Friday, July 08, 2016


My whole life I've had a love-hate relationship with eggs -- I'll eat them every day and then suddenly can't imagine putting a bite of one in my mouth without gagging.  Maybe this comes from laziness, forgetting how to make a fried egg crispy or scrambled eggs soft with chives, and instead eating hurried rubbery things.

Summer is all about the mouth -- peaches, blackberries, figs, ripe avocados, tangy tomatoes, mmmmmm.  I'm putting it all on toast, often the thin dense bavarian bread, thinly sliced mozzarella or goat cheese with eggs on top or sliced peaces, figs and a drizzle of balsamic, smashed avocado with a heap of tomatoes on top.  The peaches are like eating pie for breakfast (or lunch or snack).

When we were with Kaia Joye in CA, two mornings in a row we made these Cornmeal griddle cakes from Smitten Kitchen, and then I made them once more (because why buy a giant bag of cornmeal on vacation if not to keep making pancakes).  They, too, taste like summer -- put in any fruit you have.

     from Smitten Kitchen, June 2015

¾ c flour
¾ c cornmeal
2 T sugar
½ t salt
½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda

3 T butter melted
1 c buttermilk
2 eggs
diced strawberries (or peaches or raspberries or any combo)

Mix dry.  Mix wet.  Combine and stir in fruit.  Melt butter (key step) in skillet over medium heat (or even medium low so they cook through the middle) and patiently let them brown, then flip, cook, and eat. 

A little whipped cream isn’t bad on these (or a tower of whipped cream if you're my children), or sliced bananas and maple syrup -- my fave pancake topping.

Being in Costa Mesa and Thoughts on "Home"

I've Maeve-d my back.
Maeve who cries and whines and dissolves because she's 3 1/2 and we've kept her up, pushed her through full days surrounded by all sorts of people who love her, whom she remembers nothing about, has had some needs.

In usual life, I refuse to pick her up -- too big, too heavy, hands full.
But on vacation, especially standing in the spaces where my other stretched-tall people were babies, I have been hoisting and hauling, even throwing her toward the sky.
And my back doesn't like it.

After I sit here a bit longer -- out on the patio watching the sky orange at the horizon behind the silhouetted palm trees -- I will take some advil and lie on the hard floor.

Growing up, I remember my mom lying on the floor a lot.
Even as an adult, I'd walk into the house and find her in some room -- could be any room -- lying on the hard floor.
This could have been alarming but in our house it was just normal.  Hi mom, and we'd keep going.
I wonder if she'd been lifting people for a decade too ...

Our California trip continues to unfold.  At first the reality that we aren't moving here felt harsh, too bright, as we walked down our old streets.  But as we've been here, the glare has softened, and instead what I feel is a deep gratitude for this place, these people.  I am full, and it feels ok now that we're going to fly east and stay there back to, as Maeve keeps calling it, our house with my little red bed and your ban (van).

Home.  It's a funny thing -- so concrete and also elusive, a feeling more than place, sometimes.  Since I was a little girl I've loved home; I seem constantly both to pine for it and to make it.  I attach to where I am and, even in small ways, set up shop.  I like the facets of place: the stories house-walls hold, the fact that others have lived in the same rooms, the names of flora and fauna, the people who've always been here, the smells that become embroidered with that singular time.

Watching Silas, I think he has a bit of this home-thing, too, imbuing places with meaning and shaping himself out of them.  This trip he keeps surprising me: Mom, that’s the park where Eden threw up on the tire swing. Isn't that the Starbucks where we used to egg sandwiches on the way to Disneyland?  That’s where the car ran a red light and almost hit me when we were walking home from school.
He's remembering with me.

On the way home from the beach yesterday, I told him something and he said, Mom, I was raised here.  I know that. 

Raised here, his first six years.  I guess when you're 10, all the memories you have of being in preschool and kindergarten feel like childhood.  So many more stories to emerge.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Parenting Fail(s)

This spring I took a parenting class that challenged how I praise my kids, pushed the fact that I can't actually make another person do something but can set my own limits, encouraged me to look for the always-present logical consequences, and taught compassion and calm.  Each week I left thirsty for more.  

