Monday, January 24, 2011

Sleep, Dormancy, Hibernation, Rest...

I'm referring to this blog - and the three precious little pigs of course. Though this blog will be in sleep mode for the next couple of months, I will not be. After putting my thoughts in writing in yesterday's post, and then reading the thoughtful comments following, I've decided that the project I am working on really needs to be the focus of my attention right now. I'll spare you my trite metaphors and just direct you to the photo below.

When I sign back on in a couple of months there will be seedlings under the growlights, tulip photos to share, the Spring/Summer/Fall Garden to Table Challenge will be up, the Asian Vegetable Series will be resurrected, and the preliminary stage of my project will be complete. The only thing lacking will be the 15 pounds I plan to lose as well!

So as I publish post for the last time before my little sabbatical, I thank everyone for reading, encouragement, positivity, empathy, and insightful and thoughtful commenting. Can you feel the love ?


I also need to reconcile the Garden to Table Challenge contest. I looks like the diehard winter posters were Char's, Holly, Ricki, and Meemsnyc. Meems, as the jackpot winner, came closest to collecting the GTTC letters. However, I'm going to send 2nd place prize seeds to Charlotte, Holly, and Ricki as well. Seeds are of my choosing - all veggies. I think I have everyone's address except for Holly's - can you e-mail me with your address? If I left anyone out (who linked a blog entry specifically for the GTTC and referred back to the GTTC in the original post), please e-mail me and let me know. The Garden to Table Challenge will return when it's sunny and warm!

I knew I took a picture of this for a reason. Ha! The screen tried to load about 67 times before I had to literally pull the plug. It's a little indicative of how I feel these days.

Fer at My Little Garden in Japan is hosting a Carnival. Hop over there and see what other gardeners in the world are resolving for 2011.

I've been putting off a New Year's post for now...24 days, but figured I'd get my thoughts together to be a part of the fun.

But that last word is all the fun you'll get from this post - which is more of a journal reflection/vent and a diversion from the usual entertainment found on this blog (see Saturday's post for a movie review, a use for rum, and the cutest monkey thing you ever did see). You don't want to continue reading unless you got some time on your hands.

STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS (the union between my garden and I): Current state: tired. I'm not invigorated like I usually am at this time of the year. My seed catalog is marked by post-its but the order is not in. I have not opened the perennials catalog. I have not done my usual organizing such as writing in gardening reminders and tasks in green pencil on the big calender. My piano which is where I stage my seed starting is covered with the paraphernalia of ongoing projects. Some of the perennials in the front have still not been cut down. The hellebores are a mess. In the backyard I see frozen wilted chard, erect garden stakes next to no plants, pieces of edging lifted from a frozen ground swell, and various bowls, spoons, and cups my little one played with in the fall that we never brought inside. I also see that EVERYTHING needs to be pruned (including all the bamboo from the neighbor's yard that is creeping into mine). All this just makes me more tired. I just need more time. As much as I love the gardening season and working outside, I hope spring doesn't come for at least several more months - like 6 or so.

LIFE (as it relates to gardening): I'm tired. Have I mentioned that? Life is good. I have so many things to be thankful for. There are fun things to look forward to and fun trips to be planned. As usual, I'm working on something big (bigger than any project I've taken on) that I'm totally passionate about, but it's very time consuming. I'm not trying to complain here because I'm a capable and energetic person, and I love my life, goes...I have young children and am actively involved in their lives (which currently means I play a lot of Super Mario Brothers and do a lot of carpooling). I work full time. I am trying to lose 15 pounds (ever seriously tried to lose weight? It's a lot planning, cooking, logging, etc.). I have a book group which I started (so I can't really drop out - and plus, I really enjoy it, but finding time to read often becomes one more thing I "have to" do). There are the usual household things. Though I work full time, I'm off by 2:40pm, and hubby is off at 6, which means I'm often doing dinner, doctor's appts, haircuts, kids' activities and things like that - and no, I'm not opposed to take out. Plus, I try to maintain some semblance of a social life and have dinner with a friend every week or 2. I'm not happy that I am only able to post on my blog once or twice a week, and especially that I'm not able to visit my favorite blogs save for once a week or two. The secret time-consuming project I mentioned earlier is a major focus in my life right now and I'm not able to give that due attention. There's just the overarching feeling that there's way too much to do and not enough time (before anyone suggests it, my husband does help out). I have also been dreaming about a new blog that would be very exciting for me. I've never been one to have trouble focusing or prioritizing, but every one of these balls is one that I WANT to juggle - at least for the time being. I used to have trouble with volunteering for things all the time, but I've made a conscious effort not to do that very often anymore (and have reconciled any guilt that this produces). OK, I've derailed from the gardening topic, you may have noticed. All this that I mention just explains why there is little room to get uber excited about spring.

