Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What The Monkey Saw

Things that the Monkey saw in the Tidewater area of Virginia over Memorial Day Weekend:

Sailboats, a hummingbird, two great blue herons, propellers, minnows, crabs, large frogs, a rabbit, a wagon, a swimming pool, kayaks, dinghys, toys, a bee, a wasp, a rain gauge, and a hose.


Monkey Daddy Scallop Succotash

I made this recipe with stuff I bought from the Ware Neck Produce Market, in Gloucester, Virginia. In fact, we fed ourselves for four days almost strictly on a Ware Neck diet. (Do I smell a book deal/diet plan coming on?)

It's a dish of native ingredients and fun colors. The starch from the corn thickens the natural broth from the scallops. Then you're eating good. Serves 2-4.

1 vidalia onion
olive oil
1 lb fresh scallops
1 or 2 yellow squash, cut into 1" dice
1 yellow (or orange) bell pepper, diced
1 ear of fresh corn
1 lemon
fresh herbs

Cut the onion into coarse dice and saute it with the olive oil in a large skillet. When the onions are translucent, add in the scallops and brown them (both sides) over medium high heat. Brown the scallops rather quickly, or they won't get their appealing color before they give up their broth. Add in the squash and try to sautee them; they require slightly longer cooking time then the pepper, which you add next. By now, there will be a fair amount of liquid in the pan if you are using fresh scallops. With a large chef's knife, slice the kernels from the ear of corn directly into the pan. Cover, and simmer until the scallops are cooked to the desired temperature: an even, consistent white color, but not overcooked or they will be rubbery or tough. Squeeze the lemon and throw some fresh herbs in for a minute or two as you finish cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Little Hammers?

Our pediatrician is an MD, but she is also a credentialed homeopathist. The Monkey Mama and I learn a bit about homeopathy theory and applications. As nearly as I can tell, the theory is that if the body is suffering from an ailment, giving the body a miniscule amount of medicine that exacerbates the condition is enough to kick-start the body's normal processes that enable it to revert to normal, thus harnessing the body's ability to heal itself. After all, the root words of homeopathy mean "same as the disease." This is in contravention to normal medical practice, where treatments tend to combat the ailment.

So in practice, vaccination might be a paradigmatic homeopathic remedy, while antibiotics stand in for normal medicine. (Of course, vaccination is part and parcel of modern scientific medicine too.)

So here's my ailment: in the course of laying out the walkway in the backyard, I pounded the knuckles of my left hand with a 4-pound sledgehammer.

Is the homeopathic remedy to tap my knuckle with a tiny hammer?

Unless a homeopath leaves me a comment saying I should, I'm not going to try it.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Porchblogging: Victory, Sweet (Hollow) Victory

I finished paving the walkway today. It looks great. Victory! In the game of Man vs. Nature, we're scoring it 1-0 at the end of the weekend.

This victory was a bit fleeting however. We had hoped to lay out some sod, and presto! instant backyard. And in fact I fertilized the ground and raked out some clay-busting soil amendments. But before I went to the trouble of renting a rototiller and lawn roller, I checked to see if Home Depot had any sod in stock. No dice. I let my fingers do the walking to two other stores, showed up at a local nursery, and eventually found some sod at Lowe's. But it was so picked over and dried out, and only came in small 2 sq ft "tiles" (instead of nice, long rolls) that I didn't even bother.

I did the bulk of the work Saturday, working hard from about 8am to 4pm. The Monkey Mama was in charge of the Monkey nearly all day, until her massage in the afternoon. This morning, I felt like I had been in a car accident: very sore.

So maybe the actual score should stand as 1-1.



Most kids might give a name to a special stuffed animal, or maybe a blanket. The Monkey has given a name to his favorite...cell phone charger. And what did he name it? "No-No." As in, "No, don't touch the electrical cord."

Note that the word for "No-no" is distinct from "Na-na" (which describes our dog) or "Nee" (which the Monkey uses to describe himself).

