Saturday, May 22, 2010

The First of many Farmers Markets

If anyone out there is actually reading my blog (besides my parents), they can probably tell from my silly writings that I am a dreamer. Images of a romantic way of life often consume my thoughts. I know that life is not always romantic, but when the opportunity comes to pick some blueberries, ride my bike across a bridge, or randomly run through a field of wild flowers, I will take it, savor it, and probably write a blog about it. When I saw the sign for Ripon’s first Farmers Market hanging across the intersection of 2nd street and Stockton Avenue, I did a little happy dance in my not very romantic, in fact, my very practical car.

Ripon is in the heart of farmland, so it only makes sense that it has a farmers market. For a while now, Danny and I have been trying to buy more locally grown produce. Meeting the person who is handling your food is very rewarding. Knowing that the food isn’t genetically mutated makes is also rewarding for my health.

Danny happened to be chaperoning on a Disneyland fieldtrip (those poor teachers) so I talked my friends Melisa, Casie, and my godson, Ryan into coming along for a farmers market adventure. Casie’s mom Monique also met us there.

I had planned on riding my bike and bringing my fruitful bounty home in my bike basket. This was the first of my country bumpkin bubbles to be burst. The wind was fairly crazy that day (although not as crazy as today), and Melisa refused to put our bike pedals to the metal. So I met Melisa at her house and we walked there, since she lives just a short distance from the bustling metropolis of downtown Ripon. Casie pushed Ryan in his trendy polka dot stroller and met us there.

Before leaving Melisa’s, I realized that I had forgot my reusable grocery bag. Melisa saved the day and the earth, by letting me borrow her roommate’s bag.

We approached Main Street and the air was filled with music. Literally, music. Mariachi music to be exact. A mariachi band played songs outside of Taqueria Ripon, which I later talked the girls into going to for a post farmers market dining experience. The mariachi music may not be the exact kind of outdoor entertainment I expected from Ripon for the very first farmers market, but I enjoyed it. In fact I hope that they are there next Thursday, well them or the yodeling group from the Swiss Club.

The market covered a whole block of Ripon's downtown, which are to be honest not that big. But Ripon is just not that big of a town. If there were any more booths the ratio of onions to residents of Ripon would have been outrageous.

My first purchase was that of some cherries. The price seemed fair and the cherries had that look that cherries get when they are just right, like they are so plump and full of flavor that they could burst at any moment. I bought about a pound and immediately tried one. The flavor burst in my mouth was just what I had anticipated. I gave samples to Melisa and Casie and they agreed. The cherries reminded me of the ones my mom would pick up from the fruit stands out in the country and bring home as a sweet surprise. I confessed to my friends that I liked to swallow the cherry seeds. They looked at me like I was crazy and maybe I am. But I also know that a cherry tree won’t actually grow in my stomach, it beats looking for a trash can, and I kind of like the slippery feeling of them sliding down my throat. Ok, I am crazy.

The next purchase was some red onions. They looked so pretty I couldn’t resist. Plus they last for a while so I figured they would for sure not go to waste. Carrying my four softball sized red onions with the green leafy part still attached in my bag, seemed like a very country chic thing to do. So I was more than happy to do it. We ventured into KinderGarden, a super cute, gently used, baby item store downtown, because of course Ryan needed to pick up a few things. It was a little warm in the store, and I started to notice a smell. I had remembered to put deodorant on before I left, so I knew it wasn’t me. Perhaps Casie? No. Melisa? No. The mystery odor became stronger and stronger until I realized that it was not me, but what I had so excitedly placed in my bag, the onions. It is strange how such a beautiful delicious vegetable can smell just like my husband after he has worked out, gone to wrestling, then come home and pulled his weighted sled up and down our street.

As a good mother, grandmother, godmother, and Auntie, the four of us decided that Ryan needed to stop by the child identification booth and get his iddy bitty finger prints done. Like any respectable godmother would do, I shielded the light from Ryan’s face so that his picture would turn out nicely, as he sat in Casie’s lap. Now Ryan has his very own special id card.

There was a booth full of overpriced gourmet dog treats. I was tempted to buy some for my amazing dogs, but decided they aren’t really the gourmet type. Next to this was a booth full of random trinkets that I’m sure I have seen in the clearance isle at Walgreens. Melisa and I tested out mood rings and found that we are both romantic and happy. I didn’t need a mood ring to tell me that. The booth did have some cool bike lights that sure would fancy up my bike. The lights go on the spokes and slide up and down creating a magical sparkle for those late night bike rides.

