Thursday, December 30, 2010
Amy gave me soup, coffee and her company all day long (i.e. sanity). And other friends took Silas and Eden to play, brought cookies, boxes, and groceries. (thank you!!)
I am now tucked into bed feeling jet lagged and groggy. The kids are asleep and I can hear Ben dragging boxes around upstairs. We aren't quite ready, but in the morning, movers will appear and take these packed and half-packed things to the pink house that i can't quite imagine living in, and we will start something new.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I feel a little restless: the tug in my chest I always feel when I leave Washington; the awareness that I still, despite the three full suitcases, have many things to gather and zip up; the anticipation of packing and moving when I get home.
Instead of springing to action, I am sitting at the counter drinking lychee tea and looking at pictures. The time has been full, "magical" as Ben said last night, a dose of everything.
Here are some pictures:
The babe we met for the first time, cousin Jesh:
new york with Ben:
my sister's crocheted gifts (greatness):
Saturday, December 25, 2010
After Silas and Eden gave each other their one present weeks ago and reveled in it, I began thinking that there is a certain brilliance in the Twelve Days of Christmas philosophy: Why not spread Christmas over several days to savor the gifts and avoid the ravenous ripping through that can happen Christmas morning?
Though the idea sounded great, I could think of no easy way to follow through with it, especially once here. But despite that, our Christmas really did shake into several days: We had California sibling Christmas, cousin/Eli and Hollie Christmas, and Newcott Christmas Eve all before Christmas. The pro's were everything I'd imagined: the slow wending through the season, through the presents, and the lack of one big binge. But as of yesterday, we had celebrated so many Christmases, that I could hardly keep in my mind that actual Christmas was still on the way - the clear con. I have always loved Christmas and been one to soak in its magic. But as of yesterday, I felt detached from all Christmas music, Christmas trees, and any sense of anticipation. Bummer.
[Enter today's blog: The Twelve Days of Christmas]
But then last night, after a day of Newcott Christmas, a mid-day of settling sadness that Cindy wasn't here, that we, again, sit at the brink of family change, we all headed to the church where Ben and I grew up for the children's Christmas service. Immediately, we were ushered into a side room where Max (my brother) and his 3 year old son were already wearing shepherd's clothing. They had volunteered our family, too -- Silas was quickly laden with sheep-dress and Eden made into an angel. Though Ben wasn't there yet, we were told that he was listed in the program as a shepherd too (he ran there). There we were, residents of a state across the country, fat in the middle of a church that had been our home for so many years, in a play. I LOVED it, and sat in the front row taking pictures of my little costumed family.
And while we sat in one of the more chaotic services -- instruments for all -- shaking my maracca to the Christmas carols, I listened to their words about light coming to me -- something I need so much -- healing, life. And I thought about birthdays and birthday parties. I love birthday's, especially my own. And I love birthday parties. I thought about how even when I don't feel like going to someone's party, I go because I love them and it's their day. So sitting there, I told God that I'd shake off my blah's and rise to the occasion, yes, I'd come to the party. It sounds silly, I know, but I made him a cake, just like I was a 7 year old, and piled it high with whipped cream, marshmallows and sprinkles. And thanks to my sister's prompting, the kids and I put out cookies and milk for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer. After they fell asleep, we all filled the stockings FULL, and went to bed with the twinkle of Christmas reignited.
And today, the twelveth day of Christmas, was the best Christmas day yet.
Friday, December 17, 2010
At home, I love to be in the kitchen alone -- a corner of the house where I can unlock my mind to wander as I work with my hands for a few brief moments in perfect allowance.
But here, at my parents' house, I spend about 80% of my waking time in their kitchen with family, eating, talking, watching whatever's being made or sorted or discussed.
There are few places I'd rather be.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
When I was in high school and college, I began sitting in on the sessions a little longer, learning how to beat the yolks to death, to pour the liquor in a tiny steady stream. After Ben and I lived in California a few years, we decided to throw our own eggnog party; making my own frothy batch felt a palpable rite of passage. Each time we make it (this year was our 5th time), I have a wow-ed sense of accomplishment, that I have invoked my father, his mother, his mother's mother, and on back, in my own kitchen.
Last year I was clever enough to jot myself a note: 4 dozen eggs for eggnog this year -- perfect! Long story short, my note was faulty; 4 dozen eggs was a larger amount than I had EVER made before. So large, that it overflowed both of my biggest pots and left me at 11PM with no container big enough to combine the halves:
to be combined with egg whites/whipped cream:
I stood in the kitchen staring at my two largest pots, filled, and at more egg whites and whipped cream than I'd ever seen. Ben breezed in and out holding various pliers and announcing he was turning off the water. After looking between the pots, I finally got in my car; we had nothing large enough. Thankfully, a friend was awake and met me in her driveway with a cooler that we swapped for a bigger cooler. At home, I stood in the dark cold scrubbing it in the hose and then went about the work of combining:
In the end, it all worked. I did have to dump some eggnog residue down the drain of the complex, which I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to do, but at the party there was eggnog for all. I will note for next year that 4 dozen (though unprecedented) was the perfect amount but to be sure I have large buckets on hand.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Now it is night. Bedtime has been going on for an hour. I think everyone has gone to the bathroom at least three times a piece, and there has been much calling/yelling/crying/negotiating. I've already taken away the nightlight and overly-scolded. I partly need them to stop talking so that I can stop talking.