The charger itself? It's not much. It doesn't even work with any of the phones we currently use.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Porchblogging: Patio progress edition

Here are a few pictures of recent progress on the patio and walkway I am building in the backyard.

The first picture is taken from above, and shows the begining of a little patio/landing outside the porch door. At this point, I wasn't sure how I was going to cut the concrete/faux stone pavers -- let alone how to miter them around a corner. Visitors to Chez Monkee will note the new location of the Shadblow Serviceberry in the northwest corner of the lot (upper left). Also: a mountain of pavers stacked in the middle of the yard, along with gravel and sand for the paver bed.

The second picture shows the completed landing area. The pots are in the future location of a wrought iron railing and gate. Note the well-mitred corners! I ended up using my tile wet-saw, until its motor burned out...naturally in mid-miter. A hammer and cold chisel worked badly. An abrasive disk in my circular saw, coupled with a few sharp raps with the brick chisel, seems to be the winning combination (although the 7" disk is now about 4.5"). Note also the hastily fashined makeshift handle for my 6 lb sledge head, necessary when I couldn't for the life of me find my 4 lb mini sledge. (File that under the categories of "if it's not one thing it's another" and "is this trip really necessary?").

The last picture shows progress made to date. This is the walkway running along the porch, until it turns a corner and heads to the pedestrian alley gate via the trash cans. I am excited about "turning the corner" (literally). I shouldn't have to cut many more blocks, and no mitred angles whatsoever. It's a pretty clean run to the end. I am also pleased with my workmanship in the corner, including a stone "pivot" flush to the pavers, and many, many miter cuts.

The "pivot" is one of those fancy garden design elements that invite you to pause in your journey through the garden (most likely on the way to the trash cans, but whatever) allowing you to explore and reflect. Plus, it's a little more room for the double-stroller turning radius. (With all the stones I have piled up, two birds pose no problem.)

I had cut all the miters the previous day, and quit when I was just too tired to lay them properly. I mean, all that leveling and pounding and checking takes patience. At some point today, I became very confused and missorted the cut blocks. It took me a while to figure out which stones went where. And since I was essentially stealing time while the Monkey took a nap, it was stressful and frustrating rather than amusing.

All in all, the end of this project can't come soon enough. My hands are rougher than sandpaper, my back and shoulders are sore, and spending every spare daylight hour on my knees peering at bricks isn't fun. On the plus side, my hands and forearms are getting stronger, and I am very pleased with the results.

Next stop, laying sod, planting some shrubs, painting a nursery, having a baby, ordering carpet, moving some furniture around. (Ahem...what was that middle part again?)

Labels: , ,


OK, I've been to two other branches of the DC library in the past two weeks, and I've never been less proud to call Petworth my home. Even under renovation, the Mt. Pleasant branch is a much, much better library than the Petworth branch. And the Cleveland Park branch was pretty nice, too.

In short, the Petworth library has very few books I want to read, and a very weak children's department.

Other than that shocking revelation, I enjoyed my morning of Monkey-Daddy Day (Tuesdays, when I stay home with him). We read a lot of books, explored the library, and saw a steamroller and asphalt paver laying down a new surface on 16th Street...moments after reading a picture book about building a new road! (I pride myself on connecting the dots for the little guy.) The resulting traffic was less than jolly, and I just managed to get some lunch in the boy before he fell asleep.

While he napped for 2-and-a-half hours, I got some sound work done on the patio I am constructing in the backyard.

I also gave him a haircut this morning. I think it's my best one ever.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

It's all about the head

When we tell the Monkey about some new danger, he usually signals to us that he understands by patting his head. Sometimes he pats his head and says "ouch."

He is miming a repeated sequence from his own life experience, one where he falls down and hurts his head.

Point to the street? Pats his head. ("Cars could come by and give you a big ouchie!")
Warn him away from climbing the bookcase? Pats his head. ("The whole thing could come tumbling down on top of you.")
Reprimand him from the light socket? Pats his head. ("No electrical cords.")
Seeing a scooter? Pats his head. (I never had to say a thing; it probably reminds him of the notorious skateboard incident of two weeks ago.)

