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I had very good intentions to live a semi-normal life this week and even find time to write about it, but good intentions, it seems, have not managed to clean up my kitchen. This is a good summary of how this week has gone:
(Click through to Flickr to read notes on what items are in this mess!)
Good intentions, after all, could not overcome the 100 degree weather that descended on Portland this week, forcing us to hole up in the air conditioned bedroom, barely venturing downstairs to the kitchen except for very late at night and very early in the morning, when it was a livable 85 or 90 degrees. At seven months pregnant, it was all I could do most days to get some sleep, some food, and some exercise, without collapsing into a pile of tantrums and heat fevers. So perhaps it’s not that odd that our kitchen counter, normally the place where we, you know, prepare food, looks like it does.
Something else happened this week, though: I’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I am on a two-week trial of testing my blood four times a day to see if my glucose levels can be controlled by diet and exercise alone. This has put our plans of a homebirth temporarily on hold; if my glucose levels do not respond well (meaning I’m eating right and exercising a lot and they STILL won’t go down), I will need to receive medication to control it further. And once you start receiving medication for gestational diabetes, the midwives transfer you to a specialist obstetrician, and a hospital birth is the only safe choice.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and processing about this. It’s really difficult to steer away from the doom-and-gloom thoughts (I’m a failure! I’ll end up strapped down and overmedicated in the hospital!) to more positive ones (I’m going to do everything I can to help my body! I can have a fully aware and present birth even in the hospital!). I won’t know until sometime next week how we will proceed. Lacking a crystal ball, I’ve been doing my best to make the right choices and do the best I know how.
So aside from the heat, I’ve been more engrossed with the inner workings of my blood, rather than the state of our kitchen counters. But I still wanted to record this week, because not everything is photogenic and easy, and I want to remind myself that it’s all okay, really. Really.
Last weekend, we had a little get-together at my mother’s house to make my birthing blanket. This is an item that my midwives require me to have on hand, it’s a cushy and waterproof blanket (made from thrifted materials) that can follow me around the house as I labor — couch, floor, bed, stairs, bathroom, wherever. We will have a birthing pool, but it’s impossible to predict where I will feel most comfortable, of course.
So my mom and I went to thrift stores and picked out some soft sheets and a fluffy comforter, and she found some clear vinyl in a remnants bin at Mill End. With munchies on hand, and some tapestry needles and embroidery floss, we laid out all the layers on the big table and started stitching them together, nothing fancy, just simple tied knots every six inches or so.
We rolled up the edges and sewed them in place:
As I kept saying while we did it, remember that it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it just has to be functional. When my baby is born, this blanket may very well be soaked in water from the birthing pool, in blood and other fluids, and it is meant to be rolled up and thrown away. There will be other keepsakes (like one roly-poly baby!) to hold onto, and this blanket is not destined to be anything more than a soft basin to hold my labor in.
So it was gloriously imperfect, fields of purple knots mixed with pink as we switched thread, each woman’s corner a little bit different in spacing, areas of geometric regularity mixed with riotous pointillist arcs and dots of ties. It was a lot of fun, and two hours passed pretty quickly.
We felt very accomplished when it was done. Here is my nephew Cos, his homebirthing mama/my sister Katie, me, our friend Caren, and my mom, holding up our handiwork:
It really is soft and a comfortable place to be. Right now it’s in the linen closet so it doesn’t become the cat’s newest favorite item to shed hair on, but I’m thinking maybe it should come downstairs into the living room (where I will probably do a lot of my laboring, since that is where the tub will be) so I can do yoga moves and other baby-positioning postures on it as I move into the last two months of my pregnancy. It’s hard to believe we’re so close! I can’t wait to meet our little baby girl. On Tuesday I will be at 32 weeks exactly.
The Williams Sonoma catalog came to our house recently, with its glossy photos of improbably expensive, impossibly specialized gadgets. I do enjoy a good dose of random kitchen lust for things like the glass-bowled 90th Anniversary KitchenAid stand mixer (still can’t justify buying one of those), or the meatball grill basket (would I ever use this more than once a year?), or the cherry pitter that catches your pits (because oh the agony of catching pits on a napkin!).
But after rolling my eyes a bit (and spending some time dreaming about the enormous kitchen I would need to warehouse all these ridiculous gadgets), my eye was caught by an excellent recipe for Sweet Corn Soup. Of course, don’t you know that this recipe is all the easier if you purchase their fancy corn cutting thingy, and their new special Cuisinart whizmagog, but really, I got along fine without any of that, and you will too 😉
Here is my version, reduced and altered a bit from their version to suit a simpler set of tools and a smaller number of mouths to feed.