Earlier, after cleaning a kitchen that bordered on disaster area, I made some less than mediocre lasagna (ran out of tomato sauce halfway through and had to use a tomato paste concoction). In the process, I vigorously shook the can of Parmesan whose lid was not closed and, yes, cheese snowed all over the kitchen. Then a few minutes ago, while making myself a bowl of cereal and trying to block the insane yelling that had just erupted from upstairs, I knocked the can of chocolate milk powder out of the pantry. It fell, hit the floor, lost its lid, and, yes, rocketed chocolate powder all over the kitchen.
Now, I am sitting with my foggy headache trying to finish watching The Office. Out of a brief silence, Eden's voice just called down with a mouthful of pacifier. I have no idea what she's saying and I wish everyone would sleeeeeeeeeep. All I just heard is, "hey Mommy, would you? That would be so helpful." So whatever it is, I suppose I'd best go be "so helpful."
And then maybe we'll sleep.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
But we won't stop it there. It's hard, even, to stop buying presents even when everyone on my list is checked off. Each year, my whole family launches into conversation about how to simplify and change Christmas this year, and each year we celebrate it almost exactly the same. Because we always have. Because it's a moment to indulge. Because we love thinking of each other and hunting for gifts. Because we can.
Maybe one year we will strip it down. Or maybe we'll just always talk about it. I'm not sure.
Today I've been realizing, though, that even if the presents under the tree look exactly the same, we are all different. The year has stripped us down, and Christmas will be covered with shadows, some very dark and some hardly a tint to the light. We haven't ever had a Christmas like that before in our families, and I wonder what it will feel like. I wonder how we will manage to think about each other and not only ourselves, to sit in sadness instead of try to fix it, to make space for absence in the room, and to name each other when we need to be reminded, again, of who (and whose) we are.
This year we'll change our usual Christmas rhythm. I don't know what that will look like yet, but I am learning to hold more loosely to what I've always thought of as in-stone-tradition. Growing up, I tended to be adamant about keeping things the same -- the same food, the same restaurant for Christmas Eve Chinese food, the same Advent celebration, the same people gathered around the living room, the same Christmas party, the same, same same. And, of course, this stubbornness was born out of fear, the fear of change, which is really the fear of loss. We are still in the in between years of sharing the traditions we grew up with and establishing our own -- a dance of loss and gain. And this year, we also knead utter newness into the dough.
In a week we fly to Washington for togetherness -- to walk and eat, watch movies and celebrate birthdays. And I'm guessing over the two weeks there, we'll feel just about everything from misunderstood to sweetly connected, but more than anything, I hope we feel near. That's what we're traveling for, the nearness, for the moments of lying on the floor and hearing family talk in the other room, or watching each other move around a party. The nearness. That's what I'm waiting for.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
1940's house. pink. a back deck. to-be wood floors. walking distance to library, park, coffee, school. one little bathroom. a garage. dr seus pine tree. teeny front porch. dwarf lemon tree, loaded. humming birds. potential tree house tree. friends down the street. old light fixtures on brass chains. a tiny writing studio that looks onto the yard. 80's berry wallpaper in kitchen. pink counter tops.
it's going to be good.
it will also involve our saying goodbye to this little house and neighborhood where we've lived, despite our short-term intentions, six years. the house to which we brought both our children home from the hospital. the house where Ben learned everything he knows now about handiness. the house silas will probably remember as his first house. the house where i learned how neighbors can be life-givers, pantry-sources, and tea-company first thing in the morning. the house where ben and i weathered so many conversations and processed all kinds of news. this is the first house we built and filled to the brim. in the mist of the excitement of newness and the relief of finally settling somewhere, i will be sad to go. as silas would say, it's bittersweet.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The last couple of months, we have searched (and searched) for a home. I've searched within and without, weighing and examining, driving neighborhoods, researching schools, walking in and out of empty spaces, working to find our next place, which we haven't found. But as an insightful friend pointed out to me, our meal on the beach, under the wide open sky with no walls around us and no roof, ended up being the perfect illustration of what I've been realizing: there we were, the four of us together, home. And one of these days we will find a new set of walls in a better school district to surround us, but until then, we can still be home. And for that, this year, I am thankful.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
On day five, I hit a wall -- a patience wall, which turned out to be a hormonal wall; a disappointment wall when yet another house I thought we'd live in didn't work out; a tired-of-waking-up-in-the-night with small coughing people wall -- a wall.
