Saturday, January 30, 2010


I can't really imagine making dinner again any time soon -- it's been a while -- but baking still appeals. I was reading katie did the other day and saw her recipe for granola; I've never made granola so I gave it a try. Here's the recipe (with a few variations):


-in a big bowl combine:
5 c oats
1 c wheat germ
1 c whole wheat flour (more flour makes the granola softer)
1 c coconut
2 c nuts (I am not a big fan of seeds in my granola, so I used a mixture of chopped pecans, sliced almonds, and pine nuts -- pistachios would also be great -- but if you love seeds, add them here)

-in a separate bowl, mix
2 T vanilla
1/4 c water
1 c honey (you could definitely use 1 1/2-2 cups for sweeter -- or use part honey and part maple syrup)
1/2 c oil (or a mixture of oil and butter)

-mix wet and dry together
-spread on cookie sheets (I used 3, you could probably get away with 2)
-bake at 250 for ~ 2 hours (mine came out very crunchy, so I wonder what it would be like to -cook it for 1 1/2 hrs or 1 hr 45 min)
-after the first 40 minutes, stir granola ever 15 min or so
-either at the end of baking or just before it comes out, add dried fruit --- I used diced apricots and crasins
-cool completely
-store in an airtight container either in the fridge or pantry.
delicious with milk, yogurt, to snack on -- yum.


My mom flew out to California to stay with Silas and Eden (and Ben) for 4 nights while I was in Florida. Then she flew alone to Washington with them to stay there for a couple of days before I met them.

The three days they were at our house, it poured -- the kind of rain we never have in southern California (and the kind of indoor entrapment that Silas and Eden are strangers to). And yet, Silas and Eden (and even my mom) were as happy as clams. There were *no* meltdowns, no tantrums, and hardly any tears at all.

My mom and I have talked about this a bit -- how were those 3 days so magical and smooth? (No one even missed me, which perhaps was the greatest gift of all). After thinking about it, my mom realized that during her stay, they hardly left the house, she didn't have "life" to keep up with, she didn't have to talk on the phone, write emails, do errands etc.-- she was completely present.

And then I came back. Almost instantly, my attention was divided -- loving their little britches off and playing catch up from a week away. But that's the way it goes, isn't it? We are divided. We do have to call people back and maintain relationships. We have to take the recycling, buy paper towels and food, drop off prescriptions, go to the doctor, return emails, read at least a tiny bit of news, collect ourselves, drag the kids places they don't want to go, cook things -- (and that doesn't include doing anything for ourselves).

So as I get ready to head back home (I am still in DC), I wonder how I can be both present to Eden and Silas in meaningful ways and also maintain life. How do I use time well, carve out space for both? Because I find when I'm not purposeful, those two slur together, and I seem to do neither well...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

on the subject of germs and sanitation

As I mentioned weeks ago, when we arrived in DC for Christmas (dec 21st) there were 18 inches of snow on the ground! It hasn't snowed, really, since then. A little sleet here and there. A dusting one morning. But no *snow*, nothing sled-worthy or substantive enough to pile.

Today, January 24th, I was walking through a parking lot with Silas, Eden and my mom. On the median between rows of cars, was a small blackish-grey pile of remaining parking lot snow. Silas, ahead of me, immediately started kicking it so icy sludge scattered and flew. Eden squirmed to get down: "touch it touch it touch it" -- a fair request since we never see ice on the ground. After she leaned down and put her fingers on it, I carried her to the car.

"Was that cold, Eden?"
"crunch crunch crunch Yesh."
"Are you EATING it?!"
"crunch Yes. crunch crunch I eat it."


Last night I saw Eden and Silas after 6 days and nights away. Our reconnection was all sweetness and snuggles. Somehow in my brief time away, I completely forgot that Eden can talk. I was expecting to see Silas and a sweet baby-ish girl. Quite a surprise when I climbed into the car to her high little voice saying, "Mommy! Mommy airport-I go airport-do it! do it!- go airport!-Pops driving-BB Mommy- Mommy come back -Eden get out-I get out-go airport-hold you mommy-" How could I possibly have forgotten her language?

Last night I had a dream that I left Eden in the McDonald's parking lot on a busy road near my parents' house. Just as I was slamming the car in reverse to go back to her, I saw her stepping into traffic. So I flew out of the car and ran to her just as she fell and skinned her knee, a man (nice one) picked her up and a huge dog ran toward her. Do you think my subconscious doubts my ability to re-acclimate to the mother role? It would seem so.

