Friday, March 30, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012


The day is sparkling down here.  Behind Ben surfing, the horizon is lined with sailboats, and despite the bracing air and water cold enough to take your breath, Silas and Eden are wearing bathing suits, squealing as the waves knock their knees.

It's been another day of goodbyes, and my heart is too tender to say anymore.  So I am lying down in the sand, letting it hold my whole body and give me its day's worth of sun-warmth.

We have brought no towels or shoes.  Catalina is hazy across the water, but we still wave to Kaia Joye, as always.  The tide is low, exposing a stretch of smooth sand littered with broken mussels and unhinged coquinas.  Strange that this will be a place my kids visit instead of live.  Strange that Eden may not remember it at all and Silas only vaguely, this whole life we've lived together.  What they will identify clearly as theirs is a place we haven't arrived yet, a house whose walls we haven't touched.  


This may be the first time I've sat down all day.  It's 8PM.  The movers arrive in twelve hours.  Silas has come out of his bed at least six times so far and my patience is like wet tissue paper.  Breathing.  Let's talk about tea.  Though I've given my kettle away and packed all my tea, what I'd like most right now is a cup of decaf black tea and a slice of Alta chocolate cake.  According to google, no one has figured out the recipe for this cake I love -- they are very protective of said recipe.  I even walked in and pleaded my case of having eaten their cake for the last ten years and now having to leave it, could I please have the recipe if I share it with NO one?  Nope.  One day I *will* find this recipe or replicate the cake one way or another.

On Saturday, I had a tiny tea party for a few friends.  My birthday was the excuse, but really I just wanted to serve them some delicious bites on beautiful plates.  So I did.  Though my entire kitchen was packed and my pantry contents auctioned off, I kept my great aunt's plates (below) and my grandmother's silver tea set, which I'd never used before Saturday, out of boxes for the morning.  Packing paper covered the table for the tablecloth and lemons and blossoms from the bushy tree out back were centerpiece.

The food was simple (one mixing bowl left).  So the menu:

*teas:  Black lychee tea (my favorite) and Mandarin Orange Spice

*I wanted some variation of cucumber sandwiches and wondered if this would be good -- baguette with a little chew to it, a thick layer of boursin, thinly sliced cucumbers -- it was.  We made three batches.

*Chicken salad -- chicken, celery, grapes, toasted almonds, mayo (not too much), salt and pepper, a little seasoned salt.  Some of the chicken I used was the leftover friend chicken my friend Joan had made the night before -- nailed it.  Served this with mache (circumflex over the a) and balsamic vinaigrette

*Magic cookie bars cut in tiny squares.  My friend Amy used to make these all the time and since I've been pregnant, they've been the only sweet food I've wanted (besides cadbury chocolate eggs...).  Friday she came over and made a giant pan with (for) me.

*I was planning to make these scones but after tasting the tiny lemon cakes Joan brought over, I knew they would more than suffice as vehicles for thick whipped cream, strawberries and strawberry jam -- intensely lemony, moist, but dense enough to hold their own.  Love this cake! (Joan made it as mini muffins).

And now after describing this, what I wish I had is still a cup of tea but instead of secretive cake, a plate of mini lemon cakes with a handful of blueberries.  That would hit it.  Or my table filled again with these friends who pack most of my California memories, who love food and eating together, and whom I will miss so much...

Friday, March 23, 2012

The joy of one pot/ birthday cake baking

Slowly slowly the house is packing into boxes --  yes, just like that, passively, all by itself.
But really, the work feels endless.  Though the cubic mountain in the garage keeps growing, the house remains full, with all sorts of tiny things -- marbles, ribbons, bits of paper, school coloring pages, squinkies, doll clothes, nerf darts, flip flops, balled socks -- relentlessly appearing under foot, no matter how much I throw away.

Fatigue is setting in.  Tonight when my sister called to wish Silas happy birthday, though we were just sitting down to plates of homemade fried chicken, a grease-stained brown paper bag our serving platter, buttery french bread, smashed potatoes (literally little boiled potatoes smashed flat with a spoon and then flipped in a frying pan and salted - genius) -- a labor of love brought over by a friend --  I could not find the energy to move my mouth to tell her about it.

Today I emptied the refrigerator and pantry of nearly everything.  I actually sent an email to some girlfriends itemizing everything in my cupboards and taking orders, and now paper bags line my kitchen wall packed for each of them.  Nothing like shopping at home.

