Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And Hold... And Hold....

Jeff had a phone interview with the folks in Sigonella this morning. This was the final interview for the position he has applied for. It was to be at six a.m.-- noon Italy time, so he got up at five to be all fed and fresh for the conversation. When he checked his email, he found that it had been pushed back to seven! Ah, well... He drove to a scenic lookout and hiked around a little while talked. He said it was a conference call with the four members of the medical team he would be working with (PTs, OTs, etc.) and that the connection was a little sketchy. That made the conversation a bit awkward, with little flow to it, but they got by. Jeff said he didn't feel like he really aced or bombed it-- it was all just fine. He found out that there are four other applicants for the position, and that it will be a few weeks before they make their decision. So we wait... and wait... and wait...

It's hard to know what to do in the meantime. Jeff will find out this week whether he will be transferred to another department in his current job, or whether he will lose his job altogether. We're voting for a transfer, of course. Even if we got a DoD job, it would be great to have some employment to fill the gap until we leave. And, of course, if we don't get the job we want, it would obviously be nice for him to still have one. Naturally, I don't feel like investing a whole lot anywhere right now. I'm unmotivated to do much for my business, to work hard at relationships at Amelia's preschool... We decided not to continue at the church we had been attending for over a year, but are not sure it's worth it to find a new one at this point. We have no idea what we'll be doing in a couple of months. My mother-in-law reminded me that this is actually true for everyone, all the time-- but that we like to think we know what is happening or where are lives are headed. On the one hand, I feel all giddy with excitement and possibility. On the other, I just want to know what to do. I am someone who loves moving forward and making progress. Now I am having to just sit and wait and enjoy the sunshine, and not be terribly productive. Of course it's a good discipline for someone like me, but it's HARD.

Just a note-- if Jeff doesn't get the position in Italy, we will apply for the one in Germany. The suspense is killing me.

I saw this picture of a tour bus today, and loved it because I totally identified.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Enough with the sadness, on with the garden report!

We did manage to pull ourselves together yesterday and do some yard work. We decided that it was very important to have a day this weekend (Jeff had four days off) that actually counted for something, so we set to it and even overdid it a bit.

I have to say that my gardening this year has been a bit half-hearted. For one thing, we worked really hard last year and spent a fair amount of money-- with poor harvest results. This was due in part to the lousy weather, with no substantial sunshine until mid-June, and also lack of experience in the Northwest. The other reason is that we don't plan to be living here much longer. Even if we don't move overseas, we plan to quit being homeowners--and regress a bit to renting and saving money. I guess I could write a whole post about that, but I don't feel like it. So anyway, it all feels a bit temporary and that automatically takes some of the gusto out of it. On the other hand, I don't have to think too hard about any choices I make, so I have decided to just have fun playing in the dirt, and whatever I get to pick and eat is a bonus.

One garden project I'm excited about is our potato box. We are doing something like this, where you build a box gradually as the potatoes grow and then you can harvest them progressively by taking the boards off of the bottom to get the bigger ones, and move up as the higher ones are the right size. I still need to start another one, and have a bag of blue potatoes that will go in there. Pictured are the eager shoots of yukon gold and baby reds-- it's almost time to add another layer.

Last year we didn't do any raised beds, and the sunniest spot in our yard was in "detox," since part of it was previously a parking spot. We planted some detoxifying plants and did some intensive treatments to help it along. Now we are putting some raised beds there, with a barrier in the bottom to keep roots in the more controlled environment of the box for a while longer. I am excited about the bean teepee, and have also planted zuchinni and watermelon along the sides to spill over onto the rest of the detoxifying plot. One more note, we have a lot of donated/ collected wood that all came to us for free to help with the chicken coop, so all of these boxes and things have not cost us a dime!

Many of the items planted last year that were disappointing in yield still produced plenty of seeds. For example we now have probably fifty fennel seedlings doing very nicely, and parsley starts scattered all over the garden. I recently planted a lot of the dill seeds I had collected last year, too. I'm happy to have these all growing with little effort and no expense. Also, the strawberry patch is going crazy, so I have high hopes in that department. Here's some of that young feathery fennel.
I'm having fun using a bunch of long sticks we have for some reason, and built a pup-tent-like trellis for cucumbers. We have some other trellisses here and there from wood cut from trees in our yard.Which brings us to the peas. They have been planted in three different plots, and we are now starting to pick them! I have been looking forward to having something available for Amelia to eat straight from the plants in the garden.Also coming along are the spring onions, lettuces and some herbs.

This year, we will actually have a little fruit from our own trees. I'm especially excited about our espallier- style apple tree grafted with four different varieties. Its branches are fully loaded with these little cuties:We also have a fig tree. I have a soft spot in my heart for fig trees, since my aunt in Whittier always had this little one in her yard that we played on and ate from. Also because the taste and texture of fresh figs is so wonderful!And we have a cherry tree with nine cherries growing. We'll try not to eat them all at once!

We have more work to do, with an empty raised bed and a freshly cleared garden bed. I have put a lot of various seeds in the ground this week, and am waiting to see what comes up. So far, radishes and dill. I'm hoping for more greens, but we do have broccoli and a few other little things growing nicely. I know this has been quite long, so thanks for sticking with me!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sad times for the Mullins family...

OK, so it's not that bad, but still fairly lame. I picked up a virus two weeks ago that really knocked me out. Then once I started feeling just a little better, Amelia started getting sick. Last weekend I powered through a massage course and then played nurse to Amelia. She got very sick. One night in particular, she had a really high fever (I couldn't find the thermometer to quantify, but it was probably about 105) and was actually hallucinating. I don't like to give her tylenol routinely, but even after a dose her fever didn't go down for several hours. She's been staying home from school since Wednesday and is still not feeling so hot.