But this morning I woke to rain, and Eden's feet against my stomach, and her little voice saying, "my nose is snuffly."
And this evening, driving home from a three year old birthday party where we didn't know anyone and I could watch young parents stand in a garage drinking beer as an utter parody of young parents standing at a birthday party drinking beer, I made two wrong turns, and after my second U-turn Silas said, "well that awfully went well."
And tonight, I ended up playing Spit -- a game I haven't played in close to 20 years (!) -- at a friend's house. When we sat down, I couldn't begin to remember how the game worked -- how many cards? how do we lay them out? who starts? how do you win? But as soon as we started, my hands remembered instantly. A poet I studied with once talks about how memories are lodged in our bodies that we can only access through motion. She dances an hour every day to dislodge hers. I have only experienced this a few times: Last year I went roller skating for the first time in ages, and as soon as I hit a groove circling the rink, there she was -- 4th grade me with all her hope and wondering, circling the gymnasium in the sparkling lights. Tonight sitting cross-legged in socks with my girlfriend, racing to slap the smallest pile, I felt that same way.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
About twice a week I’ll talk to my sister on the phone. And one of us will say, what’s new? And the other one will say, nothing. Oh, I bought that Anthropologie dress I was telling you about, the one with the blue flowers and the gorgeous neckline. And the first one will say, nice, have you worn it yet?
And that’s about how the conversation will go. Neither of us has any wildly exciting news. We don’t have anything we absolutely have to say. But that phone call, and hearing her voice on the other end of the phone, and telling her about the forgettable details of my life, those things are as important to me as telling her about the big stuff.
I do the same thing with my best friend. We’re online most of the day for most days, and usually we talk about the truly gripping details of our lives like, I have spaghetti squash leftovers for my lunch today and they’re not that great. Maybe I should heat them up more. It absolutely dumbfounds her husband how much we talk. And he knows us both, so that’s saying something.
I got to thinking about this after reading this lovely New York Times article about sisters. And as much as it’s true with my sister, I think there’s a bigger point here. It’s important to me, on a human level, to feel that I have a witness to my life. I think this is one of those fundamental basic needs. I need to feel that I connect to people and that they understand me. When we’re talking about dresses and lunch, we’re validating each other’s experiences of the world, even if it’s in an incredibly mundane way.
Like Hannah, I love details. I love to touch base throughout a day, to know how a meeting went, what's for snack, what unexpected thing popped up, what color the new throw pillows are, what the teacher said at parent-teacher conference, which restaurant for lunch, who was at happy hour, the next minute step in the decision process. For me, the details are intimate and visually connect me to someone I love, and the process of sharing them with me specifically (rather than on facebook or a blog) feels an affirmation, itself. And what a relief and gift it is to have someone to receive my own details -- to, yes, feel that someone is journeying closely along with me -- particularly in these years when I am alone with children so often -- and is witness to my life. In my language, details = love.
These days, though, I'm working to learn other languages because the fact is, of course, not everyone loves detail-sharing, nor is it always possible, or, hard for me to believe, even desired -- Ben for example could live happily with a select few details.
This is not revelation. This is not at all new. One of my best friends from college speaks an utterly different language than I do. This has always been the case. And yet, without fail, despite myself, I expect her to invite me into details and live in constant contact -- because she loves me, and in my little dictionary, that's what love looks like. And even though I know she's never communicated like that for long, I feel the shock of her silence every time.
When it happened this last time, I realized I need to coax my stubborn programmed heart into multilingual living, into allowing love, spoken even in an abrasive tongue, still to be love. And it's hard. My defenses fly up instantly and shout their interpretation -- difference = indifference. I'm trying to hear the clear thoughts beneath. My goddaughter, Madeleine, started French immersion kindergarten this year. Two months into it, she can already turn to the French word before the English; I am taking this as hope.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
The result has been explosive tantrums, the likes of which I've never seen before -- top-of-the-lung screaming, banging the floor etc. This morning, all before 6:40 AM, he melted over having no clean shorts to wear, over not apologizing after hitting me, over being misunderstood because the hitting was an accident.
So, though I wanted to lock him in his room and tell him he couldn't eat this morning or come downstairs, I decided to take him out for breakfast, just the two of us, in hopes of "filling his tank." He took some deep breaths, agreed to put on pants, found his shoes, and in light of the invitation, alone, practically danced out of the house.
Snuggled next to me in a booth, eating our banana pecan waffle with whipped cream, he kept looking up at me with a little squinting smile saying, "I love you mama." He nuzzled against my arm as he circled letters on his paper place mat and connected the dots with a blue crayon. We talked about meltdowns, about how he'd had a lot this week, and about what he might do to help himself when they start. As he was putting another forkful in his mouth, he said, "when we finish eating, let's stay here and keep talking."