I have one frying pan, one pot, one mixing bowl and no toaster left in circulation (turns out life without toast is less good).  Yesterday, Silas, Eden and I used the remaining flour etc. to bake Silas's birthday cake.  We beat it with a wildly powerful purple mixer borrowed from neighbors.  It was so loud and flung so many bits of butter and sugar around the kitchen that finally Silas and Eden just stood back and covered their ears.  Because my friend Kim has Ina's yellow sheet cake for her birthday every year, this is the cake we tried.  Though it is a "sheet cake," I baked ours in two loaf pans (previously borrowed from another neighbor).  Half of her recipe, which is what's written below, made almost two full loaves, which I sliced lengthwise of a tall brick-ish layer cake....  Ina suggests using her chocolate frosting, but the cake is so flavorful on its own, that I'd prefer it with whipped cream and berries, maybe even a little sprinkle of toasted coconut on top.

Ina Garten's Yellow BIrthday Cake 
(we halved the recipe, which still made nearly two full loaves -- this is the recipe halved):

9 T butter, room temp (she calls for unsalted, but I used salted)
1 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs at room temp
4 oz (~ 1/2 a cup) sour cream, at room temp
3/4 t vanilla
1/2 lemon, zested (I used a little less than this, and had packed my zester so used a grater -- worked enough)
1 1/2 c flour
1/6 c cornstarch
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

to make:
-preheat oven to 350 and butter and flour (I only buttered) your pan
-cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, ~5min
-on med speed, add eggs, then sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest
-mix well
-sift dry ingredients in a separate bowl
-slowly add to the wet ingredients with mixer on low, stir just until smooth
-pour into pan
-bake 25-30 min if using a sheet pan (longer if your cake is thicker)
-cool in the pan to room temperature

My Silas

Light saber and sparklers -- six years old today.  Small warrior of light, the morning you were born was my very favorite morning.  I'm so glad you are here*

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


We are a week out from the move.  The house stands in utter disarray, but many things have been placed in boxes, the walls wiped clean.  We all dress every day and smile at people, make it to our destinations relatively on time.  For all intents and purposes, we look like we're holding all of this pretty well.

But there does seem to be an underground current.  I have a stye in my right eye that hurts all day and night.  Last week, I called AAA for the first time in years because I locked my keys in the car.  Two days ago, my sister and I went for windy walk on the beach.  My Prius key (a small rectangular piece of plastic) was in my pocket, and periodically, I'd reach down to make sure it was still there.  It was.  We walked until I felt tired and KJ starving and then turned back, knowing we'd reach the car at the point of very tired and hungry -- perfect.  Conversation was good, dolphins, close, sun on our faces.   As we turned up 34th toward the car, I reached down and there was only a lady's slipper shell in my pocket  -- no key.  The last time I remembered touching it was at the farthest point of our walk.  We looked at each other.  Our wallets were locked in the car.  There was nothing to do but walk again.  So we did, trudging on the soft sand, achilles and ankles aching, searching for a black rectangle, knowing that the beach ingests everything.  But I was sure we'd find it, positive.  I could picture it lying on the sand and our driving away.  We found our footsteps, like seven year old detectives, and combed the beach, sure it must be close.  But it wasn't.  And wasn't.  And wasn't.  Conversation fell quiet.  We kept scanning.  And soon we were again at our farthest point.  We'd been walking for two hours.  Though the tide had gone out, we couldn't move to packed sand because we had to keep to our footsteps.  I wanted to lie down.  I did, actually, and then we hiked all the way back to the car, keyless.  Fortunately, Kaia Joye had brought her phone, so I called AAA on the way, and called Toyota.  "Without a master key, we'll have to reprogram your system and a new key will cost..." I was thinking what a waste of $80 -- "$500."  WHAT?!  I called my only friend whose number I know by heart and though she wasn't picking up her own child, she rescued Eden from preschool (because by now we'd walked all the way through preschool).  Long story short, AAA unlocked the car.  We left it at the beach, piled our bags, selves and the kids' booster seats into the pick up truck and rode home to SEARCH for the missing spare key, before getting the car towed to the dealership.  Somehow, miraculously, I found the missing spare almost immediately.  We ate the best-tasting, most long waited for fish taco of our lives and unlocked my car.

The next day, after sending a few texts in the morning, I promptly and completely lost my phone for hours.  Eden found it under a pile of laundry later in the day.

This morning, after sending a few texts, I promptly and completely lost my phone again, and it is still missing.  I am searching the Internet for apps that will make it loudly beep, but it seems that for all of them, you have to have thought ahead and already enabled such a program on your phone...

I am not the only off balance: We had Silas's parent-teacher conference last week.  As soon as we sat down, his teacher whom we love said, "I think I'm seeing the angst of moving now. Are you guys seeing this at home?" At the same time, I said "no" and Ben said "yes" - ha.  She went on to describe how in the middle of work time, Silas had tied his shoelace to the chair; how another day sitting at his desk, he'd tied his scarf from his neck to his leg and then tried to walk around; and how the day before, he'd eaten a crayon.  Eaten a crayon?  Yes.  Maybe he's just getting comfortable?   No, I really think this is about the move; this is not the usual Silas.  The next morning Mrs Boyd, Silas and I had a little powwow before school to talk about moving.  Later in the day, Silas told Ben the meeting was "REALLY good" -- thank goodness for the people who speak reassurance to our children.