My last purchase was the perfect end to a perfectly silly day: Almonds. Of course I had to buy some, as I am continually vying for the Almond Blossom crown and continually trying to convince others that my last name really is VanderLehr. Plus, we were running low. As us three ladies and Ryan walked back to Melisa’s house, we stopped to look at the inscriptions on the bricks lining the sidewalks, “The VanderBeeks Gerhard Bessie 6 children 1923,” “The Van Assen family arrived 1914-1920-1921,” “Van so and so,” and “Vander such and such.” One day I hope to have my own brick “The VanderLehrs arrived 2008.” I then popped a cherry in my mouth and an almond for good measure, hummed along to some mariachi, and told my friends how I couldn’t wait for next Thursday.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blueberry Dreams

During elementary school I remember reading a book where the character found herself having to survive in the forest somewhere in Maine. The name of the book escapes me. Perhaps it was a Boxcar Children book or Babysitter’s Club, since I probably read every single one of those books in the third grade. What I do remember about the book was that the girl made surviving in Maine sound like an adventure I wanted to have. She slept under the stars, picked blueberries, and somehow came about some cream from a dairy.

Now that adulthood has set in, I know this dreamy scenario won't occur. People don't get stranded in blueberry patches and happen upon some cream. I probably would be too cold under the stars all night anyways. Needless to say, it would be nice to pick some blueberries, pop them in my mouth, and think, “Oh yeah, I could have been that girl living off the land in Maine.”

Danny and I picked out some blueberry bushes last year at the local nursery. The blueberry gods recommend buying two different variations of bushes for maximum sweetness, so we did just that. Danny planted the bushes in a bare corner of our backyard. He did not plant them by the vegetable garden which I like... It made them seem more natural, like the patches in Maine.

Danny’s friend Todd came over one day and we were in the backyard…perhaps barbequing. Danny told Todd about our blueberry bushes. Todd said he had heard they didn't do so well around these parts. Todd is a pretty smart guy, so I believed him. My blueberry dream was sort of crushed, although no one knew it was crushed, because I had never told anyone about it. Who tells her friends or husband that she has blueberry dreams because of some silly book she read in third grade? Not me. But now I have this silly little blog, and for blogging’s sake decided to share it with cyberspace.

The first year there were no blueberries. The plants looked withered and puny. Perhaps it had something to do with the bee shortage, the dogs, or perhaps Todd was right: My visions of blueberry picking were just pipe dreams.

But today, after Danny mowed the lawns, he came in announcing that he just ate a blueberry. I had to clarify, “From outside?” I asked because we have approximately one million blueberries from Costco in the freezer. Danny assured me it was from the bushes and he took me to see.

There are about 6 ripe sweet little blueberries. I picked one. It tasted wonderful. It had just the right sweetness and made the most perfect pop in my mouth. With more promising little blueberry buds on the plant, I hope to enjoy more blueberry moments this spring. Maybe I’ll lay under the stars for a bit. And maybe I'll happen upon some cream (and by that I mean happen to go to Save Mart and get some heavy whipping cream). It may not be Maine or my exact elementary school dream, but it's a fairly good adult interpretation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Himalayan Salt Stone

Sometimes my husband has the tendency to hype things up. Sure, usually his excitement is somehow validated by me … after I methodically try out whatever it is he is hyped about. I eventually cave in and say those dreaded words, “Yes you were right,” but there is one thing I just can’t get too hyped up about: the Himalayan Salt Stone.

For my birthday/Christmas I like to ask for something practical and something fun. For example, this birthday I asked for a shampooer and New Moon. (I know it’s pathetic.) If I got nothing but these two things, I would have been a very happy girl, but Danny always likes to throw in a little surprise. His surprise is usually thoughtful and different, but from the heart. I find it very sweet, and he usually does a pretty good job…that was until this birthday.

The problem wasn’t so much in the gift itself (well maybe a little), but in the effort Danny put into making me think this was the best gift ever. He taunted me by saying things like, “This is the best gift ever,” “You don’t even know it exists, but you want it,” and “You are going to pee your pants when you open it.” I couldn’t help but guess…A puppy? A new outdoor light fixture? Something covered in polka dots? Bacon of the Month Club? The answer was always no, because of course, I know these exist.

My birthday came around, and after waiting all day for Danny to come home, I was finally able to open my present. He wanted to record my reaction, I refused because something in the back of my head told me it may not be the reaction he wanted.

My little voice was correct. I opened it up to find a large pinkish crystal looking block. “What is it?” I asked. “A Himalayan salt stone!” replied Danny. He went on to explain how once it is heated up it cooks amazing meat… okay I do like meat. Danny then explains how some guy online said it made the best steak ever. As Danny goes on about how the salt stone is going to change our lives, I tasted it: Salty. Danny then told me not to lick it because I’m not a horse.

My reaction wasn’t quite what Danny wanted it to be. No peeing of the pants. No jumping up and down. No calling my friends to tell them the amazing present my husband got me. What I did say was, “Well you can’t hit them all out of the park Danny.” Feeling bad that I let that slip out of my mouth, I said “Well, I do like meat. So it was thoughtful.” He asked again if I liked it. I said, “It’s fine.” Ouch.

