Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So Much

It's Christmas Eve morning, a little too early to be up on a holiday, and I just can't sleep.

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Our first Christmas together, I asked ECG for a wind chime.

He built me a wind chime that, when the striker hits a chime, triggers an electric circuit signaling a small speaker to shout out a Mr. T-ism. Each chime has a different Mr. T saying. My favorite is "First name Mister. Middle name Period. Last name T." Unfortunately, if I leave this somewhere in the open, the wind will make neighbors think that Mr. T is at our house, suffering a nervous breakdown as his catchphrases interrupt one another and he argues with himself. So, we've hung this wind chime in the bathroom, where unsuspecting guests occasionally knock it and are met with the sudden shouts of Mr. T.

Believe me, this gift has elicited hours and hours of laughter, and I love it. One thing that ECG always succeeds at is making me laugh.

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School ended Friday for two weeks, and the last kids left my room in a sugar-crazed high. The trafficking of sugar on the last day of school before winter break reaches epidemic proportions, and even the teachers hit the cookies, the candies, the sticky-too-sweet cinnamon rolls, and soar to sugar enhanced giddiness, only to crash soon after the school bell rings. I tried to stay a bit after school and put my classroom back into some semblance of order before I left it for two weeks, but I just couldn't make myself be there. I wanted to be home. I wanted my vacation to begin.

And begin it has. Just a few days in, and I've already felt the tension springs start to release. This relaxation doesn't just come from knowing that I have two weeks of break, although that does play heavily into the equation, but the other major factor is something even more special than two weeks of break. Friday night, just before dinner, ECG gave me what he built me for Christmas, something I've wanted for forever, but now have the place to put it:


A wind chime. This one doesn't say Mr. T-isms.

The last ringing of the school bell disappears from my memory when I have this resonating instead. Go ahead, play the clip, see if you don't instantly feel more relaxed.

video

That is another thing ECG can do: relax me almost instantaneously. I'm away from home now, at his parents' house for the holidays, and I don't have the wind chime to listen to. Instead, I think it might be a better idea to crawl back into bed, nudge my way under ECG's sleepy arm, and drowse in the comfort of him.

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This is my first Christmas married to this man, and I know that this marriage is the best gift I've ever received.

Merry Christmas and much love to each of you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Homemade Spiced Rum

So simple.

Get a bottle of good golden rum and insert
A cinnamon stick,
2 allspice berries,
2 cloves,
1 vanilla bean,
1 "petal" of star anise,
and
1 pith-free twirly strip of orange peel.

Wait 24 hours.

Strain. Rebottle. Admire its spicy beauty.


(This recipe idea is straight from Chow.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Doctor Banana

We were giddy as if we'd each downed a pot of coffee, heart rates elevated, hands a little shaky, and grins plastered across our mugs. Prepared for the adventure, we were armed with extra 5 gallon nursery pots and Google Map directions.

Where were we going? Somewhere within a 50 mile radius of our house. Who would meet us there? Doctor Banana. What was our mission? To pick up our very own, generously gifted banana pups, specifically pups of the Blue Java variety, otherwise know as Ice Cream Banana.

Ice Cream Banana. Doesn't the very name send ecstatic shivers through your taste buds?


When ECG and I bought this property a few months ago, and I couldn't stop talking and dreaming about what food plants to grow where, ECG asked if we could plant bananas. Before his asking, I hadn't even thought about including them, a fact that is almost embarrassing to admit. Bananas grow in this climate if given a little extra attention, and if they grow for me, that means less consumption of an imported crop often associated with poor growing practices and conditions for plantation workers. If I grow them here, I have control over their growing conditions, and, I am the fairest of plantation employers: I only make myself work when I want to.

Knowing that banana plants shoot up quickly, growing to full fruiting maturity in 24-36 months, and that they propagate themselves by "pupping" off the fruiting stalk, I figured the best way to get healthy plants would be to find someone who grows them in their yards. That way, not only could I get plants from a place where the growing conditions would be similar to my own property (thereby suggesting a more successful transition to their new homes), but also where I could pick the brain of the grower, trying to get as much information as possible. I found such a source on the forums of GardenWeb.

Doctor Banana, a moniker I've given him to preserve anonymity, was generous in his plants (we walked away not only with a few Ice Cream bananas, but also a Goldfinger banana, white ginger, and purple-leaf canna) and with his knowledge. His banana growing advice was simple:
  • Rich soil.
  • Lots of water.
  • Here, if they get frostbitten, they'll grow back.
  • Leave only one pup to replace each fruiting stem. Cut the others off to share or to compost.
  • Did I mention, lots of water?

His yard was a beautiful jumble of edible landscaping. Apple trees tucked up against bananas, calamondins blooming and fruiting at the same time, avocados, peaches, apricots, guavas, feijoas, sapote, lemons, papayas, some fruit that neither ECG nor I remember the name of but that we've never seen anywhere else before, and when we tasted the one he cut open for us to sample, we were both not-so-subtly reminded of detergent. He didn't mind our dislike for the fruit. He didn't like it much himself.

But he sure likes his bananas. And now we get to grow them too.


I've been working on building the banana bed since we brought the pups home. They'll grow near the east wall of the master bedroom, where they'll provide cooling morning shade in the summer months and still be protected from the hottest afternoon sun, where in winter they'll have the residual heat of the building to protect them from the threat of frost, and where the drippy faucet will help keep them hydrated. They'll be happy there.

Since I've our visit to Doctor Banana, ECG and I have been dreaming of our future crops and what we'll do with them. We will delight in eating them fresh out of hand, but we have some other ideas too:
  • ECG likes to grill bananas, split them open, and add a smidge of butter and cinnamon. So good.
  • Homemade banana pudding. Oh my.
  • Ice cream made from Ice Cream bananas.
Care to dream with us? What makes your mouth water when you think of having your own bananas in your yard? What would you do with a bounty?


Our baby plants may be little, but they're inspiring big dreams.