As we left Coco's, he teetered along a balance beam wall, and an hour later, he climbed into his friend's car and left for school smiling and waving.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
What that means for the most part is that Eden and I, or Silas Eden and I spend a good chunk of time every day driving the neighborhoods looking for signs that I strain to see and dial as I drift nearly into parked cars lining the road. On good days, this hunting also means we tour empty houses.
Between the ages of 11 and 16, I followed my parents through dozens of houses. I remember racing through wide open living rooms with my brothers and finding passageways to the attics. For the 20 minutes we explored a new house, we could be children about to stumble into Narnia or to find an old letter hidden under floorboards, a hint of the history lingering in an empty old space.
Last week, we went down to the beach to look at a wee bit too expensive house a few blocks from the ocean. The man showing it, though he has three grown kids of his own, barely broke a smile the whole time as he led me up and down the stairs. More than once, as we walked down a hall or into a new room, I heard a cupboard door rattle and saw Silas's head pop out with an "AHH!" (he is working on scaring me). I may have been the only one amused.
On Friday, I looked at a house that I actually loved a lot of things about -- tiny but endearing, old with a brick fireplace and double-hung windows. By the time I called Ben to see when he could come look at it, the kids were barefoot in the yard collecting "pixie dust" (which I think was seed pods) and finding, what Eden called "ant eaters" (some kind of bug with a pincher? unclear). Ben couldn't come for another hour and a half, but the kids were so happy that I decided to wait. We literally played house for an hour. The realtor, who was starving, dashed to the grocery store and came back with bags of lunchables (he is Silas's hero), goldfish, apples (which remained untouched), and cheese sticks.
There have been houses that smelled like old rug and "party" (Ben's term for the smell of houses in college post-party). There have been houses with just dirt and gravel in the yard. A house that shared a garage with old old people next door. A house as dark as an alley. A house with an enchanted backyard and perfect treehouse but that didn't have a shower at all, just a single sunken tub. Many locked houses where I've left the kids buckled in the running car while I climb garden fences and press my forehead to the windows for a peek.
The other day, I parked in an alley and pulled the kids out of the car so we could walk around to the front door. Immediately, Eden walked up to the filthy garage door, put her hand on it, and said absently, "this is a beautiful house." Yes, they have been dragged through many houses. A
Off I go again right now to see a couple of more. I am learning patience, and something, too, about surrender; it's hard to reign in that child-like thrill of possibility standing in an empty place and to allow these houses to come and go, hard to trust that on the right day (which may not even this month), we will find our house.
Monday, November 01, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
We trick-or-treated with mini yoda, mini darth vader (dark neighbor), a princess, bumblebee, cowgirl, knight, bee keeper, pink horse, and yellow belt kung fu fighter. And a pony named Rusty. Who, it turns out, bites and is moody (see those feisty eyes?)
but at least carries children well.
Eden wanted to be Ariel the mermaid, but much more important than any dress was a red wig. I think she watched herself in the mirror for 20 straight minutes. Fortunately I took these pictures Oct 30th because inexplicably on Halloween, she abandoned the wig all together.
The pirate has taken Ariel captive. (You can imagine the kind of torment this game led to for days before Halloween, though here you can tell Eden loves it).
Monday, October 25, 2010
Maybe because my head is cut off.
But this weekend, in the middle of that running, my mom came to town.
My mom makes space. Slows it all down. Helps me find my head. Helps me unpack my suitcase that's been stubbornly sitting on the floor of my room for 3 1/2 weeks (it really had).
It's a little bit like a superpower, her giving space; when she's here tasks suddenly feel possible, and before I know it, I've unpacked, reorganized all the drawers in my room, cleaned out the entire storage closet, piled 5 huge bags for Goodwill by the door, organized my loft, folded all the laundry, carried armloads of coats and sweatshirts from the car, and she and Silas are laughing in the living room. Like I said, it's a superpower she brings, or spell.
There is much more to say about our time together, but my eyes are closing as I type. It's time for sleep -- sleep, I should mention, on new *comfortable* memory foam that we'd wanted for a long time but had never gotten until my mom came and, once again, idea bloomed to action in our hands.
Sometimes we just need another person. Sometimes we just need a mom.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Finally, 30 minutes late, in rain boots and raincoats, I got Silas to his classroom, I got Eden to the nursery, and I walked into yoga late and unrolled my wrinkled mat. Instantly I was sweating, focusing on balance, on the floor beneath my feet, on the movements between poses, my muscles shaking. About twenty minutes in, we paused in child's pose, body bowed, forehead to the mat, arms extended. The teacher said, "remember your prayer from the beginning of class, your intention; come to that now." I, of course, had missed the beginning of the class and hadn't assigning any sort of purpose to my practice, but as I lay pressed to the floor, and the word sorry rushed in and hot tears ran into my sweaty hairline.