In disbelief that I wasn’t amazed by the salt stone, he promised me some amazing steak. This, I was up for. Maybe just maybe, the salt stone would redeem itself.

The salt stone not only didn’t redeem itself, it sunk further into my list of things that do not excite me. (Which include: Waking up early, deveining shrimp, U2, and annual Dr. visits.) First off it takes about 45 minutes to preheat. It also says on the directions that it makes amazing eggs. I’m pretty sure 45 more minutes of sleep is much more amazing than any salt stone egg. As Danny made the steak, the juices spilled over the edge causing small bursts of flames from our electric (yes electric) stove top. Danny had to put out several small kitchen fires. When the steaks were done, there was a lovely mess to clean up. I had to buy new burner plates it was so bad. And the main reason for all of this hassle, the “amazing” steaks, well they were just really salty steaks. Don’t get me wrong, I like salt, but I don’t want to wake up swollen like a marshmallow from an unhealthy amount of dietary sodium.

Danny later tried to impress me with the fact that the piece of salt stone was approximately 250 million years old. Apparently everything doesn’t get better with age.

So the salt stone is now put away in a cool dry place, until I decide to try the recipe from the pamphlet that says, “Impress your Jewish grandmother with Gravlax.” The pamphlet suggests that eventually when the salt has worn down to use it in your bath as a spa treatment. I’m not sure how the meat remnants will help my skin or if I want them to.

I should try to redeem myself, before I sound too much like an ungrateful whining wife. I may not love the salt stone. I may not love the super salty steak. I may not love replacing stove top burners. And I may not love meat remnant baths. But I love that Danny has enthusiasm not only for salt stones, but for life itself, and that is an amazing gift.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Stoked Shampooer

There is something so insanely gratifying about shampooing a carpet, that even on my birthday, a day for relaxation and ice cream, I wanted nothing more than to break out the shampooer. The Bissell Proheat Turbo 2x was one of a few gifts from my dear Danny. (One of them was a Himalayan Salt Stone, but that’s for another blog…) Now before all the women become furious that Danny would get me such a domestically insulting present, let me explain that I wanted it. I’ve wanted a shampooer ever since we lived in our dinky little apartment and I borrowed my mother in laws. I saw it work its magic on my puppy stained beige carpets, and I was sold. From soiled to saintly…my carpets transformed before my eyes like magic. I was in love.

Since that day, I have dreamed about owning a shampooer. Two dogs that are allowed outside and in, as well as a husband who is allowed outside and in, will make most people at least pay Stanley Steamers to come out for a cleaning. But I wanted more, I wanted the ability to clean my sofa when I felt like it, and now I have that ability.

My cotton covered couch and chairs have been around since the early nineties. They survived me, my brother, and the family dog Lady (RIP) and have served us Lehrs for almost 5 years now. It was either time to get new furniture, call Coit, or get a shampooer. I preferred the latter, so I could get a few more years out of the furniture and clean the bedroom carpets whenever I felt like it.

Like Danny usually does, he went all out. He got me a near professional grade shampooer. There is a heat button, so that I can make the already hot tap water 25 degrees hotter. There are about 5 different attachments so that I can get all the nooks and crannies. One of the attachments has a separate solution holder, for those really tough jobs. It also has double the brushes, to really scrub those carpets. No, Bissell is not paying me for this blog, I’m just very excited…

Today I used the cleaner on one of my chairs. This is the chair that Butch likes to crawl into at night (even though he is not allowed to) and get his filth all over. The chair is plaid and is navy blue with white. Let me correct myself, the white had turned to a disturbing off white. I tried all sorts of hand spray upholstery cleaners, with little success. I covered the chair with a blanket, knowing that in the wee hours of the night Butch will get on the chair, yet still the blanket would shift…causing me a great deal of agony.

I attacked the chair with the hand tool labeled “upholstery brush.” I also used the “crevice tool” for the hard to reach places. I used the cleaning solution that it came with and went to town. At first I was just going to do an inconspicuous place to make sure the fabric didn’t bleed, but I just couldn’t hold back my excitement and figured it would be fine. It was. It was more than fine, it was fantastic. The yellowy beige parts are now white. The most satisfying part was watching the yucky dirty water get sucked back up into the vacuum. If I could compare the feeling to anything, I would say it is like when a respiratory therapist suctions one of our baby's nostrils/endotracheal tube and gets a giant glob out. Yes, it was that satisfying.

Now that I have my shampooer, there are endless cleaning possibilities. I can even get an attachment to clean my wood floors! I am not a clean freak, just a stoked shampooer. Perhaps tomorrow I will clean the other chair, or the couch…or the spot that was left over from the previous owner in the guest bedroom. Watch out world, my Bissell Proheat Turbo 2x is on the attack!