We are, somehow, going to make it.  The house will finish being packed; goodbyes will be said again and again; and I will find and keep track of various electronic devices.  Though the cherry blossoms aren't waiting for us in DC, the plane will arrive to take us there; the kids will settle into a new time zone and school; and some new, unimagined rhythm will begin.

In the meantime, one foot in front of the other.  I feel deeply content and deeply depleted.  I have a hard time answering the all day long "how are you?"'s.  Tears wait close by, sleep alternates between deep and thin, and the baby, now at 13 weeks, keeps on growing.  Who's in there?  We'll find out the sex on Monday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gifts from the Park

It's 6AM.  I've been awake since 3, and now I'm seated at the kitchen table, a mug of tea steeping, a yogurt open beside me, thinking about the park.  It is hard to imagine leaving this community that has become so central to my weeks, to my rhythm of living, to my sense of neighborhood, to my heart.  Over the weeks, we've sat on the grass talking about packing up my house, and my friends have asked about the boxes, the progress, how much stuff there is to go.  They have all packed up houses before and commiserate with the size of the job, though now they live with only two, three, four bags of stuff -- maybe a guitar, too, maybe some books stashed at a friend's house or some art supplies somewhere, but that's it.  It's a grounding perspective.  These friends with their lives on their backs are the ones who have showered me with gifts these past months, showered Eden and Silas and Ben.  I realize I never would have grown as I have without their friendships, the challenges of their past wounds, the challenges of experiencing homelessness with no clear roads out, the challenges of the addictions some of them wear so plainly, their kindness toward me over and over; I would not have experienced God's tenderness so deeply in my life without them.  As I've sifted through drawers and shelves, I've found gifts and remembered others that I've received at the park -- so much to learn about generosity.

for me:
-a white angora sweater
-markers and pens for my art supplies
-a green wooden cross
-a shimmery shirt
-special stones
-a cook out with burgers for all
-a yellow dress
-an angel food cake
-St. Patrick's day decorations taped on the concrete walls for my going away
-purple ugg-like boots
-photos on facebook
-tea bags
-lengthy letters
-coffee cake
-help cracking & beating dozens of eggs
-song lyrics
-remixed music
-heads of cauliflower
-guitar playing
-small paintings
-a beaded necklace

for Silas and Eden:
-purple sparkly nail polish
-numerous sprinklings of "fairy dust"
-a Hurley t-shirt (that Ben wears...)
-a green bouncy ball
-a plastic shell-shaped pocket book
-sequined gypsy dress
-t-shirts, pants, shorts, leggings
-a huge oatmeal cookie for Eden so I didn't have to leave to feed her
-pushes on the swing
on and on...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Amy's Meatloaf

I wouldn't say I love meatloaf in general, that I'd order it off any menu, or that I'm a general fan, but Amy's meatloaf I love -- hot or cold, on a plate or sandwich (had such a good sandwich today).  Sometime before Silas was born, Amy taught me to make this and it kicked me into cooking.  It couldn't be more simple, really, a perfectly friendly food, that even people who aren't fans of ground turkey or meatloaf tend to like.

Over the past week, the first trimester clouds have lifted; I've slowly found my hunger again and find myself eating three meals a day rather than one every hour.  For the first time in months (literally) I cooked last night: roasted yellow cauliflower, polenta (or yellow grits, as Eden calls it), and Amy's meatloaf.

Amy's Meatloaf

1 lb ground turkey
2 eggs, beaten
oats (somewhere between 1/2 c-1c -- eyeball it, don't want it to be dry)
a good big squirt of ketchup
a few drops of Worcestershire
diced onion
diced celery
diced carrot
(add anything you like here -- grated zucchini, chopped parsley, chopped spinach.  I have to make my vegetables, especially the onions, pretty tiny to disguise them from Eden)

Mix first five ingredients.
If you are using leaves -- parsley, spinach, kale -- or something fine like grated zucchini, mix in.
If you are using carrots/onion/celery, saute in pan to soften slightly and mix in.

Put in a loaf pan sprayed with non-stick spray.
Bake at 350 for an hour.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ben's words for goodbye

Years ago, when Ben and I lived in our first Costa Mesa house, a jewel box cottage tucked on the back of a lot, we read East of Eden aloud.  We savored Steinbeck's descriptions of the poppies, seemingly illuminated from within, the soil, the wind, the landscape we already knew though it lay north of us.  We cried when families broke and broke again, when babies died and brothers ached.  We soaked in the stunning pain and beauty of living east of Eden.      

