Welcome to One-Quarter Acres

Here's a chronicle of life on a plot of land right smack in the suburbs in Minnesota, whose owners would much prefer to be in the middle of nowhere.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Challah, holla.

ChallahMy first attempt at challah - which, interestingly, I made before deciding it was definitely time to get all Jewish - was just awesome. Maybe this, more than anything, proves that I was Jewish in a past life.

This does not mean I can correctly pronounce it, nor did braiding come naturally. I have YouTube to thank for its traditional challah shape.

"My Challah Recipe" made a delightful loaf of bread, but next time I will try a recipe with sugar instead of honey so my little honeybee can eat it, as he isn't quite old enough for delicious botulism spores.

And I'll tell you something: French toast made with leftover challah tastes like donuts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My cinnamon rolls that aren't famous yet but should be.

You need to make these.I have long been on a quest for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe. This was an arduous task, involving lots of butter, cinnamon, and new, larger pants. My perseverance has paid off, and it's a good thing I only wear dresses now, as they're a little more forgiving of gaining a billion pounds because you found the most seriously amazing cinnamon roll recipe ever and wish to eat a panful every day.

This recipe is adapted from one called Clone of a Cinnabon, but let me tell you - this is better than a Cinnabon. Your mind will be blown.

For those of you who, for some reason, don't like your cinnamon rolls topped with sweet, luscious cream cheese icing, there's a caramel-pecan roll option.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The garden is in. I repeat: The garden is in.

This is the earliest I've gotten my garden planted in... ever. Most years, I'm waiting and waiting and waiting for all of the parts to come together: a free day, prepared beds, cooperative weather, an assembly of plants and seeds. We've been having absolutely gorgeous weather (if you ignore that cold, rainy stretch) for quite awhile, which meant that I even started cold-weather crops while it was still "cold," and Sunday was the day I tucked everything else in its dirt bed.

A shout out to my neighbor, who held the baby (who is anti-playpen when it's outside, and pro-playpen when it's inside; go figure) during half the planting.

And, for posterity, I present to you... the map of the garden.

Garden box #1

Garden box #2

Garden box #3

*Parris Island Romaine, Slobolt, Yugoslavian Red... I think.

As you may notice, I do the square foot garden thing, though I can't say I do it properly. Who wants to fill nine squares with a tomato plant? I compromised from last year and allotted two. I will kick myself for this later, but chances are the tomatoes are the only thing that'll go crazy, as happens every year.

The tomatoes were started from seed and I managed to not kill them before they were placed into the ground. There's also a Reisentraube tomato in a pot on our stoop, and the remaining tomato plants (as I am not doing a community garden plot after all) will be potted if they can survive long enough. We go through lots of tomatoes. I loved the Hillbilly Potato Leaf tomato last year.

Of those things planted April 19, the peas are the most vigorous. The spinach comes in second, and broccoli third. The lettuce is protesting, so most of it was reseeded on Sunday. I'm not entirely sure it was worth the effort to put in an early planting, since it took forever for everything to come up, and there hasn't been much progress overall.

Most of the seeds I purchased two years ago from Seed Savers Exchange, but they're still germinating well. This year marks the end of the Charantais and Blacktail Mountain melon seeds; maybe this year I'll actually get one. And maybe this year I'll manage to post more than one progress photo.

I have high hopes for the vigor of my plants this year, as I topped off each bed with a nice heap of homemade compost, fresh out of the compost tumbler.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A day of rest

Those of you who know me personally will know that my husband and I are at the very beginning of the path of converting to Judaism. We're going from no official background in religion (save my not-even-half-hearted, done-so-I-no-longer-had-to-go-to-church confirmation as a Lutheran when I was 13) to attempting to integrate ourselves into an entire people with a rich and complicated history.

It's just a little daunting. But what else it is, is amazing. As cliche as it is, it feels as if we have come home.

One of the traditions that appeals to me deeply is making Shabbat. That is, as the Ten Commandments would put it, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." Most of us have probably heard about all of the restrictions put on the Jewish people on the Sabbath - not only no work, but no carrying, no tying, no cooking, no turning on lights (though note: the degree of observance, at least in Liberal - i.e. non-Orthodox - Jews varies drastically). And I'm sure most of us think that it sounds awful, a whole day of not being allowed to do so many things.

But as it turns out, the Sabbath is seen as a gift. It's a day to focus on family and spiritual obligations instead of earthly ones. Starting with the lighting and blessing of candles, blessing wine and bread, blessing one another, and sharing a meal, it marks the passage of another week and allows you to stop and appreciate what you have been given and what you have worked for.

What a concept! Isn't this what so many of us are longing for in these hectic times? One of the many things that draws me toward Judaism is how the passage of time is noted and celebrated instead of simply allowed to passed, unnoticed except for when we see a gray hair in the mirror and wonder when we got old, or waking up one morning to kids who have slept through the night and realizing how long ago it was that they woke us up every morning and we just wished they would sleep five hours in a stretch, just once, please...!

How do I hope to make Shabbat? I hope we'll greet sundown on Friday with the traditional blessings and ritual paraphernalia (we joke that my husband's into this for the hats, and I'm into it for the food and candlesticks), followed by a meal, with flowers on the table and a passably clean home. I will try to make Saturday a day free of non-joyful obligations. I'll try to have as much food for Saturday prepped ahead of time as possible, so time with my family is maximized. (As much as I love being in the kitchen, I think I spend too much time in there.) We'll spend time on Torah study, reading, napping, laughing. When we can, we'll go to grownup services and Tot Shabbat. It'll be a day of being obligated to live in the present.

This sort of thing isn't just for religious people, either. Why can't we all take a day to turn off the rest of the world and focus on ourselves and our families?

Here are a few inspirational articles I've read recently on the topic:

The Selfish Shabbat - "I hardly believed in God's existence when I started to observe Shabbat. My observance began for one reason only: I was selfish."

An interview with the author of A Modern Jewish Mom's Guide to Shabbat (since one of my challenges will be how do I do this when I'm at work most the week?)

Can a mom really rest?, an interview with the author of Rest, a book for anyone interested in slowing down and integrating this idea into their own lives.


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