In a few breaths, our faces were lifted to the ceiling again, arms extended, and my mind focused again on moving. But throughout the class, each time we lay against the ground and bowed our foreheads to the floor, my sadness unlocked again.
I've never before accessed emotion through posture, but I wonder what I wouldn't have felt if I had stayed standing on my own feet.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
What I marveled at throughout the night, besides the persistence of Silas's little body to expunge whatever it's trying to expunge, was, once again, how quickly Ben and I wanted to *fix* it. We tried to name it -- food poisoning? flu? Rota virus? We lay in the dead of night googling symptoms. We looked for pepto bismol under the sink (which clearly wouldn't have stayed down). We tried to plan for today and mentally reorganize it before we even knew what the morning would bring. In between the floating dreams of light sleep and kneeling next to Silas, we tried to figure out how to fix this.
We do have a LOT of information. And a LOT of bottles of pink and purple medicine in the pediatric aisle at the drugstore. And we do feast off of instant-gratification much of our days. So it makes sense, I suppose, that our gut impulse is to get up and DO.
But, of course, there is nothing to do.
So Ben and Eden have left for Coco's and Disneyland, and Silas and I are sitting in our little house, watching and waiting, and not doing.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
I don't have babies anymore. Looking at Eden the other day in her bed -- Eden who constantly says things like, when I grow and grow and am a woman can I drink that coffee? -- I thought she was Silas, her body so long. And Silas, his lanky legs and boyish face has long since moved on from babyhood all together. We are at the juncture between having babies and real kids. It's a change, and changes tend to wring me out. I daily flip-flop between holding my breath, trying to stand perfectly still and SEE them, and wildly trying to gulp all the air in the room, open every pore to absorb these days -- the way Eden's standing by the piano, her 2-year-old run, the way she wraps her arms snugly around my back and holds on hard, Silas 's muttering as he builds with legos and blasts his creation into space, the sounds of words in his 4 1/2-year-old mouth, the way he can't say his R's, the little blond hairs on his legs.
And since I can't really do either, memorize them in their momentary entirety nor absorb every sensation of today, I find myself, here on the plane flying back to them after three nights away, writing portraits. Describing them is writing a kind of love letter, a kind of photograph, a way of cutting off the movies that start flickering in my head about the future with all of the sparking what-if's, a way, perhaps, both to hold still and to absorb.
This weekend I heard Ed Hirsch, quoting Allen Grossman, say that we write to inscribe something against our vanishing, that the urgency to create is really about leaving a mark and speaking into the future. Ultimately, it is a response to the knowledge -- the unbearable parts of it -- that we will die, to our own mortality. He articulated it beautifully and sitting here holding Silas and Eden in my head, having not touched their little arms and faces for days, I feel it well.
Silas: Darth Thader
Eden: Dark Mater?
Silas: No, Eden, Dark THader.
Eden: No, Dark Mater. Dark Mater.
Silas: Eden, DARK THA-DER.
Eden: Dark Mater. ... Mater is that little tow truck.
Silas: Yeah, Mater -- it's not Dark Mater, it's Dark Neighbor. Dark...? Dad, what is it again?
Ben: Darth Vader
Silas: Yeah, Darth Thader.
Eden: Yeah, Dark Vader.
And everyone was happy.
Monday, September 20, 2010
St. Germain Gin and Tonics mix up the summer cocktail, and add a fullness that gives it a little tinge of Fall:
1 1/2 part gin
1 part St. Germain
3 parts tonic
Mix well, garnish with lime wedge (give it a squeeze), and serve over lots of ice*
Sunday, September 19, 2010
I wore boots and sweaters, looked at Halloween decorations (Silas informed me today that he wants to decorate inside and out), and made pumpkin pancakes.
I, apparently, have had this recipe for 5 years and never made it, and it turned out to be worth saving. I don't usually love heavily ginger/cinnamon/nutmeg things (like real, not big train, chai tea, good earth tea, or strong gingerbread), and despite the decent dose of spices involved, these pancakes strike a perfect flavor balance.
Pumpkin-Ginger Pancakes (with Ginger Butter)
from Sunset Magazine, January 2005
1 c flour
2 T packed brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt
3/4 c milk
3/4 c canned pumpkin (I misread this and used 3/4 a can -- may have been thicker, but still
1/4 c plain yogurt (I only had vanilla, also worked)
2 T butter, melted
-in large bowl, combine flour, b. sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt
-in another bowl mix egg, milk, pumpkin, yogurt and butter until well blended
-stir egg mixture into flour mixture until evenly moistened
-cook 4" pancakes over medium heat, 2-3 min per side
Candied Ginger Butter (I didn't make this)
-in a bowl with a wooden spoon, stir 2 T finely chopped candied ginger into 1/4 c soft butter
-chill until firm before serving
Saturday, September 18, 2010
My friend Carrie gave me some pesto basil -- a small-leafed, whiter variety. What I love about making pesto is how allowing it is; I measure nothing, make it in my blender, and always love it. I had no pine nuts this time so used walnuts instead. After eating it with pasta, I made caprese sandwiches -- pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, salt broiled open-faced on a baguette. Turned out to be the perfect company for corn soup.