And today I find that I'm somewhat prophetic as I fell myself fumble for my footing. Silas is beginning to unearth swallowed anger at my leaving (including a tantrum in the corner of Cactus Cantina today involving fists in the air and his whole body "dancing" with frustration -- once again, I'm thinking of Brett and Germain). So we are now of to have some "feshul time" at the zoo, just the two of us.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I always thought of Florida as a state with too much peach and turquoise, with plastic palm trees and fake flowers, with bright white keds (during keds off-years), tropical flora meets middle American vibe, lots of walkers and white hair. It was the one coastal state (both east and west) I avoided when applying for teaching jobs before my California move.

But it's funny the connections we make, or rather, connections we realize. Both of my parents grew up here -- my mother to leave it (though to return years later to give and give), and my father to bask in his memories of it. I visited as a child and an adult; I said goodbye to two grandmothers here. It's no wonder, really, that the flat roads should strike such a chord in me, but I never noticed the place climb inside me until after it settled in.

I'm sitting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport right now waiting to fly to DC. I've been here nearly a week at a poetry festival, and before I came, as I sifted through my poems deciding what to bring, I found Florida's roots in my writing again and again. Here there are threads of my family, quiet little stories woven into street names and stucco. Here there are the sounds of Florida's south, a flatter lilt than Georgia's, the shapes of my grandmother's words.

Even Ben spent years growing up here, too. This trip, I collected shells from the beach where he used to boogie board, where the purple flag waved when the jelly fish came. And I went to a mall where he played arcade games and sucked down cups of orange julius.

So, as I wait for my plane, I'm reminded of how good it is to come to these places of people we love, even when they are Florida, especially when they are Florida, when they make us look again, and again, and a little closer again, until we finally start to see.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A note about Cocktails (St. Germain)

When I was in DC recently, Ben and I had drinks on the roof deck of the new W Hotel (in the old Hotel Washington building). Though the W, itself, leaves a little something to be desired in its use of that fantastic old building, the view from the roof bar is exceptional. And, it turns out, so is one of their cocktails.

I often hem and haw when ordering a drink; I don't have a go-to. At times a gin and tonic hits the spot, at times a Stella, occasionally scotch on the rocks, but more often than not, nothing sounds good.

Since incorporating Champagne Thursdays into my life, though, champagne more often than not is my order -- clean, bubbly, dry -- mmmmmmmm. My family loves to make Kir Royales, but I tend to be a purist.

Or at least I tended to be, until I discovered St. Germain liquer at the W that night. St Germain is an elderflower liquer -- softly sweet and floral, without a dominant bouquet like rose or violet. St. Germain is quiet and just right. To make a St. Germain cocktail:

St. Germain Cocktail:
2 parts champagne
2 parts soda
1 1/2 parts St Germain
a twist of lemon/lemon rind

Since discovering this glorious drink, I have begun to see St. Germain everywhere. The other night, down at A Restaurant (yes, my favorite -- if you want the best burger of your life on a soft brioche bun, go there, or the most fantastic butterscotch pudding -- more about that soon), I ordered a drink called a Salty Pear (and then went back the next night and ordered it again).

Salty Pear Martini:
Grey Goose Pear
St. Germain
Sweet and Sour (homemade)
with a salted rim

I don't know proportions for this yet, so we will have to play with it.

Buy yourself a lovely fluted bottle of St. Germain, and see what you think.

Sunday, January 17, 2010



Pick up shirts from dry cleaners, call
the frame store, call Susan back, ask
Debbi about Connor, email Thorburns
about dinner next Thursday, buy
return tickets from New York --
when the earth shook, the buildings fell

Take the kids to music class, to the park
before nap, pick up the living room,
look up St. Germain cocktail recipe,
buy diapers online, a new bathing suit,
a birthday present for Charlie's 4th -
when the earth shook, thousands fell

Pick up taco Tuesday for lunch, make
a deposit at the bank, buy Starbucks card
for mornings' cappuccinos and banana
bran muffins, renew Costco membership,
get gas, drive through car wash--
tens of thousands fell; thousands, waiting

Rotisserie chicken, french bread, baby
greens, milk, peanut butter, figs, stamps.
Revise CV and send it to Ben to proof,
return sweaters, mail thank you notes,
drop off clothes at goodwill, activate cell --
Lord have mercy; let us hear.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Galette des Rois

When I arrived in Paris my junior year of college, it was January. On my first Sunday with my Catholic french family of 7, we gathered snugly around a table that had appeared, beautifully set, in their foyer. I only remember two things about that meal: the radishes with butter and coarse salt at the beginning, and the Galette des Rois at the end. Through my faltering french, I learned we were celebrating Epiphany, the day the 3 wise men arrived at Jesus' side with their gifts. And to celebrate, we were eating a special galette in which a "feve" was tucked (little figurine); whoever found this feve in his or her slice, became the king or queen. There were other rules that are murky to me now, but being new to the tradition-- language, family, country -- I, of course, was the one to bite the little china figurine and blush as I put on the golden paper crown. The cake, it turned out, would prove to be one of my favorites -- it is essentially a giant almond croissant with plenty of almond filling -- and the family to be full of people I love.

