Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The bloodletting.

{Lac Léman }
Yesterday we spent the morning in Geneva for my gestational diabetes test. I'm not sure if it's required for everyone in the US, or if it's conducted the same way (I've heard that it's not), but here in SwitzerFrance it's a bit of an ordeal. Three blood draws in a two hour span, no food 6 hours before, and no food during the test (except for a glass of sugar water lemonade after the first blood draw that was actually really tasty). I was a little concerned as I was seeing spots after the first blood draw, but the two subsequent draws went much more smoothly. At least I had a nice view from the exam room for every blood letting.
Luckily during the test it wasn't too hot out, though we are slowly getting back into the swing of yet another heat wave. By lunchtime I was not only starving and a little shaky, but also beginning to get uncomfortably warm. The problem? Being that we're in Europe, (cue the broken record), not all restaurants are air conditioned (even in hoity toity Geneva), so we found ourselves sitting outside because it was about 90 degrees F inside.
And this man right here? Patience of a saint. I must be a delight to be around lately, especially yesterday being low on blood in the heat. I don't mind the blood letting so much as the process of doing so on an empty stomach. I caught a bit of a break last night as it was our last night of cooler temps before we climb upwards today, so Doc took full advantage of that opportunity to make me some mushroom fennel risotto for dinner. (Look for that recipe post soon! And by soon I mean next time it's cool enough to stand over a pot of risotto.) This morning I woke up feeling completely drained, almost like I was jet lagged, so if anyone needs me I'll be on the couch watching "Bob's Burgers" on repeat via Netflix - doctor's orders.
A la prochaine friends...

Monday, July 29, 2013

A New Twist: Fig Tree Propagation Update Deux

So far so good, if I do say so myself. All 5 branches at each of the three windows are showing some kind of growth, be it solely at the roots, budding leaves, or both. Keep in mind that all three jars of water and cuttings are located in very sunny windows, and that we hit 90 degrees F a few times last week. So here is your week 2 update on my propagating fig trees in water experiment.
There are two cuttings in one La Parfait jar (1 liter size) in the left living room window. Last week neither had any bud growth/development, but did have the beginning of little nubs that would become roots. This week cutting #1 grew two leaves with another in the works...
...and a little bud is forming further down the cutting closer to the water line.
There has also been a little more root growth, but nothing as significant to note as budding leaves.
Cutting #2 is also getting some little leaves, though in the top third of the cutting.
Some more root nubs (I'm sure that's not the official name, but it's what I'm going with for now until I find out otherwise), on cutting #2 as well, in addition to a little budding that is actually happening on the part of the cutting that is submerged in the water. Can you find it? It's the little bit of green that is all the way on the right side of the picture.
The right living room window also has 2 cuttings in a 1 liter La Parfait canning jar. We'll refer to them as cutting #3 and cutting #4 to avoid confusion from here on out. Cutting #3 was the only cutting last week that showed signs of real roots (and not just nubs), and has shown even more root growth this week.
Cutting #3 is also beginning to show a little bud coming out near the top, as can be seen above (faintly - it's teeny tiny).
Cutting #4 is showing more root growth, but no budding to speak of yet. It's becoming harder to keep this branch submerged in water as the roots are growing at the tippy top of the water line, and some of the roots are actually growing upwards out of the jar.
And last but not least, the lone fig cutting being attempted upstairs by our bedroom window in a half liter La Parfait jar. We'll call this cutting #5 to keep with the trend. There's a little more root growth on the nubs, but nothing to write home about...
...but I'm excited to say that there are 2 small leaves coming out of the top bud. This is a huge difference from last week when the bud was just beginning to open.
How things went down in week 2:
22/7/13: Bud opening on cutting #5 by the bedroom window.
24/7/13: Full tiny leaf present on cutting #5.
25/7/13: Side bud opening on cutting #1 in the left window of the living room; 1 root broke off of cutting #4 in the right window.
26/7/13: Cutting #5 starting to get 2nd leaf; more budding at the top of cutting #1.
Handle the jars with care. We moved the jars hastily during a huge thunderstorm this week when we had to shut the windows on the quick, and I think that is when the root broke off of cutting #4.
Now that some of the cuttings have significant root growth (cuttings #3 and #4), or significant leaf growth (cuttings #1, #2, and #5), I'm beginning to wonder when I should actually pot the cuttings. I've read that cuttings in soil can actually get leaves before roots have developed, so I think I can wait on cuttings #1, #2 and #5 until the root systems are more developed. However I'm not sure when the cuttings with an inch or two of roots should be potted. I'm leaning towards another 2 weeks, but will revisit that once I see the changes this week.
Forget what happened in last week's update? Check it out here!
Not sure what I'm trying to do here? Here's the explanation.
Check back here next Monday for the week 3 installment of this experiment!
A la prochaine friends...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

28 weeks and miserable.

