Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A summer of living and creating

It definitely wasn't a summer of blogging (sorry, loyal readers), but it was definitely a summer of living and creating. Yes, I had to take care of both of my children the entire summer without much of a break for myself (Maylin only had one week of camp and a few short classes), but I really had a fantastic summer. Fortunately, Maylin and I have similar interests. We drew a lot together, visited the library many times, read a lot (me to her and her to me), had friends over (Maylin's mostly), visited Grandma and Grandpa and swam in their pool (oops, not me this summer), walked to the Cal campus to picnic on the lawn and say hello to the dinosaur bones in the Life Sciences building, made new friends at the park, made new reptile friends at the East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley (with the option to touch them, which we didn't -- but we were amazed by the beautiful patterns on the snakes, the variety of lizards [frilled dragons, monitors of all sizes], and the liveliness of some turtles (Stefan liked one particularly active snake and the store owner's dogs the best).

Our house has been home to many different craft projects this summer. Maylin and I are in the process of making a doll out of wooden balls (photos to come!) that we found from the inspiring store, Castle in the Air, on the Fourth Street in Berkeley. Previously, we made plaster farm animals from a kit. The molds are really great -- I'm looking forward to finding more plaster powder to make even more darling animals. Maylin's taken card stock and made toys for herself (beds for dolls, shelving for a doghouse...really cute). She's made at least a half-dozen books, and I made one for a friend complete with drawings, a poem, and favorite dessert recipes. Oh yes -- I've also carved out MANY rubber stamps and, when I have a big chunk of time to myself, will print out some cards to sell on for fun. I offered to make a rubber stamp for Maylin, so she drew, of course, a very complicated design which I carved out with such intense concentration I ended up with very tense shoulders and neck, something I haven't experienced since taking finals at Cal way back from before '96.

Besides carving stamps, I've gotten into food in a big way. I read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver, and am following that up with The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I have been inspired to eat local and organic whenever possible, and I have done so pretty well this summer. I haven't taken a trip to Safeway in months and am quite proud of myself! I head over to Berkeley's Monterey Market once a week where they have a lot of local produce direct from the farmers at great prices. Their dairy section is great, too, though I wish they had more of a cheese selection (I'll have to visit the Cheeseboard soon -- which is actually walking distance from my home!). We don't eat much meat these days, but what we do eat is mostly from Magnani's, near the Monterey Market. They carry free-range chickens and Niman Ranch beef and more. I was most impressed by the Sonoma Farms free-range chicken. Actually, if you want to know the difference among all the chickens that are out there, do a boiling test. Boil your chicken (and eat it, of course), but save the broth and put it in the fridge until the fat coagulates on the surface. I've only boiled a couple chickens lately, but I'll tell you my observations.

Coleman Organic (from Costco) versus Sonoma Farms Free-Range

The Coleman Organic produced a lot of saturated fat, probably comparable to a Foster Farms. The flavor of the chicken wasn't significantly better than your run-of-the-mill chicken, and the size of the breast was quite large. The fat coming out of the Sonoma Farms Free-Range chicken looked totally different! First of all, there wasn't much of it, and second of all, there was very little of your typical saturated chicken fat (you know, that thick, pasty whitish stuff). Instead, the fat was very light in texture and mostly transparent! That's probably as healthy as fat can get (if you intend on eating it). And the flavor? More of it! Very chicken-y, in a good way. The way chicken should be. What a wonderful aroma! And the size of the breast was reminiscent of an A- or B-cup, instead of a D- or E-cup. More realistic. To be sure, I will continue purchasing this beautiful bird, which was only a couple dollars more than the Coleman Organic. Definitely worth the extra bucks.

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