After we moved to California and met some special friends who loved the idea of Galette des Rois, Ben and I began our own tradition. There is a local french bakery that makes "Kings' Cake" each January and sells it complete with golden paper crowns. This year, though, I thought it was high time to bake my own. Constance, my french "sister," had given me her recipe, and I had yet to use it. Turns out, the galette couldn't be easier (or more delicious).

Constance's Galette des Rois (Kings' Cake)

2 sheets of puffed pastry, thawed
tad more than 1/2 c almond meal (Trader Joe's has this)
tad more than 1/3 c sugar
1 egg

a little less than ¼ c melted butter
1 tsp almond extract (she said "drops of almond extract" but I like a stronger almond flavor)

Mix all ingredients together.
Cut two circles out of the puffed pastry and put the first on a cookie sheet. Spread the mixture on it, leaving a slight border -- and don't forget to put in the "feve!" Then put the second circle on top and press the edges together. (Note: use a fork to seal the edges all the way around both for aesthetics and to make sure the filling doesn't leak -- one of mine did! You may also want to draw a design on the top of the cake with the point of a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut all the way through the puffed pastry layer but just to make fine lines). Constance suggests making a little hole in the top to let the hot air out -- I did this for neither cake and had no problem. Brush cake with an egg wash and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until it's nice and brown.

Here are a few pictures of our celebration this year. We had no gold crowns, so we used birthday hats and Mardi Gras beads instead. Grace (our goddaughter) and I were the true Queens:
But while Hudson and Silas were playing outside, we stuck lego pieces (our "feves" this year -- fitting for this stage of life) in their slices too, so they were Kings as well:We finally had to cut off little Olive and Eden, who apparently, loved the glaette des rois as much as we did.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Whatever you say comes back out at you

Tonight driving home from dinner, Silas and I were discussing which movie we could watch this week for a treat (would love any suggestions of non-scary 3 yr old appropriate movies). Alice in Wonderland came up because of the Disneyland ride, which he does NOT like because of the Queen of Hearts. So we got into a big conversation about why she is scary, how she is scary, what she does in the movie that's scary etc.:

Bronwen: Well she has a huge mouth and yells a lot; she's not scary as much as she's not nice. But she's married to a tiny friendly king.

Silas: But how big is her mouth?

Bronwen: Oh, about this big [making a huge grapefruit size circle with my hands].

Silas: But why isn't she nice?

Bronwen: I don't know. She's just kind of mean.

Silas: But why is she mean? ... Tell me that part about her mouth again.

Bronwen: I don't know why she's mean. [recap big mouth, tiny king part]. She's just grumpy, really.

Silas: But why is she grumpy?

Bronwen: I don't know, Silas. I just don't know why.

Silas: ... [quiet for a minute]... She's probably grumpy because someone was grumpy with her when she was little.

Bronwen: ... ... Yes Silas, you're probably right.

Friday, January 08, 2010

tea time

Last year I tore this recipe out of Real Simple magazine and then sat on it for a year. Though nothing about them claims Christmas cookies (except the fact that butter cookies sweep the nation in December), I waited until this Christmas to make them. And it was worth the wait. They are rich but not too decadent to have with a cup of tea -- in fact, they are a perfect tea cookie, a buttery little bite with a lemon kick. Right now, in fact, I'm eating one with a cup of Mariage Frères Marco Polo tea (run don't walk to buy Mariage Frères tea-- I got two boxes for Christmas -- such a treat!). These little cookies are also the tidiest cookies I've ever made ("tidy" not usually a word associated with anything I make -- food or art) because they keep to their perfect circles as they bake -- very satisfying. A tasty little treat.

When I made them, I divided the dough in two logs and one of them I froze for a month and baked yesterday -- perfect. Two suggestions: if you do freeze some dough, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before you try to slice it; if it's too frozen, it will crumble. Also, I found the baking time to be more like 9 or 10 minutes rather than the 16-20 minutes recommended. Lastly, you can dip these cookies or just spoon the glaze on top -- any glaze on the plate only adds to the cookie.

Glazed Lemon Cookies (from Real Simple magazine)

Makes 48 cookies
Hands-On Time: 20m Total Time: 1hr 45m


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if necessary
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.
  2. Divide the dough in half and shape into 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 350° F. Slice the logs into 3/8-inch-thick pieces and space them 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, 16 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and zest until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary). Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, about 15 minutes.
    To wrap: Give a nut tin a second life. Wipe it clean with a damp towel, then peel off the label. Tie a bow with extra-wide ribbon to hide any glue remnants. Note: If nut allergies are a concern, use a coffee can instead.
    To freeze: Instead of refrigerating the dough, freeze the logs for up to 2 months. To bake, follow the recipe instructions, cutting and baking the dough from frozen, and use the upper end of the time range.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Weirdness in the Afternoon...