VEGETABLE GARDEN GOAL: When I do get my act together, my main vegetable garden goal this year is to keep up with my harvests. I tend to neglect my garden and work in spurts, often trashing tomatoes that have rotted or lettuce that has bolted. I have a huge sensitivity to mosquitoes but this year, I'm going to set aside some going out clothes (like big pants and a hoodie) that I can put on easily and zip outside to stay on top of the harvest. THEN, when I do bring vegetables in, I'm going to use them. The biggest benefit of my Garden to Table Challenge has been that I've worked my brain to figure out delicious ways to use my harvests. I really look forward to this.

PERENNIALS GOAL: I am not going to buy ANYTHING this year (hopefully). I'm going to carefully update my paper "map" of plants and bulbs and mark in the garden what has survived, what needs to go, where there are holes, and how everything looks season to season. Then, in the fall, I'll fill in but ONLY if I really need/want to.

NATURE GOAL: I would like to learn more about birds and butterflies. People who have visited this blog may know that I'm afraid of butterflies, but last summer, I made it a personal goal to work on this. I am probably not ready to fully enjoy the summer Butterfly Show, but I now realize that butterflies won't hurt me (ha ha ha!). I would like to get a butterfly and/or bird book and learn more about the diversity of these subjects. It would be fun to be able to name the different birds I see - and maybe even get to learn their songs.

There you have it - more than you ever wanted to know about where I'm at - in my head, my life, my blog, and my garden.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

GTTC - midnight popcorn, sweet potato pudding (with rum raisins), cuteness

Do you like these containers? My mom folds these when she's over babysitting. They make great use of old magazines and are perfect little plates for snacks.

I didn't think I was going to be able to scrounge up anything for this week's Garden to Table Challenge (and there is nothing coming out of the garden these days), but yesterday we enjoyed the blue popcorn above (Crate and Barrel's Midnight Popcorn) while watching my new favorite movie The Apple Dumpling Gang. Tearfully funny and a g-rated good time. I can't believe it - but I found the segment that cracked me up here...

Above - a Jamaican sweet potato pudding cake with rum raisins and coconut. I'm sure looking at this you fall into one of two camps "Damn that's nasty" or "I want that right now - topped with whipped cream preferably".

What else is happening in the world of harvesting and seasonal eats? Link below please. I'm seriously low on creativity and ideas right about now. Thanks to those of you who are linking. I hope more will join us when there's actually something to harvest all the time!

This morning, after my husband's out of the ordinary 3-day gushing (e-mail and in real life) over this little monchichi thing, and after I refused to go upstairs and look at the photo blown up on the screen, I said, "What are you - a 10 year old girl?" He retorted by telling me I had no soul. So for all the world to know, I declare: IT'S CUTE!!! It's really freaking adorable!! See the site below the photo for more furry sweetness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Science Expo Project: coloring carnations

Fun for the youngest plant scientist ~
Want to try this at home? This is all you might like to know:
  • Use about 20 drops of food coloring (or a good squirt if you're not watching and your 5 year old is not patient!) per 3/4 cup water (approximate - no need to measure).
  • Carnations will be fully colored in about 24 hours.
  • After they're colored, you can change the water. Carnations will be fresh for a good 10 days or more.
  • BONUS: cut a slit in the stem. Place in 2 different colored cups of water. Predict what will happen.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

GBBD; GTTC; pondering bonsai; ch-ch-ch-chia!

Have you ever stepped out at night after a day long snow fall? Probably not a feeling that can be conveyed in words, but a glorious stillness, coolness, and beauty that prompted me to name my first born child Winter.

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - January - is pretty unspectacular on this blog since I am not an indoor plant enthusiast, and outdoors, we have a dusting of snow. I can't even show you snow here in Maryland (guess you'll have to travel to a Southern blog to see that!). However, I was amazed to see this on my tiny orchid that I have managed to keep alive for about a year now. I have never been able to repeat a bloom on any orchid so I'm pretty darn excited about this!

Ch-ch-ch-Chia! Don't know what happened to Homer. I guess it's male pattern baldness. I wish I could have found THIS instead.

