Monday, September 20, 2010


After three days of tantrums, melt-downs, Eden throwing her little 2-year-old self on the floor, stiff as a board, and screaming, "NOO!" at everything I say (I've never had a nay-sayer before), I left my little crabby-pants in the hands of our wonderful babysitter Jaclyn (I forever love her) and went to the beach for dinner. A friend and I sat on a blanket drinking St. Germain Gin and Tonics and eating bread, cheese and salad until it was too dark to see and our noses were cold.

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

And Breakfast, too

This weekend, I turned to Fall.
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
1 egg
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

Lunch in the midst of Life

In the midst of feeling harried this week, Ben and I ate a delicious lunch (I ate it twice).

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


Like so many, we started school this week, snapped pictures of Silas and Eden (who started dance and a little class with me) in new shoes and brushed hair. It's preschool. Familiar preschool. And though we now have to leave the house every morning and lay out clothes every night, I did not anticipate transition. At least not much of one. Yet, when my eyes opened Wednesday morning, I could hardly believe it was the same week and that we were only two days in.

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

I'm Here

I am listening to Silas and Eden play "baby" -- Silas is the baby and Eden is "little mama." These role play games are brand new, born largely out of cousin-play. Every time Slias "cries" for Little Mama, I hear Eden say, "I'm here, I'm here" in a soothing voice.

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

Transition and Plane Activities

This morning is overcast and cool. Silas has been in the bathroom for about 20 minutes, as he often is, and I just caught Eden spitting into a play tea cup "making tea." At least it's quiet. I am sitting at the table with my hair unbrushed, wearing a hoodie, drinking tea. At 8:26, we have been up, at least mostly up, for about 4 hours. Oh, transition.

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!