In From the Cold

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Our bathtub is full every day in summer, but now all there is inside it is a bunch of peach leaves. There is snow on the mountaintops and the temperatures in the garden have dropped to a cool 40 F in the sun. This may sound warm, but the lemongrass doesn’t think so! It’s that sad looking mess by the tub. Luckily we have a few other clumps, one of which is still very green, so I cut some for winter.

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Ali cut the leaves into smaller sections and put them in paper bags to dry. That way, we’ll have lemongrass tea all winter! I just had an interesting tea made with dried lemongrass and little chunks of dried ginger. It was really tasty, and the fact that it was dried ginger gave it a mellow, almost caramel flavour. I’ll be trying to replicate it!

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We also cut down the remaining bananas off the tree. We’d been eating them as they ripened, but figured that they were no more likely to ripen in this weather than they would be in the fridge. I took a bunch to the apartment to ripen and eat there.
We’ve even moved avocados from the kitchen to the bookshelf indoors where we sleep because it’s too cold for them to ripen out there (an outdoor kitchen is a mixed blessing in winter…). They are bought not picked, unfortunately, but it is the height of the season here and there are tables of avocados for sale at the vegetable markets these days. Nothing could make me happier, as I adore avocados (and they are ideal roommates).
Hope all you fellow northern hemisphere dwellers are keeping warm…

Still imagining

A few weeks ago Ali and I were sitting on the terrace having coffee. “There’s a poem called “The Day Lou Reed Died” in the new New Yorker,” said Ali and I snorted derisively. Then I felt like a jerk. Setting aside the fact that I was attempting to look down on someone who’d published a poem in the New Yorker, I believe that we are defined in part by major events in our lives, and this can include the deaths of famous people. Just look at how much reflection there was upon the death of JFK 50 years ago.

I can remember where I was when a handful of people that were important to my generation died, but I couldn’t tell you what day it was and I don’t remember doing anything about it. (Although I do remember after Kurt Cobain died a friend of mine read an article where it described him always putting his thumbs through the cuffs of his sweaters and a friend of mine rolled her eyes and said, “Oh great – now every guy that works in a record store is going to do that.” There was a new Sonic Youth album out and I went out to buy it and lo and behold, the cute guy behind the register had his thumbs through the cuffs of his sweater! I saw him notice me noticing and I said nothing. He probably thought I fell for it. Fine with me — I just wanted to get my album and get out of there so I could report back to my friend.)

The exception is the death 33 years ago today of John Lennon. I was five.

Maybe it was because his family looked like mine – a white dad, an Asian mom, and a kid somewhere in between – but I always liked John the best out of the Beatles. They were not just a band when I was a little kid, they *were* music. The musical landscape of my childhood was the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band, and sitar music. (And then Blondie, a little later.)

On December 14th, the Sunday following the shooting, there was a vigil in Central Park and my mother, father and Lenny went to it so my dad could report on it. (I remember him writing something about girls crying black tears, and something about a balloon but I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was… But I remember him writing it, and how sad he was.) I was with my cousin Elaine for the day. Yoko Ono had asked for ten minutes of silence, and I remember that I just didn’t say a word the whole day.

That was when I figured out that musicians didn’t have to be there to play or sing when you played their records. I thought that they were in a room somewhere, waiting. But once I figured out that we could still hear John Lennon sing, I packed our copy of Imagine in my book bag and took it to Kindergarten. There was a poster inside with the liner notes and we hung it up and sat around the record player listening to the songs.

Ripening tomatoes

Of course, ripening is ideally not the kind of thing that you have to do to your fruits, but sometimes needs must! I was a little on the late side planting out my  tomatoes this year, which is a grave error since if the plants don’t get big enough before the heat sets in they really don’t bear much fruit in the warmest part of the summer and I end up with loads of green tomatoes at the end of the season. Last year, I am fairly certain that I harvested more green tomatoes than red! I have resolved firmly that I will start extra early next year.

Still, there is hope for the underripe tomato. I read this article on Ways to Garden and was encouraged enough by it to pick a big bowl of underripe tomatoes and try to ripen them in a paper bag. They looked like this going in:

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And like this coming out:

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Quite a difference, as you can see! They taste pretty good, too. I feel heartened that there is still hope for my greenish-reds.

Reading material

It’s December again — how did that happen? Once the dust had settled after Thanksgiving, I pulled out the Christmas ornaments and the artificial tree (“Next year, let’s have a real tree!” said Baki). I can’t help but stop and take stock all that’s happened over the past year. This time last year, we were agonising over changing Baki’s school and the horrible ordeal of moving house. All happily buried in the past now!

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My mother made sure I had advent calendars every year and I loved them. Mine were the old school open-a-door-and-coo-at-the-picture kind, but of course advent calendars have progressed a bit since then. Baki is a great fan of the Lego advent calendars, but I thought we’d try something new this year, so I gathered 24 books for him and he’s having a book a day. Of course, this means that Kaya has to have a book a day as well, since he wants to be like his big brother in every way. Don’t tell him that some of his are actually some of my old books wrapped up!

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Speaking of reading material, I want to thank Our Growing Paynes for nominating this blog for the 3 Stars Blogger of the Year award. I’ve never gotten an award before, so although it sounded a bit daunting to participate I thought it would be churlish not to. I would like to nominate two blogs that I only found recently and have been enjoying. They are:

Women Living Life After 50 — I love reading Sue’s posts about her daily life, but she recently wrote a really wonderful piece about dealing with grief during the holiday season that I thought was great. I always find that the holidays make me reflect upon loved ones who are no longer with us, and the list only gets longer.

Janey in Mersin — This is an interesting blog written by an Australian woman living in Mersin, a town that is also on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, but farther east. She writes with humor about the ups and downs of finding her feet in a new place.

The instructions for this award are simple:
1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2013’ Award
2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there are no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ the blog(s) with their award.
3 Let the blog(s) that you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the instructions with them – (please don’t alter the instructions or the badges!)
4 Come over and say hello to the originator of the ‘Blog of the Year 2013’ Award via this link – http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/blog-awards-2/blog-of-the-year-2013-award/
5 You can now also join the ‘Blog of the Year’ Award Facebook page – click the link here https://www.facebook.com/groups/BlogoftheYear/ and share your blog posts with an even wider audience.
6 And as a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog … and start collecting stars…

I hope everyone else is getting off to a roaring start this December as well!

Making echinacea tincture

We came out to the garden on Friday to the smell of smoke from the chimneys. The weather has finally changed and although it is late in coming, it feels like it happened overnight. Enter preoccupations with long underwear, firewood and lighters.

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Every year at this time, I tell myself “time to dig up the Echinacea to make tincture.” We brought these echinacea plants (grown from seed) from our terrace in Istanbul and they were some of the first flowers we planted in the garden. I waited until they were two years in the ground and then figured it was time to dig them up. Thing us, I never did it. So every spring the echinacea would come up and I’d think “D’oh! Another year gone by with no tincture!”

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Well I finally managed to dig those roots up this year. I’ve set aside about a third of them for planting again and will use the rest (500 grams). I’ll chop up the roots (if I had a super blender I could use that, but I don’t so I’ll use secateurs) and put them in a big jar with 750 ml of 95% alcohol and 250 ml of water (= 75% alcohol solution, more or less). Then I’ll shake the jar once a day for two weeks and at result should be a nice tincture to keep us from spending all winter blowing our noses. One nice thing about making echinacea tincture is that you can easily test the strength of it – it should make your tongue feel numb if you put a few drops of straight tincture on it.
I’ll let you know how it turns out!
P.S. – that formula is from the book, Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech over at Horizon Herbs.