I started getting sick again Friday, and by the night time had a raging earache. I have had an ear infection or two in the past, but the level of pain in this one was off the charts. We ended up going to the ER that night since I just couldn't stop crying --I like to think I have a high pain tolerance, but this certainly brought me to my knees. At the ER they said they found an angry eardrum and said they couldn't do much for me at the moment-- decongestant, antibiotics, and, after I asked, pain meds. By this time it was 12:30 a.m., and we had to get the prescription filled. Luck would have it that the pharmacy we went to was running behind and we had a 40 minute wait before the Rx could be filled. My awesome neighbor friend had come over with her baby to stay at our place so Amelia could sleep while we were gone, so Jeff brought me home to relieve her, then went out to get the meds. Those helped me relax, but didn't really take care of the pain, so I didn't sleep that night. Then, I had a reaction to the pain pills that resulted in some episodes of vomitting in the morning-- perfect! I started taking a good dose of Advil and finally had the presence of mind to do a hot compress, which made the pain more manageable.

My naturopathic doctor is wonderful, and had an appt. available for me at noon. When she looked in my ear, she just kept saying "Oh dear. Oh no. Oh dear." When pressed for more descriptors, she said that I have something like a strep infection on my eardrum, that it had lots of little blisters all over it. I looked up the name of the condition and it was described as "exquisitely painful." Yes. Also something called glue ear-- fluid stuck behind my eardrum, kind of holding the eardrum back there-- not especially painful, but it makes it feel and sound like my ear is plugged, and can take a long time to resolve. She was very sympathetic and helpful, and had some good recommendations. I actually spent an hour and a half with her!

So, that was yesterday. Since then, the pain has gotten much better. And now Jeff is coughing. Amelia is still recovering, I am trying to catch up on sleep and kick this thing. We're a fun group to be around! In general, we don't catch a lot of colds and viruses. Amelia has never had an ear infection and is rarely sick. But it seems like we get all the crazy stuff-- Amelia was only sick twice last year, and both times it was with hand, foot and mouth disease. Last fall we went to the ER for Jeff. And I have stuff happen like this and broken-ribs-from-coughing-with-pneumonia-while-pregnant. Come on! At least we've had a long weekend to be miserable in, and I'm hoping for a more normal week ahead. I guess all of those projects I had planned out will just have to wait. And maybe we'll even be able to see people in a week or two...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


As stressful as a job loss and new time of transition can be, I have been thinking a lot lately of the unique gift the unknown brings. We are at a crossroads again, and we have another chance to stop and ask ourselves what we want. To rehash or rearrange our priorities. To dream a little. While Jeff genuinely loved his job, it wasn't quite enough for us financially, and though I have been thankful to have a husband that works full time, I still want to be able to work and share the parenting a little more equally. As we look around, we are coming up with new ideas and some things that were merely on the radar two years ago have now become quite important. I have given Portland a good go, and am not too attached to living here at this point. My business is not in a place that I would lose much if we moved somewhere. And if we stay here, we have some ideas of possibilities we might still take advantage of. We are open.

One opportunity that has come up is the possibility of Jeff taking a job working for the Department of Defense, on a military base overseas. The pay and benefits would meet our needs, and I have been hankering for a good adventure. We are looking at two possible locations, one in Germany and one in Sicily. So far, I have been afraid to hope too much. When this possibility came up, I had absolutely no hesitation-- this is the perfect time to pack up and go. Of course, Sicily seems too dreamy to be real, with all of that ocean and sunshine and citrus fruits, the blend of Italian, Greek and Tunisian cultures (and the food!!)... Jeff is deep in the application process, and so far it is all looking positive. Still, I am afraid to hope too much-- I want to be content with staying here. Although I don't feel like we have built much here in the last two years (despite much effort,) and am feeling a bit discouraged in that regard. I'll keep you posted on the application process. In the meantime, you praying types can keep us in mind as we seek direction for our family and ask for contentment-- no matter where we land.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Our Family's Favorite Dinner

At least once a week, we are all very happy with what's on our dinner table. The meal feels elaborate but really was not too much work. Lots of options and colors, and we actually leave the table feeling full. It's Zataar Chicken Night! The zaatar chicken and rice are really good, but it's mostly all of the accompaniments that makes the meal so satisfying. There are so many options for what you can put out with this Middle Eastern meal: pickles or chutneys, hummus and tahini sauce, feta cheese and fresh herbs, any kind of simple vegetable, dolmas, babaganoush... My favorite is a simple herbal green salad.
This time the extras were hummus, tahini sauce, carrot-ginger pickle, and red cabbage saurkraut with dill seeds.

To make Zataar Chicken:
In a medium-sized pot, pile onions cut into thin wedges, frozen boneless chicken pieces (I use thighs,) a good chunk of butter, lots of lemon juice or sliced preserved lemons, zataar spice mixture (available at World Market or Middle Eastern grocers-- probably La Habra Ranch Market) and some water or chicken stock to keep it from going dry. Simmer on medium- low heat for 1/2 an hour or longer until the meat is easily shredded, then season with more salt, if needed.
OK, so the actual chicken dish is not very photogenic-- that is a big reason for the colorful sides!

I usually serve it with rice or quinoa to which I have added a spoonful of bacon grease, cubes of cilantro that you buy at TJ's and a squeeze of lemon-- while it's cooking. And of course you can't go wrong with steamed greens drizzled with tahini sauce.

I enjoy making homemade pickles and preserves and usually use formulas from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. I also recently made quick radish pickles from this recipe. Amelia loves them, and even likes to drink the juice out of the dish when they're gone!
What about you? What is your family happy to eat again and again?