Especially after our end of August week at the beach, I was done with corn on the cob for the year. When I got back to California, though, I realized twice in one week I ordered corn soups -- one pureed and one corn-lobster chowder (yum). So when the farmers' market was still selling corn on the cob, I thought I'd try to make some of my own.
Roasted Corn Soup
adapted from Janet Fletchers' Fresh from the Farmers Market
6 ears corn, in husks (ideally not the super sweetest variety)
3 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 baking potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut in 6 pieces
1 T cornmeal
1/2 c heavy cream
pinch of sugar, optional
-Preheat oven to 450.
-Put corn and garlic on a baking sheet and roast until corn is fragrant and husks are lightly browned, about 25 min.
(I always have a bit of a problem roasting garlic and end up burning it, so you might want to check it along the way and even turn it)
-Let cool then shuck and peel the garlic
-Cut kernels from cobs. Cut 4 cobs in half crosswise and throw away the other 2.
-Set corn kernels and garlic aside
-In saucepan, combine broth, potato, halved cobs, and 3 c water
-Cover partially and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Maintain simmer.
-Cook until potato is tender, about 20 min
-Discard corn cobs
-In a food processor (or blender), combine corn kernels, garlic coves, potatoes (lift them from broth with slotted spoon) and cornmeal.
-Puree, adding broth as you go.
Transfer to a sieve over a bowl and press mixture through with a rubber spatula; leaving corn skins behind.
-Transfer soup to a clean saucepan.
-Stir in cream and reheat
-Season with S&P and pinch of sugar if desired (mine needed it)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
What I didn't expect was for this to be the week Eden would insist, once again, on potty training (take 3). And get a cold. And wake to 2 year old molars pounding through her gums.
Nor did I know that a smooth-as-butter first week back, with a smiling Silas trotting into his classroom hardly looking back, didn't mean we were unscathed by growing pains; they arrived fast and furiously this weekend with meltdowns and separation hysteria.
It's not much to write about -- the reality of Fall for families -- and yet, I am taken off guard and now working to make room and dig up a little more patience for the pangs of change we're all feeling. Change, as my mother always reminds me, is a steady constant.
Silas's first day:
Eden's first day of our class at Silas's school:Tutu Tots:
Silas at school:
Saturday, September 11, 2010
For months I have marveled at the fact that while sobbing, both of my children will cry, "I want my mama!" when their noses are only inches from my face. At first I thought it was funny, but then I realized what they were saying -- they want their mama, their ultimate ally, the adult who soothes and calms them, who can bring them back from the scariness of feeling so out of control and accept them along the way.
So often when a tantrum flares up, I watch myself become cool and impatient in response to my own helplessness. And they, of course, feel me shut down. The cry "I want my mama" is their cry for help, their way, unknowingly, to call me back -- it is my reminder to gulp in deep breaths, to think before I say anything else, to remember I am their only mama, and to start again.
So like Eden, in their little game, I hope to be able to stay with them, to look in their panicky little faces, even when they are throwing themselves on the ground because of shoes or losing a race, and say, "I'm here, I'm here."
Thursday, September 09, 2010
It is a good week to transition, though -- the last week of summer before the flurry of new routine. We flew home on Labor Day Sunday -- a day, it turns out, when no one flies. Out of the blue on the first leg, Ben upgraded me to first class alone (glory!), and on the second leg we had 6 seats to ourselves. Back in Costa Mesa, friends invited us over for a burgers with guacamole and jalapenos -- I felt quite cared for.
We traveled so much this summer, in car and plane, so here are some of my favorite tricks/activities:
*my recent favorite: a little pair of plastic scissors, a glue stick and a small notebook (or printer paper folded or any paper) -- Eden and I cut up the airline magazines and glue pictures for a long time
*a roll of colored tape -- I cut shapes and strips for a long time, while Silas and Eden made designs in their books. We even cut a little triangles for each fingertip to make scary claws (my mom's idea) -- funny.
*a pack of gum each -- a treat, and Eden will seriously watch me blow bubbles for 20 minutes
*a box of band aids apiece -- Eden sits and opens band aid after band aid and puts them on her legs and in her notebook (and, of course, on me). Silas mostly loves the possession of a box of toy story band aids and opens them to see who is on the next one -- wasteful but time consuming.
