Wednesday, June 29, 2011


We live less than 10 minutes away from Carowinds amusement park and pass it almost every day driving to and from the highway. I have been a long-time lover of roller coasters and other wild rides, and it seems Teresa is equally attracted to them (even though she won't be able to ride the big rides for several more years). David is eager to get Teresa comfortable in the water so she can pick up swimming skills. All of these factors contributed to our decision to purchase season passes to Carowinds again (only David and I need them, as Teresa is still able to get in free).

David has made great use of his pass already this spring and summer, taking Teresa to ride the kiddie rides or play in the water at least 4 times. She can't stop talking about her visits to the park or how much she wants to go again; it's often the first thing she tells strangers who make the effort to chat with her. "I go Carowinds!" she smiles. "I ride in boat!" (They have a boat ride for the little ones.)

We decided at the last minute (as usual) on Monday morning to go to Carowinds as a family for the first time since Cyprian's birth. I worried about all sorts of things that could go wrong (mostly about the baby being too hot) but tried to remain positive. In the end, we all had a great time. We set up in the shade, where Cyprian slept for most of the visit. David and I took turns being with Teresa in the water at Kookaburra Bay, and he took her for a ride down the lazy river. I sat with Cyprian and soaked up all his smiles (unfortunately, none made it onto the camera). I even nursed him without trouble while wearing my swimsuit. When Teresa took a snack break, David and I took turns going down one of the water slides. And on our way out of the park David insisted I do one ride. So I gave the Intimidator another try and found it thrilling. Nothing matches that experience of weightlessness!

Garden to table

In the last month and a half of nursing Cyprian, I've gone through 20 or more magazines, effectively clearing out my backlog. I've enjoyed reading about children, parenting, money, faith, and food (I receive quite an assortment of periodicals, including Cooking Light thanks to David's sister Jenny). The July Cooking Light contained an appealing recipe for which I already had most of the ingredients, so I tore it out to try.

Baked Ziti and Summer Veggies calls for fresh yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, basil, and oregano, all of which I had ready from my very own garden!

Someday I might also grow the onion and garlic the recipe calls for (this lovely head of garlic came from my friend Hunter's garden). And years from now I hope to get eggs from our very own backyard chickens (I will wait to pursue this when I have a child old enough and interested in tending them herself).

I followed the recipe except for two alterations: I used fun, colorful Wacky Mac pasta and omitted the ricotta (just subbed in a bit more mozzarella). The resulting casserole was delicious!

The real test was whether Teresa and David would eat it, too. I served Teresa a small portion. At first she pushed it around with her spoon and declared, "This yucky. No can try it." But she did try it and ate a few bites herself. When I helped her eat some more, she received it gladly and even said, "This very good!" She finished her portion!

David ate all of his serving, too, although he did feel it had too many veggies and not enough seasoning. I think I'll be making this again!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Putting up my green beans

I wanted to make a record of how I prepare my green beans for freezing so that I can easily reference it when this time comes around again next year. Perhaps it might also help someone else, so here goes:

This is my second harvest of green beans (and a few wax beans to add a fun color variation, although I do not like their taste as much). The first harvest (from 3 days prior) waited in my refrigerator, unwashed in a plastic grocery bag loosely tied.

First I wash the beans and snap off their pointy ends (and any stem ends that make it into my basket - I usually snap the bean right off its stem end when I pick it) and put those in the compost container. Then I cut the beans into bite-sized pieces, usually 3 or 4 segments per bean.

Next I put the cut beans in a steamer basket (enough to cover the basket but not too thick - I did three rounds this time) and steam them, covered, for about 3 minutes.

Then I use a hot pad to dump the blanched beans from the steamer basket into a bowl of ice water. I leave them in for a couple minutes and swish them around with my hand until they are tepid. Then I use my hand to pick up the beans and lay them out on a clean dishtowel to dry a bit.

Next I shake the beans in the dishtowel and dump them onto a cookie sheet. I spread them out and put the tray in the freezer for a couple hours. This allows the beans to freeze separately so they'll come out of the bag nicely later (rather than clumping together, which they might do if frozen directly in a bag).

Here they are in a zip-top bag, ready to go back in the freezer. I dole out beans for recipes as needed (they're great in soups, stir fries, casseroles, and as side dishes).

I'll repeat this process another time or two before my beans are done for this season. I prefer to plant all my bean seeds at once so I have big harvests to put up in the freezer for future use (rather than planting a few seeds every few weeks for a more continuous harvest for fresh use).

This year I have one row of green bean plants (bush variety), so about 12 ft by 1 ft of space. Next year I might devote more space to the beans because we enjoy them so much (and I go through my frozen beans within a couple of months).

One thing I learned this year: Teresa loves green beans cooked, raw, or blanched. She'll eat them right out of my basket, off the towel as the blanched beans are drying, or as a plain side dish served at meals. Hooray!

A big thank you to baby Cyprian for sleeping for hours midday so I could put up the beans! :)