Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A quick note from Ma Ingalls before the long winter sets in

Hello, hello! It has been so long, and so much has changed, hasn't it? The little ones are at school, the afternoons are bright, sleep is breezy and cool, the trees are painting each other overnight. (Hello, inadvertent rhyme scheme!)

I have made tabouli
and chocolate zucchini cupcakes
and two late summer dips.

And you--you have been to Echo Lake and Petit Lac Echo. You've worn your undies on the beach and explored the foresty corners of your yard. You've been obsessed with Pippi Longstocking and you've started started school and you've started homeschooling and you've given your children shot glasses as little cups to drink out of (which I would never do). You've made roasted tomato sauce that came out great, and some that came out weird (girlinaboyhouse Nicole, maybe it turned orange from air getting blended into it???). You've been home and away and delighted and exhausted and now--well, now it's now. And you're here.

And meanwhile, I was pickling beans

and jalapenos

and carrots

and pickles

and also I was making peach jam and wild grape jam and autumn olive jam, and also dill sandwich slices and pear fruit leather and bread and butter pickles and underarm deodorant and also there in the front, that little jar of brown something?

Bikini wax. Homemade bikini wax.

I have become the DIY equivalent of the lady with the all the cats who loves all her cats so, so much, even though she doesn't understand how it is that her one kitten turned into all these many many cats and the cat hair and the cat food smell and the gravelly litter underfoot everywhere. What has happened, and how?

They will find us and we will be buried under mason jars and mason jar lids and pickled sneakers and homemade Tampax and I will still have this goofy smile on my face and I will send them away with a jar of jam.

"It's like money in the bank!" I keep saying to Michael, gesturing at my rows and rows of jars, and he smiles at me strangely and says, "It is a little bit like money in the bank." Ah. Yes. I see. In fact, canning instead of working is really nothing at all like money in the bank. It's almost the opposite of money in the bank. If only I lived in a bartering economy. Sigh.


  1. It's better than money in the bank...with more satisfaction than silly ol' regular work and your kids seeing that people actually do crazy stuff like canning their pickled beans. Priceless. That's what I think anyway. ;)

    As for the cupcakes, we made them here: http://blaserkids.blogspot.com/2009/08/happy-birthday-kiki.html

    And someone else saw them on my blog and made them here: http://thislittlelightofmine.typepad.com/this_little_light_of_mine/2009/09/henrys-homemade-birthday-bash.html

    I just thought you might want to see that your cupcakes are traveling right through the blog chain.

  2. I just also have to add that I made the cupcakes last night, and oh. my. god. They are heaven. You were dead on with the line "It just tastes like cake! Like good cake, even!". Thank you! Pics here: http://noteventhetrees.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/i-didnt-intend-for-a-food-blog-but/

  3. Hi Catherine!

    I'm going to have to make those cupcakes - they look too good. (Our kids get that same engrossed feral eating face too.)


  4. I love when you write here. And also, I love pickled things.

  5. Ha Ha - you will have to post the recipe forn the homemade bikini wax - yikes!!!!!

  6. Have you tried DIY yogurt yet? It's sooooo easy and delicious! And we actually do save money considering yogurt is a staple in our house. Plus no plastic containers to recycle! But my husband still thinks I'm insane for making it.

    Instructions here:

  7. If the deodorant comment was sincere, I'm interested in knowing how you made it...and how well it works, please.

  8. Sincere, and not tongue-in-cheek, that is.

  9. Teafortwo8:21 AM

    I'm rather in a pickle this fall, and I didn't even buy Mason jars. Mexican Bean Beetles took over the cucumber plant; their larvae look like they were created by a science fiction writer. I'm made three batches of roasted tomato sauce and turned on more friends to it too. The photos in this post are food porn I tell you!

  10. We make our yogurt and it's SO GOOD (forgive the excitement, I just had some for breakfast). We got our recipe from Jamie Oliver's site, but I can't find the actual link. Basically it involves heating whole milk, adding a starter (yogurt) and leaving it alone overnight.

    Catherine we also made your delicious tomato sauce. Ours was orange-ish too, but with tomatoes at .49 per lb here, it can blue and I won't care. Thank you and YUM!

  11. Emily9:33 AM

    Fruit leather recipes, please!

  12. Those jars look so lovely, it almost makes me want to can something! Almost.

    Also, just to clarify - the roasted tomato sauce TASTED delicious, the best ever, but just looked weird. But, we shall not judge on outward appearances, shall we? Very yummy and even my kids like it, which is saying something.

  13. I would start canning myself and send you things if you would write more...I miss your writing so, so much. If you're getting published please continue to post links because I check here all the time hoping for some snippet of your writing. Oh how I miss the Ben & Birdy Journal, when I only had to wait 7 days for a little boost to my maternal spirit.

    Forget chicken soup, my soul needs your words of wit and candor.

  14. Catherine has been writing in Brain, Child magazine! I'm not sure why she's not shouting it from the rooftops. My latest copy just arrived and I was huddled in my baby's room with the two older kids just milling around aimlessly. I was staunchly ignoring all of them as I read Catherine's article about siamese twins. (Really!) And the oldest wanted to know why I was ignoring all of them so thoroughly and I said thoughtlessly, "Oh, I'm reading a new article by my favorite author. I didn't even know she was writing in this magazine!" Then I realized that I called you my favorite author. And that it was true. I love the food. I love how you love your kids, and you're so good at this parenting thing but disparaging enough that we can all still love you for it.

    And now I have to stop ignoring the kids AGAIN... they are actually coming in to ask me to put them to bed. Must. Seize. The. Moment!


  15. Tina G9:39 PM

    Just amazing. I am in awe. The only thing I put in jars around here is loose change. But you have quite the bounty there, Catherine. I am still in awe. My awe may last for days.