*Silas is a movie-watcher for at least part of the flight, which, of course, is easy. Scholastic has a box set of movies at Costco that are the old library films of books (essentially the book read aloud) that are nice to weave in with Pixar films...
*a zipper pouch of odds and ends in my bag -- a mirror, a comb, some matchbox cars, measuring spoons -- whatever I can grab as I pack. The randomness interests them, the cars make a game etc.
*on our last three road trips, I had gallon-sized, themed ziplock bags (Annemarie's advice)-- a kitchen bag with plates and whisks and toy pots, an art bag with a roll of colored tape, a vehicle bag, a little animal/doll bag, a lego bag. Separate bags = slow release
*legos and markers both tend to pose problems on planes or in cars because of the little pieces and rolling factor, I brought little trays -- anything will work for this, the lid of a lego box, a shoebox lid, a toaster oven pan -- which they both settled on their laps and used a lot.
*I also always have a little emergency pocket -- mints or chocolate or lolly pops or some surprise to distract in the midst of a loud tantrum. magical.
*a little magna-doodle
What didn't work: -the crayola markers that write only on special paper -- not very juicy or fun to use
-same story with the old school activity books with the magic pen -- Silas really likes these but can't quite do them himself yet.
-triangular crayons -- thought this would be a good idea because they wouldn't roll, but they seemed to break a bit more easily and we lost them just as readily as a normal crayon
-ear buds fall out of their ears constantly, but headphones work, even adult size, if I fold a blanket on the top of their heads or put a little stuffed animal there (always funny). We also found child-sized headphones at Target.
I would love to hear your ideas, too -- please post!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Lemon Cornmeal Cake with Lemon Glaze and Crushed Blueberry Sauce
(from Bon Appetit, April 2009)
1 1/2 c packed pow sugar, sifted
2 T (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 12 c flour
1/3 c yellow cornmeal
3/4 c sugar
3 1/2 t b powder
1/2 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1 T finely grated lemon peel
3/4 t vanilla
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Combine p.sugar and 2 T lemon juice in small bowl.
Stir with spoon until smooth and paste-like,
adding more lemon juice by the 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350.
Butter 9" cake pan; line bottom with parchment.
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, b powder, and salt in large bowl, whisk to blend
Whisk buttermilk, eggs, lemon peel and vanilla in sm. bowl
Pour buttermilk mixture and melted butter into flour mixture.
Using rubber spatula, gently fold liquids into flour mixture until just blended (don't stir)
Scrape batter into pan, spread evenly.
Bake cake until tester comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides, about 30 min.
Immediately run knife around sides of cake. Place rack atop cake and invert cake onto rack,
then invert onto second rack so cake is top side up.
Stir glaze until blended.
While cake is still very hot, drop glaze by tablespoons onto cake;
spread to within 1/2 inch of edge (some glaze will drip down sides of cake -- delicious, don't worry). Cool completely.
Crushed Blueberry Sauce:
3 c blueberries (fresh or frozen, thawed), divided
2/3 c packed brown sugar
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t finely grated lemon peel
pinch of salt
Combine 1 1/2 c blueberries and all other ingredients in a medium saucepan.
Stir over med. heat til sugar dissolves and mixture simmers (~7 min)
Reduce head to med-low and simmer until syrupy, stirring often (~ 7 min)
Remove from heat
Add remaining berries
Gently press fresh blueberries against side of pan until slightly crushed
Cover and chill -- serve chilled or reheat if desired.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Silas and I have been reading Mr. Popper's Penguins. Mr. Popper owns twelve penguins who need the cold, so he opens the windows of his house and lets the snow pour in, floods the living room til there's an inch of water and lets it freeze his furniture into place, and the family wears overcoats all the time. Then Mr. and Mrs. Popper comment on how rosy-cheeked and happy the kids are as they slip and slide with the penguins around the wintry house. A little while later, they move the penguins to the basement, buy a pricey freezer, dig a pond in the floor of the house, order live fish, and eventually move the piano downstairs among the ice blocks to practice their stage act. It's a classic child's fantasy.
As I read, I kept thinking how I'd like to live more like a Popper: flood the entire first floor (or mop it), wear winter coats to breakfast, pull the kids out of school for 10 weeks, use savings to buy a giant freezer for penguins for the sake of fun. Those little fictional Poppers hold loosely to stuff and the assumptions of what life should look like. I like that.
My mom must have been a little Popper-esque. I loved Pipi Longstocking as a girl (the old danish films, not the new ones) and remember once, while watching, pouring soapy water -- a LOT of it -- all over the kitchen floor and skating around on scrub brushes and sponges. I remember sledding down the front stairs over and over on an old crib mattress from the garage. I remember baking, making potions, moving furniture for performances, unzipping beanbag chairs and pouring out the thousands of teeny Styrofoam balls (I did get in trouble for that), climbing an embankment of red clay with my brothers while my mother watched, and having pet after pet -- frogs, fish, snake, lizards, bunny, hamsters, mice, cats, dogs. Sitting on this side of a family, those scenarios feel easy to squelch -- they are inconvenient, or messy, or take a little more work or time or attention. But what if I started saying yes and meaning it? I wonder where we'd be.