I hit 28 weeks today, which I think is the start of the third trimester, and let me tell you, I'm 100% miserable. There's been no relief from the heat, and there's none in sight, as it's going up to 33/34 C this weekend. (Highly unusual for our area.)
Two tower fans do not a happy mama-to-be make, and no offense French people, but constructing items to keep one cool is not your strong point. In fact, Doc went searching for another one yesterday at Migros, and not only was there only one fan to speak of, but it cost, (you might want to sit down for this), 340 euro (about $500). That wasn't a typo. And no, it wasn't a portable air conditioner, it was a fan. I have a feeling that despite the hefty price tag the fan doesn't work much better than the tower fans I curse at all day long. And in case you're wondering, we did not increase our fan inventory with that discovery. Hard to believe, I know...
I've been trying everything I can think of to try to keep cool, but nothing seems to work for very long. Cold showers only help for an hour or two, frozen watermelon cubes are great but temporary, and putting my spritz bottle of lavender water in the fridge is nice but a fleeting moment of happiness. I'm open to any and all other ideas you guys might have!
A la prochaine friends...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to store figs.

If you're lucky, you're smack dab in the middle of the first of two fig seasons in your corner of the world. With a 3-4 week availability per season in our area, I spend that time hording and consuming pretty much every fig we come across.
That being said, we run into logistical problems. When it comes to figs, they really are a puny fruit. In a fight, the fig would surely lose to the egg. A perfectly ripe fig is in danger of falling ill to bruising, crushing and/or molding once picked.
This past weekend for example, we bought 3 kilos of figs, and in an effort to not lose any to the aforementioned ills, we made sure to separate the figs into three bags at the market, so that the poor little figs on the bottom would not be crushed by the over 6 lbs. of figs on top. Bruising effects the taste of the figs, and figs sitting on top of each other can speed up the molding process quite a bit.
This has been a dilemma for me for quite sometime, but recently I had an idea. How do you keep the figs from touching? How do you keep the figs from crushing each other?
Egg crates!    
My original plan was to use my super cute little ceramic egg crate from Anthropologie to house these little queens of the fridge, but it would only hold a small portion of our figs, and it was already occupied by eggs. It was when braving the Saturday crowds at Migros post Ferney-Voltaire market that I saw these little egg carton beauties, and after some negotiating with the cashier this little freebie came home with us.
Mama solving problems! POW!
How do you store your figs? Do you keep them in the barquettes that they came in? Or have others been using this method for years and I'm just late to the party? I've seen some supermarkets use something similar to this, but had never thought of utlizing this method at home in our fridge.
A la prochaine friends...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Keep Mama Cool or Else: Paprika Hummus Recipe

Early on in pregnancy, I had aversions to everything. Seriously, everything. And NO cravings. It was very frustrating for me, and I know for Doc too, as I felt horrible and hungry and there was virtually nothing he could do about it.
One thing we found that I could handle was raw vegetables and fruit. And so ensued weeks upon weeks of eating 6 plums a day, multiple pears, and carrots all day everyday.
But one can only eat crudités by themselves for so long. One day I happened to mention that maybe hummus would be good to try. For those living in France (or at least in our part), you know that hummus is not only hard to find, but when you can find it the jars are teeny tiny and expensive. So Doc, with this little glimmer of pregnancy food consumption hope, made it for me from scratch, as he is wont to do.
It tasted pretty good to me, and Doc got a little excited. So much so that he proceeded to make 4 liters of hummus from scratch the following day. Unfortunately after 1 liter, I couldn't look at it anymore. For the next 5 months. Wah-wahhhh. 
This weekend we decided to give hummus another try, and so far so good. However I don't think he'll be making a truckload of it anytime soon though. Small batches all the way!
Paprika Hummus:
1 can of garbanzo beans
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of tahini
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of water
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans.
2. Mix everything except the garbanzo beans together in your trusty immersion blender or blender. Blend.
3. Slowly add garbanzo beans and blend into the above mixture a little bit at a time.  
4. Dip carrots, celery, bread, radishes, olives, pita chips, whatever floats your boat in it!
Why this is so good? Besides being so healthy, it does not require turning on the stove or oven. Mission "Keep Momma Cool or Else" accomplished!
A la prochaine friends...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Market Day.