Sweet Corn Soup
4 ears of corn, as fresh as you can get them
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Red pepper flakes
1/2 pkg of bacon, cut in 1.5″ bits
1. Cut the corn off the ears into a bowl with a sharp knife. Holding the empty cob upright over the same bowl, use the back of a butter knife to scrape down the length of the cod and get out the juicy bits left over. I was skeptical, but trust me this works.
2. Cook your bacon in a soup pot until done, then drain the bacon bits on a plate and save for later. Remove all but a couple tablespoons of bacon fat.
3. Saute onion in the bacon fat until soft and translucent. I let mine get a tiny bit caramelized at the edges. The bacon fat may sound decadent, but it goes well with the sweetness of the corn, and without it there’s not much to this soup, so really let the onions absorb the flavor at this stage.
4. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pot, and stir for thirty seconds or so, then add all the corn kernels and their juices. Cook, stirring only occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
5. Add 3.5 cups of water or vegetable/chicken broth. Add some salt and pepper. Bring the whole pot to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to your desired texture. Stir in a bit of cream, maybe 1/8 cup or more, and season with salt and pepper again.
Serve hot or cold, with bacon crumbles on top for garnish. Serves 2-3 if you’re really hungry, maybe 4 if you’ve got other food on the table.
We crumbled in some whole wheat buttermilk biscuits to give the soup a little bit of substance. This was a nice light dinner for a summer evening, though with all the stove time (plus the oven at 400 degrees for the biscuits) it might not be so forgiving if your house doesn’t tolerate cooking heat well at the end of the day. But made in the morning, it would be perfect at the end of the day!
I also took the leftover biscuits, whipped the leftover cream with a bit of vanilla and honey, and had a nice simple dessert into the bargain:
…and PS, if you are seven months pregnant and the temperature in your house is creeping toward 80, and you’re tired but you get one of those beautiful bursts of energy, there is absolutely nothing better than cooking all of this in nothing more than shorts and your bra. Nothing in the world.
We drove down to the misty green Oregon coast forest and spent some time being forest-people for a while.
Picture here the pictures I couldn’t capture, because how can you? The cozy feeling of a campfire as the surrounding forest gets quieter and darker. The patter of rain on the tent as we slept. The insistent caw of the wise resident crows. The babble of the creek running unseen through the dense brush. The tiny birdsongs at night when twilight crept in. How everything smells a little bit of woodsmoke, of dirt, of rain, of the nearby ocean’s salt.
Here is one camp breakfast, triumphantly produced despite a drippy morning and the langorous feeling that maybe staying in our sleeping bags forever might not be such a bad fate:
It was so green there, and with the misty weather and our lack of beach gear, we only really got to ogle the waves from the cliffs at Seal Rock:
And instead we went for a leisurely exploration of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, since this particular spot on the coast is a bit farther than a usual weekend trip might take us. We spent some time with the awesome Oddwater Exhibits, and all their amazing, shy, colorful creatures.
Anyway now we are back, with the predictable mountain of laundry, box full of camping supplies not quite yet unpacked, and I’ve had the feeling all week that we didn’t quite leave. It seems like our camp site is still exactly where it was last Saturday, quiet and waiting for us. I want to go back, but maybe we’re still there. Or a piece of us might be. I love visiting the forest. I love how it visits me in return.
It’s been a quiet couple of weeks over at our house, where there is still a list as long as my arm to be completed some day soon (before the baby shower, before my birthday, before the baby). We endured an ultra-hot July 4th weekend (complemented, unfortunately, by the ultra-loud mortars launched by our neighbors until 11pm) and now I am so excited to head off to the woods for a couple days — I’m taking my husband on his very first camping trip! Very exciting. Tents, cooking outdoors, campfires! S’mores and hiking and waking up in your sweatshirt!
We’ve ammassed a trunk full of supplies and we’ll be setting out sometime tomorrow, mid-morning. I can’t wait to share pictures when we return.
Meanwhile, let me share one picture with you of one nearly-complete project for the baby:
Cloth baby wipes! This was the nicest, most simple project ever. With three yards of cheap remainder flannel, I cut and stitched together six-inch squares and then trimmed the edges with my pinking shears. I finished two dozen and there will be another dozen or more when I finish the ones waiting at my sewing table. With this nice stack and a little spray bottle of water with baby shampoo, we won’t need to use disposable wipes (unless things get really mucky). Friends of ours recommended starting out with several dozen, so as soon as I have them all finished I will have a nice tidy stack waiting in the baby’s room for her arrival. Oh sweet little baby girl, we are so ready to meet you!