Friday, November 28, 2014


I hit a low point yesterday, as happens sometimes on holidays and many other days, and sat on my bed ranting into my journal.

After I pelted a page with words, I took a deep breath and wondered what I missed.
It was Thanksgiving, after all, and despite my grievances, I was with people I deeply love.

So I turned the page and in my mind walked back over the last few hours looking for a different way to see.

And you know what, I saw.

Though I still felt enflamed (I drew flames all around the edge of my page) and angry, I could also see, and inside the frame of flames, a list from the day grew:

*catching perfect snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat

*watching the coffee in my mug jump in star patterns to the vibration of the old mixer as I whipped cream

*listening to my nephew pick out chariots of fire on the piano over and over, victory in his fingers

*Silas, after playing outside, sitting on the hearth in his underwear and t-shirt, curled toward the heat like a cat

*the mountain ridge layered in clouds like scarves

*patches of blue sky even as snow fell

*the way, through the day, sunlight light played on the mountains in swatches of light we could watch even as we sat in grey

*my mom flipping over the entire turkey with dishtowels, mid-cooking

*hot chocolate in a tiny spouted pot on the stove

*body-sledding down the steep drive on black ice

*damp leggings and shirt after

*pumpkin chiffon pie

*the tiny cousins holding hands playing ring around the rosy with bigger cousins

*kids clustered at the table drawing.

So much is about seeing; so much is about thanks.

Bearing with

A few weeks ago I went to the mountains with a rare group of friends.  In all of the fun, the great eating, the cooking, hiking and being, in all the talking and probing and catching up, one thing that struck me most is how in our upper 30's, we tend to bear our loads with a new simplicity.

We know our limits, now, the choices we've made or are making.  We know our spots of deep disappointment, and what is worth our fight so much better than we did in our 20's.  We've wrestled in marital tension, over our individual body types or disease diagnoses for years now.  Our outlines are clearer, and we navigate within them with a greater gravitational center.  Even among intimate friends, each of us individually bears his or her own load these days -- some more vocally, some more deeply and quietly -- because each of us must.

There was a time when loads shocked us with their injustice and their challenge.  They outraged us so that all we could do was bitch and moan and wrestle against them with ourselves and everyone else. To hold these things, to carry them near -- this is new.  I think it might be maturity, even when the carrying is layered with resignation or sorrow.  Disappointment is a part integral to human life, a part of compromise and growth.  The grace with which each of these friends carries her own load left me inspired, left me wondering at the mystery of how complex loving another is, how deeply veined our decisions are.  These friends left me thankful that though solitary, we don't travel alone.

**note to anyone who read the first draft of this post and now finds it altered: when Ben first read, he thought it sounded like the first list of scenarios -- my own musings -- was directly connected to the following group of friends, which, of course, it wasn't (would never air sacred confessions on blog).  To ensure that no one else makes this mistake, and to be clear, I've edited the first paragraph to jump straight  to the heart of what I was saying**

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


When I was little, my mom used to get laryngitis; it was her one weakness, my mother suddenly reduced to whispers.  I was always kind of fascinated, watching her whisper away a winter week, and her quietness quieted us, too.

It was those weeks when we'd talk about how we both loved raspy voices, the girls who seemed so tough with their 8-year-old smoker's voices.  She'd tell me about how at boarding school, she and her friends would sneak into the gym and scream into their pillows until they were hoarse.  I tried it at sleepovers a few times but was met with threats of being sent home.

We'd also talk about the beautiful girls with the upturned noses, how my kindergarten best buddy Mary Bonner and I would pushed our noses up and watch our mouths in the mirror while we talked, top lip raised higher on our teeth, and think of Hailey Mills and the Parent Trap.  And I'd tell her how when we did it long enough, our mouths would still feel that way for a few seconds after we stopped, and we'd have creases under the bridges of our noses. She said she'd done the same, and then the two of us talked to each other with our noses pressed up for a while.

Two nights ago I went to dinner for my brother's birthday.  At some point late in the meal, I became so animated about something, I looked up to see the five of them suddenly staring at me -- you are practically yelling (the restaurant was about 12x12).  And then, within the next 10 minutes, as if to make a point, my voice left entirely.

It's a rite of passage, this laryngitis, a week of remembering.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Black Bean Tostadas and Lemongrass Ginger Chicken Lettuce Wraps -- two easy dinners

I haven't posted any recipes for a long time because I haven't been very excited about food recently.  Or more accurately, I haven't been very excited about cooking recently.  Last Sunday night I sat down to plan meals for the week and could not think of a single thing to make.  So I shuffled through a stack of torn-out recipes in hopes that something would inspire.  And it did.  Here are two easy dinners that were hit over here and quick to make:

This is a recipe you could easily alter and use whatever you have -- I made tacos because I had tortillas instead, add chicken, roast any other vegetables and add, put an egg on top.

Black Bean Tostadas
    from Aug 2014 Sunset magazine -- image from Sunset, too (though yours will be this pretty, too)

1 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (I used green because I had it)
1/2 tsp each ground dried chipotle chile (I didn't have this) and cumin
2 cans black beans (could make your own here adding above)
8 tostada shells/doubled-up corn tortillas
1 avocado, sliced
1 c crumbled queso fresco, shredded jack or cotija cheese crumbled
lime wedges
salsa and/or sour cream

-warm oil in frying pan over med heat
-add garlic, onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until onion softened (8-10 min)
-add ground chile and cumin, cook until fragrant (~1 min)

-drain beans reserving liquid
-add beans and about 1/2 c liquid (give or take) to pan.  Stir and mash until beans are form a slightly chunky puree and are heated through (~3-5 min)

-to assemble: top each shell with 1/2 c bean mixture, few sliced radishes, avocado slices and cheese.  Serve with lime wedges and salsa.


Lemongrass Ginger Chicken in Lettuce Cups
    from April 2014, Sunset magazine (image from Sunset, too)

1 lb ground chicken (I used turkey)
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
3 Tbs minced ginger, divided
1/4 cup good-quality hoisin sauce (like Koon Chun or Lee Kum Kee)
1 Tbs lime juice
2 tsp peanut butter
3 Tbs vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot, diced
8 canned water chestnuts, chopped (I added more)
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbs, minced lemon grass
1-2 jalapeno chiles, chopped (didn't use because of kids)
3/4 c finely diced cucumber (didn't have)
1/2 c salted roasted peanuts, chopped
12 lettuce-leaf cups, iceberg or butter (used butter -- great texture)

-Mix chicken with 1 Tbs fish sauce, sugar, and 2 Tbs ginger and set aside
-In a small bowl combine hoisin with lime, peanut butter and remaining 1 tsp fish sauce, and stir until smooth; set aside (this will be the sauce you serve chicken with).
-Heat large frying pan (not nonstick) over med-high heat.  Swirl in oil and add garlic and remaining tsp ginger.  Cook til fragrant
-Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, breaking up chunks
-Add carrot, water chestnuts, green onions, lemon grass and chiles -- cook until chicken cooked through (about a minute more)
-Add cucumber and peanuts -- stir to combine.  Salt to taste and serve.
-To eat, spread hoisin sauce mixture on a lettuce cup and top with chicken mixture.