You get the idea.

Today in the grocery store, we saw a kid with a bike helmet that probably rode there on the back of his dad's bicycle. (The weather has been gorgeous lately.) Nico saw him, instantly divined the helmet's purpose, and patted his head.

I worry that if we get him a helmet, we will undo a year's worth of safety awareness. Oh, the paradoxes of parenting...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What's wrong with doctors?

We recently had an ultrasound of Baby August. Everything seems to be developing nicely. We didn't ask the sex of the baby. All in all, normal (if tending toward the large side).

The experience with "orthodox", even fully insured care within the U.S. medical system made the Monkey Mama and I even more thankful for the attentive care we receive from the midwives at BirthCare. I felt like the radiology office treated me like a dollar sign until I was in their office, at which point I became a nuisance.

The doctor who reviewed our sonogram was the worst. He entered the room and said "I'm Doctor [unintelligibly fast speech] and I'm going to take a quick look and then get you on your way." We actually had a few questions, and weren't in a rush...but our time was his money, the way he looked at it I guess. He was nerdy, no charisma.

He said (to the Monkey Mama) "I'm just going to measure the distance between your placenta and your cervix." --Why? "Because if they're too close, you can't have a vaginal birth."

There's another way to get the same point across, while simultaneously educating the parents and not alarming them. The fact that he was only looking for trouble, rather than doing an holistic examination, is part of the whole interventionist/God complex that characterizes most U.S. medicine. ("Eek! There's a baby inside her! We've got to get it out, or they'll both die!" instead of "That's nice. She's pregnant, like 100 million other women right now, and like billions of other women before her.")

Then he wanted to do some kind of vaginal exam. We raised some concerns, because we weren't exactly sure about the timeline of when vaginal exams might introduce bacteria to the baby. Talking over our concerns, he said "We do them all the time. Practically every woman in here today got one." All of which has precisely nothing to do with why such an exam would be necessary for the Monkey Mama. We asked him about the potential benefits and risks, and he literally threw up his hands and said "Fine, we won't do one." Which isn't right, either: we weren't opposed, we just wanted to be knowledgeable. We weren't trying to second-guess, we were trying to be informed consumers/patients.

The care we get from our midwives is so much better. I won't try to do justice to the treatment we get from that practice in this post, which is already too long. Let's just say we're grateful for the midwives at BirthCare.

And imagine if we were one of the 43 million Americans without health insurance? I recently saw a link to a study that found that uninsured people pay more for services that they eventually receive.

How is it that the American health care system spends 15-35% more (per GDP) on healthcare than other countries, has demonstrably worse health outcomes almost across the board, and still manages to miss 15% of the population entirely?

And what kind of a system funnels people to this clown of a doctor, who can't explain the benefits and risks of a procedure to a patient?

Porchblogging: Great Outdoors edition

Long-time readers know that last summer and fall were consumed with the effort to get a screened-in porch built in the back of our house. I thought I would post a picture or two to give some closure to that effort.

If this blog were "Better Blogs & Gardens" I would have probably picked up around the porch before taking the picture. Maybe set out a vase of flowers. Or at least put away the garbage. But it's not, so you'll have to take my word for it that we are satisfied with the porch and find it to be lovely.

This spring, we are shifting our home improvement focus to the great outdoors. We are putting in some permeable pavement walkways, a few planting beds, and some sod.

Progress is well underway:

*The lot has been graded
*I transplanted the Shadblow Serviceberry (planted on my 30th birthday) into the opposite corner of the lot (just days before my 35th birthday).
*I moved over 2 tons of paving stones, gravel, and sand into the backyard (via wheelbarrow)
*I have compacted, marked, and graded most of the paving areas
*About 25% of the pavers are in place

Setting pavers in place is kind of addictive, like Tetris. Today was my day at home with the Monkey, and during his nap I graded a walkway and set a bunch of bricks. After he was up, I made him sit in the porch and watch me work. Which he was glad to do (for a while, anyway.)