  16. Man, I made some tomato sauce, butternut squash soup and lots of pesto all from stuff I grew...I felt accomplished but now I am inspired to really get to work!!

    Love this post!

  17. maodileo11:49 PM

    I had canning projects for the fall (mostly tomatoes and ketchup, though), sewing dreams also (those dresses, made out of recycled silk scarves I saw in a snobbish boutique this summer, how beautiful were they, how I wanted to sew them also). Eh, and then they called me from work, saying that I would have a full time contract beginning the next day. Beuh. All my Ma Ingalls freedom dreams were kaput.
    Your canning is wonderful. But the money, yes, tell me about it.

  18. Can we have a contest to see who can guess what the bikini wax actually is? I'm going to go with ... overcooked apple butter? Overcooked wild grape jam? Can the prize be a jar of those jalapenos or pickles or jalapeno pickles?

  19. I love the jar pictures. They're so pretty! I know buying things is faster, but the feeling of doing something yourself and liking it? It's priceless. the other day I was complaining to my husband about the million things I needed to do, all the while I was milling wheat on my brand new Nutrimill. He just kept smiling and smiling. But you know what? I like my wheat bread without additives. And it's way cheaper than the one at the store!

  20. Pundelina: I love your profile picture!

  21. Homemade bikini wax?! I was down for a while but you lost me there!

  22. I read your posts with all your delicious foods and your beautiful family and I must confess that feel slightly annoyed.

    I found you in the archives at the Babycenter when I was in the early days of my first trimester by googling, first trimester blues. And there you were. Pregnant and beaming while taking care of a toddler. I was amazed. You wrote of my pain and panic. Imagine my surprise when I realized that Birdy wasn't a newborn. She was a grown child and her brother was practically ready for college. And that you weren't writing for the Babycenter anymore. Instead, you are pickling sandwich-sized dill pickles, olive jam and leg wax.

    I have a fifteen month old, 17lb, story time bully who answers to the name, Lily. She wants to be held constantly or she wants/needs to throw herself in some near-and-certain-death type situation that sends my blood pressure on a trip to the moon. My life is busy, I barely remember to shave my armpits once a week. This display of green bean pickling and pancake-name-writing is so ostentatious, it feels like science fiction.

    Is it real? Will I one day have enough time and energy to be ostentatious about pickling or knitting or yoga or couch sitting? And how long will it take to get there?

  23. Angela8:43 AM

    Krishna, don't worry! It will change! One day you will realise that you ARE baking your own bread again, or shaving your legs, or cleaning the washbasin more than once every month (ok I won't be winning any cleanliness prizes here!). It happened to me too. Although not until my wild and demanding son was nearly four... Meanwhile his little sister (two) just plays next to me while I get on with things - which explains how other mothers didn't used to understand when I said I couldn't possibly get any cooking/cleaning/shopping done with my son around. They had a different sort of child!!

  24. I don't even know what to say:: homemade bikini wax? This means one would actually WANT to wax the bikini line...at home...O-U-C-H!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (thank God I have that blond leg hair-- I take my chances on the strays;)

    Um, now that I've over-shared, I just want to say I'm amazed by you because you can at all. Canning scares the crap out of me. I just blanch and freeze, baby, blanch and freeze. And I get the "almost like money" stuff. Kind of like when I told Justin we had to buy a deep freezer so that we could save so much money....yeah....

  25. LisaBee11:14 PM

    Your canning appeals to my desire to one day raise all my own food and live off the grid. This is only amusing if you know that I live in Chicago with a yard the size of a postage stamp and am really thrilled when I manage to grow an edible carrot in the slab of clay we live on. Oh, and I haven't the foggiest idea how to can anything. Let's hope society doesn't collapse just yet.

  26. Might you be able to let us know what kind of camera you use? Your photos are always lovely. Thanks!

  27. Tina G12:34 PM

    Krishna, what you need to do is read everything Catherine has written since Birdy was born and then you will see the progression back to normalcy that takes place for all of us. (((HUGS))) I guess your experience would be like landing on Earth and finding a really cute picture of the young Paul McCartney- falling madly in love with him, and then somehow finding out that he isn't 30- he's now 67 years old! (still cute, of course, but in a grandpa kind of way)
    Read every single Ben & Birdy post!

  28. Anonymous11:27 PM

    One of the most satisfying kitchen experiences of my life was in grad school when I made my own bikini wax. I stayed up too late watching an Australian lady sell that hair removal goop named after her own hairy daughter (too cruel!)--I think the product is called Nad's-- and in the infomercial she talks on and on about the all-natural ingredients. So I looked up said ingredients on the website and mixed them --or some approximation of them-- in a pan on the stove. But I was too chicken to try it and asked my husband to let me experiment on him-- let me be clear-- on his *arm*. Of course, I had to do all this in an Australian accent so it would work properly. And the poor man had a bald patch on his arm for ages and I would grasp it and show it to everyone we knew to brag about my accomplishment. But, I never once used it on myself. So, my advice to all you potential bikini-wax-makers: the secret ingredient is sugar or honey or molasses or something like that, though I can't quite remember what. Using sugar is supposedly popular for hair-removal in France (though I don't really think hair removal when I think France. To their credit, perhaps!)

  29. diane hogan10:26 AM

    LOVED Dad's Spaghetti sauce. Had friends over and they raved. Have a freezer full, and it does make me smile every time I see it! Money in the bank! Thanks for sharing! I have a feeling I will make this for years!

  30. Are you home-schooling, Catherine? I'm fascinated.

    And also impressed with all the canning. I'm so envious. I really hope that someday that will be me.