Indoors at my parents' house, a really pretty bonsai. The whole thing was $20 at Sam's Club (which has all sorts of implications as it is). My question for you about bonsai is: treasured artform...or...plant torture? I'm not quite sure. I think the idea of training a plant to take these gorgeous natural shapes is very cool. Someone gave me a bonsai book though, and in a photo of a tree being "trained" with copper wire around the stems, with pennies weighing down certain branches, there was definitely was a sadistic feel. On the flip side, I appreciate that the little tree is a living being, but not sure it is a sentient being? What do you think?

And finally, this week's Garden to Table Challenge comes from the pantry. This delicious cobbler (which I want so bad right now) was made using the apple pie filling I canned (and gifted much of) this fall.

Is your garden frozen like mine is? Are you harvesting? Dining on any seasonal specials that others would want to know about? Share here (and also have the opportunity to win half of my spring seed order) !

Last week, both Charlotte and Holly linked with food ideas containing "carrots", which are ranked (randomly) high on my secret list of veggies. Even though they both listed other veggies as well, I just counted the one that appeared highest on my list. Any other veggies they may have written about are still in play. Both get a letter 'G'. First person to collect 'GTTC' wins. To review, Ricki has a 'G', and Meems has a 'GT'. If you're confused, review the rules in the link above. If you're still confused, just trust me and go with it. :) btw - we may not be harvesting, but if you're cooking with these seasonal veggies, it counts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

Most everything I want to post on this blog can be related to gardening and nature in some way, but this time, I digress completely. I'm taking advantage of my little piece of public forum to urge you NOT to buy the new book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale who has totally sucked me in for the past few hours.

I was so basically pissed off after reading her article in The Wall Street Journal that I wrote the response below. If you have the time to spend on this, please read her article first, then my response. Though I feel she practices what she says, I do think she's being overly dramatic in a clever publicity stunt to sell books. If this is a stunt, she's despicable. If not, she's a pretty sad case anyway. her article HERE and be outraged. Thank you in advance for reading my perspective too.


As a Chinese daughter, a Chinese mother, and a school counselor, Amy Chua’s January 8th article turns my stomach.

Though I’m sure her somewhat sensational story of parenting has stirred up many emotions and responses, and though I doubt I will be the one to enlighten her to potential drawbacks to her parenting style, I think it’s important for readers to know being a Chinese mother does not always entail the harsh characteristics that Chua illustrates. In my opinion, what Chua describes is simply a cold, demanding, and rigid mother. As a Chinese mother myself, I am offended that she would justify her parenting by simply describing herself a Chinese mother. Additionally, I hope any readers who nodded in agreement with Chua will realize that this type of disapproving and rigid parenting can cause problems.

The reality is, there are cultural differences between Eastern and Western styles of parenting. To generalize, it is typical for Asian parents to refrain from too much boasting, too much praise, too many outward expressions of love and approval. Interestingly, like Chua, my father has also called me “garbage”. Even as a child I have always considered myself to be reflective and insightful, but unlike Chua, I did not believe that my father truly loved me until I was in my early 20’s. Based on his actions and words, I simply did not think he did. Overtly insulting your children while withholding praise, and assuming that they will understand that you love them is quite an assumption. For me, the gamble that my children might misunderstand is too great a risk to take.

I take issue with Chua’s statement that Chinese mothers assume strength, not fragility. The practice of insulting your children, of stripping the social and developmental experiences of being children, of taking the freedom to make choices from your children, of forcing them to play an instrument for hours on end, and to expect that they must be “the best” does NOT help to build or tap into innate strength. What Chua is really witnessing is not strength, but simply a good ability to tolerate punishment. Perhaps Amy Chua is “the best” at everything she does, but I certainly am not. I do not demand that my children are “the best” at what they do. Is this because I don’t have high expectations? Is this because I assume that they are fragile? No. This is because expecting perfection is unreasonable. I’m glad Lulu was eventually able to play “The Little White Donkey”. However, I think Chua is mistaken in the message that she seems to have culled from that experience. I wouldn’t want to imagine how little Lulu would have fared had she not figured out how to coordinate her hands to play the piece. When Chua shared one of her parenting moments at a dinner party, her acquaintance Marcy left in tears for a reason. Not because she heard about an instance of cultural differences in parenting, but because she heard about a mother who treated her child cruelly.