But then the class ended.  And I found myself still out here in the wilderness with my three year old. 

Three year olds are undoubtedly the very best people -- full of made up songs, conversations with invisible people and monsters, imagination and affection -- and the very worst people-- screaming bloody-murder on a dime, obstinate and insistent, and still prone to throwing down a full-body tantrum anywhere. 

I know it's easy to think well just don't let them behave that way.   That sounds reasonable, even wise and weathered, but please, come drive with me in the car when the fury-seat-kicking starts, when pulling over to sit said seat-kicker on a hot curb while traffic roars by isn't an option because we actually have to arrive some place, and give me some on-the-spot creative ideas, some logical consequences for the attitude going down because I've got nothing.

What's most sobering/shocking/troubling is that it turns out I rarely ever think of a single logical consequence on the spot.  

You kick the seat again and I'll cut off your legs!
You scream for that pacifier again, and I'll flush it down the toilet!
(logical -- the screaming is waaaay too loud)
You hit your sister?  -- SMACK -- we do not hit!

Oh help me.

I'd like to think this is all summer's fault, or traveling's, or the staying-in-someone-else's-house-while-on-vacation's, but I'm pretty sure I just suck at the compassionate calm and at doling out logical consequences.  

Instead, as instantaneously as the three year old's tantrum, I lose my reasonable mind, watch it go, and am left with crazy-person-reactive-Bronwen who has smoke coming from her ears.  Child psychology people call this all sorts of things, "flipping your lid" or moving into "the reptilian brain" -- the phenomenon that happens when the prefrontal cortex, mecca of rational thought, is bypassed by the primitive brain and we are reduced to survival reactivity.  

It's pretty much the place we want never to parent from.  And pretty much the place I'm conducting business from, vacation or not.  

The only logical consequence I can see is taking off for Mexico or shipping the smallest one there.  Any other ideas? 

Vacation: California Eating

We are in Southern California for two weeks.  We planned the trip months ago, and it wildly changed shapes as we anticipated moving: first a vacation, then a shorter house-hunting/buying trip, then back to a full two-week vacation -- and here we are. 

Ben and I each have three siblings, and in the first few days of this trip, through funny timings, we saw four of those six, and the one boyfriend, two spouses, and ten children that go with them, along with good high school friends.  And what I realize most -- again -- is that "home" is all about the people.

Today the bulk of our local friends will trickle back into town from various vacations, and we will meet them with tacos in the yard and fireworks.

I’m aiming to eat tacos at least every day, if not most meals, while I’m here.

Last night we made a flank steak with chimichurri (heavy on the cilantro), Bon Appetit’s charred corn salad, and a green salad with avocado.  Throw all that in a tortilla and it’s tacos, again!  This Chimichurri is great on any meat as a marinade or a sauce, on bruschetta, on vegetables, even from a fork.

KJ's Chimichurri Sauce
     adapted from bon appĆ©tit, makes about 2 cups


1/2 cup red wine vinegar (we didn’t have this so improvised with cider and a splash of balsamic – red best if you have it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Fresno chile or red jalapeƱo, finely chopped – optional.  adjust the heat to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro – or more, these proportions are flexible!
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in bowl and let stand 10 min. Stir in cilantro and parsley. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Season with salt. 
Use as sauce or marinade. 

Charred and Raw Corn with Chile and Cheese
       Bon Appetit , July 2014

This corn salad is Mexican street corn -- charred and sweet, salty with the tang of lime and chiles -- but tidier on the fingers and cheeks.  Think one ear of corn per person and adjust proportions accordingly. 


4 ears corn 
1 shallot, sliced thinly
½ red chile (holland or fresno) sliced -- can use jalapeno etc. but red brightens the dish 
¼ cup lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 T vegetable or olive oil, divided
2 oz. queso fresco or cotija, crumbled
¼ cup cilantro, chopped 


Turn grill on medium heat.  
Cut kernels off 1 cob and toss them with shallot, chile, and lime juice in a large bowl; 
season with S&P and set aside.
Brush remaining ears of corn with 2 T oil and grill, turning, until very tender and charred (about 10–12 minutes).  Let cool.
Cut kernels from cobs and add to reserved corn mixture along with cheese, cilantro, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.