Saturday, August 25, 2012

Late Summer

So, here we are! Another summer is winding down.

Sorry it's been so quiet. The summer just whooshed by while I was in the throes of a health breakdown. Well "throes" might be a bit dramatic. My sweet mother came and stayed with us for a few weeks and kept my household going while I slept and took herbs.  Mums are awesome. (For the curious, it was stress related burn-out manifested in weeping eczema like hives, very icky.)

We'd planned to homeschool all summer, but my illness forced me to cut out everything other than basic hygiene and food for the masses.

Right now I'm just focusing on rest and recovery and herbal medicine until I'm up and running, however long that takes. I'm aiming for a permanent cure.

(In this genteel space I decided to share homeschool pictures, not eczema pictures. You'll understand.)

But we've been puttering away on gentle little projects like painting Hugh's phonetic alphabet (to go with the song "A-a-apple, b-b-ball..." etc.

So we sing alphabets,  read a lot of books, play a lot of lego, and go on little adventures up the bike trail.

Will finished reading the Narnia books to the boys, and they've begged him to start again. I'm reading Pippi Longstocking and the Wind in the Willows, which is a bit "old" for them, but they request it anyway. I feel that the English language in the Willows is so delicious and beautiful, what's to lose? (The amazon links are just for your benefit, I don't receive kickbacks for them.)

For a number of reasons, I've decided that this is still better than sending my guys to public school.

Of course my total-health mission means that my house looks like someone has thrown everything onto the floor, heaped it into piles, then walked through it.

some piles are charming
Come to think of it this is exactly what happened.

a few gifts from the garden—herbs for tea, flowers, and kimchi!

In compensation for my failure as a housewife, the garden has surprised us by surviving drought, neglect,  chipmunks, abuse by neighbourhood children (including my own) and given us a few late summer gifts to remind us that in spite of us, the earth still struggles to be Eden...

 A few flowers for the table, some tangles of invasive herbs, which will be dried for tea,

...and these sad, neglected little vegetables:

creepy little turnip
Gifts? you say...

Why yes. Bitter, deformed turnips might be abominable on the plate, but they make awesome kimchi!

Kimchi can be made out of anything, as long as you have the four essential spices:


These you grind up and pack, along with pickling salt, into a jar of  thinly sliced vegetables. For the last batch I used my creepy little turnips (finely shredded), turnip tops, cucumbers, carrots, a beet, napa cabbage, and green onion.

I have no pictures of the process, because kimchi-making at the Pemberton's inevitably happens in the last fifteen minutes before the baby wakes up,  resulting in a flurry of work and the entire contents of the food processor being spilled across the floor. I'm frantically mopping up while the baby cries angrily in his cot.  It is not conducive to peace of mind, even if I could find the camera.

Rafe and friend Leo
But it's a good feeling to lay food by, especially in the last anxious days of summer when the PhD poverty budget has dwindled to its end. I've gotten quite handy with the limp cauliflower and the kidney bean.

Cauliflower is awesome, versatile, flavourful, and delicious. But kidney beans! If anyone knows how to turn kidney beans into something pleasing, please respond immediately. I've got several billion pounds of them. (Want some? I'll share!)

What else to tell?

The boys are digging a basement for their fort in the hedge.

Will is translating, writing, committing several languages to memory, and rubbing his hands to dive into into La Commedia Divina. I'm thrilled because I feel that his whole academic career has been leading up to Dante. He just doesn't know it yet.

And that's the news for the Pembertons.


  1. Whatever you do with your kidney beans, don't sprout them. I read they contain some toxin released when sprouted something like that, I don't remember exactly, I jut remember sprouts and toxin. I don't know of any amazing kidney bean recipes as of yet but I'll pass them along if I find any. Hope you're feeling better soon! Oh, the Batten's honey people have a beeswax body cream that he told me this morning is good for eczema, might be worth checking out, it's all natural I believe. I also have some homeopathy if you're into that stuff.

  2. My advice for kidney beans is that a little bacon flavour does wonders for them. I make red beans and rice using 1/4 to 1/2 lb of bacon. (This is a dish that is eaten as leftovers at least once). You can buy cheaper bacon because it just disappears into the dish anyway. The fat and the flavour from the bacon changes the dish completely. I start with frying the bacon and then add the onions, spices, tomatoes, beans etc..... Just an idea. Otherwise kidney beans are pretty bland. Maybe chipotle would help??

  3. Oh Mary, you are simply inspiring and marvelous and lovely. Every bit of you. I do wish we see one another more than every 10 years! Tons of love, and please heal up. Xxxxx

  4. I totally understand the phD poverty diet, we've been living on a lot of rice and beans the last month, which I guess you could call the undergraduate poverty diet. So I suppose if Leo makes it all the way to his phD we will at least be a few steps up by having kimchi added to our regular ration of rice and beans :). Hope you get better soon. Our daughter has eczema has too, it is not easy to deal with.

  5. Failure as a housewife? Quite the opposite! You are an inspiration and a beautiful daughter of God! I'll be praying that you get well soon and we hope to see you and your family soon!! Peace and prayers sista! <3

  6. Mary, Good to have you back (and your droll turns of phrase). I lost your email and thus was unable to invite you to my blog (which I promise to start updating...). Email me at with your address and I will issue the invite. And, as for kidney beans, I have never liked them much but the bacon suggestion in the comments might make me try them again.

  7. Mary! It's so great to see a post by you. I've shown your blog to my students and there are loud cries of "OOOOOOOOOh! sooooooo cute!" whenever they see pictures of Matthias and Rafe. Koreans love babies, and they all want to meet the boys now. Much love to you.

  8. Mary, we miss you and pray for your recovery. I am actually planning to give you a call this week at some point to catch up. Regarding the kidney beans, I think the best thing is to cook them (a second time - they are not hard anymore at this point) in chicken stock with onions, cumin, garlic and salt. After they have boiled for a bit, you process them into a puree and use them on anything (toasts, salads, wraps).

  9. Mary, we miss you and pray for your recovery. I am actually planning to give you a call this week at some point to catch up. Regarding the kidney beans, I think the best thing is to cook them (a second time - they are not hard anymore at this point) in chicken stock with onions, cumin, garlic and salt. After they have boiled for a bit, you process them into a puree and use them on anything (toasts, salads, wraps).

    1. Aw, we miss you too! Definitely time for some hiking, isn't it?

  10. Mary, I hope that by now you are all healed up, permanently! Your pictures have so much peace in them, even if it may feel like chaos living in it. I am certainly inspired as well. kidney beans - pureed with LOTS of lard/olive oil and some cumin and salt as a dip/spread for veggies and bread.

    1. Oh thank you Naomi, I like to take pictures of sunlight streaming through the window onto a tidy house! Makes me feel better about the corners I'm NOT photographing. There's definitely something wrong with my kidney beans, they won't even puree.

    2. A tip from a James Taylor tune "...the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."
      Your family seems to be in on that secret. Bless you dear. Love from your auntie across the world.

    3. well, i kind of mash them and do what I can with a hand stick blender. The skins don't really puree. If you have a slow cooker, try cooking them in that (after soaking) for ages and ages to get them good and soft. No salt added until cooked.