I think Ben needs to read Mr. Popper's Penguins, too.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
-a few pennies
-3 plastic beads
-1 small green pom pom
-1 sewing tape measure
-1 orange plastic spider
-1 handful of silly bands
And that was just in one load...
Monday, August 09, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, I made "Peach Collins" from a Sunset magazine recipe. Sure enough, it was as fresh and summery a cocktail as I'd hoped it would be. In fact, we could not believe how smooth it was, how invisible the peach vodka became. After a few more sips, I realized the reason was that I had, indeed, forgotten to add the vodka. The result was a perfect afternoon drink.
The Near-Peach Collins adapted from Sunset
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup chopped ripe peaches, divided
- 1/2 cup club soda
- 2 peach slices
- 1/4 c simple syrup
2. Divide unstrained mixture between 2 tall glasses. Add half the remaining chopped peaches to each, then fill glasses with ice. Top each glass with 1/4 cup club soda and garnish with a peach slice.
And, of course, if you'd like to make a cocktail, add 1/2 c peach vodka to the end of step #1.
A Summer List of Likes:
*Ben's text today to tell me that at 11AM, it was 8-9-10-11 (aug 9, 2010, 11:00)
*watermelon lemonade -- I have yet to make this myself, but have had it two different places now and cannot get enough
*the sound of hot jars of jam sucking sealed on the counter
*$4 movies on Tuesdays and Thursdays at our movie theatre
*the anticipation of Fall's newness already creeping in -- setting up the pieces for our new rhythm
*a sense of settling peace today after a week of knots and wonderings
*summer tutoring -- hours at an old wooden table talking about Lord of the Flies -- and the little itch to teach again that these sessions have inflamed
*the smell of fresh plum cake waiting in the kitchen (if it turned out, I will post the recipe), and ripe farmers' market stone fruit
*LA portraits of the kids from our weekend away with Ben's dad:
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Eden, wrapping a scarf around her, under her arms: I'm getting mawied.
What does it mean to get married?
It means... it means you have to grow up, and be a woman.
Silas: Mom what is boxing -- how do you play it?
Well, you wear special gloves and you - you punch each other in the face.
(little laugh). Why is that?
I don't know, that's just how boxing goes.
Well... how do you win?
You knock the other person onto the ground.
(laughing) I definitely want to be a boxer.
Silas and Eden at the table during lunch today:
Silas: When I grow up I'm going to space and am going to be a space ranger with Buzz Lightyear.
Eden: I'm going to be a space ranger, too.
Silas: No Eden, you can't. Only boys can be space rangers.
(me from the kitchen: that's not true, anyone can be a space ranger)
Silas, earnestly: Eden, I am going to space because I am going to be an astronaut when I grow up. That's why I'm going to be a space ranger.
Eden: I going to space too.
Silas, getting heated: NO, you can't go to space!!
(me from the kitchen: remember how big space is?? You can BOTH be in space. And Silas, if you were living in space as a space ranger and happened to come across your sister, you would be happy to see her after not having seen people for so long)
Silas: Ok Eden, you can go to space. But I'm going to fly because Buzz will give me wings like his. You will just have to stay in the spaceship.
Eden: I going to fly, too.
Silas: No, Eden, you won't have wings.
Eden: Yes I will have wings.
Silas: No, you won't.
(me from the kitchen: maybe she'll have her own jet pack to fly around with)
Silas: Ok Eden, you can fly. But if you see two guys in space, don't come over because that's Buzz and me.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
**********Added August 6th *************
Today, 10 days after the glistening hair incident, Eden's hair is back to normal (with little thanks, it seems, to the many home remedies). So there you have it, 10 days.
I just made a few batches of jam and would love to send one to one of you. Please leave your jam preference (strawberry, blueberry, fig, peach) in a comment if you'd like Silas to try drawing your name from the pot!
******* Added August 6th ********
Kaia Joye and Kelly Callaghan, your jam awaits you*
(apologies for the number of pictures*)
Eden and Amber clicked for the first time and played for hours.
Silas rode a bike for the first time (easily -- I'm now a mad believer in the skuut)
Eden hit some developmental milestone and drew her first face on this trip. This is her third face, and he (probably in her eyes a beautiful she) has eyebrows. I am in love.
My life mirrored at the zoo...
It's almost impossible to find cotton candy spun before your eyes (at least at Disneyland and wherever else I've been), but we found it at the National Zoo.
In DC heat, I noticed Eden had tiny beads of perspiration on her nose, exactly like my brother Eli used to have all summer long when he was little.
Grumpily leaving the zoo.