Though “The Little White Donkey” ended with a successful recital, I fear that not every experience will. In the end, I hope Chua will feel her behavior was worth it because these superficial successes come with a high cost. As a school counselor, I hear many stories from my high-achieving Asian American students that echo the same theme. A senior cries in my office when she’s rejected from Cornell. She really had a slim chance but her parents had been preparing her for Cornell beginning in fifth grade. A freshman is brought to my office by her friends when she was found crying in the bathroom after “failing” an exam. Explaining that a B is not failing does not alleviate the fear of reprisal and disappointment she feels. My junior is near a nervous breakdown when he cannot handle the AP science classes he’s forced by his parents to take (especially when his strengths and interests are actually in the humanities). I hate to break it to Chua but these students are not the pillars of strength. They are hurt, overloaded, unhappy children, who at the end of the day, are not always certain that their parents love them. If this is true, why don’t you know about this? Well, it’s because when I propose that we talk to their parents to brainstorm ways to reduce the stress, I hear, “No! Don’t tell my mom”. They fear your disapproval. They are not stronger for the trials that you place on them – they just dry their tears before they go home to you.

Every child has the right to feel loved and protected in the world. Chua’s daughters are lucky enough to have a healthy, available, and seemingly intelligent mother. It is a shame that she paints herself as a mother who wants so much to raise successful children, but whose love appears to be so conditional. I don’t know Lulu, but I know children. I’m sure she felt joy in playing around and snuggling with her mother after mastering “The Little White Donkey”, but I’m saddened that she had to work so hard for that.

Despite cultural differences, I detest the notion of polarizing two types of parenting – permissive Western parenting and demanding Eastern parenting. Somewhere there is a reasonable medium and this is why at the end of most days, I feel like an excellent Chinese mother. This Chinese mother was proud of her daughter who was cast as the equivalent of what Chua mocked as “Villager Number Six”. I was proud that as an older child, my daughter (independently) decided to start taking ballet and was able to hold her own with students who had taken ballet for 10 years. For my daughter, there was great value in spending numerous hours preparing to be someone as lowly as “Villager Number Six”. One value was the lesson that there are small pieces that go into a large production. No single part is insignificant. Though ballet is not her passion, she challenged herself to perform better, stretched herself to try something new, and made many new friends along the way. Did I praise her for her 30 second part in the 2 hour production? You bet I did.

My goal as a mother is to build (and not test) the strength in my children. I want to teach them good values and a strong work ethic that would exist whether I was next to them cracking a whip or not. I want my children to have a zest for life and to be able to make good decisions for them because I know I will not always be there to make decisions for them. I would be glad for my daughters to have a boyfriend in high school because I want them to learn for themselves the qualities they value in a person. I want them to be creative and have an ability to produce new ideas. I want them to share with me and trust in me. None of these things can happen if I am hovering over them, making decisions for them, equating success with being number one, and spying on them.

At the end of the day, there will be kids who have better grades than mine do. There will be kids who are in higher math classes. My children will likely not be playing concertos on a stage for an audience. However, they WILL be equipped with the skills to communicate well, to build meaningful relationships with people, and most importantly, be able to face life confidently with the ability to cope when things (inevitably for everyone) don’t go perfectly. And at the end of every day, my daughters will know that I always want them to work hard and be successful, but that I love them unconditionally. This is a feeling no perfect piano concerto could ever replace.

Friday, January 7, 2011

GTTC - the freezer section

This week's Garden to Table Challenge post comes from the freezer section - pretty weak you're thinking, but ho ho! I felt a good bit of pride while picking through a few ziploc bags on a search for frozen goodies to eat. See the kid with the pre-breakfast lollipop, coonskin cap and princess nightgown? She's helping me make some steel-cut Irish oatmeal for breakfast.

After 25 minutes of pot-watching, the kids ended up with bowls of hearty and delicious lightly sweetened oatmeal topped with cream and sugared strawberries.

I had my oatmeal topped with Swedish pearl sugar (an IKEA purchase) and lingonberries from the two little plants I put in this year. It's probably due to the lean environment in the Greenish Thumb garden, but the plants did not produce many berries. In fact, they were pretty much harvested a berry at a time. I collected them in freezer berry-by-berry knowing I'd be able to enjoy them one day. The lingonberries are fantastic. They're like a really flavorful and pretty cranberry (and don't require a bog to grow in!). They plants are small and not too fussy. I put them in the border of my perennial garden - near the front door so I wouldn't forget about them.

Meemsnyc gets a letter for "potatoes" in her last post that she linked to the GTTC (see the rules in the link up top if you're confused). Someone needs to provide her some competition!

Related Posts with Thumbnails