I've been living for the weekends lately. Doc is so busy with work it seems that the only time I get him all to myself are Saturday and Sunday. We spent Friday night plotting and scheming for what fun things we wanted to do this weekend, and our number one pick was to head back to the Ferney-Voltaire market for the second week in a row.
{Yo Voltaire!}
I had found a bunch of recipes on pinterest that I had wanted to try, as well as to revisit a few of our own oldies but goodies, so we thought Ferney would be the place to find what we need.
In fact it was (as per usual), as the Ferney-Voltaire market is one of the few places I've found where it's possible to get beets with the greens attached (most French supermarkets, at least in our area, sell beets sealed in plastic, without the greens, and looking gross.), and they were bio (read: organic) at that. We also managed to pick up over 3 kilos (more than 6.6 lbs!) of assorted figs (purple and green), and over a kilo of what last week were the best black cherries I had ever eaten. However, it should be noted that yesterday Doc informed me that lately everything I've eaten has been "the best [insert food here] I've ever eaten," showing that my love of food is back, at least for now. Needless to say his confidence with cooking has been through the roof lately.
I was hoping to find some Mirabelles and Reine Claudes (called Greengage plums in the US), as well, as their season is quickly approaching, but none yet. Fingers crossed for next week...
{Family portrait: Mama, Papa and Homekid}
We also picked up some delicious bio apple juice (don't worry it was pasteurized), which I've been mixing with seltzer water lately. I call them spritzers. Mama likes her bubbly! 
We made some really great dishes this weekend, including some that we can affectionately call "Keep Mama Cool Or Else," so look for them this week as I'll be sharing some of my favorites.
And with my belly only getting bigger and the temperatures only getting warmer this week (31 C on Thursday, 32 C on Friday, and 34 C on Saturday!), I'm gonna need all the cool treats I can get.
{Voltaire was here.}
{27 weeks and 2 days}
Hope you all had a great weekend out there, complete with cool drinks and air conditioners.
A la prochaine friends...

A New Twist: Fig Tree Propagation Update

Since beginning this new fig tree propagating experiment last Saturday, I'm surprised at how much has happened to my little fig cuttings in water. I actually am attempting to root 5 fig cuttings instead of the original 3, as I realized they were really quite long and should be cut in half. So I currently have 2 cuttings sitting in a jar of water on our left living room windowsill, 2 sitting in water on our right living room windowsill, and one (it was much shorter than the rest) sitting in water by our bedroom "window" (it's really a sliding door). Here's what's going on so far:
The little white dots that you can see on this cutting are the beginning of roots...
Not only does the fig cutting on the right windowsill have the beginning of roots, but it is developing actual roots! And in only 1 week!
More little roots budding on this cutting from our bedroom...
...and even the start of leaves, as can be evidenced by the fact that the uppermost bud is starting to open!
Here's how things went down in week 1:
13/7/2013: Prepped cuttings and put them in jars of water. Placed on the three aforementioned window areas.
17/7/13: First signs of white dots on all cuttings of where roots would form.
19/7/2013: Actual roots forming on right living room windowsill cuttings.
1. Next time I try this I won't fill the jars up quite so high. The cuttings are all submerged about 2/3 of the way in water, and roots seem to be forming most abundantly near the top of the water line. This means that when I plant them (if they are successful), I will have to plant them very deep in a pot, leaving only a few inches of cutting above soil.
2. It's been incredibly hot here in France, and we have no air conditioners. Our bedroom has been consistently 27 - 29 C/about 80 - 84 F for more than 2 weeks now, with pretty much zero air flow. Our living room/kitchen floor has not been much better. (We live in a 150+ year old French converted farmhouse, made of cement and stones. ZERO air flow.) The upstairs cutting sits right by the sliding door (no actual windows in our bedroom) and seems to love the greenhouse effect it has on it. Maybe the heat is helping the cuttings to root faster?
Look for the Week 2 installment of this experiment right here on the blog next Monday!
Have any of you decided to try this fig propagating experiment as well? I'd love to here how it's going on your end!
A la prochaine friends...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Things Making Me Happy: 27 weeks edition