On Saturday night we gathered with friends to say goodbye.  (I pretended it was my birthday party to alleviate the gloom).  After champagne, cups of soup, beautiful salads, cheeses, cake, we packed into our friend's living room, and told stories.  Ben had words for each of his friends, but opened and closed with what follows.  His words touch on much of what California has been for us, the people we've loved, the land we've made home:

Steinbeck borrowed the title of his book East of Eden from Genesis,Chapter 4, verse 16: 
"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden."  

That place, to the East of Eden, full of extremes, both lush and barren, 
a cake mix in a box that says "just add water", a place so close to paradise 
but so far from perfection, a place for the broken but protected, this is Steinbeck's California.  
It is the land of dangerous possibility -- a land of discriminate opportunity, disproportionate success --
delivering a future determined by free will, ambition, and lots of luck.  
It is my home -- a land, east of Eden, full of wonderful characters, wildflowers blooming out of the desert.  

California has been the greatest home I've ever known.  The beach, the sun, 
the weather, the people -- the greatest of these is the people.  
You are my community; my friends; my family.  You are impossible to replace.  I mourn this loss.

His words remind me that we are here -- where we love and lose, where we must listen for the next call and walk on -- here, just outside of Eden.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Today at 11 weeks pregnant, I seem to be coming out of the woods.  Though I'm going to bed in the 8's and tossing myself awake by 5 each morning, the nausea is lifting!!!

Yesterday, Eden sat curled next to me on my bed and struck by inspiration, began rattling off names we could use if the baby is, as she hopes, a girl.  Here is her list:
Isabella Polly
Eden (a different Eden)
Alana (how do you spell this? Elaina, Elena, Alena -- with a hard A beginning the second syllable?)
Leela (a different Leela than our friend)
Alana Polly

Silas's input has been less extensive:
If he's hairy, we should name him Perry.  If he's gooey, let's name him Gary.
I like the name Jack.

This morning Silas also suggested that if the baby's born on his half birthday, which he very well may be, then we should call him Halfy.

For now, Halfy it is.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Our "life song"

The other night, Max, Ella (7) and Finn (5) performed a song/rap/poem that Max wrote about their life -- one of Max's many pockets of creative expression.  The three of them with their coordinated motions and the depth of the lyrics -- there was much to love.

Last night, Eden tugged at my arm in the kitchen and said, Mom, let's go make our life song.
Our life song?...  Oh, you mean like Uncle Max's?
Yes. Our family song.
So we went into the living room and this is the song Eden dictated, our "Life Song":

We play monkey in the middle at the YMCA
and we watch sunsets, and we watch
deep clouds like sunsets rising in the air.
Well the most thing we love to do is snuggle 
in our mom and dad's bed.
The most funnest thing is to watch the sunset
rising up in the sky in the morning time.
The important and lovable thing is 
I sleep with giraffe-y to my heart's content.
I like to sleep with world-of-color 
to my heart's content.  I love it. 
The most funnest thing was a long time ago 
we went to the YMCA and played 
monkey in the middle; I loved it.
I love to especially go to school and play with Rocket,
he's my best friend in the whole wide world,
and especially Ella -- she's my best friend here.
I like to look at pictures, look at swans everywhere -- 
I usually don't see them in my imagination.
Silas loves playing at school with Charlie.
Silas loves playing with baby Charlie.
I love when I play with Mom and Daddy.
And I love when I play in my bed, and especially,

not long ago, I like playing with my doll house 
and especially right now, I like 
standing on the carpet and playing this big beat.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Eden's portraits

 Eden as a snowman

From Colorado

I just had my daily bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce -- the dinner Ben and I made our first night, apparently cooking for 20 instead of twelve.  It seems to be the protein boost I need at most

Our week in Colorado is wrapping up.  Though I brought two novels and a journal to fill my time while everyone skied, I have not touched them, which really is no surprise.  Moyer family vacations -- regardless of who is or isn't skiing -- are full of many things, but never quiet reflection.  This week has been full of conversations, snacks, drives through snow storms, tears before ski school, beaming pride after, cold hands, big family dinners, drop offs and pick ups, exploring, coat shopping (see previous entry), reports about skiing at 45 degree angles from Max and Ben, waves of nausea, occasional naps, cousin polar bear plunges egged on by uncle and aunt, hot tubbing on the deck, late night milkshakes and tater tots, episodes of Parenthood, and much cousin play.

The reality of the move hits unexpectedly.  Yesterday, I realized I should delete a few things from my calendar, like Silas's art class two days after we leave.  So I started clicking here and there, but unlike a paper calendar where you just cross things out, google calendar pops up a box asking to delete "only this instance" or "all following."  Such finality!  Over and over I had to click "all following" until I was just laughing at the tears streaming down my face.

And today is March 1.  March.  The month of the move when the date itself forces a countdown: 28 days.