got a copy of the article today, and it's kind of on the right track, but she was missing a lot of key details.

That's the connection to my dad. On the right track, but missing some key details.

One word that he used in our conversation: "abomination".

When was the last time you had a conversation in which the word "abomination" was used? You've gotta meet my dad.

Anyhow, I have now written something.

The last time I wrote, it was still spring, but now it is summer. I love the summer. I love the way my toes are never cold. I love that I can open the windows a bit at night and breathe fresh air while I sleep. I love that the garden explodes into green pandemonium. And then I have to weed. I love having to weed.

And I love the summer thunderstorms, and getting caught in a thunderstorm (without getting struck by lightning). Which brings us back to where we began, and so here we shall end.