{July 1983}
It's hard for me to truly believe that we are now just under the 3 month mark of when we anticipate having a little chubster of our own. And after looking at that picture can you believe I was actually 3 weeks early? Good lord.
Things Making Me Happy Right Now:
1. Baby punches: It's almost like Homekid does new and exciting weird things on the new week milestones. Yesterday, once we had officially reached the 27 week mark, I started feeling what for the first time felt like arm movements, and not just kicks. I can't be certain that they were specifically arm movements persay, but it was the first time I had felt any movement high on my belly, as everything else has been low kicks thus far. It doesn't hurt, but the dance party was definitely enough to stop me in my tracks. Being that this kid is half Philadelphian I can only imagine the straight up knock out punches I'm going to be receiving in the next three months.
{Bonjour little avocat!}
2. Gardening: We welcomed a new little avocado tree up to the windowsill this week! Just goes to show you should never give up on your plants. I left this little pip in the care of Doc a year ago when I left for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, and it was one of the few things that truly looked dead when I returned to SwitzerFrance. Rather than toss it, I started adding water to the almost empty pickle jar that it was residing in, and low and behold this spring a new shoot sprouted up from the dry, brown, dead-looking one. What a little toughy pants plant.
3. Gardening experiments: Things are happening in my newest gardening experiment, mentioned in a post earlier this week. I can't believe how quickly I have things to report, so make sure to check back on Monday for a status update on how my attempts at propagating fig cuttings in water are going.
4. Pinterest: Of all of the social media outlets, pinterest, you have my heart. It's the one venue where I don't ever feel like I'm wasting my time, as I always come away feeling inspired and motivated to bake something, create something, or go somewhere new. And sometimes to buy things. Ok a lot of times to buy things.
{Pic via here.}
{Pic via here.}
5. New swag: I picked up some new pyjamas this week from a store called "hush" in the UK. I've been getting down about my nighttime attire as at this point I can only wear Doc's shorts and a baggy tank top to bed, and I'm starting to feel a little like a slob. I bought them with the anticipation of wearing them as a little treat at the hospital in the fall, and once we bring Homekid home, but to my delight they actually fit me now! (Thank heavens for really adjustable waistbands...) My parents treated me to a full pj set, and I also picked up a pair of pj pants (on sale no less!), so I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of fall so I can actually wear them and start feeling a little more like myself again. The pyjamas are so soft and lovely, if you're in the market for a new pair check them out!
6. Ice-y Pops: I don't think any explanation of this is really necessary, except for maybe 1000 exclamation marks. Not only have I never seen these in France, but they are also bio (organic for all my Americans out there) and sugar free. I'm not an anti sugar person, but I think when it comes to certain things like juices and in this case frozen juices, it's just not necessary. Let the beauty of the juice flavor shine through I say! We're going to buy a few more boxes of these this weekend, so long as they have any left...
Things I'm Not Loving Right Now:
1. Fatigue: And I don't mean like "oh I could take a nap" fatigue, I mean "let's just take a break and sit on the stairs for a minute fatigue." If nausea, light-headedness and general fatigue were the bane of my existence in the first trimester and a half, extreme fatigue has been my enemy since then. Last week I was a total rock star and did a bunch of yoga (the Bikram pregnancy series), walked, gardened, and lifted light weights. This week I've spent my time wishing I had the energy to do just one round of dishes. Poor Doc.
2. Summer Heat: We had thunderstorms the last two days which cooled things down a bit, but it's supposed to go up to 30 C in the next few days. And for some reason the only thing I've been wanting to do lately is bake. Go figure.  
3. I miss coffee. Like I really really really miss coffee. And not even the caffeine aspect, but just the taste. I love everything about the way that coffee tastes. I love everything about the process of making coffee, and enjoying coffee with friends. It's such a social thing for me, and I miss our Saturdays spent drinking coffee and espresso all day.
4. Stroller shopping: I'm pretty sure this is the most confusing thing to buy in the whole wide stinkin' world. Is the car seat separate? Can it be snapped into a base? Does it need an adapter? The adapter costs how much?! How long can they stay in that seat? Then we need a different seat?! How much does this cost?! And we can only use it for how many months? Oie veyishmeir. Can we just stick to buying adorable clothes please?   
Happy Friday everyone! Any cool plans for this weekend?
A la prochaine friends...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Duggan Hiking Must Haves: Quinoa Tabbouleh

Doc and I love to take advantage of being so close to nature here in SwitzerFrance by hiking as often as we can. The hikes we now choose may be a little different from what we're used to since I'm pregnant, but one thing remains the same... 

