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A place of affection

September 27, 2010

I woke up this morning to discover that the temperature had dropped into the thirties during the night. It was so cold that the dishes I washed after breakfast were visibly steaming in the drying rack. We finally had to bite the bullet and turn on the heat. Somehow the cold has accelerated my panic about October, which stems from two things: a deadline with my publisher on the now-alarmingly-close fifteenth (also, can I say “deadline with my publisher” a few more times? It’s fun. I know it’s just an article and not a book, but it still sounds good to me; the actual deadline, however, is quite terrifying) and Halloween.

AJ announced last night at dinner that he has decided what he wants to be for Halloween. As usual, he’s gone through a number of possibilities — a hippie, the grim reaper — trying to find the one that seems to be right. “I want to be an alien in a tuxedo.”

An alien in a tuxedo? Where did he get this idea? It sounded weirdly specific. He said he didn’t know. So I did what any self-respecting parent would do: I googled it. It turns out that it is a character in a video game called Scribblenauts, which AJ has played at a friend’s house and is desperate to own. Despite the video game connection, I like the idea, but I’m not sure how we’re going to pull it off. I think a trip to the vintage store is probably in order. And then either a good mask or some makeup. Any suggestions are more than welcome. This is definitely not my area of expertise.

Over the weekend, we managed to escape the work and do a few other things, most of which involved, in one way or another, football. On Saturday, Mr. Spy and AJ went to a Northwestern game. I went along for the ride. It was a beautiful fall day and after we met up with my brother-in-law in front of the stadium, I said goodbye and walked the couple of miles to the public library on the other end of campus. There I did actually work, but I did it while a) sporadically following along with the live blogging of the football game and b) stopping to wonder if the woman at the next table, the one in the pink cat sweatshirt who kept making little “ahem” noises was actually Dolores Umbridge.

After I knocked off for the day, I walked up the road to Bookman’s Alley, which is, as far as I am concerned, the uncontested best used bookstore in the world. Click the link and scroll through the comments and the photos to see why. When I arrived, Roger, the owner, was sitting at his usual place behind the desk, surrounded by three men. The four of them were talking animatedly about the philosophy of the human condition and the value of death. A little later, two of them drifted off and turned on a small TV I’d never noticed before, embedded in a wall of books, to check up on the football score. After a while, AJ and Mr. Spy showed up. We took a quick spin around the store together and then headed by car a couple of miles down the road to Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop which is, as far as I know, the only rock shop/museum/jewelry store with its own children’s book. None of us had ever been there before, although we’ve been hearing about it for years. AJ spent a good 30 minutes exploring the shop in search of ways to spend his allowance. He finally selected a slice of blue agate and a small carved tiger, which turned out to be made of the same material. Meanwhile I pulled out a pencil with the upper shaft replaced by a clear plastic tube full of tiny, colorful tumbled stones. I told AJ I had bought one just like it with my allowance when I was about his age and on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York. A woman on the other side of the shelf heard me and looked up at the tub of pencils. She pulled one out and showed her husband. “This was my favorite thing when I was a kid!” Our purchases made, we headed down the narrow stairs to the basement, where a staticky voiceover guided us through a treasure trove of fossils and dinosaur bones, including an apatosaurus femur that was longer than AJ is tall. After Dave’s, a quick visit to Mr. Spy’s ailing mother capped off our day.

We were up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to drive to AJ’s football game 30 minutes away. The game had originally been scheduled for 10, but was moved up, hence the early start (pre-game warmups started at 7:45). But no one told the referees, who didn’t arrive until after 9:30. Oops. AJ’s team dominated the first half of the game — their defense pretty much sat on the sidelines for the entire half. But they nearly lost it in the second half, when they started to drag. They won by one point in a squeaker that was aided by a bad call that went our way when the opposing coach ran onto the field and screamed in the refs faces.

The rest of my weekend was spent trying to deal with the backlog of fall vegetables from the garden and the CSA. I have given up on the chard, which just keeps coming. I am thoroughly sick of it — I groaned audibly when I saw how much was in my CSA box this week — and couldn’t even face last weeks’ chard tsatsiki, which I would ordinarily have gobbled up, or chard stems gratinee, which I could tell was delicious, but couldn’t bring myself to eat. From here on out, I’m steaming the chard and bagging it in the freezer for the dead of winter when any green vegetables are welcome. It will be great in soups in a month or two, when I’ve gotten over it.

I also roasted an eggplant for baba ghanoush, and baked up assorted squashes: butternut, acorn and pumpkin. I made my favorite Moosewood squash casserole with the butternut and acorn and roasted the seeds from all of the above. I also made zucchini pancakes with the near-end of the summer squash. The rest of the zucchini may turn into a zucchini chocolate cake to celebrate Mr. Spy’s and my tenth anniversary, which is coming up in a few days. The pumpkin’s destined for muffins, I think. Unless any of you have any better ideas.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    September 27, 2010 1:21 pm

    I have a really excellent zucchini bread recipe on my site. The kids gobble it up. I, alas, only had maybe two zucchinis grow this year so I had to make it with store zucchinis.

    I made quicky lasagne last night because I spent the day at the fair and wasn’t up to even making pesto like I need to. The basil did wonderfully this year, despite the lack of moisture, and now I need to do something with it all before the frost kills it.

  2. September 27, 2010 1:28 pm

    Ooh, that bread sounds delicious and I think I have all the ingredients…maybe something to make after teaching tonight. Your pumpkin corn chowder sounds good too, but I don’t have nearly enough pumpkin. Yet.

  3. freshhell permalink
    September 27, 2010 1:52 pm

    It’s really, really good. It’s one of the few reasons I even buy eggs these days! And, it makes good muffins, too, if you want to go that way. Kid tested and approved (I leave out walnuts). I need to check that soup recipe (haven’t looked at it in ages) but you might be able to substitute something – a winter squash – for the pumpkin. If acorn squash are available, that’d work.

  4. September 27, 2010 3:05 pm

    Mashed pumpkin is pretty good on its own- butter, some spices, maybe a little brown sugar and served with pork or red meat

    I have a sugar pumpkin recipe that requires hollowing the pumpkin, rubbing the insides with mustard, then filling it with a mixture made of wild rice, buffalo meat, sage and some egg to hold it together. You bake it and then cut wedges– oh so gorgeous! It came off a notecard I got once- an Inuit recipe. Venison is an option and sausage would work for the meat.

    I wish I had a surplus of chard to freeze for winter! All those greens do well frozen- the blanching takes the bitterness out of the “more assertive” greens. Did you know sweet potato leaves were edible? I’m beginning to think everything is!

  5. September 27, 2010 3:12 pm

    I’ve already cooked the pumpkin, but that sounds delicious. The rest of my family is not big on squash in its more pure forms other than the Moosewood casserole and pumpkin pie, which is why I was thinking muffins. I’ve already cooked it, or I might try that recipe. It sounds delicious. I assume you precook the rice? That would be a gorgeous Thanksgiving dish and could, I imagine, be made vegetarian by adding nuts and some more attention to seasoning. Hmm.

  6. September 27, 2010 3:39 pm

    yes- pre cook the rice. Vegetarian ized… I don’t know. The pumpkin is a strong flavor and the game meat- venison, buffalo or spicy sausage seems necessary for balance. Nuts would certainly work tho.

    Pumpkin muffins would be good in a lunch box… a little sweetness but good for you. Hmm- I might have to make some. It finally got cooler here today- we had 80 days of 90 degree temps this summer- but it rained (!) yesterday and today was mid-70’s. Yea for fall!

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