Our quick Stater Bros shop tonight turned into meltdowns at the checkout stand. I raced to load all of the food into the bottom of the stroller as Silas relentlessly tried to squeeze around me (impossible), and Eden yelled.

FINALLY everyone was loaded into the stroller, and we were halfway out the door when I saw Silas suddenly holding a black and red electric guitar I'd never seen before. We were not in the kind of grocery store that sells toys, and I couldn't imagine where it had come from.

Just then a man with grey stubble and watery eyes leans through the doorway (Silas's half of the stroller was already out there), only half focusing, and nods, yeah, it's for him.


Silas is BEAMING. Gesturing vaguely the man says it was from Christmas -- I instantly imagine scenarios of his stumbling drunk from his house, grabbing his kid's brand new Christmas toy, and now pawning it off at the grocery store. The man can hardly stand and at some point, leans down and grabs the front wheel of the stroller while we're talking. My heart starts beating a little faster as I try to pull away. I can't move and the man is breathing liquored breath all over Silas, who only notices the guitar. He's still beaming. The guy still holds my front wheel as I push. And push harder. And still don't move. Finally, in my firmest (though wavering) voice hear myself say: Please. LET GO.

The instant he does, we shoot out of the doorway into saturated golden light. The parking lot is almost too heavily golden to be a real afternoon. And as I look back at the store to make sure he isn't following us, all I can see is the blinding buttery sun low in the sky.

It takes me until I reach the other side of the freeway to breathe through the knot of fear that instantly sprang into my stomach. And I'm still eying the guitar, imaging scenarios, like the plastic body filled with drugs the guy was trying to get rid of, or bugged with a tracking device that would lead him to our house to attack us, when I tune into Silas.

Apparently, an electric guitar is what Silas has been waiting his whole life for. He is pressing buttons that play funky riffs and bobbing his head in a way I've never seen, saying to himself over and over, "this is some sweet music" and "this is a sweet guitar, it's so sweet!" -- an expression I've never heard him use before, apparently born of holding a guitar in his hands.

So, I breathed my way home, intermittently looking over my shoulder at nothing but traffic and the sky, and watched Silas jerk and jump around as he played his guitar, his sweet sweet guitar.

a bit of a low moment

[note: it is 5:17PM and we are jet lagged; everyone just had a meltdown in the grocery store; I poured myself a glass of wine just shy of 5:00 (it always seems a good idea to go public with drinking that begins in the 4 o'clocks)]

Silas: whine whine whine whine whine whine may I have some lemonade please?

Bronwen pours the lemonade.

Sweet silence for a few minutes.

Then, Silas with a skeptical look on his face: is there water in this lemonade?

Bronwen: a bit.

Silas: I don't want water in my lemonade!

Bronwen: Ok. you don't have to drink it.

Silas: I don't like water in my lemonade AT ALL! I don't want ANY water in my lemonade! I don't want this water in my lemonade!! I DON'T---

Bronwen: Well, then I guess you'll just have to chew some lemons because lemonade is MADE of WATER.

Silas: ... ... you mean lemons.

Bronwen: No, I mean water.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Sledding Test

When we got here there was a foot and a half of brand new, fluffy snow. Silas, of course, was dying to sled, have a "snow fight," and build his first snowman. But each of those involved pulling on boots, hats, and snow pants, tucking pants into socks, zipping up coats, feeding thumbs into mittens and sleeves into mitten cuffs, pulling hats over ears etc. AND taking all of that -- wet, snow-caked, and soggy -- off each time we got home. (It turns out I love putting on my Toms and walking out the door).

Each time Silas asked to go out, I felt myself dragging my feet and starting to make excuses about why later would be better. Since really later would be exactly the same, I pushed myself to bundle us both up to the chins and step out into the sunny snow.

We trudged up the little hills, loaded into the almost-slipping sled, and flew down, screaming as we inevitably crashed into a snow bank, house, or just each other. And each time, I loved it as much as he did.

It seems I'm constantly trying to decide how much is too much for Silas, Eden and me: too much hassle (getting ready to sled), too much travel (a frequent question), too much packed into one day, too many visits with people, too many activities. It's often hard to know when the work of moving us from one place to another is worth it, and when it's overload. Since I've been in Washington, I've been using "the sledding test" to decide whether or not to do something (for example: to drive 8 hours to NC and back for a 2 day visit right before we fly home to CA). I ask myself if this IS, indeed, too much or whether, at the end of it, taking 15 minutes to layer clothes on a whining over-hot child could result in Silas sprawled on the snow giggling and both of us breathless from the feeling of flying?
It's a good question.

(we didn't go to North Carolina).