...we always bring some quinoa tabbouleh with us. This dish is the perfect mix of sweet, tangy and crunchy, and always gives us the energy to keep going after eating it. The original recipe that I used is here, but over the last year or so we've tweeked it. The tweeked version can be found below. We felt like it needed a bit more crunch to meet our tastes (we seriously always double everything!), but feel free to adjust the vegetable amounts according to your own liking.
Hiker's Best Friend: Quinoa Tabbouleh
1 3/4 cups of water
1 cup of uncooked and rinsed quinoa
1 medium sized roma tomato, chopped
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup of golden raisins
1/2 of a medium sized cucumber, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper

1. Quinoa has a coating on it that if left unwashed will produce a bitter taste. Use a fine mesh strainer to rinse the uncooked cup of quinoa under cold running water for a minute or so, washing the bitter coating off.
2. Once you've rinsed the quinoa, add it to a medium sized pot (I used a 2 3/4 quart sized cast iron Le Creuset dutch oven), along with the water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it is boiling, cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. For example, the water was absorbed after about 15 minutes on this last batch I made, so peek in around that time so you don't end up burning your quinoa...which or may or may not have happened recently to a person who shall remain nameless...
3. After the water is absorbed and you're staring at some beautiful, un-burnt, super good for you quinoa, remove the pot from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork.
4. Stir in everything else. Yes, all of it! Just dump it in there. How easy is that, right?!
5. Let stand, covered, for an hour. Or until you're too hungry to wait anymore, which for me, today, was about 20 minutes. (Baby gets what baby wants...)
6. Serve it cold/room temperature. Or better yet, in a sweet to-go ware container, on the side of a mountain, staring out at a lake or a forest or hell even an urban park that you are imagining as a jungle (get it? I crack myself up!). Either way, get outside and take this along with you!
Let me know if you try this and how you like it!
A la prochaine friends...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A New Twist: Fig Tree Propagation Experiment

Since moving to SwitzerFrance 3.5 years ago, I've become obsessed with fig trees and fig tree propagation.I propagated my first fig tree back in September of 2010, and have been hooked ever since.
I've always propagated them in the same way, which some of you may remember from a post way back when, which you can find here. However, in the interest of science and botany, I've been wanting to try other methods of propagation as well, because, why not?

So on Saturday, after walking around the Ferney-Voltaire market, I had an idea - why not try my hand at propagating fig cuttings in water, and then transplanting them into soil after they've rooted. I'm curious to see 1) if I can make it work and 2) how long it will take to develop roots, especially compared to the 3-6 weeks it can take when propagating fig cuttings in soil. Being that we are a scientific household, I decided it was time to find the answers to these two questions. Or, to at least start to attempt to answer these questions. Pruning shears in hand (as always), I made sure to come home with 4 fig tree cuttings from a local tree to test this experiment out.
Of the 4 cuttings, I'm going to attempt to propagate three in jars of water at different windows of our house (all facing the same direction), and one in soil, just for an accurate comparison of my typical go-to method.
To prep the cuttings for propagating, I merely cut off all of the leaves and developing figs, so that the cuttings energies can focus on root growth. In an effort to keep as many variables equal as I can, I did the same for the fig cutting that I put in soil (something I don't typically do, I always let the leaves fall off on their own). Then I filled some jars with water and put them on the windowsill.
I'll be updating you guys on their progress once a week, on Mondays, as I literally have no idea what to expect from these little cuttings. I'm excited to see how and if this works, as it's never bad to add more skills to the ole' repertoire. This will serve as a written and visual record that I'm hoping I can learn from, and maybe a few of you out there will learn something as well, whether it's from my success or major failings. Fingers crossed!
Feel free to join in this experiment with me and share your results!
A la prochaine friends...